Last night as I was laying in a cheap Seattle hotel room, I was a ball of restless nerves. After a tiring day of flying across the country, all flights to the Island had been canceled – thanks to an adorable snowstorm. My frugal hotel had obviously saved loads of money by purchasing giant showerheads rather than investing in soundproofing so, at 9pm, I was thrust away from my first deep sleep in 24 hrs by the people above me who were, get this, walking around their hotel room!!! I remember feeling so frustrated I actually considered calling the front desk and demanding they tell my *#*#*% neighbors to stop moving. It was a perfectly reasonable request at the time but I’m glad I left the phone alone. That said, I didn’t leave the matter alone and my frustration and anxiety won out. I would toss and turn for the next 4 hrs before finally drifting off at 145am only to be rudely awakened 3 hrs later by my selfish alarm clock. Since then, my flight has been delayed twice and at the time of this writing, I’m sitting in an airport complaining to you rather than sitting at home, complaining to my wife. Again.
Stress, challenge, and unplanned obstacles are coming whether we like it or not. We can dread them, try to avoid them, freak out when they arrive or my personal favorite -stay awake and try and control them. Or, we can see them as training for when the real shit hits the fan.
Resilience is confidence that we can handle it. Whatever “it” is. Unfortunately, the only way to gain this resilience is to go through shit. While no one is a fan of shit, the shit will hit the fan. If not today, tomorrow. When we lay awake at night and stress about the inevitable shit hitting the inevitable fan, we experience frustration. And anxiety. That’s right, we pre-fret. It sounds insane but we’re pros at it. I think I can speak for all of us when I say, fretting sucks. It sucks to experience and it really sucks as a strategy to try and deal with our shitty life 🙂 If only there was a better way?
It turns out this is the better way.
So.. next time your:
is canceled… Instead of becoming a ball of frustration and nerves, see this set back as resilience training and wrap your sweaty palms around it. Anxiety hates this awkward embrace and it will be out of there before you can say, “You incomplete me.” I eventually performed this hug last night and wouldn’t you know it, I fell right asleep. If only I had practiced what I often preach, earlier.
Life is pain, says Wesley.
True. But that doesn’t mean it has to hurt.
As a subscriber to Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic email, I signed up for his New Year, New You 21 day challenge. Each morning I wake up to an email and 2 min video where Ryan explains the challenge for that day and shares some tips and tricks to help us be successful. It’s been fairly easy so far (watch the sunrise/sunset, take a cold plunge). Today’s challenge sounded like hell.
Find a quiet solitary space.
Turn off all electronic devices.
Count to 1000.
Having never counted past like…60… before, I wondered how this might go. I decided to count using the rhythm of my livingroom clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock Tick. Tock. The challenge was meant to take roughly 15 min but it took me 30min as I counted on the tock (every 2 seconds). Ryan’s advice was, “don’t break it up into manageable chunks, don’t celebrate key milestones (500), don’t celebrate when you finish (1000 baby!!!). Be still. Be in the moment. Take it in.” It was solid advice. 🙂
As I started, I felt the weight of Pascal’s famous quote but was confident I could do it. And I did! Sure, there were moments when my brain auto-piloted the numbers and when I reached 550 I remember thinking, “damn, I’m just over halfway there??” but my meditation training kicked in and I gently brought myself back into the rhythm. In the end, I actually found it relaxing.
We’ve all heard the classic advice, “close your eyes and count to 10.” The wisdom behind this is the pause allows our angry/anxious thoughts to slow down and we can begin to feel the stillness/ peace again. In short, it prevents a potentially negative experience for us and for others we may lash out against. What today’s challenge taught me was, sometimes we need more than 10 seconds.
You sleep through your alarm.
A long-time employee announces he is starting his own landscaping company.
World War III is trending on Social Media.
It’s funny how the universe works. These are 3 fairly anxiety-inducing human experiences but because I spent 30 minutes in solitary stillness, I was able to take in all these realities and move forward in confidence knowing that it’s all good. Or at least, it will be. 🙂
It is all good. No matter what you’re going through. Stoicism reminds us that while we can’t control everything we can control something. Our reaction. In this, we are always in control (which is great news for control freaks haha)
We count to 1000 not because it’s a cool badass challenge but because we never know when a real challenge will hit and we’ll need the stillness training. Resilience is a habit cultivated daily.
