The Wedge – Part One: Endurance.

13 mins read

For those of you who have been around here for a while, you’ll find little surprise from Endurance being called the baseline of all action. For those of you who may be new here and found The Wedge via something external to the SIXFEET ecosystem, let me introduce myself. My name is Bill Dungey and I wear a few different hats. I’m a family man, volunteer firefighter, martial arts instructor, mental health professional and business owner. If there’s one thing I’ve learned above all else – it’s that leaders must endure.

This article is supplemental to The Wedge: Developing Personal Doctrine – a workshop provided by Bill Dungey. Book us to come speak to your organization – send an email!

I first generated The Wedge to challenge a group of my friends. We’d been beaten down the same way as everybody else on the heels of 2020. We found out the hard way – the same way as everybody else – that situations like, oh, I don’t know, a global health crisis brings out two types of people.

Workers and Wishers.

See, when everything jumped off in the spring of 2020, we didn’t have much in the way of context to bridge what we knew against what was coming. I, like many, found myself in the ebb and flow of the news cycle, social shifts and my own personal struggles. Not by luck, but by choice, my friends and I met those struggles with a mindset that would allow us to base out against the waves of uncertainty and stress.

We decided to bear more weight.

I’m not sure exactly where that came from – perhaps from my intellectual flirting with the likes of Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan, who, despite their varied public review have been instrumental in advocating for personal responsibility. Maybe it was a part of my own come up; the way I’d approached obstacles in the past. Still, it could just be another reflection of Jiu Jitsu, the martial art I’ve dedicated nearly a decade to that’s taught me all about how to persevere.

Nonetheless, SIXFEET was born in 2020 against a pressing need to endure. That’s where we come from. Now, we’re a federally registered not for profit organization. We’re aiming at opening a facility to do what we needed then – to train martial arts in an atmosphere that teaches resilience and endurance.

Where does endurance come from?

The first time I really interacted with the type of endurance I’m going to review today was via the GoRuck Challenge that I completed in 2017. I signed up after seeing it online. Then, I didn’t know anybody who had done it, but it seemed to be something the type of person I wanted to be would do. I met the standard, received my GoRuck patch and became someone different.

If you want to read more about my experiences in that event, head here.

At that point, I’d run a few races. I had been through some obstacle course races and had been training on the mats for about two years. So, as far as definitions go, I’d been prepared to be encumbered.

By bricks or better, I knew I’d get through it.

But, where does that come from?

I’d like to suggest that endurance is the baseline for all progress.

It serves as the foundation for all leadership.

Endurance is the will to continue.

I think that’s an important distinction. It’s not the ability to continue, it’s the thing in the back of your head that says “come hell or high water, I’m not going to quit.” There’s a difference.

Through my experience at the GoRuck challenge, I remember that moment. We were submerged in Lake Ontario. It wasn’t exactly frigid, but it was damn cold. My body was shaking as I linked arms with the guy next to me and squatted in the surf. We were waiting to be called back to the sand for our next round of ‘sugar cookies’. The guy next to me noticed me shaking and just said “isn’t this fun?

I didn’t really have the capacity to fully pull that apart, but since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of long rounds, marathon miles and more rucks than I thought my knees could live up to. And yeah, it is kind of fun. It’s not the happy-go-lucky ‘picnic in the park’ type of fun. It’s not the scream-your-lungs-out rock show kind of fun, either. I guess it’s buried into something like knowing I’m good for it that makes it fun. Especially, and some folks might not like this angle, knowing other people aren’t.

Will vs Ability

Endurance isn’t the ability to continue. After all, your sinewy self might vote for mutiny against your brain and start locking up. When that happens, sure, you can risk injury if it’s worth it. Or, you can recognize that sometimes it’s better for the long term to tap out and analyze the loss.

Losing out isn’t the antithesis to endurance, it’s a part of the process that endurance is made up of.

In the summer of 2023, I signed up for the Ride With Fire 100k cycling event put on by our fire hall. I’d participated the previous year and was quite challenged to finish. Since that’s fun, I decided to sign up again. This time, I had a better bike and was still in pretty good shape. That somehow resulted in my not getting quite as many training rides in as I would have liked (or needed.)

When we pedaled off to start the event, I was feeling great. Chugging along, hydrated and well focused.

As the day wore on, I encountered that mutinous, devilish voice. In the back of my head, I knew I was gassed. I knew that I was starting to hedge toward real exhaustion. I could smell ammonia. My right leg was completely locking up, from my hip to my calf. As I peeked out of the trail leading to Scotland Station, I questioned my ability to continue. I’d since had to start taking breaks to liven up my locked-dead leg and was even approached by a passing motorist to ask about my condition.

All told, my left leg was fine. So, I clipped in and pedaled with one foot.

Now, I understand how that might read on the internet; a Goggins wannabe, pressing out extra reps for the gram. But, if I’ve learned one thing in my adult life, it’s this – we are often capable of much more effort than we give ourselves credit for.

I’d come close to losing the ability to continue. The will, however, was still good to go.

When ability fails, find a flank and continue.

Jocko’s got a whole thing on this. If you’re not aware of his work, you should be. He’s a retired Navy Seal who has translated his experiences on the battlefield to the world of business. Among those lessons is the old standard; find a flank.

Finding a flank is roughly translated as being creative in the way you perceive the problem. Sometimes, you won’t have the faculties or resources to solve a problem as it stands. Here, you’ll have to find a flank. The thing is, that process of figuring out a different way to maneuver is what breaks a lot of people down. That’s the dotted line that detours from the planned path. It’s the extra steps that test your resolve in the mid to long term.

See, if you’re in the game long enough, you’ll bump into a universal truth. When you put yourself out there; on the mats, on the road, in the office or on the fireground, you’ll eventually press up against a capacity problem. After all, if everything was doable by one person, we wouldn’t have any use whatsoever for the high-performing groups we find in elite communities. So, since we know that we’ll have to operate as part of a team when (and hopefully before!) we bump into the problem of being overloaded, it’s best to prepare for that.

We prepare for burden by equipping our team to endure.

We can extrapolate here. If we’re at risk of burning our ability to the end of the line, so too is our team.

Preparing for hardship is kind of like replacing a fridge. You want to replace your fridge at a time and place of your choosing. Because, the alternative is chaotic.

Imagine two circumstances. One Saturday, you head over to Hortons, grab a tea, drive to the hardware store and purchase a fridge. The next week, it’s delivered for you; all the food has been removed and prepared to get loaded in the replacement. Another Saturday, you wake up to find the fridge hasn’t been running since you went to bed. It’s dead. You’ve got to scramble to get a replacement while trying to get your perishable foods someplace cool.

Endurance is a skill that you can practice by doing.

To prepare yourself and ready your team for interactions with difficulty, you can seek opportunities to train the muscle of resilience. If you’re reading this article, you probably have a good idea of what that might look like. If not for the specific types of events or training evolutions I could suggest, let me put this out there for you.

You should actively pursue the chance to test your will to continue against your ability.

Endurance is the baseline for all progress because it sits underneath our why.

It answers the question; “how long can I keep after this?”

When your ability fails, when barriers prevent you from moving forward and when your people need you most.

Have endurance.

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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