Episode 78: The Three A’s of Mental Toughness

Do you ever feel defeated because of circumstances beyond your control? We all have felt this way! In this episode, Jimmy shares three mindsets that will help you overcome defeat and become the mentally tough person that is within you.

Episode Keys

  • Growing your mental toughness by strengthening your brain to respond to unwanted changes in life.
  • Using your capability of adapting to find your focus on the goals you have set even in the midst of a pandemic!
  • How to accept challenges without suffering defeat.
  • Understand why it is vital to your overall quality of life that you adapt, accept, and amplify your mental toughness traits.
  • The internal fortitude of Curtis McGrath, a decorated soldier, who became a world champion in the Paralympics after losing both of his legs during the war in Afghanistan.
  • How to apply vision, strength, and mental toughness to overcome any obstacle in the world to achieve the highest goals you set for youself!

Podcast Transcript

Have you felt beaten down by the entire world due to all this virus and pandemic discussion and unending dialog of news about negativity. The election is coming up in the United States. Have you allowed this negative stuff to take hold and reside in your brain? I hope you haven’t, but let me say this, if you have, help is on the way.

Good morning, this is Jimmy Williams with Live a Life by Design your Monday morning moments of motivation talking to you as the pastor of positivity here. We’re gonna share this morning something that is outstanding that’s gonna help you overcome and defeat some of these negative issues in our world. You know, you’ve heard me talk on many episodes before, how I just do not watch the news. I really do not. I get enough of this type of negative information simply from some of the RSS feeds that I get on my phone or iPad. Now I know what you’re thinking. Well why do I have a feed of certain news if I know it’s going to be negative?

Well there are certain items in life that I need to follow, be very knowledgeable about but I just don’t want all of the punditry of the network news. Now listen, those folks have a great job and they’ve got a job to do, but I’m telling you I want this, the breakdown, facts only, don’t give me any dialogue. Don’t give me your opinion. This is how it is today in the world and I can deal with that. And I’m gonna explain how I deal with that in just a moment. I’m gonna share with you something that I’ve used as a methodology. A strategy, if you will, that will help me continue to reach my goals. Even during these times of significant disruption in life.

You know, I paid particularly close attention to people’s reactions to events. It appears that some have fared far better than others in that many of them have simply waved the white flag of surrender. This approach in life, I assure you, will not serve you well. During this episode I will share three aspects you must use consistently and routinely to become more mentally tough.

What does that really mean? The definition which we’re referring to today is mental toughness, is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevents you from exceeding or excelling at a task or towards an objective or a performance outcome that you set out to achieve. In simple terms, you must overcome the value of what you seek in your goal, the person you become in striving for that goal is a bigger, better, and bolder you, then that is mental toughness.

You know, to put it bluntly, you must control your thoughts and look for opportunities within this state of disruption. That’s right, some people are out just merely trying to survive. But not me, and not you. Not only will we survive, we will thrive during this time of change. And it’s not positive change, I get it. But let me tell you how it could be positive, it’s because of the framing of your mind to not allow the circumstances to dictate your inward feelings, but rather you take control of your mind and dictate how the outcomes of the external world will be evaluated in your life. How it will be applied in your life.

So why have certain industries prospered during the pandemic? Now think about this. Certain industries have made millions of dollars. Far more than they ever had during a time of a pandemic. If you think about some of these CEOs, some of the leaders of these companies, and you have to wonder what was their mentality. I’m gonna truly say they did not arise when this pandemic had just begun and say, “What ways can I exploit this to make more shareholder value?” Or, “how can we just make more money more profit on the woes of others?” I assure that’s not what they said. But rather they said, “what can we bring to mankind that would be something that could ease their pain, or give them a break from the monotony of the routine of disruption.