So let’s go!
The clock is ticking.
If somebody had told me 5 years ago that the most lasting and effective change I would experience in my life was temperature-related, I would have been like… sounds boring. But fine… tell me more.
The first time I heard about The Iceman, I assumed he was a Marvel villain. Turns out, Wim Hof had become a legend for his morning plunges into the frigid cold waters of his local canal. Plus, he hiked mountains shoeless and shirtless -wearing only his shorts. Wim had also developed a breathing method that could scrub your lungs of excess carbon dioxide allowing you to breathe less and withstand all kinds of unpleasant realities. Wim claimed his methods could prevent sickness, boost the immune system and increase longevity. The journalist, Scott Carney, had flown to Amsterdam to ‘out’ this crackpot and expose his bullshit. Instead, Scott wrote a book with the subtitle:
All Scott ended up exposing was his body to Wim’s methods. Scott did the plunges, took the breaths and even hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts. In the end, Scott proved not only did The Wim Hof Method work, it worked for people not named Wim Hof – perhaps the greatest proof of its truth. Science now agrees too, Wim’s methods actually work.
When I heard in 2017 that Wim was coming to Vancouver, I jumped at the chance to meet him. He is exactly the beautiful maniac I expected. Nearly 60 years old, Wim had the energy of a 20-year-old and inspired us with his story, the science behind his methods and we even took an ice bath together. Near the end of the day, Wim took us through one of his signature breathing sessions. What causes our bodies to cry out for breath is not a lack of oxygen but a build-up of carbon dioxide. Wim’s technique releases the excess Co2 bringing transcendence in thought and eliminating the desire to breathe. I floated through space without taking a breath for a full 4 minutes. It is still one of the more profound experiences I have ever had.
Since being introduced to Wim and his methods, I have taken a 1 min freezing cold shower every day. At first, I screamed like a small child and hyperventilated my way to the finish line. I no longer do either but instead breathe and take it in. The key is to turn the faucet all the way to cold and let the water hit back of your head, right at your spine. It’ll take you places 🙂 Then I slowly turn my body and allow the cold water to do it’s work everywhere else. The result is a follows:
The best part? It’s free. And super convenient. If you’re looking for genuine change in your mind and body, stop being a wimp and crank it to cold. You’ll thank me (eventually).
If we’re lucky, we’ll wake up to a new day tomorrow. A new year. Hell, a new decade! 2020 is here yall. Woo! It’s no longer a distant year in the future or a year referenced in some 80’s science fiction film. It’s real and it’s here. Ready or not.
I prefer the ready to the not.
While I don’t recommend New Year’s resolutions per se (who doesn’t want to be fitter, healthier, richer and more adventurous) I recommend we ask ourselves 3 questions instead. If 2020 is going to be the year of perfect vision, I believe these questions can help us see our life more clearly.
I first heard these questions while recording an episode for my podcast. Andrew and I had reached out to two of the wisest women we know to speak on matters of life and death. Linda and Shauna are experts on grief, death and dying and how to help people navigate these turbulent waters. Our conversation did not disappoint and I highly recommend you give it a careful listen.
At one point, Linda mentioned the 3 questions. These are THE questions Linda and her family have asked each other for decades in order to bring focus, clarity and to keep things real. I offer them to you as a way for you to look into 2020 and be more resolute. The beauty of these questions is they can be used in the moment, to plan a future moment or reflect on a moment gone by. Just change the tense in how you ask them. They are a mirror to our true selves. If we’re courageous enough to take a look.
As you contemplate where things are at in your life, may these questions bring you clarity, hope, and perhaps even provide an explanation for why you feel the way you do. We’ve never lived at a better time in history and despite what you might believe, life on earth has never been better. This is your time. Our time. And we haven’t a second to lose.
It turns out, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Happy New Year everyone. 🙂 Thanks for reading.
