Nothing Hurts If You Don't Let It
During an especially weird time of my life, I printed this quote onto pastel pink paper and taped it to my bathroom mirror. I wanted so badly to believe it was true. To embody the attitude that nobody could hurt me if I didn't let them. That I was untouchable, impervious to pain. Or course, wanting something to be true is eons away from it actually being true, but the sentiment was enthralling.
Hemingway, I should note, was a notorious drunk. Maybe nothing does hurt when you dampen your veins with alcohol each night. He grew famous for his ability to drink unceasingly, but interestingly enough, he never drank while he was writing. Hemingway also famously said, "write hard and clear about what hurts." He was a man who knew pain, both physical and mental. He was badly wounded in World War I where he served as an ambulance driver, emerging from war with a crippled leg that bothered him for the rest of his life. Later, in 1954, he nearly died in two separate plane crashes. He was married four times and in 1961, he ended his own life at his home in Ketchum, Idaho.
"Nothing hurts if you don't let it" sounds nice, but I'm not sure it's true. Hemingway's quote implies the type of idealized self-reliance that Americans love but that few of us have truly figured out how to embrace. I definitely haven't figured it out yet, but a nationwide quarantine is a good time to test your strength. Below are some of my favorite quotes and lessons from some badass men and women who can teach us all a thing or two about how to rise above challenges and cope with hurt.
1. Shun Mediocrity
"If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be."~ Maya Angelou
Mediocrity might be one of the most common human conditions. Mediocrity is safe, comfortable, and homey, but it is inherently stagnant. Maya Angelou was one of America's most beloved and celebrated poets, winning dozens of awards and receiving over 50 honorary degrees. Her accolades aren't what set her apart though, but rather her incredible strength and wisdom. After being sexually assaulted at a young age, Angelou didn't speak for five years. Many people would not be able to rise out of that horror, but Angelou didn't allow her past to dictate her future, and it doing so, shunned mediocrity.
2. Be Patient
"Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time."~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RBG is notoriously patient. She began working against systemic inequalities in the 1970's and is still at it today, serving as a supreme court justice since 1993. She realized early in her career that she would need to be patient to achieve her goals, and in doing so, has changed the landscape of gender equality as we know it.
3. Take Charge
“You’re not going to find happiness. You have to make it. So get out there and make some happiness.”~Jocko Willink
Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL who served two tours in Iraq, leading SEAL teams in some of the fiercest battles during the Iraqi conflict. Since retiring from the Navy, he's become a podcaster and author of award-winning books, including Extreme Ownership, The Dichotomy of Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Tactics, and Way of the Warrior Kid. Jocko is notorious for waking up every day at 4:30 a.m. and posting a picture of his watch to his Instagram page. He said, "I’m not saying 0430 is for everyone. But if your sleeping until 10 every day, get used to losing.” And, get used to being unhappy.
4. Be Exceptionally Disciplined
“It’s so easy to be great nowadays, because everyone else is weak. If you have any mental toughness, if you have any fraction of self-discipline...or if you can get through doing things that you hate to do: on the other side is greatness” ~ David Goggins
Goggins is another retired Navy SEAL and former United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member who served in the Iraq War. After leaving the armed forces, he jumped into the world of endurance athletics, completing races like the Badwater-135, the San Diego One Day, the Hurt-100, and many more. He ran through some incredible obstacles, but telling his story would take too long (read more here). None of his achievements would have been possible without serious discipline, but he wasn't always discipline; it's a skill we can all foster.
5. Embrace Change
"Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away."~ Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist mostly known for her self-portraits. Kahlo lived a hard life; at the age of six she contracted polio, a condition that made one of her legs shorter and thinner than the other. She was bulled by her peers and isolated for much of her childhood. Around the age of 18, she was badly injured in a bus accident, suffering multiple fractures of her spine, foot, pelvis, collarbone, ribs, and shoulder. Kahlo nearly lost her life in this accident, and needed over 30 surgeries. As she navigated physical struggles, she also lived a turbulent home life and had a miscarriage that nearly killed her. Through her trials, she learned not to become too attached to any expectation. She also said, "At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can."
6. Strive For Autonomy
“Once you give them the power to tell you you’re great, you’ve also given them the power to tell you you’re unworthy. Once you start caring about people’s opinions of you, you give up control." ~ Ronda Rousey
You probably know Ronda Rousey as an Olympian, MMA fighter, UFC champion or WWE wrestler. She is the only woman to win a championship in both the UFC and WWE as well as headline a pay-per-view event in both companies. She's also appeared in a handful of films and wrote an autobiography called My Fight/Your Fight. Fighting is a fairly autonomous sport, and she didn't allow other people to negatively influence her trajectory, "Just because you don’t think that you could be the best in the world doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have the confidence to believe I can do anything.”
"So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground." ~ Oprah Winfrey
Who doesn't know about Oprah? She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in inner-city Milwaukee. After being molested, she became pregnant at 14 and her son was born prematurely and died in infancy. At 19, she was a co-anchor for a local evening news channel in Tennessee, and rose to become the most notorious and beloved daytime talk show host of our time. As far as conventional career success goes, not many people top Oprah. But as most successful people know, the road to success is littered with failures, and failures are nothing more than lessons that help us do better next time.
If there is any one takeaway from all this, it is to learn from mistakes and pains, no matter how big or small they may seem. Stay safe & sane, all you beautiful humans.