Some recurring feedback I’ve received about my juice feast goes like this:
Steve, you’re encountering lots of obstacles on this juice feast such as food cravings, feeling sick, and emotional yo-yoing. Ergo, this is clearly the wrong path, and you should quit.
I hear similar feedback whenever I conduct public experiments. It makes no difference what the experiment is about.
Where do people get the idea that encountering obstacles is a sign that you should quit pursuing a goal?
The truth is that you’re going to encounter obstacles in the pursuit of any meaningful goal. The obstacles aren’t there to derail you. The obstacles are there to help you grow stronger.
Sometimes you’ll encounter obstacles that are too much for you, you’ll run up against your limits, and you’ll be forced to quit. Sometimes you’ll meet a weight that’s too much for you to lift, and it just won’t budge. There’s no dishonor in that. That’s just life.
But why would I let a few bumps like not feeling well or dealing with emotional detox stop me from continuing to pursue an interesting goal? The mere existence of obstacles isn’t a good enough reason to quit. Obstacles are to be expected. Figuring out how to deal with them is an integral part of the challenge.
Obstacles help us become stronger through a process of progressive training. Each new obstacle we encounter and overcome makes us more capable of handling even bigger challenges.
I don’t take on challenges like a juice feast with the naive expectation that it’s going to be smooth sailing the whole way. What would be the reward in that? That would be like going to the gym and doing my workout on a machine set at level 1. I’d just be wasting my time.
Even when you go with the flow, there are still rocks and whirlpools to be avoided. That’s what makes the ride fun and interesting. Otherwise you’d just be sloshing around in the kiddie pool.
I enjoy pursuing goals that push me to grow, goals I’m not sure I can successfully accomplish. If I’m 100% certain I can accomplish a goal, I don’t see much point in pursuing it. Such goals usually bore me.
The goals that interest me most are the ones that cause me to say to myself, “Wow… I’m really not sure if I’m cut out for this. This looks pretty damned tough. I’m going to have to push myself to a whole new level in order to make it to the end. I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to pull this off.”
But then I think to myself, “What if I fail? No big deal. At least I’ll know where my limits are. But what if I succeed? How awesome would that be? I’d gain an incredible new reference experience for the rest of my life. I’d have an amazing experience to share with others. And what new challenges might I tackle beyond this one?” That’s the kind of thinking that excites me.
You Can’t Do That!
I’ve been hearing the line above for the past 30 years.
I remember when I started selling my computer games online, people would say to me, “Everyone knows there’s no money to be made in shareware. You’re deluded if you think you can succeed at that. At best you could earn like $50 a month — if you’re lucky!”
Years later it was, “Everyone knows you can’t make a living from blogging. There’s way too much free content out there, so obviously nobody is going to pay anything for it.”
And today it’s, “Everyone knows that it’s crazy to try to live on just juice (or raw foods). That’s just common sense. Ya gotta eat the four food groups for balance, ya know. Human beings evolved to suck on cows’ teats.”
Apparently if you try anything that goes against the mainstream, it means you’re being fanatical, crazy, and deluded. Supposedly common sense dictates that we all get regular corporate jobs, eat factory-produced “foods” from cardboard boxes, and live our lives just like we imagine everyone else does. Then quietly die.
I feel sorry for the people who genuinely think this way… and live their lives accordingly.
I know it upsets some people when I run experiments or pursue goals that go beyond mainstream thinking. It reminds people that they still have plenty of growth ahead of them and that they can’t get complacent and settle. That really pisses people off to no end. Some of them figure the best way to deal with those feelings is to attack the messenger with silly labels like fanatical or extremist… even though they secretly wish they could be labeled as such.
And guess what… I have the same issues. I also get pissed off when I see people out there doing something beyond what I think is possible for me. It bugs the heck out of me.
I remember the first time I heard about juice feasting, which was roughly a year ago. My initial reaction was, “Nothing but juice for 92 days? You have got to be kidding me!” I thought such people were nuts. Then I realized that I was irked by my own feelings of inadequacy. Those “crazy” juice feasters shed light on the fact that I could push myself to an even greater level of performance and self-discipline — if I really make the commitment. They reminded me I had more growth ahead of me and that I wasn’t even close to being done here yet. That’s an incredibly annoying realization.
The people doing juice feasting weren’t super-human. They were regular people doing extraordinary things. They set their standards higher than me. When I became aware of that, and when I witnessed my reaction, I had a choice to make. I could settle where I was, or I could push myself to the next level.
Reaching the Next Level
It’s never easy pushing ourselves to that next level — whether it be physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, financially, or something else. But when we label those who expose our inadequacies as fanatical or extremist, we’re merely branding ourselves as cowards. We hear the call to bring our lives more in line with our potential, but we shy away from it. We see a weight we cannot lift, so we attack the weight, labeling it a “monster.”
Is it the weight’s fault for being too heavy? Or is it our own weakness that’s the problem?
When you become aware of a potential challenge or goal that seems daunting to you, don’t blame it for existing. And certainly don’t attack those who are successfully overcoming it. Just acknowledge the challenge: “I see you. You are a worthy challenge. Right now I do not believe I can face you. But I intend to become strong enough to eventually face you — and win.”
Take a moment to mentally review the people in your life you’re tempted to label as fanatical or extremist. What are they here to teach you? What challenges do they make you aware of? What desires — and accompanying feelings of inadequacy — do they stir within you? Now can you admit that what you want most of all is to build the strength to pursue and eventually fulfill these desires yourself? And can you hold yourself in the space of intending for that strength to come to you?
You have within you the power to make whatever changes you want to make in your life. You can’t blame your problems on the foods you eat, the money you don’t have, or the opportunities you didn’t get. Every day you have the power to make new decisions and to follow through on them. If you don’t like where your life is heading, then don’t set the same heading today that you did yesterday. No one is forcing you to show up for work at the same job, to go to the same grocery store and buy the same foods, or to remain connected to the same relationships. Those are all your choices.
The fanatics and extremists are present in your life to remind you of what you already know but feel unready to face — that you have the power to take your life to a whole new level. Those people will keep appearing in your life as a frequent reminder that you’re settling for less than you’re capable of. As soon as you decide to stop settling and to start doing your best, such people will no longer be thorns in your side. Instead they’ll become your friends and guides.
Then you’ll have to deal with other people labeling you a fanatical extremist as well. And you’ll realize that you’ve never been happier… and that you wouldn’t have it any other way.