We all have things that keep us from our higher self. By higher self, I mean true self, the real ‘us’ that is not influenced, distracted or changed by the world – especially the world of social media. I can count on one hand the number of times I have logged on and experienced something meaningful and life-giving. It’s taken me a decade to realize why but the reason is simple. When I log on I do so with my lower self in order to brag, sound off or try to impress. I venture into the ocean’s abyss in search of affirmation and acceptance. Upon seeing the bell has turned red, I click and drink of the ocean only to feel even more parched than before. The more I drink, the worse I feel. I am adrift. And dying of thirst. I have learned this is the time to head back to shore – back to that place of solid ground and freshwater – where I find my true self waiting. And slightly annoyed.
Unsurprisingly, I have decided to change my relationship with social media. While it’s easy to make such grand announcements and resolutions, especially this time of year, my decision has been a long time coming. I can no longer afford to jump into the boat and head out to sea….what people are saying about me. I no longer have time for random scrolling/ rowing. But what’s one to do? We live in an ocean of social media. Logging out feels like drowning. Which is why I believe social media is at it’s best when it points us back to the shore. Back to that place of solid ground where we are meant to drink deeply, create, connect and most importantly, contribute. Rather than delete our Facebook again, perhaps we just need to repurpose it for a cause greater than ourselves? If we think in terms of contribution and only post those things that make for a better world, we won’t have to drown or die of thirst.
While we’re on the topic of change, I also plan to participate in something I’ve called the Becka Challenge. Inspired by my recently pregnant sister in law who had to give up drinking, I will be taking the next 9 months off from drinking in hopes of giving birth to a new life – which Becka just did btw. His name is Oliver, and he’s adorable 🙂 While drinking has never been a problem for me I find it zaps my motivation and brings unwelcome dullness and fatigue. I believe it dilutes my higher self and keeps me from achieving my full potential. So I’m learning to drink more tea.
2020 is synonymous with perfect vision. As I look ahead to next year, my 44th on this great planet, I have high hopes. There’s so much I want to feel and experience but there’s even more I want you to feel and experience. I feel a tremendous responsibility to be wonderful in this world for you, for us, and I can no longer afford to have anything negative or superficial distracting me. I probably should stop cheering for the Oilers too… 😉
On an upcoming podcast episode, we speak with the great Jim Gardiner. We talk about how Jim had it all yet found himself miserable. Comfortably miserable. When I asked Jim somewhat jokingly, “How could you be miserable if you were that successful?” Jim paused, then looked Andrew and I in the eye and said, “Because there was no contribution.” Jim’s amazing rock star life had begun and ended with himself. The truth of his words penetrated my higher self and I knew at that moment, I needed to be better.
Every Christmas Eve, I am reminded that It’s a Wonderful Life. As I drink from this great movie my tears come from a place of deep knowing. Our Life is Wonderful not because of what we know but because of what we don’t know -specifically, we don’t know how valuable our contributions to others really are. While our lesser self would love nothing more than to log on and try to see how valuable we actually are, real life doesn’t work that way. While we can’t know we must continue to contribute…yes, even when the likes remain hidden.
In the movie, there’s a sign that hangs in George Bailey’s office:
“All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”
One day, perhaps sooner than we think, we will die. All that will remain of our lives is that which we have contributed. Our legacy will be that which we’ve given to others.
Let’s make 2020 the year we finally saw things clearly.
I’ve seldom been called mean and called kind even less. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. We all know those beautiful souls who empathize first, ask questions later. I tend to do the exact opposite -imparting kindness only when I feel the person is deserving. “That’s not really kindness John.” Agreed. So what is? Goodwill maybe. Being sensitive? Generosity? I don’t know, petting a cat? All I know is I really need to up my kindness game.
I’ve had a legalistic relationship with kindness, ever since I can remember. It’s my parent’s fault. Sorry, that was unkind. And untrue. I mean it’s God’s fault. I was raised super religious. While I seldom wore a cape, I wasn’t clothed in kindness either. I was taught to obey first and don’t ask why later. I learned to play the kindness game and got God points every time I did a good deed. Later, when I turned Pro and became a Youth Pastor -I made a career out of loving-kindness teaching others how to do kindness too. I taught teens to love and accept everyone. I taught their parents to give money to the poor. I taught my kids to give their toys to their friends. I taught people overseas to give their hearts to Jesus. Come to think of it, I was a kindness machine, yet, was seldom called kind.
