Rebuilt: Unexpected Lessons in Resilience

I remember on February 19, 2004 getting a call from my doctor who was to inform me of some test results from a biopsy that was taken a few weeks prior. I had just come home from a military deployment from Afghanistan in late 2003 and was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Why I Chose to Write This and What I Hope You Might Get Out of It 

Thinking back to my college days, one particular time resonates with me to this day. I was taking a health course with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Ralph Wood. He was discussing (along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) the rather meaty subject of resilience.

For a quick reference resilience is defined as:

  1. The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
  1. Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

I can remember the moment in class when it struck a chord with me.

It was a quote about resiliency from author Bonnie Benard:

“Shifting the balance or tipping the scales from vulnerability to resilience may happen as a result of one person or one opportunity.” 

The ability to shift the balance from vulnerability to resilience became a believable skill, a reality that I could choose, act and react to in a different way than I had before – breaking old, imprinted patterns.

This quickly led me to some words I had written when I was around 16 years old. At that age I had collected a lot of my thoughts, concepts and cool quotes I came across into a single notebook full of my chicken-scratch handwriting. I formed a set of fundamentals. Something to refer to when things get tough.

What you are now reading is my manifesto, if you will, on those fundamentals that I have held dear for so long and continue to value.

Rebuilt is my revisiting of those fundamentals, dissecting and expanding their meaning and passing them on.

It is a look through a (sometimes reluctant) resilient lens and how my experiences have shaped my perspectives and how they are hopefully relatable to your personal story, challenges and struggles.

We are all susceptible to negative, self-destructive things like distraction, jealousy and being forced to be uncomfortable. I believe, the trick isn’t to wave some magic wand and try to make those thoughts and habits disappear, but to be aware of them, acknowledge them and develop new habits and beliefs to better ourselves for whatever reasons we may have.

After all, that 16 year old boy would have a bit ahead of him to deal with that many can relate to – chronic insecurity, college, military deployments, competitions, cancer, family, marriage and fatherhood just to name a few.

Whether your challenges are positive or negative, resilience plays a role. Resilience develops character; it shapes who you are and what you can be capable of. If looked at as an invaluable tool and opportunity in your life, resilience can become one of your most essential allies on your journey.

My hope is that when you are ever faced with a challenge, decision or hardship that you can take something, anything from what you are about to read and use it to get you through the pain, discomfort or frustration and come out on the other side wiser and stronger. Whether it’s your health, strength, work-related woes or other personal goals, I hope this can help.

Developing resilience has no finish line; it has no ultimate level of achievement. Resilience rides on a continuum and it is up to you to push and press on with upward momentum.

Rebuilt is an example of my journey to reestablish and improve on what I was. It is a story that can be applied to anyone and any situation. Many of you may have gone through similar circumstances or even worse, but resilience is the common thread we share. Our attempts at being as resilient as possible should be celebrated and reinforced.

Rebuild your network, rebuild your confidence, rebuild you.

Thanks for being here.

-Brad

 

What’s Ahead:

  1. Embrace the Suck 
  2. You Don’t Just Have Discipline, You Build It
  3. Stay Aware of (Uncomfortable) Opportunity
  4. Manage Emotions (Yours and Theirs)
  5. Nothing Gained
  6. Why You Shouldn’t Cheat
  7. Everyone Benefits
  •  My Secret Weapon, My Hero
  • A Favor
  • Thanks

 

Embrace the Suck 

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

I remember on February 19, 2004 getting a call from my doctor who was to inform me of some test results from a biopsy that was taken a few weeks prior.

I had just come home from a military deployment from Afghanistan in late 2003 and was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Needless to say I was shocked and thrust into an unwanted odd and surreal mind trip that stayed with me for too many months.

 

It Sucked 

Was this real? Was it a mistake? It had to be a mistake. A voice in my head was telling me there had to have been a mix up at the lab. They’ll call back any second and get this straightened out. “We’re sorry Brad, we screwed up, you’re fine. Have a great day.”

