Perfect Perspective

In New York City a journalist was tasked with interviewing two men. One was a criminal. He abused drugs, was in and out of jail his whole life, and was cold stony broke. The other, quite the opposite. He was a wealthy man, loved by his entire community and had a beautiful family he cherished.

They only had one similarity, they were brothers.

When the newspaper owner heard about these two men, he had to understand immediately how two brothers, who grew up in the same home, with virtually identical genetics, could live such completely different lives.

So when the journalist finally sat down with the two brothers they began discussing their childhood. It turned out that their father was also a criminal. He was the cause of incredible pain throughout their home. He abused drugs, his wife, and his two sons. Rick, who was in the middle of serving time for armed robbery, blamed his father for setting a terrible example.

When asked, how did your life turn out this way? Rick replied,

“With a father like mine, how could it turn out any other way?”

David, who was being recognized as a Forbes entrepreneur of the year, told a very similar story about his father. He agreed that he did in fact set a terrible example.

When asked, how did your life turn out this way? David replied,

“With a father like mine, how could it turn out any other way?”

Two sons, with the same genetics, the same childhood, the same abusive father and the same answer went on to live completely different lives. One, repeating the blue print laid out by his father. The other, defying expectations by becoming the master, instead of the slave, to his circumstances.

Perspective image

I hope that this example illustrates the significance of how the perspective we choose can impact our lives. Everyday we have the opportunity to choose the lens in which we see our world. We can decide to live life through a disempowering lens as a victim. Or, we can put our foot down, and decide that I am the master of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and no matter how bad my situation gets, it’s in my power to turn it around.

This post was inspired by all of the years I spent living through a disempowering lens. In High School, I felt like a victim to the hand I was dealt. As a result I didn’t handle life’s challenges with grace and fortitude. But it’s crystal clear to me now that everything I experienced was par for the course. Heartbreak, feeling uncomfortable, failure, disappointment, loss, sadness, and so much more is common. In fact, I now believe that it’s not only common, but necessary to live a full life.

My challenge is that our youth doesn’t yet see it that way. They, like me when I was their age, will make the same mistakes hoping that loss, heartbreak, and failure, is avoidable and other people should deal with it, not I.

That perspective doesn’t serve anybody. It doesn’t benefit the community, our families, and it especially does not serve the mental health of the individual themselves. Our perspective and in turn the lens we see life through has a tremendous impact on whether we feel like we’re healthy, stressed, struggling, or in a crisis.

For example, the student that sees his homework and tests as a challenge, is empowered to use the positive stress of his workload to get his assignments in on time. He’s driven by his deadlines to create a schedule that promotes healthy study habits, time for the gym and for his family and friends.

That’s not to say that he’ll never feel overwhelm or be disappointed in his grades, but it does mean that he’s willing to accept those emotions and outcomes as part of the process. His perspective is that the challenges that he faces in his life and in school are stretching him to grow. And based on my experience being and working with students, a focus on growth, is the perfect perspective to have.

On the other hand, we often see students who’s mental health suffer because of the lens in which they view their studies. Every quiz, test and assignment is a burden. They feel overwhelmed easily, succumb to stress and withdraw themselves from their educational experience. These individuals have a disempowering perspective on what it means to be a student and as a result experience downward momentum in their health.

I want to challenge our youth to avoid the mistakes that I’ve made in the past. To instead be like David from our story above. To see for themselves that difficulty, disappointment, and disaster are inevitable parts of life and that we should focus on the solution rather than the problem. These two shifts in perspective are a great place to start.

Problems vs. Challenges

One of the most disempowering, yet common, uses of language between adults and youth alike is the word “problems”. We need to wipe that word from our language patterns and replace is with the word “challenges”. Problems are disempowering and it overwhelms you. Rick from our example above, saw his upbringing as a problem. Problems are often out of your control and therefore he felt like a victim to his circumstances.

David on the other hand saw his situation as a challenge. Challenges are within your control to solve. Challenges you meet head on and you rise up to them and overcome them. Whatever stands in the way from you accomplishing your goal is not a problem, it’s a challenge that you’re ready to get after.

You are not the mistakes of your past

Our culture is obsessed with success. And as a result, our youth are often misguided and misinterpret what it means to “fail”. Today, we see mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments as catastrophe. For example, a student that is used to 90% on all their tests comes home with a 79%. Along with that 79% is a bruised ego and slash at their internal belief systems. That 79%, 60%, even 40% or less for that matter doesn’t represent failure, it represents opportunity. It’s a wake up call that I need to work harder, prioritize better, seek help and take better care of my health so I can be sharper. It took me far too long to recognize that my mistakes are not setbacks, they are truly the set ups for my future successes. Everything that happens to you, the good, the bad and the ugly, every experience, is an asset.

Rick believed that growing up in a broken home was a mistake. His father set a bad example and screwed him up. David however, is the perfect example of gleaning lessons from his past. His and Rick’s home were the same, but David’s perspective was shifted. Every mistake, setback, and disappointment his father represented, he used it as an example of what not to do.

So as you look at your own life as I have my own, and search within yourself for the beliefs and perspectives you hold, know that you are not the mistakes of your past, you are the resources and the capabilities you’ve gleaned from it. As soon as you make that shift in your life, anything bad that’s happened to you is ultimately your greatest asset.

My mental health made a dramatic shift when I made that choice consciously. I stopped seeing everything that happened to me as a problem, and instead a challenge testing my character. I stopped perpetuating my victim and disempowering mindsets and made the conscious decision to use my crisis with mental health as my greatest asset.

Now I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if I didn’t experience depression and anxiety. I wouldn’t know how good it feels to be confident. I wouldn’t have the empathy and passion I now have to help other people. And most of all, I wouldn’t be able to type here today that I know with every fibre of my being there is no level, no matter how low, that you can’t come back from. That is of course, if you chose the perfect perspective.

Do This.

  1. In your everyday communication, replace the word problem with challenge. You will feel more in control and excited to tackle those challenges head on.
  2. Embrace your past. Use mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments as opportunities to learn rather than for reasons to dwell and feel bad. Take those lessons with you in your life and use them as your greatest advantage.

Ps. If supporting mental health is important to you, I’m currently raising money for Canada’s largest youth led summit on mental health. We need your support! Please donate here or share this link with someone who would like to support mental health in Canada.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

– J

Out.

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

When I think about mental health, I often, if not always, compare it directly to physical health. How we take care of our bodies should be a leading indicator of how we feel mentally.

Consider some of the worlds highest performing athletes: what do you think they put in their bodies?

World class athletes consistently consume high quality macro and micro nutrients. Foods that are nutritionally rich and hydrating with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and healthy fats, to ensure that their bodies predictably operate at peak performance. These individuals who are eating better will inevitably jump higher, skate faster, lift more weight, and recover more quickly from rigorous training than their competitors.

High Performing Athletes

This level of vigilance about consuming only the highest quality nutrients and avoiding tempting junk food, while difficult, is one of their greatest advantages.

I strongly believe that there’s so much that we can learn from how athletes, and healthy eaters, treat their bodies that will impact the way that we focus on our own mental health.

But first, imagine the opposite of the athlete and healthy eater, Jack the Junk food addict.

Jack doesn’t pay too much attention to what he puts into his body. He lacks discipline and as a result he caves frequently into his cravings. Because he eats so much fast food, he’s constantly consuming refined sugars, unhealthy trans and saturated fats, high sodium foods, and processed – low nutritional value, empty calorie – junk!

Junk food image

But wait… We can’t forget the sugar loaded sodas and juice concentrates he grew up loving, too! And with all of that, it still remains a mystery to Jack as to why he has low energy. Why he always wakes up feeling groggy, sluggish and mentally foggy. Why every day he has to rely on coffee and stimulants just to make it through his work day. Why he’s lost his zest for life.

Let’s help remove the blinders of the oh-so obvious mystery perplexing Jack and junk food eaters alike.

Garbage in, garbage out. 

How could we expect anything other than to feel like garbage if the only thing we put in our body is garbage!

We can’t.

And if what we put in our bodies unequivocally impacts our physical performance, how could we ignore that what we put in our minds, our thoughts, and our beliefs about ourself and our circumstances, will also clearly effect our mental health and performance.

We can’t.

There are multiple pillars that drive a healthy mind, but I fundamentally believe one of the most powerful and reliable is focusing on a consistently healthy diet of external inputs into our minds. In almost identical fashion to our physical health, we either set ourselves up for resilience, health, and joy, or anxiety, stress, and unhappiness based on our chosen mental diets.