You see they see the glass as half full. And identify the opportunities that so many others have simply overlooked. And that may be the answer to this question. Why would only certain people see this and not me? We’re gonna explain that in just a few moments. To fully understand and achieve greatness you must find the means of dreaming of greater accomplishments even in dire times. Consider the great French poet, Anatole France, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream. Not only plan, but also believe”. It is the mental muscle that provides the mental platform for dreaming and believing in your cause that you have to attain it. Admittedly, there are days that I am much stronger in the face of opposition than others. But I have neither failed to account for my dreams, nor stopped believing in the bigger future that lies ahead.

To help you become mentally tougher, I’m providing you my three A’s of mental toughness. The first A is the word adapt. If you find yourself incapable of adapting to changes around you, life will be loaded with difficulties just for you. Adapting is far different than compromising. You must always uphold your beliefs and values in whatever environmental situation you find yourself. To flex your mental toughness simply means that you must adapt to the current scenario which you are subjected and not change the goal you have for life. Since Covid-19 began, I have changed my approach to a couple of my original goals for 2020. I mean let’s face it, I couldn’t take a month in Europe as a vacation during the pandemic. The countries would not allow those of us that were not citizens to come into their country during this horrific time. I get it. But that did not change my goal of spending a month in Europe. It did extend the time frame. It did ask me to research even more of the areas I wished to visit. The reasons for my visit and so forth, but I will achieve my goal. Now I don’t believe I’m going to achieve it in 2020 at the current state of the environment. But I will not give up on the goal, I will simply extend it to next year.

The word adapt actually means to make fit by modification. There is no reference to surrender in the word adapt. Those are two different words, two different meanings. I’m reminded of the football player, especially that D line player. He lines up against a whole line of very large boys on the other side of the high school team. He doesn’t simply look at them and say, “well, I will just simply lay down when he comes running on my side”. Nope. He digs his cleats in even deeper in the turf. He sets his hand down in a three point stance. He is flexed with his other hand, ready to put it in the face, well not technically, but put it on the body of the person that’s going to be coming to him to either force a hole for the runner to come through or to block him from getting to the quarterback. But the player that adapts uses the weight of the opposing player against himself. Perhaps even pivots around him, and then runs toward that quarterback and that’s how the sack by a smaller D line player occurs.

He didn’t surrender due to the environment. The size of the opponent was not the issue that caused him to fail. What would have caused him to fail was his knowledge and his acknowledgement that he couldn’t have done anything better. But not the good players. Not those players that have received heisman trophies in their past. Not those players that have been recognized with awards for the greatest defense. Those players that get out on the field, no matter who they’re playing and find a way to adapt to the setting to still achieve the goal and that’s the win. There is no reference, as I said, to surrender in the word adapt. But great generals in times of battle may have to adapt their plans for attack because of a physical obstacle or the lack of certain weapons or machinery. However, I can assure you the goal for the day is to seize the grounds in which the offensive is to be fought and raise the flag of his country. The goal stays fixed in the mind of the general and is communicated to the troops. But the adaptation of the battle plan helps those troops remain mentally tough during such days of fierce fighting and overcoming significant obstacles.

What are some of the changes you face during the pandemic? Perhaps your career required you to travel a territory in the country, but the airlines had shut down to reduce the spread of the virus. Do you simply resign your position and allow yourself to sit in squalor? No! Just the opposite, right? You adapt to the travel restrictions and initiate a plan for communicating in all other forms. Emails, virtual meetings, phone calls, written notes and cards, for example. You must find a way to flex your mental toughness when facing challenges in life. Learn to adapt and advance toward your goals.

The second A is for the word accept. As I stated earlier in this episode, I am not referring to the acceptance of defeat. Get that word out of your vocabulary. I am referring to accepting the things in life you can’t change and find alternatives to them. When life serves you such an all encompassing change, such as we have faced this year, you must find and accept the fact that you can’t resolve the virus away, but rather create and find means to work around the impact of the virus. Restaurants in our small community were hit very hard by the pandemic. Local and state officials required the restaurants suspend indoor dining and eventually close their doors. However, some of the locally owned restaurants, relying on the earnings of the facility for their livelihood initiated new delivery methods, strategies and options. For the public desiring to eat cuisine from somewhere other than their own personal kitchens.

