Do the Work

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan


“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”


How do we get comfortable with the uncomfortable?

By leaning into the discomfort.  

Analyze high performers in any domain – sport, business, art, etc., and you will find that one commonality is that high performers don’t wait for inspiration – they simply  do the work.  

High performance is rooted in understanding what is necessary, and then consistently and relentlessly getting on with it.  

It is moving from intention to action over and over again, smoothing out the limbic friction – diminishing the reflexive impulse – keeping the chimp locked in it’s cage.  

This is the crux of ‘embrace the suck’.

It’s a primarily a bottom-up process, where action influences intention – i.e.: change your behavior, and eventually, your perception changes.  

“It’s very hard to control the mind with the mind”

Dr. Andrew Huberman

This is especially evident with David Goggins, as podcaster Rich Roll points out: “it’s reflexive for him to just move towards the hard thing … the challenge … the discomfort … and yet our programming – our default hardwiring – is to put us in this place where we want to ruminate on all this stuff, and wait until we feel like doing something before we do it or check our motivations for it.”

It seems also that the more we do this, the easier it becomes, and this has its basis in some fairly basic neuroscience: in face of a physical threat, we have three options: 1) freeze, 2) retreat, or 3) move forward.  Dr. Andrew Huberman, in a paper published in 2018, showed that the ‘moving forward’ response triggers activation of the dopamine circuitry in the brain, which makes it more likely that you will move forward in the future.  

“This study may help explain why acts of courage, such as standing up for yourself or for a cause, or a physical challenge can feel empowering. Experiencing that good feeling can also make it more likely to respond to future threats in a similar way.”

Dr. Andrew Huberman

It’s similar to embracing the daily grind of the training process (although I abhor the term ‘grind’, it has its utility in this instance).  It sucks at first, but the more often you show up, the easier it becomes; this is the genesis of ‘process over outcome’ thinking.  

It is the challenge – and then rising to that challenge – that provides you with the little dopamine hits.  

There is actually a really interesting parallel in this with training methodology.

As a coach, you have a number of decisions to make as it regards to the application of a load, and how the athlete you coach adapts to that load.  

I might get into this a little later in February, but one way I’m looking at this #EmbraceTheSuck ‘experiment’ is as a ‘Bondarchuk-style’ method – where there is no wave-loading whatsoever over the course of the period.  Rather, we pick a ‘program’, and repeat it over and over again, until a theoretical arrival of ‘form’. 

I am honestly really interested to see how I adapt to this.  

But what is ‘this’??

I will discuss this further in the next post. 


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