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5 Keys To Business And Athletic Success: The Death Ground Strategy

Keystone / Stringer

You are your own worst enemy. You waste precious time dreaming of the future instead of engaging in the present. Since nothing seems urgent to you, you are only half involved in what you do. The only way to change is through action and outside pressure. Put yourself in situations where you have too much at stake to waste time or resources – if you cannot afford to lose, you won't. Cut your ties to the past; enter unknown territory where you must depend on your wits and energy to see you through. Place yourself on "death ground," where your back is against the wall and you have to fight like hell to get out alive.
- Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

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We have all been there: unmotivated. Sitting around, we tell ourselves stories, "I'll start [insert here] next month."

Many of us will go a step further and read self-help books and articles. In the end, however, these mainly help authors, not readers. Admission: I recently read a book about how to develop good habits and get rid of bad ones. None of it stuck.

If you seek instant motivation, choose death.

If you seek instant motivation, choose death. Adopt a death ground strategy. It will get you off the couch much faster than any book or seminar.

Death ground was a common place for many of us growing up. As a boy, I once road my bike three hours to get to the ocean. Completeley exhausted, I made it back home many hours later only because I had no other choice. Another time while pond skating, I fell thru the ice. I made it out because I had to.

As we mature, however, we grow comfortable. We don't do things because we don't have to. Motivation and creativity suffer. Stuck in place, we fester. Life becomes mundane, routine.

Don't let this happen.

Here are 5 actions to place yourself on psychological death ground, courtesy of Robert Greene:

Stake Everything On A Single Throw

Take on a daunting challenge, even one that others think foolish. Our future is at stake, we cannot afford to lose. So we don't.

Act Before You Are Ready

We often wait too long to act, particularly when we face no outside pressure. It is sometimes better to act before you are ready – to force the issue. Not only will you take your opponents by surprise, you will also have to make the most of your resources. You have committed yourself and cannot turn back. Under pressure, your creativity will flourish. Do this often and you will develop your ability to think and act fast.

We often wait too long to act, particularly when we face no outside pressure.

Enter New Waters

Leave stale relationships and comfortable situations behind. Cut your ties to the past. If you give yourself no way out, you will have to make your new endeavor work. Leaving the past for unknown terrain is like a death – and feeling this finality will snap you back to life.

Make It "You Against The World" 

In any battle, you are putting your name and reputation on the line; your enemies will relish your failure. Use that pressure to make yourself fight harder.

In any battle, you are putting your name and reputation on the line.

Keep Yourself Restless And Unsatisfied

Take a risk and your body and mind will respond with a rush of energy. Make risk a constant practice; never let yourself become settled down. Soon, living on death ground will become a kind of addiction – you won't be able to do without it.

Death ground applies equally to business and athletics. As an adult, I left the comfort and security of working at a large law firm to start my own practice. This created an intense rush of energy and effort. I could not afford to lose, so I didn't.   

This week, I committed to doing an intimidating Grand Canyon run in October. There is little time, so the next 60 days will be filled with focus and a heightend sense of purpose. I cannot afford to fail - there is no safety net - so I won't.  

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Find your personal death ground. Start today. I promise, it will fill you full of life!