I want to write. So why don’t I? Why isn’t it easier if it’s something I want so bad? Because of the fear of how I or others will judge it. I try all of the tactics, I have Wrong, Bad, Fast written in sharpie on this very keyboard, I work to schedule my time and then usually sit there finding anything else to do than write. I struggle to get past myself really as the assumption is always that I must be doing it wrong. There is doubt there that is deep seeded. Maybe I feel that I need another’s validation or grace to “let” me write, that I need my hand held to accomplish what I would like and that I am not enough. Yet in my finer moments I am absolutely enough. When I am in a state of “flow” it all comes easy because when you are rolling there isn’t room nor time for judgement. This is the place I can only assume we are striving for but struggling to get to. My theory around this is changing, I used to believe we had obstacles put in front of us from an external source and for sure there are times that we do but I think it is far less often than we would like to admit. When I analyse my own life with any semblance of subjectivity I can do nothing but admit that I am often my major (and sometimes only) problem. The obstacles truly are just excuses. I have put them there whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Here is your perfect example. Literally while I write this I put my own obstacle in front of myself. As I write I start to think “why am I even writing this? Someone else has already put something very similar to this out there in the world and likely with more polish than I ever could. The scariest part? This is true. Ryan Holiday has a book called The Obstacle is The Way where he discusses much of this topic. To critical acclaim none the less. I look up to him as a writer as he is prolific in his production yet provides no less quality because of his quantity. Now I could just point you in his direction and give up. Which if you want a great read absolutely go and pick up that book. But here I sit continuing to write realizing that the thought I had is from a place of lack. Is there not room for me to discuss this topic from a different angle? Maybe resonate with a different type of person all together? For sure. When you understand our brains main job is to keep us alive, conserve calories and entice us to reproduce you start to understand that uncontrolled it will stop you from taking almost any risk. And that is the key,

we cannot rely on our brains to get us through.

Our brains are amazing and beautiful but much like a 150 year old house that has been renovated in some way every 20 years they are not perfect and don’t operate as holistically as we would like. So you have to play some games with yourself. You have to remind yourself of your souls intent more often, put things visually in front of yourself that distract at times and narrow focus at others, all while giving yourself the grace to realize you are never going to be perfect, you will fail and sometimes the thing you want to do is actually going to create the most dread in you and you will want to avoid it at all cost.

A little like I have avoided writing. Fuck I developed an app and built a mobile coffee company to circumnavigate my desire to become a writer. Writing may actually be one of the hardest things for me to do, sometimes I would rather be anywhere but in front of this laptop trying to articulate my thoughts and being smacked with the reality that I am not nearly as good at this as I want to be.

This piece brings light to just that. It is rambly at best, mostly incoherent and really to this point I have used a lot of words to say very little. My prose is lacking, I am sure there is spelling and grammar errors and ultimately my paragraph structure probably wouldn’t hold up in a high school english class. But Here I sit proud that I got here and that I have done this. The starting point (again) of what I would like to be a space I live in. I want to help and I feel between writing and speaking I can do that. I will work to perfect this craft however painfully slow it goes.

This time around it will be with a lot less pressure. Eventually I will build out a posting schedule, but for now I will stick to attempting in some small way to work on my writing daily. I will edit ruthlessly and work to make content I feel resonates deeply with those I am seeking. Maybe I will even define a core reader so I can better understand just who I am writing to but at the moment I will just work to help who I used to be as I am sure I am not the only person who has been there. It is going to take a much longer time horizon than I would hope but that is ok. Perspective is my magic wand and I am going to wave it furiously until I get to where I want to go.

Well I guess resetting yourself isn’t quite like resetting a Nintendo. It isn’t quite the push of a button, blow on the cartridge and turn it back on type of situation. Over the last couple of weeks since my last post I have really struggled with imposter syndrome. I have asked all of the existential questions I am sure any writer asks at some point. Inherently it all comes back to “what am I doing?” and “does any of this even matter?”. A lot of these questions I am asking myself have stemmed from the injury. I know I have talked about how injuries are almost punished in sports, like I did something wrong because my body broke. I should have looked after it better, trained different, seen the misstep coming somehow. None of this is fair pressure to put on myself or anyone else for that matter, yet it is there none the less. But a lot of the questions I am asking myself right now also stem from the dichotomy and nature of writing for development. The goal is to share my journey, stay away as best as possible from being preachy and hopefully make an impact for other people while processing the things I am going through myself. That is all great until people start telling you that you have made a difference. I didn’t realize this until it happened a few times for me over the last month or so. Nothing big and grandiose but a quick text from a friend or a comment on a post goes a long way when you are new to this. That is exactly what happened to me. Now all of a sudden these comments have pulled me out of documenting or sharing my journey and thrust me into feeling like I need to make an impact. There is a pressure on me to write a piece that helps someone out of the rut they are in, gives them the epiphany they need or spurns them on to take the steps they need to. Well that’s a lot of pressure for a guy who barely feels qualified at times to walk his dog, never mind make a difference in someone else’s life.

