Internal warfare, focus and discipline

by David · 8 comments

Running trainers  David Mansaray

I recently started running, and from the first step it became clear that running is tool for learning powerful life lessons. While, running may not be of interest to you, I highly recommend this post – It may just be what you need on your quest to becoming a better learner.

Sure, running keeps you healthy, but what I’m most interested in is the process – Just after ten minutes of running I was fighting a battle, which was expected, but I realised today that running is less physical and more of a mental battle. Getting to the end of the route meant I had to engage with internal warfare,  focus and as a by-product I learnt more about discipline.

Running has taught me some great lessons that are applicable to a vast array of disciplines and activities.

Internal warfare

When I first started running today it was easy –  like everything – it starts out easy. I was happy to be out and en route,  as bonus I  was having fun, but out of nowhere unexpectedly it started to get difficult. This was perhaps ten to fifteen minutes into the run,  suddenly my chest started feeling tight, my legs got heavier and I stopped enjoying myself.

I had only just started my journey, but already it was getting *difficult*.  At this point a voice told me to stop.  Which made me tell myself I couldn’t. This was the same voice that spoke to me back in Spain when I was on a mission to improve my Spanish. As I discovered in Spain, this voice  appears whenever there’s an opportunity for growth, so I shut the voice out and kept running.

Guess what ?

I could do it and I just kept going. I still felt some pain, but that didn’t matter because I was winning, not the silly voice in my head.

Lesson: Things always get difficult and we will always feel pain, that’s when the work actually begins, everything beforehand is a warm up.


I found it more optimal to focus on my breathing and getting to the end of the street. Anytime I allowed my mind to think about distance I lost focus and the voice started speaking again.

This is a familiar scenario with different context. When I started learning Kanji I found it difficult to get started because of the breadth of the task. Although I really wanted to learn, I hadn’t a clue of how regular David was going to learn two thousand Kanji

Learning two thousand Kanji is a monstrous task. I ignored that big number and focused on one Kanji at a time. One thousand Kanji’s later and I’m still going. It’s all about focus. Forgetting about everything surrounding the task at hand, and focusing on a actionable task. Learning one Kanji. Taking another step. Taking another breath.

Lesson:  Make things easy by focusing on what’s in front of you, everything else doesn’t matter.


I’m still a young runner, however I do know a thing or two about discipline, and It’s clear that running helps develop this. You don’t have to be disciplined to get out and run, but it takes discipline to keep running. Discipline is a by-product of consistent focus.

Humans are resistant to change. Naturally we fight it. However, gradual change usually goes unnoticed.

One day I’ll wake up and realise I  can run ten miles, whereas now I can barely manage three. However, in order for me to develop discipline, I need to remain focused. All I’m worried about at the moment is getting out the house tommorow morning and running to the end of the street. When I get to the end of that street I’ll worry about the next

Running is highly recommended from me. It teaches you to deal with internal warfare, it teaches you how to focus, and eventually you’ll learn that discipline is not that hard to achieve.

What have you got to loose except for a few pounds?

I’m going to be sharing my progress with running through my e-mail list. Make sure you sign up in the box on the right for weekly inspiration 😉

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  • I’m thinking about writing a similar post about my experiences with running. Just back from running a little more than 5 km and I’m wasted… After 15 minutes it was horrible, then I halted for 1 or 2 minutes (until my heart went to 115bpm) and another 2.5km to get back home. It was hell: I wanted to run faster than my previous try 3 days ago… I barely made it, running 5.5k in 31 minutes, instead of 33. Now I’m very tired and happy 🙂


    • That sounds a lot like how things were for me ^^ 
      I look forward to reading your post 😉

  • Prize

    Wow David, fantastic post! This one was truly inspirational. I definitely agree about not focusing on the the ultimate goal, but instead focus on the actionable task.

    When I first started learning Japanese in December I was telling myself how many months it would be before I knew X amount of Kanji. That’s all I would focus on when I was doing those Kanji and I was beginning to dread doing it because I wasn’t at that level I wanted to be at yet. It was beginning to feel like work, and it wasn’t fun at all, so I just stopped doing my reps and I stopped learning Kanji at around ~600 in February or March.

    The next thing you know (around June) I find out about the Tofugu Internship. I was reading it and I was thinking, “Wow, this Internship so cool I want to apply.” We all know how that turns out. I didn’t get the internship but that Internship which started one month ago has changed my life. One requirement of the internship was that you had to be following them on twitter and on facebook. I was quite reluctant because before I was the person who didn’t socialize with anyone in real life or online. I really loved learning and doing research but I didn’t know about being speaking or chatting with people. I got over my fear of speaking with people and just made the twitter. That felt so great so great that I also decided to make a blog. I started blogging and wow it felt amazing. Being in contact with people and writing my thoughts on things.

    I was coming in contact with all of these people learning the Japanese language. It really motivated to start learning again but I wanted to do things differently this time. I decided I would get my reps down from ~600 to 0 on Anki. I started a 21 day challenge though to build discipline. I’m currently on the 18th day and everything is going great. I’m focusing on doing a couple kanji at a time. I’m taking it slow and I’m not worrying about the time when I’ll know 2,000 kanji. Goals that big can really demotivate you when you don’t accomplish them so don’t make them.

    So where am I know? I’m on the 18th day, I know about ~737 Kanji and I’m having more fun than I ever have with the Japanese language. Focus on having fun, and surround yourself around people who are also enjoying themselves.

    Anyways David I’m sorry for that long comment but that’s my story. When I make my 21 day post in a few days it’s going to build upon this one. It’s not about building a habit (it’s not even proven) it’s about building discipline, taking it slow (at first), and having fun.

    • Hey Prize thanks for sharing your journey and I’m glad to hear that you’re making progress!  

      Don’t worry about writing too much, the comment box is yours 😉

      Make sure you keep me updated with your progress and keep up the good work! 


  • mark95427

    I’m a runner myself.
    Although you gain more discipline from running through the pain; it’s not smart to do that everyday.

    Any runner’s website will tell you that as a beginner/novice/intermediate runner, it’s more beneficial to focus on a manageable pace. It’s called the “aerobic pace”– the pace that allows you to avoid injury.
    Trying to run hard all the time only leads to injury.
    I have personal experience–my feet and tibialis have suffered injuries in the past, but I have fortunately healed through a couple weeks of rest.
    Running “hard”, (which is called anaerobic), and through pain is safest only when done two or three times a week.

    It’s something most runners learn through experience…
    For everyone that’s interested in running, do some research about ‘Injury Prevention’. It’s a serious thing.

    Don’t get injured!!!

  • lmg

    Great post, David!

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