Watching a master do their work is always impressive. Whether it’s an orator working a crowd or an athlete contorting their body with ease and finesse, it’s incredible to see what people are capable of. We see things and wonder how they’re possible. We hear of the feats of brilliance, of courage, of endurance, and of wisdom pulled off by Cato or by Thrasea and wonder how they managed to do it.
The answer, in every instance, is simple. They did the work.
“First, tell yourself what you want to be, then act your part accordingly,” Epictetus said. “This, after all, is what we find to be the rule in just about every other field. Athletes decide first what they want to be, then proceed to do what is necessary.”
The renowned mental conditioning expert Trevor Moawad put it even more simply: Greatness takes what it takes.
As Russell Wilson’s mental skills coach, he has seen what that process looks like from the inside. His new book (with that awesome title), It Takes What It Takes, is about the kind of work we have to do to achieve our biggest goals. We interviewed him for Daily Stoic and he explained it a bit further:
It goes back to a conversation I had with NBA star Vince Carter when I was consulting with them. He said at 38 the behaviors for him to keep playing were clearly defined. It “took what it took” and he had to decide whether to do them or not…That conversation helped me better explain the simple truths behind success to athletes. It also safely allows for people to choose an average set of behaviors, but the outcome will be pre-determined.
Remember, the Stoics—Marcus Aurelius especially—talked repeatedly about doing what his nature demanded. They also believed that character was fate. The work you put in, the traits you inculcated, that’s what kind of person you would be, the kind of results you would get.
“Behavior, which you’ve drilled into your muscle memory,” Moawad says, “will dictate what happens next.”
So how can you be like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius or Russell Wilson or Vince Carter? Set your sights on the goal and do the work. Put in what it takes. Do what your nature and the job demands. Build the muscle memory. And the outcome will be fated.