So here lies the problem. I’m great at making things bigger than they need to be, expectations become my enemy and I talk myself out of writing, posting or producing any content that revolves around helping others or improving myself because I am not perfect, not even close. How stupid, that is the whole reason anyone reads and I believe it is the only way anyone helps others, by being broken themselves and sharing the journey. None of what I am saying is new, just like anyone else trying to help others. It is just said, written or displayed in a new order. Aa new format or subtle adjustment that triggers something in someone to go make the changes they have felt they needed to make. Now I don’t actually believe I need to be perfect. In fact it is painfully obvious to me and most everyone else that I am not, that I never will be and I know that is what resonates with those that have reached out to me about my writing. Yet somehow my monkey brain convinces me in the darkness that I shouldn’t bother trying because I am not perfect, it beats in to me that I am no where near it and then  me that smacks me with the knowledge that someone has already said what I am saying in a much more eloquent fashion. While that last part is probably true it doesn’t matter if we have no idea who that person is, if they don’t exist in our circles then them saying it doesn’t help any of us get better because we aren’t even aware of it. Which is the whole reason I started all of this in the first place, while there are people I follow that I love, that resonate deeply with me most of them are on the fiery and intense side and there are a lot of people that type of vitriol just doesn’t resonate with. Most of the people that inspire me are also so much farther down the path that when someone finds them they struggle to relate it to their life because the gap between them and who they are listening to is to big and they can’t imagine getting there. While it overwhelms and intimidates me too I think something I have been blessed with is the ability to extrapolate. I have gotten good at understanding just what taking the small steps means to the bigger picture and to getting where I want to go. I actually think I do a decent job of painting the picture for others too. Yet, at times this has crushed me, it has stopped me from starting multiple businesses and pushing for ideas that I now see others bringing to fruition with tons of success. It took me almost 18 months after paying for this domain name to make my first post. I think this is the way it is for most though, often our biggest assets are closest to our deepest flaws. They are two sides of a coin rather than opposite ends of a spectrum. Think of the problem I just displayed, the thing I think I am good at is also the thing that is holding me back. Talk about fucking frustration of the highest order.

Great. Really helpful Clint you are flawed just like us (you already knew that!) but what is the fucking take-away here? Well that is the question I am asking myself to be honest and while it is by no means smacking me in the face like some things have I get the feeling like the point is to display our journey. It is to put ourselves out there in a way we see fit for others to observe. So they can learn from our mistakes, find peace in the fact that they are not alone. Maybe we are a step or two farther down the path and this can help show them they too can move forward, even if it is almost imperceptible to start. You see there is no destination we are going to reach, that is a falsity we are sold. We are on a path, some more worn than others and we look ahead to those in front of us like they have made it but really they are just steps ahead on this path, packing it down, pointing out the potholes they have fallen in so we can hopefully avoid them and ultimately if we choose to pay enough attention making it a little simpler for us to navigate. While it isn’t always easy for me I will continue to display my journey of self-improvement and reclamation for hopes that it resonates with someone, anyone really because others have done this for me. The real point for me is not to be perfect but to always be striving for perfection in spite of the obvious fact that I will never get there. This journey is wrought with heartache, pain and failure. But it is also full of love, joy and fulfillment and like any journey worth taking or story we tell we need these things in equal parts for it to be whole and worth telling. So put yourself out there, it is worth it even if it sucks sometimes. Tell your fucking story.

I can’t say I have ever made a New Years resolution that I have stuck with. I am sure I have made some but I cannot recollect a resolution I have made. I’ve either been partying far too hard, been too busy working to care or as of the last couple of years already in go mode and focused on something I had previously planned. I spent the last two January 1’s getting up at 5am on to make sure I was out the door running by 6am to prove my point. Nothing wrong with this but purposely choosing to buck the calendar year just to do it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. These days, months and years exist as they do for a reason and there can be power in that for many. I don’t personally feel it the way some may but I have also never put a lot of emphasis on it. Do dates matter? Almost certainly, if I were to say otherwise you would be calling me a hypocrite because I for damn sure am not missing my wedding anniversary for anything. But the thing is I am also not waiting for my anniversary to do something nice for my wife, I literally write something in my planner every day to do for her. It is often small, like today I picked her up a coffee from her favourite place, tomorrow it might be a nice note or a video message. If I waited until our anniversary to do something BIG for her you would all think I was an asshole, she would think I was an asshole, I would probably think I was an asshole and I for sure wouldn’t be married.

