Many years ago, I introduced a new format that alongside our regular episodes called “Lessons for Hannah.”
Hannah is my daughter and one of the main inspirations for the Misfit Entrepreneur. I wanted to have a place where she could go and learn from her daddy and his Misfit friends throughout her life…. even after I am gone. If you haven’t listened to the first episode of Lessons for Hannah, I urge you to as it gives some more background and tells the amazing story of how Hannah came to be in our lives.
Lessons for Hannah are short, very useful, and sometimes comical lessons, that I want to share with you and give to Hannah to help in your lives. Because I want Hannah to have these for her life, I’m going to speak as though I am talking directly to her. These episodes are a lot of fun and if you think there is a lesson that we should include in these episodes, please don’t hesitate to send it over to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to share it.
This Week's Lesson for Hannah
Hannah, I am excited to speak to you about one of my favorite topics, mental toughness. There are many takes on this subject and tons of books written on it. It seems there is a new book out on the subject every week. And I can understand why, achieving true mental toughness is personal to each person. How you find yours will be personal to you. I can only speak from my experience and how I have achieved my levels of mental toughness in my life – and I hope it inspires you to level up in yours.
First, what does it mean to be mentally tough? To me it is the ability to respond rather than react to hard circumstances in our lives. Notice I said respond. Most people react emotionally and let fear drive them when hard times come. They cede control of thought to the basic animal side of humanity and react in ways that are typically detrimental to themselves and their potential.
Being mentally tough is being prepared for the hard times because they will inevitably come, and then having the fortitude to say no to the emotional reaction and instead think logically and work through the challenge to reach the best outcome. Being mentally tough is keeping perspective as hard times come, and they go, and life goes on. You must never lose faith in yourself, but you must see reality for what it is.
To be mentally tough is to be able to endure and outlast. One of my favorite movie trilogies is the Batman Trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. I like it for a lot of reasons. The series is a great set of lessons on good, evil, how fragile societies can be and of course, mental toughness. In one scene in the Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne and Alfred are talking about how in order to stop the Joker, he will have to turn himself in as the Joker has demanded it in order to stop his anarchy and crime spree. This was a moment of mental weakness for Bruce Wayne as he knew deep down that turning himself in would not stop the Joker and Batman was the only way. He asks Alfred what he should do, and Alfred says, “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it, but that's the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.”
I’ve learned that mental toughness is making the right choice even when it is the hardest choice, even when it may bring pain. It is making the right choice knowing others may not understand why at the time or be angry at you for it. It is enduring through all the things, including your own thoughts, that tell you to stop or quit, or give in because you know what is on the other side. You know the ultimate prize is waiting.
I have found my mental toughness through sports and entrepreneurship. I played football from grade school through college and then after college started endurance racing and ultimately Ironman. Sports provide one of the ultimate battle fields for mental toughness. You will go through highs and lows. You will stretch yourself physically and mentally. You will experience fatigue, not just from the work you must do to compete, but also in the form of doing something for a long period of time. I played football for almost 15 years and there were times where I just got tired of it – after all, I had been doing it for so long.
But something I realized is that I spent all this time getting to where I could be my best at the sport and to quit would be to waste all of that hard work and effort. It is the same with Ironman racing. There are a lot of days where my training plan calls for me to train for 5, 6, 7, hours or more. This means, I need to be starting at 4 or 5am in the morning to get everything in alongside all the other things I do and commitments to our family. I would be lying if I didn’t state that there are days where I get up and just am not feeling it and don’t want to do it. I question why I am even doing it – after all I don’t have to…it is an elective sport for me at this point in my life. Those are all emotional reactions, and I have learned to respond logically. It is in these moments that I think of all the benefits of what I am doing and move forward. For example, I have done all the work to get into the best shape physically and mentally of my life and the training is the practice to keep it. After all, it is a lot easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. I also know that it helps me in my health and my ability to be able to do all the things I do with you and your mom. I also know that it helps me as an entrepreneur and in my life as it keeps me disciplined. It keeps me in a good routine and structure. Lastly, I am being rewarded for the work as I am now Top 10% for my age in the world in the sport. And I also know that I have not reached my full potential yet. So, this keeps me going.
Entrepreneurship is similar to sports in that you have to take a long-term view and have the endurance to keep going through the challenges that present themselves on almost a daily basis. I have learned that the more problems you can handle and the bigger ones that you can handle, the larger your business can grow. And this capability allows you to develop others and help them reach their potential, because you can show them through your experience that they are capable of so much more. And ultimately, as an entrepreneur, you want to develop your systems and people so that the business can continue to grow and thrive without you having to be there for it to do so. The only way you can get there is by being mentally tough and sticking it out until it happens.
Hannah, developing your mental toughness and learning to respond rather than react when challenges and hard times come is a lifelong journey. It is worth it. It is worth to push and stretch yourself. It is worth to live into your true potential and capabilities. It is worth it to endure and develop the fortitude needed to see things through. I’ll leave you with a secret and probably the most important advice I will give you on this topic. You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, you are not alone. While you can rely on others, like your mom and I, to help in tough times, there is something else that is always there for you and by your side and that is God. Knowing God and Jesus are walking with you on your journey will keep you going. In fact, one of the most important phrases I use late in Ironman races after swimming over 2 miles, biking over a hundred, and getting deep into my marathon is “God is with me.” When I am feeling like my muscles don’t want to move any more or that I am too tired physically and mentally to go on, I just say that to myself, “God is with me. God will help me finish.”
And it is in these moments that I truly understand what it means to be mentally tough and keep going, because that is what Jesus did for us. He endured more than any human being every could to sacrifice himself and take on the burdens of this world, and knowing this, knowing I have him by my side means I can see anything through. He is the greatest example of mental toughness there is. Hannah, develop your mental toughness and you will be amazed at how you can see anything through.
I love you,
Best Quote: Being mentally tough is being prepared for the hard times because they will inevitably come, and then having the fortitude to say no to the emotional reaction and instead think logically and work through the challenge to reach the best outcome.
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