On Becoming Superhuman: How 5 Extreme Athletes Push The Limits Of The Impossible (And You Can Too!)

*This is a guest post from Todd Kuslikis from A Shot of Adrenaline*

Compared to what we should be, we are only half alive. We are making use of only a small part of our mind power. Deep down inside of us are vast powers we know nothing of and never use.” -William James

Intuitively, the above claim by James seems true. We hear about people achieving superhuman feats (moms lifting cars off children, Tibetan monks controlling their body temperature in freezing cold, etc.) and have to believe that our potential is far greater than our current reality.

How do we do it though?  What are the secrets of mind control to harness our untapped potential and unleash a force that is laying dormant within us?

Moving With The Force – Getting Attacked By My Student

I used to teach the art of Tai Chi. Most people don’t know that it is a superbly effective martial art.

During one of my classes I got a taste of what my body & mind could do. Mid-way through the lesson, I stopped to help one of my students. I focused my attention on positioning this person’s arms into the right posture. All of a sudden I felt my body quickly, yet effortlessly, turning and yielding to an incoming force.

Apparently, one of my students got it in his head to “test” my ability and attack me from behind. He came in with a fast right. Without even thinking (in fact, without even knowing what he was doing) my body felt the incoming energy, neutralized it and slipped him into an arm lock I had never practiced before.

After he was subdued, I became “conscious” and realized what had happened. Beyond the surprise that my student dared to challenge the master (*wink*) I was aghast at what I just did. I thought, “Wow! My body simply protected itself without me even trying!”

This event renewed my vigor for discovering how to push the limits of what is traditionally thought of as possible.

Roger Bannister Breaks 4 Minutes and Illuminates the World

In 1954, Roger Bannister achieved the impossible. At the time, it was thought impossible for a human to run the mile in under 4 minutes. The previous world record had been held for nine years.

Though on May 6th of that year, about 3,000 people watched Bannister defy conventional belief and obtain a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Many people have heard of Bannister and his world recognized achievement. Many people, haven’t however heard of the statement he made about the event after breaking it:

No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.”

Bannister’s experience matches my surprise attack experience of not being conscious of my movement. It’s almost as if something else took over. Something with an unimaginable power, strength, consciousness.

The question I have is: Must we go beyond our own minds in order to reach a level of ability never thought possible?

Must we in a sense “shut off” our mind in order to tap into a hidden part of our brain not currently being used?

It’s time to find out.

5 Athletes That Shatter The Definition Of Impossible

Athlete 1: The Ice Man Known As Wim Hof – Controlling Body Temperature With The Power Of The Mind

The below video is real. It is the world record for taking an ice bath set by an astounding man named Wim Hof. He has also set 18 other world records in the area of “cold” including running a full marathon above the polar ice cap in Finland in just his shorts. That’s negative 20 degrees Celsius!

For all of us that missed that lesson during science class, because we were dreaming of our entrepreneurial endeavors or running a sub 4 minute mile, zero degrees Celsius is the point at which things freeze. Put your cup of wheat grass out in that temperature and it will freeze in about 10 minutes.

So how does Wim do it?

He practices a Tibetan tantric art called Tummo or Inner Heat Yoga. It was initially practiced by Tibetan Buddhist monks to help lead them to a state of spiritual enlightenment. Miranda Shaw in her book “Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism’ explains it this way:

Most people simply allow the energy to churn in a cauldron of chaotic thoughts and emotions or dissipate the energy in a superficial pursuit of pleasure, but a yogi or yogini consciously accumulates and then directs it for specified purposes. This energy generates warmth as it accumulates and becomes an inner fire or inner heat (candālī) that [potentially] burns away the dross of ignorance and ego-clinging.

Shaw helps clarify the astounding achievements of Wim Hof. On first glance we think this guy is an alien from another planet. Yet once we have the knowledge behind what he is doing, our minds begin to open up and realize: “Hey, this is possible. Maybe I could do this too!”

