Monday, June 28, 2010

Post III in theTask Cycle® Series: Sustained Effort Compared to Fishing for River Monsters

“In its most literal sense, "sustain" means to hold up from beneath. Sustain comes from the root "to stretch." In Latin, sustain came to mean to hold, keep, maintain, to cause to endure or continue, to hold onto.”

Yet again, my blog posts are inspired by a brief encounter with late night TV. 

     I was brainstorming to come up with an analogy or concrete way to discuss sustained effort when images from last night’s episode of “River Monsters” kept popping into my head.  I was folding a small mountain of laundry when Animal Planet’s show about the ferocious fish lurking in seemingly friendly bodies of water came on.  And I kept it on.  Because who doesn’t love a good river monster?  Anyway, the show follows host Jeremy Wade on his hunt to find these aquatic creatures, and chronicle the struggle he faces every trip.  So while brainstorming stream-of-consciousness style, I kept writing about the difficulties of sustained effort mixed with flashes of river monsters.  And then it clicked.  Jeremy Wade’s exhausting hunt to find his “monsters” translates into our Task Cycle®—and here’s how:

Make sure you’ve identified the “monster”—The first two steps of the Task Cycle® include Establishing a Purpose and Laying the Foundation.  Making sure that we have these two steps complete and making absolutely sure we have identified our purpose and created a steady foundation for change is essential for all other steps in the Task Cycle®.  After all, Jeremy Wade wouldn’t dive into the Amazon just to see what he could find.  He always has a prey in mind—and sticks to it.

Ask for help from locals and experts—
When Wade gets to a new area, he interviews the experts on where to go.  We can take his advice and apply this to our sustained effort: make sure you ask for help from experts like leadership coaches, mentors, or trusted superiors to ensure you are headed in the right direction.

Continue upstream—It takes much more effort to head upstream that it does to float downstream.  Fighting the current—and the desire to simply float—exercises and builds “muscle” that will make your effort, over time, much easier.  Eventually, going upstream will be second nature, and you will be strong enough (in our case, mentally) not to even notice.

Push into the farthest and darkest reaches of your “jungle”—
In order to find and conquer these ferocious creatures, Wade often steps into the farthest reaches of foreign lands.  Luckily for us, we don’t have to actually travel anywhere to continue and sustain our journey.  What we need to do instead is to look at ourselves, and continually look at our development critically by asking, “What needs to continue to change? What underlying issues are still present?  Why do I react this way to certain situations?”  Exploring these internal issues—some which may be buried deep in your own internal processes— throughout your efforts at development will ensure a more complete change…without hacking through the Amazonian brush.

Fight—Wade wouldn’t have a show without a little bit of fish wrangling.  After all, the show is called “River Monsters,” not “Finding Nemo.”  We must approach our situation with the same attitude. We aren’t going to just have our development “jump into our boat;” we must have patience, use the right tools, and be prepared to pull back and forth as we wrestle with the task at hand.
    So don’t let go of the fishing pole, even when it seems like the easiest thing to do.  Sustain your hold on the issue, and don’t throw up your hands when things get difficult.  You may be annoyed with your coaches’ requests, doubting the effectiveness of personal development, or you could be tired of evaluating your strengths and weaknesses—there are many different reasons people give up.  But fighting for your own personal victory makes the end result that much sweeter, and can enhance your success in business and at home.


  1. It is fact that, the higher up the ladder a leader moves, the greater the risk of loss of constructive feedback. Giving constructive feedback to anyone is difficult but coaching helps fill this gap.

  2. Thank you for the comment! Constructive feedback is indeed important to the organization as well as the individual.