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On Motivation, Nearly Falling To Your Death, and Why You Should Never Give Up On Yourself

Are you getting the results that you crave?

Does it seem like you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, with little to show for it?

Why does it seem like the harder you work, the less you get done?

Starting a new business was supposed to be fun, right?

And it was, at first.

Remember day one? Remember the spark that you felt?  That powerful surge that coursed through your veins with so much energy you could hardly contain your enthusiasm?

You felt unstoppable.

You set wheels in motion and things just started to click.

You didn’t see what was coming next. You turned a corner and ran straight into a wall.

Messages aren’t returned. Promises are broken. Quitting and walking away seem to be the best options.

When Stopping Momentum Leaves Bruises  

Having your momentum suddenly stop hurts. It hurts bad.

As a lineman, or more commonly known as a Pole-Climber, I know this better than anyone.

Thirteen years ago (ack! Wow) I had to learn how to climb during a 2-week training course or I didn’t get the job.

Being deathly afraid of heights made it all the more interesting! If you have ever seen a utility worker going up a pole, you know how they make the task seem so easy, safe and effortless.

I will have you know it is anything but.

Needless to say, on about the 4th day of training, I came crashing down from about 22 feet. The equivalent of jumping off the roof off a 2-story building.

Immediately after hitting the ground, before the crowd could fully gather around me and make sure I was okay, I threw off my belts, hooks, gloves and goggles and stormed out of the pit.

Partly because of embarrassment. Mostly because of frustration. Both of which outweighed the pain I was in.

2 Choices: Regroup or Go Home Jobless

The first day I got the call back for the job I was ecstatic. I had big dreams of six-figure income, lavish vacations and lighting cigars with $100 bills.

All of that vanished at the first roadblock I hit – the ground.

I remember walking out into the middle of the street and down a few blocks halfway in a fog. Didn’t even know where I was going. Not until some time had passed did I realize my shirt was torn, I had splinters in my chest and my chin was bleeding.

What did I do wrong?

I was emulating the instructor exactly. I was following his every move yet I could not get up the pole safely.

Getting away from the training area allowed me to stop and clarify a few things:

  • What I was doing right
  • What I was doing wrong
  • What was working
  • What wasn’t working
  • And what was my intended outcome

Your Plan of Attack Sucks

Saying it was too hard and giving up would have been easy at that point. No one would think any less of me. Most were expecting me to fail anyway. Wouldn’t want to disappoint now would I?

I am sure you have people around you right now who have, “I told you so,” ready on the tip of their tongues for the very moment you give up on your business.

Make them wait just a bit longer. The idea is good. Remember why you started it and get back to that pole. But this time, do something different.

In the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, they mention the armed forces saying, “No plan of attack survives contact with the enemy.”

Even the best laid plans will be utterly useless once the battle begins.

Heath goes on to say that they no longer lay out exact plans of execution. Instead they give a General Intent.

In other words, HOW you get there doesn’t really matter as long as you clearly define where THERE is.

When you focus on your intended outcome instead of adamantly sticking to a strict set of plans, you are allowed more flexibility to change your actions when you hit a wall – or a pile of sawdust from 22 feet.

Planning in Advance Will Always Backfire

What happens when your plan doesn’t work?

This question will stop your growth dead in its tracks if you do not have the answer.

Have you designed your General Intent?

Instead of spending hours planning out the exact action plan, you should be crystallizing your intended results.

Is your plan to make 500 sales calls a day to build your business? (Specific plan)

Or is your General Intent to increase your bottom line? (General intent)

With the specific plan, you are left with no flexibility.  What if after 3 months your 500 calls is not producing any sales at all?  Would you continue making the same calls the 4th month because that was part of your plan?

During my “walk of shame” I realized my plan was to copy the instructor’s specific climbing motion to the “T”. But what works for him was obviously not working for me. I had the splinters to prove it.

I realized my general intent was to get up the pole without falling to my death. It was a good plan.

What this realization did was open the door for me to try climbing the pole my way!

Instead of climbing to the top then putting my belt on like everyone else, I walked up to the pole, put my belt on while still firmly planted on the ground and began the slowest most unorthodox climbing routine they had ever seen.  But you know what… IT WORKED!

When to Give Up?: Same Goal – New Route

Never give up on your goals. Always give up on how you get there.

When you get those not-so-subtle bruises/clues that things are not working, hesitate on giving up all together and see if you can find another way through.