Here’s a great video teaching this amazing yogic practice of Tummo.

Top Lesson Learned From Mr. Wim Hof:
Never allow you mind to say, “I can’t.” There is always a way. Look for people that have done what you want to do and follow the steps that they took to achieve it. “What one man (woman) can do, so can another.”

Athlete 2: “Burn The Ships” – Alex Honnold Scales High Into The Air Without A Safety Harness

Great explorer Hernando Cortez immortalized the quote “Burn The Ships” on the shores of Mexico in the year 1519. He had with him 500 soldiers and 100 sailors and one objective; seize the great treasure in Mexico. The story of his conquest goes on to explain, “how a small band of Spanish soldiers arrived in a strange country and swiftly brought about the overthrow of a large and powerful empire that was in power for over six centuries.”

How did he do it? For Mr. Cortez it was easy. It was all or nothing. “Burn The Ships!” He ordered his people to destroy the ships so they would have no way of escape. He knew the principle of total commitment.

A Modern Day Cortez
We have a real life Cortez walking (or rather climbing) among us today. His name is Alex Honnold. He is only 26 years old but has fast become the Michael Jordan of free climbing. He has broken numerous speed records including a climb of less than 6 hours up a 2,900 feet Nose of El Capitan (normally demanding 2 to 4 days).

Must see video of Alex Honnold.

Alex knows the power of leaving your safety nets at home and burning the ships. When your hundreds of feet up in the air on the edge of a cliff, you have only two choices: continue… or fall.

By burning our ships, we push our mind past the limits of the possible. We have a tendency to slip into comfort zones and the status quo, yet when there is no way of escape we force our self to continue to climb.

Top Lesson Learned From Alex
The lesson that we must learn from this is that we must cut off opportunities for retreat. If we desire greatness, we can’t have a plan B.

Athlete 3: Choosing The Impossible – Martin Strel Swims The Amazon

Many of you may not have heard of this legendary Slovenian long-distance swimmer. He holds many Guinness World Records for swimming extremely long and dangerous rivers such as: the Danube river, the Mississippi River, the Yangtze River and the Amazon River.

Martin swims with a purpose. His personal slogan is “swimming for peace, friendship and clean water.” What more could you ask for?

During his swims he sleeps for about 5 hours a day and it usually takes him a full 6-7 months to recover physically.

That Man That Chose To Swim The Amazon

On February 1st, 2007 he embarked on this one of a kind swim with an escort of boats ready to pour blood in the water just in case Martin started to get attacked by flesh eating piranahs (What!?!).

He completed the swim in 66 days on April 7th. It was also a record-breaking distance of 5,268 kilometers (3,273 mi) and longer than the width of the Atlantic Ocean.

Check out the below video of Strel:
(If I could meet anyone “dead or alive” it may be this guy. He seems freakin’ awesome!)


One thing that I got from learning about Martin is that he likes to have fun with his challenges. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Though more important than this is that he bites off a big chunk of life. In 2007, he had been approached to swim the Nile. Here is what he said, “I am not going to do the Nile. It’s long but not challenging enough, it is just a small creek. The Amazon is much more mighty.”

Are you kidding me? The Nile runs through ten countries including Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and Egypt and is 6,650 km (4,130 miles) long! Not challenging enough?

Martin certainly has a different definition of the word challenging! Though he gives us our third lesson…

Lesson learned from “The Amazon Man” Strel:

Take on a challenge. If you don’t think you can do something, choose to do it. That is the only way we will grow as a person. Find something you are deathly afraid of and work toward it. My boy Joel Runyon, founder of Blog of Impossible Things just wrote a great article on overcoming the fear of public speaking. He also is regularly overcoming some amazing challenges and helps his readers do too.

So let’s take it to heart that we are more than what we think we can do. If Martin can swim the Amazon (and he is a bit over weight and drinks a bit too much) than certainly we can run that triathlon or start that business we have been dreaming of.

