Mental Toughness Reboot
Mental toughness is an interesting concept. I have been diving into some reading and podcasts lately and I always seem to gravitate toward this topic. I think it is because I have dealt with some challenges over the past few years. Some have been physical while others have surfaced in that empty space between my ears. I have always considered myself “tough”. I was the kid diving all over the court or ball field and doing whatever it took to get the job done. And let’s face it, with a mouth like mine and a face people like to hit, you either get tough or spend a lot of time running. I carried that mentality into the working world and overall I think it has served me well over the years. But I got to thinking…. What makes someone tough? Are you just born that way? Maybe. I think some are tougher by nature than others. But as I have aged I have come to realize that the more you go through the tougher you become. I sit back and think about it and realize I haven’t really been through that much compared to most. In short, I’ve had it pretty good. I was sitting and chatting with my neighbor Jimmy (he’s 76) the other day on the anniversary of his son’s passing eight years ago. I looked at him and couldn’t even begin to imagine his pain. They say you never get over losing a child, you just learn to live with it. So we just sat. And talked. And in the process I realized that over the course of the last three years of us being neighbors that I in some small way have unknowingly helped to fill a huge void. He comes over a lot and I bring the dog over a lot. We sit on his couch in the garage and he tells stories. Some about the Navy, some about his days at UPS. Some are repeats but Tuck and I don’t care. He offers advice and always says “not to sound like your DAD or anything…” . I share about work and life and we fill the dog full of treats. I call him my Tuesdays with Morrie. If you don’t know what that is then grab the book by Mitch Albom and sit down. Jimmy is my dog walker, Head of Security and my Friend. I couldn’t be luckier to have landed next to he and his wife Jackie. Funny thing about life how sometimes what we need is right in front of us if we just open our eyes.
I guess I got off track there a little bit (SQUIRREL!) but it was worth it. So, Mental Toughness. I always thought it was defined by just carrying on, pull up your bootstraps and quitchertbitchin’. Don’t be a wuss. All that. But I think it’s more than that. It think it’s taking care of yourself, knowing when enough is enough and when to pull back and focus on YOU. We have been so conditioned to worry about everyone else that we sometimes forget to check our OWN oil so to speak. I recently had blood work done and was horrified at my levels. Without getting into too much detail I can tell you it has taken me a long time to get my Vitamin D back where it belongs. We get run down, we persevere, carry on. We put everyone else first. Sometimes you just need a break. I am certainly guilty of the “more is better” approach and “get up one more time than you get knocked down”. I’m all about it. BUT, at some point you have to rest and refuel and let that fight or flight mindset go. Otherwise you fall into a deep hole and no matter how much you throw at it you are NOT getting out. Three things I have always viewed as a tremendous waste of time - sleeping, eating and stopping for gas. I’m now taking time for all and not trying to rush through my day.
Stress can kill you. It presents in different ways and we all combat it in our own way. Some smoke, others drink, some exercise and some lash out at others for no apparent reason. And some of us keep it inside, withdrawing, never talking about it or sharing how we feel. Sometimes just TELLING someone can help alleviate it. I take lots of deep breaths and as my mom says “Don’t react”. I’m a work in progress on that one. If you fire a shitty email at me I have been known to fire back a shittier one in under eight seconds. That accomplishes nothing and helps no one.
How about that person that is ALWAYS stressed? I ask them what they are doing about it. What are you changing? What causes the stress? How can I help? Is it going to be the same tomorrow? That must be awful. I try to make adjustments, change behavior or environments and even change who I surround myself with. Again, a work in progress over here. As part of working on ME I am doing “75 Hard”. It is a simple mental toughness program created by Andy Frisella. It’s not a fitness challenge but more of an Ironman for the brain. You have to do the following things daily.
- Complete TWO 45 minute workouts. One MUST be outside. And they can’t be back to back, there must be a few hours in between. I have been walking, running and strength training to meet this requirement.
- Follow a diet. Any diet, just follow one. I am meeting with Mike Foley weekly. It’s working. Down 15#
- No Cheat Meals. Not one. Zero
- No Alcohol. Easy. Don’t miss it, and I feel better.
- Drink one gallon of water. NOT easy. This one kills me but I’m doing it.
- Read 10 page of a non-fiction book. Something in the personal development area. Piece of cake.
- Take a progress picture every day
For 75 Days. Miss one day or don’t get something in and you go back to day one. Today is day 40 for me. I started on my birthday. Is it hard? Yes, it’s hard, that’s why it’s not called 75 Easy. But I’m doing it and I’m getting there. About the time Covid hit I went down with a herniated disc in my back. I had already put on some weight and the injury only made it worse. So I am chiseling the chub off and lifting weights. It’s been fun to see the results. My back is better and I FEEL better. A couple people have said to me “ why are YOU doing 75 Hard? You’ve done Ironmans and Marathons and all that stuff….isn’t it easy??” To some extent yes, but only because I am mentally conditioned to do a lot of exercise. But the daily grind of having to knock out these six or seven specific things is what is hard. Life happens and all of a sudden it’s 9:30 PM and raining, I haven’t gotten workout #2 in yet and it needs to be outside. So somebody is about to get wet. So, 35 more days. Piece of cake, ;)
On the business side I am working hard at improving my game as well. This week I am spending a few days in Denver with a bunch of like minded individuals at The Mile High Summit. It is put on by The Contractor Fight, a group I joined awhile back as a way to work through some of the challenges of owning and operating my own contracting business. I have lots to learn but I also bring some experience to the group. I am enjoying it, meeting new people and elevating the game.
Saturday I am going to shoot over to Texas “while I am in the neighborhood” and see my Girl. She’s over there setting the world on fire and blazing her own path - which makes me a tremendously proud dad.
Alright, I’m out for now. Been a bit since I have written. Remember to be TOUGH.. but not TOO tough ;)