|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
JOE DE SENA is a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, veteran of adventure racing, and founding CEO of Spartan Race. The Spartan Way is his third book.
JEFF CSATARI is a New York Times bestselling author and former executive editor of Men’s Health magazine.
Read an Excerpt
FIND YOUR TRUE NORTH
(SPARTAN VIRTUE: SELF-AWARENESS)
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
— JOHN F. KENNEDY
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
— HENRY DAVID THOREAU
For millennia, the North Star has helped human beings find their way. People have sailed boundless seas and crossed trackless deserts without getting lost. They had a permanent beacon in the night sky to keep them on track.
Hunt for the North Star the next time you're outside, away from city lights on a clear night. It is easy to find if you can I.D. the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. The two outer stars in the bowl of the Dipper always point directly to the North Star.
The North Star, also known as Polaris, is a fixture in the night sky, always positioned directly over the North Pole. It neither rises nor sets. It's constant and reliable, which is why it's also referred to as the True North.
Just to be clear and avoid misunderstandings, Magnetic North, where your compass needle points, is about 310 miles away from the True North Pole. Its location shifts several kilometers every year, due to fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic fields.
We're focusing on True North here. Like the North Star, your True North will be an uncompromised beacon that you can always count on to guide you. It's NOT 310 miles shy of your goal. It's spot on. That's why figuring out your True North is the most important Spartan principle.
* * *
Have you seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge? It was directed by Mel Gibson and it came out in 2016. It's violent, but good and worth renting. It's based on a true story about a World War II US Army private named Desmond Doss who refused to carry a gun into combat.
Doss was a quiet, skinny kid from Lynchburg, Virginia, who'd grown up with a strong faith, using the Ten Commandments as God's direction for how to live his life. As a Seventh-day Adventist, he vowed never to kill or even touch a weapon.
The movie is set in 1942 with the Second World War in full swing and the American body count growing. Even though his religious beliefs were incompatible with war, Doss felt compelled to help his fellow Americans, so he enlisted in the Army. That's not a good place to be if you don't like guns. In boot camp he refused to take target practice and he was severely ridiculed and intimidated, even beaten, by his peers. Officers tried to get him court-martialed.
It didn't work. In the summer of 1944, Doss was deployed with the 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, as a combat medic on Guam in the Philippines. Doss found himself in the thick of the Battle of Okinawa, one of the longest and grimmest engagements of the war. The Allies would lose fifty thousand men, the Japanese more than a hundred thousand.
At one point, the Allies captured the Maeda Escarpment, a jagged four-hundred-foot ridge riddled with Japanese tunnels. But a surprise attack left hundreds of Americans from Doss's unit either dead or dying on the ridge. Doss jumped into action. He ignored orders and sprinted into battle with only his Bible and first-aid box. Over the course of the next five hours, he pulled seventy-five wounded men from the field and lowered them to safety down a cliff using a makeshift pulley system.
That wasn't all. Back in the field to search for more wounded, he took shrapnel from a grenade. While being evacuated, Doss gave up his place on the stretcher when he saw another wounded soldier. While waiting for the stretcher-bearers to return, he was shot by a sniper.
What an amazing story of fearlessness and dedication to a goal. Imagine crawling up and back through mud and a hail of bullets and saving seventy-five guys without ever firing a shot to protect himself.
President Truman awarded Doss the Medal of Honor in 1945. Years later, someone asked Doss why he wouldn't defend himself when he was lying wounded on that bloody ridge. "I knew if I ever once compromised, I was going to be in trouble," he said. "Because if you can compromise once, you can compromise again."
I love that line: "If you can compromise once, you can compromise again." Giving in once makes it easier to give in a second and third time and a fourth. I tell this story because Doss was a man who knew his True North and followed its lead to the end without giving in. No compromise. That's the kind of commitment you need. Your True North goal needs to be worthy of that level of dedication.
Doss is an extreme example, but you've seen people around you with similar laser-beam focus on their goals. People who are following their True North think and act differently than other people do. They have a burning drive that blocks out all the extraneous crap that can be so distracting. People who don't follow a True North are in a very different place. They don't know where they want to go. And if they don't know where they want to go, how in hell can they get there?
Here's the best part about setting your internal GPS on your North Star: It's easy to say, "fuck you" to distractions. True North keeps you constantly moving in the right direction and makes certain you won't somehow stray off course by the pull of other people's agendas. When you own your True North, your life isn't controlled by external factors. Having a True North eliminates indecision and inspires confidence. Why? Because it's well defined and always at the top of your mind. Your True North should make you jump out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning.
WHERE IS YOURS?
Your True North is always inside of you. You just need to find it. It's a fixed point set by your deeply held beliefs and values. And it's drawing you toward one direction. If you fight it, you'll quickly lose your bearings and become lost. Align with it and your True North will act like a high-speed train pulling you through life.
