I started with the shower handle straight up and down; right in the middle of hot and cold. The water was tepid. I dreaded getting in. It made me sick. It was January in North Idaho and the 20 degrees outside did not help in making a cold shower very appealing.
This was January 1st, 2016. I had just started a program called Exodus 90 as part of a New Year’s Resolution to get my life back in order. I needed a dose of reality to instill in me a desire for excellence, and this was the way I decided to pursue that reality.
Exodus 90 was started by the guys at Those Catholic Men; a blog that promotes spirituality and lifestyles for men from a Catholic perspective. Thousands of men have gone through Exodus 90 with life changing results. I wondered what it would do for me.
Exodus 90 involves 3 things: Fraternity, Prayer, and Asceticism. You do it with a group of like-minded individuals to help you along, you pray, meditate and read scripture daily, and go through some serious bodily sacrifices:
*(cold-lukewarm/short showers; no alcohol; no desserts & sweets; no eating between meals; no soda or sweetened drinks; no television or movies (without permission of group); only music that lifts the soul to God; no televised sports (without permission of group); computer for work/school only; regular and intense exercise; group holy hour & meetings; no major material purchases (beyond toiletries, etc., without permission of group); and seven hours of sleep each night is essential.)
All that for 90 days.
The idea is that it will take 45 days to break your old habits, and 45 more to instill the new, good habits.
I certainly used some “creative license” in designing my Exodus 90 experience.
I called a dinner with a group of my good friends and announced my decision to do the program. Several expressed interest in joining me...however many of them were attending colleges outside the state, making “Fraternity” harder to maintain. So, rather than give up social media for 90 days, I used it to keep me accountable. I posted a Facebook Live video the week before I started and explained what I was doing, why I was doing it, and that I really needed all my “friends” to hold me accountable. Throughout the program, I posted similar videos once a month, describing my experience, how it was going, and asking for accountability.
What happened as a result of these videos blew me away.
I had friends on Facebook, acquaintances really, reaching out to me asking me how it was going, if I needed anything, and wanting to know more. I would see people on the sidewalk and they'd ask, "hows that cold shower thing going?"
The opportunities that came about from these experiences were very special for me and helped me get through the entirety of the program.
In the end, the only things I can say I stuck to diligently were the cold showers and no alcohol for all 90 days of the program. Occasionally I would justify an exception on the other items, but I would talk about them with my fraternity; why I made the exception and how it made me feel.
By the end of Exodus 90, I had 3 main takeaways that I’ve had the opportunity to share with many people since. I’ve found that, although the takeaways were really centered on the program, they relate in many ways to business and life in general.
1. Just do it!
So much of business and life in general exists in “just doing it!” Stop overthinking it and over-planning and stressing out. They’re all just stalling techniques that are keeping us from accomplishing what we want. Just starting is the best way to start. This applies when taking cold showers or building a website. There’s no way around a cold shower. You have to do it and the quickest way to get it over with is to just jump right in. Same with fasting (going longer periods of time without eating). Resign yourself to the fact that you have to fast on a given day and just do it. Don’t think about the “strategy” or the quickest, easiest, or most effective way to get through it. Just FAST! Before you know it, the day will be over and done and you’re on to the next.
The same thing applies in business. The quickest most effective way to build a website, or launch a new product is to make a plan, set goals, and just start. Don’t put it off, or wait for better timing, just start and work with it until it’s done.
Many times, I find myself looking for the one simple rule to live by that’ll make my life great and easy and happy.
In business, looking for that one formula or strategy that will result in a magic outcome of sales, customers, whatever.
Exodus 90 taught me, many times there just isn’t an easy answer. No short-cuts. Just get started and get it over with as quickly and effectively as possible.
2. It’s not about the “sacrifice”
After 90 days of self-enforced hardship it becomes less and less about the actual sacrifice of the “cold showers” and more about forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone and shocking yourself into desiring something better. A more intentional way to live.
Starting out, not having a piece of cake seemed like the hardest thing in the world. I didn’t understand how it would make me a better person. It took me another 45 days to see that my priorities were all backwards!
I thought the hardest thing about Exodus 90 was going to be taking a cold shower...
But the hardest thing about Exodus 90 was realizing how good I actually have it.
It made me stop and actually think about the life I have, all the unnecessary frivolities that get in the way of me growing as a person. The things that get in the way of what really matters in my life, i.e. relationships, faith, goals, etc.
I slowly started to realize that there are bigger things, that demand a lot more sacrifice than a cold shower, no alcohol, or no TV.
By day 60, I could have a piece of cake and not feel that I compromised on my commitments because my priorities were in line and I had new perspectives on the world around me.
In business, it’s easy to get buried by the little tasks. The daily grind that keeps us in our stable job and pays the bills. But if we don’t actually comprehend how amazing that opportunity actually is, we won’t appreciate it, and it will end up dragging us down a slippery slope of self-pity and doubt.
It’s not about the “sacrifice”. It’s not about the difficulty of a task. It’s about the opportunity that task is providing and how it will help us achieve our goals.
3. You have to need it.
I decided I was going to do Exodus 90 on December 1st of 2015. I started Exodus 90 30 days later, on Jan. 1. I did this for two reasons.
l. I wanted to have a formal launch date (like the first day of a new year) to look forward to and plan for.
ll. I wanted to take 30 days to really think about this commitment and if I could do it.
I knew that if I started Exodus 90, and quit halfway through, I would sink really low. Like, “really, really depressed, zero-confidence low”. So, by the time January 1st rolled around, I needed to convince myself that I NEEDED to accomplish this. And I needed to keep drawing on the reasons I was doing it throughout the 90 days. It was a constant reminder of where I was, and the change I wanted to see in myself.
Business can be very hard. Life is very hard. If you don’t have a good reason why you’re going through it, you’re going to quit and be worse off than when you started.
So, before you start, you need to convince yourself that
"THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THAT I WILL CHANGE, AND IF I DON’T DO IT NOW, I NEVER WILL."
You have to have that kind of urgency, that largeness of thinking, to get you through when the going gets tough.
If you don’t have those thoughts, you’re not ready to start something new.
I would recommend Exodus 90 to anyone.
But more realistically, I would recommend taking 90 days and doing a serious self-examination.
Figure out where you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. Then, create a sense of urgency, come up with a plan to follow, and execute.
Find support in those around you and expect change.
It will come.