When the Thrill is Gone

What do you do when the thrill is gone? When the honeymoon phase is over? When the new job is now mundane? When the task that once excited you is now obligatory?

What do you do when the thrill is gone? And it will be gone, that you can be sure.

At some point, everything loses its luster. We become bored and impatient, no longer springing up at the alarm clock, no longer feeling the butterflies, no longer anxious and excited, no longer able to brag or show off the shiny newness to others.

At some point, the thrill will be gone.

But thrill is cheap, and universally accessible. New thrills excite everyone, so by that accord you aren’t special if you get a thrill out of something new and exciting.

What makes a person special is what he does when the thrill is gone.

The story of the Karate Sensei and the young student has been told many times…

The student asks, “Sensei, please teach me how to be a master at karate.” 

To which the Sensei replies by teaching the student one simple front kick, in which the student’s knee lifts vertically and he extends directly in front of him, kicking straight ahead. 

The student replies, “Great, thank you Sensei, now teach me all of the other kicks and teach me how to be a master at karate.”

The Sensei replies that the student must perform 1,000 perfect front kicks, exactly as he has instructed the student before he can move on. Reluctantly, the student agrees. 

The student performs 50 front kicks, then 100, then 500, and after about 900 kicks, the Sensei returns to the room to find the student looking tired, bored, and impatient. The student says, “Sensei, I am ready to move on, this kick is easy and I have already performed it 900 time, please teach me everything about how to be a master at karate.” 

The Sensei looks up at the student with kind, soft eyes and after a moment of pause says quietly, “Son, this is what I am teaching you. Please, continue with this kick, and then once you have completed, please perform 1,000 more of the same, this time with the proper form.”

In the student’s mind, the task was mundane, redundant, and elementary. But the Sensei knows better than the student. The Sensei sees that the student’s form is off, he lacks power and speed, his mechanics are elementary, and his attitude is being molded. The Sensei knows that one does neither become a master of the art through short time or small effort. It is a long journey that is only achieved through consistency, patience, and discipline.

What will you do when the thrill is gone? You must realize that this, here, right now is the most critical time for your outcome. Your ability to set aside fleeting emotions, to stop relying on futile motivation, to stop living for excitement. This is your opportunity to push through, to become a master of your fate by not giving in.

For example, the Black Belt isn’t awarded to the martial artist who chases thrill alone, but the one who trains consistently for many years. The Executive CEO did not reach his position by jumping jobs or becoming lazy when a position became mundane. The Pulitzer Prize Winning Author had to punch hundreds-of-thousands of words into her keyboard before finishing a book that would change the world. The Successful Salesperson controlled his emotion, during good times and bad, in order to have a profitable and rewarding career. The Happy Family remained healthy because husband and wife stayed committed to each other, even after physical beauty faded and life changed.

If you will not push through the long and quiet journey across the dry desert then you will never reach the refreshing stream of water that lay beyond the chasm.

The special people in history are the ones who kept on, even when the thrill was gone.


Aside: The topic and title above were both borrowed from one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Seth Godin. You can read his original post here. The first time I read these words, over a year ago, they hit me like a semi-truck crashing into a brick wall at full speed. I had to face my “desire for thrill” and my lack of commitment to various aspects of my life. Here is what he says:

“The work of a professional isn’t to recreate thrills. It’s to show up and do the work. To continue the journey you set out on a while ago. To make the change you seek to make in the universe. Thrilling is fine. Mattering is more important.” 

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