Living Heroically (Part II)

living-heroically-brainThis post has been fermenting with me for several months.  Thinking about and writing “Living Heroically” (part 1) several months ago had quite an impact on me, but the essay didn’t resonate with many who read it.  Re-reading it,  I understand why  –  as I have a tendency to do, I got a bit lost in the weeds.

This is important to me, so I’ll try again. I decided to follow my own advice, and simplify the idea of Living Heroically into it’s essentials (see my essay on “Simplicity”)   In observing others whom I admire – four of whom I describe below –  I’ve distilled Living Heroically down to  three simple (but not easy) rules:

  1. Refuse to be a victim: No excuses. No one to blame. Accept and deal with what is. Take full ownership and responsibility for who, what, and where we are. Look forward, not backward. Focus on “what is best for me to do now…”

  2. Seek to grow and learn: Keep a “Growth Mindset”[1]  Go for it. Get out of our comfort zone and take risks.  Be adventurous and imaginative – try new things and always learn. And when things don’t go well, and they often won’t, review rule #1, and then get back to rule #2.

  3. Try to make a positive impact: Seek to leave the world and the people we deal with somehow better, inspired and more “alive” – even when, ESPECIALLY when, that requires some sacrifice.

I distinguish between Living Heroically and Living Well.  For me, they are related, but not the same. Maybe one is a subset of the other, or maybe they are two overlapping circles. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter. Clearly, both are important.  This essay focuses on Living Heroically.

In my post on personal ethos, I listed 10 values for Living Well.  All good, but I now realize that 10 is too many for me to focus on or even remember.[2]  Perhaps by focussing on 3 simple rules for Living Heroically, the other parts of Living Well will come more easily.

One of my favorite lines in the prayer “Desiderata” is that, though “… the world is full of trickery, let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere, life is full of heroism.”

Looking around, I am grateful to see that indeed, “life is full of heroism,” and I see many examples of people Living Heroically, according to my simple 3-rule standard.  Here are four who inspire me, two from my Rotary Club, two from my own family:

I have praised my friend Chip  in a previous post.  Chip had been a Division 1 College football player, when shortly after graduation, his car was hit by a drunk driver.  In an instant, Chip went from great athlete to quadriplegic. For over 30 years now, Chip has had to deal with a reality that most of us cannot even imagine.  And yet he does so with energy, determination,  and a positive attitude.  I’ve gotten to know Chip, and of course (like all of us) he has tough moments and periods, but he makes a point to keep those mostly to himself and to project and share his enthusiasm for the simple joys in life, for friends and relationships, and for his appreciation for the opportunities he has.  He serves through  Rotary, inspires young men by coaching Pop-Warner football, and is creating  a course on leadership to teach in high school.  When I start feeling sorry for myself, I think of Chip, and realize he probably wouldn’t have much sympathy for me. And that realization helps me.

My friend Suzanne has had a number of physical issues which she hasn’t let hold her back. She joined our Executive Leadership Expedition in the Wind River Mountains last year, knowing that it would not be easy for her. But she did it, prevailed, excelled, and inspired me and the others on our expediton. She has broken ground as a woman leader, and as the first woman president of our formerly all-male Rotary club, dealt with the prejudices some men have toward strong women – without succumbing to bitterness or resentment.  She has a big bucket-list of things she still wants to do, and rather than dream or talk, she just does them – inviting others to join her, if they want to, if they dare to.  No excuses, she just goes for the gusto.  And with all of that, she continuously serves her family and friends, and community  – in more ways than most of us know.

My son Patrick has struggled and continues to struggle with depression. He keeps fighting it, and after years of suffering, is learning to manage it.  My friend and mentor Dan Gallington once told me: “Bob, don’t even begin to think you can understand depression. You can’t.”  That has been good advice.  But a few times, I have felt for just a day or two, something that seemed akin to what I’ve read about depression.  It was insidious and horrible.   To keep on keeping on, feeling for weeks and even months like I felt for just a day or two, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel,  is a heroism that a generally  upbeat guy like me struggles to fully appreciate.  Patrick asks for no sympathy, is trying to do better with whatever energy he can muster, and helps and serves those he can.  He marches to his own drummer, though when depressed, he sometimes struggles to hear the beat.  He exhibits a different, but very inspiring version of Living Heroically.

