Empty the tank.
“It is quite a rare thing to see athletes giving it all they have. The majority almost always hold a little something back […] Once you are empty, all that is left is contentment. The only way one can be fully satisfied after a race is to be empty. If you leave anything in reserve, you will be haunted by it until you can race again.” –Dr. Stan Beecham, Sports Psychologist, Author of Elite Minds
“Right there… stay there… stay in it…” my trainer urged me.
I was rowing fast, faster, fastest. Harder and stronger than ever before. He noticed my number of meters per minute soaring higher and higher. He wanted me to hold that pace — right across the finish line.
My best pace ever.
I wanted the reward — the satisfaction of setting a new personal record — so very much.
Yet every single cell in my body was screaming “slow down, chill out, it’s too much, who cares, it doesn’t matter, it’s not like you are training for the Olympics, Jesus Christ, slow doooown!”
It was so tempting to slow down.
But the music was pounding, the clock was running, and in a split-second-shift-of-reality, I realized:
“This is it. I want to empty the tank.”
When this rowing trial was over, I wanted to be able to say:
“I gave it absolutely everything. I have nothing left.”
I rowed my heart out. An astonishing level of effort.
I beat my previous personal best by nearly a full minute.
For the first time, truly, in my entire life…
I emptied the tank.
Was it fun? No.
It was terrifying.
Giving that much — pushing my body against my mind against my body against my mind — it was like ballroom dancing with a beautiful demon. Exhilarating one moment. Frightening the next. Confusing and overwhelming. Awful and amazing. Riding the edge of fear and resistance all the way home.
Yet… when it was all over… when I was panting, exhausted, with leaden legs and burning arms, incapable of standing up without wobbling over, catching my breath for several minutes… I felt a rush of pride and satisfaction that I’d never experienced before. “Contentment,” Dr. Beecham calls it. Yes. That.
Beautiful, contented emptiness.
I want more of this feeling.
Also: I am scared of this feeling.
It requires a level of commitment and ferocity that is… intensely demanding. But I want it.
Now that I have tasted it, I must have it.
Not just at the gym but in all areas of my life.
When I am writing my next book… I want to empty the tank.
When I am working on a client project… I want to empty the tank.
When I am showing up to spend time with people I love… I want to empty the tank.
All in. All the way. The highest level of focus, devotion and connection I can possibly give. Nothing less.
I am learning that “emptying the tank” is not about depleting yourself, hurting yourself or burning out.
It’s about making a promise with yourself — the promise to give, live, serve, and love without holding “just a little bit back” in reserve — and then keeping that promise.
At the end of the day — and at the end of your life — as Dr. Beecham reminds us:
“The only way one can be fully satisfied […] is to be empty. If you leave anything in reserve, you will be haunted by it.”
I don’t want to lead a haunted, half-hearted, almost-but-not-quite-empty kind of life. I know you don’t either.
You know what kind of person you want to become.
You know how you want to show up. How you want to live. The level of excellence you want to attain. What you want to write, launch, create, experience, and give.
You know what it is going to take.
No more half-efforts.
Empty the tank.