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COMMENTARY: Hard work most important aspect of success

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I strained against the weight on my third repetition of the bench press. 

Barely managing to perform the movement, I contemplated whether a fourth repetition would be possible. It took me less than a second to understand that I would not be able to push the weight off my chest a fourth time, and I let the barbell settle into the rack with a muted thud that signaled my most recent defeat. 

Three days earlier, that same noise had released a wave of positive emotion as I hit a personal record for this training block. Sitting up, the sweat poured off of my face and I contemplated what had went wrong between then and now. 

I had not missed a single workout, I had been training intensely and I had been mentally driven toward my goals. But, I had still fallen short. All at once, a wave of realization hit me and I came to the conclusion that I had grappled with many times before. Failing to achieve your goals is your own d*mn fault.

I had spent the last weekend in Maryland, sleeping very little, drinking excessively and eating large amounts of crappy food. My body was improperly fueled by my extensive and frequent moments of weakness throughout the weekend. 

It was not just the weekend either — it was not warming up properly before starting the movement, failing to follow my typical Monday routine and focusing on things unimportant to my training goals throughout the day rather than what mattered, or what I thought mattered. 

If I had truly cared about my evening workout and meet preparation, I would not have had more than a beer or two, I would have attempted to got more sleep and I would have attempted to eat reasonably rather than throwing my diet out the window. 

How much did I really care about achieving the numbers I had in mind? I had prioritized immediate self-gratification and precipitated failure.

Rectifying all of the above would not have guaranteed my successful completion of my numbers for the day. I would have some peace of mind in knowing that the limiting factor was not my resolve, but some yet unidentified impediment. Dwelling on my missed goal throughout the week put numerous facets of my life into perspective. 

I quickly realized that I was failing myself in more ways than one: physically, mentally and academically. By deluding myself with the appearance of steady and meticulous progress, I was lulling my mind into being content rather than hungry. Rather than work to avoid minor compounding setbacks, I accepted them as some sort of necessary factor in each leg of my journey. 

Jocko Willink, former and highly decorated Navy SEAL as well as creator of "Jocko Podcast," is famous for the phrase "Discipline equals freedom." This does not just apply to working out and eating healthy, but is of paramount importance to the way we approach life. 

If we are willing to accept that responsibility for our success and failures rests squarely on our shoulders, discipline gives us the freedom to do anything through a mixture of tenacity, regimented behavior and intelligent planning. 

Discipline is the great equalizer that separates the talented from those who maximize and achieve comparatively larger tasks. The alternative is contextualizing suffering as a product of some greater universal conspiracy against yourself. 

To take it a step further, it is denying human agency in favor of a misguided deterministic approach to achievement or the lack thereof. We must deny the urge to relegate blame to factors outside of our control and ask ourselves first and foremost whether we altered the things we had the ability to change. 

I am a firm believer in the power of self-determination, the compounding benefits of religious dedication and the effect it has on the variables of your environment. Examining the areas where I have fallen short this year has been eye-opening, revealing how little I have trained my mind and resolve recently, how little self-determination I have displayed. 

Perhaps you have done the same, getting a low grade on a test or falling into a cycle of missed workouts, little practice and little studying. You are only failing yourself, and you are culpable for every degree of that shortcoming, responsible for every variable that impeded you. 

The universe is unbiased and undefeated, especially when we attempt to grapple with circumstance rather than ourselves. So you failed — what are you going to do about it?

Without sacrifice there is no impetus for growth, with every struggle there is respite.

Morgan Roberts is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in philosophy and political science.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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