Last September, I had the opportunity to partake in an AWESOME new challenge—a four day, three-night backpacking and climbing expedition in Wallowa Mountains in Oregon with a team of ex-special forces military. The trek, called the Self Reliant Leadership™ Crucible, uses a physical challenge as a powerful metaphor for reinforcing the principles of resiliency, teamwork, decision-making, and resourcefulness.
As many of you know, I am an adventure-junkie, having hiked rim-to-rim the Grand Canyon, summited Kilimanjaro and trekked the INCA trail in Peru. But this recent journey was TOUGH in a different way. We started out 5,000-feet above sea level and would ascend to just over 7,500-feet during our first hike. We were also carrying 35-40 pound backpacks the whole time.
What started as an enjoyable four-hour hike with light rain turned into six-hour slow march. About halfway through our first day of hiking, a less experienced hiker was dealing with the strenuousness of the climb and the altitude. He was determined to not hold the group back and so became violently ill. He experienced a full-blown case of altitude sickness.
As any hiker knows, this is pretty much that “earn-your-stripes” kind of moment, analogous to falling off the horse for the first time and getting back on. But it still knocks the wind out of you in a moment where you need your breath, calm and clear-head the most. What was particularly impressive to me was the steadfast, positive attitude the hiker exhibited—despite feeling very crummy. He soldiered through, still finding the humor and joy in every step forward he took, and it reminded me of an essential concept by which I live my life:
You can tackle any challenge when you approach it 10 seconds at a time.
In this hiker’s case, we weren’t but 3.7 miles into an 8-mile hike—with a lot of 10-second intervals ahead! But that’s what he did. He took each 10-second period as it came, consistently placing one foot in front of the other and tapping into his grit and tenacity to finish the climb. He was an inspiration.
I’ve long believed that to be resilient is to be able to successfully bounce forward—not backwards—in the face of adversity. It’s about embracing challenges and opportunities that come your way. It’s about being adaptable and agile, having the ability to bend but not break and, most importantly, having the conviction to take that next step forward.
We all know resilience comes in many colors and shapes. It can be demonstrated in heroic moments—when someone looks unimaginable tragedy straight in the eye and finds a way through. We were reminded of this when we watched people run toward the center of conflict during the Boston Marathon bombing, or when we witnessed the survivors of Hurricane Irma pull their lives back together after losing everything.
But it also comes in the quieter moments, too, like: caring for a parent who is seriously ill or struggling with Alzheimer’s, or struggling to make ends meet in a depressed economy, or trying to balance work, raise a family and earn that degree all at the same time without having a single second for yourself. In many circumstances, these quieter moments require even more resilience.
Those of you who know me well know I live a life more extremist than simplistic. Whether deciding to run a marathon with little or no training, starting 19 businesses or viewing what others would describe as “running on empty” as “running on momentum,” I live a life on fast-forward—believing, and not in a joking way, that I can tap into my internal superpowers to always triumph. But just like all of you, sometimes the mountain seems impossible to summit.
But that has not always been the case. Sometimes, when faced with adversity, I froze, withered and gave up. But I’ve found it does not take superhuman powers to bounce forward. I have learned that breaking the challenge down and approaching it 10-seconds at a time gives me the ability and power to face almost anything and move forward.
A Mindset Shift
Viewing adversity in 10-second intervals, shifts my mindset from the fight-or-flight zone to a problem-solve-and-tackle space. The brevity of 10 seconds serves as positive fuel and a reminder that we as humans can endure anything when chunk the challenge out. Or, as the saying goes, “How do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time.” In those 10 seconds we can breathe, pause, reflect; we permit ourselves to do so. And with each 10-second round that passes, we can get closer to figuring out how we will persevere.
When I ran my first marathon, I experienced problems during the last six miles. My body was done and wanted to give up, but my mind refused to give in. I focused on just getting to the next telephone pole, then it was the next mailbox, and over the last mile, I focused on taking the next step forward. I collapsed at the finish line proud of my accomplishment.
Every day, I see someone dealing with hardship, adversity or a personal challenge 10 seconds at a time. I love witnessing those moments—whether the person is intentionally tapping into it or not. The tactic can prove incredibly helpful, not to mention comforting, when we feel the obstacle in front of us is too daunting. And when we summon the grit and resiliency to break through, we experience a tremendous moment of growth and personal accomplishment.
When dealing with difficulty, remember the only way out is through. So, bounce forward 10 seconds at a time. Give it a try. Let me know what you think and see if actively employing this mentality leaves you feeling even the slightest bit more prepared to weather the conditions the world throws our way.