Here is our greatest challenge to ensuring a proper mental diet.

Our biggest challenge is that controlling what our brain consumes is especially difficult. On a day to day basis, so much of what we take in is unconscious. Although it’s true that we can eat without thinking, it’s easier to pay attention to what we put in our bodies because food doesn’t leap into our mouths!

We need an extra level of vigilance to prevent our brains from absorbing irrelevant, counterproductive or downright destructive input. It’s a never-ending battle to be selective and stand guard against any information that will derail your mental health.

To understand this challenge at our cores, the only thing we need to remember is that the brain has only one agenda: survival. It’s always watching for signs of “lack and attack.” We’re programmed to seek out the negative from our jobs, studies and our lives.

Unfortunately we can’t change our DNA, but we can change our behaviour. We can teach our mind to look beyond the negative by protecting and feeding it positivity.

Now, please enjoy  2 focuses and 6 actionable take-aways that you can apply, today.

Associations

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

I’ll start with your associations because I believe it is the simplest and quickest thing you can change to make an impact on your mental health.

Over the past decade, researchers have made fascinating discoveries about a phenomenon called “clustering”. They found that behaviours, attitudes, and health outcomes tend to form in social clusters. The people around you even even affect how you sleep, the food that you eat, and how much you save. This of course, can have both positive and negative repercussions.

On the negative front, bad behaviours and outcomes such as smoking, obesity, loneliness, depression, divorce, and drug use tend to grow in social clusters. If your friends smoke, you probably will, too. Likewise, positive things such as happiness and positive social behaviour can spread within groups. If you want to get rich, you should spend more time with rich people. If you want to lose weight, it’s practical to hangout with people who spend a lot of time at the gym. Social contagion, as the researchers call it, is a powerful force that you can now use to your advantage. Use these tips to level up your squad and make a positive impact on your mental diet.

  1. Play Sports- Join that intramural league. Visit that ping pong group. Get that golf membership. By putting yourself in a competitive position, especially in team sports, not only will you learn more about yourself, but you’ll have the opportunity to connect and be vulnerable with new people. Competition is one of those unique scenarios we don’t get enough in life. It makes you elevate your game, prepare and work harder, and interact with people who’re doing the same.
  2. Volunteer- This should be your first move if you’re someone who feels like you’re surrounded by negative influences. Volunteers by nature are spirited, positive people. They are givers. People that are generous enough to put others before themselves are the type of people we should strive to spend more time with. When you meet people who are trying to make a big difference in the world, it makes a big difference in yours.
  3. You don’t need to drop all of your negative friends – Not only is the conflict associated with burning bridges not worth it and disempowering for both parties, there are many more appropriate ways to better your associations. Instead of focusing on spending less time with negative people, simply decide today that you will spend more time with positive people. By proxy, you will have less time for negative associations and you’re much more likely to maintain that relationship. Think add, not subtract.

Imagine how much better your life would be if you got better people into your social network. Choose to surround yourself with the people who have the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours in congruency with the person you’re committed to becoming.

Personal Junk Filter

“The book you don’t read won’t help.” – Jim Rohn

The junk food equivalent today for what we put into our minds sounds like this: negative news, unrealistic body images on Instagram, and fake entrepreneurs on social media flashing fancy watches, cars, and beautiful women. Where the news equals a can of Coca Cola, Instagram equals those fried funnel cakes people love, and fake entrepreneurs selling $30,000 mastermind courses equals a Big Mac.

Exposed to all of this garbage, we can’t realistically expect to constantly feel positive emotions and thought patterns about ourselves and the world. It’s all too negative or revolves around what we’re missing. How much better life could be, not how good it is. Just like the body needs quality nutrition in order to sustain your positive mental health long-term, you need to focus on quality inputs that will lead you in the right direction.

I’ll share with you what I do to safeguard my mind. But I warn you, I have a rigorous mental diet. You’ll want to adjust this to your own preferences, but it’s worked beautifully for me over the last 4 years.

  1. Avoid the news– As you may have guessed, I don’t read or watch any news whatsoever. Not only is 90% of news the most scandalous, negative, and disturbing things that are taking place in the world right now, virtually none of it has any bearing on my personal goals, dreams, and ambitions anyways. While most people wade through hours of irrelevant garbage that hampers their attitude and dampers their spirits, if you really need the news, set up an RSS feed through Google or another provider. That way you will get the news that’s relevant to your primary field of interest in less than 15 minutes a day.
  2. Enroll in “Commuters U”– It’s not enough to eliminate negative inputs. We also need to flush out all the bad by filling up on all the good. “Commuters U” may have been one of the most transformational habits I’ve ever adopted. It stands for Commuters University and means that any time you’re moving – whether it’s going for a walk, riding your bike, or driving/ taking transit – you pull out a book, podcast, or some educational tool, and start learning. Think about it… How long is your commute? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour? Regardless of how long, the time we spend commuting every day is a prime opportunity to fill ourselves up with quality mental nutrition. Over the last year I’ve developed new skills in sales, leadership, relationship building, and maintaining a positive attitude in tough times, all because I took advantage of Commuters U. You should taste multiple different influencers and see what you like but here’s a short list of some of my go-to’s: Jim Rohn, Les Brown, Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferris, Jocko Willink, Tony Robbins, Napolean Hill, and many more!
  3. Remember the three action items from associations– As we’re now well aware, one of the easiest and most effective ways to adopt new behaviours and attitudes is to hang out with the people who already have them. Therefore, if you want to develop a better junk filter and protect your mind from the garbage that’s constantly pulling at your attention, remember the three action steps from associations; play sports, volunteer, and think add not subtract. If your peer group spends less time watching the news, you will too. If they subscribe to Commuters U and focus only on positive, educational, and uplifting inputs, so will you!

Do this. 

That is a lot of information to chew on… See what I did there? But information is not enough to impact your mental diet and as a result, your mental health. You can however, make the choice, no matter how challenging and dire your circumstances look, to take one step in a positive direction, today.

Choose 1, yes, only 1, of the 6 takeaways above and apply it today. Whether you start volunteering, avoid the news, or pick up a new book for your commute tomorrow, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make the decision to do 1. 1 will lead to another, and soon, your mental diet will be just as clean in comparison to the foods Olympians eat.

Make your mental diet a priority right now! Because after all, garbage in, is garbage out.

Ps. If supporting mental health is important to you, I’m currently raising money for Canada’s largest youth led summit on mental health. We need your support! Please donate here or share this link with someone that would like to support mental health in Canada. 

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction”

 

Some Practical Thoughts On Mental Health

Fall of 2016, I’m working as full-time employee in sales and part time as an entrepreneur. Naturally, as a salesman and speaker, my voice became my livelihood. Fortunately for me, I started to get the hang of it! At work, I was making a significant contribution to my team. As a speaker, I was being recognized as one of Toronto’s up-and-coming talents. Unfortunately, however, any threat to your livelihood, can be debilitating. And for me, the threat was real.

In October of 2016, I developed severe pain in my throat. Not being one to complain, I worked through an entire week of sales paying the throbbing in my throat little attention.

Huge mistake.

I woke up Saturday morning, my throat was raw and my voice, gone. Now this wouldn’t have been a problem at all if I was sick! But I wasn’t. I felt normal, except an excruciating pain whenever I spoke.

Days went by, nothing changed. I called in sick to work, my recovery didn’t progress. Finally, I’m sitting in the emergency room at Sunnybrook hospital. The doctor walks and checks my paperwork.

“Your throat?”

I nodded yes.

“Does it hurt?”

I nodded as a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Okay, let’s take a look.”

As the doctor walked away to get the long tube she would soon be pushing up my nose and down my throat, the tears flowed. I couldn’t control myself. All of the hard work that I’d been putting in to progress as a speaker, all of the hours I had been rehearsing, the career that I was building and the dreams I was dreaming, was it all for nothing?

I was devastated.

I felt defeated and wondered if I was going down the wrong path. I asked myself all the questions we ask ourselves when hit with obstacles… Is this even worth it? Was I making a difference? Why me?

Just when I felt that I had found my calling, my voice abandoned me…

The diagnosis was simple, I had extreme inflammation and irritation in my throat. The doctors order was a minimum of a week with no speaking, although it should be closer to 2-3. The following months felt like high school all over again. I felt the cloud of negativity slowly moving in and weighing down on me. One of my greatest assets was at risk. Moreover, some of the simplest of tasks, those we take for granted everyday, became a chore. I no longer wanted to talk to my parents or girlfriend and I started hating my job.