Yes, the call will come in any second now and I can get on with my day, my week, my life.

Besides, I was young (29 at the time), healthy, I worked out, ate healthy, and didn’t smoke at all or drink heavily. People came to me for fitness and diet advice. My job was to help others with their health challenges. I was awesome in my own eyes. I should be good, right?

 

Umm, I’m (Still) Waiting

No call. And the lightning bolt that shot through my spine affecting every organ in my body was still simmering. That instinctive, blood-flushing cascade that was secretly revealing the truth internally – yeah, that feeling – was trying to get the attention of my stubbornness and zap me out of denial.

This all, of course, only took seconds – but felt like hours.

Then logic set in. My father and brother both had this type of cancer in the past. Was it my turn now? Was it some sort of “rite of passage” with the males in my family?

What makes me so special that it would somehow skip me? Was it just my turn to go through this?

 

Acceptance

I quickly accepted my new and uncharted reality.

Questions arose; more doctors’ visits entailed a battery of tests, scans, more questions and more tests.

I buried myself in research of my cancer. I wanted to know what I was up against. I couldn’t read enough or ask enough – it was my new job, mission. With mystery comes fear so I was bent on learning all I could about my new unwelcome resident helping to block that fear from entering.

Aside from the support of friends and family I had another ally – real-life, living, breathing testimonials: my father and brother. Being survivors, it was incredibly and thankfully convenient knowing they were both still alive kicking and kicking ass. Not only did they survive, they were thriving in life.

 

Back To School

Starting chemotherapy was another “grand adventure.” I had to switch gears and start my “PhD.” on the very drugs trying not only to help me but hurt me as well.

I remember them well: Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine (ABVD for short).

Ah yes, my new best friends. We’ll live together, eat together, throw-up together and have an intimate relationship for many, many months to come, nine to be exact. Every two weeks I would be reintroduced to my pals ABVD among a myriad of other agents to help with pain, nausea, bone pain, blood cell counts and other sedatives during treatment.

This is where things changed. Although there is a gloomy race going on inside your body – what will kill me first, the cancer or the chemo? My mind was evolving because of this new challenge. I could sum up my thoughts as:

  1. I never thought for one second that I wasn’t going to succeed at this.
  1. Even though I was becoming more ill as the months went on, I kept thinking ahead to what I wanted to do after treatment.


Last day of chemo!

 

Embracing the Suck

I not only started to set physical, academic and career goals, I was actually visualizing myself accomplishing them. I was feeling, breathing and seeing those goals realized in my mind every day.

I set out to compete in bodybuilding again after treatment. I kept the goal in mind as if I was just waiting to train with ferocious intensity again. In my head, I just had to wait all of the sickness out all the while the motivation was building.

So the therapy became an obstacle to get over, to conquer and to defeat. It was never thought of as a death sentence – it was simply “work” to get through, dirty, nasty unwelcome but necessary work.

I met some amazing people sitting in those treatment chairs among them were the nurses who were there every step of the way. I secretly believed they were angels on earth specifically there to see me through this whole journey. Without their care and support, it would have been a much tougher road than it could have been.

Sometimes things suck but having resilience as a sidearm will not only get you through the crap life hands you at times but will also build tolerance, strength and grit.

 

Your Turn 

Situations, people, life or whatever you are dealing with can suck to put it bluntly. It’s not a negative attitude by any means, it’s just our brain addressing or judging a less than desirable situation.

The trick is to shift your perspective from a negative one to one of acceptance and ultimately of awareness for the better.

How the hell do you do that?

Without goals, vision, mission or however you want to categorize it, I would not have recovered so quickly or with such positive momentum moving forward.

And that is what this whole fitness, health, life journey is about: looking beyond the obstacles, setbacks and crap so we can drive forward, push our comfort zones and experience a joy in our quest for a better life.