Athlete #4: Enjoying The Process – William Trubridge dives the depths of the ocean on a single breath

My family has a cottage on a small lake in Michigan. My dad and I used to go snorkeling. I remember when I was younger I would swim out to the deep and try to surface dive. I might go down a few feet but the darkness of the deep would terrify me and push me back to the surface. Now I’m not that afraid of the darkness but still have reached only about 26 feet.

One man, or should I say half-man half-fish can hold his breath for 7 and a half minutes and dive 311 feet with no fins and only taking a single breath.

I have watched many videos of this guy on YouTube and can’t get over him. His uncanny ability to hold his breath simply amazes me. Where Alex was the Michael Jordan of Free Climbing, William is undisputedly the Michael Jordan of Free Diving. He has broken almost every record out there.

Here’s an incredible video of William swimming The Hole

William’s Philosophy:

In a previous article I wrote called The Battle of the Mind, I asked William personally how he has achieved such great feats of accomplishment. This is what he said:

I remind myself that it’s the process, not the goal that’s important. As long as I am applying myself efficiently and with intensity then the results will come.”

So often we get impatient on our quest toward greatness. We live in a Burger King world and want it “My way right way.” Great Asian philosopher and founder of Taoism stated, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lesson Learned From William:

Take things slowly. Let your greatness progress naturally. Focus your mind on what you want to achieve and work toward it, step-by-step.

If you don’t have your destination chosen yet, that’s ok. I highly recommend visiting Scott Dinsmore’s Live Your Legend. He’ll help you define your life’s work and get you out of your day job if you hate it.

Athlete #5: You are not your past – Joe Decker “World’s Fittest Man” conquers every insane endurance event including the infamous Spartan Death Race

I have a public confession to make.

I am a bit disappointed in myself and want to share it with you.

Many years ago when I was in grade school, my buddy Tom Clifford and I occasionally ran together. I remember one moment we were running and I started getting cramps in my side. I told him this and he suggested I run through it. Well, they started to hurt more and I told him I was done with running and was going home.

He tried to get me to keep going but I told him no and turn around. He continued on. I briefly looked behind me and saw him running off into the distance while I walked somberly back to my home to lay on my coach.

Well, guess where he is now. He owns his own coaching company called Without Limits Coaching and is on his way to becoming one of the greatest athletes to ever live. He runs a 4:09 minute mile (as I mentioned above), was the 1st Amateur Overall at Ironman Steelhead 70.3 with 2:13:42 Bike, 1:14:47 Run in 2011, and is a Triathlon Champion.

The longest race I have ever run is a 10K.

You know what though? I can’t focus on that. We are not our past.

My boy Joe Decker The “World’s Fittest Man” Agrees

I asked Joe what goes through his mind when his body wants to quit and this is what he said:

“I tell myself “you’ve been a down and out suicidal crack head at one time that was the epitome of the word “loser.” Never again! No matter how bad it is quitting is NOT AN OPTION! Don’t think just f++king do! Become robotic!” Then shut down the control buttons and go on autopilot.”

Not only being a self-proclaimed suicidal crack head, Joe was over weight before he turned himself into one of the most extreme athletes in the world.

This gives all of us encouragement when our mind tells us “You have never been able to do it and you never will. Go ahead and give up. Success in this endeavor will never be yours.”

Tell that voice, “Shut the F&#* Up! I am the man!”

Here’s a video of Mr. Joe Decker:

Lesson Learned From Joe:

Live out of your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen Covey

Stephen and Joe tell us that it is our intention going forward that defines our future, not our past. No longer do we need to succumb to believing that we are “not good enough” or “not able enough.”

The “Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale has profoundly influenced my life. It has taught me that I must choose my thoughts carefully and steer them in a direction that is beneficial to me.

