I haven’t been here in a while and for that I am a little bit sad. This is a season in my life where I just don’t feel like I have time to write in the way that I wanted to. And so I have changed or deleted expectations. I am in the process of building a new coffee business and I am in love with it. It could fail, hell at this point it looks like it is going to, but I don’t care and I am going to grind until I change my fortunes. For now I am going to leave tidbits that solve my own issues. Follow along if you would like but at the end of the day this is for me, this is my therapy and I am just putting it out there so maybe it sparks something for someone else.

So from here on out it is going to be short and sweet until I get some time for a little long form. I hope you don’t mind but really that is your choice.


Empathy is only the precursor.

Society has gotten so singular in it’s focus on happiness and empathy that we have forgotten they are the after and the before not the goal. Either the fuel or the byproduct but not the answer.

The goal really is compassion. That is the action. That is the outward expression of being empathetic and it requires some form of detachment. That is where the value lies.

Empathy is the emotion, it is the feeling you get when someone is in the shit. Empathy is required to be compassionate but they are not one and the same. For a long time I prided myself on being empathetic. I was always in the muck with people trying to save them and what I didn’t realize is they didn’t want to be saved. That is the problem with empathy it is exhausting. How many “empath’s” do you hear talk about how much of a burden it is to bare. And absolutely it is. What I am working on now is to find some level of detachment, to pull back enough from the situation to see the whole picture. Think of it this way, do you ever see a truck pull another truck out from being stuck in the mud by getting in the mud with it? Never.

When I can see more of the picture I have a better ability to actually be compassionate and support, rather than being raw from too deep of an emotional connection to the situation.

I am not saying there is any issue with being empathetic, it is actually a key in being compassionate. The problem is we have discussed it like it is the holy grail and it has left many of us raw, beat down and exhausted because we didn’t learn the skill of detachment which leads us to compassion which is what actually serves those we feel so much empathy for.

Feel free to ask questions or argue but I don’t feel empathy is the answer, it’s just the precursor. We need as a society to be less emotionally charged and more emotionally guided. We need to lash out less and utilize that energy to understanding. We need to move to compassion and understanding so that we don’t make everything an issue because we are feeling everyone’s feelings. Here is to hoping we can enter an era of compassion as the era of perpetual empathy and happiness hasn’t exactly panned out for us.

In my last post I recapped the knee injury I am dealing with from a couple of weeks ago. Well what I really recapped is the fact that I didn’t act like a little bitch about it. Not in the macho sense, I am for sure hurt and it definitely affected me at times. No, more so in the fact that I didn’t let it bring me down in the way adversity would have in the past. I didn’t put myself in a spot where I was wallowing, blaming others or not getting what I could get done. I dealt with what came up and kept on trucking (well crutching is probably more accurate) in the direction I felt I should be heading. Before I get into the meat of what I really want to talk about I just want to touch on that last point. I said “the direction I felt I should be heading” for a reason. I think far too many of us spend too much time acting like we have it figured out. I don’t have shit figured out for anyone but me and this is why I am not absolutely certain about my direction. I could be totally fucked and heading off the deep end. I am doing what I do because as of right now I have some clarity on what is working for me. If that stops working then I will pivot as needed. No path is THE path and I believe there are about a billion + ways to get to the same space. Remember that when you have it all figured out that is probably where it all ends.

After that digression I want to bring some tangible pieces to what I had talked about in my last post. I am proud after this injury as it has dawned on me that all of the shit I have done over the last 2 years has worked. My brain isn’t a mess, I haven’t acted like a total asshole (just a partial one, which is normal) to those that care about me and I have processed all of the other stuff going on through a clear lens rather than one painted with the frustration of my injury and the recovery process. I thought it may be fruitful for those that read to understand how stupidly simple it all is. Remember simple and easy are by no means alike. This shit is hard but it’s like banging a nail with a hammer, we all understand how to do it but without practice we still hit our thumb. So while I can tell you what I did, none of it means anything if you don’t practice it. When I say practice I mean apply intention every single day to what you want to get better at. This is almost more important when shit is good than when it is going astray because when it all hits the fan you have already worked on some of the tools and will find a massive relief when something comes crashing down around you and you don’t come crashing down with it. It is incredibly important that you understand shit will go wrong. Those that seem to have it figured out do not have it easier they still have just as much life as anyone else, the difference is they have cultivated resilience through planning, practice, acceptance and hard work. I know acceptance may not fall in there but it might just be the key to having a more fulfilled life. I can do nothing but accept the knee injury, it happened, it sucks and I can only move forward from here. The only thing not accepting it would do would prolong the recovery as I wouldn’t be in the right headspace which would lead to not putting my best effort in at the rehab, snowballing into a poor mindset that will then attract the wrong energy. Acceptance is never giving up, it is saying ok here is where I am at and asking how you move forward from here? I actually love the term Ed Mylett often uses “blissfully dissatisfied”. I am grateful for where I am but I will work to get better regardless.

