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Lessons from completing the 75 Hard Challenge

GoodluckChuck

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It's been just over a week since I completed the 75 Hard challenge brought to this forum by @Fox, and boy was it a challenge!

In case you aren't sure what this challenge is all about, the rules are simple. For 75 days you must:
1. Follow a strict diet
2. Drink 1 gallon of water per day
3. Complete 2 x 45minute exercise sessions per day, one of which must be outside
4. Read 10 pages of a self-help or business book each day
5. Take a progress pic each day

If you miss any of these things on any day, you have to start over.

It's an interesting concept because no single task during the challenge is all the difficult to complete. Anyone can read 10 pages of a book or drink a ton of water. What makes it hard is having to do it all for 75 days in a row without missing a step. There's a lot of mental stuff that goes into that.

There were probably only 15 or so days out of the 75 where it was really inconvenient to be doing these small tasks. A good example is the 4-day road trip I took near the beginning. Having to drink a gallon of water while driving across states makes for a lot of pee stops. Following a super strict diet meant I had to have a lunch box full of special food to eat. It was a pain in the a$$.

There were other times that were challenging like the many nights I could be found walking around my neighborhood after 11 pm because I had to finish my outdoor exercise. I normally go to bed between 9-10 so I wasn't thrilled, but I did it anyway.

I've heard a lot of people talk about the phases they go through during the challenge and I was no different. For me they went something like this:
  • Phase One - Day 1-15: A lot of excitement. Listening to the MFCEO podcasts related to 75 Hard and dreaming of what I’ll be like when it’s over. All of the bits and pieces seem tough to me except reading since I already read a lot. It's novel and new so it's pretty easy to get through the tasks.
  • Phase Two - Day 15-40: Excitement has worn off and I’m feeling lots of growing pains. Insights come almost daily and I’m learning a lot about myself and my habits. Every day I feel like I have 2x the momentum as the day before.
  • Phase Three - Day 40 - 60: The routine has settled in and I don’t mind it most days. There are just some days that are tough. The hardest ones are when my challenge affects other people, like when my girlfriend wants to go out to dinner but won’t because I can’t eat anything there. That part is hard. A really good lesson here that I’ll touch on later.
  • Phase Four - Day 60-73: I love 75 Hard now. I don’t want it to end because I feel like I have a lot to learn and would hate to slip into old habits.
  • Phase Five - Day 74-75: I’m ready to be done! I expect to keep a lot of the habits but the freedom to be flexible seems so sweet! And I want a beer!


Overall the experience was fantastic. I was able to finish the challenge on my first attempt which I'm pleased about. I don’t think it’s because I'm especially disciplined or anything like that. The reason I was able to complete it on the first go is that I was 100% committed from the start and I’m very good at tracking things. Being a marketing consultant I am constantly measuring and tracking things, so that part makes perfect sense. I had a notepad that I logged everything on each and every day. There was only one day, day 68 or something, that I almost forgot to check the log. Luckily I couldn’t fall asleep that night until I had checked off the boxes.

Would I recommend this challenge to others? Absolutely. I imagine it’s kind of like going to boot camp. You will be uncomfortable and challenged in ways you didn’t see coming and in turn, will learn a lot about yourself in more ways than you can imagine. I would say that it’s critical to really grasp the commitment you’re making when you start this challenge. When I started I knew for a fact I was going to complete it in one go. It wasn’t an option for me. The second I started the challenge, I was 100% committed to finishing it, no questions. The moment I told my girlfriend and my family I was doing it, it was already done.

The books I read added a lot to this experience. The first book was Man's Search for Meaning. This is the PERFECT book to read during this challenge. I feel truly blessed to have stumbled into that one. Finding meaning in suffering and looking at being human as the right to choose how we respond to the world goes hand in hand with doing a bunch of stuff you don't want to do when you don't want to do it for the betterment of yourself and the future of you and those around you.


Here are some of the more coherent knowledge gains I saw during this challenge:

  • When you commit to following a certain path, you and the people around you will have to make sacrifices.
    • Obviously whoever is taking on this challenge will make a lot of sacrifices, but I didn’t take into account the extent that it would affect my girlfriend. She was a bigger part of it than I would have thought and it really shined a light on how much she gives up not just for me doing this challenge, but with me being an entrepreneur and all the fun stuff that comes along with that. I have a new appreciation for how my choices affect the people around me. I had to tell my dad no to a beer like 10 times… That hurts because those are moments we really enjoy and there's only a limited number of chances left for those moments.
  • I was a chronic short-term thinker before, big time.
    • Making the commitment to a 75-day challenge was a first for me. I’ve never truly committed to anything as hard as I committed to winning this challenge. It was an interesting change of mindset. All of a sudden I knew exactly what I would be doing in 70 days from that moment. This branched out into other areas of my life as well. Where I would typically be thinking a week or two ahead I was now thinking 2 months ahead and beyond. It might not seem like a big jump but it was enough for a lot of switches to trigger.

      This change in perspective also brought a lot of growing pains. All of a sudden I was confronting the future outcomes of my current actions and realizing a lot of shortcomings of my current plans of action. Thanks to these realizations I am now reconfiguring my entire business strategy for the next 10-40 years.

      Perspective is an interesting concept because you can only see things from your perspective. You can't see what someone else is seeing. When I started "knowing" long-term, the way I see things changed. An analogy might be something like being on a raft in the ocean. If you are thinking short-term you might be concerned about which way the boat should be facing so that you can get some shade. Only when you start thinking long-term and looking out on the horizon will you notice there are a few islands in sight. Then, the question becomes "Which one should I paddle towards?" The shade is no longer what's important. Yes, I believe that explains it rather well.

