It’s almost 2022! For our final episode of the year, we’re closing it out by finishing our incredible conversation about mental toughness with the Iron Cowboy himself. If you haven’t heard our previous episode with James Lawrence, be sure to check it out so you can catch up to the story so far.
We discussed a lot of what James has accomplished, and now it’s time to dive into what motivates him and how exactly to go about applying mental toughness to achieve your goals in 2022 and beyond.
We asked James if he was worried about people breaking his records, and the response might surprise you. After completing the 50, 50, 50, James was worried. He was desperate to hold the record, at least for a year. See, James knew this was a chance to provide for his family. We encourage you to read James’ book, Iron Cowboy: Redefine Impossible for the full story.
James had a mortgage business, and when the economy crashed back in 2008, it was devastating for him and his family. James and his wife, Sunny, are very positive people. They never lie to their kids, but try to make things an adventure; turning difficult times into something fun. With 5 children and a difficult landlord situation in which they had no heat in their home, they would rely on logs in the fireplace for warmth. James and his wife would try to make it sound fun for their young children, calling it a “sleepover in the front room”.
That rock bottom feeling is part of what makes James the person he is today. His motivation isn’t just to inspire others and push the limits of what is physically endurable for the human body, it’s also to provide and care for his family and loved ones. Together, that’s a damn powerful combination that has proved to make the impossible possible.
If you’re currently at rock bottom, James has a single word for you: “congratulations”. It’s not to seem harsh or unempathetic, either. James believes that rock bottom is one of the best places you can be. As humans, this is where we learn, adapt, and evolve. If everything was easy and we never struggled, we wouldn’t learn the lessons that we need to learn. James looks back at his struggles, and while there were terrible times, without those he wouldn’t be the person he is today. He wouldn’t have achieved the things he has achieved in his lifetime.
2020 and the pandemic was a terrible time for everyone, and 2021 has continued with many of the same challenges and suffering. Still, James finds positives in the midst of pain. Quarantine may have ruined his speaking tour, but it cleared his schedule to give him time to prepare for and attempt the Conquer 100. All of these events in our lives that we perceive as disastrous are often blessings. There’s always good that is coming if you continue to push yourself and stay positive.
You can’t just watch a documentary or attend a seminar and become mentally tough. You have to take action in order to have an experience. That experience will teach you that you can handle it and learn that the next step won’t kill you. This is when you gain the confidence and knowledge of what pain feels like, and how much pain you can manage. In learning the threshold of what you can endure and how to manage it, you will hone your mental toughness skills.
Your goal can’t be to go from 0 to 100. There is such a thing as a goal or vision that is too big when you aren’t taking the necessary steps between here and there. James points out that you can’t go from your couch to running 100 consecutive full distance triathlons. There are rites of passage you have to endure in order to achieve those big goals. James’ journey started with sprint triathlons, and at that point he couldn’t even conceptualize 100 consecutive full distance triathlons. He learned and progressed, and his experience level climbed along the way. Once you achieve each goal on the road to your ultimate goals, more and more becomes possible. As Ken Goodrich would say, you have to stack your wins.
When James did 30 full-distance triathlons through 11 counties in 2010, that was the ultimate goal. That was as big as his brain could think of based on his experiences in life. Had he come out of the gate without doing the intermediate steps, he would have failed. He hadn’t yet earned the right or knowledge or experience to be successful in something as huge as the 50, 50, 50, let alone the Conquer 100.
If you’re running a $200,000 business, a million-dollar business might be hard to imagine. Once you get to a million, however, $5 million starts to become clearer. You see patterns, and have experience to draw from. $5 million can turn to $20 million, and so forth and so on. Whether you’re setting a goal for your business or for yourself, you have to take your biggest goal and put it on the shelf. That is your pinnacle, the thing you ultimately want to achieve. Now, reverse engineer it and figure out the steps you need to take in order to get there. You have to set attainable, intermediate goals that you can achieve based on the experience and knowledge you will have along the way and take those down one by one. By the time you get closer to your ultimate goal, you’ll hit the appropriate landmarks, checkpoints, experiences, open doors, and connections that will allow you to have the tools you need to achieve it.
If you don’t work backwards and simply try to sprint to the highest goal imaginable, you will fail. You will frustrate yourself. Many people typecast themselves as failures because they couldn’t achieve a giant goal they simply didn’t have the knowledge or past experiences to accomplish in the first place. Give yourself a clear path to success with intermediate goals along the way to your major goal. Remember to sit back and reflect at each milestone, giving yourself a chance to retain the lessons you are learning along the way.
In all of this, you have to have a winning mentality. As humans, we get to choose how we react and interact with the circumstances and situations that are in our lives. As soon as you learn that you have this choice, the faster you’re going to get ahead in life. James has a gift for endurance and mental toughness, and loves being a “1 of 1”. He’s the only person in the world who has done what he has, and it’s something we should all shoot for. It’s not just about accomplishing a feat, either. It’s about giving others hope, and impacting others along their journeys as well.
James doesn’t have anything left to prove at this point. With kids in their teenage years, he’s entering a stage in his life where he wants to be involved in preparing his children for the world. He continues to evolve his mindset programs, enjoys coaching, and still performs at speaking events. That’s not to say he isn’t still competing physically, of course.
The takeaway from his journey is that you should live your life in a way that makes you 1 of 1. Set goals, show up, and push your boundaries. Continue to hone your mental toughness by embracing suffering, and learning the lessons and gaining the experience that difficult times will bless you with.
At To The Point, we want you to absolutely CRUSH your goals for 2022. CEO of RYNO Strategic Solutions and your loyal host of the podcast Chris Yano has a challenge for our listeners. Come up with something you’d never do and do it! Find something that truly challenges you and tests your mental toughness, and let us know. We’ll be calling it out on the air during our episodes this year.
If you want a physical challenge, on July 9th, 2022, James is going to be hosting Starvation. This is going to be an extreme, full distance triathlon held in James’s home state of Utah. It’s the only US qualifier for the world championships in the XTRI series, called the Norseman, held in Norway in August of 2022. It’s a 2.4 mile swim, 100 mile bike ride, and a full marathon run on the trails of Solitude Mountain Resort in the Rocky Mountains. James dares you to sign up!