Assess your results often. The better you become at identifying the most important tasks and taking action immediately, the greater results you will see.

Keep your general intent clearly defined and in front of you and be willing to throw out an entire plan if it is not working – without feeling any frustration at all.

What I do is start with a blank mind map. You can use regular sheet and paper. I put my general intent or desired outcome right in the middle. Then I think of 5 completely different actions that could get that outcome. I go 1 step further and write 5 steps to implementing that action.

So in the end my mind map would look like this:

Now when I meet another fall, I can either try again or take any one of the other 24 actions and know that I am still headed in the general direction of my goal.

I would bet your current action plan has about as many options as I had on my way down the pole – hold on for dear life or let go and fail.

You need to add some forks to that puppy. You need to have a ready supply of options that all lead to the common goal. If one isn’t working, drop it and immediately move on to the next.

Be flexible in your plan but rigid on the results you demand from yourself.

Get Up. Dust Off. Regroup. Kick Ass

Go the extra mile and add a few “Why’s” to your General Intent.

During some of the initial challenges you may have forgotten why you started this thing in the first place.  Remind yourself what you’ll feel like when your business becomes wildly successful.


Don’t worry about HOW you get there – just get there!

And if you can keep taking action, the good news is, you WILL get there.

You will fall. You will get bruised. Stop. Take a walk. The idea is good but the plan must go.

Never give up on your ideas. Just change plans and keep going. It will be worth it.

You’re not going to let a few splinters stop you, are you?

60 thoughts on “On Motivation, Nearly Falling To Your Death, and Why You Should Never Give Up On Yourself

  1. James:

    The saying “No plan of attack survives contact with the enemy.” really stuck with me.

    And the mind map reminded me of Guerrila marketing by J. Conrad Levinson in which he stresses how important it is to take action now, not wait for the perfect plan, and plan for multiple contingencies along the way.

    Good advice & a good read!

    • Thanks Gary. Yes, the more “plans of attack” you have you increase your chances at success. The general intent is just to win. The more flexibly you are in your approach the more control you have over the outcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Hi James.

    Your method looks great, having a range of options encourages thinking through the possibilities, and focusing on a ‘general intent’ encourages innovation during action. One thing about planning is that it can serve as a refuge from the doing, your approach combines planning and doing very effectively–so no excuse for hiding out in the planning stages!

    • Thank you Dave.

      That is one thing I learned right here from Danny on Firepole marketing and this is taking massive action.

      In the long run you will be better served testing out 10 plans of action in a week and failing at 9 then you would to spend an entire month trying to perfect that one… that may not even work.

      There is always more than one way to reach a common goal. Identify what the actual general goal is and 90% of the work is done!

  3. Great post, James, and very nicely written! This is such a great reminder not to lose sight of the forest because of those trees that are in the way. The General Intent idea will stick with me and be really helpful. Thanks!

    • Thank you Bobbi. This is something that took me awhile to learn myself. Now I always try to step back and ask “what am I really trying to accomplish here” then I ask if there are other, more effective ways to get that same intent.

      Powerful stuff! Thanks for commenting and I would love to hear how you are using this in your own business.

  4. See? I told you I’d read and comment.


    But cool article James.

    Indeed the WHY matters more than anything, as compared to the HOW. I was even told… this concept of the why and how is likened to the law of attraction.

    You can get anything you want. Just remember why. Let the universe handle the how.

    Sit back, relax, work hard (too) and let the rewards come.

    • Thanks for gracing us with your wonderful presence Alden.

      So do we sit back and relax… or work hard? =-P This can definitely “drift” across the borders into some of the more spiritual concepts. I found that quite a few of the business principles I learn often cross over into spiritual world and vice versa.

      Great observation.

  5. Outstanding advice, James,

    And a perfect story that managed to make me laugh aloud. I can even picture you standing up, dusting yourself off, and saying “what’s so damned funny?” as you storm off down the middle of the road.

    Years ago, a talented employee stopped me cold when he snapped at me, “Do you really think YOUR way is the only way that will work?” I wasn’t laughing that day, either; but that retort has stuck with me ever since.

    You brought your story around beautifully, James. I like your multiple paths chart, too — it helps me to accept the idea of back-up/regroup/move-forward. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. I’m stubborn that way, but I can learn!

    Thanks for your highly helpful advice, Coach.

