Reflecting today on the value of unusual beliefs.
My wife and I attended her college reunion this weekend. We both went to undergrad at West Point. This weekend we returned while classes were in session for the first time since we graduated.
One thing you notice immediately when you visit is the extreme level of physical fitness.
Remembering our time there, it’s easy to understand why: all the cadets believe that fitness is central to their success. They receive grades on it, participate in frequent group events, and share a community with an intense, physical focus.
As a result, you cannot go through campus, any time, day or night, without passing cadets jogging. We went to the football game–which students all attend–and passed a cadet jogging less than 30 minutes after the finish of the game. My wife and I remember this from our time there. It was not uncommon to wake up at 5am to start a workout, or leave at 11:15pm to begin a jog. We found ways to exercise even when short of time, in the midst of competing priorities.
So this extreme belief inspired constant, productive action.
I think there were a few elements to this.
First, we had good evidence for the belief. We could see the beliefs and success of people a few years ahead of us. We had feedback from instructors and mentors who emphasized the same beliefs. We heard stories of failure from those that didn’t.
Second, it was easy to measure. We had a defined set of metrics that constituted success, and we tested ourselves against those standards three or four times per year. We also had a high and competitive standard for success
Third, our environment encouraged us. West Point is a wonderful place to exercise. The terrain is varied and challenging, the views are beautiful. The facilities support physical activity, and gym space is very available. The walls bear the names and achievements of graduates from years past: it’s easy to imagine them running the same hills as training, long ago.
Lastly, our community reinforced our beliefs. Because we had so many like-minded people together, there was constant challenge and support from everyone around us. We had group events, celebrations of achievement, and moments of competition in daily conversation.
A few things worth reflecting on for myself as I think about my goals for the future.
Stay encouraged, and have a great day!