The harder you are on yourself, the easier life is on you. Or, as they sayin the Navy Seals, the more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed in war.My childhood friend Rett Nichols was the first to show me this principle in action. When we were playing Little League baseball, we were always troubled by how fast the pitchers threw the ball. We were in an especially good league, and the overgrown opposing pitchers, whose birth certificates we were always demanding to see, fired the ball in to us at alarming speeds during the games.
We began dreading going up to the plate to hit. It wasn’t fun. Batting had become something we just tried to get through without embarrassing ourselves too much.Then Rett got an idea.“What if the pitches we faced in games were slower than the ones we face every day in practice?” Rett asked.“That’s just the problem,” I said. “We don’t know anybody who can pitch that fast to us. That’s why, in the games, it’s so hard. The ball looks like an aspirin pill coming in at 200 miles an hour.”“I know we don’t know anyone who can throw a baseball that fast,” said Rett. “But what if it wasn’t a baseball?”“I don’t know what you mean,” I said. Just then Rett pulled from his pocket a little plastic golf ball with holes in it.
The kind our dads used to hit in the backyard for golf practice.“Get a bat,” Rett said.I picked up a baseball bat and we walked out to the park near Rett’s house. Rett went to the pitcher’s mound but came in about three feet closer than usual. As I stood at the plate, he fired the little golf ball past me as I tried to swing at it.“Ha ha!” Rett shouted. "That’s faster than anybody you’ll face in little league! Let’s get going!"We then took turns pitching to each other with this bizarre little ball humming in at incredible speeds. The little plastic ball was not only hilariously fast, but it curved and dropped more sharply than any little leaguer’s pitch could do.By the time Rett and I played our next league game, we were ready.The pitches looked like they were coming in slow motion. Big white balloons.
I hit the first and only home run I ever hit after one of Rett’s sessions. It was off a left-hander whose pitch seemed to hang in the air forever before I creamed it.The lesson Rett taught me was one I’ve never forgotten. Whenever I’m afraid of something coming up, I will find a way to do something that’s even harder or scarier. Once I do the harder thing, the real thing becomes fun.The great boxer Muhammad Ali used to use this principle in choosing his sparring partners. He’d make sure that the sparring partners he worked with before a fight were better than the boxer he was going up against in the real fight.
They might not always be better all-around, but he found sparring partners who were each better in one certain way or another than his upcoming opponent. After facing them, he knew going into each fight that he had already fought those skills and won.You can always “stage” a bigger battle than the one you have to face. If you have to make a presentation in front of someone who scares you, you can always rehearse it first in front of someone who scares you more. If you’ve got something hard to do and you’re hesitant to do it, pick out something even harder and do that first.Watch what it does to your motivation going into the “real” challenge.