So let’s wrap this up. Below are the:

5 Lessons Learned for Conquering the Mind and Achieving Greatness Taken From the Above Extreme Athletes

1. “Control Your Mind” says the Ice Man Wim Hof

2.”Burn Your Ships” says the Spiderman Alex Honnold

3.”Choose The Impossible” says the Amazon man Martin Strel

4.”Enjoy The Process” says the Aqua-man William Trubridge

5. “You Are Not Your Past” says the World’s Fittest Man Joe Decker

***

Looking forward to learning from your insights into what makes someone great and how to conquer your mind. Share your comments below and let’s add to the repository of collective wisdom of greatness!

-Todd

****

Todd Kuslikis is the King Shot Administrator at  A Shot of Adrenaline where he chronicles principles of greatness in the areas of sports and fitness.

Please share this article, because that’s how more people can achieve the impossible!

email
Like what you read?
If so, please join over 4000 people who receive exclusive weekly Optimal Living tips, and get my FREE eBook "On Becoming Superhuman". Just enter your name and email below:
Posted on : 26, Mar 2012

20 Comments

  • You rock Phil! Glad to contribute to The Feel Good Lifestyle!

    Todd

    • My pleasure buddy! That was truly great post- very well done!!

  • WOW! That was one of the single best articles I think I’ve read. KUDOS! For starters, I am obsessed with the idea of becoming superhuman. So much so, I wrote a book about it. My research is always focusing on cognitive enhancement though. I think this was a marvelous glimpse at the physical aspects of peak performance. I was familiar with Roger Bannister, and even with stories of others experiencing that “in the zone” moment during martial arts….but this list of athletes were not people I heard of, so I thank you for introducing them to me.

    The zone. Some call it “flow”. Something many (like myself) are concerned with finding a regular way to tap into. Neurologically speaking, this is when the hemispheres of the brain are in harmonious communication with one another. When this happens, the brain also gives off Alpha waves. Typically this is what happens when a master of a craft goes to work doing what they love. All of the athletes mentioned were examples of that. Is there a way to reach that power in things outside our expertise though?

    A business consultant named David Parsons, also known as Mobius Man describes the power of the mind as fractal in nature. He says the sea of creative possibilities is a vast ocean of which we only access the tiniest piece of a fractal in an endless well of power. The effortless state that you discuss here supports that there is clearly a well of power that we don’t always utilize.

    Thank you again for this wonderful article.

    • Anthony,

      What a wealth of knowledge in your response!

      What do you think about the 10,000 hours approach? Some people say you need to put this many hours into your sport, endeavor, or whatever to reach the mastery level. And then you can reach the flow state more quickly.

      Some of my favorite memories as a child was watching Michael Jordan with the Bulls. It’s interesting to reflect on the “transfer of flow”. By this I mean that as Jordan was in flow and was doing something incredible, it’s almost as if he stopped time for all the spectators and put them into a state of flow (at least passively).

      Great discussion! Glad you liked the article!

      Todd

  • Todd, thanks for the amazing article!

    I’ve been focuses alot lately on the power of our mind and the limitations that don’t actually exist. This is such a well-written article. The layout is fantastic, the points are money and the videos sucked me in.

    Fantastic article. Awesome blog. Thanks for the good read.

    • Glad you liked it Brian! Thanks for the compliments.

      All the people I used for the article have definitely pushed the limits of what I thought was possible. The one that truly takes the cake for me is Alex and his free climbing. I simply can’t imagine being hundreds of feet up a sheer cliff with no safety gear.

      I did recently hear that before he does a climb with no gear, he maps out the route with his gear so he know what route to take. In my mind, I wanted him just to scale up like a super human. Knowing that he maps it out brings his ability back to reality. This is a good thing because it helps us realize that we could do it too!

      Peace!

      Todd

  • First off, this blog is amazing . . . . I have listened to all of the podcasts and read most of the articles. Keep up the great work!

    Awesome article. Besides the superhuman information which is awesome in itself, as an American it is so interesting to see such talented, determined athletes in sports that are outside of the American big 3 (Football, Baseball, Basketball).