Drive on, do what it takes, believe it will happen, and visualize the outcome. Every day you will get a step closer to that reality. Some days it may be five steps, other days it may only be a half step and others may actually take you a few steps back but keep driving, keep moving, don’t sit still.

Over time you will be amazed at how far you’ve gotten.

1.               Embrace the challenge, the setback, the suck and never think for one second that you will not succeed. 

2.               Keep your end-goal in mind despite anything that gets in your way – it’s only temporary.

  

You Don’t Just Have Discipline, You Build It 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit not a trait.”

– Aristotle

With all of my travels, activations and deployments I have always made it a point to train and eat decently no matter where I ended up. I have worked out in some huge base-run facilities and some tiny shacks filled with rust-laden weights set up next to a flight line. I have been in old gyms with weights thrown behind the bleachers and barely recognizable pieces of homemade equipment left in a corner full of dust and whatever other bad stuff happened to land on it.

I have loved every minute of it.

I recall one unique experience while deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 (a lot of sand but I still haven’t found the beach over there). A small group of us would end our long day by going over to our quaint little gym tent to get in a quick workout. The lights and heaters were powered by individual generators right outside the tent.

One night the generators ran out of fuel and shut everything down. I just turned on my flashlight and continued to train. I am sure others thought I was a dumbass but I wanted to train! I couldn’t help but think about so many others in other branches who were out in the field without an opportunity like mine. How many would jump at the chance to workout in that cold, dark tent.

 

Through Thick and Thin 

My good friend Kevin found himself in a similar situation. Once he was deployed he dismissed the notion of halting his training. Instead he found the time to squeeze in whatever he could whenever he could. Walking in the Afghan snow every day to the gym facilities late at night wasn’t necessarily easy or convenient but it did quench his thirst to better himself.

So when I overhear someone complaining that a certain gym they go to is lacking this or that, I cannot help but think of the men and women who are still in a “tent city” or in the field working out with bare bones basics or not able to workout at all! It puts things into perspective rather quickly.

Resilience works in any country, company and situation. It is within you, not something that is purchased or received externally.

Thankful 

Being a part of the military had always been a dream of mine as a young teen growing up with an older brother. It’s the old notion of being a part of something bigger than yourself I guess that permeated my brain without even knowing it. 

I cannot think of anything else in my own life that has represented such a brotherhood of lifelong friendships and bonds with peers. Stacked with countless defining moments and extreme conditions and hilarious episodes, my time with my fellow guardsman will forever be etched in my soul.

I have had the incredible opportunity to travel the world, see things I used to only read about and meet new, genuine and uniquely interesting people. Friendships have been forged in some of the most unlikely of places and most stressful situations.

Whether it was a deployment overseas or stateside work, good times or bad, or great experiences or necessary hardships I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve with the ones beside me. I will always be a proud member of the 214th EIS (Louisiana Air National Guard).

Of course we all face challenges in the service and out, but the fact remains that the camaraderie forged throughout the years is absolutely and irreversibly priceless. Whether it is serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, numerous storm activations like Hurricane Katrina or all of the ancillary hardships that come with being a member of the military, it will always be thought of as a second home full of my brothers and sisters.

 

Your Turn

Find simple solutions for not so ideal conditions. Be effective when the environment you are in is challenging or difficult. Find basic solutions in an overly complicated world.

Your discipline to overcome obstacles doesn’t “appear” overnight, it’s built over time. Each challenge, each episode of difficulty and each and every opportunity for improvement will help you genuinely build the solid, priceless skill of discipline.

1.               Build your personal discipline. Practice a new change or shift to a better habit for two weeks at a time. That is enough time to develop the new habit and make it a part of normal behavior. 

2.               When seeking change, no matter how big, practice only one new habit at a time. Taking on too many changes at once will not only lead to overwhelming feelings but will also prevent you from focusing on the most important task at hand.

Don’t evade the difficult. That is your opportunity.

***

I would like to take advantage of this space to thank all of the men and women of the armed services for their duty, sacrifice and dedication to our great country. Whatever job you perform at any and all levels, it is an honor to have served with you and an honor to know that you make it possible to live in a place with such great opportunities and possibilities.

