A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
CHRISTOPHER REEVE, Superman
I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER
“Man, something’s not right. I can’t feel my left leg. I can’t move it.”
I had just regained consciousness and immediately knew something was wrong. Very wrong.
This was supposed to have been a simple orthoscopic laser surgery to reduce some inflammation in my lower back.
“You’ll be in and out the same day and you will walk out feeling fine,” the surgeon had promised me.
As it turned out I was in and out the same week and wheeled out feeling like I wished it was legal to murder surgeons.
For the next few months I had no access to any of the muscles in my left leg. No amount of screaming at it and commanding it to move generated any obedience from it whatsoever. I even tried threatening it with amputation, but it just stared at me daringly. If you’ve ever had an insubordinate limb you know what I’m talking about. Maddening, but I was impressed with its resolve to destroy me.
Through extensive physical therapy I got a good amount of the muscle control back, but not without permanent nerve damage that left me with numbness in my feet and calves and even worse pain in my lower back than I had prior to the procedure.
That was five years ago (before I knew better than to consult with knife-happy surgeons about anything besides “how to get rich and dangerous with nothing but a degree and a scalpel”).
Fast forward to today …
Despite trying … oh, I don’t know … about 79 different types of exotic therapies, supplements, miracle prayer helplines and medical procedures – yes, including imported Japanese placenta extract injections – the pain and numbness haven’t gone anywhere. It’s actually become debilitatingly worse.
This traumatic experience raped my life of everything that previously brought me joy and pleasure.
I have to exercise, stretch, and do therapy 3-4 hours a day just to feel bad as opposed to God-awful.
I can’t run, jump, exercise at the level of intensity I used to, practice mixed martial arts (my favorite thing on earth), pursue a particular dream I had that I won’t mention here, travel extensively, have crazy sex, etc.
Now … let’s just stop right here and ask an obvious question …
What good is life without crazy sex?
Ever wonder that? I hope you never have to.
For all intents and purposes, I’m crippled. I can’t even sit down for more than an hour or two at a time; it’s too painful. I work half the day from my bed lying down. True, the bed happens to be perched in an embarrassingly large room with a spacious view of the ocean, but still … it sucks. I’d trade a healthy back for a chair in an embarrassingly small home office with a limited view of a trailer park any day.
[Private Prayer To God As I Type That Last Sentence: God, please give me a minute to think that through before testing me with it … … … … …
Ok, I’ve thought it through. I’ll trade it for a triple wide with a pond view. Amen.]
There is not a day I wake up that I don’t have to fight to keep an attitude that even remotely resembles something a casual observer might consider positive. And fight I definitely do.
But pain is my constant companion.
***END SOB STORY***
Here’s the reason I’m telling you this depressing stuff that you may not have known about me and are maybe wishing it had stayed that way …
In these past five horrible years that have sucked worse than anything that could possibly suck (for me anyway … I know some of my readers and fellow earthlings are going through much worse), I have done the following:
– Launched a multi-million dollar software company
– Founded a social networking site for real estate investors
– Created 9 new products in multiple niches
– Produced an infomercial
– Opened and built the largest Anytime Fitness gym in the United States
– Recorded an entire music album with the help of Atlantic records
– Found my soul mate and married her
– Won 2 Emmy awards for a documentary I helped produce
– Began writing a book that you will see in bookstores soon
– Started an orphanage and charity in the Dominican Republic (feel free to help us out … http://advocatesoflove.net/)
– Had articles published by Success Magazine
There are a lot of lessons this experience has taught me that I could pass on to you, but the one I feel led to share is this …
It is not enough to simply endure hard times*. We must persevere through them.
There’s a difference.
Enduring means holding our ground and staying the same in the face of pain. It’s merely weathering the storm.
Persevering implies gaining ground and improving in the face of that same pain. Not just improving spiritually (which you would have to try hard NOT to do) but vocationally as well.
To endure is to not lose heart or life.
To persevere is to ENLARGE your heart and life.
We have three choices when faced with adversity:
Retreating is easy. Just throw up your hands, say “oh well … I tried,” give up, and commence your favorite self-destructive activity (have an affair, try out some different street drugs, become a raging alcoholic, open up an appliance store, kill yourself, etc.).
I’m quitting the business today. I’m going to open up an appliance store, I’ve always really been into toasters. I’m giving it all up.
– DANE COOK, comedian
Enduring is a little harder, but not much. Instead of self-destructing, just stop trying so hard. Put your mission on pause. Seek comfort in any way you can. Hunker down. Show up physically but check out mentally. Watch a lot of TV, and drink just enough alcohol to stay comfortably numb.
“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we [the common man] endure the operation of life.”
– GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Persevering is the way of the warrior. It is counterintuitive, painful, and not fun. It requires enormous amounts of energy, which, if we’ve been living right during the easy times, we will have stored up in abundance.
Persevering means marching onward and upward towards the goal of our life’s mission despite the contrary wind and acid rain and bowling ball sized hailstones and lighting bolts striking us in the eyes.
We do not abort our mission just because some stupid lightning bolt happens to strike us in the eye.
We say, “Wow. That sucked. But at least that will probably never happen again in my lifetime,” and then we keep it movin. And when we get struck with another one in the opposite eye we say the same thing. At this point we are blind and need a seeing eye dog, so we get that dog and keep it movin.
“The less you move, the less you are able to move.”