Now from a relationship standpoint this all makes sense. So why doesn’t it from a personal standpoint? It took me so long to connect these dots for myself and I watch people struggle with it everyday. Why do we think of the date in the future as a starting date? Why do we assume that eating a few more fries, drinking a few more beers or smoking a few more cigarettes is going to make it easier for us to start stopping the shit we shouldn’t be doing or starting the shit we should. Over the last couple of weeks when I am scrolling through social media (stopping this should really be my resolution if I were to have one) I have seen a plethora of “New Year new me”, “I can’t wait for 2022” and “fuck I need 2021 to be over” posts. I literally had a friend who will remain unnamed post a picture of his banged up truck which he slid into an as far as I know unmanned, stationary dumpster and the caption read “fuck you 2021, I am so done with you”. Like this guy seriously blamed the year we are in for his shitty driving. These posts blow me away, like somehow the sun that rises on the first of January is different than the one that falls on the thirty first of December and will magically make you or your situation better.

This is where the issue is.

We are constantly searching. Searching for the right time, the motivation or the perfect circumstances. Waiting for January 1st to roll over on the calendar is the ultimate Monday. You know the person, you might even be the person. I know for a point I was the one that said “Monday is the day”. Man was I good at waiting for Monday. I have spent so many days of the week lying to myself about this coming Monday being the day, “finally I will get up early just let me sleep in the next couple of days first” or in the past it would be “I’ll just have this one last shit meal and start on Monday” I would tell myself. Somehow it never happened and even if I did start on that Monday I probably flamed out by Friday when I wanted a beer and some fries at the end of a long day of work.

I had to break it to myself and apparently I wasn’t the only one that needed to learn this. Whether it be Monday or January 1st nothing is going to be different if you aren’t and different doesn’t happen all at once, it takes a long fucking time. There is a Chinese proverb I love “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now” if this doesn’t perfectly exemplify the point I am trying to make I don’t know what will. Now there are tons of stats out there on the failure rate of New Years resolutions. I think it is something like 25% of people fail in the first week, knowing that New Years fell on a Friday I would assume that most of that 25% that will fail may have already done so because they told themselves that they would just start on Monday. For all those that have stuck it out for 2 days so far just know the stats are not in your favor, something like 9% of people actually feel like they held true to their resolution. To those that read this and think “fuck you Clint, I’ll be one of those 9%” you are awesome, I love you and I believe you, a little chip on your shoulder is an incredible way to get the fire started. For the rest of us over here who don’t remember what we ate for lunch today never mind what we decided on 365 days ago it’s time to write some shit down and adjust the lens with which we look at resolutions with.

I think I made it obvious that I hate waiting for a specific date to start something. That being said some planning should go into any goal or resolution but I don’t view planning as waiting. Most people spend December binge eating, drinking and watching not planning, strategizing and preparing for January 1st or whatever date they have set in their mind. This makes it so much harder than it needs to be. We look at start dates as the date we will do the thing. If you are setting a goal it is never “by December 31st I will have worked up to working out 1 hour per day” or “I will have built up to writing 500 words per day. It is always “on January 1st I will go to the gym 5 days per week for an hour” or “I will start writing my book”. The latter is either vague or unachievable. If you aren’t going to the gym 5 days a week right now do you really think you will find the time to go magically at the turn of the calendar after you spent a month not going?

Here is what I have adjusted for myself and what I propose, especially if you have already failed at your New Years resolution or failed in the past and are worried about failing now. Instead of setting a 2022 resolution, set a 2023 resolution. Set something to work towards rather than something to hopefully not fail at that you then have to wait another year to start. The cool thing about doing it this way is you can start anytime and work your way up. It is no longer an all or nothing feat of will but an ever increasing habit snowball. You can decide right now that by January 1st 2023 you will be (insert goal here) and then instead of an overwhelming gargantuan task looming in front of you, you can break it down backwards from the end of the year so that it is more manageable at the start. You can actually set that goal and decide that you will spend January researching and planning on how you are going to do it.

None of this guarantees success and you are still going to have to work hard for what you want but if you want to increase your opportunity for success I recommend relying on building momentum rather than hoping motivation will be there when you need it. I know for myself motivation tends to leave me when things get the hardest and it is in those times I am grateful I have cultivated habits and momentum to help me roll through the tough spots. So join me in saying fuck 2022 resolutions and start your 2023 resolution whenever you read this.

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.