So short story long here are the 3 biggest things I think I have done to cultivate mental toughness and resiliency:

  1. Big Vision, Little Goals

I know you hear lots of great and buzzy terms like “take massive immediate action” and “you have to dream so big it scares you”. While they are sort of true I have this theory I will write on at some point that cliches are just unfinished sentences that sound good. Most of the time they are leaving the tangible meat of the sentence out to feature the fun exciting part. So while I think it is absolutely critical to set a huge vision, when I say huge I mean it should embarrass you to tell other people big, it is only the start. The vision is the destination in the far off distance and just like travelling across the country you cannot just point your car in the direction you are going and hope for the best, you have to set some smaller, much more strategic stops along the way. You have to understand that there may be a detour, you will need gas, to use the washroom and most definitely some coffee. All of these things in my eyes are the smaller goals. They are achievable, bite size chunks that move you one step in the direction you want to be heading and keep you focused on something that won’t overwhelm you in the tough times. I have a 100km run coming up in June and I have never run more than 36km. So obviously I am not capable of the 100km without putting some effort in between now and then. So if the 100km race is my big vision then the small goals would be my weekly long runs, finding the right shoes and especially critical at the moment completing my rehab on this knee injury. Obviously I can’t think about the big vision right now without being overwhelmed as I can’t even walk down my stairs like a normal human at the moment, so I take smaller bites I stay very focused on my physio and the exercises and things I can be doing to get back as quickly and strongly as possible. I know that seems to some like a smaller version as I wanted to give a sound example but if you are doing this for your life I recommend doing it in 5 or 10 year chunks but paint the picture of your whole life. So not just I want 10 million dollars, you will need to be more specific around what you want your health, relationships, mental state, work and personal life to be like. Be very specific in how you lay this out whether it is a vision board, an actual drawing or very detail written few paragraphs. Because from there once you know the vision and you have let it marinate a little bit you can break down all of the things you need to do to get there which will help you determine the daily habits you need to create and the weekly tasks you need to start working on.

  1. Create Immense Accountability

This one is going to seem strange as most people think of those they deem as accountable as people who get a ton of shit done and truly they are those people. The only problem is those people have been practicing accountability for a long time and were taught it at a young age. For us lesser folk we need to game the system, we are not going to come out of the gates absolutely nailing our critical tasks day in and day out. This can be incredibly defeating for most because most people tend to put way too big of items on their list at the start. The person who wants to get their fitness sorted out decides they are going to the gym for 30 minutes a day without thinking of the logistics of driving there and back, weather, unforeseen issues and just how damn sore they are going to be about a week in if they start that way. They are seeing the outcome they want and think that is how they get it. Well that is incredibly backwards when it comes to accountability as it is likely unattainable unless you somehow have the will of a god and if you are looking to get rid of that extra 20lb the likelihood of that is pretty slim.

What needs to happen if you want to cultivate personal accountability is to start incredibly small, so small it is almost frustrating and then not do more than that for a set period of time. The reason this works is because you are no longer letting yourself down and staying in the same self-defeatist cycle you have spent so much time in (I know this because I too have bought many tickets to the same ride in my own head). This can actually be agonizing, it is deciding that you are going to be a writer and then only allowing yourself to write 1 sentence a day for 3 months even if you are completely in the zone. The goal is to always do less than you want to and this works in 2 ways. You will want to come back for more as you haven’t over done it on any given day and more importantly you prove to yourself every single day that you can keep your word to yourself. When we tell ourselves we are going to do something and then actually go do it we create a massive internal belief for those days that will inevitably come that aren’t easy. I recommend at the start setting any small habit and only increasing it a very small amount for at least 75 days. It is important to remember that these things aren’t destinations to be attained, we are proving to ourselves that we are the person that we say we are which helps us create an incredible level of personal accountability. Remember, discipline is what freedom is made of.

