Are You Willing To Die?

The first few metres are erratic. The cold, angular edges of the building threaten to tear his hands to shreds, but there is no going back.

Fearful of being interrupted by the authorities, he sprints upwards; aiming to finish his ascent as quickly as possible. This is by no means the most elegant of climbs, but this is survival, not art. The goal is the summit – there are no alternatives.

Over 100 metres later, he looks down… nothing.

No police. No firemen and no obstacles aside from the intense reflection from the mirrored panes basking in the fiery afternoon sunshine.

With adrenaline flowing through his veins and buoyed from the confidence of not having to worry about any misguided rescue attempts, he powers on for another 20 minutes in the pursuit of that final, glorious ledge to signal the end of this bizarre and idiotic activity.

He reaches up and pulls his wiry body into full view of the array of police officers, firemen and security guards waiting patiently at the top.

“Hi guys! Do not worry, I am professional rock climbeur. Zere is no mountain to be climbed in Chicago, so I decide to climb zees high rise! No problem! Everything is okay …”

There is a collective silence. This mutual confusion renders everyone speechless.

The smile on his face says it all.

What’s next?


alain robert climbing

Cramp… CRAMP!

Dubbed the French Spiderman – Alain Robert is a lunatic who keeps himself busy by climbing the tallest buildings in the world with absolutely NO harnesses, ropes, or safety equipment of any kind!

You name it, he has climbed it. The Sears Tower, The Petronas Towers, The Empire State Building and the 830 metre high Burj Khalifa! Nothing is off limits.

That’s right – he picks out a skyscraper or something equally stupid, and up he goes. Obviously this kind of stunt tends to draw a crowd and within minutes a ton of police arrive as this kind of activity is usually frowned upon by the local constabulary.

He’s been arrested numerous times, but what can they charge him with? Impersonating Peter Parker?

So there’s the how. You probably have a greater interest in the why…

Initially, Alain forged a career as a gifted rock climber but a call from a film director, who wanted to try something a little different, changed his life. The task was to film Alain’s attempts at scaling tall urban structures instead of the usual mountain terrain which had become his trademark (without ropes of course). Initially the plan was to use safety equipment, but they soon realised no authority would be crazy enough to issue them a permit.

Without permission to climb this created a problem. The biggest of which, is without the powers that be giving their approval, they wouldn’t have time to set everything up. So undeterred, Alain chose to climb his maiden tower completely solo – which just happened to be the 180 metre tall Citicorp Citibank Center in Chicago.

Oh I forgot to mention – he is afraid of heights.

Are you willing to die?

This is a serious question.

How much do you want it? How much are you prepared to sacrifice? Are you willing to die for your craft?

Of course, I don’t mean literally…

Death comes with some serious side effects. None of which are particularly helpful to our goals. But if you replace the word ‘die’ with ‘risk everything’ then we’re on to something.

Our Friend Alain is willing to die – for real. His craft relies on life or death decision making. One slip; an unexpected gust of wind or maybe even a lapse in concentration, and he’s a goner. So, why would he put himself in such a ridiculous situation?

It’s obvious.

Climbing buildings is his passion. It’s what he thinks about more than anything else. He accepts the reality of the life he has chosen. If he makes an error, there is no round two. There are no second chances.

“Honey, I’m home…”

“Hi, did you have a good day at the office?”

“Yes, thanks. I didn’t hit the ground at a speed approaching terminal velocity.”

“Brilliant, I’ll make dinner.”

When failure is not an option

Jamie guitar hero

I can play the real thing too y’know! Honest…

Fortunately, I’m not totally crazy.

My craft doesn’t rely on staying alive as a barometer of success. But on the flipside, this doesn’t mean I’m happy to accept failure.

During the summer of 2000, I made the conscious decision to improve my guitar playing. Frustrated that my fingers couldn’t replicate my favourite riffs and solos, the only way to relieve my self-imposed anxiety was to sort this shit out.

