How Learning from 'Bang-ups and Hang-ups' Will Help You Reach Your Goals


Teammates, how do you stay fired up?

It's a great question and one that I hear all the time. Newsflash -- you're not going to be fired up all the time. As Dr. Seuss said: "I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you." He continued: "Un-slumping yourself is not easily done."

This quotation is from one of my favorite all-time books, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. It acknowledges what every one of us will deal with in life. Some of us will have more "bang-ups and hang-ups" as we dare to do things differently and we challenge ourselves in new ways. When you push the envelope in whatever you do, you will fail; failing is a fact of life.

The key is understanding that you only ever fail if you never learn from your "failure." Thomas Edison once said he learned more than 5,000 ways not to invent a lightbulb. I learned $1.475 million worth of how not to launch a fitness product. In other words, you're not learning if you're not failing.

So the key question is, how do you stay fired up to keep trying, to keep persevering, to keep from giving up or, as Dr. Seuss would say, to keep pressing after  "your hang-ups and bang-ups"?

Having failed many more times in life than I've succeeded, I humbly offer you my three "secrets" for staying fired up in the face of adversity:

1. When you set your goal, first take the time to understand and visualize why it is important to you. Literally define the goal's purpose. For example, I want to create a fitness company. Its purpose to me is to work in an industry that will always be a part of my daily life, and the joy I receive from helping others take control of their bodies is immeasurable.

Furthermore, I want financial and scheduling freedom to be with my family during the most precious years of their young adult lives. I've linked this purpose so strongly to my goal that failure to achieve isn't an option. It's a similar linkage I had when conducting SEAL training; my attitude was that the instructors would have to kill me before I'd quit.

I promise that if you spend the time creating this linkage of purpose with your goal and you visualize both the pleasure of achieving it with the pain of not achieving it, you would have created a foundation for tireless perseverance. There will be no brick wall thick enough or tall enough to stop you.

2. The bigger your goal, the longer it will take you to accomplish it, which means you need to have the stamina to maintain course and speed when things get bleak. I've always found and firmly believe in the concept of a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Get yourself in shape. Your brain relies on your body for nourishment so you have the best possible chance for success through exercise and nutrition.

3. Assuming you have the stamina to press on through thick and thin, you'll still need protection against the "quitter demons." These are the little voices you'll hear in your head or from those you love and trust or from repeated failures. To beat the little bastards back, use the weapon of perspective. Remind yourself of your position in life, compared to those less fortunate -- and dig deep here.

For example, you can read. Then remember how many can't. Or that no one is shooting at you. Or that you won't go hungry tonight, that you have friends, loved ones, clothes, etc. Unlike thousands struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, you have a roof over your head. The key here is appreciating the perspective of your situation in comparison to other things in life. It'll keep you grounded and on track when others might want you to join their misery.

As you attack your 2010 goals, I hope you're able to use these to keep your persistence engine stoked. At the end of day, persistence is the only thing that keeps you going to achieve your goal. I'll leave you with my favorite quotation of all time:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On!" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-- Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States

CHARLIE MIKE -- ("Press on" in military speak) ALDEN

P.S.: A huge goal for me was to climb Mount Whitney before I turned 40; my picture is proof positive. Read all about it at my SEAL buddy Tim Grizzell's Fire in the Gut website. 

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Alden Mills, creator of the Perfect Pushup, is CEO of Perfect Fitness. Mills went to the Naval Academy and later became a Navy SEAL. After retiring in 2000, he earned his MBA at Carnegie Mellon. His ultimate mission is to inspire everyone to pursue their own dreams. For more from Mills, check out

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