Well, our family was one of those. My wife is an outstanding cook and baker. But after you’ve eaten in your own kitchen for how long I couldn’t say, and your groceries and so forth were delivered by a local grocer, you just sense that you need to get out and try something different. The small business immediately implemented curbside delivery. Home delivery established apps for phones, purchased different types of to go packaging and utensils for their customers to enjoy their favorite dishes in their own residence. To reward these creative and hardworking entrepreneurs, our family weekly ordered from every locally owned restaurant and after claiming our food, I would prepare a rudimentary video on my phone to post to social media for the restaurant. Now the purpose of the video was not to seek recognition for supporting these wonderful restaurants, but rather to inform the public of the abilities of these eating establishments to serve piping hot food in a manner that is far different than our previous experience. I can tell you we had some of the tastiest lasagnas, fried chicken, even steak and seafood that was curbside delivery. Folks, that is what I call adapting and accepting but then moving ahead with your goal to sustain your business.

The third A of the three A’s for mental toughness is the word amplify. When you work a muscle of the body, it becomes larger, stronger, tougher, your brain is the same as that muscle. Now it won’t get larger, but you will expand into territories of the brain of which you are not utilizing when you continue to do the same thing everyday. By becoming more mentally tough, the world will be a lot easier on you as a person. You must learn to amplify or increase your ability to withstand pressures in life that you do not choose or desire. By increasing your ability to combat challenges that arise, people will soon see you in a different light. Have you ever been the subject of bullying in school? I hope not, this is a terrible situation that still today is paramount in our schools. It just seems like it has taken over in some of our junior high and high schools as a second option to Health and P.E. It’s a tragedy.

But many of the kids that are bullied at school don’t ask for the treatment subjected on them by these bullies or as I refer to them, people who lack any self esteem or values in life, one day after many instances of bullying. The victim becomes the victor. Now I do not condone violence as a means to resolving issues in the environment or between people. Sociologists will tell you there’s far better ways to accomplish an agreement on conduct in life than violence. I totally agree with them. However, when the smaller child has reached the point of no intolerance, the victim that becomes the victor unfurls a whirlwind of emotions and strength that flood his mind and body and is then unleashed on the unsuspecting bully. Well, generally the bully gets the point and the treatment that he offered the smaller person is no longer applied to that smaller child.

Another area in life to amplify is your skillset. Think about areas of life that could grow that would bring greater value to the world around you. People seeking this skill will gladly pay for the service. This is an area in which I find myself very skilled. I find things that are highly valued in the marketplace for which I have a passion. And then I amplify my capabilities through education, mentorship, whatever’s necessary and then serve these demanding people or businesses. One of my entrepreneur mentors is Steve Jobs. Now, you have heard me say things about Steve Jobs on prior episodes. I’m gonna say this, I did not agree with everything Steve Jobs did or said. But he has several, shall I say, ways of managing his business through the creative space that I thoroughly enjoy. And some of his quotes have been something I would use in my own company.

For example, he had this uncanny ability to find what the greater market was seeking and create it in such an attractive manner the world could not live without it. He not only amplified his marketing, engineering, operations and delivery methods, he amplified the demand for his products in the marketplace. If you don’t believe this, once I saw at an Apple store in the mall a line that had police officers and security guards manning these hundreds if not a thousand people in line to this one single Apple store when the iPhone 10 had been created and marketed. Folks, I never seen this until I had seen all of this before with the Apple watch. When the first Apple watch came out, the people could snatch them up quicker than they could be delivered to the local store. It was an awesome sight to see. Steve though, had such a created force in his mind and his engineers to really peak the interest of the market he seeks. To have misjudged the wisdom and dedication Steve exhibited, if you were his competitor, would cost you your market share and relegate your companies products to the discount bin at the local technology store. I mean, no one wanted a different product that Steve Jobs and Apple could produce.

