“I felt my fingers twitching, my body shaking, I felt like I needed to get out of the pit as quickly as possible and I didn’t see this coming.”
I’ve always been looking for the next adrenaline rush that would push my limits, and that’s primarily been through testing my physical fitness.
I’ve done ultra-running. I’ve done triathlons. I’ve thrown myself in the deep end literally by learning how to swim and being very unsettled over there. But what was different about participating in Show No Weakness with Innerfight, was that we had no clue on what to expect. Blindly walking into it created a mental challenge, unlike the other ultra-events I’ve been in.
My discovery from this is, going into the unexpected is the new black.
It started with us being given a very clear description of what we needed to have in our boxes. With non-negotiable box dimensions and a stipulated quantity of 3 kgs of food, we weren’t even given any tips on what that food could be. This was left to us to figure out based on what we thought our requirements would be or what we thought the challenge would be about.
When we got over there, we promptly began at 5:45 pm.
The first challenge was us being put into four teams, and we had to unanimously pick our team leader. They would be the person who would have their eyes open in this challenge. The remaining five of us that were leftover had to have blindfolds on our eyes.
The team leader was given a string of rope which was a length of rope or a length of string, which was determined by a certain card from the deck of cards we were supposed to bring with us. So, what we submitted was a queen of hearts which basically allowed us to have 12 meters of string. Somebody else gave an ace or two and they had just one or two meters for the whole team.
The idea behind the string was for the rest of the team to hold onto the string, while the team leader would guide us as he had his eyes open, and he’d basically run following a car. The rest of us had to run based on instinct, with him leading us and us holding onto the rope for guidance and direction. We ran for close to about 90 –100 minutes.
The Relaxation of Being a Follower
It was one of the most relaxed I’d been in a long time. The reason for that is, as a decision-maker, and an entrepreneur, a parent, and a team leader, and an advisor for my clients, I’m constantly in the space where I need to make decisions. Some of them need to be very quick, some of them need to be carefully thought out, and need to have a proper follow-through plan associated with it.
But being led by somebody who could see it all, what I really needed to do over here was listen to his instructions and continue to run, walk, jog, or stop as he called it. I was in a position where I did not need to make any of the decisions and only needed to follow instructions. This, for someone like me, was very gratifying, considering the most of my days are spent constantly making decisions for and on behalf of people.
After a few minutes of us having to drink some water, eat some of our food, at the campsite, the next challenge began.
The rules of the game were very simple. Marcus Smith, one of the organizers, would blow his whistle. The number of times the whistle was blown, implied a specific instruction.
So, if the whistle was blown twice, it meant everyone on the campsite needed to pay attention to receive the instructions for the next game.
When the whistle blows once, the game begins.
When the whistle blows three times, the game has ended.
We didn’t know in advance how long it would take for a game to end, or what the duration of each game would be, so that unknown was an interesting dynamic to deal with.
As the challenge began, we were dispersed into three different teams. As an individual of the team, you earn points for completing each challenge a specific number of times. This made everyone focus on the points in the team. But Tom Walker, my coach, said something during the challenge which made me think about the points and what was relevant.
The game, really, was about not ringing the bell and not quitting. The aim of the people running the game was to make participants quit. They disguised it with a point system, however, the real aim of the game was to be able to go on for as long as possible without having to quit.
The challenge was similar to a game of monopoly, wherein, the money earned during the game is irrelevant once the game is over. It can’t be used to purchase things in real life.
Tom’s hint was all it took for me to think about this completely differently. I started seeing the game and the challenges as an endurance event. Rather than smashing every challenge I was just making sure that I see myself through without ringing that bell.
There was a bit of a distinction between the older and younger people playing the game- the older people approached it more with a sense of survival, maybe even knowing fully well that the points were irrelevant. Whereas, the younger people smashed every challenge and tried to accumulate as many points as possible, to the point where they may have not been listening to the instruction of the game clearly enough. Or so I thought. Either way, so much grit, and willpower were on display.
One of the challenges was to do a mile-long burpee broad jump challenge. This starts in a position of a burpee, but instead of jumping up in a normal burpee, you actually jump forward, and the distance you cover needs to be roughly about a mile. The points given to us for finishing that challenge were 75,000. And once we finished, we had the option of doubling or tripling those points by agreeing to do a second challenge which we didn’t know what it was. The team captain decided that we would do it and it ended up being a mile long of walking lunges.
