Just How Hard Should You Push Yourself And How Do You Know When You’ve Gone Too Far?

Back in June, my friend James Lawrence, aka “The Iron Cowboy,” pushed the limits of human endurance to accomplish what any rational person would deem impossible: He successfully completed 100 Ironman triathlons in 100 consecutive days.

That’s 100 days of waking up to face a grueling 14-hour workout consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112.2-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.

If you’re unfamiliar with James’ story, he originally earned his fame by completing 50 Ironman triathlons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days — a truly superhuman achievement and a world record that no one has even come close to beating. Back in January of this year, we had James speak to our Producers Club members about what he went through during the “50.” The audience LOVED him, so we instantly booked him to come back to talk to us after completing the 100.

Why 100?

“Seventy-five didn’t scare me, so it had to be 100,” he said.

But the aftermath of pushing his mind and body that hard shattered him. When we had him come back to speak to our Producers Club members in July about the 100, he broke down onstage and was very open and honest about dealing with PTSD after putting himself through such an intense physical test. He suffered from night terrors, insomnia, and mental exhaustion to the point of falling asleep while running as well as severe, crippling injuries and intense physical pain. When I asked him onstage if he was glad he did this challenge, he hesitated, which surprised me.

Was it heroic to push himself that hard, or did he go too far?

Most cannot understand the motive behind people like James, who drive themselves to extreme limits, because they don’t push themselves to do much of anything. They’re all about living an “easy” life in a comfort zone and then applauding themselves for it. As an entrepreneur with drive, you’re probably often lectured by others to “Take it easy,” or they say, “You shouldn’t work so hard.”

Sometimes this comes from well-meaning people who are concerned for us, but most of these comments are from people who find our drive and ambition unsettling. Offensive, even. It’s a stark contrast to their own lack of discipline and a sharp reminder of their shortcomings, so it must be villainized and wronged.

Personally, I push myself into the “red” zone often, burning the midnight oil, taking on another project, another goal, a big overhaul of something “good” to make it great. I’m never happy or complacent and constantly want to grow, improve, earn, and achieve. I constantly feel I can do more or be better. Yes, there are times when I wonder if I’m making the right choice, pushing myself as hard as I do, working the hours and dealing with the stress that comes with it. And, yes, there are times when I pushed a little too hard.

But when I think about “taking it easy,” I find no peace in it, no honor. I believe the meaning of life is to become the best version of ourselves through discipline, hard work, and standing up to a major challenge presented to us. Life is too short to let the lazy river meander you through it. Grab an oar. 

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