  1. Consistency is the Driver of Intensity

Using the example from above how many of you have gotten all fired up, usually around the end of the year to get in shape? Only to flame out weeks later because you are sore, your girlfriend dumped you or your job got hard. You went all gung ho like some asshole, cranked up the intensity and burned yourself out before you could actually hit lift-off. This is what the majority of people do. They would rather try really hard once and talk about how it wasn’t for them than grind it out even when it isn’t going their way. Grinding is the key to mental toughness. It is the space I am firmly entrenched at the moment with this knee issue. I can’t run, can’t play basketball, it’s -30 Celsius outside and I am getting pretty tired of the indoor bike and my tiny basement workout room with it’s tiny below ground level window. So how do you get to the point where you can grind, well you do step 1 with a ton of intention, then move on to step 2 and you stay in step 2 for about 10x longer than you think you need to be. Consistency can only be developed by well, being consistent. How many people have you seen go really hard at the gym for 2 weeks and have a 6-pack or bulging biceps? How many have you seen hurt themselves and tell you some lame excuse as to why it didn’t work for them? How many times have you been said excuse maker? There is no easy way to consistency but the keys I laid out in step 2 will get you there. A few tangible things I find that help with consistency are: write it down somewhere you see it every day. I have shit written all over my mirror from quotes to goals but the most important thing on there is the habits I am trying to set so I see them every day. Another key is to track. I use an app called Done, it is very simple and kind of fun. The more you get to see your streak the less likely you are to break it. In order to get the outcome you want you first have to be the person that puts the work in consistently, so be the person who shows up every day with intention rather than shows up one day with intensity. The intensity will come with the commitment to consistency.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are some other tangible and intangible things I have done to work on resiliency but I feel like these are the things I currently get asked about and see people struggling with the most. I would love to hear from you on some of the things you have done to work on this and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. These are some of my favorite topics to focus on so I am always happy to help!

My current mood is one of slight agitation. It is bubbling just below the surface. I am writing this from my couch with my leg wrapped in ice and propped up as high as I can get it comfortably without losing my laptop off my lap. It is not the most ideal writing position as every key stroke makes my laptop wobble and I can barely see what I am writing. It might sound like I am suppressing, but it feels to me as though I am utilizing rather than having my emotions utilize me. I am proud that it hasn’t risen to the surface because I now know that it won’t (well maybe for a moment if this laptop continues to move like the Darth Vader bobble head on my dashboard) because I have purchased some “tools” for my mental toughness toolbox. The tools I purchased cannot be bought with money, they are only paid for through the work. I am confident in my ability to not only deal with my underlying emotions but utilize them to continue to move me forward rather than hold me back.

So here is how I got to this space in my head…

I consider myself an athlete. I train every day and I train hard. I was running close to 40km a week, biking about 150km, playing basketball once or twice a week and weightlifting at least 4 times. I don’t take days off. Then I had an ankle injury, ok screw it no running or basketball for a few weeks but we can pile miles on the bike. I proceeded to up my bike km to almost 300km a week. As the ankle got better and I didn’t address some of the imbalances that had crept in, my return to basketball and running was less than stellar. Quickly I developed a nagging calf and then a groin/lower ab issue. I dealt with them as they came but at times it felt like the universe was knocking slightly harder on the proverbial door of my brain telling me I needed to pivot for a minute, maybe a break was due. I started doubting myself and I was having some major bouts with frustration (ok, maybe a little north of frustration into the land of anger). There is nothing quite like the frustration of wanting your body to perform in a certain way and it just not responding. Overall I was in a rut for the better part of 12 weeks physically, but I was mostly unaware of the rut I was in mentally too. Especially with the return back to basketball after years off. I did not realize how much playing brought me back to an old headspace, a headspace I had moved on from the last 2 years. This tied with the injuries was most definitely creating some cracks in the mental fortitude I have so studiously crafted.

