Stop Giving In To the Pain

In life, we always have choices. When it comes to facing adversity, we have only two; we can choose to fight on or we can give up. When we choose to fight, we are making a statement, “I will not allow temporary circumstances to permanently alter my life.” 

That’s what quitting does; it alters the landscape of your mind and the more you give in to setbacks, the easier it becomes to do it again and again. This is life altering and it cripples us, holding us back from our goals and dreams.

On the other hand, the more we choose to fight and press on, the more seasoned our minds become. We begin to take on a different mindset; a mindset of courage and resolve. 

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” -Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Adversity makes us who we are and it works both ways. If we constantly give in to our problems then we become quitters, never finishing anything difficult. Likewise, if we learn to look our challenges in the face and fight (whether we win or not), then we become someone of strength and mental fortitude. 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

If we don’t fight, we will never know how strong we are and we will never reach our full potential. Make a choice today and everyday to be a fighter, not a victim. 

Persistence Is a Way of Life

“It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—that’s persistence.”
― Ryan Holiday

Somewhere along the way, we’ve been lulled into this idea that we deserve an easy, unencumbered life. Like we are somehow better than the generations that came before us, our parents and grandparents. They were tough, rarely grumbled or complained about anything.

My grandpa was one of nine kids – three of them died before the age of two. His mom passed away when he was a toddler, and at age ten, he was pulled out of school to help keep the household running while his dad worked to provide food and the basic necessities. He was drafted into the Army at age 24 and was sent to Europe to fight in WW II.

He was on the front lines there for almost three years, saw atrocities that I cannot even fathom, and saw his best friend die 5 feet in front of him. You’d expect me to say that he came back a broken shell of a man, right? Wrong. He came back, married a beautiful girl, had four kids, and went to work for the State Highway Department where he worked for twenty years until he retired. You know what he did when he retired? He didn’t move to Florida. He planted ten acres of gardens and worked from sun up until sun down, ensuring that his family never went without.

My grandma’s mom died when she was two days old. Her dad was extremely abusive, so she was adopted by another family where she grew up cooking, cleaning, and raising other people’s children. She never learned to drive, in fact she never left the state of Louisiana – ever. They were married for 60 years and raised 4 kids in a 900 square foot house. They argued, then they got over it. They never gave up on each other.

They lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her 70’s and my grandpa took care of her…every day (bathing, feeding, and everything else that needed to be done). He watched as she lost her ability to speak, to eat, and eventually to breathe. He never once left her side. He was a man – a true man.

I doubt my family and their hardships are much different than your family’s adversities. Life was hard…really hard. The funny thing is that I didn’t know any of what they went through until I was an adult. Why? Because they never talked about it or complained. To them, it was life – it still is.

Somehow our perception changed over time and we veered to a different perspective of what this life is all about. Because our parents and grandparents struggled, we were supposed to have an easy life? I complain more over the course of a week than my grandfather did in his entire life. Why? What happened? Why do we view life’s circumstances differently than they did? Why did they accept pain and adversity as a natural part of life, but we view it as being wronged in some way – like we drew the proverbial short straw?

“To argue, to complain, or worse, to just give up, these are choices. Choices that more often than not, do nothing to get us across the finish line.”
― Ryan Holiday

We spend more time complaining than looking for a way to make things better. Complaining about setbacks (you know like traffic, the cold, the heat, and kale) is the easy reaction. Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere worth going. Shouldn’t we expect pain, discomfort, unfairness, suffering, trouble, and terrible days? This doesn’t mean that we should walk through life waiting for the sky to fall, but we also shouldn’t be surprised when it does.

I encourage you to read and learn about people who have gone through tremendous adversities and came out on the other side, whole and unbroken. It may be in a book, it could be a family member, a neighbor, or maybe even you. It’s an attitude. Life will not break me – it may kill me, but it will never break my spirit.

It’s one of the very reasons that I took up endurance running. To purposely put myself in miserable situations as a reminder that life is not about comfort. Life is about learning how to deal with adversity without letting it defeat you.