There was no other option. I enjoyed telling everyone how I was a kickass guitarist but the fear of revealing the truth was too much to bear.

I practiced 6 hours a day – every single day. At an age when my friends were either heading off to university or embarking on the first steps towards a fledgling career, I embraced the isolation required to become at one with my craft.

It was lonely. Progress was slow, but this was my new reality.

My fingers weren’t ready for such an onslaught. They cramped, they blistered and they screamed for mercy.

Every technique became an end of level boss to defeat.

Every day was a brutal reminder of how utterly useless I was with my instrument.

But I kept at it, in the blind hope that someday, things would change. They had to. I was putting my life on hold in the pursuit of a never ending goal. I was clueless as to where I wanted to be, but I knew it wasn’t here. That was enough to drive me forwards; even without a destination.

Keep going, Jamie. Keep putting in the effort. You’ll get there.

But you know what? I never did ‘get there’. Sure, things changed, but there is no such thing as a destination because we’re always learning. There are always new skills to master, new directions to travel and new standards to be met.

They say the difference between a winner and a loser is the fear of failure. A champion dreads the thought of losing more than they crave the feeling of victory. Although this is probably true – I believe it’s the fear of remaining exactly where we are which terrifies us more than anything.

I’m not a champion, but for 6 months I practiced like one.  6 long and lonely months hunched over my guitar because I felt like a fraud.

I still do.

So why am I telling you this?

14 years on from the slog – it’s time to return to the woodshed.

I will never have a better opportunity than right now to put in some serious guitar practice.

4 to 6 hours every day. That’s the standard I am setting myself. 30-40 hours a week spent with the one thing I spend every day thinking about.

This is my passion. This is what I want to do with my time. Yes, I’m studying for a degree and I have a guitar tuition business, but there are more than enough hours in the week to fit everything in.

I’m willing to push myself harder than the next man. This is what it takes.

I feel like I’m close to the next level. The only way to realise this potential is to put myself into a situation where growth is the only possible outcome.

To be a winner, you must train like a winner

Kobe Bryant
You may have seen a recent story online regarding NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his insane work ethic. It was told by a guy called Rob – who happened to be a fitness coach with Team USA during the 2012 London Olympics. I don’t know if Rob has a last name, or even if he’s a real life Rob – but he tells of his first experience training with Kobe and the astonishment he felt towards his dedication and commitment to success.

I was invited to Las Vegas to help Team USA with their conditioning before they headed off to London. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade in the past, but this would be my first interaction with Kobe.

The night before the first scrimmage, I had just watched “Casablanca” for the first time and it was about 3:30 AM.

A few minutes later, I was in bed, slowly fading away, when I heard my cell ring. It was Kobe. I nervously picked up.

“Hey, uhh, Rob, I hope I’m not disturbing anything right?”

“Uhh, no. What’s up Kob?”

“Just wondering if you could help me out with some conditioning work, that’s all.”

I checked my clock. 4:15 AM.

“Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.”

It took me about twenty minutes to get my gear and get out of the hotel. When I arrived and opened the room to the main practice floor, I saw Kobe. Alone. He was drenched in sweat as if he had just taken a swim. It wasn’t even 5:00 AM.

We did some conditioning work for the next hour and fifteen minutes. Then, we entered the weight room, where he would do a multitude of strength training exercises for the next 45 minutes. After that, we parted ways. He went back to the practice floor to shoot. I went back to the hotel and crashed. Wow.

I was expected to be at the floor again at about 11:00 AM.

I woke up feeling sleepy, drowsy, and pretty much every side effect of sleep deprivation. (Thanks, Kobe.) I had a bagel and headed to the practice facility.

This next part I remember very vividly. All of the Team USA players were there. LeBron was talking to Carmelo and Coach Krzyzewski was trying to explain something to Kevin Durant. On the right side of the practice facility Kobe was by himself shooting jumpers.

I went over to him, patted him on the back and said, “Good work this morning.”


“Like, the conditioning. Good work.”

“Oh. Yeah, thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.”