Private Desmond Doss didn't second-guess himself. He followed the pull of his internal compass and became an unlikely hero. We all have the opportunity to become heroes to our partners and kids and our friends and communities if we decide to be guided by our True North. Most important, we can be heroes to ourselves.
But most folks will never get there because they're stuck in the mud of mediocrity. They don't move toward their True North because they either don't know what it is or because they don't fully commit to following it. They're fearful of change and addicted to their comfort zone. These are people who can't tell you what motivates them.
Others have priorities that are ass-backwards. They pursue pleasure at the cost of fulfillment. They're scared of failure, so they never try. They avoid the adrenaline rush of attacking adversity and instead reach for a Red Bull to get through the day. It pisses me off to see people ambling through life without purpose. It's such a frigging waste of time, talent, and potential for making this world a better place to live. That's why it's my personal mission to "get people off the couch" of sedentary complacency and become engaged in life — maybe even for the first time.
Yeah, Joe De Sena can be intense. Some people think I'm a little crazy because of the Death Races and making people carry buckets of rocks up muddy hills. But I'm also wildly optimistic about human potential and our intrinsic spirit. I know there are millions of people who long to get off the couch and start living mindfully and physically. You picked up this book (thanks, by the way), so you obviously see the value in finding and prioritizing your True North. As you read on, you'll see why this first principle is so important.
Use this chapter to re-align yourself with your authentic purpose. You can do it no matter how many years you may have been pulled off course. But you have to do it already. No procrastinating. Life is too short to put off something so powerful.
How do you start? With self-awareness. It's the first step on your Spartan journey. It's also one of the hardest to master. Most people go through life on automatic pilot, disengaged and unaware of their authentic desires. Like water flowing downhill, they seek the path of least resistance. They're lazy. Or maybe they simply lack direction, like the kid I was before I met Joe "The Ear."
It has been estimated that we spend half of our waking hours daydreaming, disengaged, unfocused, and unaware of what we're doing. Think about it: That's half of your life! But that's the way we're wired. Unless we do something to break the circuit.
THE BRAIN'S DEFAULT MODE
I've always felt that some people trudge through life like zombies. They walk around looking for stimulation here or there but most of the time they are lost in their thoughts, in a perpetual fog. It's like they're not engaged in life, not aware of what's going on around them.
Well, I was surprised to learn that some folks who are a lot smarter than me have been thinking about this, too. In recent years, neuroscientists have been using fMRI brain scans to explore what's going on when we're not doing much other than just thinking to ourselves or staring off into space during a boring meeting. It turns out our brains are not resting at all but spending a lot of energy on background chatter. Researchers say that, from moment to moment, our brains interact with the world through two types of networks.
One is the direct experience network, when you are experiencing information coming into your senses in real time, like when you're doing the Atlas Carry challenge during a Spartan race. You're not worrying about next week's sales meeting. You're just trying to carry a cement ball without dropping it on your toes.
The second is what neuroscientists call your default mode network (DMN), because it engages when not much is going on in the real world and you have the time and space to think about yourself, ruminate about that sales presentation, worry about what your teenagers are doing, or daydream about a vacation. When your brain is absorbed in the default mode network, brain docs say you're creating a narrative using vast stores of memories of people, places, your history, and thoughts of the future. There's nothing critically wrong with this human tendency to space out, but when you spend most of your time lost in the DMN thought, you lose your sense of the present moment and the path to your True North.
It also seems to me like a big waste of time. This is more than just my observation: It is backed up by some big brains at Harvard University. Two psychologists there named Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert conducted a study using an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on people's thoughts and feelings as they went about their lives. They made a startling discovery: People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they're doing. In other words: mind-wandering. Imagine that. Half of our lives are spent spacing out. That is the human brain's default mode of operation. The problem is, Killingsworth and Gilbert say, "A wandering mind is an unhappy mind."
When our minds wander, we usually dwell on negatives. We're jealous of our neighbor's new open-air Fiat 124 Spider. Or maybe we're busy beating ourselves up over events that happened in the past, or we're worrying about the future. None of these brain activities is particularly productive, which is why we need to do a better job of living in the moment.
The first step toward living in the moment is to recognize your personal thinking style. Are your thoughts keeping you from following your True North? See if you identify with any of these unhelpful styles of thought listed in Thinking Bad on the next page.
The path out of the jungle of negative thought patterns is self-awareness. You first need to be aware of when your mind is being hijacked by negative thoughts of past and future. Then you need to fight your way back to the present. Think about all the many philosophical and religious traditions that teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment.