“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”
― Marcus Aurelius

The Power of Rejection

Most of us spend our entire lives trying to avoid rejection, but what if the answer is to embrace rejection instead of always running from it? I recently watched a Ted Talk video of Jia Jiang speaking about his experience of 100 days of rejection, where he actually sought out being turned down for random requests for 100 straight days. His requests were far from ordinary and ranged from asking a complete stranger for $100 to asking for a refill on his hamburger at a local fast food restaurant.

What he found through his 100 day experiment was that if he resisted the urge to run away from the rejection and instead embrace the uncomfortable feeling while staying engaged with the person after being turned down, that it actually was not him that they were rejecting. In most cases, this rings true for us as well. Most of us feel that when our requests are met with a flat “no”, that it is we who are being rejected rather than our request or idea.

Jiang’s experiment actually paid off on the third try when his request for donuts at the local donut shop, made into the shape and color of the olympic rings was met with a “yes, we can do that for you.” You can watch that video here.

The truth is that rejection comes in all shapes and sizes but it always feels the same; embarrassing and hurtful. We have all been rejected at some point in our life and most of us are not willing to go out and intentionally look for more of it, but what if there is something incredibly beautiful on the other side; something freeing? There is a famous quote from Steve Maraboli that says, “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.”

In fact we can find stories by the hundreds of company founders, product inventors, and other successful entrepreneurs who were turned down over and over again before getting to the yes that they needed. One of those is Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz who was turned down 242 times by hundreds of banks before getting to the yes that he needed to propel Starbucks into history. If he had given up after the first dozen or so rejections, we would all be drinking gas station coffee today.

My point is that while rejection can sting, it actually hurts worse if we let it stop us in our tracks. In Jiang’s experiment, one of his rejections came when he asked a stranger if he could plant a flower in his backyard (a little weird right?). The stranger said no, but then instead of walking away, Jiang asked “why”.

The stranger said, “because I have a dog in my backyard who tears everything up, so it would never last back there.” You see, he wasn’t rejecting Jiang, but he actually had a legitimate concern. In fact, he then points Jiang to his neighbor and says to ask “Carol” because she loves flowers. Guess what? There’s now a flower planted in Carol’s backyard.

Most often when we have a request turned down, the person (rejectioner?) on the other side is not rejecting us, only our idea. If, instead of walking away with our heads hung down in shame, we engage the person with a simple “why”, we could find that it leads us right to the yes that we are searching for. Be brave today and try it. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe someone ends up with a nice flower in their backyard or perhaps you score a sweet set of Olympic-ringed donuts!

My Mind Will Carry Me When My Body Cannot

I was an obese kid for most of my life. It severely limited my social interactions with others and led me to develop a very low self-view of myself. I fought depression and a negative self-image for decades, until I found running. Although I am no longer that shy, awkward, overweight kid, he still lives in my head from time to time. I never dreamed that I would ever be able to run 5 miles, much less 20, 30, 40, or 50 miles. There are thousands of others out there that face the same issues and I know how they feel. They feel trapped inside of their own bodies and minds.

God gave us a tremendous gift in the body that we have. It can do amazing things if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone. I hope to show others that they can accomplish amazing things if they will allow God to strip away the self-imposed barriers that surround them. Running does that for me. For others, it may be getting a degree when no one else in their family has done so. It could be stepping out of an abusive relationship or surrendering an addiction that they have to God, the Universe, or whatever it is that you believe in. No matter what the issues are, the lesson is the same; with the right attitude, patience, perseverance, and support anything and everything becomes possible.

No matter what may be holding you back, victory starts with one step forward. Raise your hand and say, this (fill in the blank) will no longer rule my life. Food will no longer guide my thoughts and actions. The abuse stops today, right here and right now. I will complete this degree. I will complete this race. I will show the world that I own this body. I own this mind. I will train this mind and my body will follow. Enough is enough and today is the day that I decide to pursue freedom from my self-imposed limitations. I am where I am because of my decisions and tomorrow has not yet been decided. The story of my life is not over, but I will decide how it ends. Now get up, get out there, and chase your dreams.