“So when did you finish?”

“Finish what?”

“Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?”

“Oh, just now. I wanted 800 makes. So yeah, just now.”

History is littered with similar tales of athletes and performers who refused to quit until they were satisfied with their preparation.

Jonny Wilkinson, English Rugby star and one of the all-time great fly-halves regularly stayed behind after training until he converted five penalty goals in succession.

“Maybe I’ll hit four in a row and just miss the fifth one. Instead of being satisfied with that, I won’t allow myself to leave until I’ve hit five. An hour and a half later – and having missed loads of appointments and left myself running completely late – I might do it!”

Steve Vai, guitar virtuoso and all-round shredding genius quickly gained infamy for his 12 hour practice schedules and unorthodox methods.

“I used to divide my day into about 12 hours,” Vai told GP way back in February 1983, when asked to describe his practice routine. “The first nine hours were divided into three equal sections. For the first hour, I would do a series of exercises to develop my fingering. Then I would go through all the scales and modes, and I would write synthetic scales and learn them. Then I would harmonize them and break the chords down. At the end of it all, I would just play.”

“I was transcribing music for Frank Zappa, doing everything from guitar and drum solos to orchestral scores and lead sheets. The work was quite intensive, and I found myself spending 10 or 12 hours a day listening to just one minute of music. I was concentrating so intently that I felt dazed whenever I stopped for a moment, but I achieved unprecedented results. I discovered new forms of written notation, greatly developed my ears, and transcribed some of the most rhythmically complex musical situations ever recorded — all by sheer single-pointedness of mind.”

Daniel Day-Lewis, multiple Academy award winner and all-round acting guru is so utterly devoted to each role, it’s a wonder he even remembers his own name. Check this out…

  • While playing a brain surgeon in ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, he taught himself Czech, even though the role was in English.
  • As part of his preparation for ‘Last of the Mohican’s’ he built canoes and spent time living off the land.
  • In his first Oscar winning role, playing cerebral palsy suffer Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’, he refused to leave his wheelchair and demanded the crew spoon feed him at meal times.
  • As Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis would stay in character and pick fights with random crew members.
  • To top it all off; he lived and slept in an abandoned jail preparing for his role as a prisoner for ‘In The Name of the Father’.

If you were to try something similar… what would happen?

Aren’t you even a little intrigued to find out?

If you’re willing to race – you must be willing to crash

roulette wheel
Success is all about taking risks.

It’s often a leap into the unknown. Are you able to leave your comfort zone in the pursuit of the rewards lurking outside?

“What if I fail?”

Then so be it.

Life is not a dress rehearsal – it is all or nothing. If you’re not moving forwards then you may as well give up. Being stationary is akin to falling behind. It serves no purpose.

Comfort is a disease. It strips us of our energy and our vibrancy. We are conned into believing it’s a desirable outcome – but those who feel comfort are just waiting for the light to go out.

They just don’t know it yet.

What do these guys have in common?

Ashley Revell, a 32 year old professional gambler from England sold everything he owned and placed the resulting sum of £76,840 on a single spin of a roulette wheel. He won £153,680.

In 1986, an unknown guitarist by the name of Joe Satriani took out a $5000 dollar credit card in order to record his first album ‘Not of this Earth’. He is now regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time.

The answer is simple.

They walked the walk.

Most of us talk about what we want out of life – these guys made it happen. They both knew the risk but they did it anyway.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

Climbing his first building without a harness was probably the scariest moment in Alain Robert’s life. But what if he looked up at the daunting task ahead, and decided to call it a day and go home?

Would he be able to live with himself?

I doubt it. The idea of being the first guy in history to climb a skyscraper without any safety equipment would eat away at him for the rest of his life. Every passing day would be another missed opportunity to reach immortality and the adulation of a nation. Everyone remembers the crazy people. He would go down in history as a climbing legend… but not if he went home, tail between his little legs and a thousand excuses trailing from his lips.