– PETE EGOSCUE, Pain Free
The following few insights will help you persevere through pain instead of hunting down your local meth dealer and breaking bad. This is far from comprehensive, but this post is already too dang long:
The wave is here to wash away your weakness. Stop acting surprised.
2. There is purpose to your suffering, and it is no accident you’re experiencing it.
Pain brings you to the end of yourself. It crushes your pride and shatters the illusion of control and self-sufficiency.You thought you were your own god. You were wrong. You need God and other people. This is your chance to reconnect with Reality. Make the most of it.
3. Realize that if you keep pushing through the pain you will eventually come out the other side a spiritual BEAST.
Suffering is a boot camp for your soul. You absolutely positively must see your pain as a divine trial cosmically designed to strengthen and prepare you for things that lay ahead you cannot see yet.
Framing the pain in this way will make it easier to get through without cursing God and punching your cat in the face. Every day.
4. What you do during your seasonal pain wave will determine what your life looks like in the aftermath.
If you retreat, your wave is here to stay and there will be no aftermath. Sharks will come into your wave, bite you, and make you their shark slave. Sharks are super racist btw. I don’t know if you knew that or not. They think they’re superior for some reason. Hence their leader’s name, Great Whitey.
If you merely endure, your life will look similar to what it looked like before but a little grayer. You’ve missed a great opportunity to grow, and deep down you know it.
But if you persevere – if you keep marching on in obedience to your life’s mission – your world will transform into something so incredibly amazing that you will look back and thank God for every second of your suffering no matter how bad it was.
5. Persevering normally shortens your season of suffering. Period.
6. The longer and more intense your season of suffering the greater you and your life will be on the other side … IF – and that is a big IF – you persevere.
7. Watch this video once a day. For the rest of your life.
Let me be perfectly clear here. Everything I have said about the rewards of perseverance applies strictly to those on the hero’s journey. This is for warriors only. If you weren’t on the path of most resistance prior to your suffering then unfortunately you don’t have much hope. The only purpose your suffering serves is to get you on the path in the first place. The sooner you do the better.
Me personally, I’m still in a season of fairly intense suffering. But I know it won’t last. I have not given up and never will. I mean … it’s been five years. You probably never knew the extent of it until I just told you, right? Model that.
I encourage YOU, if you are going through hard times, to persevere. If nothing else, think rationally … you’re going to go through hell no matter what. You may as well persevere, right? Anything less will just prolong your pain and leave you worse off in the long run.
And if you’re sitting there scratching your head going, “man, what is this guy’s problem? I’ve never suffered anything too bad. He must be attracting this to himself.”
First, punch yourself in the face. Second, I’d be more concerned if I was you than the guy reading this with full empathy. To be exempt from suffering in this life is not a good sign.
Anyone out there been through tough times and have some perseverance tips? Leave a comment below. No lame “my sob story is worse than your sob story” comments please. If anything give me a “my VICTORY story is better than your victory story” comment.
And before you do what I think you’re going to do – give me your amazing advice on how to heal my back – please review the following list of procedures I’ve tried (all from world class healers of course) just off the top of my head …
– chiropractic (probably 10 different chiropractors. All professional sports team docs)
– osteopathy (unfortunately I found out about this a little too late – after my surgery. The best in the world is Keith Pyne at http://www.sportslabnyc.com/ This would have healed me for sure had I known about it.)
– inversion therapy (I hung upside down like Batman every day for a year)
– $5,000 high-tech traction programs (re-herniated my back – thanks doc!)
– Yoga (HIGHLY don’t recommend. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html)
– Psychotherapy (maybe its all in my head?)
– Physical Therapy from every incompetent Physical therapist I could possibly find (and I found them all apparently).
– Physical therapy from the best physical therapist in the world (Ben Velasquez at http://www.sportslabnyc.com/ … if I would have found him prior to my laser debacle you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. Or you would but it would be about something much funner)
– The “Med-X” Machine
– Cold laser therapy
– hot laser therapy
– Star Trek laser therapy (kidding)
– music/color/vibrational therapy (don’t ask. Lol. But if you ask me I’ll tell you.)
– anti-inflammatories (ALL of them. Herbal and medicinal.)
– countless different herbs and supplements
– Cortisone Shots
– foam rollers
– Regenokine Injections
– Human Placenta Extract Injections
– human growth hormone
– Facet Blocks
– Nerve Ablasions
– 2 hip arthrograms
– hyperbaric chamber sessions
– “Miracle” healing prayer lines at multiple tent revivals (I wish I was kidding)
– tens units
– Kinesio Back Tape
– Ice Therapy
– Heat Therapy
– Room Temperature Therapy
– (did you really just read through that last one?)
– ART (Active Release Therapy)
– lumbar decompression surgery
– Epson salt baths
– ice baths
– The Egosque Method (which admittedly helped a little and would have probably healed me completely had I not been so stupid in getting that laser surgery)
– Core strengthening
– Daily walking and exercising
– regular stretching
– myofascial stretching
– years of visualization and positive affirmations
– ________________________________ (fill in the blank with your idea in a comment below. If it heals me I’ll give you $100,000. Consider that a binding legal agreement.)
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* “Hard times” could be physical pain like mine, psycholigical illness, divorce, financial strain, loss of a loved one … anything that makes you feel like ripping your face off, gluing it back on and ripping it off again, over and over and over, for any significant period of time
Book Recommendation Of The Week: The Problem of Pain C.S. Lewis
Ancient Wisdom To Memorize: You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Mental Input To Download & Put On Repeat: I always persevere.