One of my favorite quotes of Steve Jobs relates to his mental toughness. And I have to tell you, I believe if you read his biography, he was one mentally tough person. Now, he had his times, I can assure you that he didn’t seem so tough and threw tirades and other things in the face of opposition. But he was a mentally tough individual. His quote was this, “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith”. Typical Steve Jobs, pretty succinct but powerful statement. Those bricks in life are going to come. Now you can do two things with those bricks. You can set there and build a wall between you and the world so you don’t have to face trials again. Or you can build bridges that will take you forward in the world so that you overcome the trials and become a stronger, more mentally tough person for doing so.

So find methods of amplifying your mental toughness to be a conqueror of the times and not the conquered. One of the most motivating and inspiring stories of mental toughness that I recall is a story of a young man named Curtis. Curtis enlisted into the Australian Army on the 12th of June 2006. At the young age of 18. His focus immediately turned to combat engineering. The role’s main aim is to provide mobility while denying the enemy mobility. Duties range from building structures and converting seawater into drinking water for both the army and local populations. To destroying bridges and clearing mines and booby traps. In May 2007 Curtis was posted to the 1st Combat Engineering Regiment in Darwin. Here he was part of a field troop of about 30 other engineers otherwise known as Sappers.

He was sent on many exercises but one stood out. In early 2008, one field troop was sent to Malaysia for 3 months to conduct jungle training. A grueling place to train. In late 2008, Curtis deployed to East Timor for eight months to be part of Operation Astute. Here his team built bridges, a water tank for an orphanage, and a medical center for a remote, local village. During this deployment Curtis was put on a Junior Leadership Course – the first promotion course a soldier can undertake. Curtis did so well in the program he was named Student of Merit or we would say, top of his class. Upon returning from East Timor a large earthquake hit Padang, Indonesia. The city’s infrastructure was severely damaged and again the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment was called to action, by providing engineering support on the ground, where it was desperately needed. Curtis received a call from his Sargent asking if he would like a deployment to Afghanistan, to which he didn’t hesitate and confidently and patriotically said, “yes, I will go”. Beginning his training in late 2011 for the deployment, he was selected to conduct combat first-aid training to become the unofficial medic for his 4 man team. Exactly six years after enlisting in the Australian Army, and following intensive preparations and training, Curtis was deployed with 90 other Combat Engineers to the Middle East for his first taste of action in a declared war-zone. Curtis and his team’s job was to search for improvised explosive devices or IEDs and to search the way for the rest of the forces following. This role is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. On the 23rd of August, 2012, young Sapper Curtis McGrath’s life changed forever. The decorated Sapper was three months into a tour of insurgent-rife areas of Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). The then 24-year-old tragically lost both his legs in the blast. And only twenty minutes after the loss of his legs, Curtis had set his sights on the future and again representing his country. Astoundingly, rumor has it he said, “You’ll see me in the Paralympics”… Well folks, there’s good news to the end of this horrific story for Curtis McGrath. He didn’t just qualify for those Olympics, he qualified for the world Olympics in paracanoeing. Today, Curtis McGrath is well on his way to becoming a paracanoe world champion.

The challenge this week is to work on identifying the areas of life that you should be flexing your mental toughness, not conceding to it. Don’t allow the smallest of distractions or disruptions to sway you from your ultimate goals. You can do this. Like any other muscle, it will take time to build your mental toughness. But you must start today. You must start with where you find yourself and move forward in life. To remain stationary is to give in a surrender. The uniqueness of the brain is that it requires you to intentionally want to increase or amplify its skill capabilities to do so. Never let go of your goals that mean the world to you. I don’t know about you, but I do not set small goals in my life. It’s a goal that either changes my life or it’s not worth my effort to change me. Better yet, find a means to adapt, accept and amplify your mental toughness to reach those goals no matter the circumstances you may find yourself.

Until next week, go out in this world, be mentally tough, and live a life by design.

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