The day was about to end. My right leg was shaking as I wrapped up the training class that I was teaching. I was trying hard to avoid looking at my leg. I’ve been feeling the throbbing pain for the past three days and my leg has swollen to a point where I don’t even want to look at it. After shutting down my computer, I immediately laid down in bed, raised my leg on top of pillows, took a deep breath and just slept.
I just went thru the most physically challenging week in my entire summer.
Successful people credit goal setting as a big part of their life. They set goals, take massive action to achieve them and define much higher goals the next time. Everyone loves the feeling of achieving something. It gives us a sense of pride, confidence, significance and, of course, success. And don’t we all love to talk about the great things that came with achieving a goal?
But what isn’t commonly mentioned are the challenges and hardships that came alongside it. We try to sweep those away because of the pain they have caused us. Sure, they contributed to our success one way or another. But we certainly don’t give them the credit they deserve.
In a previous blog post, I shared about partnering with Brent Ozar (Twitter | blog) on delivering a virtual training class. I’ve been working on the content for this training class for the past few years, collecting stories from my previous consulting projects to make concepts and principles relevant. Suffice it to say, I’m overly excited about this project and the process leading up to it.
Until the unexpected happened.
It’s funny how life throws something at us to see if we really are serious about pursuing what really matters to us. As a data professional, I see this pattern all the time.
- Orville Wright was injured and Lt. Thomas Selfridge died in a flight exhibition before the US Army
- Apollo 11 was running low on fuel before it landed on the moon
- Nelson Mandela was imprisoned before he managed to lead the end of the apartheid in South Africa
- Michaelangelo contracted an eye disease before he finished painting the Sistine Chapel
I could go and on about the different people in history who encountered challenges prior to accomplishing something great. It only means one thing:
But didn’t I say the unexpected happened? Well, yes, something did happen. I broke my right leg. I tried roller blading and it didn’t go well (I share the back story in my regular newsletter). All I knew was that I broke my leg immediately as I fell down.
This happened four weeks before the training class. I haven’t finished all of the resources that I need for the class – PowerPoint slides, scripts, demos, documents, etc. The worst part is that I have to undergo surgery and stay in bed most of the time for the leg to be fully recovered. And for the first few days after the surgery, I felt helpless, vulnerable even. I can’t go to the bathroom on my own, I can’t make my own breakfast, I can’t go out of the house, etc. Ask any highly driven, highly-productive, self-sufficient individual how it feels like to not be able to do things, even the simplest ones. I can guarantee you will get an earful.
I knew I was going to be in this situation for a while. So, I need to prepare myself to be in this situation while keeping my eyes on my goal. I had the time to think about my situation and the challenges that I faced. How do you think I came up with the 7Ps?
- Purpose. To keep your eyes on your goal despite the challenges, you need to define your purpose. I call it the “why behind the what“. When I deliver a presentation, a workshop or a training class, I always remind myself why I do it. I don’t do it to be famous nor to show the world how smart I am. I don’t do it to score brownie points towards my Microsoft MVP award for renewal. I do it because of one thing. It is my purpose. You’ll see my personal mission statement in my social media profiles, my speaker profiles and every where I have contributions. In a sentence, my purpose is to help people and organizations grow and develop their fullest potential. When I’m delivering a presentation, my goal is to empower technical professionals to help them be more confident in doing their jobs. I make it a point that those who attend my workshops, presentations and training classes feel inspired and empowered after the interaction. Otherwise, there’s no point in them being around me. The world is already full of fear, uncertainty and all the negative emotions. I’m certainly not going to add more to that.
- Passion. Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. It’s an emotion – a feeling. Every day, we are driven by our emotions. Sometimes, we feel tired, sad, grumpy or frustrated. Other times we feel invigorated, excited, joyful or extremely grateful. Did you notice anything while you were reading those two sets of emotions? The first set made you feel, well, negative. The second set made you feel very positive. That’s because our emotions affect how we behave. Most intellectuals will tell you to ignore your emotions and just focus on the intellect (I used to be like this). But the reality is, we are an emotional human being. We need to embrace who we are and leverage it to our advantage. So instead of ignoring our emotions, we should take control so we can direct them towards our advantage.Feeling angry? Why not direct your anger towards accomplishing something of significance. Feeling frustrated? Why not direct your frustration to make positive change happen.Those who have been to my presentations can feel the passion behind what I do. I used the word FEEL because they get emotionally drawn in – they see it, they hear it, they feel it – and the energy in the room immediately skyrockets. Sometimes, I get too intense in what I do. I was once told that people can feel the emotions when I play the piano. I channel all of my energy into what I do that anybody who sees me can feel it.
