Last week I introduced the topic of personal growth and the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone. I made you, my patients and followers, my accountability buddies for my most recent adventure and battle The Modern Day Knight Project. This 75 hour arduous, painful and amazing experience was definitely out of my comfort zone. Our class only graduated 9 out of the 21 that showed up. Even more had confirmed they would show up. This experience shed a lot of light on my own strengths and weaknesses but also on those of men in our society. I’m writing this 5 days after successfully graduating and I while I am still exhausted and healing I am facing my world through a completely different lens that I’d like to share.
The lack of commitment and preparation from some of my brothers to be was shocking. There is a clearly defined fitness test in The Project that all must pass in the first hour in order to continue. This is not a surprise. We lost one man who failed to complete the test in time and had a few others that barely hit the cut off point. Those that were close all quit within the first 24 hours. One of my identified strengths coming out of the project was my attention to preparation. Where these men had failed to accurately estimate their own strength and ability I was able to use my assets of physical strength and endurance to an advantage. A lesson delivered repeatedly by the instructors at the project was that of planning. The 6P’s of performance are frequently cited as Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. At the project the language is adjusted slightly to Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Either way the point is to understand the battle ahead of you and plan accordingly so that come time to perform you can focus on your weaknesses and unleash your strengths.
My optimism after success in the fitness test was quickly subdued when the next gauntlet was revealed. A non disclosure agreement prevents me from sharing the details but those that watched on social media can attest that a test of pain tolerance was endured. A series of physical and mentally challenging tasks tested the fortitude of the men in my class. Of the 12 that quit most did so in there first 24 hours. What I was surprised by during this time was my tendency to choose the path of least resistance and avoid pain. As a human animal we naturally avoid pain but cognitively I knew this was coming and I knew that I had to face these challenges head on if I were going to successfully graduate and reap the benefit of the cognitive lessons to come. Yet, I still struggled to face pain and push forward. At some point between 24 and 36 hours after the start I had a breakthrough. I’m not sure if it was the fatigue, the comradery or a shift in focus from a punishment mindset to a growth mindset but I was able to find a gear that previously I could not have accessed. The pain endured was significant and my body is nowhere near healed but I gained access to room previously locked away in my psyche. A gift that would be useful over the rest of the course. As Jean Vanier famously said “Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness.” I found one of my weaknesses in pain avoidance, seeking the path of least resistance and failure to face my fear.
Once we had shed most of those that were unprepared to do the physical requirements we took to the real work as a group. What I most wanted from The Project was the mental gymnastics and deep work I’d heard it would do for me. We explored as a group of men our deepest emotional scars and fears. Reflecting on it now I see remarkable beauty in the experience of my brothers searching for answers in the events that resulted in pain and toxic cognition through their life. My own search yielded a tremendous amount of material to work through. Despite an outwardly appearing pleasant upbringing I found adequate material from which to pick. What I chose to explore at the time was the significance of childhood trauma in the form of molestation that I had never revealed to anyone until recently. Trauma that shaped my response to the world around me and does to this day. This work shed light on a whole new chapter of understanding about myself and how I react to both men and women in my life. I was afraid to explore this in the past but the unique circumstances of this situation provided the right setting for me to unload and learn from this experience. A reminder to “always do what you are afraid to do” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The cognitive work was mixed with persistent physical challenge, further sleep deprivation and emotional stress. What helped me succeed was both discipline and faith. I used to consider myself disciplined in my daily life. What I learned by exploring my actions more closely however is that I am not as disciplined as I think and that the greatest integration I could make upon returning to life is to double down on my discipline and to live with integrity and consistency in my voice. I believe in what I tell my patients and need to both a better job of living it as well as demonstrating it through social proof. My biggest challenges has been the discipline to get to bed on time and the integrity to have the difficult discussions with those in my household that stand in the way of my goals. I also have seen excuses creep in regarding food choices and fitness goals. Recognizing these through reflection and journaling will allow me to discard them and get back to where I need to be as a leader for my family and patients.
I could continue with lessons learned from this experience for pages but I recognize this post is long in the tooth. I’ll finish with another important realization. My role as the patriarch in my family and company is primarily that of protection and leadership. Leading by example and from the heart is the starting point upon which my success will be built. Maintaining integrity in these roles by looking for weaknesses and acting decisively to resolve the issues. Deciding to “Man Up” in all aspects of my life and recognizing that “With self-discipline most anything is possible.” Theodore Roosevelt. One of my tasks in the next 90 days is to determine what my next adventure will be. What it will yours be?