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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”