James Lawrence is a story of more than just breaking world records. It’s about inspiration, the journey and blessing of struggles, and how the right amount of mental toughness can allow you to achieve even the most impossible feats. Whether it’s in the water, on your feet, pedaling a bike, or running your business, mental toughness is a core trait of the most successful people in the world.
When you think you’re done, you’re not even close. It’s your mind playing tricks on you.
Before we dive into the incredible things James has accomplished over the last decade, it’s important to understand where he came from. He believes we are all born with a certain level of mental toughness, and that it’s a skillset that you need to cultivate and grow. James was virtually always involved in sports, especially individual sports from an early age on. He loved wrestling, golf, and triathlons. A lot of the lessons you learn in individual sports revolve around the results being just about you. There’s no team to blame, it’s just you and you alone.
These sports were foundational, and building blocks that would lead James to where he is today. James points out that everyone is on a different journey, and not everyone is set out to achieve incredible physical feats. You might not be ready to climb Mt. Everest, but taking your business from, say, $500,000 to 50 million is going to take a hell of a lot of mental fortitude and determination. It’s okay to not have it all figured out, and James is quick to point out that at any given stage of his journey, he was still learning and growing.
The important thing is the doing. People fail because they are continually in that planning phase; never actually executing. You can spend all of your time planning, and trying to get things perfect and never actually accomplish anything. Every part of your journey is a learning process, and each experience is a building block that will add to the knowledge and experiences you need to have in order to get to the next stepping stone. If you never act, doors will never open and you’ll never learn the lessons you need. The perfect plan for failure is planning for perfection.
There are three types of people. There are those that never show up—the lazy ones who don’t even try. The second type is perhaps the most common. These are the people that simply gather knowledge. They show up to everything and do nothing with it. Then, there is the third category. This third type of person is one that shows up, gathers the knowledge, and does something with it. As James references, knowledge isn’t power, it’s applied knowledge that is truly powerful.
James isn’t naturally that third type of person. It’s something he is always working on. People are inherently lazy, and most of us don’t want to work hard. The path of least resistance is easier! That path is not where growth comes from, though. There’s just no point in being one of the first two types of people. In being the third person, James has ridden his bike to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, ran 235 miles across Greece, has broken 3 world records, and continues to be an inspiration to countless people across the world.
No one is standing still. You’re either moving forwards or moving backwards. If you aren’t doing anything, you’re slipping backwards. Make it your goal to always be evolving and growing, and that means taking action.
If you’re running a home services business, you can certainly be excused for not knowing the ins and outs of marathon measurements and rules. Just to put things into perspective when understanding the impossible nature of James’ feats, it might help to understand a bit about triathlons. A triathlon is a distance/endurance feat including three parts: swimming, cycling, and running, and in that exact order. There are four traditional distances for a triathlon. Sprint distance is the shortest, Olympic distance is what you’d do in the Olympics, half distance, and full distance. Each of those is double the distance of the previous, making a full distance the longest, and twice as long as an Olympic triathlon.
There is an oft-used term for a full-distance marathon we can’t use in print as it is a trademark of a company, World Triathlon Corporation. Much like the brands “Kleenex” or “Band-aid”, a full-distance marathon is often referred to as this term as a result of brilliant marketing.
James broke the world record for the most half-distance events in 2010, which led him to the journey of doing 30 full-distance triathlons in 11 countries. He then set his sights on doing consecutive full-distance triathlons. As there aren’t full distance triathlons being held on weekdays and certainly not many in a row, James had to get creative. This led to the birth of the 50, 50, 50, of which an incredible documentary was made. James did 50 full-distance triathlons over 50 consecutive days in all 50 U.S. states.
For further perspective, that is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and a full 26.2 mile marathon run every single day for 50 days straight. That’s not to mention the travel involved to cover every single state in the country. This would lead James to taking on a worldwide speaking tour, holding events in 48 countries, writing a book, and the documentary coming out about him. It changed his life, but the 2020 pandemic would change things quickly. Travel was canceled, his calendar was wiped clean, and James was left figuring out what was next.
James came up with the Conquer 100. The original goal of the 50, 50, 50 was to find out how many consecutive full-distance triathlons James could do in a row. Logistics and travel made things difficult during the 50, 50, 50. James was averaging less than 4 hours of sleep a night, and he believed there was a way to find a truer test of his capabilities. He set the goal at 100. That’s 140 miles a day, for a quarter of a year, and totaling 14,060 miles. James Lawrence accomplished this goal between March 1st and June 8th of 2021.