For a long time in my life I was the potential guy. I was the guy people looked at and assumed I would do something big with my life. At 35 I can almost certainly assure you I have not come close to the potential others thought I had, but especially what I thought I was capable of. I feel like I need to make up for lost time as I wasted so much of it chasing happiness rather than attempting to pursue my potential. Do I resent this? At times, absolutely. It affects me deeply because for a big chunk of my 20s I did not put my true best effort forth even though outside looking in it probably looked like I was doing the work. I was getting the recognition and career advancement, but based on the vision I have for myself and knowing what I have accomplished over the last 3 years I can assure you I was not. I was holding myself back and I know a lot of it had to do with fear. Fear of failure for sure but more than likely it was the fear of achieving my potential that really held me back. I was scared shitless of the expectations that would create so I would always leave something on the table,  I would hold back something and that protected me from both those fears. It is much harder to fail when you don’t push to your limits and you never have to worry about reaching your current potential if you are not putting in maximum effort.

For most of my life I was under the impression that potential was something finite something you achieved or found, not something you had inside of you the whole time that you developed, nurtured and grew. What I have realized in the last couple of years is that your potential is not a destination it is an ever expanding world you unlock inside of yourself and the limits of it are only defined by your imagination and the work you are willing to put in. This has put me on the path of constant improvement. The premise of potential unfulfilled has pushed me more than almost anything else. So I am going to lay it all out and attempt to define the two ways you can never reach your potential. From there you can make your own conclusions.

My premise invariably is that no matter what we do we are never going to reach our potential. I am not even sure it is something we need to focus on and that our main focus should be on fulfillment (which we need to be very careful not to confuse this with happiness). Now that this is out of the way I want to surmise the two very distinct ways we can leave potential on the table and how that has affected my life.

As we see with almost every record broken, person of greatness and obstacle in our way we eventually overcome whatever is in front of us and if it isn’t us that overcomes it, someone else always does. If potential was a finite thing and each of us only had so much of it, at some point as an individual and a species we would hit our limits, there would be an obstacle that we could not overcome. Yet here we are through just about everything imaginable with our indomitable spirit well intact. We have all seen things deemed impossible toppled throughout history and often by the underdog to boot. This brings up my first key point. You will absolutely never reach your potential because invariably as we continue to work, practice and improve the things we love we expand what we are capable of; this effort increases the maximum potential for ourselves and for those that come after us. It may be incredibly difficult to cross over certain thresholds but once they are crossed often the proverbial floodgates are opened. Just like Roger Banister surpassing the 4-minute mile in 1954. This feat was deemed impossible, it was actually touted as dangerous to even attempt and the absolute limit of human performance. Yet here we sit 75ish years later and the record is down to 3:43.13 and almost 1500 people have surpassed the 4 minute barrier. This is a story I reflect on as I love running, but I am sure each person that reads this will be able to recollect a story similar. And at this point the only thing that seems impossible is trying to set the limitations of human performance in any category we can think of.  Now you may not be chasing a 4-minute mile or any athletic endeavor for that matter but in every industry, hobby and pursuit there have been limits met and then exceeded. We have yet to find the ends of our potential in any single area.

But there is another side to this potential coin and the other path to never achieving it.

 Just don’t try.

 It is so simple, easy and utterly unfulfilling. Let your potential sit out there in front of you and never reach for it. Instead we reach for the remote, our phone or a beer and wonder why there is always this nagging feeling of needing more. It is so strange how our brain works because we know we need more but often what we pursue are the things that keep us where we are. This is a place many of us get stuck in, usually when we are on a path we don’t want to be our end goal or after what we have decided is a big failure. I for one got stuck here for a number of years after I parted ways with my big fancy Director of Ops role in a big unnamed corporate company. I felt like I came crawling back to Original Joe’s (who I am incredibly grateful to for accepting me back with open arms). I went from a director of operations of western Canada title (see also corporate douchebag) back to operating a single store. No matter why I made the change which ultimately saved me, it was a huge blast to my ego and I did not deal with it well at all.  It took me the better part of 2 years to lick my wounds and realize I was only a failure if I never picked myself back up. Through those 2 years I spent the majority of my time cycling through feeling shitty for myself and thinking I was too good to be doing what I was doing. Both of those things led to me probably almost losing the position I was currently in. Thank god the people I work with knew what I was capable of and toughed it out to see me come out the other side because I was an asshole.

It has been about 3 years since I did the work I needed to, to humble myself enough to realize the only failure in my life was due to lack of effort. Having learned this lesson now is why I feel I need to make up for lost time and hope maybe this little piece sets someone in the right space sooner than it did me.