Thank you. 

 

 

Stay Aware of (Uncomfortable) Opportunity 

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

One of the biggest “secrets” to success isn’t solely determined through talent, experience or education alone, the simple act of recognizing opportunity is also a key, oftentimes more important, component.

Recognizing and acting on opportunity is a skill that can be instantly acquired – no four-year degree required.

Of course, taking advantage of the right kinds of opportunities will require you to get uncomfortable, a lot.

If you think about it, everything in life where we gain something positive is uncomfortable, and some are downright painful.

  • In order to gain knowledge you must study. Studying is uncomfortable.
  • In order to gain muscle you must train hard. Training for muscle is painful.
  • In order to lose body fat you must diet. Dieting can get uncomfortable.
  • In order to try a new skill and put it into practice you must get outside of your comfort zone.

The main point here is to slowly expand your comfort zone so seizing opportunities becomes second nature. So, instead of expending precious energy on getting over the pain you can use that same energy toward perfecting and cultivating your plan to achieve what you’re after.

Jumping In Head First 

Bodybuilding competition was honestly something that wasn’t on my radar as a teen. Sure, I looked up to Arnold and other bodybuilding champions but getting on a stage was the furthest from my mind.

As a painfully shy teenager getting in front of hundreds of people in posing briefs seemed a bit terrifying, not to mention way outside of my comfort zone.

I started out as a skinny 128 pound kid who fought and struggled for every single ounce of muscle. Toiling away in the gym for hours upon hours six days per week was like breathing for me – I simply loved it.

As time went by and my training, nutrition and physique evolved, many of my training buddies started to push me to compete. Not one to ever think about steroids or any other extreme means of gaining muscle, I thought competing was reserved for the freaks, the big dudes with piles of muscle. 

 

Scared? So What? 

Once I found the natural, drug-free bodybuilding circuit I quickly gained confidence and decided to give it a try.

But here’s the moral of my story: I was so bent on intentionally getting uncomfortable and seizing this opportunity to try something absolutely new and foreign to all of those around me that I just poured every ounce of energy toward preparing for the competition – training, dieting, tanning, everything.

I was way past being uncomfortable. I was so focused on taking advantage of my new endeavor (my opportunity) that expanding my comfort zone for this particular task seemed effortless.

Developing resilience through getting uncomfortable has the potential to become second nature. Ever expanding your comfort zone enables you to take on new challenges and set higher goals while better tolerating fear and self-imposed obstacles.

 

Your Turn 

Here are a few points to remember when seizing new opportunities that may scare you a bit:

1.               Visualize yourself doing the task with success over and over. Think of it as a rehearsal. 

2.               Think of contingency plans when things may go south. These are your back-up plans that can be easily executable. 

3.               Think of it as a challenge or a test. Remember, being uncomfortable is a necessity in most new situations. 

4.               Think about if you didn’t seize the opportunity. How would you feel? Would you regret it?

 

 

Manage Emotions (Yours and Theirs) 

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

 – Theodore Roosevelt

Emotional intelligence isn’t a term exclusively reserved for the corporate world. It’s actually just a new way to describe personal maturity – your ability to react to and deal with emotional factors in the workplace and in life.

In simple terms it’s acting like an adult, not a child fussing and crying your way out of a dilemma.

When it comes to managing emotions on your way to accomplishing your goals so many evil little habits can form and shove you off course. Jealousy is a big one.

 

Jealousy Is Deceptive 

First, the obvious. You will, at some point, experience jealousy regarding others seemingly meteoric success. At times it will look as though those around you are effortlessly achieving their goals and loving life.

Don’t be fooled. Everyone has a story and everyone has their own personal hardships. Anything worth having requires serious, hard work.

 

Not Fair 

When I was sitting in that chair every two weeks receiving my latest chemotherapy treatment I must admit that I wasn’t immune to feeling thoughts of jealousy and resentment along with a ton more emotions.

