Dawn at 13,000 feet looking east over Little Tahoma peak.

I wouldn’t call mountaineering fun. I remember Julie asking after I climbed Mt. Rainier… “How was it? Did you have fun?”

Fun? Probably not the word I’d use. Don’t get me wrong, I was euphoric. Felt 8 ft tall. Couldn’t wait to pick up my ice axe and head straight back up that mountain. But, fun? No, not quite.

In last week’s post, we began a discussion about the mindset and makeup of strong finishers. They endure, often through epic discomfort, and they persevere long after the shine has worn off. Why?

Perhaps, if we can learn something about how and why they do, that knowledge might help us stay true to our own goals and aspirations.

All my life I’ve fed off of adventure stories. Lewis and Clark, Ernest Shackleton, Richard Burton and John Speke, George Mallory and Sir Edmund Hillary. With Mitty-esque imagination I’d project myself into those stories, assuming the experience was non-stop amusement park thrills.

As I discovered quickly on that Rainier climb, my first real mountaineering effort, there is an abundance  of discomfort, and the few thrills you might experience are more terrifying than exhilarating.

Shackleton’s ship was named Endurance. Prophetically appropriate.

Endurance is our ability and willingness to tolerate discomfort for an extended period of time.

Similar to endurance, perseverance is the determination to press on, despite significant hardship and discomfort, refusing to give in or give up.

How is it that strong finishers can summon the determination to tolerate great discomfort and press on regardless?

They begin with the end in mind, conjuring a vivid image of what they aspire to and how it will feel when they reach that longed for summit. Then, they keep that image always front of mind, returning to it repeatedly when the inevitable self-doubt creeps in. It becomes for them a “terrifying longing”, something they can’t get out of their heads and that will not let them rest until it has been accomplished.


Paul (center) at the summit of Mt. Rainier in 1997 with his group from RMI.

They adopt a craftsman’s mindset, maintaining a disciplined focus on their present task or challenge, taking well deserved pride in its successful completion.

They remain faithful in and to themselves, that they do have what it takes, in spite of that ever-present, evil little voice of self-doubt that tries to undermine their self-trust.

When they do slip and suffer setbacks, which are inevitable, they take stock, dust themselves off, recommit, and step forward again, and again, and again.

Likewise, the idea of failing is so loathsome to them that they simply refuse to allow it to occur. You know that cliche, “failure is not an option”? Well, when we believe it, deep down in the absolute core of our soul, then it’s not a cliche but a truism, and it can make us invincible.

Whatever journey we set out upon, whether it’s climbing high mountains, losing 40 lbs, or simply deciding to live a healthier lifestyle, it will involve inevitable discomfort, tedium, setbacks and self-doubt. It may never be “fun”, but developing and adopting the mindset of a strong finisher makes the accomplishment of that worthy objective a sure thing.

And, the view from the summit is pretty magnificent.

Our core purpose at MidStrong is to equip busy people in their prime to develop the mindset of a strong finisher and to bag whatever summits their heart and imagination lead them to.

You can do this. Don’t settle. Join us.

Paul Reilly

Paul is the Owner and Founder of MidStrong. He created MidStrong in 2017 to train men and women in midlife who are busy with work and family to build muscle and burn fat so they can look and feel better than they did in their 20’s. MidStrong is making Functional Fitness training safe and fun, and inclusive. He and his wife, Julie also own and operate MidStrong locally, their bricks and mortar business, previously called ACCELERATED Strength & Balance. It is a boutique fitness center specializing in training folks in and around Westborough through the challenges of midlife for more than five years.