I often advise startups that the best solution to overcoming an obstacle is to address it head-on. You can’t ignore or go around it. You must go through it. And that’s exactly what the world witnessed two years ago during the treacherous rescue of a Thai soccer team.
After being stranded in darkness 2.5 miles deep, Thai Navy Seals rescued 12 boys and their coach from Thailand’s Tham Luang Cave. The soccer team had survived by meditation and sometimes by licking water off the cold limestone walls.
Overall, 10,000 people participated in their rescue mission, including 2,000 soldiers, 200 divers, and representatives from 100 government agencies. The rescue itself is nothing short of a miracle, but what surprised me most is what one Thai Navy Seal said after being asked, “Why do you train in such extreme conditions?” He replied:
“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
Indeed, the risks were incredibly high. Extracting the team required long stretches underwater, bone-chilling temperatures, and keeping them submerged for around 40 minutes at a time. The boys were even given anti-anxiety medication to avert panic attacks. Three Seal frogmen were hospitalized and Saman Gunan, a retired Thai Navy SEAL, died in an underwater passageway. A Seal later said:
“The whole world was watching, so we had to succeed. I don’t think we had any other choice.”
Seek to be uncomfortable — that is where you will find greatness. You don’t become successful by doing what’s comfortable. It’s embracing the things you don’t know and the challenges within failure.
Entrepreneurship is an adventure. The two-mile stretch of a dark and mostly underwater cavernous pathway has similarities of the trough of disillusionment — a low point in the entrepreneurial journey. Some entrepreneurs should stop sooner, but others need to keep moving forward. The journey can present unpredictable obstacles and will test you unceasingly. Akin to what the Thai Navy Seals and soccer team endured, entrepreneurs can learn that the impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. Run from what’s comfortable.