Remember that knee at the start I mentioned, the one I was icing? How about the door being knocked on? Well the universe kicked the proverbial door wide open. I went up for a layup in our basketball game and came oh so unceremoniously down to the floor. My knee completely buckled in, big crunch, far too loud scream (a little embarrassing) and game over. Some may not call it luck but there are 2 physios on our team and one on the other team as well. What are the chances? They all had their turn taking a look and as I sat on the bench for the second half of the game somewhere between agony and feeling sorry for myself all of the frustration I had been feeling flooded back. It felt like all of the work I had put in was for nothing, like I was heading back to square one and if you have known me for a while that was going to be a long way back. All I could think of was oh god please don’t let this be where the story takes its turn for the worse and I go back to all of the bad habits I had worked so hard to get away from. Being brutally honest with you this is still a huge fear of mine and probably in some way shape or form always will be. I never want to be that Clint again and I work tirelessly for that reason. So with my thoughts racing and my knee throbbing my incredible men’s league team literally carried me out to a waiting car and one of the boys drove me home and practically carried me in to my house. The second the door closed I crumpled to the floor, I sobbed knowing full well the road ahead was going to suck. Although I have had a ton of ankle injuries I have never injured a knee before. But having played basketball my whole life I know a torn knee ligament can be the death knell for an athlete, especially one at 35. Depending on how serious the injury was it wouldn’t just spell the end of basketball but maybe running and lifting too. At least these were the thoughts swimming through my head while the pain was fresh in my knee. I am not exactly sure how (with some super human help from my wife is actually how) but I got showered and into bed.

Worried I would wake up in a worse state physically and mentally I did the best I could in between my fitful moments of sleep. I prayed, a lot. I talked to myself in a positive way. I told myself all of the good I had done and the things I was grateful for about the moments that had led me directly to this spot. I reminded myself of the things that were in my control. I realized that there were many and while doing this nothing actually happened. Often it will sound like these things happened overnight and people have these epiphanies out of nowhere, they don’t describe the hard parts, the embarrassing pieces that helped them realize what they needed to realize. It is rarely pretty coming to a big life realization, especially for someone as incapable of learning lessons as I am. The reason nothing happened when I just talked to myself is because there was no action. There was work to do. My realization didn’t hit me until today and it isn’t like I woke up with an epiphany, I struggled to get out of bed today, remnants of feeling sorry for myself keeping me tied to my bed. It was a slow burn as the day went on, a culmination of maintained habits since the injury that showed me I wasn’t going back to who I used to be, this wasn’t a slide it was just more adversity to go through. It wasn’t “god” or whatever you choose to call it telling me to take it easy or to take a break, he was telling me to go through the fucking pain. To feel it and not just push it down, to embrace the adversity not just try to smash it to smithereens.

I definitely went through it over the last 10 days wrestling with my ego, with the fact that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to in  the way that I wanted to do them. I felt like I had let people down, at work, on my team, even my wife and kid (one of the absolute worst feelings for me was telling my daughter there would be no more “shoulders” for a little bit) but everyone was completely understanding. My daughter blew my mind, she “doctored” me every day and brought me crutches, passed me my water and grabbed me anything she could help with. If you’re a parent you know how much pride this gives me.

This is where I diverge from the normal thoughts people have around an epiphany. I know today the realization that I am tougher than I was giving myself credit for and that like I have said before I just needed to go through this pain not shy from it dawned on me. That is all it did, it dawned on me today, But it would not have if I didn’t put the work in, well before the injury but right after it too. In the past I would have just wallowed, sat in bed with my leg propped up and made poor Tam do everything for me and then probably bitched at her for doing it wrong ( I say this because this is literally what I did when I sprained my ankle about 6 or 7 years ago). I didn’t do this, did I stay in bed longer? Totally, I literally had to hop around the house on one foot or slide down the stairs on my ass, which my daughter so graciously showed me how. But I got up, I set myself up downstairs (with some assistance for sure) and I attacked my rehab as best I could. I didn’t just sit there and use that as my excuse though, I made sure I still got what I could done, using the counter to help myself around I got Katie’s breakfast and snacks ready, I unloaded the dishwasher. I did whatever I could to be useful knowing full well over the next few days Tam would have to do a lot more. This unlocked something in me and I know now that making myself useful and not just succumbing to my injury was incredible for my brain. I even did a 10 minute workout in the afternoon. It hurt like hell but I was able to do 100 1-legged push-ups and 100 sit-ups. It wasn’t much but it was another habit held, I had put a check mark firmly in the box  labelled mentally-tough and disciplined. I proceeded to do that every day. I found a way to be useful at home, at work and to myself. I maintained each of my habits that were so important to me and attacked what I could from a rehab standpoint like my life depended on it. I didn’t tell myself I had purpose and it was all going to be ok and most importantly I didn’t wait, I did what I could to continue to move forward even if I was literally crawling on the floor to do so.