My Dad has been fighting cancer for 25 years. While he shares with us some of the  frustrations, debiitations and discomforts that have come with that (and there have been many,)  I’ve never had a sense of him feeling sorry for himself.  He has dealt with it, shielded most of us from whatever he was dealing with, and carried on.  He has continued to embrace life, and just Go For It.  He was president of his country club in his 80s (a surprisingly demanding position), and now at 91, is still going to the gym to work out, or playing golf nearly every day.  He remains upbeat, full of humor, making light of the natural infirmities of old-age, and still living by his motto: “If you ain’t having fun doing it, you ain’t doing it right!” And that includes growing old with cancer.   While my Dad has said, “Growing old ain’t for sissies,” Living Heroically with cancer into our 90s is something else.  This poster seems to sum up my Dad’s relationship to his cancer:

last-great-act-of-defiance-4

These are just four of many examples of Living Heroically that have inspired me.  We can and should be inspired by others, but it is up to each of us to motivate ourselves, and perhaps even serve as an inspiration to those around us.    I’ve given you my three criteria for Living Heroically – they may not be yours.

As the Stoics said, the only person we truly have the power to change is ourselves.  And if we do that in a positive way, if we can Live Heroically by whatever standard(s) we choose for ourselves,  we will certainly live better, and contribute more than we would otherwise.

If anyone inspires you to Live more Heroically, I suggest you tell them.  And thank them….though it will probably embarrass them.  And that’s Ok.

Part of Living Well, is to feel and express appreciation.  Living Well is important too.

—————

[1] I get the term “Growth Mindset” from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. My review of Mindset  can be read here.

[2] In Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers, he offers a longer checklist, but demands that we grade ourself on each rule, every day, which can indeed be very effective.  My review of Triggers can be read here.   I believe he got the daily checklist idea from Benjamin Franklin.

15 thoughts on “Living Heroically (Part II)

  1. I’m going to embarrass you, Bob! You inspire me! I read all your posts with great interest and get something from all of them, so my thanks for enriching my life by making me think more deeply about so many things. Look forward to next article!

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    • Sandra – you embarrass me – but thank you for the compliment. Mary Anne and I still happily tell stories about you and Neil and the Bellachantuy. Does this one ring a bell: My mother asked you, “Is the fish fresh?” You replied, “It was when it was frozen!” 😅

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  2. Part one was also good. It is on word press. He doesn’t write a lot. But he has good stuff. I heard a podcast by him and saw a video about writing a personal ethos statement. I did it and it does transform u. On Oct 12, 2016 12:22 PM, “Bob Schoultz’s Corner” wrote:

    > schoultz posted: “This post has been fermenting with me for several > months. Writing “Living Heroically” (part 1) several months ago had quite > an impact on me, but the essay didn’t resonate with many who occasionally > read my essays. Re-reading it, I understand why – as” >

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  3. Hi Bob,

    I initially began to type this in an email as I didn’t want too much of my personal life out there for the public. But, I said, “screw it” and decided to post it as a comment. I feel a better connection with people when I make myself vulnerable like this. And, if anyone wants to chime in, I’d love to hear it.

    Thank you for this post. It is perfect timing for what I am going through. The last three years of my life has been a long transition, and it still continues. Trying to figure out what to do with my life. My entire adult life was devoted to service with the military and the police department. I said goodbye to the police a few years ago and it was a very difficult decision. Now I am deciding to retire from the Navy reserves and it has been a pretty emotional decision. I am not the same person as I was 23 years ago, I don’t enjoy it as much anymore, and it takes me away from my family more than we like.

    Just before reading your blog, my wife and I were discussing this decision to retire. We do rely on the reserve income and retiring would make things a little difficult financially. Initially, we talked about sticking it out as we could use the money. But, I immediately began to feel depressed. I felt that I was giving up on myself (my ability to create another opportunity to bring in the money) and that I was giving into fear. After we talked more, we decided that happiness wasn’t in the money the reserves brings, but being together more and using that extra time to explore opportunities in areas we are passionate about and that bring us joy as a family. We decided that I will retire at the beginning of the new year.

    After we finished our discussion, I took my boys upstairs for our nightly routine. As they were taking a bath, I read your post. I felt that your post reinforced our decision. Giving into the fear would not be living heroically. When I’m your dad’s age, I want to look back and say that I made decisions to bring joy to my family and to others. I don’t want to look back and say that I played it safe. I don’t like the life “playing it safe” brings. I feel like I’m a walking dead person when I do.

