Here’s an interesting fact: the first book I ever remember reading was David Blaine’s Mysterious Magic. When I first changed my life around at 21 years old I found myself in a book store ready to start absorbing a new perspective on life. For some reason David Blaine’s book popped out at me and I took it home and began digesting his mindset and philosophy on pushing past your perceived limitations.
Of course this would be fitting since as a fitness coach and athlete, that’s what I love to do myself. It’s not so much Blaine’s card tricks and illusions that attract me, although those take an admirable amount of practice and dedication, but more of his physical and mental endurance challenges like being buried alive for a week in Times Square, encased in ice for three days, and standing on top of an 83-foot pillar in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, that I find fascinating.
Recently I watched his incredible TED talk about how he broke the world record for holding his breath under water for more than 17 minutes. What he reveals about his training process and how he accomplished this feat is a life-changer and proves that when you say “I can’t do it,” or “I don’t have what it takes,” or “It’s not in my DNA,” you are lying!
If you have time, watch the speech yourself here (David Blaine Ted Talk). But if you don’t, then check out my main takeaways from his speech below. Although he wasn’t focusing on secrets to success, or essential practices of leadership, or how to be the best version of yourself, what he shares about his experiences provides more insight to all of the above then what I’ve heard in a long time.
From David Blaine’s speech I pulled out THREE COMMON DENOMINATORS FOR SUCCESS:
1. MULTIPLE FAILED ATTEMPTS
Do you think David Blaine woke up one day and held his breath for 17 minutes to break the world record? Not even close. He explored, researched, and attempted multiple avenues of training and failed many times before discovering the right route to take. Some of his ideas were crazy but he still needed to test them out as a process of elimination.
And here’s the thing, he would have never discovered the right route to take without all of those failures. Failure is a recipe for success. If you’re not failing then you’re not trying. And if you’re not trying then you’re probably stagnant.
Last week at our gym an unprecedented fourteen kids came in and accomplished a new feat for the first time (I have a theory but it’s for another article). We actually started the 1st Time Club to highlight their accomplishments. One guy practiced for a year to complete the 14ft warped wall, one girl practiced for 4 months to get the 9ft warped wall, one boy for three months to nail the 12ft high monkey bar ramp, and another girl for fifteen attempts before passing the T-Agility test. At our gym we tell our kids there’s nothing wrong with failure. We want them to fail at a fitness challenge or obstacle because that means they’re trying to get to the next level.
“If you’re going to get better, you have to push yourself. If you push yourself, you’re going to fall. If you’re not falling, you’re not pushing. Falling is part of getting better.” -Jerry Hardy, The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster
2. A STRICT, DISCIPLINED LIFESTYLE
We all claim to have goals in life but rarely, and I’m just being honest. do our actions show it. One of the hardest things for people to do is lose weight. It’s a subject that’s really hard to talk about and quite frankly, I tend to avoid it now. It’s not usually a matter of knowing what to eat, it’s not a matter of knowing you need to get physical, it’s a matter of just doing it. But there’s a whole slew of mental and emotional barriers that can block us and until we recondition our minds, establishing new behaviors and habits is really difficult.
Discipline is not easy. It is #Truth that we all possess it, we just have to choose to channel it. Leading up to David Blaine’s world record breath holding attempt on Oprah, he spent months and months living a strict, disciplined lifestyle. He ate a healthy diet so he could lean up and lose 50lbs in three months and as a result, lower his resting heart rate to 38 beats per minute (which is lower than most Navy Seals & Olympic Athletes). He put himself through extreme measures to practice holding his breath under distress, like submerging himself in a shark tank for a training session. And every morning for months he would wake up and hold his breath for 44 out of 52 minutes to get his day started, causing himself to be in a mental fog and have headaches for the rest of the day.
It does seem crazy. It’s rare. How many humans would do this? I’m sure if you’re like me you’re not holding your breath or going under water for any length of time. But you probably do have other goals to shoot for. What’s stopping you? Most likely it’s you. No one said it would be easy but if it’s worth it, then you need to saddle up and get disciplined and strict already and go for it.
3. PLANS DON’T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED
How many times do things go as planned? Usually when they do for me it’s because I didn’t plan anything to begin with. Just last week I had everything organized and ready to go for my Fitlets (5-6 yr olds) after school camp. I was super early, set up everything, did a few extra things, and as a bonus, even had three other adult coaches with me for the camp. The ratio was 1:4 adult to children. We had eyes all over the place to watch for safety. And guess what happened? Lucy, who’s like my third child, accidentally toppled over in the slide and came out head first, landed on her arm wrong, and broke it. It seems that every time I think I have things under control, God smacks me upside the head with a reminder and says, “Nope, you don’t.”
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare. But there’s also #Truth in knowing that things aren’t going to go as planned and you should be prepared for that.
Right before David Blaine is about to enter the water tank on national television, the producers decide to change things on him, making him stand up facing the crowd instead of lying face down like he trained for. Then when he enters the tank, things go haywire and his heart rate is much higher than it’s supposed to be, 150 at times instead of his planned 40-60ish. Not even a few minutes into his challenge and his nerves are rattled. He doesn’t think he’s got a chance to make 17 minutes, making it even harder to keep his heart rate down. Close to the 16 minute mark and he can feel his heart rate doing some dangerous stuff, like he’s about to have a heart attack stuff. But he fights on just a little bit longer and says he decided to release his feet from the straps, float to the top while still keeping his head under water, this way divers can grab him if he does have a heart attack.
Wait a second. He was willing to have a heart attack before he would quit and poke his head above water? Again, crazy. I’m not doing that. Things didn’t go as planned for him. But he refused to quit and did everything he could to adjust, fight against his fears, and focus on attaining his goal.
In conclusion, last week I came across an advertisement that said, “Lose Weight Effortlessly.” I’m not diverging to weight loss again but just in general, what a sad mentality. Why do we want to earn anything effortlessly? Why would anyone want to have money handed to them without working for it? Why would you want to win an event without training for it? Why would you want to win the girl of your dreams without fighting for her? Nothing feels as good without effort. It’s not until you pour some blood, sweat, and tears into an endeavor that you really feel alive, victory or not.
When I watch videos like David Blaine’s it’s just another reminder that success is in your reach. But it’s not going to miraculously float into your hands with out doing your part and extending your arms. You have to stop making excuses. You need to stop thinking you don’t have what it takes. You need to stop saying you weren’t made to do it. David Blaine’s aren’t born, they’re made. You can be made too. You need effort not a magician.
“It’s practice. It’s training. And it’s experimenting while pushing through the pain to be the best that I can be. That’s what magic is to me,” says Blaine.
So get out there and fail, live a strict and disciplined lifestyle, and reach for success today. And it may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.