Now I want to make sure you understand the diagnosis was not as bad as initially thought, I had not torn anything and it was just a severe MCL/ACL sprain. Some people may read “just” and write me off, but if you have ever injured these ligaments you know it is unnerving. I cannot get my lower quad to engage without staring at it and even then it seems like it is only about 75% engaged. I still can’t walk down stairs more than one at a time. It feels like all of the strength I have accumulated just vanished overnight. I am literally struggling to squat 40lbs and I can’t even get to 90 degrees. It is emasculating to say the least. I also want you to understand that it hasn’t all just been realizations and gritting my teeth. I have punched a few walls because I can’t do something, I have thrown up because I tried to do something I shouldn’t and it induced far more pain than I was ready for. I have cried, felt sorry for myself, beat myself up and absolutely wallowed in the last 10 days. I just only did them for a moment, I caught myself far better than I ever had in the past and told myself the way things actually are rather than broad stroking the most negative picture possible. For this is what I am truly proud of. If anyone ever tells you they don’t have dark moments, run, or tell them to fuck off and don’t buy anything they are selling. Real mental-toughness, confidence or whatever you want to call it is wrought from facing your demons, from catching yourself and not letting your initial feelings drive your next actions.

All of these things have been great realizations and they came to me over the last few days for sure, but the actual epiphany I had was not these. No what blew my mind is something I have said at many points in the last 2 years but hadn’t actually internalized. Today was the first workout I blistered. I went fucking hard, like I had something to prove and in a short video after that I took the words just popped out of my mouth “you have to go through the pain”. I have said this too many times, but never had they hit me in the way it hit me today. I have not gone through some of my pain recently. I have been shying away from it, finding things to keep me distracted and today had me fully realize that all of the injuries in the past couple of months were a representation and manifestation of this point. Whether you choose to believe in the law of attraction or not it is there and it is definitely real. My body is living proof of this on both sides of the coin. I thought prior to today that going through the pain was just dealing with it. What I learned today was that I have to embrace it, be grateful for it, maybe laugh in its face a little but respect the hell out of it, grit your teeth and then fucking push anyways. This is the only way through and this is where most get stuck. I know for a long time I wanted it to be easy, to not hurt or not push me. Those were all fantasies.

Most people will disagree with this and I am not for most people. I am not saying that you need to just hammer away at an injury and pretend it isn’t there, that’s stupid. Speak to your respective doctors, psychologists or whoever for the issue in front of you and when you understand what it is, realize it is time to do the work. The work is not done at the doctor, that is the lesson. The practice happens in the dark of your own mind or in my case basement. But no matter how good we feel leaving the lesson it does not translate if we don’t do the work ourselves.

While I read through the garbage I have written and decided not to post (and some of the stuff I have posted) I am struck with something. I come across as an asshole. Now this isn’t ground breaking news, I am not surprised by it, but it is interesting when you read your own material and there it is. I can appreciate as a guy who has been in charge of people for years now that I don’t always connect for the simple fact that I have become somewhat unrelatable. Not in the worst way but I see that I often don’t tell stories I share facts. I out logic those that are emotional beings and that probably doesn’t make them feel great. Hell it actually kind of pissed me off, at myself, and I wrote the shit. Do most of those that know me understand that my main focus is to help and to make a difference? I think and hope so. As I truly do want to see all those I am connected with succeed. But as a guy who has touted the “it’s not what you are saying, but how you are saying it” line more than a most I should probably check my own shit from time to time too, hey?

I have support and people have told me how they enjoy my writing. I don’t doubt that it connects with those that read it. But am I steering others away by not sharing the shit that I have been through, the shit I have put myself through to get to a spot where I feel I can write on things like mental toughness? Well as a guy that loves to get on his soapbox and preach about everything you need being in you already, and you just have to work to bring it out that is just what I am going to do. I am going to work to tell more stories directly about my life, how messy it has been and how much dumb shit I have done to get me to a point where I had enough pain in my life that I had to consciously choose working on my mental toughness every day. I do not talk about it because it has come naturally to me. I am such a big proponent of working on mental toughness because I have lacked these things in my life and have had to learn them later than most through trial and error (a lot of error). It is the journey that has spurned the research and writing. Yet I still have become so enamored by those ahead of me and so driven to improve that at times I lose sight of where I am and start to assume I am already there and that doesn’t help anyone. Especially not me.

