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Using Your Roots To Stay Grounded

March 27, 2019


Quick Update on all the passion stuff! 

We truly appreciate all of your support during the launch of The Passion Paradox. We realize that you've had to endure a lot of emails, tweets, and messages from us. Promotion is our least favorite part of the job. As a colleague we admire once told us, "Promotion is the worst part of the job, but if you never do it, the ideas you spent years developing never get off the shelf, let alone help anyone."


So thank you again for helping to spread our work on passion to a much larger audience. We can't wait to hear your feedback. Again: we view this book as the starting place for a broader discussion. So please share your thoughts on email, social media, and in your teams, organizations, and local communities.


Keep the momentum going!

If you are reading (or have already made it through) the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. These reviews are quite important, and will help the book continue to do well.


Staying Grounded

When Steve and I launched our first book, Peak Performance, we were on the East Coast doing a lot of media and speaking there. Neither of us have much in the way of community in New York or Boston, but we were told it was the best way to get the word out about the book. The trip was super successful. The book had a solid initial launch from which it gained prominence in the public sphere. We started a no-nonsense discussion on peak performance. The only issue is that, at the end of that week, I felt like I was coming down from a bad drug high. I was guilty of getting caught up in the hype machine of launching a book. Alone on the east coast, on trains and planes and in cabs and hotels, Steve and I spent a lot of time checking our sales numbers and thinking about and hoping for sales and publicity. When I got back a week or so later, though the book was doing great, I felt somewhat hollow and kind of gross. Steve too.

Fast forward to this time around and the launch of
The Passion Paradox. We decided to do things differently. Rather than travel, we'd do our entire launch from Oakland, CA, where I live and Steve has strong connections too. The intensity which we brought to our days was the same as two years ago. We had the same kind of focus, time spent on the internet, and events too. The only difference was that each night ended with dinners with family and friends. And each event was hosted, facilitated by, or done in partnership with someone in our overlapping communities. We weren't just internet celebrities during launch week (that's a vast overstatement, but you get the point), we were celebrities amongst our friends and family and local community. The time that we spent obsessively checking and thinking about our sales was replaced with in-person connection. It was replaced with wrestling with my son. With walks in local parks. With Steve and my wife Caitlin making fun of me for pretty much everything I do.

And let me tell you, this made all the difference. No emptiness. No hangover. No needing to take a hot shower at the end of launch week. It was a much more grounded experience.


I share this story because it's perhaps the one thing I wish we would have emphasized more in The Passion Paradox: Community is really, really important. It serves both as a base to catch you when you are falling and a ceiling to keep you grounded when you are flying high. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to abandon real community, because you can convince yourself you're connected digitally and chase virtual stardom. Don't fall for this trap, especially not during intense times when your emotions are bound to run high in either direction. Instead, put yourself amidst the people you trust and then trust them to keep you exactly where you need to be.


Do YOU Choose to Do the Work?


In June 2003, I ran the fastest mile of any high schooler in the country. Four minutes and one second. Just a hair shy of a mythical barrier and at the time the 6th fastest high school mile in history. As most stories go, I got there through a combination of talent and hard work, with my specialty hedging towards the latter.

As a teenager, I built up to where I was running over 14 miles per day. Wake up before classes, go for a run, spend seven hours at school, and go for another run. Repeat 5 days a week with a handful of grueling intense interval workouts in the middle; run 17 miles on Saturday and ten miles on Sunday. Repeat week after week. I didn’t miss a run. Perhaps the best display of my obsessiveness was when my parents took us on a cruise they’d saved up for. While the rest of the family was beyond excited, I spent my mornings running 140 laps around the tiny 160-meter “track” on the top deck of the ship. I was obsessed.

Eschewing the typical high school parties, my senior track season, I was awake past 10:30 pm only four times during the entire 6-month stretch. To anyone who saw my progress, I seemed like the perfect example hard work. If you want to get better, you need to outwork everyone. Go get your 10,000 hours.
When we hear stories of children performing ungodly amounts of work, be it running 100 miles per week, as in my case, or in spending countless hours practicing the violin, we champion the hard work. That must be the key. Work hard, and you too can reach the highest level.

Often, parents mistakenly believe that this gives them a free pass to push their kids to the next level. If such prodigious work was necessary to reach the top, then they were simply doing their child a favor by pushing him to practice violin, their golf swing, throwing motion or whatever other skill seemed valuable. After all, that’s what made Tiger Woods great, right?

But here’s the secret that is left out. I didn’t spend my teenage years covering more miles on my running shoes than I did my car because my parents forced me to. I chose to. And the same goes for the majority of other young and highly driven individuals. Even the Tiger Woods's of the world. When researcher Elien Weiner sought to study prodigies in a variety of fields decades ago, she found that a key factor that almost every prodigy possessed what she called a rage to master: an overwhelming drive to perform some activity for the sake of doing the activity itself. An almost surreal curiosity or work ethic that could only be quenched by practice and exploration of their skill. This rage didn’t come from parental influence. It didn’t come from a coach screaming to perform the next rep at practice. It came from within.
While we’ve been obsessing over the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to phenom pathway, we’ve forgotten to ask the most important question about the work that is being done: Did the person doing it truly choose to do it?
This factor is often the neglected piece of the puzzle. And it's also the most important one. Parents and coaches should see themselves as giving youth the space to follow their drive and fail without damaging themselves. They shouldn't plow the path for their kids. But neither should they push their kids when their kids don't want to do the work. You can't force greatness. 


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