      The deep mental shift of truly knowing where I was heading by way of commitment has had me acting very different.
  • Consistent action no matter how inconvenient, like during 75 Hard, is just the baseline.
    • In the beginning, I saw this challenge as a huge step towards becoming the person I want to be, which it was, but not nearly as big of a step as I thought. As I progressed through it, it became more and more clear that this is just the absolute baseline of how I need to operate if I want to be as valuable a person as I aspire to be.

      At one point I imagined telling someone like Elon Musk that I “Drink a gallon of water a day, exercise for 1.5 hours, and read 10 pages of a book…” and I laughed out loud. I imagine he would cock his head and look at me like “so what?” To someone that has never done something like this it seems like a huge feat. To someone else who has accomplished a lot by way of hard work would look at it very differently.

      The thing is I was operating at such a low level before that I couldn’t even see the next level. Now that I completed this challenge and have gained a level in discipline and commitment I can clearly see the level I was on before and I know intuitively that there’s another level above that I cannot see yet. I know that I need to keep pressing myself to be better and as I do, my perspective will keep changing.

      Me 2 months ago: "This is a huge life-changing challenge that is going to test me to my core!"
      Me 10 years from now: "That was a small stepping stone to where I am now."
  • Excitement for the day can come from what you did yesterday, not only what you expect to do today.
    • This is a big one. I used to think that I needed to find a life where I was excited about what I was going to do every day. I didn’t understand why I would wake up some days and drag my feet getting started even when I was working towards my dreams.

      I think one answer is momentum. After a few weeks into the challenge I was excited for every day, but not because of what was to come but because of what I had already accomplished and how much momentum I had. I would think of how hard I’ve been working and be excited to continue that progress. If there’s one thing I think can really get people out of a rut, it’s finding a way to get some serious momentum behind them so they can ride that wave going forward. Objects in motion stay in motion, and vice versa. If you don’t have any momentum, it can be a real pain to get going.
  • Sticking to plan is hard for me, maybe even harder than it is for others. 75 Hard is the longest I've ever stuck to an unchanged plan.
    • Somewhere during the challenge around day 40 or so I took a Meyers Briggs personality test. Wait, back up a minute. First, I was reading Ray Dalio’s book Principles and in the chapter, about everyone being wired different I read a part about there being two types of people that really stuck in my mind.

      “Perceivers work from the outside in; they see things happening and work backward to understand the cause and how to respond; they also see many possibilities that they compare and choose from - often so many that they are confused by them. In contrast, planners work from the inside out, first figuring out what they want to achieve and then how things should unfold.” --Ray Dalio in Principles page 227 section d.

      A few weeks after reading this I took the Meyers Briggs personality test and found that I was 41% more perceiver than a planner. This explained a lot about my experience in life so far. I am great under pressure like when there are fires to put out. I can think fast on my feet and improvise like no other. On the flip side, I am constantly running 1000 options through my mind and it can be very hard to choose one before I get overwhelmed and end up making no true decision at all.

      I’ve learned that this is sometimes a strength, and can also be a huge weakness that I need to find a way to fix or navigate around. Completing 75 Hard was a huge step in the right direction and pretty stressful for me, especially near the end when the stakes were high and I was worn down from the repetition.
  • The sprint works really well for me
    • What I mean by this is that by committing to following a set plan for a set amount of time I was able to accomplish a lot. I tracked my progress in a little notebook I bought in Japan. I mention that because the notebook is special to me and tracking 75 Hard seemed like a good way to use it. The list started out simple and contained only the tasks for 75 Hard. It wasn’t long and the list started to grow.

      I learned about habit stacking in a book called Atomic habits. Basically you combine new habits with old ones to help you get momentum on the new ones. Here are some screenshots of my notebook:

Day 2
75hardbookDay2.jpg


Day 72
75HardbookDay72.jpg


By the end, I had added a bunch of tasks and habits to the list because if they were on this list, they were getting done. It worked great! You could call it a power list but I just lumped it all together to keep it simple.


I took some of the data I tracked and made some graphs of my progress. The progress wasn't amazing but it's really rewarding for me to be able to see my own data on charts since charts are something I have an intuitive sense for reading. You can see that my mood and energy levels improved over the course of the 75 days. I noted these measurements within 20 minutes of waking.

Also, you can see my wake up times got earlier and less spread out. I don't try to wake up at any particular time so this is a pretty natural display of my behavior.

Finally, weight went down a few pounds. I gained a decent amount of muscle and lost a bunch of fat. I haven't even looked at the progress pics yet, so let's take a look.
27773

Day One:
27775 27776

Day 75:
27777 27778


Yep, I definitely looked like I ate a whole pizza in the first pics. I'm on my way to being in the best shape of my life now.

Overall this challenge was a huge success for me. I started a new notebook and am continuing to log daily tasks. I've been exploring new things to track and new ways of tracking. Currently I have an app that asks me to rate my mood and record my activities every 30 minutes during the day. The plan is to measure this for 30 days and then be able to reflect and see where my time is going. This way I can make the necessary adjustments to be as productive as I want to be.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you got something valuable from it. If you have any questions just ask and I'll answer.

Cheers
 

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Dan_Cardone

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Awesome transformation!
 

MattR82

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Good stuff!

Gotta get that body beautiful look for your next trip to Bali haha.

I failed twice, but am about to start again for the final time soon.
 

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Very interesting, I like your style, I check it right now! Thanks @Lenin looking forward to it. :)
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