    • Is there a chance you are a stubborn bull of a Taurus like me? lol

      It is tough sometimes when we have done something the same way over time or even been trained in only one way, to realize that it is not the ONLY way. Sometime much more can be accomplished be expanding our field of vision from the process to the result. Opens up so many more opportunities for growth for everyone. Thanks Jim

  6. Hi James,

    I was looking at your post from a leadership viewpoint and one thing you demonstrate I believe is significantly important, being tactical is just as critical as being strategic. Sometimes we just need to step outside the box we’re in and look at the situation from a helicopter view when things don’t go as planned. As you point out, there is usually another way.

    • Hi Bill,

      What we are on the exact same page. I just stated something similar in the previous comment above yours. Great minds think alike I guess. They say that airplanes are off course, 90% of the time, but they just about always land at their destination.

      But if they stayed on the runway discouraged trying to find the perfect route before they left, it would’ve never gotten the chance to reach their destination. Just get in the air know that you have options and correct course along the way.


    perfect timing for me James! I am working on something, it is big, huge, ginormous and my why is all I need to get me through!

    • Very true Lori. Well, now you have me intrigued. What are you working on? Better yet, what is your why? I bet it is something that could probably inspire us all, knowing you! SHARE share share! =D

      • 🙂 Well Sacred Earth Partners Training and Retreat Center has been evolving for several years…. and now we are working on setting up the physical side of the business.

        So we are working on buying the property to start the retreat center

        a little bit sustainable farm, a little bit personal development training and a little bit zen retreat….all the things that nourish the body, mind and spirit.

        • Now that sounds like a place I would absolutely love to visit.

          Where is it going to be located? How far along are you? I want you to know you have my support on this project. Sounds like you have an amazing why. That is all you need!

          • 🙂 and you are definitely welcome… as soon as there is a place for you to sleep!

            It is going to be in central BC, on a river, minutes away from the lake, you can take a canoe from the place to the lake. Salmon spawn in the river and there is lots of wildlife.

            We are at the stage of bank financing… so I am going to be working on the business plan and 3 yr forecast. Big job!

  8. I loved reading your story, it drew me in and made we want to keep going – have you thought of writing a book James? I can’t imagine going through all that, it takes a great deal of courage. I enjoyed reading how you broke it all down to bite sized chunks – makes it seem less daunting that way.

    • Thank you Lori. I actually have old journal full of my book ideas? One day . . . . One day.

      The crazy thing is, that was the first time I fell off the pole, but certainly not the last! I did get the job and kept it for 10 years before I just walked away and quit in order to pursue my passion for inspiration . . . . . With that of a whole new post 😉 Stay Tuned

    • =D Jean, that one made me “smile-out-loud” if that makes sense. I was going to abbreviate it but I didn’t you to get the wrong idea from “S.O.L”

      Glad to get your morning going with a smile. And thank you for returning the favor.

  9. Thank you for a motivating article. Your personal story was a great hook that kept me reading. You got your message across to me in a way that made me want to read more.

    • thank you Val. I did that job for 10 years, so I have plenty, plenty, plenty more stories like that. Luckily, I am still here through all of the able to share what I’ve learned along the way. There are hidden lessons in every experience if we choose to see it.

      The lesson I learned what that I needed a new job. lol Just took me 10 years to realize! Better late than never though, right?

  10. Hi James,

    Great advice that for me is also very timely as I am in the process of retooling the path to success for my counseling practice.

    I would add, as an adjunct to your article, that in focusing on the “why” rather than the “how”, it’s also vital that we also be mindful of how our own psychology plays into our negative self-talk.

    Where does that internal voice, telling me to quit, come from? Is it saying that my business idea is a flop, or that ** I ** am a flop?

    Most important, is its message more emotional than logical?

    When that pesky little voice pops into my head, I challenge myself to take a more objective self-inventory of my strengths as well as weaknesses.

    This exercise helps me to remember that while I’m not perfect, I also possess enough skill, talent, and ambition reach my objective.

    Again, thanks for a a great post!

    • you are right, Jim. Sometimes that inner voice is trying to tell you something really important. That is why knowing your “why” is so critical to your success. If you’re having inner dialogue like “am I a flop” I believe that an extremely come telling why will always win that argument in your head.

      But when your goal is not attached to a why didn’t something simple as the weather is bad, will have the power to knock off your entire plans.