“Why me?” and “What is this all for?” were on constant repeat in my mind. I couldn’t help but look at others thinking that they were so lucky and didn’t understand what I was going through.

But something hit me one day as I was standing in line at a store and purchasing something with cash. I had some change to use and started counting it out. I found myself struggling with this simple task.

I had suddenly realized the chemo treatments were taking their toll and were affecting my cognitive skills, namely thinking quickly on my feet. I sensed the people behind me becoming rather impatient.

I had experienced an important lesson then and there: No one really knows what others are going through in their lives. Many of the stresses, challenges and struggles in life are unseen.

The person driving in front of you going half the speed limit, could they also be going through something similar to me? Or maybe even worse?

That lesson sunk in deep that day changing my perspective on so many aspects of my day to day.

Block the Noise 

Another thing to consider is the jealousy of others. Those around you (some may even be close friends) may become jealous of your tenacity, discipline and subsequent success.

Don’t listen to their noise.

The world of health, fitness and especially physique/muscle-building can get pretty messy when it comes to egos and machismo (that goes for the ladies too).

Turn a blind ear to the unsolicited advice and snide, passive aggressive remarks. Just worry about you and put a stop to the jealousy – your and theirs.

At times asserting emotions can also be the only way others are able to express whatever they are going through. Just smile, nod and be on your way. You’ve got bigger challenges to face.

Resilience doesn’t have to be an outward behavior. It can easily be an internal, self-reflective skill that can form and change your outlook.

 

Your Turn 

1.               Keep your mindset firmly planted in reality. Review your goals, your steps to those goals and what you need to do to get through the challenging times. 

2.               When faced with feelings of jealousy or resentment ask yourself if they are justified and if they are of any value regarding your goals. Spoiler alert – they won’t be. 

3.               View those feelings as hurdles to get over and use that energy to drive forward. 

4.               Change your perspective about the jealousy of others. Believe they don’t know your goals as intimately as you do. They don’t know the road you’ve traveled.

When your or other’s jealousy creeps into your life take some active steps to quell the drama before you get dragged down.

 

 

Nothing Gained 

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

– George Bernard Shaw


Supporting my friends backstage during chemotherapy treatment

We all have that little voice inside of us. You know that little sarcastic, cynical, negative little annoyance that sometimes consumes our thoughts and convinces us to stop trying, to just quit.

When you listen you lose.

Oftentimes that voice gets a kickstart from some outside influence. Someone may attempt to distract you from your personal journey. They may knowingly or unknowingly drag you down to their level possibly attempting to make themselves feel better or, worse yet, trying to make you feel unworthy of what you are setting out to do.

But there can also be something else at play. Something else that is often overlooked – your own negative thoughts and feelings.

Your defense tactics can be relatively straight forward when it comes to other’s trying to tear you down and distract you from what you want. But when it comes to your personal challenges, such as allowing yourself to listen to the naysayers, frivolous discussion and life’s politics it can become a bit complicated. 

 

No One Is Immune 

Your plan doesn’t have to be a crazy, outlandish one in order for negativity to creep in. Two very vivid examples stick out for me.

I was in my last couple of semesters of graduate school when I literally ran out of money. Being a starving college student and watching every penny for rent, food, gas and other expenses grad school was beginning to look less like a priority.

With feelings of wanting to quit and being defeated a quick call from my mother changed my mind. She reminded me that education is something that I will always have, is a unique opportunity and could never be taken away from me.With a renewed attitude I started to horde change from the console in my car, found some loose cash in my wallet and quit spending money on the nonessentials.

But the biggest shift was my decision to put the brakes on my social life for one year and focus everything on school and work. 

 

Planning Ahead 

Another time that still resonates with me to this day was my decision to return to the bodybuilding stage after my chemo treatments were over. The truth was that I had always planned on getting back to competing before my first treatment was ever administered.

