The biggest challenge that any of us has anybody in any field — athlete, business professional, entrepreneur, leader, manager — is in having something to prove every single day.
At the beginning of a season or project, everybody has something to prove. Everyone wants to show the skills they have and establish who they are.
As an athlete on a new team, that first week of preseason practice is our proving ground.
Everyone wants to establish himself or herself. We’re all looking to see who’s going to lead, who will follow, and understand who can do what. We are positioning ourselves amongst each other.
There are no problems with motivation then.
Then, at the end of a job or end of a season, it’s easy to find energy: we all know that it’s almost over.
It’s not hard to show up then. You have a chance to leave an impression, win a championship or have the “last word.” Easy to get motivated in those times.
Those days in the middle — the “dog days” of the job — are the challenge.
You’ve established who you are.
Your position is secure.
Your salary is guaranteed.
You’ve been accepted at your position.
What’s your motivation to show up then?
What’s going to be your motivation to have the same energy on day 66 that you had on day 3?
THAT’S where the discipline comes in.
This is where your mental toughness is tested, when there’s nothing exciting awaiting your day at work. The newness has completely worn off.
Can you still show up and have something to prove even though you’ve already proved it?
This is what I call The Third Day.
It’s the philosophy of disciplining yourself mentally to find a way, any way, to bring the same focus to those middle days that you brought to the first day.
The Third Day will require some mental gymnastics on your part. Putting yourself in a space where you find a reason, every single time is hard work.
And, it’s when you become a true professional at your work.
I don’t care if you get paid for it or not — you’re a professional when you get to the level of finding your focus and “bringing it” every single time.
It’s helps, of course, when you have some external help — people challenging you, an audience to perform for, new opponents to go against every day — but often, you’ll have none of these.
An athlete working out in the offseason has the same routine every day: the same trainer; same workout partners (if any); same empty gym or field; same dynamic warm-up; same cool-down process. What’s going to get you locked-in mentally when you’re doing the same thing for the 23rd day in a row?
It’s not the job of your trainer or coach or boss to make the job fun and exciting.
It’s your job to bring the professionalism.