It really boils down to a choice. We often think this choice is around potential but as I pointed out earlier  your potential is unreachable for two reasons, either you are not reaching for it or you have realized it is an ever expanding universe for us to explore. The choice we are really making is between long term fulfillment and short term happiness.

In my humble opinion I think convenience and short term happiness have killed more potential and long term fulfillment than anything else in our lives. So it would be awesome if you joined me in the journey to never reaching my potential!

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.

I set out this week to write a piece on happiness. More specifically on what I believe is an issue in our society with coveting happiness far too much and how that has driven in part our mental health issues, but I have sat here until Monday and written mostly garbage. I understand what I want to put out in my head but I cannot seem to translate it through my fingers. This has led to a lot of what some might call unhappiness and theoretically they may be write. I am not sure why I can’t get it out of my head but I assume it is because it is a subject I care deeply about and it’s quite controversial when it comes right down to it. And so for now I shall pivot. I am sure that one day (hopefully soon) I will have whatever it is I am missing to write the piece in a way that I want to but for now you will just have to settle for my thoughts on our narratives and the way things actually are.

Now I am not going to go down the rabbit hole of assuming I am 100% right. After all I am the guy that talks a lot about the changes I have made over the last few years and have gone from someone who was considered a logic bully always proving why I was right, to someone who self-purports to be focused on being less wrong and no longer caring about being right. Am I a hypocrite some of the time. For sure I am. Does that stop me from being able to weigh in on the subject, I don’t think so.

So hear me out, in life we often attach our identity to what we know and when new information is presented to us it can be incredibly hard to adjust. This has nothing to do with the information being wrong as there truly isn’t a right and wrong in the black and white sense we so often try to sell it as. Just look at history. How fucking often have eggs flip flopped from good for you, to a killer and back again? More times than I can count. Hell at one point cigarettes were literally prescribed by doctors for irritated throats and cocaine was used as a local anaesthetic. So not that I needed to but I believe we have established that there is a good chance that we are often not right. Yet most just assume that if we are not right we have to be wrong. Just like most things in life there is nuance to almost every situation and there are varying degrees of “right” almost everywhere around us. Are eggs good for you? Based on current science it sure seems like they are but if you have high cholesterol they may be a poor choice. Did cigarettes help an irritated throat? Apparently so but the long term ramifications are well documented and are definitely not worth the risk. Is cocaine a great local anaesthetic? Absolutely in the strictest sense of the word but it comes with so many other complications that we could probably find other more viable solutions. Now I know these examples are facetious but I do believe they solidify my argument. None of these things in recent memory have anyone equivocally attached to the latter arguments. We all generally believe and understand the studies and tests that have proven over time the argument for or against them to be accurate. I am specifically using things that are not in current debate as the debate is not the issue at hand. The fact that either side of any situation right now is more focused on proving the other side wrong by any means necessary is the issue. We have so attached our identity to what we believe that we cannot open our eyes to the possibility that we could be wrong. And just to clarify this wholly, that goes for all parties involved at the moment so please don’t waste anyone’s time with comments as to why you are more right in any current debates. Now back to the point of the whole thing.

Here is the kicker to this whole argument. We can all see that there would have been people attached to either side of said arguments above. Just like there is now in our current situation. I am not here to posit what and who is right or wrong. I am here to ask you to understand the narrative you have chosen to follow. To realize that there is probably a group of people, a belief system or some other thing that you have attached your identity too. From there we then attach our identity to whatever side of the story our group chooses to be on. Even when the likelihood of either side being 100% right is probably a big fat ZERO. And once our identity is attached to it, well then it becomes incredibly hard to be open minded or put the effort in to see all sides of the situation because in order to do that we would have to question our very identity and one thing we have proven as a species is we aren’t so great at that. We love our ego’s and they serve a purpose but when they are attached to our decision making process it can spell almost certain failure. We become so closed minded we often cannot when we are hurting ourselves never mind others.

So what can we do about this, about the dissension we create every time we idealize a decision we make and attach our identity to it? Well the first step is probably being aware that none of us are anywhere close to perfect and we all have the capacity to not be right which should leave us with the freedom to detach our personal meaning from the things we believe and start to question them.