      If the goal is good and you are worthy, there is always a way!. Thanks for sharing. Jim

  11. I love the idea of using a mind map to identify a variety of strategies to achieving your general intent (or your WHY) rather than sticking doggedly to one plan. As other readers have said here, there are always other, better ways to do “it”, the key thing is not to give up. Thank you James!

    • You have unlocked the key to success in anything you do Tehmina. Know your why and having multiple ways to achieve it.

      I like to keep building out my mindmap of ideas until I get every task down to something I can implement in 5 minutes or less. Then large tasks really seem simple when you look at it in its smallest form.

      You only fail when you give up. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Coach, you rock as ever.

    I love this idea, and for once this is a mind map that doesn’t leave me more confused than when I started! Thanks for sharing this, and for the inspiration to keep on keeping on.

    • Your not too bad your darn self Sophie 😉

      You are very welcome. It is powerful when you completely fill out a mindmap like this. It really opens you eyes to just getting to the goal and knowing that you have many ways to get there.

      Take the path that wont give you splinters though…. just a tip.

  13. This post is a great analogy for the way I have many times felt when presenting my artwork in an exhibition or submitting it or my short stories and novel for publication (my novel for ages 8-12 is still being seen by publishers). You wrote this account of lineman training as though it had happened yesterday. Obviously, that experience had an amazing impact on you. Oh! A pun was not intended there. Your mishap was a serious matter. You returned to win, though. :-Q That’s what we have to do. My son’in’law has been a lineman for some years now. He has never mentioned anything about the training, so I had no idea of the possibilities (?!)

    • ha ha LOL. Even though that was not intended, that was a pretty good pun.the 10 years I spent doing that job has had a great impact on me. It pushed me to the limits almost every day. I did lots of things that if you would have asked me before I would’ve called you crazy. That job is not for the faint of heart. I hope the next time you see your son-in-law, you look at him differently. There are not many people who could do that job.

      the life lessons you can learn RAM your everyday activities are immeasurable! Thanks Pat

  14. Thanks James! Like most entrepreneurs, I’m constantly coming up with new ideas of how to make my business work. I’ve been trying to fight that natural tendency and keep focused on one thing. Your article made me realize that I need to mind map. When I have a new idea I can figure where it belongs in the plan. Instead of trying to force myself to stick to one thing that my/may not working, I can look at all of the ideas holistically and how they fit together, ensuring that I’m using the best ideas. Sort of a middle ground between my idea generation and pure focus. This is exactly what I needed!

    • Kelly! =-D I love hearing this. Glad I could help you have the sort of awakening that you needed.

      With the mind map it will make things alot more clear. If you have 3 great ideas and you realize they are all going towards the same common goal, you are now free to choose any of them. It’s a wonderful thing. I hope this is something that always sticks with you. And if you ever need a reminder… just email me =-D james(at)

  15. Love the Regroup or go home jobless. Every business has rainy days and its so important that you’re able to handle those and move forward. We typically stand as entrepreneurs in our own way and if we can learn to be more flexible (taking another route) we’ll be that much more successful. Great post 🙂 !

    • Thank you, Mike. It sounds like you totally grass and absorbed the message I was trying to convey. There is no greater compliment or a writer, then knowing he has been understood. So, thank you!

  16. “No plan of attack survives contact with the enemy.”

    Such an awesome, accurate quote. When I was 19 I launched a technology startup. I spent 8 months planning and 3 months actually executing. 99% of the work I did while planning ended up being completely useless once I actually started executing.

    • wow. What a perfect illustration of this in action Amit. Like I hear a wise man once say “Knowledge + Immediate Action is a recipe for unstoppable success”

      The 80/20 rule applies: 20% planning and 80% implementation will always win out over the opposite.

  17. Hey there my Ninja =D. I could definitely add some meditation as part of this process. Quieting of the mind right before you start that mind map would really put this process into overdrive! Thank for sharing Kim.

  18. Nice article Patrick. Really makes sense! As a coach, you understand that the best laid plans………., We always focus on a specific strategy, but with a lot of what ifs built in. Keep up the good work. Always love reading your articles. Max

    • Did you just call me “Patrick” in public?!?!?!?! =-O Nobody knew what the “P” stood for Max! Thanks for that! =P

      Thanks for reading and continuing to show your support! Very much appreciated…… except for the whole “Patrick” thing…….. grrrr

  19. Very inspiring article. I’ve been in a kind of funk all day, like I’ve fallen from my own pole and have been sulking. Realizing it’s possible to have many routes going toward an objective and that I can take whatever one makes sense on a given day, or in a particular situation, is energizing and uplifting.