My focus shifted from my goals, dreams, and hopes only a few weeks prior, to everything that was wrong, unfair, and challenging about my life. I felt depressed, but this time, I knew how to handle it. 

Even though It’s been over a year since my throat injury and I still experience irritation every time I speak, I credit the successful rebound of my mental health, from Crisis mode to healthy, because of the lessons I’ve learn in the last four years living depression free. With that, I want to share some practical thoughts on mental health. It may not be the most popular, but it’s effective, and I’d like you to consider sharing this with someone who may need it.

Mental health, like physical health, has a spectrum 

Personally, my first step to identifying whether or not I, or someone I know, needs support and it’s urgency is to see where we fall on this spectrum. As much as it would be nice to think that everyone could be healthy all the time, it’s important to consider that stress does not discriminate. Regardless of your background, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic conditions, everyone experiences stress, and therefore it would be naive to believe that you or I, would never have challenges with our mental health.

Mental Health Spectrum.png
Source: Jack.org

This is where it’s practical to distinguish the difference between mental illness and mental health. Does everyone have a mental illness? No. Does everyone have mental health? Yes.

Where you, your friends, or family, are currently positioned on this spectrum depends on the stress (not all is created equal), the duration of those stressors, and the strategies you’re using to cope and what you choose to focus on. For example, small stressors, that happen over a week, tackled with the right strategies, will result in your ability to remain within yellow if not green. Comparatively, overwhelming stressors, over a long period of time, left unchecked without the proper strategies will have you struggling if not experiencing a crisis.

I’d like to challenge you to do an inventory of where you’re currently positioned on the spectrum. Our minds, emotions, and behaviours vary over time and even though you were feeling great yesterday doesn’t guarantee exuberant happiness next week. Use this spectrum as a tool. Check in with yourself frequently, as I do, to measure every few weeks or months (at the least) how you’re feeling and if there is any need to reach out for help.

The law of impermanence

Although I still feel irritation in my throat when I speak, it’s nothing compared to the original pain I experienced in October of 2016. As I began to cope with the idea of speaking through pain and what an incredible injustice I’d received, I took a tip right out of the Buddhist playbook.

Buddhist philosophy states,

“Fluctuations are an inherent fabric of life. Because nothing is permanent, attachment to the ups leads to inevitable suffering. Conversely, aversion to the downs is illogical because those too shall pass.”

Given the practical nature of this post, it’s only too fitting to realize that it would have been illogical for me to expect that the excruciating pain would last forever. Life, like nature, is cyclical. After day we get night. After fall we experience winter. If life is like nature, why would I have expected anything less than the occasional struggle? And in that struggle, why would I expect anything other than for it to soon pass?

When I first hurt my throat, I thought that was the end. I’d never be able to speak again, I’ll never make a difference, it was completely disempowering. But the truth is, it’s not our circumstances that are disempowering, it’s our mindsets. Every time we’re hit with obstacles and challenge, we focus immediately on the permanence of that problem.

It’s so easy for us to blow things out of proportion, to get lost in the story we tell ourselves, and to think that our entire life hinges on one thing we’ll barely remember 5-10 years later. That seemingly all-important thing could be anything causing you stress from a bad grade, getting into college, a relationship, divorce, even getting fired.

What matters is not trying to avoid the stress, or avoid the obstacles, what matters is how we perceive the struggle.  Can we really be that attached to comfort and constant progression that every regression and difficulty will knock us me course?

Well it shouldn’t, and it no longer does for me.

If you’re currently experiencing the summer, where everything is going right, and you’re feeling incredible mental health, congratulations! Keep it up and squeeze every last drop out of it. Just know…

Winter is coming

And guess what, when the winter comes and the stress follows, it’s okay, that too shall pass. If you never experienced the down’s of life, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the ups.

Just ensure, that when the winter does come, you’re prepared.

The only practical approach is a proactive approach

The tools and strategies we need to use in order to move ourselves from right to left, from crisis to healthy on the mental health spectrum, are often well known. Therefore in order for us to ensure our mental health we need to focus on making common sense, common practice. Intentionality, or proactivity, is often the difference between health and crisis.

Below is a brief list of practices that can be used in order to be proactive about mental health and resiliency under stress:

  1. Exercise 3-4x per week (yoga, sports, weight training, cycling, running, martial arts, etc)
  2. Express yourself through your art (dance, painting, music, etc)
  3. Reduce or eliminate refined and processed foods
  4. Eat real foods, mostly plants, not too much 
  5. Practice Sleep hygiene and create a consistent sleep schedule  (7-9 hours of sleep a night)
  6. A daily practice of mindfulness – Gratitude journal, meditation, deep breathing, etc
  7. Having clear goals and priorities resulting in a sense of direction
  8. Develop relationships and communities that you can be open and transparent with your emotions
  9. Work with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, for professional support (if necessary)
  10. Have regular self-check in’s to determine where you stand on the mental health spectrum

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Everyone is an individual, and what works for one person will not necessarily work for the next. Now, I have highlighted numbers 1, 4, 5, and 7. This is intentional because they are the big levers you can pull in order to establish long-term and reliable mental health. 

When I’m slipping on the spectrum, or simply getting stressed, this is the first place I look. I’ll ask myself, am I moving enough? Am I eating and sleeping right? Are my goals giving me a clear sense of direction and clarity about my life? If any of those four are off, I’ll likely be moving in the wrong direction.

As an example, in 2011 when I experienced a crisis in my own mental health, none of these four levers were in place. I had quit all my sports and wasn’t exercising. I was craving and demanded sugar daily (multiple chocolate chip pancakes and a dozen chocolate granola bars, in fact). I stayed up past midnight for weeks and wondered why I couldn’t wake up in time for school. And I had no goals or sense of direction.

Furthermore, I spend a lot of time today thinking about and working with teen mental health through my public speaking. When parents come to me asking for advice for their teens, I virtually always start with these four levers. Are they exercising and how often? How much sugar do they consume and what does their overall diet look like? How many hours a night do they sleep and is it consistent? And finally, do they have a sense of direction? Do they have goals? Are they inspired?

This approach is not only extremely effective for working with teens, they can also be used effectively with individuals of all ages. What I hope you’re saying to yourself at this point is that this is all very common sense. Because, than you’d be right. If that’s the case, congratulations. Now it’s your responsibility to ensure that what is common sense to you, becomes a proactive common practice for you, your family, and your community.

I strongly believe that in the vast majority of cases, your mental health is in your hands. How you deal with stress, your philosophy on obstacles, setbacks, and roadblocks, and finally your daily habits, are at your control.

This is practical and rational.

And as much as mental health is an extremely sensitive topic, these are my beliefs. These are the beliefs that were developed out of necessity, through my own struggles with depression, anxiety, and crisis. My hope, is that they serve you as they have for me in sickness and in health.

Please share this with someone who needs it. One idea could be all they need to unlock a new mindset and point them in a new, empowering direction. The power of change is in your hands!

Mental health jack.org pic

Ps. If supporting mental health is important to you, I’m currently raising money for Canada’s largest youth led summit on mental health. We need your support! Please donate here or share this link with someone that would like to support mental health in Canada.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

-J

Out.

*BONUS* – Profile Of A Champion: Resilience

I love reading about war and history. And because of that, I love reading about soldiers. To me soldiers represent the pinnacle of what it means to be a champion. And two weeks ago, when I was listening to an audio of the book “18 Platoon“, I was struck with the realization that I was missing the most critical component to what makes someone a champion.

Soldiers, throughout history, have experienced life’s most stressful tests of the human spirit. There is no other group whom work harder, face more adversity, and have made a bigger impact to the degree of freedom and security we experience today than soldiers. As I was listening to the Jocko Podcast, I understood that it would be foolish not to take the time to study and learn from a group of people who’re literally willing to die for what they believe in.

In “18 Platoon”, Sydney Jary, commander of 18 Platoon, shared his lessons learned about combat and life. I’ve been so inspired by what he wrote that I haven’t been able to get it off my mind for weeks. This bonus profile is a direct result of what Sydney wrote in his book,

“The personal characteristics which go to make a good infantry soldier… I would suggest firstly, sufferance, the ability to suffer. Without which, one could not survive.”

I had to pause the audio. In that moment I was instantly brought back to my thirteen year old self. At thirteen, I remember travelling across Canada competing at the National level of trampoline. In 2008, I faced off with athletes in an under seventeen category. Meaning, the majority of the competitors were fifteen or older. At thirteen, I managed to finish ninth in Canada! My parent’s were proud, my coach was proud, and my gym was proud.

I, was devastated.

