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Recalibrating beliefs: pain is inevitable [Weekly Brain Tools]

Mar 25, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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Four years ago, I was a sedentary who spent most days in front of a PC or behind the wheel.

I was born in the third most traffic congested cities in the world, where everyone feels entitled to drive and park everywhere (people here would rather invest all they have into expensive cars, just to show off, even when they can’t afford insurance or gas), so sports are highly discouraged and I had almost no role models around me.

Until Radu entered the picture. We’ve met when we were 20 years old and both working in the media – he was a sports journalist, and I was running a music website. In the 7 years that have passed since we’ve first met, he had gained lots of weight, to the point when his scale read more than 100 kilograms. Things were really put into perspective when his doctor warned him he basically weighs 0.1 tons.

That was his turning point. Fed up with his unhealthy lifestyle, Radu decided to start from scratch and changed his whole life… all thanks to sports. He took spinning classes (a form of indoor cycling) and, in time, became a spinning coach. He started running – and went from 1 kilometer to doing marathons and ultra marathons. In other words: he can now run 100 kilometers long races in the mountains whenever he feels like. Of course, he also dropped all the extra weight and changed his nutrition as well.

Radu realized that if he can do it, others can as well. He made it his mission to spend the rest of his life helping others break their limits, so he quit his job and started a running group where he helps people start practicing sports from 0 and safely takes them to the finish line of their first half-marathon.

And guess who was the first member of that group 🙂

We met in the park on February 14th, warmed up, and started running… only to end my first run after 5 minutes, with my face turned Coca-Cola red and wondering where my lungs are. Reality check! It was a huge gap between that and my expectations of being able to run a half-marathon with just a few weeks of training.

Before that first run, I did the usual Google-search research and read all sorts of success stories and training plans to “run your first marathon in four weeks”. I was under the impression that if I worked hard enough, I’d be able to run 21 kilometers in no time.

Radu helped me recalibrate my beliefs.

The reality is that it takes a lot of effort for such a goal. You need to put in a lot of training, every day, for six months or so (rest days count as training 😛 ). Anything less will lead to injuries or frustrations. If you think you should be able to do something in a couple of weeks, you’ll end up quitting.

Yes, running is hard. And yes, it’s supposed to be this hard! It’s normal to struggle with pain.

Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations just because you’re looking at what others are doing or you’ve read success stories on the internet or in books. You never know what’s left unsaid.

Usually, this is what’s going on behind the curtains: those who did reach milestones faster than others? They likely had background practicing other sports, so they didn’t actually start completely from scratch. Or their ‘achievements’ (increasing volume or speed too fast) had serious consequences, injuries that forced them to take time off from running.

It’s been four years since I started that running habit and I plan to continue running for the rest of my life. It’s my favorite way to disconnect and decrease stress after a long day. It’s a great way to build patience and gain confidence. You can’t cheat when it comes to running, and luck or rich parents don’t make a difference. I’ve also made some amazing friends thanks to running and had the opportunity to meet people from different social ‘bubbles’ (don’t know if I’d have ever met them otherwise).

The problem is, I’ll sometimes forget to apply these lessons when it comes to other areas of my life. I forget that building an ambitious project such as The CEO Library takes a lot of time, patience and effort to grow. When all sorts of biographies or media articles that praise successful entrepreneurs who achieve the impossible are thrown my way, I tend to overlook the survivorship bias. They’ll make me set unrealistic beliefs or loose confidence… or, worse, kill my high standards!

But, slowly, things are starting to move, the project is starting to gain traction – and in an organic way. I emphasize the ‘organic’ part as I’ve always rejected throwing money on ‘growth hack techniques’ or ads, whether it was in my own projects or when I’ve worked as a marketer for other brands. I don’t believe they’re a healthy foundation when you want to build something long-term. In my head, they’re somehow similar to the running shortcuts, such as energy drinks or gels – never had a single one.

So food for thought for this week: think about the shortcuts you’re taking, either in your personal or professional life, and prioritize long-term over short term wins. Are the risks worthy?

P.S. happy 4th anniversary to 321sport running group! Couldn’t have started this life-changing habit without support from Radu, its founder, so now I want to give back to this wonderful community by offering my own support. If you’re also based in Bucharest and want to start running from 0, join us – we run every Tuesday, at 19:30, in Herăstrău park.


1. How it feels to have ‘millennial burnout’

Found myself thinking “OMG, this is me!” at almost every line in this article about burnout – something that seems to be affecting everyone, not just millennials.
Two of my favorite quotes from it:

It’s my way of trying to stay in control of my spiralling life admin, but when I end up not doing the things on my list, I’m left feeling even more overwhelmed. Then I bury my head in the sand so I don’t have to think about everything I’m not doing – and end up less productive than before. It’s a vicious circle.

I don’t feel I’m ‘allowed’ to be this tired. I don’t think I’ve earned it or done enough to warrant having burnout.

2. How We Can Apply the Mindset of an Athlete to Our Own Lives

Ryan Holiday on how to learn from the ancient stoic philosophy and apply in our day-to-day chaotic environment.

3. The 4 rules of habit building applied to healthy eating

Useful article on habit building, written by my friend and food coach Carmen Albișteanu, all spiced up with lessons from James Clear, author of one of the best books on habits.

4. Define what enough is – podcast with Paul Jarvis

Andra Zaharia, another close friend of mine and freelance marketer, recorded an amazing talk with Paul Jarvis, author of ‘Company of One’. I’ve already talked a lot about his new book – if I hadn’t convinced you to read it, perhaps his conversation with Andra will.

5. Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This

Another book I’ve been really hyped about lately is ‘Digital Minimalism‘, by Cal Newport. This is one of the ideas from the book: how Steve Jobs first imagined the relationship with our phones and how different his vision was from the way we’re now using them.

6. How to cultivate a daily reading habit

In case you missed last week’s BBC article where we also got mentioned, here it is! It shows a small part of what The CEO Library’s about 🙂


Thanks to our Bucharest-based subscribers who joined us yesterday at The Urbanist! It was an amazing evening, despite my fear caused by the seemingly random ‘ingredients’ of the event 🙂

There were friends who are book lovers, marketers, runners, hip-hoppers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and other creatives, there was a playlist with old-school hip-hop, made by yours truly, and I also created a special recipe of matcha that was only available yesterday – glad to hear that everyone enjoyed it and no insomnia complaints were registered late at night ☕

For context: matcha is a Japanese type of green tea, that has some interesting and healthy properties – if it’s original and prepared the right way. Its taste is the ‘love or hate’ kind. Guess what camp I’m in 😛

Ending today’s newsletter with a photo of one of those lovely matchas – the recipe I created included turmeric and ginger. Maybe it will inspire you as well!

– Cristina

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