Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.
Most people understand the concept behind Albert Einstein’s famous saying: you might have the goods to get the job done, but unless you’re willing to sweat a little, you won’t get anywhere.
We see it time and time again in the sporting world. From the stands, fans think stars like Kobe Bryant are just natural athletes. He was born to play basketball, right?
Little do these bystanders realize that during his entire career, Bryant spent hours – before practice – at the gym perfecting his shot.
And while the innovative minds of today – who’ll create the groundbreaking products and ideas of tomorrow – might grasp the no-sweat-no-gain mantra in theory, putting it into practice can be difficult.
This is particularly true if and when you find yourself facing challenges and adversity.
No athlete would be at the top of his field if he didn’t push hard during training. If he high-tailed it at the first moment of discomfort, that athlete would fade away into obscurity, even with all that talent.
The same can be said for folks with an innovative spirit. Coming up with a big idea is amazing. But it isn’t the end all, be all.
If you’re looking to turn your big idea into an even bigger reality, you have to be willing to face intellectual discomfort and a host of challenges along the way.
Those who survive the beating will come out on top.
Pushing your big idea from concept to reality requires a commitment to deep intellectual work. This type of work requires more energy from us than we’re used to in the world of quick social shares and flooded inboxes.
Like it or not, we’ve been trained to spend most of our days on autopilot. But autopilot doesn’t force us to push past our comfort levels. Rather, it encourages us to skate by in a sea of tranquility.
But a smooth sea does not make for strong sailors.
You have to be willing to push harder, think deeper, and commit wholeheartedly, in order to realize your passion. Here are a few tips to get you in shape to face all of your intellectual adversities and challenges.
Marathon runners build endurance by running in intervals. They’ll run hard for two minutes, cool down, then repeat.
Francesco Cirillo designed a similar approach to improve mental agility. The Pomodoro Method requires you to use a timer to separate your work into intervals. Between each interval you’d take a short break (go for a walk, for example).
When you first attempt this approach, try tackling tasks at 10 minute intervals. Be sure that you push yourself to work – without distractions – on a challenging project until the timer goes off. That means no email. No Facebook. No text messages.
Each week, add 10 more minutes to your time, thus pushing your comfort level even further (think of the athlete that adds more weight to a barbell).
Eventually you’ll find yourself able to tackle your challenging projects for hours at a time.
Personal trainers are known for pushing their clients that extra mile to get results. You might think your max is 20 pushups, but your trainer’s going to make you do just one more, despite how impossible it might seem to you.
Try this strategy out intellectually. Just at the moment when you feel like you have to put your work aside, design one more slide, complete one more calculation, or finish one more paragraph.
Then, take a break. This break is key to avoiding burnout. The harder you work out, intellectually, the more recovery time you’ll need.
Decision fatigue is real. Our minds get tired of having to make thousands upon thousands of decisions each day.
Why do you think intellectual stalwarts like Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama limit their clothing choices? They’d prefer to focus that energy elsewhere.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to put on the same pair of jeans and hooded sweatshirt daily to avoid decision fatigue. Rather, consider doing your most intellectually uncomfortable work first thing in the morning, before your mind has to take on the thousands of decisions its destined to face the rest of the day.
We all have it within ourselves to overcome intellectual discomfort and push our minds to new levels. We just need to know how to train our minds the same way an athlete trains his body.
Yes, facing intellectual discomfort will be challenging (so is running 26.2 miles!). But pushing through this discomfort can give you the intellectual freedom to accomplish anything.