    This long transition has made me look deep into who I am now. I’ve been meditating routinely, I’ve grown stronger in my faith, and my relationship with my family has grown stronger. Although I am letting go of the things that I relied on for so many years and I don’t really know the direction my life is going, my family and I are happier now than we’ve ever been.

    Thank you, Bob, for taking the time to write your thoughts. They are inspirational!

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    • Chris thanks for your thoughtful reply. It took me a while to come up with my own 3 criteria for “living heroically.” They may not suit everyone. ONe of my best friends, also a retired SEAL believes that it’s all about finding inner peace. I can’t argue with him on that, but I’m not sure that works for me – Maybe my method leads to that – though my wife thinks it may lead away from it.
      Good luck with your transition – it is indeed the harder route and knowing that going in should help with the hard times. But in my own case, I’ve found that sticking with it and believing in ourselves and our future, taking the positive out of the challenges, will lead to something good. Own your decision, and make the very best of it! Thanks and Good Luck Bob

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    • Chris,

      You don’t know me, as I am a relatively new friend of Bob’s. I wanted to reach out to you to lend a stranger’s support for and congratulate you on your difficult but well considered decision.

      I am glad for you that you had the courage to listen to, and act upon your real needs and desires. Yes, the security of the past routine and of the financial certainty are strong forces, and this “gravity” can easily (and often does) pull us away from our “true north”. While you may not know what the future holds, you do know that the path you were on, while satisfactory on some dimensions, was far from what you want your life to be. We have precious few days in this world and it truly is such a waste not to try and bring joy and meaning and fulfillment and love and fun and passion and all the other values that are really important, that cannot be achieved as one of the “walking dead”. And as you say, choosing a path driven by fear is so unsatisfying. Absolutely.

      So, again, congrats to you. Your journey may not be easy, but it is heroic and courageous. While your journey may have new challenges, I am confident that it will be satisfying and that you will have a smile on your face regardless of what comes.

      And footnote to Bob; great stuff.

      All the best,

      Jay Fudemberg

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      • Jay,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I really enjoy the connection and encouragement.

        I spoke to my Commanding Officer last night and he wanted to know why I’ve decided to retire. I’m 41 and could still serve another 15 years or so. I told him that because I’m still fairly young, I still have time to do what I really want to do before I get too old. There is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 16 years old, but went in another direction. 25 years later, I still want to explore this desire to serve people at a deeper level and helping them live a happier and healthier life. My wife and I also share a passion for dogs in need that we want to explore together. I feel this tug to take a bold step and let go of who I was to follow “my true north.”

        Thanks again for taking the time, Jay. The encouragement really helps when taking a step into the unknown.

        Bob, thanks for allowing me to hold this discussion on your forum.

        Respectfully,
        Chris Tighe

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    • Chris – this is in response to your response to Jay. Again – I also applaud your decision. Hold on to your dream and believe in it, because there will be some hard and discouraging times ahead – but you will weather them, and grow from them, if you hold on to and believe in your dream. An exciting adventure ahead. Suggest a short little parable of a book – The Alchemist, by Paolo Cuelho. Bob

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  4. tHANKS FOR THE THOUGHTS! As time goes by and the terminal is in view, one wonders if the trip you have traveled is of any value to those you love and care for?
    Much appreciate your musing and introspection! OPA

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    • Thanks Dad – you have always been and always will be one of the few heroes I look up to in life. You continue to set a great example to me. You have lived well. I hope to do as well and I will always try and hope to make you proud. Love bob

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  5. Good advice, and better living. Your 3 points remind me of sn ancient Germanic Creed: I will be the hero in my own life; I will be responsible for all I do. I will do nothing to dishonor myself and my ancestors.
    Pretty straight forward and it works. We can make mistakes, but we can atone through cleansing deeds.

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    • Thanks John -3 more great rules. I”m working on another piece to this that I”ve been thinking about. You might enjoy reading Legacy, by James Kerr. It is about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. It emphasizes the obligation we have to those who’ve built the world we live in, and to those who will follow us – by always striving to be better. Kerr and the All Blacks advocate “Planting trees we will never see.” Thanks for your comment. Bob

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