I hated myself for what I thought represented a miserable personal failure. I quit trampoline because I believed I didn’t have what it took to win.

I, was right.

It’s easy to make the excuse that I was only thirteen and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But, without a critical eye on ourselves, how can we get better?  While listening to those words, I realized that at thirteen I really didn’t have what it took to win. I lacked the resilience, work ethic, and the ability to suffer like a soldier. My competitors were more mentally prepared, spent more time working on their skills, and suffered through more gruelling workouts than I did.

I, was soft.

This was a serious epiphany. Instantly, I understood that although I’m not a soldier, and I won’t lose or literally die on a battlefield, if I don’t develop sufferance I will lose on the battlefield of life.

Lacking resilience has been one of my biggest vulnerabilities. More resilience could have kept me training trampoline. More resilience could have prevented my depression. With more resilience you and I would both be exponentially more skillful and successful. And because of that I’ve become obsessed with developing more girt and mental fortitude. To be a champion, we need to be willing to suffer, face more adversity, and persevere longer and more intensely than anyone of our competitors. If we can do that, we’ll dominate the marketplace.

I then began to ask myself who I know that has grit and mental fortitude? Who do I know that’s willing to face more adversity and persevere longer than anyone of their competitors? Who do I know that’s dominating the marketplace of business and life? Who do I know that’s developed the ability to suffer?

Ah yes, Kevin.

Animalia - Portrait

Back in 2015, our Entrepreneurship class at Georgian College had a weekly speaker series. That year we had over a dozen speakers teach us about business and life. To this day, I’ve never seen any of those people again, except one, Kevin Rempel. As a 2013 World Champion and 2014 Sochi Paralympic bronze medalist in sledge hockey, Kevin is one of the greatest examples of overcoming adversity I’ve ever heard. He stood in front of that class in 2015, and I’ve never looked at adversity the same again.

In 2006, while pursuing his passion for Motorcross, Kevin crashed, hard.

Paralyzed, he started his journey to learn to walk again at age twenty three. Adding to this, Kevin had to deal with his father, Gerry, who also was living in a wheelchair. Gerry had become a paraplegic himself after falling from a tree in a deer hunting accident. Only one year into Kevin’s recovery, Gerry took his own life in July 2007.

While mourning the loss of his father, battling depression, and looking for inspiration in his life, Kevin found the sport of sledge hockey. He immediately set his sights on making team Canada and playing in the Paralympics. As you’re well aware, he did just that (you can find the video of his journey here).

When I heard Kevin’s story for the first time two years ago I was inspired. But, today, he’s become a model that we can all follow and strive towards. He’s since been featured around the world on TSN, BBC Sport, and CTV. He’s become an author, a keynote speaker on mental health and building resilience, an advocate for the sport of sledge hockey, and the entrepreneur behind an incredible business with a big mission the Sledge Hockey Experience. He’s become a champion.

As an entrepreneur who’s extremely busy building a business, I was excited to extract from Kevin’s stories a practical philosophy that we can implement immediately. His life has, and continues to serve, as an example of both why we need to develop resilience and how we can start, today.

Be The Hero Of Your Own Movie

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we wanted in life came to us with no effort? Oh, how nice life would be if I didn’t have to struggle and put in effort to accomplish my goals!

Wrong.

On a surface level, that may sound appealing, but anyone that believes that is delusional.

Imagine you’re at the movie theatre. When the movie starts, the main character is born. He then proceeds to grows up in a rich family, meet the girl of his dreams, build a big business with no challenge or headaches, and then grows old and dies with the love of his life at his side. Do you think that would get many Oscar nominations? NO. If we didn’t fall asleep halfway in, we’d be asking, where’s the drama, where’s the adversity, where is the hero’s journey?

We all know that we’re not drawn to stories of overnight success! In fact, often we despise them. We’re drawn in to the story of the underdog. We’re excited to see someone come back from failure and from persist through adversity. And if that’s true for movies, and real life examples of individuals like Oprah, Hellen Keller, and Thomas Edison, why would that be any different for you?

As I’ve watched Kevin over the past few years, I’ve realized that he embraces the hero’s journey. He gets joy and pride out of being the underdog. He’s shown me that cultivating the mindset of becoming the hero of our own movie is the first mindset shift we need to make in order to embrace resilience. We need to not only embrace the fact that our story will and should have obstacles, but we need to start to appreciate that it’s the only thing that makes our story worth telling.

Kevin remembers the exact moment when he made this distinction for himself. He remembers that in extreme sports it was part of the culture to always get back up after they fell hard. When riders in Motorcross would fall, they would bounce back, and take pride in their grit and mental strength.

Kevins bruise.png

He shared that the moment he broke his back, he knew he wanted to make a comeback. He knew he wanted to be the hero of his own movie. Despite all of the pain, the screaming people, and the thoughts rushing through his head, one of the first things he said was,

“Chris, you better be filming this.”

Knowing that obstacles are what make stories great, it’s critical to ask yourself  are you avoiding obstacles, or are your embracing them? Are you forcing yourself into uncomfortable places, or are you shying away and holding yourself back? Are you becoming the hero of your own movie, or are you trying to live a tale of timid comfort?

Kevin believes that being the hero of your own movie is as simple as being the shy person who’s willing to speak up. Being the irresponsible spender who’s willing to invest and save. Or, being the overweight couch potato who says enough is enough and gets into the gym and starts working out. Whatever the trials and tribulations of your life, however small or large the adversity, embrace that test. In those moments, take the time to detach and step back. As you observe yourself confronting challenges, remind yourself that the hero of your movie would courageously step into the unknown, and step up as a champion.

Accept responsibility

Masters of their circumstances never blame or make excuses. The champion knows that everything they experience in life is a result of who they are and what they’ve done. They always take responsibility for the good and the bad. And if you want to cultivate resilience, moving yourself closer and closer towards what it takes to become a champion, you need to take ownership, too.

Late last year, Kevin experienced yet another devastating obstacle. In the first week of December, he was checking on his Sledge Hockey trailer parked at the Mastercard Centre in Etobicoke. It had only been a couple of weeks since he had last used the trailer, but as he drove up, he noticed the lock was broken. Stunned, he quickly got out of his car, threw open the door, and found all of his equipment gone. In a split second he went from working passionately on his dream of educating people about Sledge Hockey, to being burdened with over five thousand dollars of stolen equipment.

He was cheated.

It was unfair.

Arguably, it wasn’t his fault.

Or was it?

“You must own everything in your world. There is no one else to blame.” – Jocko Willink

For most, including myself, this degree of adversity, this early into the stages of any business, would have taken us right out of the game. It would have been easy to blame, make excuses, and believe that the world was conspiring against us. In times of crisis it’s natural for us to be overwhelmed by emotions. But, the difference between the champion and everyone else, isn’t that  they don’t feel anger, frustration, and heartbreak, they feel all of the same emotions to their fullest range, the difference is that they interpret them differently!

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Kevin accepted immediately that the trailer being broken into was his fault. He shouldn’t have left it there so long. He shouldn’t have parked it where there was no surveillance. It was his fault and he took ownership of that. Accepting responsibility allowed him to focus his energy on being a victor, rather than a victim.

Not only did he immediately start working on a solution, he was able to use the experience to bring massive awareness to sledge hockey. He documented the experience (the video is inspiring), showing his positive mental attitude and how people can be resilient in the face of adversity.

His video got hundreds of shares and over 10,000 views. Again, he was being the hero of his own movie. He not only continued to help advocate for the sport he loved and find a way to get new equipment, but he further became an example for others on how to react when confronted with challenge.  He proved that the champion doesn’t blame or make excuses, they accept responsibility and leverage their resilience to keep growing.

Never Give Up

Who knows where I would be today if I would have persisted in Trampoline. I could be competing on the world stage, in the Olympics, and representing our country. But, unfortunately, I will never know. Can you relate to not knowing?

Do you ever wonder what could, should, and would have been if you never gave up? I think about it all the time. Candidly, I’m emotionally overwhelmed every four years when I see the Olympics on T.V. I experience so much regret knowing that I had the potential, I just didn’t have the heart.

To this day, lacking resilience, or the ability to suffer, has been the biggest vulnerability in my character. From Trampoline, to experiencing depression in high school, to quitting my first business after only two years, I’ve only scratched the surface of my potential because I was never willing to persevere. It’s a sobering thought looking back on our lives, knowing that we had so much more energy, effort, and passion to give. I never want to feel that way again.