Next step: With a clear head, actively identify your guiding values. I like to think of my core values as the bull's-eyes of life and my beliefs as the arrows that either hit or miss those targets. For example, if you value being healthy but you believe it's okay to smoke a few cigarettes every day, then you are not going to hit your target, and you're not going to be healthy. If you value family, like I do, but you believe you have to work eighty-hour weeks, including weekends, regularly missing events in your kids' lives, then you're not going to hit that target. If you value becoming your company's top-producing salesperson, but you allow your wandering mind to ruminate on past failures and rejection, it'll be hard to get out of your head and into your next sales call.
To have a clear sight of your True North, you have to be shooting at the right targets with the right arrows at all times. That means aligning your values and beliefs with your daily activities. If you value exercise, you build exercise into your day. If you value community, you find a way to spend time with friends, neighbors, and civic organizations no matter how busy you happen to be.
This is a lot easier to grasp than it is to execute. That's because the brain is a wily organ that can trick us into thinking what we want to think. A famous social psychologist named Leon Festinger developed an idea for why this happens, called the "theory of cognitive dissonance," through his research at the University of Minnesota and Stanford University in the 1950s. Festinger said that we often reinterpret what we do or know to fit more comfortably with what we believe about our world or ourselves. For instance, if you value health, but also love to drink red wine, you might rationalize that drinking two big glasses of cabernet with dinner and a third as a nightcap every day is a healthy practice that won't harm you. You might even seek out information on the internet about the health benefits of resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine, to support your "healthy" behavior. If you find yourself defending decisions or behaviors that don't fulfill you or just don't feel right, then cognitive dissonance may be at play. Or you may simply be trying to uphold values that don't ring true to your life.
That's why it's so important to search your soul for your True North. You need to find a passion that resonates so deeply within you that you don't have to think twice. You don't have to force yourself to do what you want and need to do. You're in a zone where you're automatically drawn to the challenge. It's what I call "effortless effort." There's no mistaking when you're in this place. You feel great about the person you've become when you're fully engaged.
Let me give you an example of what I mean through the story of a friend of mine — a former NFL player named Anthony Trucks.
WELCOME THE BATTLE
Trucks's first memory, at age three, is of his mother giving him and his siblings away to a foster family. "During those early years, I remember feeling less than human," he told me. "I experienced physical and mental abuse, starvation and torture." He bounced through several foster families. One of his foster mothers developed MS. As a teen he was arrested at gunpoint. At fourteen, he testified in court to sever his natural mother's rights in order to be adopted. But he started to search for his True North one day in high school English class, when he overheard a girl casually attributing the fact that he was flunking out to his being a foster-care kid. It was a throwaway remark that painfully hit home. He decided there and then that he was not going to fit that label, and that he was not going to use his challenges as an excuse to fail.
In a remarkable reversal, Trucks graduated high school, got a football scholarship at the University of Oregon, earned a degree in kinesiology, and ended up playing two seasons at linebacker for the Redskins and the Steelers before injuries forced him to retire. Today, he's a respected author, high-earning consultant, and proud father of three.
Through football, Trucks discovered his self-worth and purpose and also a burning desire to leave a positive impact on the world. His journey was grueling, but Trucks says, "I fell in love with the enormity of it. There's an ecstasy inside the pain. I like the journey, the battle, the fight, because I feel it tests me every moment of the day, and I love that."
You can find the same kind of drive that Trucks discovered. Start from where you are now. Look at your own values and beliefs. Question what kind of contribution you're making in the world and what you can possibly bring to the table every single day of your life. Ask yourself what journey are you on right now? What direction are you going in? How would you live this day if it were going to be your last? What would you think back on and be proud of? What would you regret? How would your eulogy read if you had lived a long, full life and died of old age?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Spartan Way"
Copyright © 2018 Spartan Race, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Spartan Way 1
Introduction: Transform Your Life 9
PRINCIPLE # 1 : Find Your True North (Spartan Virtue: Self-Awareness) 19
PRINCIPLE # 2 : Make a Commitment (Spartan Virtue: Perseverance) 33
PRINCIPLE # 3 : Fuel Your Enthusiasm (Spartan Virtue: Passion) 51
PRINCIPLE # 4 : Delay Gratification (Spartan Virtue: Discipline) 71
PRINCIPLE # 5 : Maximize Your Time (Spartan Virtue: Prioritization) 91
PRINCIPLE # 6 : Get Gritty (Spartan Virtue: Grit) 111
PRINCIPLE # 7 : Embrace Adversity (Spartan Virtue: Courage) 127
PRINCIPLE # 8 : Adjust Your Frame of Reference (Spartan Virtue: Optimism) 141
PRINCIPLE # 9 : Be Honorable (Spartan Virtue: Integrity) 155
PRINCIPLE # 10 : Be Spartan (Spartan Virtue: Wholeness) 169