The interesting thing about the challenge is we were told that this challenge had a timeline associated with it, within which period we needed to finish it. However, we weren’t told what that time cap was. We were just told that whenever Marcus blows the whistle, that time is over and if you don’t finish this challenge on time then you lose your 75,000 points that you accumulated from the previous challenge as well. This was a really interesting game and we finished five lunges short of our destination before the whistle was blown. At the end of it, however, the points were irrelevant. The experience wasn’t.
The third challenge is where the mind games began. A participant and I were made as substitutes and the rest of the participants were broken up into 3 or 4 teams and had to do a series of obstacles. As substitutes, Sam and I were given instructions that we could go back to these participants and negotiate with them if they felt weak and weren’t in a position to finish their challenge in return for their points. So, we would basically do some of their challenge for them. However, nobody accepted the negotiations, and nobody decided to quit- so, I got two hours of doing nothing. I wonder now, though, if they could go back to this challenge after completing the entire game and understanding the irrelevance of the points, whether they would still negotiate as hard as they did for substitution.
The fourth challenge was interesting for me and was actually the most unsettling.
We needed to find a way to bury each and every member of their team under the sand completely with only their neck and head above the sand.
We also had to look for a shovel in a specified area of the desert and start digging there. I found the shovel first and began digging. I ended up becoming the person that needed to dig out for the whole team. So, I had my teammates go into the pits, covered them up with sand and after that, I needed to find a way to dig myself into a grave as well. Once that was done, we had to bank our 5 minutes- every time 5 minutes passed of us staying under the sand without a single part of our body showing other than our neck and our head, we would earn 50 or 100 points.
After having banked two 5-minute intervals, the team (more me because of the unsettling feeling) decided to get out of the grave and get back in so that we had some time to shake off our limbs and be less restless. The second time around, I volunteered to jump into the pit first and have my whole body be submerged in sand except for my neck and head.
Not Having any Control
This was, strangely enough, the most challenging part of the event for me. I felt a lot of sand on my chest and for some reason, this was very, very unsettling. I felt my fingers twitching, my body shaking, I felt like I needed to get out of the pit as quickly as possible and I didn’t see this coming.
I don’t know whether this had to do with the fact that we’ve been in back-to-back challenges for so long or the fact that it was the unknown. It was good for me to uncover this as something I did not know I would be worried about.
The Mind Games That Continued After That
After this game got over, we got back to camp, and my box of food, provisions and hydration tablets were now hidden from me. And I wasn’t granted access to my box until the game was over. I was allowed to negotiate with the other individuals for food using my points or my ‘monopoly money’ per se. But this trade of me giving them points and them giving me the food was based on the approval of the judges. And they happened to disapprove a couple of my requests for food- which got me in an even more unsettled place.
Only after waiting for a while and realizing that my last meal was at 2:30 am, and to think that we fast for 8 hours at night on a regular basis, I realized that this was just psychological. Because really, there was more than enough fuel in my body having eaten my last meal only 5 hours back.
There was more than enough in me to keep me going, and after that thought settled, I was a lot calmer, and I didn’t require or need anything other than hydration tablets, just to make sure that I’m properly hydrated in water until about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, which is the first time I’d eat something after 2:30 in the morning.
Of the many other obstacles we had out there, here are my major takeaways from this:
- I put myself in a very difficult position in a very unfamiliar territory
And since picking up swimming and being comfortable in the water, leave aside racing in the water. Since learning how to run, doing ultramarathons in the long days, since doing the full Covid-19 IronMan, in 2020, in Dubai with the weather being so bad and since learning how to swim, I think this is my most unsettling moment where I’ve thrown myself in an unfamiliar situation.
- If you identify as a shark, you’ll want the rewards from this
If you constantly find a way to throw yourself in situations that are unfamiliar, then what comes out of it is such a different method of thinking. Your mind goes into a fight or flight mode, the survival instinct kicks in and you start innovating on ideas on how you can survive the situation at hand.
For people who are constantly chasing that bark out on the hunt, constantly looking to better themselves, constantly looking for avenues to improve, and ways to challenge themselves, the mindset polish that you get from this is unreal.
If you are an entrepreneur, a top-level executive, a top sales guy in your organization, if you are the guy that makes things stick, if you are the shark, then try and throw yourselves into uncomfortable situations. Put yourself out of your comfort zone. Because as the saying goes, living begins at the end of your comfort zone.
If you need to find a better way to deal with life, a better way to think, a different way to achieve goals, put yourself in situations that are so challenging and difficult so that when you face situations in the real world, they seem like a breeze.