Kindness is not an act. I’ve done kind things my entire life and still been an asshole. It’s also not a feeling. Moodiness has prevented more kindness than the devil himself. It could be a belief. It’s probably a mindset. Most likely a decision. As an ambitious Type A, self-focused person, kindness doesn’t come naturally to me. How could it? I’ve always been kind because I’ve had to be. Even when I left Christianity I was kind because I had to start over. Meet new people. Get shit done. Make money. As an entrepreneur, kindness is key. People don’t want to spend money with an asshole.
Angie is always trying to get me to notice Benny. “Look at him, he’s so smart. Awww hon, just look. He’s sweet. He loves you, you know.” Sometimes I oblige as I love my wife but just between you and me I think Benny is a demon sent to annoy the hell out of me (which I guess makes the joke on the demon). But seriously, what kind of sentient being maintains eye contact while slowly pushing your glass of water off the nightstand? Who demands cuddles then violently scratches you when they’ve had enough? Who bangs on your door at 3am because they’re bored and lonely?? Who runs outside as your bringing in groceries then immediately cries at the door to be let in? Who pees in the guest room because the door was left open? Who hides in your room at night so you’re forced to look for him – of course, I don’t let him sleep in my room, he’d probably try and smother me in my sleep or piss on my pajamas. Who demands so much yet gives so little? “Oh John stop it, he’s just a cat, you’re acting like he’s a person or something.” I wish he was a person. At least then I could punish him when he acted like an asshole. Gulp.
I think I’ve discovered the problem here. As a kindness machine, I’ve been a tool in the hands of many operators. My Parents. God. Bosses. Clients. Angie. My kids. My friends. You. Them. I’ve been kind because others have needed me to be kind and so as a Son, Preacher, Business Owner, Husband, Father, Friend, and Role Model, I’ve allowed myself to be used for good. The result is, I’ve equated kindness with responsibility and obligation and acted accordingly. No wonder I’ve remained an asshole.
Kindness isn’t an act or a responsibility. It isn’t the “right thing to do.” It is without strings or expectations. It is a gift freely given from one sentient being to another not because the giver should do it or because the receiver deserves it but because the gift itself creates joy. In short, kindness pets the cat.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word strong? Biceps. Calves. Chest. Speed, Power. Control. We are all surrounded by incredible feats of physical strength and we even pay big money to both achieve them and be entertained by them. As intoxicating as it is to watch Khabib Nurmagomedov dominate yet another opponent in the UFC and witness Connor McDavid fly by another elite defenseman and Mike Trout crush another home run and Tom Brady win yet another Super Bowl in his forties and James Harden get 60 pts even while taking the 4th quarter off… I can’t help but think, there’s gotta be more to strength than these guys.
It’s easy to be mesmerized by these and other incredible feats of physical strength, but at the end of the day, who really gives a shit? Ok, I do. And you do. And most people probably do. But surely there’s more to being strong then muscle fibers. Thankfully, there is.
These days, when I think of strength, these people come to mind.
Alyne– The woman who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant yet still found joy in the process.
George – The 96-year-old War War II veteran who still travels to share his experiences.
Roman– The 11-year-old whiz kid who’s using his autism to help others struggling with their different abilities.
Wade – The former military vet who battled PTSD and personal demons and now coaches others on how to do the same.
Simon– The Brit who grew up being abused and believing he was weak and how he learned strength by living with no excuses (and deadlifting over 400lbs)
Paul – The business owner born with Cystic Fibrosis, who grew up struggling to breathe but is now creating a Rumble.
And then there’s Emily and Shauna, two powerful woman who once contemplated suicide but instead chose to give their lives to something bigger than themselves, Christine who was bedridden yet refused to give in to her chronic pain, D.M Ditson who learned how to become whole again even after her life was shattered by multiple sexual assaults and Heather, a single mother who is learning to live with grief after losing her 38-year-old husband to Cancer.
These and dozens more have discovered how strong they really are specifically because strong has been their only option. For these people, strong isn’t about entertainment or a bragging right. It isn’t a number or a personal best. It’s not even a metric. It’s a mindset. It’s who they became when they had nothing left to give.
You’re stronger than you think. We all are. Your rock bottom is not the end but a solid place in which to finally stand. So get up. You were made for this.
This! Is Obstacle Course.