So here goes. I started this blog because I want to have the chance to help people understand something I had to learn the hard way. Something someone didn’t tell me needed to be practiced and cultivated throughout life. I think like most of us through the advent of the internet and the typical media sources I had been sold a bill that happiness was the ultimate destination. Now I think more people are becoming aware of this pursuit of happiness as one of the largest issues we face today. It is not that happiness isn’t a place to be, it is just that pursuing it has wrought havoc much more than it has helped. I know for myself as I spent much of my 20’s doing the things my simple mind recognized as stuff that made me happy I had to do more of it more often to get the same feeling I was looking for. At some point the things I thought made me happy provided me with nothing and for a time I was mostly about numbing the dullness of the day just hoping something would happen that would bring forth some emotion. I also spent an exponential amount of time running from my other issues, as they piled up it became hard to ignore and with the pursuit of happiness along came many of the other issues we see prevalent in society today. I had a minor drinking issue, had cultivated a great debt issue and had found a way to alienate myself from the person I loved and was married too.

I’m sure for some this sounds similar and in some way most of you can relate.

All of the things I have posted to date are in reflection of a lesson I had to learn in my life. Most typically through pain because I wasn’t capable enough to learn before it hurt. I am sharing this journey in hopes of making the things I have had to unearth for myself more available to someone out there who needs it and as a place to house reminders for myself as I so constantly forget the lessons that are so important to my well-being. Maybe at times I am a rung ahead of someone on the ladder and am able to reach down to help but what I need to be reminded of is that I am nowhere near the top of the ladder and to share in a way that expresses that. No one has ever “made it” and there is always work to do.

Ok, so up until this point I have spent most of my writing time waxing poetic on my life or theorizing  about the philosophies I hold dear.  When people ask me how I made such drastic changes in my life I always try to provide a tangible tool for them. So far in my writing I haven’t quite found a way to do this without it coming across as a bit contrived. I am just struggling to tie tools into theories in a single blog post and for that reason I am going to attempt to provide separate posts that are more tangible than philosophical. These tools could be something as simple as a quote or mantra but normally it will be a book to read, app to utilize; it could even be another person or program to follow. I try as hard as I can when someone asks me for advice to just give the motivational stuff because often after you walk away from the conversation it wears off. I know for myself it would have been so much easier if there was someone along the way to help with the first steps or a “tool” I could pull off the shelf to help on my journey to mental toughness. So here I am doing what they say to do in writing or entrepreneurship, help people with what you wish you had help with.

 I do want to preface all of this with the fact that there is no one size fits all path to mental toughness. Where I needed cold showers and outdoor workouts in – 50 degree weather others may need meditation and silence. It is all understanding ourselves, what we need and how to get to where we can not only manage but thrive in the ups and downs of our incredible and crazy world. So some of these tools may not always resonate with you and that is ok. I believe I have cultivated a well-rounded opinion of what true mental toughness is and will do my best to provide a breadth of tools not just variations of a hammer if you know what I mean.

So long winded interlude aside let us get to the books (well only 3 of them for now) that redefined what I understood mental toughness to be and helped me the most on my journey.

1. Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins

I don’t believe any list pertaining to any form of toughness would be complete if they don’t reference David Goggins. Even if this was only auto-biographical in nature it would be full of incredibly eye opening stories that can easily be interpreted into  dramatic life altering lessons. But having a book that is written almost as a story book with a built in lesson plan I cannot imagine a better tool for providing both the framework and inspiration to start your journey to becoming more mentally tough. I will not spoil the book but it reads like a novel as some of the stories are almost too insane to believe. Goggins wraps it all up with some subtle but interesting tweaks he made after many of these experiences and shows a side of himself we do not get to see on social media and in the public eye. He is truly one of the most (if not) mentally tough humans to ever walk the earth and that is only exemplified in his ability to share some of the stories that do not paint him in the best light. His ability to show real vulnerability and not just host a pity/macho party is incredible.

As a note I do not listen to a ton of audio books but would highly recommend listening to this instead of reading it. Adam Skolnick who is Goggins ghostwriter actually narrates the book and  him and Goggins discuss and dive into each story and lesson at the end of each chapter. It provides so much extra value listening to them dissect each piece that you just wouldn’t get out of reading the book. This audio book actually drug me through an incredibly difficult 4x4x48 challenge where my whole left quad locked up. I wouldn’t have completed it if I wasn’t listening to this through the first night. Now I know most people would much rather hear the author narrate the book and I would normally firmly fall into that camp this format was incredible and if it helps Adam may not be on Goggins level but he literally swims with great white sharks regularly with not a care in the world.

2. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

This book is easily the hardest book I have ever read. It also may be the most important for understanding the nature of people and how to look at yourself. It is not hard to read for the way it is written. I could barely put it down to be honest. It is hard to read because it stares at one of the hardest moments in human history through the eyes of one of the only men to come through it with his soul intact. It is hard to read because it bores into your soul like nothing else. If a man that experienced first-hand the horror of internment camps and somehow come out with his morals intact, why can we not make the drive to work with ours? All that being said the book is written with a softness that shows Viktor’s true wisdom and understanding of the human condition.

Frankl is an accomplished psychologist and through WWII he forms his trademark theory “logotherapy” which posits that true happiness and peace comes from finding meaning and purpose. In his storytelling he helps you understand just how to find that meaning in everything you are doing. I often found myself crying while reading this book, unable to manage the emotions it dragged out of me as it firmly puts the mirror in front of you and shows you that the only thing in our life we truly have control of is what is between our ears and in our heart. If we maintain that we maintain who we are and that is what is truly important in being the best versions of ourselves.

3. Atomic Habits – James Clear

Now I know at first glance most people wouldn’t lump this book into a mental toughness category. Lightly maybe it could fall into mental health but full stop it is a personal development book. But as you start to dive into mental toughness you understand very quickly that discipline is one of the main keys to maintaining and increasing your mental toughness. As Jocko Willink says Discipline Equals Freedom. And no one does a better job in the world of breaking down how to set the habits that truly are the precursor to discipline. In one of James more famous quotes he states “you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems”. Without habits and the ability to stop or start them there would be no discipline and if you are starting this journey as a middle aged, slightly soft father like I did you need systems to get you there as none of this is easy (nor should it be) and it does not come naturally.

Simply put this is the book that absolutely changed my life. I had a lot of pride to swallow as a washed up athlete. I was the guy that “didn’t have time” or “wasn’t as bad as that other guy” and I was lying to myself. I read this book just before Christmas, forgot about it while I over indulged and realized around March that I needed to get my shit together or I would be living in it forever. I went back to Atomic Habits, started with 5 push-ups and 5 sit-ups a day to start. We are almost 3 years in and I just signed up for my first 100km race. When you make things small enough to start almost anything is possible with a little effort. Trust me on this book as I have read most books on habits at this point and nothing compares in providing tangible, actionable things you can start this instant.


I have so many more books that have made an indelible mark on me and have been instrumental to my mental toughness journey and over time I will try to break down books individually as I believe they are the most important tool man has ever created. There is no other avenue to learn from mistakes without making them in a more straight forward but well-rounded way than reading a book. I know personally books allow me to receive feedback I need to hear much easier as they don’t fight back and each time you read them depending on your situation there is something new to be garnered from them.

So there it is. These are my top 3 books to start your mental toughness journey, or maybe you just need to reignite it. Either way there is nothing better than paper to start a fire in reality and when we speak figuratively. Just remember that books can eventually become procrastination. The point is to read and then act on what you have read. Knowledge is never power unless applied. Good luck and I hope this helps. Let me know which book resonates with you!

* While I chose these books based on their merit and how they have helped me I may earn affiliate commissions from links on this page. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I have led in the hospitality industry for well over 10 years now. This has afforded me the opportunity to interact and lead almost every type of person imaginable. Some good, some not so. But all of it has left me with an understanding of how we work  as people that I could not have imagined. I appreciate people for who they are much more now than I ever did as a young operator. I was much too busy trying to save those in my patronage, even if they weren’t looking to be saved. This left me exhausted, battered and often with my own struggles as I felt in order to save them (again, even if they weren’t looking for it) I had to be in the water with them. I took on so much of what they were fighting without them asking me. When I look back now I was doing both of us a disservice.

I can think of many situations where this happened but one truly stands out. I had an incredible cook in one of my kitchens, we will leave him unnamed as that is not what is important. The talent was obvious. Not only did his food look spectacular but he could easily cook an almost full lunch service of 100 seats with almost no help, but, and there is always a but, it completely depended on how he showed up that day. Which really depended on what he did the night before. If you are in this industry you completely understand and have worked with a person like this. For me I was young at the time and knowing this kids background and how it related to the tough times I had as a teenager and youth I thought I could help him. Only problem is he didn’t always want the help. There were times that our conversations would hit home and he would stay stable for a while but it almost seemed as though he would head back into troubled waters so that I would have to come save him, like he couldn’t see the positive attention he was getting and only the negative registered in his brain. I poured a ton of myself into him and for the most part he responded but only while I was around. My support, tough love, re-directive and positive feedback only worked if he was in my vicinity. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t create his own accountability system and consistency. It was because he never had to as I was always there to save him. Ultimately I ended up having to fire him as I could no longer ignore the damage his situation was creating and I realized the damage was my responsibility and this sent me reeling for a bit. I was exhausted and my psyche was badly damaged. I took it as though I was not a good enough leader to help this kid, that it was me that had failed him.

