Recently, MTNTOUGH coach Ara Megerdichian was telling us a story from his days as an Army Ranger and I thought I would share some of it with you.
He had a young soldier in his unit who really wanted to be great at what he did - he wanted to be a great soldier, a great team member, and great machine gunner (that was his role in the platoon Ara was leading at the time) - and maybe even, one day, a Ranger.
His job in the unit was a machine gunner which, as one of only two in a light infantry platoon, was absolutely critical to his team. That weapon system was a huge part of their ability to fight and defend themselves.
But...the machine gun is heavy and this young man struggled with staying in shape. He’d do good for a while, then fall off the wagon, get out of shape… and struggle to carry his weapon.
He’d been warned many times after his fellow soldiers would end up having to carry him or carry his gear to get out of sticky situations.
Then one day, it all came crashing down around him.
During a training mission, the assault team was finishing its objective through the jungle and the grasses all around them were on fire. So they needed to hurry up, finish the mission, and vacate the area before they got consumed and before the support line (which is where all the machine guns were) got cut off from the main force.
They were also waiting for a countertack they knew would come and they needed their machine gun support badly.
Ara kept yelling on the radio for his support team to come up, but they were having problems.
Finally, out of the smoke, he sees the guy's assistant gunner appear...
He's a young kid, staggering, dehydrated, and exhausted... not only is he carrying all his gear, plus all the ammo, plus all the bipods and tripods... but right there in his arms, was the machine gun.
Ara grabbed him and shouted, “where’s the gunner?”
Just then, the rest of the support team emerged out of the smoke carrying the gunner, who was passed out in their arms.
The guy had pushed himself to the point of exhaustion and passed out because he wasn’t in good enough shape to complete his mission.
Fortunately, they made it out the situation ok, but I found the story breathtaking.
This young man wanted nothing more than to be a good soldier, carry his load, and support his unit...but instead he had done the opposite - he had let his platoon down one too many times.
Franklin Roosevelt once said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
And that, at least in Ara’s mind, sums up what happened in this situation with this tremendous young man. It’s not that he didn’t want it - Ara believes he did - it’s just that the value did not outweigh the cost and because of that...he didn’t get it.
Ara’s point in the story was that at some point each and every one of us has to decide that the value is worth the sacrifice. Why do men (soldiers especially) do things that nobody else understands? It’s simple - it’s not only that they’re special - it’s that to them the value of what they’re doing outweighs the sacrifice of doing it. And when we make that decision...we can go from ordinary to extraordinary.
The Problem With Wanting...
Often times in life, we want things… and we spend the time and mental energy thinking about it for years… and yet we don’t actually do what it takes to have it.
We all want the ability to go on the hunt of a lifetime. Or to finally go over that next ridge where the elk have been hiding for years.
Yet, so many of us get stuck by thinking things like...
“I’m tired from season, so I’m going to take some time off”
“I don’t have time to train right now during the holidays”
“I’ll just get back to the gym in the summer like I always do”
Nobody starts off as a Backcountry Athlete.
When I started training 15 years ago, I didn’t have any head start.
But since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to do some amazing things, such as run 12 marathons in 12 months to support our work in Africa… and hunt all over the west in some of the nations most remote places.
I learned that my initial fears of “I don’t know what I’m doing” or that “My body isn’t cut out for this” were wrong.
I just needed to put the work in. And learn the science and the systems to do it faster and more efficiently.
Looking back on it 15 years later, my decision to ignore my doubts was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
And I couldn’t have done it without studying Top Performers.
Top Performers Do Things Differently
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been inspired by Top Performers.
The special forces.
The star athletes.
The backcountry hunters.
I looked up to them because they had something that us regular people didn’t.
Something that made them stand out.
I now know that thing is called Mental Toughness.
And I now know that it’s something anyone can have…
From the busy professional to the Mom raising two kids on her own.
To me, that’s what’s so inspirational about these people.
They’re regular humans just like us… yet they have mental toughness, separating them out.
Making them Top Performers.
That’s why I started MTNTOUGH Fitness Labs.
To be the best in the world at Mental Toughness.
To be a place where any average Joe can walk through the door and become a Top Performer.
And over the years working with people through MTNTOUGH, I’ve found there’s 3 common rules that Top Performers live by:
1- “Always Ready"
Sometimes people will say things like “It’s not the right time.”
Will things REALLY be any different 6 months from now?
The truth is: there’s never a perfect time. You’ll never be fully ready. That’s normal.
Top Performers know this. They know there’s never the perfect time.
Instead, they live by the rule “Always Ready.”
They train all year round.
They don’t wait for the right time. They just don’t stop. They don’t get in and out of shape.
Because they know they don’t want to let down the people that they care about the most.
They know they need to be there if their buddy breaks his leg 3 miles in.
Top Performers don’t have to worry about when the time is right, because they never stop in the first place.
You can choose the same thing.
2 - "Why Not Me?"
When it comes to training for the backcountry, anyone can be a Top Performer.
It’s not just the muscle bound jock or the natural born athlete.
In fact, at the MTNTOUGH Fitness Labs here in Bozeman, some of our Top Performers are people you’d never expect....
- Wade, the high school math teacher.
- Justin, the high school principal.
- Lindsey, the mom of two girls.
- Nate, the owner of a medical clinic.
These people are just like you and I.
But instead of thinking “this won’t work for me,” they ask the question: “why not me?”
The only difference is they made the choice to become a Top Performer and put the work in.
So they can go out and conquer the mountains.
So they’re ready when they draw that limited sheep tag… or finally find the Bull they’ve been dreaming about.
Even if you’re a busy professional...
Or a single parent with two kids…
Why not you?
3 - “Be Consistent”
The third and most important rule is to be consistent.
Top Performers don’t get in and out of shape.
They don’t lay on the couch all winter during the offseason.
Think about NFL Athletes like Tom Brady.
Love him or hate him, the guy has a well documented history of training hard all year, even during the offseason.
That’s why he’s still winning MVP awards at the age of 40 when most NFL players were born after his career started.
They know that staying ready is better than getting ready… and that comes from being consistent.
For example: Every winter you have a choice.
When you work hard training for hunting season. All that blood, sweat, and tears you poured into preparing for the fall...
You could pull back and rest during the winter.
You could lose everything you worked for last summer and have to start all over again next year.
Or you could double down on the work you’ve already put in and keep getting stronger.
That’s what a Top Performer would do.
Becoming a Top Performer
Every winter, backcountry hunters come out of hunting season tired.
They’ve worked hard. Hiked a lot of miles. Maybe had some success. Packed out an animal or two.
When winter hits, they take time off, resting for months.
This is one of the biggest mistakes we see.
The first thing that happens is they start to build more fat.
Then their joints stiffen up.
Then they lose all the cardiovascular gains they worked so hard for… and finally, any strength they had starts to slip away as the muscles atrophy.
It doesn’t take long for their body to get out of shape, throwing away everything they’ve worked so hard for just a few months earlier.
Then next year comes and it’s, “time to get back in shape for hunting season.”
This is a bad cycle for the body. It’s painful. It’s unhealthy. And it’s a struggle to get it back every year.
Instead, Top Performers know that hunting is a lifestyle. It’s an all year thing. They know that winter is not a time to take your foot off the gas… it’s the BEST time to get stronger for next hunting season.
That’s why it’s so important to have the “Train All Year” mindset.
Top Performers know this. They use the 3 rules in this article… they live them everyday.
And you can too.
If you haven’t yet, start by download our favorite “No-Gear” workout and make the most of the time you’re given every winter…
Commit to becoming stronger for next year. Commit to being a lifelong Top Performer.