    As for the superhuman info, as previously mentioned, this seems like the highest level of “Flow.” For anyone interested in Flow, read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi . . . . great read.

    Todd, great work and Phil keep bringing that Positive Energy brotha !!!

    • Hey Paz!! Thanks so much brother, really appreciate it!!

      I see you’ve just started your own blog, well done! You’re about to enter a whole new realm of creative possibilities!

      I looked at your list of interest.. seems like we’re definitely quite like-minded!! I’ve listened to the Philosopher’s Note on Flow a few times but never read the full book. After finishing The Power of Now this week, I think Flow would be a good follow-up.. I’ll put it on the list!

      Cheers & have an awesome day!

    • Thanks so much Paz! It was a ton of fun to research the lives of these great individuals. I actually just read a National Geographic article on free soloing and it at Alex in it. I guess there is an entire subculture around the sport where people live off the land and challenge themselves to the limit. Totally an extreme lifestyle.

      I appreciate the feedback!

      Todd

  • [...] Athlete 1: The Ice Man Known As Wim Hof – Controlling Body Temperature With The Power Of The Mind The below video is real. On Becoming Superhuman: How 5 Extreme Athletes Push The Limits Of The Impossible (And You Can Too!) … [...]

  • This article is absolutely amazing – these people are absolutely amazing – and the message was…. you guessed it… amazing!!!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration! Been pushing my body to new limits every single day now and this article just raised the bar that much higher!

    Love the flow of the article and the inclusion of the videos!

    • Glad you liked it Marc! Would love to hear in which ways you are pushing your body to the limit. I frequently have to remind myself that we can only achieve greatness by having great people around us. It takes the concerted effort of our support team to lift us to new heights.

      Hope you’re doing well bro!

      Todd

      • Well I’m doing all kinds of stuff I outline a few of the things I’m trying out in a 90 day challenge here!

        http://www.whysimplybecause.com/news/10-simple-rules-to-change-your-life-part-1-be-the-change-a-wsb-challenge

        But basically recently I began doing circuit training regularly as well as now began the Insanity workout program – same guys that brought P90X and stuff to the forefront except its a 60 day thing!

        Other then that I have been eating very differently – and pushing the limits in terms of how much I need to accomplish day after day which is a feat in itself! But this article makes me just want to push harder – I appreciate it!

        • Marc,

          Love the 10 simple rules! Hope you are doing well with those. I am definitely an early riser. Usually 5am.

          Also, Insanity is a great program. I’ve done P90X before and got great results. And totally agree with the concepts of pushing our limits every day. I learned a great concept from David Scott (marketing genius behind The Total Gym). He said to write out not only your vision and goals for your life but to also delineate them out to Goals, Steps, and Tasks. Tasks are daily action items that lead to your Steps. Steps are more medium items that lead to your Goals. And once you achieve your goals, you achieve your vision for your life. Very simple! This way you’ll have a very clear path to follow.

          Good luck with your challenge!!

          Todd

  • Absolutely stunning post! You really should take a look on Morihei Ueshiba’s biography, the founder of Aikido. He was a true superhuman for sure. By the way, the flesh eating fish is “piranha”. =)

  • What i do not realize is if truth be told how you’re not really much more neatly-liked than you may be right now. You’re so intelligent. You understand thus considerably when it comes to this subject, produced me for my part consider it from a lot of various angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be involved until it is something to do with Woman gaga! Your individual stuffs outstanding. All the time handle it up!

  • Great – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related information ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, site theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Nice task.

  • There are definitely a number of details like that to take into consideration. That could be a great point to convey up. I provide the ideas above as common inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where an important factor will probably be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged round things like that, however I’m sure that your job is clearly identified as a good game. Each boys and girls feel the impression of just a moment’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  • Perfectly composed content material, Really enjoyed reading.

  • Thanks – Enjoyed this blog post, is there any way I can receive an email sent to me when you write a new update?

So, what do you think?