It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience. ~ Caesar
Reading about great historical figures over the years, the quality of endurance stands out - and there's a hope in this. When you read a good historical book that dives into the details of a man's life, his struggles and ambitions, his problems and faults, you see humanity in mythical men.
Their ambitions may have been grand, but rarely as grand as what they actually achieved.
Their stories are typically a sequence of obstacles, problems, even failures, that they overcame. They outlasted their competition, but also their lack of fortune.
To fail often and not lose hope, focus, or even enthusiasm (though this inevitably waivers), is a superpower. Again, it's a choice, and a way of seeing reality that powers progress through difficult times, seeing difficult times not as curses but as a natural part of life - even a gift or an opportunity to learn.
The higher you aim, the more obstacles you'll face. It's inevitable. So why get down when things aren't easy?
It's those who commit to achieving the difficult by doing difficult things for a long time without quitting that eventually win.
Along the way, often as the result of failure, they learn lessons and acquire skills necessary for victory - to become the men worthy of their achievements.
So, let's dive deep into endurance. We all have access to it, we all have the ability to persist, but it's something we have to continually develop, and we'll discuss how to do this.
Reading these biographies about Caesar, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon, even John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and so forth, it is hopeful that endurance seems to be a major factor that sets them apart. Because, endurance is trained, it isn't innate.
We like to think of those who achieve great things - whether they're good or great entirely is another story - as men destined for greatness. When you study them, however, they're not unlike all of us. This is sobering. You realize that if they can do it, so can anyone.
And one of the key factors in their success, one of the things that their peers notice most about them, is their endurance. They work longer hours, partake in battles or campaigns that would wear most men down, in a sense, they just don't stop; something we can all technically not do.
Failure and setbacks are a part of life
Failure is only permanent with your permission.
We have big goals, massive goals, especially early on in life. But have you noticed that life seems to rob us of these massive dreams? We get beaten down by mediocre achievements and finally our goals are tempered as well.
Caesar, upon walk past a statue of Alexander the Great, wept because by his age, Alexander had already conquered the known world, and Caesar had done little in comparison. He was 33, which wasn't 'young' by Roman standards for an aspiring general or politician. He, too, had this comparison syndrome, to a degree, but not necessarily with his peers, but with other great men of history.
His aspirations, however, weren't tempered by a lack of greatness early on in life. He wanted to restore his family name to prominence, among other things, and the timeline at which that happened was irrelevant, so long as it happened.
What you see from all of these historical figures is defeat. You see failure. You see obstacles far greater than what we face, but their view of obstacles is different.
We expect our goals to come at least with a hint of ease. We want them to happen on our timeline, but we have to understand that the timeline is irrelevant. We have to be the man who's worthy of what we aspire to achieve before it's ever achieved, it doesn't work the other way around.
And the only thing that can undo progress is choosing defeat.
There is no linear line to success. Failures often teach us more than victories. We have access to vast knowledge in the form of books and courses, so learning what to do and what habits we must develop has never been easier. We can avoid mistakes others have made, which should make the path easier, but obstacles are a part of life, a gift, even, and they shouldn't be seen in any other light.
Too often we quit too early. Who are we to say when we achieve victory? All we can do is work until its ours and then keep working because work is life, it's giving reason to our existence.
Pushing Through Pain to Build Endurance
Caesar wasn't just known for working more than others, but for his physical endurance on horseback and in battle. That's something he'd have had to train, and in training the body to endure, we inevitably train the mind to do so as well.
I have an airbike and a treadmill in my basement. Lifting weights, for me, is easy. I enjoy it. Cardio, it takes about 5 minutes for me to want to quit. And then that desire to stop continues to the very end of the workout.
This makes cardio, for me, at least, a great way to win a mental battle of endurance.
Doing things we don't feel like doing, simply for the sake that we don't feel like doing them, that make us struggle, that make us uncomfortable, have value.
Maybe it's a hike, a run, cardio, lifting weights, meditating, reading for an hour and sitting in one place. Doing things that challenge us should be a natural part of our daily life.
Fatigue isn't a myth, we all know it's entirely a real thing. Succumbing to fatigue, however, is at least partially, a choice.
Not doing something because you're tired is completely a choice. How well you perform may be hindered by fatigue, how long long it takes you to complete what you're doing may be hindered by fatigue, but the decision to do it, is still a choice.
Fatigue doesn't present an obstacle, but a challenge. When you feel it, press on. When you're too tired to do something, do it anyway, even if it's half-assed.
No one has won anything by giving into fatigue, which is why so few win anything at all.
I write this to myself as well, as with all articles. I need a slap in the face from time to time. I'm not doing enough, or at least enough consistently, to feel as though I deserve anything other than what I have, which also seems to be pretty consistent; we have what we deserve, if we want more, we have to do more, risk more, persist more, and endure more, and when we've become worthy of what we're aiming at, it still takes to for our circumstances to catch up with who we are and what we're doing.
So, persist. Endure. Struggle well. Keep your head.
When times get tough, don't get down even if it's a valid response, it does you no good.
The Choice to Be Great is the Choice to Endure
We're not trying to be emperors here. We are, however, trying to shake hands with our potential. We're trying to give our families a better life than we had, to provide and protect them. We're trying to be strong and free, and even if our goals aren't world domination, life will throw at us things that will make us want to quit.
Life will be difficult. The expectation of difficulty removes its surprise and the emotions that come with said surprise. It ensures we won't fool ourselves into thinking our goals will be easy. It will ensure that work and good habits developed over long periods of time are also expectations.
We have to give something to get something. The road is always the best part. These ups and downs are always more exciting and fulfilling than the destination.
Those who ignore this reality and want achievement by way of ease, will quit, but if you endure, victory is inevitable.
Living well, working hard, for long periods of time without any payback is the cost of achievement. We'll see incremental gains along the way. We'll have small wins and lots of headaches, but to be able to work just a little bit harder and a little bit longer, and do this for a longer period of time, is where those little gains compound into impressive results.
So, learn from the conquerors of the past. I've yet to read a book about a 'great man' where endurance wasn't mentioned. And I don't think I'll find one.
The one attribute we can all possess is often a large player in their eventual success. It's at least one thing we can take from them and apply to our own lives, and no matter what our aspirations are, developing endurance, both physical and mental, has only benefits.
Make life difficult, physically. Do something every day that makes you want to quit, and persist.
Train endurance. Strength training is a must, but endurance training not only trains the body, but it forges the mind.
Learn to love setbacks. See the good in things not going your way, take the lesson from it and apply it to your future. If you don't get broken by setbacks, you'll endure.
Work and workout longer. Focus for longer periods, set a stopwatch and challenge yourself to focus on one thing. Train your mind to be able to do better work for longer periods. Add 5 minutes to your work sessions every week. It'll add up.
Don't place timelines on your success. Do the work. Develop the habits. Don't worry about the outcomes or when they arrive.
Endurance is both over a short period and a long period. It's within a day, within a year, and within a lifetime. It's the decision to never quit, and not only that, to continue to push yourself even when things aren't going your way.
Keep going. Never quit. Train your mind to never relent.