If you follow James on Instagram or followed his Conquer 100 journey at all, you might have watched in real-time as he got closer and closer to the 100th day. People started showing up and joining him on many of the days, and the celebration at the end was one to remember. Do you know what he did the very next day after accomplishing this incredible feat?
One of the most frequently asked questions James would get on his speaking tour about the 50, 50, 50 was whether or not he could have done 51. The answer was yes, but he didn’t want to. Early on during the Conquer 100, James’ wingman, Casey, brought up the idea of doing an “extra” 101st at the end of the journey. At the time, James hadn’t even made it to 20, was developing a serious stress fracture in his shin, and had a hard time imagining 101. Hell, 100 was tough to imagine. Casey didn’t bring it up again.
What happens during any journey, however, is a paradigm shift. What seems impossible at the beginning may seem simple toward the end. As James was nearing the final few consecutive triathlons, he decided to do the 101st. The final and 100th triathlon was on a Tuesday, and the Saturday before he had made the decision. He only told the core members of his team and his cycling jersey company. The company made a 101 jersey in a day and personally drove it from California to hand to him at the finish party of the 100.
After 4 hours of interviews, signatures, photos and celebration, James went home. He got on the massage table, did his usual therapy session, and went to bed. The next morning, James would get up on day 101 and do another full distance triathlon. He didn’t just take the question “could you have done 101” off the table, he was teaching the lesson that you can always do more. You can push yourself farther.
It’s hard to understate the physical and mental toll the Conquer 100 had on James. It’s true chaos to the body, and he endured night tremors, full-body convulsions, hot sweats, and incredible physical pain. He suffered a crash on day 59, and recently found out that he broke his L5 vertebrae. His stress fracture would cause so much pain that James would routinely pass out, and he would get right back to finishing a triathlon day after day.
Only James knows what it felt like, and that’s a key thing to understand. He was relying 100% on past experience he had to navigate through similar situations. It’s the same in business or any other aspect of your life. James and his team had run into similar problems during the 50, 50, 50, and worked together to find solutions based on their past experiences. They put together systems and processes in place to double what everyone had said was impossible, and achieve the single greatest endurance feat in human history. If James hadn’t done the 50, 50, 50, he wouldn’t have been able to finish the Conquer 100. If he hadn’t done the 30 full distance triathlons in 2010, he wouldn’t have been prepared for the 50, 50, 50. In taking action and pushing yourself further, you are gaining the knowledge and experiences necessary to achieve greater and greater things in your life.
The stress fracture James was developing on his shin was causing him incredible pain. He believed that at some point, he was going to take a step and just feel his leg break. He imagined that the public and all those watching him would say he gave it his all, and it just wasn’t possible for the human body to endure such a feat. James was so committed to finishing the 100 that it was literally going to take his leg snapping to prevent him from finishing.
As fate would have it, one of the best companies in the United States as far as carbon plated shin braces lived near the trail James was running the triathlons on. They recommended the product to James, which were carbon braces that offloaded the weight on the shin to allow you to keep moving and for the bone to heal. Normally, these custom braces take 6 months to make. They showed up on the trail to give James one they had already made, putting in on him in intervals to figure out where it was rubbing and make on-the-fly adjustments until it fit perfectly.
While James was certainly frustrated to be dealing with this stress fracture, it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings of the entire Conquer 100. He had to take it easy and walk during the marathon portions of each triathlon, which allowed people to participate that were traveling in from all over the country. People would often tell him how grateful they were that he was walking because it allowed them to take part, and how much it impacted them to be able to be a part of his journey.
We never know when our suffering, trauma, or trials are going to impact and benefit someone else’s life and give them hope. Sometimes, our greatest trials are someone else’s biggest blessings. James knows his suffering is intentional but has learned that it still gives people who are not suffering intentionally hope on their journey. That’s what keeps him going, being able to inspire people all around the world on their own journeys.
Your brain is a muscle. It can be trained and taught. When you become that third type of person, the one who is taking the knowledge you have and using it to continue to push your boundaries and achieve greater and greater things, you not only become a better version of yourself, you can inspire others on their journey as well. Mental toughness is a skill like any other, and you have to be actively working to improve it or you’ll never get where you could have otherwise been.
If you’re interested in learning more about James, you can visit the Iron Cowboy Website, and a quick Google search will lead you to the documentary about the 50, 50, 50, his book, and more about his incredible journey.
Whether you’re making your resolutions for 2022, trying to get your business from its first million to 20, or just wanting to improve yourself, we hope you’ll join us for part two next week! In the second part of this incredible episode, James will be covering how you can apply your experience and knowledge to get to each new level of your journey.