The hardest ten minutes

Last week I went for a thirty mile bike ride outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was one of those pristine fall days, overcast with very light wind.  The leaves on the trees were a vibrant yellow.  The road I took wound along a winding river, and there were hardly any cars.  In a nutshell, it was exactly the conditions to reinforce the reason I ride my bike in the first place.

But on my way back to home base, I encountered slicing rain, booming thunder, a persitent head wind while climbing a steady incline, and a brutal physical reminder that I was 7500 feet above sea level.  My thighs burned, my lungs ached, and my mind weakened .  I questioned why I even ride a bike at all.  I wanted to quit. I could see my destination in the near distance, but given the way I felt, it might as well have been a hundred miles away.

It was the hardest ten minutes of my ride.  Those minutes had the potential to decimate any good will I accrued from the previous ninety minutes of cycling nirvana. 

Those final ten minutes could make or break me.  The result was in my hands.

Here's what I did.

I found that swearing helped to get me through those hardest ten minutes. It was a release of pent up physical pain through the vent of vulgarity. It helped.

I fortified my mind to concentrate on the task at hand, making constant mental adjustments to direct my thinking away from quitting. My mantra became like the little engine that could: "I think I can, I think I can."

Through it all I clung to the promise of a reprieve in the future; an expectation of hope and an embrace of a reward.  It was the anticipation of that character building moment of knowing I could do it. 

What are some of the hardest ten minutes you are facing?

  • Is it finishing strong in a job where you are disheartened and over qualified?
  • Is it paying off maxed out, high interest credit card balances?
  • Is it dealing with grace through a dis-ease in your life?
  • Is it parenting in a world that discourages depth of character?

The hardest ten minutes in life are varied, personal, and require that we finish strong.

We finish strong when we get a bit pissed off at the situation and use that energy to propel us forward.

We finish strong when we persistently refuse to let our minds give in to the temptation to quit.

We finish strong when we embrace the reality of a joy that transcends any momentary infliction.

During this time of extraordinary change and challenge, hold close the words of Winston Churchill during the hardest "ten minutes" of the Nazi bombing of London.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." 

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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