 I urge you to start in your own life and to look at the narratives you have about yourself. This is something I have done and have proven myself a complete liar in so many ways. It has been incredibly freeing and uplifting! This is the most light hearted example but it is an example none the less. For years I told anyone that would listen that I was just barrel chested and didn’t have the build to be able to have a six pack and that physique was hereditary. At the time this was my truth. I was in lets call it mediocre shape. I needed to make a change and set out to do so, never with the intention of having abs (because I genuinely believed that was not a possibility). Well over the last 3 years I have focused on my training and decided I wanted to set an example as a middle aged dad for those around me. I have trained for endurance sports, basketball and obstacle course racing and here I sit as a complete hypocrite. I have a six pack. All of my beliefs around body composition hit the floor around me. Am I upset to have proven myself wrong, not one bit. But I do hope this shows that with some work you can adjust your own thinking of yourself which should lighten the load and allow you to start to see things for just what they are rather than what you perceive them to be and to determine what is important. We are far too often trapped by our narrative and assume that the other side is truly bad. This is rarely if ever the case. I just wish we would spend more time questioning our own narrative versus attempting to tell the other side why they were wrong. If we could do this and attempt to be less wrong rather than all right while working to understand the other sides narrative we would probably all live a deeper more fulfilling life.

So try it, on yourself or in whatever situation you choose but realize that people are what matter and none of us are so different if you scratch the surface of the narrative you follow. It be a huge help to me if you shared a place in your life this may help you or a spot you have utilized this. Thanks for reading!

Mental Toughness Keys – Right in your Inbox.

As a product of the 80’s and 90’s I got to watch some of the craziest changes in our history. The gap from limited resources to an absolute abundance (now seemingly heading back to a lack), the advent of the internet, email and all of the things that come along with it. It’s been incredible, some of the most exhilarating changes in history have happened in my lifetime. But along with some incredible highs there have also been some terrible lows. Even prior to our current pandemic we have watched depression and anxiety skyrocket across all age categories, while we may live longer than our parents many studies are showing that doesn’t mean it will be in good health. Roughly 2.1 billion people are considered overweight or obese, almost 1/3 of our world’s population! Stats show that on average roughly 10kg of extra body weight leads to 12% higher risk of coronary heart disease and 24% higher risk of stroke. So while I appreciate all of the recent body positivity focus I believe it is at a detriment to many peoples cardiovascular health and I know that when I was unhealthy my mental health suffered immensely.

Now does that mean you need to go to the lengths that I do to affect my mental and physical health? Fuck no, but could a large portion of our society gain some traction from focusing on their physical health and mental toughness rather than their mental health? If I didn’t already give it away, I believe that is a resounding yes.

Now I am not sure as a society where things like toughness, stoicism and confidence became villainous but it is getting harder to find acceptance of people that fall into these categories. It is interesting to watch the world try to view all things as though they are opposites when really they are dichotomous. They are all on a sliding scale and our goal should be to keep them centered as best as possible. Our society celebrated and needed major toughness for many years especially through world wars and the great depression. This led to some incredibly prosperous times, but these were built on the back of competition and zero sum games. There was not a lot of win/win situations and many were focused on doing anything they could to maintain power, on pushing down others to keep their status. It was inevitable that we would shift away from this and without being conscious about this shift it has not benefitted us all that well either. We have traded our problems of machoism and emotional repression for fragility and false vulnerability. Now neither are good, I actually believe that machoism is often a mask of insecurity but fragility serves no one. Emotional repression creates more issues than could ever be tracked and fake vulnerability just keeps us seeking attention through over sharing and making no effort to solve our own issues. We expect someone else to do it for us. I hate to burst the bubble but never mind the fact that no one cares about your issues enough to solve them for you, they have their own shit and are ill equipped to deal with them. Most people are barely staying afloat themselves so how can you expect someone to come along and save you?

Enter mental toughness.

Many people hear the term toughness and strength and shy away from them. Through the years they have often been confused with power and abuse. Our vernacular has become so convoluted so I will do my best to differentiate how I use the terms here. I look at toughness and strength as qualities of duality. You must strengthen your body as well as your mind if you truly want results, as David Goggins coined it “you must callous the mind”. Toughness is wrought through perseverance and striving to become better but only with the right intentions can real mental and physical toughness be achieved. You can become physically strong and still be weak of mind which leads to an individual with little mental control who leans to anger and aggression as coping mechanisms. Alternately you can strengthen your mind but if you do not work on your physical state then the vehicle to take you where you want to go will break down leaving you with no ability to accomplish what you have set out to do.

This brings me to my argument for mental toughness. If you think critically, over the last 20 years we have heard almost exclusively to “focus on your mental health”, “you have to come first” and “you should be happy”. I know they seem pretty innocuous but I think these 3 sentences are what has been screwing us all along. They tend to be too ambiguous which just leads to a lack of ability to take action. How do you actually take action on mental health? There is about a million ways to do this and none of them make inherent sense, but inevitably it boils down to strengthening your mind and fueling it appropriately. When I bring this up I typically get met with some blank stares but it truly isn’t complicated.