I want to challenge you to never feel that way about yourself, either. I want to challenge you to remind yourself of Shakespeare every time you feel like giving up,

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”  – William Shakespeare

Now it’s one thing to know that conceptually, but it’s another thing to put it into practice. Kevin has taught me through his experience that Shakespeare’s dead on the money. In July of 2007, Kevin’s father gave up. He took his own life. Kevin wanted to give up, too. He experienced a debilitating depression that was almost too much to cope with. But, Kevin found his strength. He knew giving up was never the right answer. No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter how much he missed his dad, he wasn’t willing to give up.

Because of that experience, Kevin became stronger. As he faced more trials and tribulations, they became easier to overcome. He was developing resilience through his hardships. He began to embrace adversity, because as Shakespeare said, it is the wisest course.

Throughout our conversation, Kevin repeated more than once,

“Resilience comes from accepting challenge and adversity as a part of life. You need to go through tough times, you can only build it through experience, there’s no other way.”

Whether it’s the tears and calluses you’ll develop on your hands in the gym, the blow to your ego you’ll experience embarrassing yourself in public, or the depression you can’t shake from all the stressors of life, remember that what you’re going through is the path to your greatest self. It’s the path to what you deserve to have, what you deserve to do, and who you deserve to become. It’s the path to becoming a champion.

Imagine if Kevin gave up.

He never would have been able to hug his friends and family again…

He never would have been able to help the sport of sledge hockey, or those suffering from mental health challenges and depression…

He would never have been a world champion or Paralympian…

Kevin for kevins blog 2

The message is simple, you have the strength to win on the battlefield of life. But, it’s only you that can decide to remain resilient. Only you can decide if you’re willing to suffer, face more adversity, and persevere longer and more intensely than anyone of your competitors. Only you can decide to never give up.

So, never give up.

Ever.

Do This:

  1. Educate– Kevin has developed a resource available for anyone to use for free. Inside his 10 Commandments of Resiliency e-book, he outlines the tools, strategies, and philosophies he uses to build resilience that go far above and beyond what I can explain in one post. If you want access to those resources, you can download it here.
  2. Practice– Don’t let a lack of mental fortitude stand in the way between you and your goals. Use this post and Kevin’s e-book as working documents for developing resilience in your life. Start by developing the philosophy that you can become the hero of your own movie. When you’ve mastered that, come back and take notes on what it means to take responsibility for all of the obstacles you’re going through. And finally, if you ever feel like quitting, we’re here to help remind you that giving up is not an option.
  3. Share– I’ve never asked any of my readers to share a post before. However, I feel so strongly that this message, and Kevin’s story, could be the catalyst for so many people to overcome their greatest adversity. If you feel that this post can help anyone you know, please share, it would mean the world to me.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

-J

Out.

Profile Of A Champion: Sowing and Reaping

When I look back on my high school experience, Physics was disproportionately my least favourite class. I was completely disinterested and for that reason my grades suffered. I would be bored, I’d play on my phone, and I’d often fall asleep in class. I felt, like many students do, that Physics had no relevance in my life. If time is our most valuable asset, why was I wasting it learning about something I’d never use? What I failed to recognize at the time was that not only did the laws of Physics and the laws of nature matter, they were all that mattered.

Take Newton’s third law as an example. Newton’s third law describes the purpose of action and reaction in our experience. He said,

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

He was able to demonstrate in Physics that the size of the force on one object would equal the size of the force on a second object. Therefore the greater force applied in the primary action, the greater force experienced as a reaction. On top of that, it’s implied that if no force is applied in the first place, there is no cause for any reaction or result of any kind.

Sitting in that Physics class I didn’t see the big picture. In fact, it wasn’t until I was introduced to Jim Rohn that I fully grasped what it meant to leverage this law. To me, Jim was world class at simplifying ideas. Jim said the exact same thing in a slightly different way. In this life changing video, he demonstrates the powerful operating system that all the champions and high performers live their lives through. To phrase Newton’s Law as Jim would,

“Whatever you sow, you shall reap.”

Now that made sense! If the farmer didn’t sow his seeds in the spring, he reaped no harvest in the fall. But, if the farmer sowed day and night throughout the spring and tended to the weeds through the summer, a full harvest would virtually always follow. When I looked at my life from the lens of sowing and reaping, instead of Physics, I understood why I wasn’t reaping good. Unlike the champions, I didn’t have the action habit. I wasn’t working hard.  I wasn’t consistently applying force towards the accomplishment of a goal. I wasn’t taking the action required to sow the seeds of my future success.

Candidly, I was an average student, an average athlete, and I felt very depressed. I tried to blame my teachers, my school, and I’m ashamed to say it, even my parents. I didn’t realize what was causing such dismal results until I started to meet people who were reaping good. Until, on a consistent basis, I was surrounded by winners. By people who were taking action, sowing seeds and as a result, were reaping the benefits that virtually always follow.

For example, many of the fellows in Venture for Canada have been leveraging this law to reap fantastic harvests in their lives for years! In the March 2017 selection day I was asked to help facilitate a room of finalists. In that room I met one of the most impressive young professionals I’d ever seen. She was sharp, witty, and gave off the impression she was a seasoned veteran in high-stakes environments. I had a gut feeling from our brief introduction that she would rock the day and that I would see her a few months later as a member of our cohort. I was right.

Sam Sproule Headshot

Highly influenced by her parents, Sam Sproule was born in Rockland, Ottawa. In 2016, she graduated from Acadia University with a Business Administration Degree, majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Unsatisfied with the impact she left at the school, she successfully ran for President of the Acadia Students’ union for the 2016-2017 year. While being responsible for the Unions $2.5 million operating budget, she also advocated for the needs of students to all three levels of government, as well as, to the University through the Board of Governors and Senate. If that wasn’t enough action already, Sam took on a honours research project that has now laid the foundation for a entrepreneurship-focused living space on campus at Acadia University. Impressive? Yes. Possible without the massive and dedicated action towards her goals? No.

As I got the opportunity to get to know Sam better, I learned two things.

  1. She is one of the most humble people I know. She has accomplished so much and yet I had to pry hard to get to the specifics of her wins.
  2. She is an impressive relationship builder. I could see in her story, woven together like beautiful poetry, the cause and effects of building deep and meaningful relationships.

Sam demonstrated to me that in the life of the champion, the 5 Laws of Sowing and reaping always play out. In this profile you’ll learn how to avoid the grips of regret while simultaneously squeezing as much as possible out of this short life.

Sowing and Reaping Applied

First: The law of sowing and reaping is negative. 

Thistle for blog

If you sow bad, you reap bad. This is extremely basic, but it’s important to cover the basics. If you plant thistle seeds, you don’t get pumpkins. If you’re like me at sixteen and you plant mental seeds of insecurity, you don’t get confidence. If you plant seeds of deception through lies, you don’t get trust. Or if you plant no seeds through procrastination, you don’t get the results that come from taking action! Remember, the law is negative.

Second: The Law of sowing and reaping is positive.

Pumpkins for blog

If you sow good, you reap good. If you plant pumpkin seeds, you won’t get thistles! And the more I learned about Sam, the more I realized she was planting pumpkin seeds. Her whole life she’s been sowing seeds of trust, generosity, and hard work. When she decided to return to Acadia in the 2016-2017 school year, she had already spent three years developing a broad network and deep relationships throughout campus.

Despite never been on the Students’ Representative Council and being considered an underdog in the race, Sam applied to run as president. Typically, having served as a member of the Council would be expected, especially for one applying to become President. However, Sam’s narrative emphasizes the importance of sowing good seeds of reputation.

Sam had worked at the Union information desk and the school bar. She was on 24/7 attending events and meeting people. All the while showing up in life as sincere, hard working, and genuinely prepared to advocate for the students she would represent. In the end, against all odds, she sowed good and as a result was well deserving in her presidential election.

Third: You do not reap what you sow. But rather, you reap much more than you sow. 

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This is where the law of sowing and reaping gets exciting. The key here is more. You don’t get back what you put out, you get back much more than you put out. It’s important to remember that again, the law works both positive and negative. On the negative side it says, if you sow to the wind, you get the whirlwind. I found that to be true. A few years of negative thinking, an idle body, and being in the wrong environment, projected me into years of anxiety and depression. The darkest days of my life taught me profound lessons about protecting my mind and the criticality of sowing good seeds.

On the positive side, it’s clear that when the farmer plants his seeds of corn, kale, or apple trees he reaps an abundant harvest 10x what he planted. He doesn’t get back one apple, he experiences the joy of sharing generations of apples with his family. The same law proved true in Sam’s University life.

