For the past week, I’ve slept on a backpacker’s blow-up sleeping pad. Not in a tent in Yosemite. Not at a multi-day music festival. Instead, my makeshift bed is nestled between the interior wall of a cargo van and a thousand-pound juice press.
Sometimes I’ll dream about adventure in Yosemite or on safari.
But do I wish that I was doing that instead of what I’m doing now?
With the juicer offloaded at our partner farm, I had a little more room to stretch out. I’m not sharing this in order to romanticize the startup journey or to seek hotel points for the Ritz. I’m sharing this with you because if you choose to do something challenging, chances are you’ll make a few sacrifices, too.
Solidarity, my friends. You aren’t alone, and you are fearless and admirable for taking the oftentimes unglamorous path less traveled.
As you travel down the path less traveled, join me in this exercise: focus on the fire that’s burning inside of you. The fire is that feeling you get when you think of yourself five, ten, or twenty years down the line. Maybe it’s having the capacity to take care of your folks as they get older. It could be having the freedom to take your significant other and children to discover the world. Or, it’s being able to donate (money or time) to organizations that are changing the world into what you want it to be.
Our fires are all different, but we all have one. Yours may just be an ember that needs a little extra kindling to grow into a flame. Maybe it was once a raging blaze that ran out of fuel or got rained on. You could be carefully tending to it, slowly adding wood to it every day. Keep picturing it. Those flames are important.
And, whatever the state of your fire, you have the power to build it and reimagine it.
When I think of the mentality that feeds and protects this fire, I think of the “warrior mindset.” This isn’t a get-up-and-destroy-everyone-in-your-way mindset. This is an overcome-any-obstacle mindset.
We have the power to frame and reframe life’s challenges. Problems arise and s**t will hit the fan every so often. We can choose to embrace those challenges. If you are doing something challenging, such as starting a company or training for a Ragnar race, you will face obstacles that could seem insurmountable. You don’t have to shy away from these obstacles.
Look pressure square in the eye and respond positively.
Embrace your inner fire, your “warrior mindset.” When a challenge arises and the path ahead of you appears to be blocked, are you going to freeze into a mental paralysis and cave? Or are you going to breathe, analyze, be decisive, and react? You’re going to do the latter.
I like to recall a scene from Apocalypto when I think of how a warrior reacts to adversity. The scene: a Mayan warrior weaves in and out of trees, dodges whizzing arrows and barely outpaces the jaguar behind him. While it may seem dramatic, I sometimes think - what would I do if I were in his position? What would you do? Collapse? Give up? Run your heart out? Climb a tree?
Most obstacles aren’t as dire as the Mayan warrior’s, but as humans, we face odds that, at first glance, seem impossible to overcome. We dodge life’s arrows, outrun proverbial jaguars; we have since the beginning of time and we will until the end of it.
We must embrace and cultivate the warriors of the world - our inner warriors. As a millennial, I inherit problems (and some solutions) from previous generations. Environmental issues top my personal list. Providing a safe, bountiful planet for humanity is necessary in order to pursue diplomacy, peace, wealth, equality, and reconciliation for past conflicts. It’s my calling to be an environmental warrior. It feeds my fire. It’s why I dodge arrows and outrun jaguars, and ultimately, why I’ve slept in a van the past few nights.
Whatever your calling, become a warrior for it.
Embrace it and champion the cause. Stand up for what you believe in most. In pursuit of your warrior-dom, choose an image to visualize that invokes a feeling of power, prowess, and resilience. For me, it’s usually the scene from Apocalypto. For you, it could be as lighthearted as Elle Woods getting into Harvard Law or as deep as Malala Yousafzai returning to Pakistan to continue the fight for girls’ education after nearly being assassinated for it. It doesn’t matter what that image is, as long as it gives you the feeling of being charged up and empowered.
This isn't to say that I have it all figured out. Trust me, I don't. This is a learned skill, just like any other. I am still learning and cultivating my inner warrior on a daily basis.
When you’re feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, check-in with yourself and put things in perspective. You’re alive, you’re breathing, and you likely have food, water, and shelter. Embrace your current challenge; you can and will persevere.
Because we, my friends, are warriors.
Here are ways I cultivate warrior mentality:
- Sleep: Seriously, get your sleep. See Yasir’s last blog if you’re not convinced.
- Eat well: Consume three square meals of stuff that isn’t processed junk. Bonus points if it comes from conscious brands.
- Take cold showers: Aka cold-water hydrotherapy.
- Exercise: Increase your tolerance to stress.
- Meditate: Or do a meditative activity such as yoga or journaling.
- Visualization exercises: Habits of professional athletes and accomplished businesspeople.