Right now you have available to you a vast fund of energy. You have not just one level of it, but two, three, four, each deeper and more potent than the one before. Most people never get beyond the first level. How can they if they quit?
“The strong do not hesitate. They settle down, they sweat, they go to the end…The biggest ones are geniuses–the ones who toil eighteen hours a day without tiring.” Author Jules Renard
Living at White Heat
Some people go through life at a fast pace and have stamina. Others seem to be walking under water, existing in a kind of suspended animation. It’s as if all life long they’ve been storing up their energy for some momentous day, some fantastic day, some great event when they will somehow need all the energy they’ve been saving up all these years.
They act as if “energy conservation” refers not to electrical energy or gas or oil, but to their energy. Or that their energy is something they can deposit in a kind of life’s savings account, drawing on it at some indeterminate day in the future. They’re continually looking for ways to stop and rest–whether on the job or in personal life.
But our energy is meant to be consumed and not conserved, to be spent and not saved. It’s meant for us to throw into the actions that will lead us to the achievements we desire. That’s its purpose. That’s what it’s for. How can you get from here to there, taking action and making a more fulfilling life for yourself without consuming your energy?
Energy isn’t a dish of ice cream that once gone is gone forever. Energy replenishes itself. You have reserves of it. There’s plenty more. You feel a surge of energy when you’re doing what you should be doing with your life and are becoming what you should have been all along.
Inexhaustible, Mozart composed his three last great symphonies in eight weeks. Composer Igor Stravinsky worked all his life in a kind of frenzy. Noted architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller was often unable to stop working until he dropped from exhaustion. Shakespeare wrote an average of two plays a year–thirty six–many of the greatest pieces of literature in the world’s history. And he was also a poet, an actor, a family man, and a producer who had to attend to the practical concerns of mounting the plays’ performance. Leonardo da Vinci was a human volcano of work and ideas. His creative ideas came out of him in a torrent, ranging from painting the Mona Lisa to his famous drawings of flying machines and tanks.
A Runner in Training
I was in training for my event, the 800 meters. That workout I decided I would run as many laps as I could at three-quarters speed. After a few laps the pain I was so familiar with set in, and the difficulty breathing. Then the pain–that great obstacle for a runner–in my legs, my arms, my chest—my whole body–became more severe and I thought about quitting. How easy that would be: just step off the track and the pain would stop and I wouldn’t have to go through this anymore. “No one is making me run.”
But that day I didn’t stop, I didn’t slow down. I increased my speed and the pain was much worse. I thought, “How long can a person endure this?” Then I thought, “I am a middle-distance runner. Middle distance runners can bear a great deal of pain.”
But then, after I had pushed myself as hard as I could and suffered that pain longer than I thought possible but continued to run, I passed into a new and miraculous state of being. One moment I was in pain; the next I was not. I had entered a place, a garden, where pain could not exist. All pain was lifted out of my body and I could breathe easily again. The running suddenly was smooth and effortless and strong, my form perfect.
That afternoon, one runner after another quit his training and left for home. But I ran lap after lap far into the night. I realized that I could run forever.
Some people produce five, ten, or fifteen times more than other people performing the same job. That’s true of every job. That’s true of yours. I’ve seen people—ordinary people–who are not Mozarts, Shakespeares, or da Vincis, but who live and work at white heat and achieve the almost miraculous. What drives a great athlete relentlessly to work hard? The thought that his/her competitor is working harder.
The majority of leading experts in the field of exceptionally high performance believe that the sheer number of hours the person devotes to his/her development is the main determinant of expertise, more important than talent. The expert devotes many more hours than the less successful person. And that translates into who consumes the most energy.
What has Tiredness to Do with Rest?
High achievers exert more energy from the start and work steadily without long interruptions for a much longer period than the majority of people–for days, months, years if necessary. What enables them to operate continually at a higher level of energy?
It’s excitement or necessity or both, excitement over purposes or the necessity of overcoming obstacles to achieve them. People will push themselves to an extreme day after day and overcome almost any impediments when they are on fire with excitement.
But many people achieve little because they stop working at the first sign of fatigue. They’re in the habit of quitting when tired. Better to ratchet up and exert more effort then, not less. Then you acquire the ability to not tire easily and you keep gaining ground on the achievements you’ve imagined.
If you quit at the first sign of tiredness, you develop the habit of tiring quickly and giving up.
Every time you reach the point at which you seem to have no energy left, yet push yourself still further, you train yourself to draw from deeper into your reserves at will. If you push yourself on then, the fatigue gets worse up to a point. Then it fades away and you are fired up by a sense that you can go on forever. Fatigue is replaced by a new explosive surge. The result is a new freedom, a new power.
Get regular exercise, maintain a healthful diet, alternate action and rest, don’t rest long (the busiest people need no more rest than the laziest), focus on your purpose, and let your powerful desire for achievements consume you.
A Life Learning
It’s a life learning that will never fail you: you must push yourself beyond your limits all the time, without reservation. Then you create new limits which, in turn, you will surpass. You can get closer to a better life today than you were yesterday if you are single-minded and burn—not conserve–your energy.
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© 2014 David J. Rogers
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