All of the hard work leading up to being President of the Student Union payed off.  But, becoming president was just the start. Sam was given more opportunities than she had ever imagined. She began to represent and advocate for over 20,000 students while working with Students Nova Scotia as well as over 250,000 Federally with the Canadian Alliance of Student Association. Here, Sam continued to build her reputation of working hard for student advocacy. Along with her team, she met with Members of the Legislative Assembly, Members of Parliament , and Senators to discuss priorities for students on accessibility, affordability, and affecting policy. This alone should be a fantastic motivator for all of us knowing that we do in fact reap more than we sow. But, there’s more.

Not only did those experiences themselves plant new seeds of skills and confidence, it continued to build upon the foundation and credibility she had started years prior. Still a student at the time, she was additionally dedicating her entire year to a seventy page research paper. Her paper would highlight entrepreneurship on campus and argue the benefits of creating a space for students to collaborate informally on projects of passions. Here we see the third law play out again!

If we only reaped what we sowed, having the entrepreneurial residence on campus come to fruition, because of her paper, would be the end of the story. But, again, there is much more. If it wasn’t for the reputation she had built and for the seeds she had sown while creating her honours paper, we never would have met! Her professor was so impressed by her work ethic that he introduced Sam to the Atlantic Program Director for Venture for Canada. Now a member of Venture for Canada she is set up to continue to receive an abundant harvest for years to come.

Fourth: You reap what you sow, but…

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One thing better than the truth is the whole truth… Here’s the whole truth. You could lose. There are times when no matter how many seeds you plant, no matter how many relationships you build, and no matter how hard you work it doesn’t pay off. Remember the farmer?

The farmer plants his seed in the spring, come summer he works ten-twelve hours a day, six-seven days a week. He has the character of a champion and come fall he’s got a beautiful crop. Not to mention, he deserves every bit of it. But, the day before he sends the combines into the field, a hail storm comes and beats all of his crop into the ground. Which means, he lost! He did nothing wrong. It’s just that kind of planet. Sometimes it will hail on your crop and rain on your parade. Sometimes you lose, that’s part of life. But…

Last: If you don’t sow, you don’t reap. 

empty wallet

The biggest mistake I made with the law of sowing and reaping is that I had lost so many times I gave up trying. Never give up sowing good seeds! If you don’t sow, you don’t reap. You don’t even have a chance! It’s a tough to come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard we work we could lose. But what a tragedy it would be to run through life never really giving yourself a shot? Imagine the regret knowing that at the end of your life you never sowed the seeds of the life you truly desired.

You never met the girl. You never did that one gig for free that could have blown up your career. You never learned that language that could have opened your life up to unlimited possibilities. Avoiding regret and living like a champion is simple, but not easy. Sam shared that no matter your path, hard work will always be respected and appreciated. Make a decision today that you will plant the seeds of the future you desire. Otherwise, you may not get another chance.

Do this. 

For many, including myself, the law of sowing and reaping may not be clear at first. Most people can understand that they’re not reaping extraordinary results, but it doesn’t mean they know why. If you’re still confused like I was for a long time about how this all applies, the answer could be in the same quote written a different way.

“Whatever you reap is what you’ve sown.”

Now the problem is clear, we can go to work on improving our lives right away! Whatever you reap is what you’ve sown. If you don’t like the results, who do you look up? Answer, whoever planted it! And where can you find who planted your crop? Answer, in the mirror!

  1. Go to the mirror– When fall comes around we need to go to the mirror. Who’s responsible for what’s showing up in our lives? Whether we like the harvest or not, we’re responsible for planting the seeds of our lives. We need to take ownership of everything we do, have, and become. If you’re ecstatic about an abundant harvest that you’ve reaped, good. Document what’s working and triple down! If you’re unimpressed with the few skinny carrots you’ve delivered at the end of the day, good. It’s an opportunity for you to be honest with yourself about your work ethic, commitment, and focus. Then, take ownership and make it happen.
  2. Know what you want- It’s critical to understand what you’re after. If you don’t know what you want and the direction you want to take, there’s a high probability you won’t plant enough seeds into one specific priority, to achieve anything of substance. The champion is willing to focus their energies into a specific goal for weeks, months, and even years. Getting clear on what you want will allow you to invest your energy wisely.
  3. Be like Sam- Sam is a champion. And with each champion that I’ve interviewed, it’s clear they’ve all sown and invested huge amounts of time and resources into building strong relationships. If you’re going to remember one thing from this post, it’s to intentionally plant, and cultivate, deep personal and professional relationships. Almost all of Sam’s results, from becoming President of the Student Union, working with Governments, being introduced to Venture for Canada, and even to her current employment, has been the direct result of a relationship she had developed. Be like Sam and start sowing today!

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

-J 

Out.

Profile Of A Champion: Goals, The Mind, And Mastery Of Emotions

In my experience, goals, the mind, and emotions are like a three legged stool. If one leg is removed, the stool would inevitably fall. Without goals, we experience emotions of confusion, anxiety, and frustration. Without the right mindset, we see people without enough belief in themselves to even start or get close to accomplishing their goals. And last, without mastery over emotions, each obstacle, setback, and dip in the journey presents itself as an impossible challenge. Alas, it’s only through the presence of all three, their intimate and interdependent relationship, that allow the champion to live a life of achievement and fulfillment.

None more important than the others, when you see all three aligned with intention, the cumulative effects are powerful. It presents itself clearly in the way the champion shows up for life. It’s so obvious, that I had heard stories of this specific champion before I had even met her. I’d heard stories about her confidence, enthusiasm, and influence during Venture for Canada selection day. I was told that she dominated the challenges and unlike me, was unfazed by the tough questions and competition. Finally, in May of 2017, we met and I understood why.

Do you remember the last time you saw someone that walked with purpose? Who’s presence and energy was magnetic? Who, when you met them for the first time, your immediate impression was that they were different? I do. And when I met Sharita I knew I wanted to show up for life how she showed up. I knew I wanted to deconstruct what made her such a high performer so that you and I could do the same.

Sharitas headshot

Raised as a first generation Canadian, her parents, a Micro Biologist and a Chemist, helped Sharita cultivate a love for athletics and knowledge. Much the same as many of the champions I’ve come to know and admire, she is highly motivated and extremely competitive in all of her pursuits. A recent graduate from the Honours Environment and Business co-op program at the University of Waterloo, Sharita is a fellow with Venture for Canada, a dedicated pole dancer, has Shakespeare tattoos, and is crushing Sales at Georgette Packaging. Her unique philosophy on goal setting, and the mindset required to accomplish those goals, will prove incredibly useful on our continuous journey to embody the profile of a champion.

Goals

Goal setting for blog

Personally, I’ve never liked goals. In fact, I really resisted them up until the last 4 years. Even when I did try to write them down, it proved extremely challenging. Do you notice how heavy a pen feels when you try to write down your goals? Do you notice when we start writing how limited they get? I know I’m not alone. I never wrote down my goals for same reason most people don’t, because we know we aren’t going to keep our word.

The champion on the other hand, holds goals contextually in a completely different way! Sharita for one, has a personal philosophy on goal setting that I found inspiring. She believes,

“It’s okay to set impossible goals. But, every step to that goal has to be meticulously calculated and very real.”

All you need to do to know why it’s important to set goals is to observe someone who is up to something. Those like Sharita, who are out to achieve, have a different spark. They show up in life with a different demeanor about them. There’s something attractive about people who are intending to do something. Why? Because what you’re seeing is a human beings true self expression.

In one of my favourite posts everDr Maxwell Maltz demonstrated human beings are obviously like bicycles. If a bicycle isn’t headed towards something it loses it’s equilibrium and falls over. You and I are designed exactly like that emotionally! If we aren’t going towards something, if we have no goal, our life forces and energies are splintered and splattered. And it’s clear from the first eighteen years of my life, we cannot produce results like that.

When I met Sharita I could tell she was a goal setter. She sets goals because like me, and perhaps like you right now, she knows how it feels to be without a goal. In 2011, Sharita broke her shoulder playing soccer. Highly competitive and aggressive on the field, she fell battling for the ball with another player. With her arm stretched out, the other player landed on her shoulder shattering multiple bones. Ready to play varsity soccer in University, it was one of the first times Sharita was without a direction.

Can she be an athlete anymore? Should she continue to pursue science? Would she even go to University? Like many high school students today, she didn’t know what she wanted to do. Worse, she had no goal or direction motivating her to make a decision and move forward. It was one of the darkest and most mentally challenging times of her life.