You have 2 avenues to strengthen your mind and a combination of the 2 has proven for me to be the best. You must find stillness. Think meditation, prayer, journaling, mindfulness and visualization. I am purposely not including affirmations in here as I think until they are true, for me at least I just feel like I am lying to myself. I prefer to be honest with myself about where I am at and tell myself that I am in the process of becoming great. The other key to mental toughness is literally doing hard shit. At some point we have to take action. There is no getting away from it and this is where many people get tripped up. Don’t get me wrong meditation for me is at times the hard shit. I still have no idea how to keep my mind quiet and accept my thoughts. This is why it is a practice, the point is to work at it. But in the beginning my hard was 5 push-ups and 5 sit-ups every single day. That then progressed to completing 75 hard, the 4x4x48 challenge and literally just today I have signed up for a 100km ultra marathon. It is always a journey, a progression and I think it all depends on how far you want to take it and how fucked up you are at the start of this journey.

The second part of mental toughness is how you fuel your mind. No one buys a Ferrari and puts regular gas in it, so if you are want to be a Ferrari you probably shouldn’t be putting low grade fuel into yourself either. The simplest way to figure out where your fuel situation is at is to audit what you consume. Most people jump straight to what they eat which is a great place to start but is only a portion of what I am talking about. Obviously the more processed, fast and unhealthy things you eat the more unhealthy and inflamed you become. But consumption doesn’t just stop at food and drink it is also what you watch, read and listen to. Think of the last few songs, shows, YouTube video’s or social media posts you consumed, were they uplifting or inspiring in any way? If so you might be on the right track. Now don’t worry you can still watch Sons of Anarchy, just maybe don’t binge 4 seasons in one night, instead fill in the gaps with something a little more uplifting. I tend to listen to podcasts that focus on mindset and learning when I am in the car, I cleanse my social media feeds of any negativity and use them as a space to be uplifting and invigorating rather than focused on gossip and fake news.

Now I know I haven’t touched on the other two points. So let’s look at them quickly.

It is not wrong to say that you have to come first, but most people misconstrue the term. They think that their feelings come first, that they should get what they want first. It is actually your growth and development that has to come first. You have to improve yourself in whatever facet you want those around you to improve. It is not that you get yours before they get theirs. It is improving yourself so that you can give more of yourself to help those around you.

Lastly I urge almost everyone I know to give up on happiness. Not because it isn’t great but because it can be a byproduct of the effort and work you put in. Rather than chasing it let it come to you. Emotions are neither good nor bad, that is just a judgement we have chosen to apply to them. No, emotions are meant to be gone through and the harder we try to hold on to any of them the tougher it becomes, the stronger our grasp needs to be. Thinking happiness is the default was the underlying issue to all of my mental health struggles in the past. I felt like there was something wrong with me every time I wasn’t happy, so in order to find happiness I would chase the things I thought made me happy like drinking, food, movies and going out. What I didn’t realize is that those things should be the rewards for work put in. I learned that happiness is not found it is made on the back of hard work and holding yourself accountable to what you say you will do. It took me a long time of chasing happiness to realize that I could just sit with my other emotions and it would come around, and if I leaned into those other emotions and actually tried to work through them instead of running from them it would come around sooner and more often. Just like the sun rising it becomes inevitable. Some nights may be longer than others but the sun always comes up.

This is my argument for our focus to shift to mental toughness. I don’t know how many people it will resonate with but it resonates with me and it has literally saved my life. I am grateful every day for what I have learned around this and would love to have more conversations around it. Don’t hesitate to reach out and if you think someone else would appreciate this I would greatly appreciate if you shared it with them!

Nobody actually cares about authenticity. We might say we do and we may say that we are finding or being our authentic selves but does it actually fucking matter? Like have you ever met an asshole that described themselves as authentic and were just so grateful you crossed their path. And no one for damn sure wants to be in a relationship with the “authentic” jerk, in any way, shape or form because just like happiness I think people are barking up the wrong tree with authenticity.

We think it is something we care about or more importantly in our society that others care about but the only time that authenticity actually matters in our lives is when we are looking in the mirror. Are we being true to ourselves, to who we say we are going to be? From there the only thing that matters to anyone else in our lives is our actions. They can’t judge us on what we think of ourselves, how would they know and even if we told them, it is often only partially true. So it boils down to are we presenting ourselves truthfully to the world.