  20. Ok, first of all Laura.. .It is so rare I meet someone with the same last name as me! We have a dutch background. I would really like to know if you know any of the history behind the name….

    Anyway, glad this article was there when you needed it. Next time you are having a day like this you can usually find me on skype

    I would love to chat and help guide you through it. I have quite a few “go-to” exercises I use for days like that. We all have them so know that you are not alone. We never become immune. We just get better at how we handle them. I want to turn you into a black belt when it comes to mastering days like this. Know that I am always here willing to lend and ear when you need it Laura.

  21. Mike Tyson also coined a great quote “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.” I think it’s a great reminder that you have to “role with the punches” when life get’s up in your face and go after your “general intent.”

  22. Coach, great article!

    That is how I felt when I started internet marketing. But then I met Danny…:)

    While what you are saying is very very true, it is a great idea to have a mentor. I am referring to Danny’s ABM program. I feel that many pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to fit together.

    Thank you

    • Very true Tania. Getting a mentor would go on that very first tier of the mind map as one of the very crucial ways to achieve your General Intent.

      That is actually universal and could be applied to just about every general intent you could every come up with. Very important. Thanks for pointing that out Tania. Glad to know you are in good hands!

  23. Good inspirational article. Nothing teaches one better than experience and finding your own path to execute that particular experience in your life.

    • I also think nothing teaches better than bruises. But the key is, you have to be doing something in order to get those bruises. Many let the fear of getting hurt paralyze them into taking no action at all. Many a false step was made standing still. You are right Coffy, get out their and start creating your own experiences.

  24. James! You’re back! And with another inspiring post, no less! Good to see you here again.

    I especially gravitated toward the “Your Plan of Attack Sucks” section. For longer than I care to mention, I hadn’t really been living up to my full potential with my personal writing projects and couldn’t figure out why. It took me a year or two, but I finally realized that it wasn’t enough to just sit down in front of the computer after work and expect something to happen like magic. Just last week, I said “screw this” and decided that it was time for a more drastic change. I’ve been getting up at 5 or before and writing like hell before I leave for work in the mornings, and it’s been working out so well! I’m pumped and I have more motivation and optimism (in general) than I’ve had in a long time. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective and a new-and-improved groove to follow.

    As you said, you have to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. 🙂

    • ABSOLUTELY JILL!!! =D I will comeback as often as Danny and Megan will have me and as long as the readers are finding value! Thank you for mentioning!

      Man I can feel you energy in your comment! Reading it got ME pumped!!!

      Good mantra to paste on your computer screen: If what you are doing isn’t working, it’s not the goal that sucks, just the plan. The goal is worthy so find another way! Keep that momentum Rockin Jill!

  25. Coach, this was just what I needed to hear as I am in a dip at the moment. I have just had some time out camping. Coming back and reading this post, I’m reading to start climbing that pole again.

    • =-) I just found an old picture of me climbing too! I should ask Danny to add it to the post. I still get a bit queezy just looking at the picture and how high I was… yet I still did it.

      That is the great thing that will happen WHEN (notice I didn’t say IF) you pull yourself out of the dip – you realize that you can pretty much accomplish anything no matter what the perceived obstacles are fears are holding you back. It becomes your new reference point like “well I climbed poles as high as 70ft on top of mountain cliffs on a 2 inch spike connected to my shoes…. I can do…..(insert current challenge) =)

      Good luck to you Priska!!!

  26. Coach – Like Priska I just returned from a get-away and now back to the day job, a Thanksgiving dinner to serve tomorrow for 15 people, company, etc, etc, etc… life. It seems like forever ago I wrote a blog post, or painted a new painting (2 weeks ago). When I hit a snag in my motivation or fall off the pole I ” Get Up. Dust Off. Regroup. Kick Ass” – that is my method for getting back in the game. Your words were perfect timing. Thank you for telling your story.

    • You are welcome Jane. So it is after Thanksgiving now and I cant help but ask… how did it go? Did you, in fact, Kick Ass? =)

      I will be waiting to hear about your next painting. I am giving you 3 more days at the most =P Have fun and enjoy your holiday weekend.

  27. Pingback: How Falling To My Death Made Me More Sexy!

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