life heuristics, motivation

How to do Hard Things Pt. 2: Going Super Saiyan

TL;DR: Things get harder before they get easier. When exercising, or doing anything else hard, embrace the pain – its the only way to level up. 

If you are like me and was born in the 1990s, you probably familiar with the show Dragon Ball Z. I used to watch it over cereal on Saturday mornings, and the thing that always struck me about the show was how in the epic fights as Goku or one of his friends faced off against the forces of evil,   would always suffer some sort of initial defeat.  The power of their opponent was so enormous that the outcome seemed hopeless.

Then magically,  the background music would swell and Goku would reach into himself to pull out some extraordinary ability that evened the odds.

Remember this scene?

Even as a kid, I  thought that the cycle was pretty cheesy – if he had so much power why didn’t he use it in the first place? Why did he let himself (and us) suffer through all of the brutal beatings that led up to his transformation? Why didn’t he start out with Super Saiyan 4, or as the Giant Gorilla, and just beat the ever-living-shit out of his opponents in the first place?

This guy was enormous.

Today, I think that I found one answer. As context, earlier this week I broke through some internal walls, and swam 3000 meters non stop in the pool. Then, I went back to try my hand at repeating the phenomenon,  to see if I could do it or that it was a fluke. And it was HARD. The first 700 meters were slow and brutal, and the next 700 were even worse, by the end of that I was gasping for air, stumbling around in the pool, my shoulders screaming. And I thought to myself, golly, I guess I was just lucky and couldn’t actually swim at this length.

Then a funny thing happened at 1500 m. I got my breath back. My shoulders cooled down, and my strokes got longer. The end-of-the-wall kickturn became routine, and I started cruising.

I found that the same thing works for running as well. I used to be afraid of running, but after running 2.5 miles, the feeling of tightness went away and there was just calm resolve. It seems like when you commit yourself to something, and keep working through the pain, your body realizes “Oh, you are going for the long run – guess I better give you more energy.” I’m sure that there is a scientific explanation as well, something about aerobic vs. non-areobic exercise, using up the cellular creatine, etc, but its the good thing to know is that you have much more in reserve then you thought 🙂

So going back to Goku, maybe getting beat up was just part of the cycle, and he could not become more powerful without opposing resistance. So the next time that you feel uncertain about your ability, or capability, just remember- it will scale to match the problem you are matching. Grit your teeth and think of Goku 😉

Kick Ass and Take Names.


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