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Getting Stronger in the Broken Places
Or- Becoming Bulletproof
Today’s title comes from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. In one of the most truthful sentences in literature, Hemingway said:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
Hemingway was speaking, of course, of the world breaking us emotionally, but the same principle applies to the physical, and to the mental.
Muscle is built by damaging muscle. The torn skin of a blister hardens into a callus.
We get strong by doing things that make us weak.
The photo above is from a few weeks ago following a soul-crushing Friday morning workout. In the Marines, we often call these sessions Bulletproof Fridays.
Bulletproof Friday is designed to wring every last drop of strength and sweat from you at the end of the work week. After a weekend of recovery, you return rested, and stronger, ready to face the challenges of a new week.
Bulletproof Fridays also serve to push us to our breaking point mentally. And, after a rest, we come back tougher and more resilient.
Just like the COVID shot or flu vaccine leaves us feeling crappy for a day or two but strengthens our system against a virus, doing hard things now inoculates us against the stress of doing hard things in the future.
I’ve likened this reservoir of mental toughness to a well of grit that can be drawn upon to fortify us against challenging times.
Last week I had the chance to ruck with a group of young Marines who were easily half my age. They were conducting an individual-effort 8-mile movement under load with 45 pounds and a 15-minute-per-mile standard. Being Marines, they sought to finish much faster than the 2-hour cut-off, and so the pace increased from a fast walk to a shuffle to a run.
The point of this story is not to say that I beat most of them (I did) but rather that the reason I beat most of them was not that I was in better shape, but because I have spent years digging a reservoir of resilience that I was able to draw upon. When their buckets were coming up empty, I was still pulling from a well full of grit.
In most cases, we reach our mental limits long before we reach our physical limits. As General Patton said, “If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
Each ruck, hard workout, or Bulletproof Friday forces us to drain the well of grit and then, finding it empty, gives us the choice to quit, or to drop to our knees scratching and clawing at the dirt to dig up a small reserve of grit to see us through to the end.
Each time you dig, the well refills deeper.
Consider implementing a Bulletproof Friday workout at least once a month.
If you do engage in a bulletproof Friday workout I’d love to hear about it.
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Thanks to all of those who have contributed!
Read. A Farewell to Arms
By Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms is considered to be the greatest American novel to come out of WWI. If you haven’t read it, you really should.
I’ve been reluctant to mention my upcoming trip for fear of jinxing it, but in a few days, I will be heading to Guam with several other former combat divers to assist the National Park Service and NOAA in searching for artifacts from the battle for Guam which took place between July 21st & August 10th, 1944. We will be there over the 79th anniversary conducting dives to locate artifacts from the battle and to assess damage to the coral reefs caused by the demolitions used to clear beach obstacles.
This trip is being made possible by the National Park Service underwater archeology crew and by the great Americans at Task Force Dagger Special Operations Foundation. The mission, Operations Forager II is also being supported by my friends at First Spear. Speaking of being bulletproof, if you need to be actually bulletproof, or need top-of-the-line tactical equipment, check them out.
I’ll be providing updates here as the expedition gets underway!
Words of wisdom from those who said it best:
"But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. ” - Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Believe you can and you're halfway there." —Theodore Roosevelt
"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome." —William James
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." —Albert Einstein
Thanks for reading Think. Read. Write. Repeat. See you next Thursday!
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