I wish we could get all the high school students that are confused about their future to read this… There are consequences to having no direction! Remember, if we’re not moving towards something it’s easy for us to just fall right over. What shows up for those who have no goals is uncertainty, anxiety, confusion, and often times even depression. All these emotions are is a warning sign that we’re out of sync!

Why set goals like the champion? Because it is consistent with our nature. It’s consistent with the machinery of how we’re made as human beings. Not only does it garner your focus and energies to get things done, it compels us to reach out and achieve.

The Mind

The mind for the blog

On a biological level, the mind is extremely complex. On the other hand, on a practical level the mind is extremely simple. Further, the worlds most profound philosophical literature has preached the importance of positive thinking and the protection of our minds for thousands of years.

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelis

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” – Confucius

To break it down, on a practical level, there are only two parts to the mind. The thinker and the prover. 

The thinker thinks.

The prover proves.

What does the prover prove? Simple, whatever the thinker thinks. Let’s explore two examples:

A) I can’t do it. That was my thought pattern for the first eighteen years of my life. With plenty of talent, work ethic, and ability, I lacked the belief in myself to think that I could win. Now, the proving part of my mind had to bring into my experience the actual events and criteria that say’s I’m right! You can’t do it… I manifested I can’t do it over and over and over again for eighteen years. I talked myself out of opportunities, I failed when I should have succeeded, and I gave up far too quickly on challenges where I should have persevered.

The thinker thinks and the prover proves.

B) I can do it. That was Sharita’s thought pattern her whole life. The thinker thinks, what must her prover prove? The prover must bring into her experience all of the events and criteria that say’s you’re right! You can do it… Sharita told me about a business pitch contest at Waterloo’s Social Incubator last year. Students had been working on business plans, financial projections, and scripts for months. With less than six hours before the start of the event she was asked to participate!

Most people including me would have backed off and said there wasn’t enough time to prepare. Sharita on the other hand didn’t question herself, the time, or if she had enough information. She read the description and immediately knew she could do it. In less than six hours, with one piece of paper and three powerpoint slides, Sharita pitched her idea with full confidence knowing that she had what it took to win. What do you think her prover did in those moments? Surprise, surprise, she showed up with conviction winning the entire competition and a fellowship with the Incubator.

The thinker thinks and the prover proves.

When you set a goal, and lay it on top of a foundation full of negative thoughts and self doubt, it’s a recipe for disaster. But, when you tackle your goals head on with the belief that you can do this. You deserve to be a winner. You were born to be a winner. And that you have all the confidence, all the skills, and all of the resources needed to accomplish your goals, your prover will bring into your life all of the experiences that are in exact agreement with the thinker.

Do not discount the simplicity of this process. The champion forces themselves to develop an empowering self-image. They force themselves to think positive thoughts. They understand what Marcus Aurelius said when he wrote that our life is what our thoughts make it. Think, and prove your way to embodying the champion.

Mastery of Emotions

emotions for the blog

From the moment we’re born, we’re fashioning our character out of our emotional responses to the world around us. I believe that emotions exist so that we can manipulate, dominate, and control everything in our experience. Think about this… When you were a baby, you’d cry and you’d get your mother or father’s response. You had a behaviour that elicited the response you wanted, so you continued that behaviour.

This is true for both the negative emotions we experienced in life as well as the positives. If we had a behaviour (public speaking, asking someone out, trying to make a joke, etc) that elicited an emotion or response we didn’t like, we cut off that behaviour all together. For the most part, this is done completely unconsciously. Therefore, for most people, they’ve unknowingly designed their life around the avoidance of the uncomfortable emotions they’ve decided are most uncomfortable for them. Sit with that for a second.

We have emotions that we’ve voted on to be so severe for us to experience that we have shaped our entire lives out of the avoidance of those emotions. Emotions like failure, undeserving, unlovable, not good enough. But the champion doesn’t do that. The champion understands that nobody attached meaning to those emotions except them. They’ve discovered that if you are unwilling to include those emotions and master their own response, they’re going to lose! There is no other reason on this planet that will make the average person lose other than their emotions.

I love Sharita’s story because she proved mastery over emotions at a very young age. When she was a teenager she played for the best soccer team in the Province. Her coach was well known for being disciplined and blunt. In fact, he was so harsh that many girls on their team would cry and quit after being given feedback on poor performance. Sharita recalls one terrible game specifically  where  her coach brought her aside after the game. He said that she could leave the team if she wanted to. That if she was going to stay she would need to step up and make a real contribution. He went on to say that her mediocre performance wasn’t going to cut it on that team.

This is where most people are slapped in the face with feelings of anger, disappointment, embarrassment and resentment. This is where most people quit. Sharita, however, displayed true mastery of her emotions. She immediately started practicing an extra three-five hours a day. She started going to camps where they taught high performance soccer skills. Unlike the runners up in life, when faced with difficult emotions instead of getting bitter, the champion decides to get better.

As you think about handling your emotions in your own life, remember that, just like you, Sharita had a choice. In those moments of adversity, challenge, and even disappointment, we get to decide the theme, or meaning that we attribute to the events in our lives. Nobody else get’s to decide the way you feel about what happens to you in life except for you. Don’t make yourself the victim of your own thinking. Rise up like the champion and attach new meaning to the emotions in life that make you feel uncomfortable.

Do This. 

  1. Write Down Your Goals– Ask yourself whether or not you have written down clearly defined goals for the second half of this year. If not, why not? Do you think you won’t keep your word? Are you afraid of success? Afraid of failure? Do you need an accountability partner to hold your ass to the fire? Whatever the reason, know that the excuses are only lies, do not rationalize. Take the evening to map out what you want and how you’re going to get there.
  2. Be honest about your thoughts- Because our thoughts are unconscious it’s challenging to pick up whether or not our thinker is helping to empower us. The easiest way to know is to check the fruit. If your thoughts are the seeds you’ve planted in your life, how are the results? Are you accomplishing the goals you set out to achieve? Did you lose that weight you wanted to? Did you hit that quota you set your sights on? Did you start that blog/business/video you wanted? Or have you procrastinated and made excuses as to why it’s a bad time to start. If the fruit is bad, there’s a good chance the seeds are bad too.
  3. Seek out discomfort- One of the quickest and most effective ways I’ve found to build mastery over emotions is to expose yourself to discomfort. My personal favourite are waking up early, taking ice cold showers every morning, and public speaking. Choose something small to start and slowly make your way to mastery over the emotions that make you feel uncomfortable.
  4. Re-read this post- Fundamentally, all of the other attributes of the champion, lay on top of your goals, the mind, and the mastery of your emotions. These three pillars are the foundation for your character and future success. Invest the time in yourself to understand where you have a weakness in one of these three areas and bring it up to par!

Leave a comment and let me know which of the three you’re going to start working on! I’m working with my accountability partner Ryan to have a clearer view of my goals and the steps and behaviours required to get them completed.

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change the direction.”

-J

Out.

Profile Of A Champion: The Giver

Five months ago, I got kicked out of my Nona’s house. New to the city and now homeless, I didn’t have a clue of where to go next. At the time I was stressed, anxious, and pissed off at my grandparents. But looking back, I’d never change the tough love I experienced. The entire situation forced me to look critically at myself. A couple nights of huddling in the freezing cold, in the backseat of my 2000 Jetta, really helped me see my shortcomings!

In those moments, I realized that I had always been on the receiving end of my relationships. I defaulted into being a taker, asking for more than I’d given. I lived with my Nona for 6 months, rarely, if ever, contributing. I was focused on writing, reading, speaking, and volunteering outside of our home. And it was through this experience I learned that the taker never wins long term. It’s the honest giver who earns your trust, confidence and admiration. Givers earn your respect. It is they who are valued and who embody the champion. It became clear to me that if I was going to become a champion, I needed to develop a giving mentality.

Fortunately, there have been more champions in my life today than ever before! When I was at Venture for Canada training camp in May, I observed individual after individual that demonstrated this invaluable trait. The more champions I met, the more generosity, selflessness, and giving continued to show up as a theme in their character. One fellow in particular caught my attention. They went out of their way to compliment others, to share all of their best strategies and tools, and to made sure to contribute to the positive experience of every single fellow.

During the morning session of my third day, she sat in front of forty people, completely vulnerable, and shared her mind map. The map consisted of all her goals, ambitions, and plans for the year ahead. Meant for her eyes only, she shared the essence of who she was with a group she had met only a couple of days ago. As the map was passed around, eventually landing on my lap, I read one of the most profound mission statements I’d ever seen. It wrote,

“My purpose lies in living a life that creates social good, both personally and professionally. I will live a life that embodies generosity, kindness, strength and compassion. I prioritize balance and well-being. I will make time to discover the world. And I will seize every opportunity to learn and I will be present for those I love and who love me.”