I used to ask myself what that looked like, I would look in the mirror or think quietly to myself “who am I?” I really had no idea, I was so lost because outwardly I was often living my life in a way that was built to keep others happy, to appease their judgements of me and to do what I thought would make people like me. But the worst mistake I think I was making was that my internal vision of who I wanted to be was not being outwardly expressed. I had suppressed myself to try to make others happy. I stopped striving to get better for myself and spent all of my time trying to have others like me and I just hated myself more and more as I did it. I spent so much time trying to live the way I thought others thought I should or in a way that I thought would impress other people and I had lost sight of who I wanted to be, of who I actually was inside.

Now I believe that we all have an aspirational image we hold onto internally of who we are and as we make choices that don’t align with this image we bifurcate the way we feel about ourselves. It may not be an issue every once in a while but I don’t think any of us had an aspirational image of being unhealthy, drinking beer, watching Netflix and bitching about our job. I know that much of the anxiety and depression I felt in my late 20’s and early 30’s could be traced back to short sighted, instant gratification decisions that did not align with who I aspired to be. You see I have always believed myself to be an athlete. It is just in my nature, I pick up sports quickly and find the most joy in being competitive and active. As I got older this became less of a priority. It is so easy to “find the time” to stay active when we are younger and have less responsibilities and I fell right into the middle aged dad-bod trap.

Now I am going to divert a little here as I feel this is important to say before I discuss my changes. Not everyone needs to be an athlete, not everyone needs to exercise every day like I have or attempt endurance feats or push themselves in the ways I have. They just need to align with their true self. With who they believe they are deep down inside. That is where I believe real joy and self-love comes from. It is wrought in the work it takes to become or improve on who we are and believe we are. These will ebb and flow but as long as we are consistently working on ourselves we will maintain an internal love and fire that will carry us through our darkest days.

So as I got older, drank more beer, watched instead of played sports and let anything fitness related I owned collect dust. So too did my image as an athlete. And as that collected dust my anxiety and depression spiked through the roof. I literally developed eczema on most of my body at one point as I was so stressed. I fully believe it had everything to do with how far out of alignment I was with who I believed I should be. Now here is where most people tell you the “found” themselves by repeating their affirmations every day and telling themselves they loved themselves over and over again and it all just got better. Well I don’t know, maybe that shit works for other people but every time I have tried, I just feel like a liar, it usually leaves me feeling worse as the person I am lying to is myself. So instead of trying to like who I was right now I went to work. I found a little luck in a book you may have heard of called Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book helped me deconstruct all the old shitty habits I had and helped me construct much more positive ones. I went all in on his word and started small. Like way smaller than you could ever imagine an ex-college athlete who did not seem to be in terrible shape would ever consider. I started with 5 push-ups and 5 sit ups a day. That was all I would allow myself to do for the first 2 weeks and then I added 1 push-up and 1 sit up a day after that until I could do 100 of each. The hardest part at the start was absolutely my pride. I knew I could do more but I also knew I had a track record of “going all-in” and then flaming out 2 weeks later when something came up or I hurt myself.

Almost instantly I felt more solid in who I was. I was more able to cope with day to day shit that came my way. My energy level increased and I was just much more content. Until I wasn’t. It didn’t take too long before I felt the anxiety creep back in. As I made gains physically I had this constant dread of slipping back into the way I used to be. I was so afraid of making a mistake that would crumble everything. I had been doing so much for my body to correct the physical image I saw in the mirror without realizing it was all for vanity and what I really needed was toughness but of the mental variety. Where I was struggling to perform was in adversity which is the true hallmark of a great athlete.

I struggled for a while feeling as though it was all so fragile and I was destined for failure. Then I failed. During the 4x4x48 I was unable to run many of the legs and was resigned to walking. I had trained, I was in phenomenal shape so this was a huge blow to my ego. But when you are sleep deprived, it’s cold and you are alone at 1am limping 4 miles you get some time to reflect. What did I learn? Well no one actually cares how you get it done and the mental benefits you reap from swallowing your pride and persevering are one of the greatest gifts you could ever receive. It is with that mindset shift that I have been able to counter act all of the fear I was feeling. I know it sounds too easy but it wasn’t, it was only simple. It took all of the work and fear to get there. I just hope that in my writing this maybe it doesn’t take someone as long as it took me to realize that I get to do all of the things I was doing for my physical health in the way I like doing them, I just have to adjust the lens with which I view the situation, changing my focus from vanity to mental strength. Really all I did was move my perspective to the internal benefits rather than the external rewards. I gave up on others noticing and went all in on intrinsic motivation. Completely selfishly it feels fucking fantastic accomplishing shit most people wouldn’t even attempt. I think that is one of the keys to unlocking true confidence and inner peace.

So as always don’t hesitate to reach out. I write this mostly for myself but if it resonates at all I would love to hear from you. I love helping others improve in any way. Thank you for reading and your feedback is truly appreciated!