What about Kobe Bryant? He’s out there pushing his body to the limits because the alternative is to lay in bed, unable to sleep, terrified his peers are on the practice courts, developing their legend and reaching a level of greatness never seen before.

A winner doesn’t lie down and hope for the best. They take luck out of the equation by training harder than everyone else. When everyone else is sleeping – they’re training. When everyone else is eating – they’re working.

When everyone else has finished for the day – they’re just beginning.

Fear nothing, literally

We’ve all faced seemingly insurmountable challenges and come through unscathed. Even if shit hits the fan and you have to experience an uncomfortable situation – it’s only temporary. You’re still here. You’re reading this – alive, well and ready for the next challenge.

Pain is temporary – strength is permanent.

Every challenge you face strengthens who you are. It toughens you up for the next round. Life is just a computer game and each challenge is another level in your quest for the riches you so desperately seek.

Robert, Bryant, Wilkinson, Vai, Day-Lewis, Revell and Satriani are only able to push themselves to their physical, mental and financial limits because in their minds, there is no other option. Success is almost irrelevant. They have fully embraced and accepted the possibility of failure – and they don’t care.

But here’s the thing…

It’s not about reaching the top. It’s not about working harder than their peers. It’s not about how many goals, points or accolades they earn. It’s not even about the money.

It’s the flat out refusal to accept this is as good as it gets. They’re not ready to give up. They want to push themselves as far as is humanly possible.

They’re willing to die for what they believe in.

Risk vs reward?

The only risk in life is doing absolutely nothing!

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing on Facebook, Twitter or your preferred social media by clicking the little buttons below. Thanks for reading!

About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm - Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!


  1. I think the challenging thing is pushing past the plateaus. When I first started learning Spanish, everything was easy because everything was new. But once I reached a certain level, everything became hard. Why? Because I had already mastered all the easy parts of Spanish.

    My guess is that people who become masters are able to keep pushing even when they’ve hit a plateau.

    (btw, the links in your email from aweber aren’t working. They take me to
    Ed Herzog recently posted..Know Yourself: The First Step Towards a Meaningful CareerMy Profile

    • Hi Ed – that’s a good point. With any skill, the law of diminishing returns is at work. At the beginning, we know nothing, so every study session gives us a wealth of fresh knowledge.

      Thanks about the links. Aweber decided to crash before my final save, and even though it looked fine upon refreshing… oops. Anyway, fixed now.

  2. Lei Lani lucero says:

    Wow. Thank you for this synopsis of people who live their dedication. (Including yourself!) I read something the other day that I am still trying to digest and work into my every day being:
    “You have exactly one life to do everything you will ever do. Act accordingly.”
    When I am having one of ‘those days’ where it is freakin hard to find the sunshine and butterflies that usually inhabit my soul, reading our words, and the words of others, helps to re-ground me, and shift my focus. So thank you. When the inner lights get a bit dim, your dedication is an inspiration.

    • Hey, thanks for your kind words. It means a lot!

      People say our lives are over too quickly.. but I think a lifetime is a long enough time to fit everything in. I often think back twelve months ago and wonder where I would be if I started a new skill.

  3. Pain and strength are both temporary, no? Strength in the moment will pass, unless you consistently work to build/maintain it.

    Totally with you on the message of this post. For me, however, it’s about enjoying my life in general, and not killing myself to achieve something huge. Being willing to die for something always means sacrifice – it isn’t in my nature to function like that.
    Razwana recently posted..Essential reading for when you want to write a sales page, but your mind goes blankety-blankMy Profile

    • Hey, Raz. Strength comes and goes, you are right, but it’s like muscle memory. The more we challenge ourselves, the better we deal with future challenges.

      Our lives are full of sacrifices. Think about the ones you made moving to France. Think about the friends you don’t see.. Think about the Echo Falls you’re not drinking.. 😉

      It was worth it because it was necessary for your growth. In the same way I have made the decision to stop worrying about learning German while I focus on my guitar playing. These hours need to come from somewhere and unfortunately, for the time being, languages lose out.

