stop trying so hard

I started listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast while beginning my training for Hustle Up the Hancock.

The show isn’t made for me. I listened to high-achieving guests describe emotional breakthroughs, and it hurts my heart.

“I discovered empathy in 2016! I learned that — to get through life — you need other people! I stopped eating sugar, and I’m loved!”

Yeah, okay. Reminds me that even the most skilled and capable people are lonely and depressed. Everybody needs a hug, even chess champions and computer nerds.

But I did hear a guest talk about riding his bike to the Santa Monica pier. I can’t remember his name, but he’s super fast and tries to improve his pace by riding the same path every day to measure his results. The ritual became a slog that he began avoiding.

One day he asked, “What if I just try to enjoy myself?”

So he rode his bike at a moderate pace, but one that wasn’t insane, and he was only 2 seconds slower. And it was super fun. Fell back in love with biking.

I happened to be right in the middle of peak Hustle for the Hancock training — jacked up on caffeinated Gu, holding a 10-pound medicine ball in my hands while climbing the Stairmaster at a break-neck speed — while listening to this podcast.

I dropped the medicine ball. I was done with it.

From that moment forward, I decided to do the Hustle differently. I would walk the stairs like a normal human being. I wouldn’t be in a hurry. I would talk to people on my way from the first floor to the 94th floor. And I would stop and take a sip of water instead of trying to power through the experience.

Most importantly, I would let my body — and not my mind — dictate my pace and my ability to scale that skyscraper. I wanted to quiet my thoughts, focus on the breath, and be conscious of my experience rather than trying to muscle through the event on adrenaline and willpower.

And, good news, it worked.

With less training but a better attitude — and more carbs and delicious food — I beat my time from last year. It’s not my best time, but, as I write this, I’m not sore. And I met someone on the stairwell who is a double-lung transplant recipient with a relatively new kidney, too. Seeing him hustle up those stairs was super motivating, and we talked about why the Hustle means so much to him, which puts the entire race in perspective.

This was my fifth year up the Hancock, and it was the most fun. It’s 100% attributable to Tim Ferriss and his guest who taught me that my best performance is a performance that happens with full attention, without criticism, and with a little fun.

Life is hard. Extreme sports and stair climbing events are hard. But just because something is hard — and taxes the body and the central nervous system — doesn’t mean it has to be a slog.

I finally experienced the moment when my inner-self let my outer-self perform without a running dialogue and widespread criticism. I could just go with the flow and have fun.

What a gift. What a surprise. Turns out, Tim Ferriss might be okay.