This isn’t the only team member I did something of the like with as a young leader, and I believe it is these things that sent me on my own mental health spiral for a number of years. I was trying to save those that were ultimately unsavable because they did not want to be saved. And how conceited of me to think that I could make a difference for someone even when they didn’t want me to. But when you are in it you don’t always see things for what they are and you don’t see another path. So as I headed into my own darkness I failed to realize that the term in service of others has nothing to do with giving a piece of yourself, it has nothing to do with “saving” anyone. Now with hindsight being 20/20 I believe that no one actually saves anyone else unless they choose to be saved and then really who is doing the saving.

Having put others burdens on my shoulders whether they wanted me to or not I was weighed down. Life was heavy for me and I was looking for a way out. I remember one day in particular where I just sat in my car crying outside of the restaurant I was supposed to be running. I watched the parking lot and the store fill up, I knew they needed me inside and I could not physically move out of my seat. I just watched almost like I was separate from myself, there was nothing I could do to make myself move for over an hour.

Now this is typically the point in the story where someone writes “and that is the moment I knew I had to make a change, and this is the shit I did” often times they make it seem like it all happened overnight, and these simple changes fixed everything and life is good. If that is true these people probably also fart fairy dust and their burps smell like roses. Now I don’t know about you but in this situation while that moment in the car may be the penultimate moment that I can look back on, I by no means changed immediately and probably didn’t even think that day “shit, I need to fix this”. I believe that day was about 4 years ago and if you have followed some of my blogs or IG posts you know that my journey to mental toughness really only started 3 years ago. So it took me almost a year before I started making any tangible changes.

I started reading and listening to better content and this is where the lighthouse and tugboat theory comes in. I am not sure exactly where it all comes from but I heard Sean Whalen talking about it on the old MFCEO podcast and it just clicked. I had spent my whole life up until that point being a tugboat, attempting to save those in troubled waters. You see a tugboat and a lighthouse theoretically provide the same service. They both save ships. They just do it in drastically different ways. While the tugboat heads out into the troubled waters, battered by waves and wearing itself down working to save one ship at a time, the lighthouses stands tall and shines its light. It does not take on any of the troubled water, it maintains itself and makes sure it is always a beacon for others to see and in the process saves many more ships than a single tugboat ever could. But not only does it help more than the tugboat it allows those in the water to save themselves.

Now I am not sure I am doing it justice and I by no means live this theory perfectly, it is something I strive to be better at every day. The way I interpret this is that I am much better off focusing on improving myself so as to be an example for others to see. Rather than to be a battered soul myself in the same waters as those I am trying to save. How do you show someone the way to safety, how do you light the way when you are taking on the same water as those you are trying to save? While some may see this as noble and will look at the lighthouse as an all too stoic and uncaring figure. I see it differently. As people we rarely respond to someone telling us we need saving and usually this person has decided on what that saving will look like. They are telling us where we need to go and what we need to do. But what do we really need? An example, someone that is where we want to be, someone that offers support but leaves it up to us to take. They let us be the hero of our own story as we still get to steer the ship out of the troubled waters and into the light.

So the challenge I have taken on is how do I live my life more in line with the way a lighthouse operates? This is one of the lens I use often to view my world. It is a question I constantly ask myself. When I see something that needs to be better in our world I try to think of how I can be better in that area of my life. How I can shine my light on the subject in a positive manner. If I want others in my life to get healthier then I must first be healthy. If I want our society to look after the planet better I need to always pick up extra trash. If I want people to have better tools to improve their mental toughness so they can positively affect their mental health, then I better develop those things in myself and test the theories I find. All in all it boils down to going first. To living what you say is important not just pointing your fingers at others that are in a worse place than yourself and not dragging yourself down to the place they are thinking that this will help them. You can only go to that place and come back from it so many times before you too break down in those dark and rough waters and need saving yourself.