      Ultimately we find the time for what’s important to us. We find the energy for the tasks which deserve it.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Jamie,
    This is seriously one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. The examples you use are so inspirational and I think about this often. Am I really giving it 100% like I need to? Since I have decided to make my mark on this world via my online business and by sharing my message, I NEED to be giving it my all.

    I am not however and am full of excuses. I look up to guys like Gary V who hustle like crazy and yet still has time for his family each night.

    This is a great reminder of what it takes to be truly excellent and given how damn competitive my niche is, I have to be doing what others are not willing to do.
    Steve roy recently posted..The Good Will Hunting Guide To Online SuccessMy Profile

    • Wow, thanks Steve. I think you nailed it on the head with your last sentence. The willingness go further than your competitors will almost certainly elevate you to the next level! Whatever the niche – the world is a big place and there is always room for quality.

  5. Jamie,

    Wow — my mind’s blown away with the people you quote, including yourself, of course. I’m tweeting this one. Thank YOU for being such an inspiration x

    Pooja recently posted..How I Make a Living as a Writer (and You Can too)My Profile

  6. This gives me serious anxiety, especially that picture. But I can respect that he is doing exactly what he wants to be doing. And if something wrong happens, it happened while doing something that he loved and enjoyed.

    • Haha, yes, I had serious vertigo trying to find the scariest picture possible. I’ve read somewhere that should anyone fall above a certain height, their speed of descent is greater than the speed information travels to the brain. So they would hit the floor whilst they would still perceive to be a few metres from the ground.

      On a more upbeat note.. 🙂 he must have the relative grip strength of a Chimpanzee (for body weight), so it’s probably no tougher climbing than it is for a normal person to go jogging. Surely he wouldn’t do it if he felt in any way he was in real danger.

  7. Awesome post man. I follow all of your posts but do not comment. This is so true. We often do our best when there is no safety net as brought out by this apt example. Good on ya! I am trying to walk to talk now by quitting my full time job and starting my own financial advisory firm.
    sagheer recently posted..Wealth Creator No.1 – Asian Paints – The permanent growth story!My Profile

  8. Hey Jamie Psycho!

    Hello all the way from India!

    Great post. I like the research that’s gone into it, and also the images used. And you drive home some very good points that we need to keep doing in order to get to the next level of greatness.

    It is also interesting to read some of the comments on here. Razwana mentioned that ‘that’ kind of sacrifice is not for everyone – I think we need to be understanding about the fact that we all have different goals, ambitions and needs in life, and need to act in accordance with these. So for Kobe, this might mean practicing for 6 hours from 4 am on wards. It might mean something completely different to somebody else.

    In the end, Lucero summed it up neatly – you really do have only one shot at life, and you need to use it the way that you really want to. Which means that I will now have a stab at building a game-changing tech venture, even though I am not a technologist. But I’ve got a feeling the idea has merit and with some solid execution, it will succeed.

    All the best to you and to everyone else!

    • Hey, I suppose it’s better than being called ‘Psycho Jamie’… 😉

      You have it spot on there. We should take inspiration from the examples mention in this article, but that doesn’t mean their approach has to mirror our own. You don’t need to practice 6 hours per day if you’re learning to drive – as it’s a relatively easy skill to learn. But to gain genuine fluency in a foreign language (and develop a natural accent) then you would probably need total immersion on top of deliberate pronunciation studies (if you really want to mimic a native).

      If you want something, all you can do is go for it. Good luck.

  9. There’s something very admirable about those who can throw themselves into a task with so much enthusiasm that they leave little room for retreat. That’s the lesson I get from Daniel Day Lewis and others like him. When you can just devote 100% to a goal, you’ll get there that much faster. I actually wrote on something like that on my blog. Those times when I gave it everything that I had were the times when I most accomplished my goals. Whenever I don’t get it my all, I just don’t seem to get there as often. I didn’t care if I failed or not, I just wanted to put everything I had into it. If I hadn’t, I would always wonder what might have been if I had just done more.
    Steve recently posted..17 Ways Travel Makes You a Better PersonMy Profile

    • You’re right. Putting 100% into our goals isn’t about the outcome, it’s about doing everything we can for our own integrity. Regret is horrible emotion which can drive us forwards in the future – but isn’t it better to eliminate the need for regret right now..

