I am always watching high performance people and wondering:  what makes them tick?  What’s different that enables them to achieve uncommon results and reach the pinnacle of their profession or sport?

It would be cool if there was one single secret to success, but we all know that it’s a combination of genetic, environmental, cultural, behavioral, and mental factors.  In this blog, I want to focus on one characteristic that exists in each and every super achiever I know:  they are unreasonable!

Being unreasonable is generally considered a negative attribute.  It denotes an unwillingness to go along with accepted norms, asking for things that can’t be done or aren’t expected, and even being unrealistic.  

Who wants to be that?  I do!  Because unreasonable people break barriers and achieve new heights. 

When you’re unreasonable, you don’t let common reasons stop you from achieving your goals.  You don’t give reasons when you don’t quite get there – because the “excuses” don’t matter, but the result does. 

We have many opportunities to be reasonable in our lives.   Most people have many reasons for not exercising – good ones that still cause them to feel unhealthy and less energetic than they could.  We have reasons for not going after our goals, as my partner Jack shared in his blog series on goal setting (Who's Afraid Of Success?, Success: Do You Have The Skills?,  and Success: Do You Really Want It?) Some of our most common reasons are:

  • I don’t have time
  • There aren’t enough hours in the day
  • I don’t have support
  • The weather is bad
  • Other people aren’t doing “it”
  • It’s going to take a lot of effort and I’m not sure I have the energy
  • Our systems don’t allow me to
  • I don’t feel that good right now
  • My family needs me
  • My clients need me

I could go on and on and I know you could chime in with your favorite reasons, too (post them to this blog if you have some good ones!).  But when we are old and we look back on our lives, what will we remember most?  Our achievements or our reasons?

I ran my second Half Marathon on Sunday and I had a lot of potential reasons not to: 

  • We had a long winter and the weather has been horrible, so I could have opted out because it was hard to train in the cold, snow, ice and wind. 
  • I scheduled this run for the middle of my peak travel period, having come off six weeks of straight travel to run the race and I would head out again the day after the race.  I could have bowed out because traveling can be tiring! 
  • I hadn’t trained on the course and it had a little under a mile of gravel and hills at the start and finish.  I could have cancelled this race and run a course that was a little less challenging and that I would have time to train on prior.
  • I began having allergy symptoms five days before the race and had a cough.  I could have bailed on the race because I wasn’t 100%. 
  • When I went to bed on Saturday, the weather forecast called for 40 degrees, drizzle and high wind at the start of the race.  I could have put a pillow over my head and missed the race just thinking of the conditions.

I also had some support for not running.  A few days before the race, my mother said, “Remember, you can quit at 10K if you don’t feel well.”  In the middle of the night before the race when I got up to take some cough syrup, even my super-supportive husband said, “I hate to say this, but maybe you shouldn’t run.”  And it crossed my mind:   I didn’t have any running buddies running in the race – I could skip this one because no one was counting on me.

Except me!  I was counting on me!  I set a goal to run two Half Marathons and to do one of them this spring and I was going to do it!

So, I was unreasonable.  I got out bed, bundled up and ran my race.  It was not the most joyful run I’ve ever done, but it will probably be one that I am most proud of.  Because I avoided all the easy reasons and went against conventional wisdom to do something I believed I could do.  And, I was rewarded with a major improvement in my time, finishing in 2:12:46, a full 10 minutes ahead of my first Half and breaking the 2:15 barrier, which I wasn’t sure I could ever do.

I don’t tell you this story because I want you to think I’m special.  To the contrary, I hope you can see that I’m just like you.  I have many barriers that can block my progress and you do, too.  The question is, how powerful is your will to achieve despite the reasons that pile up on you?  How unreasonable are you willing to be? 

Please post your thoughts on being unreasonable, or share ways that doing so have allowed you to achieve success.  I’m interested!