I would visualize my comeback daily rehearsing workouts in my mind, thinking of new ways to perfect my diet and wondering how it would feel to actually be back up on stage, to flex with the best once again.

Sometimes things are easier said than done. To say my prep was difficult was an understatement. My oncologist said it would take up to a year for the chemotherapy to completely exit my system after the last treatment. Not entertaining that as an excuse I went back into training full-bore keeping that vision of competing again in the forefront.

Support 

It’s a no-brainer that support from friends, family and even acquaintances is invaluable regarding your success. Unfortunately, good people are hard to find. Jealousy, lack of interest and downright mean-spirited attitudes are plentiful.

Surround yourself with positive people. People who have your best interests in mind.

I was (am) extremely fortunate to have had an incredible group of friends during my most difficult times and ones who believed in my desire to return to competing. Through the support of my good friends and lifting buddies Carey, Tyson and Myles I was able to finish what I had started. Sure, I wasn’t in my best shape ever but I followed through.

Have resilience with yourself and others. Be resilient through the tough times, not only when things are perfect. Ram through those walls of negativity and press on!

 

Your Turn 

You need (yes, need) to get tough with yourself and practice some self-discipline. Getting involved in negativity, distraction, opinions and the trolls will only stifle your efforts toward your goals.

If it isn’t something that will help you get what you want then nothing gained. It’s useless, it’s garbage.

With all the noise out of your head you will have more time and energy devoted to your personal goals. Be above all the negativity. Be above others who try to drag you down.

The goal isn’t to be better than others, just be above their pettiness.

1.               Keep your mouth shut. Sometimes I will find myself blurting-out negative jabs or self-deprecating comments. This isn’t healthy. The best thing to do is bite your tongue. 

2.               Mind your own damn business. Contributing to sarcastic conversation and being a naysayer will only cultivate an environment of negativity. 

3.               Stay calm and keep your focus. When those feelings of negativity start to permeate you or if you find yourself having those feelings simply recognize them and focus on staying on your road to success. 

4.               Don’t get hooked and dragged down to others’ levels. Rise above their crap and be the bigger person. Develop a mantra and visualize success.

 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Cheat 

“I can change. I can live out of my imagination instead of my memory. I can tie myself to my limitless potential instead of my limiting past.”

– Stephen Covey

After all the chemo was done and I was well on my way to a comeback to the bodybuilding stage, my friend Carey and I were getting in an intense training session. Now, Carey was is a beast. He looked like my bigger, more muscular brother. With broad shoulders, a huge back and ridiculous legs Carey was a formidable competitor himself. With all that said, you can imagine how training with him could be!

 

Shut Up and Move On 

We were deep into a shoulder workout when I picked up the 60 pound dumbbells and started repping-out dumbbell side lateral raises. I could hear Carey’s motivating words behind me urging me to keep it tight and push through.

Racking the dumbbells I turned and coolly said, “Not bad for a guy who had cancer.” I saw his face straighten out and without missing a beat said, “Yeah, used to have cancer.”

Right then and there I knew exactly what he meant. No, he wasn’t being insensitive or downright mean, he was telling me what I needed to hear.

I had cancer, but it was no reason to let it keep me from moving forward and working my ass off! I didn’t need to cheat myself – rob myself of a better outcome. I needed to strip away the moniker of cancer survivor.

Did I always want to be the guy who had cancer? Did I always want to subconsciously use that label as a sort of excuse for any lack of effort? Also, did I want to wear that label on my sleeve for everyone to see?

From that moment forward my training became all about hard-ass work, period. No more thinking of the past as some form of fallback. No more using the past as a crutch or, worse yet, an excuse.

Sure, I will always look back and appreciate my health and take advantage of what I am capable of but that’s it.

 

Self-Integrity 

I do believe we need to remember our tough times from the past and appreciate our present, but try not to let them dictate or stifle our future efforts. Don’t be the sorry case, don’t be the injured soul, don’t be the one in the crowd wanting to be singled-out regarding needing special attention or sympathy.