      Thanks for your comment!

  10. Hey Jamie,

    Damn interesting post — best I’ve read from you I think.

    By the way, it seems like we’re both into studying athletes lately. I REALLY like that Kobe story/quote. Where did you get it? Is it from a biography?
    Ludvig sunström recently posted..How to Become a Momentum Machine: Combine Powerful Psychological Principles to Boost Motivation, Build Self-Esteem, And Be a Winner Every DayMy Profile

    • Hey, thanks. I found that Kobe story via another website and I’ve seen it in a few legit places since. I don’t know if there is a Kobe autobiography but I’d be interested in reading it. *runs off to Amazon to check*.

  11. Interesting take on how far is someone willing to go for something. Have you seen the documentary Man on A Wire?

    I agree that these people are so dedicated it is insane, but they wouldn’t be who they are and achieved what they did without that work ethic. Lebron’s time on the USA Team with Kobe changed him because he saw how hard Kobe worked and it compelled Lebron to work harder so he could be the best. Thanks for the reminder that if we really really want something we should go for it at all costs. I will reddit this for you.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted..How to Tell if You or Someone Else is a NarcissistMy Profile

    • I have read about it – researching for an article on Cracked. He was insane too. Defying gravity must be a French thing!

      I didn’t know about Lebron being inspired by Kobe – thanks for that (and the share).

  12. Things like this and growing up watching the Kneivels motorcycle stunts never fails to stun me. I am not the kind to bungee jump, but I might just jump from a plane with a parachute. I may never race a bobsled, but I will certainly take a dive down with sharks. Why? Life’s worth living isn’t it? If we’re always afraid, if we never take risks, we also never get the rewards. We never lose, but we never win. This guy is an inspiration, even if it raises my gut to my throat to even think to do what he does, I’m sure it brings him the same satisfaction riding a motorcycle would for me.
    Becca Thomason recently posted..Breast Massage – For Breast EnlargementMy Profile

    • Thanks Becca – you can keep your skydiving and shark swimming – too crazy for me 😉

      I wouldn’t mind racing a bobsled though. I loved Cool Runnings as a kid!

  13. Great post Jamie.

    Reminded of this single pointedness of every successful person I’m reading about lately. Hours of work because it’s what they love.
    Unrogue recently posted..The Ground Zero 1-Year 7-Figure Freedom BusinessMy Profile

  14. Jamie,

    Loved the post. All that naturally gifted stuff is just nonsense. It’s about having real passion to work hard at what you’ve chosen. I don’t think we’ll all be world class but we can strive for the next level and be our best.

    But we have to be willing to go against the norms and expectations of others and avoid the easy way out.
    Peter Ewin Hall recently posted..Not just a weekenderMy Profile

    • Hi Peter, I think we’re only naturally gifted from a purely physical viewpoint. Skills that require the mind – so music, games, art etc are made by hard work and significant practice.

  15. Outstanding post Jamie!

    Too many people are too risk averse: Even if they know their passion, they will not go for it because it seems too extreme. They will not practice the guitar for 6-8 hours a day, because it seems crazy, and too much of a deviation of what “normal” people do. They will rather go for something socially acepted as getting a degree, because “that’s what you do, right?” I cannot relate though… I will always prefer the Jamies of this world over any “normal” person 😉 Why would you let the social expectations of other people interfere with your own decision making process?! It’s your damn life after all! It just doesn’t make sense.

    Anyways, hope to see a new article from you soon! And sorry for my English, it’s not my first language… Rock on!
    Nicholas Drillman recently posted..The Secret to Learning AnythingMy Profile

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