This is the sixth article of a seven part series.

Step 6: Stay the course

You’re going to get one of two things on your trip

You’ll either get reasons or results. I get very tired of hearing all the reasons why people didn’t reach their goals. You would be surprised at how many people rattle off all of their shortcomings without ever seeing that they never made it where they wanted to go. Instead of focusing on all the reasons why something didn’t work out for you, you need to get back to the climb. A secret to getting back on your quest is to get pumped up when things get difficult. Most people get turned off and quit. Great athletes are turned on by great opponents, and great people are excited by great challenges.

Remember you’re the only one who can stop you.

What is your comfort zone?

To reach the peak, you need to be comfortable where others are uncomfortable. All of the most successful people in any field possess this ability. This isn’t an innate ability but something you develop over time. The harder you push your comfort zone, the easier things will become and the further you can go up the mountain. Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, said that his secret to climbing mountains is that “he is willing to endure more pain than anyone else.” If you’re willing to do what it takes, you can get what you want. You just need to know that it’s not going to be easy or comfortable. Whenever you think things are tough and you want to quit before the goal, remember the following story:

In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, the Soviets and Japanese were in a tight race for the team gold medal. Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, broke his kneecap while performing in the floor exercise. On the following day, Fujimoto chose to continue to compete in his strongest event—the rings. In order for Japan to strike gold, Fujimoto had to have a great performance. With no pain medication, Fujimoto began his routine. It all went well on the rings, but the dismount would decide the outcome. Without holding back, Fujimoto ended the routine with a twisting, triple somersault. He landed with tremendous impact on his wounded knee and barely stumbled slightly. A thundering applause came from the crowd to salute the courageous performance. Later, reporters asked about that moment, and he replied, “The pain shot through me like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone.” The Japanese team won its fifth consecutive gold medal.

That’s a comfort zone not many have gone to before. Now ask yourself what level are you prepared to go to?

An experienced climber takes one step at a time

Many people have trouble reaching their goals because all they can see is how far away the peak is. This often stops people before they even start. How does a veteran climber make his mountain seem like an ant hill? He takes on the mountain one step at a time! Divide your journey into smaller pieces and take them on one at a time. You should be focused on the next small step toward your goal, not just the end result. If there’s an obstacle in the way of the next small step, get rid of it and take that step. Each time you take another step forward, that little success will make it easier to keep going. Any time you’re ready to think that you can’t do something, just add the word “yet” to the end of it.

Your trip to the peak is a journey, not a quick trip. Don’t look for the shortcuts. Stay the course. When you begin to lose focus and think about giving up, use this historic quote from legendary boxer, Jim Corbett, to get you back on track:

“Fight one more round. When your arms are so tired you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round. Remember that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.”

The little things make a big difference

When I look back at all of the great people I’ve worked with over the years, the most successful ones all had something in common—they all paid attention to the “little things.” I describe the little things as tasks throughout a person’s day that are simple to do. Unfortunately, I also describe the little things as tasks throughout a person’s day that are simple not to do. For instance, it’s as simple to eat well every day as it is to eat poorly. It’s as simple to get the right amount of sleep every night as it is to lose sleep. It’s as simple to be on time and thorough with your training as it is to be late and half-hearted. Do the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves. As Hall of Fame basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, “It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Momentary pleasure only lasts a moment

Many people often stop along the way because they settle for what they want now instead of what they want most. The most successful people choose most over now. Don’t lose sight of your goals for something that’s not going to be worth it. This is going to require diligence and persistence. As the author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said, “By persisting in your path, though you forfeit the little, you gain the great.”

One thing that won’t fail you on your trip to the top is your persistence. The wise, former president Calvin Coolidge gave what I believe is the best description of persistence that history has known. He said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

The tennis great, Bjorn Borg, said something similar that also demonstrates the power of staying the course.

“My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. No matter how down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”

One phrase to avoid during your climb

“I can’t” is one of the worst things that a person attempting to reach the top can say. Using that phrase is usually an excuse. Rarely is this phrase used to describe something that’s truly impossible. When someone utters “I can’t”, they usually mean “I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how to.” This demonstrates that many people’s lack of high level performance is simply a lack of desire or knowledge. Don’t make weak excuses. You have to be honest with yourself whether you want to reach the peak or not. If you really do, develop the desire or acquire the knowledge and figure out how to get there.

A great strategy while you’re finding that knowledge is to put a “yet” on the end of every sentence that ever begins with “I can’t.” Then you’ll find yourself making progress, not excuses.