Buck up! You will only cheat yourself. Don’t think for one second there are shortcuts to real success. Good ole-fashioned, honest, hard work is the only way to get to where you want to go. The challenges, the struggles, the crap you have to put up with along your journey will only make you stronger.

When it’s all said and done and you’ve gotten to a point where you can look back at your work and your efforts you can rest assured knowing you did it with integrity, hard work and honor to yourself.

Being resilient doesn’t mean resting on the past and using it as an excuse for any shortcomings. It also doesn’t mean that you can wear your past on your sleeve and not try your absolute best moving forward.


Last day of chemo

Your Turn 

No one said it would be easy but anything worth having isn’t (shouldn’t) be easy. During chemotherapy I experienced great pain, fatigue and mental frustration. I had never felt so tired and listless in my life. I promised myself that I wouldn’t complain about being tired ever again. I told myself I wouldn’t skip a workout just because I didn’t feel like it or lacked sleep from the night before.

Of course, I’m not perfect but I am always reminding myself of that exchange with Carey in the gym on that day. I couldn’t cheat myself – I needed to push past my past.

1.               Reach for something just out of your grasp. You are capable of more than you think. 

2.               Trust yourself. If you don’t, who will? 

3.               Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you run into a setback. Use your past struggles as fuel not a crutch. 

4.               Drive forward with integrity. Visualize a better, stronger future. 

 

 

Everyone Benefits 

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

– George Bernard Shaw

Whenever I am faced with a roadblock or bump in the road I have learned (sometimes the hard way) to reach out to others for help. It wasn’t long ago because of a self-inflated ego and pride that I wanted to do everything myself. I had this idea that I would step up on the pedestal of success by myself talking of how I did it all on my own without the “unnecessary” help from others.

 

Swallow Your Pride 

Over time, with age and substantial life experiences I am a firm believer in reaching out to others and connecting. Simply put, I learned to effectively network out of pure necessity. I found myself either at a crossroads with important decisions or a “victim” of unfortunate circumstances. Calling or going to lunch with friends and colleagues, contacting business prospects online and simply reaching out to strangers in the same industry are just a few things I did to get back off my ass and moving forward again.

The most interesting aspect of all my actions was the response. People actually listened and offered help. They reacted with honest, genuine help. Of course not everyone on my contact list came running to my rescue but my expectations were definitely exceeded.

 

Ask For Nothing 

Fortunately, I had read extensively about the power of offering help without the expectation of a return. There is this crazy phenomenon out there connecting everyone. When you freely give without expecting anything in return you will eventually benefit when you least expect it.

Giving your talent, time, expertise or services has only one requirement: To give openly and honestly. Be completely transparent. In other words, any evidence that you want something for what you are giving is quickly apparent and will ruin the authenticity of what you are trying to do.

 

So, How Does This Help? 

Think of all you are offering as you’re creating a vital network of like-minded people. You are creating an incredible group of individuals to call upon, to ask advice from and lean on during not only your tough times but also their tough times as well. That is the unique thing about reaching out to others. The benefits come right back without you ever expecting it.

The key is to get active, talk, connect, explore, ask questions. When you are faced with a roadblock, major bump in the road or a seemingly impossible situation give yourself time to collect your thoughts and evaluate your challenge and then put a plan together to move forward in a positive, constructive direction.

 

Have Nothing To Give? 

First of all, that’s crap! Everyone has something to give, to offer. You have time, you have two hands to get things done. You may have a hidden talent that you take for granted. You may have advice to give or a skill to offer that you personally feel is routine but others may benefit greatly.

I for one am someone who thinks what I know about training and nutrition is just something of a hobby or just for personal goal-setting. I am constantly reminded (from my great network of friends, family and colleagues) that what I know can benefit others in so many ways. I take it for granted but I have to be reminded that there are those out there who want and need what I know to simplify their training and nutrition and become successful with their fitness goals.

