Not Easier, Better

As a fan of the Tour de France, arguably one of the most demanding athletic events on the planet, I have long been intrigued by a statement from one of its most famous winners, the American: Greg LeMond.

“It never gets easier,” LeMond is quoted as saying, “you just go faster.”

For those who don’t know, the Tour de France is an annual bicycle race that traverses more than 2,000 miles with only two days of rest during a three-week period that involves more than 80 hours of racing. A few years ago, the interim Tour leader had one bad day and lost three minutes to his top rival. Over the remaining week or ten days, he was unable to make them back up. He lost that year’s race by those three minutes, although he and the winner came in many hours ahead of most of the riders who were able to complete the grueling event.

During a different Tour, in a single day the riders raced more than 200 kilometers over three steep mountains, climbing grades of 15% or more adding up to a total elevation gain of some 8,000 feet. Despite all the challenges, they rode their bicycles at an average speed of 30 miles an hour!

Given the demands of this and other storied professional bicycle races, it’s understandable that LeMond would claim “it never gets easier.”

And yet, I know from personal experience and research that by building up strength for physical exertions – whether pedaling a bicycle, lifting weights, or anything else – a given level of exertion does get easier.

For example, let’s imagine the first time I try lifting 20 pounds of weight to shoulder height, the most I can do is 20 repetitions. After enough training, I may be able to do the same exercise with 30 pounds. However, once I am stronger, I will find it much easier to do those 20 repetitions with only 20 pounds.

So why does Greg LeMond say “it never gets easier”?

I believe the answer is that he – and most other dedicated athletes – continually move the goal posts. That is, rather than feeling satisfied with a given level of performance, they aim to improve. They continually try their hardest, which allows them to perform better and better as they get stronger, more experienced, and more proficient.

In the day’s racing where the riders in the Tour de France averaged 30 miles per hour over 200 kilometers, they could have eased off and averaged only 29 or 28 mph – still phenomenally fast. But they didn’t. Like all high-level performers at the top of their game, the riders that day opted to put forth their maximum effort.

That’s why it seems to them as though “it never gets easier.” They simply don’t let it.

Now here’s the point of all this: your level of productivity and success operates very much like your muscles. As you gain strength, experience, and proficiency, you can choose to keep your performance at your current level of productivity and success.

Or … you can follow in Greg LeMond’s and I don’t know how many others’ footsteps and choose the path along which “it never gets easier.”

This is the path where you always try your hardest, and that’s what helps you “just go faster.” On a bicycle, you try your hardest and get more speed. In your work and your life, you try your hardest and achieve higher levels of productivity and success.

So from this perspective, Greg LeMond was not telling the whole truth. It can get easier. He’s just among the select group of high performers who routinely choose the other, harder route.

Now that you recognize and understand the truth about trying your hardest in search of your maximum performance, the choice of how to proceed is yours.

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