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These go to 11 and other similar motivational tripe

August 14, 2012

In the early 1980s, there was a fake documentary called This is Spinal Tap, which started, among others, Michael McKean (Lenny from Laverne and Shirley) as a heavy-metal band trying to make a comeback. One of the jokes of the movie involved how they’d innovated their amps by making them go to 11, than 10.

Fake documentaries aren’t the only place that include cliches about motivation and effort and output. After all, it’s important to dig deeper, to go the extra mile, to give 110%. And if you want to be successful, you have to do it… Every. Single. Day.

It’s probably true that most of the  people reading this blog (and certainly the guy writing it) can show more single-minded dedication if they really want to get published. But your amp goes to 11, it’s not any louder than if it goes to 10. And it’s not possible to give 110%. It’s not even possible to give 100% on a daily basis. The people who say that are typically naive, incredibly young, being interviewed by ESPN, or fooling themselves.

So here’s what you can do. Set a goal for yourself that you think is realistic and let it sit for a little while. Then think about it a bit, maybe for a couple days. And think about yourself. Do you typically set goals that go to 11 when 8 is realistically possible? Do you typically set goals at 11 when 30 is realistically possible?

Adjust your goal appropriately so you have to push to get it. But you need to make it a realistic push. I committed to run Tough Mudder last year after studying the website and looking at the videos and pictures of the obstacles. And then I thought about it and figured out that I could probably do that, but I’d have to push. I’d have to step up my game and make it better than it had been.

But I didn’t decide to run a marathon or a triathlon because those simply weren’t realistic. They would have required 110%, which is more than I have to give. So I pushed myself and I finished.

Are you doing the best you can? Are you sure? If the answer is yes, then continue. If the answer is no, then decide if you want it bad enough to go to 11. I mean 10.

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