- Push. Challenges that appear on our way towards achieving our goals do not go away. Let that sink in for a moment. THEY DO NOT GO AWAY. In order to achieve our goals we have to push. And pushing requires effort. It requires energy. It requires moving from where we currently are to where we want to go. And if the challenge is bigger than us, more effort and energy are required. Push a small box and you won’t even flinch. But have you ever tried pushing a stranded vehicle? Not the same thing.One of my challenges for the past few weeks was sitting for longer than an hour. If my broken leg is laid down on the floor like it normally would, it will start swelling. And when it’s swollen, I start to feel throbbing pain around the surgical wounds. What I did as I prepared for my training class was do some work in my desk for an hour, lie down for about 20 minutes and repeat the whole thing. It became frustrating knowing that I need to stop what I’m doing – even if I’m totally in the zone – just so I can lie down. But I knew I had to do it or I risk making it worse. Imagine what it was like delivering a training class with me for an entire day. It’s a good thing Brent suggested that we do 10 minute breaks every hour.
- Past. And I don’t mean the time before the present. What I mean is that mark beyond something – past the line, past the house, past 6PM. Pushing past the mark is when you’ll know you’ve achieved something. You know you’ve completed the marathon if you’ve gone past the finish line. Or you’ve won the race if you’ve gone past the finish line ahead of everybody else.We’ve all been told at some point that we cannot do something. One of my former boss told me I won’t even pass the MCDBA certification. A former colleague of my mom told me that I won’t amount to anything when I was 4 years old. Limitations are imposed upon us. And we feel helpless.You know what’s even worse? The limiting beliefs that we tell ourselves. “I’m not good enough to make it to college.” “I don’t see a good future because I had a bad past.” “I don’t think anyone will hire me because I don’t have a degree.” It’s these limiting beliefs that we tell ourselves that prevent us from even achieving anything. In order to go beyond the challenges that we face, we need to first get past those limiting beliefs within ourselves. Because, the truth is, we can only accomplish what we believe we can. The first challenge that we need to overcome is ourselves.
- Pain. I did say that challenges do not go away. That’s why we need to push past them. And when you’re pushing something bigger than yourself, it’s painful. Compare pushing a small box with pushing a stranded vehicle. It’s easy to see the difference.But that pain is part of the process. If you learn how to embrace it, it’s easy to see how it can contribute towards our growth and our journey towards achieving our goal.A week after the surgery, I can barely move my right foot. Any movement that I make caused extreme pain. So, I tried to avoid moving my foot at all cost. My wife (an occupational therapist) told me that the doctor will recommend physiotherapy in our next visit. And if I want to be able to walk soon, I need to start exercising my foot on a regular basis. My initial attempts were extremely painful. You can imagine how extreme the pain was by looking at my facial expressions. I started to hate doing ankle pumps and foot rotations. But I have to remind myself daily of the purpose why I need to do this – be physically prepared for my training class and be able to walk normally again – and that I need to push past this temporary pain. Because that’s what all pain really is – they’re temporary. I’m not going to be doing painful exercises forever. But I have to endure.Even as I was doing the training class. The swelling is causing pain. But I also knew that the next break is just around the corner. So I endure, smiling for the webcam not just for the attendees to see but also to condition my mind that the pain was temporary.
- Patience. It’s the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. In this day and age of instant gratification and digital revolution, the word “patience” seemed to have been taken out of our daily vocabulary. We move on from that YouTube video that’s taking more than 15 seconds to load. The rapid succession of text or instant messages we send when we don’t get an immediate response. We now use the self-order kiosks at McDonalds because it’s faster than talking to the service crew.I don’t have any problems with being patient. I think I got that from my dad. I can be as patient as I can be. But sometimes, I get impatient – especially with myself. I get impatient when I can’t accomplish something faster than I expected of myself. I get impatient when I feel like my efforts to push past the challenges I’m facing are not getting me anywhere. I easily let others off the hook. But I’m too hard on myself.I’ve re-learned the art of becoming even more patient. What used to take me 5 minutes to do now takes me 30 minutes because I can’t move as fast as I used to. It used to take me around 30 seconds to climb up and down the stairs. Now, it takes me 3 minutes because I have to go on my butt to not put any weight on my leg. Going to the bathroom, sitting in the dining table, taking a shower. Re-learning patience has taught me how to appreciate slowing down. And it has taught me how to become even more aware of my surroundings.
- Persistence. Patience on its own is not enough. Persistence is not giving up. In spite of pushing past the pain. In spite if the challenges. Pushing past the challenges requires persistence. Achieving a goal requires persistence. Because giving up is easier, most people don’t get to realize their dreams.I knew that I needed a lot of persistence in order to finish my training materials on time. I also knew that I won’t be able to do it faster than I expect of myself. So, I pushed myself harder. I spent late nights working on the training resources. I kept a regular pace of working for an hour and resting for 20 minutes. I still needed my 7.5 hours of sleep on average. I worked and I rested. And it’s been like that for the last 3 weeks. I kept track of what I was doing. And I knew I was getting close to my goal.
While I did say that it was the most physically challenging week in my entire summer, it was also the most rewarding. After the training class, I spent the entire day in bed resting my leg while doing some follow-up work. I looked back at the things I did, the challenges I faced, the actions that I needed to take and the results that I got. And while a broken leg is not something I would welcome anytime, it has become the best thing that happened to me this year.
In case you’re looking for an inspiring Instagram or Facebook post, here it is. Success comes when you get your Purpose and Passion to Push Past your Pain with Patience and Persistence