I immediately knew she was the model I sought out. She was the missing link that could open me up to a world of giving and social good. Her name, is Lucia.

Lucia profile of a champion headshot

Lucia has been by far one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. As her mission statement suggests, Lucia is engrossed in multiple ventures to help leave a positive impact in this world. One, accessible to support by the public, is an initiative to build libraries in needy schools and communities throughout her home country, Honduras. This year she is hoping to launch two more ventures, one to promote gender parity in STREAM fields through play, and one to champion innovation in emerging markets. On top of that, she wakes up between 4:30 and 5am everyday, is Trilingual, and is working on her first belt in Krav Maga (I wouldn’t mess with her if I was you). During the day, she works full-time as the Marketing Coordinator for the National Angel Capital Organization.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the more I get to know her, the more I realize that she embodies all eight of the qualities making up the profile of a champion. And because of that she’s paved a path for what it means to be a giver. If we model that path, we too can live a life of abundance and fulfillment.

Now, before you can live that life, it’s important to know what to avoid. Let me help you with that.

The Taker

The taker

Both Lucia and Adam Grant, Author of “Give and Take“, would characterize the behaviour while living at my Nona’s as that of a taker. The taker views interactions as a way of extracting value from other people. They approach people with the mindset of, “How can  get as much as possible from this exchange?” They tend to believe that by taking, it’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals.

Admittedly, and unfortunately, that was true for me. I was too frugal to contribute in rent. And even if I couldn’t afford to pitch in with money, I didn’t try to help out in other ways. I took advantage of the food in the house instead of helping out with the groceries or cooking for my grandparents. I didn’t care for the house or try to help maintain it. I didn’t clean up after myself enough. I didn’t even contribute to the laundry…

Looking back, I recognize my selfishness. I’m surprised they didn’t kick me out sooner! And I’m lucky that’s all that happened. If you’re a taker, more often than not, you’ll burn bridges in your relationships and start to be known as someone who is selfish, narcissistic, and cancerous to teams. So let me be clear, the taker never wins long term. They may get lucky and avoid being noticed at first, but in the long run, they will be exposed and lose.

While most people will never be exclusively  givers or takers, the champion is, by and large, a giver. So if you recognize yourself in the description of the taker and want to work towards becoming a champion as I do, it’s time to audit your behaviour and at least be a matcher.

The Matcher

The matcher

If you’re thinking I’m being pretty hard on myself, I am. It’s by being critical of my behaviour that I’ve been able to transition to being at least a matcher. In most of our interactions, our instinct is to maintain and even balance of give-and take in life. We try to keep fairness and a sense of quid pro quo in our dealings with others. If we do someone a favour, we virtually always expect an equal one in return.

This is where I see myself today. As a salesman, one of my favourite books is Robert Cialdini’s, “Influence“. In that book, the first rule of influence is reciprocity. Robert shares that in society, we’ve grown up in a culture where I’m obligated to give back to you the same form of behaviour that you give to me. For example, if you invite me to one of your parties, I should invite you to one of mine. If you remember my birthday with a gift, I should bring one to yours. And if you do me a favour, I owe you a favour.

I loved that concept! It’s better than a taker right? Well, it turns out, only slightly. After diving into purpose, giving, and what it means to be generous with Lucia, I found out the huge difference intention makes in the giving process. When writing Ryan Cobb‘s post on doing more than expected, Lucia was literally the first one to message me privately and give me feedback for where I stumbled in his write up.

Much like Lucia, Ryan isn’t a matcher, he’s a giver. He doesn’t approach situations knowing that by doing and giving more than expected, he’ll in turn, get more because of reciprocity. No. Both Ryan and Lucia’s intentions when giving, are to give. End of story. It’s not about economics, it’s not about reciprocation, it’s about doing the right thing and how it makes them feel to be a giver. Lucia shared that,

“As soon as you start adding, ‘what am I getting out of this?’ your giving becomes disingenuous. You need to be willing to put others before yourself. The whole point of being a generous human being is that it comes from a place of helping others. Selflessness is key.”

Matchers, as Lucia pointed out, aren’t being generous. Further, in my experience with matching, I’ve even been seen as manipulative or that I was only doing a favour because I expected one in return. I don’t want to come from that place anymore. Do you? As a matcher, I do understand that I’m making better decisions than when I was a taker. But, I know I have the capacity to do better. Generosity is about intentions. I want to challenge you, as I have myself, that if your intentions are to take, or to give solely because we expect reciprocity, it’s time to start modelling a giver, immediately.

The Giver

Lucia Profile of a champion Screenshot

Every week on my Facebook wall I can expect to see this post by Lucia. Selflessly, she opens up her time, energy, and resources, to contribute to lives of her community in one way or another. Just as Adam Grant describes, the champion comes into an interaction trying to figure out, “What can I contribute here? How Can I add value here?” The champion is looking for ways to be helpful, without strings attached. 

Now that it’s clear what the giver looks like, there’s only one final question to ask: why is the champion a giver, rather than a matcher or taker?

As discussed, the taker will lose long term. Wether that is due to poor relationships or reputation, they aren’t able to build enough trust to open them up for opportunity in the future.

The matcher, although better, can still be perceived as having dishonourable intentions. On top of that, you will always have to give a matcher more if you want to receive more. Not only does this have diminishing returns, the matcher is less likely to take on a leadership role in tough times. When the situation has less to give, so does the matcher.

The giver however, should be our default mode. Have you ever wondered how you could feel more passion and zest for life? The answer is help other people. I’m a huge Tony Robbins fan. He’s famous for saying that one, of the only two paths to fulfillment, is through contribution.

The givers and the champions in your life find more meaning and purpose in their work and experience because they’re contributing. They know that what they do daily, truly makes a difference. They make it clear that their colleagues, friends, and family are really important to them, and as a result, they end up building many and deep relationships with people who often become sources of creative ideas and open doors to new opportunities.

According to Lucia, givers can look forward to more opportunities, responsibility, and respect. Over time, the more she gives, the more her professional results are dramatically amplified. Her coworkers and friends recognize this character trait, and know that if given a task or added responsibility, she will be generous with the effort she puts in. That is what builds her reputation. The possibilities for someone who is a problem solver, resourceful, and giving are endless.

She warns however that as much as it’s important to come from a place of selflessness, it’s equally important to be generous with one’s self.  Avoid becoming a doormat. Lucia stressed to me that being a giver is not always easy. It’s easy to take a beating because some people will take advantage of you. So remember, just like on an airplane, we need to put our own oxygen mask on first, to make sure we can support and give to those around us. In the end, the quality and quantity of what we give is improved when it’s coming from a happier, balanced, and nurtured place.

I don’t know about you, but I want endless possibilities. I want more respect, trust, and deeper relationships in my life. I want to be a giver. Fortunately for me, and for anyone on the path to becoming a champion, we have examples like Lucia, Ryan, and others we can turn to and model.

Do This. 

  1. Learn from Lucia- Lucia’s Facebook post is only one of many examples of how she gives. One of the most humble people I know, Lucia described all of her initiatives to give as simply part of her values and purpose. She want’s to show others that there is more than one way to give. Today, she’s engaged in two socially conscious businesses. Volunteers with many charitable organizations and with her local MP. She contributes to building homes and even though she’s always wanted a tattoo, she’s never gone through with it because it would interrupt her blood donation schedule! The key is that Lucia is intentional with her giving. She regularly schedules time out of her busy life (trust me, I thought I was busy) to make a contribution. I personally plan on spending more time volunteering, how about you?
  2. Focus on the little things- If you can’t do that she said, simply focus on the small things you can do every single day. Where can you be more generous at work? With your family? With your friends? Can you hold doors? Share an insight of something you recently learned? Make an introduction? There are unlimited ways to be generous. Unlike the taker, Lucia says that the giver asks themselves daily, “Am I making the world better, yes or no?” “Am I making this persons life better, yes or no?” If you can’t go big, start small. You’ll feel so good, that small wins will grow into big ones over time!
  3. Start Now– Let’s go on this journey of giving together. Lucia has been generous even to provide her email for anyone that has further questions about generosity or her story (mgallardo115@gmail.com). Take her up on the offer because she’s the type of champion you want in your life!

Our families deserve our contribution. Our work deserves our contribution. Our Country deserves our contribution. And most importantly, we deserve the feelings of fulfillment and joy that will inevitably follow us on our path to endless possibilities!

Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction”

-J

Out.