Life Is A Neverending 6-Mile Run

Anthony McGuire
4 min readMar 27, 2022

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When you run six miles, you feel both pain and glory. This is what happens:

  • Mile 1 — You’re just getting started. You’re excited and think you have momentum.
  • Mile 2 — You then realize you haven’t run as far as you thought and start feeling horrible. Then you feel the pain in your body starting to build up.
  • Mile 3 — You question why you decided to do this. You think of ways to justify stopping now. You are so close to quitting.
  • Mile 4 — Things slowly start improving as you get used to the run. You push through and start finding comfort in the discomfort.
  • Mile 5 — You now embrace the pain and push yourself to keep going, digging into your own combination of motivation and adrenaline.
  • Mile 6 — You now feel the runner’s high and start sprinting, screaming into the wind as you triumphantly finish the run.

Pretty much every time I go for a run, I go through this sequence of emotions. Running six miles feels like an odyssey. The first three miles are horrible, things start turning around at miles four and five, and then mile six becomes the triumphant conclusion of the journey.

This is essentially a J-Curve, a term in statistics describing a relationship between two variables, where things get worse before they get better. In the case of running, you’re talking about time on the x-axis and what you’re feeling on the y-axis, ranging from pain to glory. At the beginning, your pain starts increasing but then you eventually reach to a point where things improve and the running gets easier.

J-Curves have been used to describe the psychology behind habit change, when the difficulty of sticking to a habit starts starts off high but gets easier as time goes on. They have also been used to describe economic theory, where a country’s trade deficit will initially worsen as a currency devalues and then dramatically reverse into a surplus afterwards.

Source: http://mattdever.com/j-curve/

And really, everything in life feels this way too. Anytime you are facing a challenge in any given aspect of life, things will get worse before they get better. The easiest time to quit and the hardest time to persevere is around the metaphorical 2–3 mile mark.

Whenever you give up on something in life, you are probably doing it at the 2–3 mile mark.

I’m currently reading a book on the history of the oil industry called ‘The Prize’ by Daniel Yergin. The first person to discover oil in any given area around the world was always someone who had persevered for several years in the face of criticism and ridicule. From Texas to Sumatra to Persia, the first persons to successfully drill for oil had only reached that goal after ridiculous levels of persistence and belief. The earliest oil prospectors did not give up at the 2–3 mile mark, and that led to the creation of multi-generational wealth for their families.

If you read enough biographies, you’ll realize that these stories of the oil pioneers are similar to the stories of significant people throughout history. The common thread amongst all people you admire will be that they endured multiple J-Curve challenge in the arc of their life-times where things got a lot worse before they got a lot better.

There are many things you can’t control in life, but you can control your ability to not give up and persevere through the pain of a task in order to reach your goal.

Given this lens, running becomes not just a good form of exercise but good psychological training on how you should be approaching your life. Each time you make it past the 2–3 mile mark in a run, you are training your psychology to push through the hardest part of any given challenge in life. And you are realizing the physical and spiritual rewards that come when you make it to mile 6.

Starting at a new job, learning a new skill, moving to a new city-any endeavor in life works in a J-Curve in terms of suffering and happiness.

If you are a human being, you are going to feel both pain and glory. The glory usually comes after the pain, so you’ll have to sit through more pain in order to get more glory. It’s difficult, but simple. Though you can take comfort in the fact that anyone who has accomplished something worthwhile has gone through the same process and has run the full 6 miles required to reach their dreams.

So you should start running…

Originally published at https://venndiagrams.substack.com on March 27, 2022.

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Anthony McGuire

Tech, Entertainment, Media, Emerging Markets. Ex-Facebook and Singularity University.