 

Give Again 

You’ve more than likely heard the phrase pay it forward before. There is something to this concept. If, at this point, you have achieved any form of success, no matter how small, it’s important to pass on your knowledge, wisdom and learned experiences to others. It’s not enough to just take. You will get to a point to where you will recognize your priceless network of individuals and feel the need to pass on something to others just as those have done for you.

 

Your Turn

1.               Don’t believe you can do it all alone. Reach out in times of need. You will be amazed what can happen. 

2.               Grow your network. Find a mentor/teacher. Having someone as a soundboard for your ideas, goals and decisions is invaluable. 

3.               Stay true to who you are and keep moving. Don’t be someone else. Sure, learn from the best but don’t sacrifice your uniqueness and who you truly are. 

4.               Pay it forward. Give back without the expectation of return. Share your knowledge, give a helping hand or simply be someone who listens to others’ ideas.

You will also begin to realize that you will set an example; an example not only to those around you but an example to yourself as well. You will also come to realize that you didn’t get to where you are alone. Everyone benefits.

 

 

My Secret Weapon, My Hero 

The seven principles above aren’t easy tasks for anyone. Some of us struggle daily with one, two or all of them – not to mention other unique challenges you may face personally not mentioned.

It is, however, a huge advantage to have someone to look up to, to refer to when the speed bumps turn into mountain ranges. This role may be filled by a parent, distant relative, teacher, coach, brother, sister or best friend.

I can wholeheartedly say that my wife embodies all of the principles above quite well. She will most-likely scoff at the notion, but she has such a grasp on how to manage all of the above. Whether it’s managing emotions during stressful times, having unquestionable integrity or giving genuinely she will always be my secret little weapon, my hero to look to when faced with my own challenges.

Find someone to refer to, to look up to and to help you navigate through the challenges and difficult times. It will strengthen you in subtle but substantial ways.

Build your resilience step by step.

 

Now Go, You Are Free 

Don’t be afraid to look to others for help. But don’t wait around for it to happen either. Build your resilience; expand your comfort zone. Think of it as building a suit of armor little by little. On your way you will get dents and scratches in that armor but rest assured they will only add to your journey and build genuine character.

Take just one principle at a time, don’t overwhelm yourself. Stay centered and focus on the outcome. At the end of the day the responsibility falls on you. Despite any outside forces and influences you have control over your reactions and responses to life. Take charge.  

“Men are born to succeed, not to fail”

– Henry David Thoreau

 

A Favor

First off, if you’ve made it this far I want to sincerely thank you. Thank you for going on this short ride through a few of my experiences and listening to my quips and anecdotes about my struggles and triumphs.

Now, I need a quick favor. No, this isn’t where I start my sales pitch about some product or service I’m selling.

If you feel you’ve gotten something out of Rebuilt, if you think there is something of value in what you’ve read please feel free to pass it on to someone who may benefit as well. Forward it to as many people as you like.

I wrote this as my personal story to share with everyone. It’s yours to give.

If, on the other hand, it isn’t your cup of tea then no harm done. No worries. I appreciate your time and wish you the best.

Thanks for reading.

 

Thanks to: 

My wife Courtney and son – for being my heroes in my life.

Mom and Dad – for believing in me and setting a good example.

Carey Addison, Thayer “Tyson” Hill, Myles Hannaman and Kevin Remmers – for forever being brothers in iron, supportive resources and lifelong friends.

Bill Yeates – for always encouraging me to “cowboy up!”

Drs. Ralph Wood, Dan Hollander and Robert Kraemer – for challenging me and getting me to think for myself over all these years.

Nate Green – for suggesting I write this in the first place.

Daniel Clough – for your expert advice and invaluable feedback and pushing me as a writer.

Andrew Snavely – for your always appreciated feedback and words of encouragement.

Steve Shaw – for the opportunities you’ve given me.

The 214th EIS, Louisiana Air National Guard and all its members over the decades. I have truly benefited beyond description from my experiences and friendships.