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Learn Life Skills for Extreme Situations

The sun was blazing, the terrain barren and unforgiving, and the instructors were working us hard.  The extra twenty pounds or so of gear we were wearing just added to the fatigue – a Kevlar vest, knee and elbow pads, sometimes a helmet, a pistol strapped to the right thigh and an American M4 or Russian Kalashnikov assault rifle in hand…
                            At the firing range, carrying an M4 assault rifle
That was last week for me.  I was privileged to attend an elite training course down in the deserts of the south-western US, a course taught by special forces veterans and frequently attended by everyone from members of such elite organizations as the British SAS or Canada’s JTF2, to ordinary people facing deployment to the world’s most dangerous trouble spots. 
(The trip also allowed me to explore some issues of leadership, teamwork and corporate culture with these people.  Did you know that what we consider the most advanced leadership and corporate culture solutions in the corporate world today were actually developed by special forces units decades ago?)
The “Yang” Side of Resilience Training
You may have noticed I like to divide resilience training into its “Yin” and “Yang” aspects.  And I tend to talk more about the Yin or “soft” aspects, such as meditation, mindfulness, Qi Gong, Yoga, nutrition, relationship skills and the like. 
However, we should never forget the other side of the coin – those Yang skills that will keep us and our loved ones alive when the unthinkable happens.
In North America we live the pleasant delusion that we personally will never face an extreme situation.  That situation could be street crime, a home invasion, a natural disaster or something as commonplace as a car accident out in the country, where you’re on the scene and the nearest first responder is still twenty minutes away.  Meanwhile, the accident victim on the ground in front of you may only have two minutes to live, not twenty, unless you personally take some very specific and simple actions.  Do you have the skill sets required?  Do you have the right medical kit with you?  What if that victim were your spouse or child? 
                            Rescuing a man down, moving him and applying 
                                          a tourniquet to save his life
Our delusion is the ingrained belief that we don’t need those skills because the paramedics will save the day.  Likewise we assume we don’t need to know how to carry an unconscious person out of a burning building or know how to defend ourselves because the firemen and police will do it for us. 
Yet the stark reality is that when the s**t hits the fan, you will more than likely be on your own for the first five to fifteen minutes of any serious event.  And by then, it’s very often too late.
The Value of Acquiring Extreme Skills
One of the most challenging features of last week’s course was that you never knew what challenge the instructors would throw at you next!  This is when you find yourself worrying about whether you’ll screw it up and look like an idiot, whether you’ll have the energy, and whether the back muscle you pulled yesterday will hold out…
                            Participant learns how to escape when tied up
                                          with rope, hand-cuffs, etc. 
And then you realize that you just need to surrender.  You can either continue wasting energy worrying about what comes next, or you can surrender, live in the present and mentally let it all go.  So one of the greatest benefits of the kind of training that tests your physical and mental limits is that you learn a lot about yourself. 
Some of the other specific benefits of learning some of life’s extreme skills are:
  • Improving your personal resilience
  • Passing on these skills to those around you
  • Boosting your self-esteem
  • Becoming a greater asset to your family, workplace and community
  • Acquiring the confidence to face extreme situations
  • Learning how to function effectively under extreme stress

                                          Clearing rooms and rescuing hostages (hint: 
                                          the way you see it done on TV shows will get
                                          you killed)

So although the Yin side of resilience training (improving your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health) is absolutely vital, it’s important not to forget the Yang side of resilience training, where we acquire the personal power and the critical skills to handle life’s most extreme situations. 
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

The Educational System and Personal Resilience

Apropos of our educational system, the following is an excerpt from my Resilience 2010 Special Report:
Sparta was certainly a warrior culture by any definition, and those blind to its many virtues are quick to condemn it as “militaristic” or “violent”. In reality, whatever its flaws, Sparta was based on high ideals of honor and justice. 
The Greek historian Xenophon writes about an incident he witnessed personally:
An elderly man was trying to find a place to sit and observe the Olympic Games. As he went to each section, all the other Greeks laughed as he tried to make his way through. Some ignored him. Upon entering the Spartan section all the Spartans stood and offered the elderly man their seats. Suddenly the entire stadium applauded. All the Greeks knew what was the right thing to do, but the Spartans were the only ones who did it.
Sparta was widely known for its educational system for both boys and girls. The system was very demanding physically and produced people who were exceptionally tough and resilient in every way.
The purpose of this toughness and resilience, though, was to inculcate a strong sense of self-identity, values and a virtuous character, as Xenophon’s story illustrates.
Without a strong sense of who you are, of what you stand for and the inner strength to act on those values, you have no real chance of achieving real happiness or a fulfilling life.

It Has Always Puzzled Me…

As somebody who’s been through the modern Western educational system from one end to the other – Kindergarten to PhD – I can tell you it’s always left me totally perplexed.  It claims to want to achieve certain laudable goals and then does exactly the opposite of what it says.

That’s why I have a lot of time for anyone who’s willing to stand up and tell the truth about the educational system – that it’s failed us and it’s failing our children even more.  And that’s why I’d encourage you to go and see the new movie, Waiting for Supermanand no, it’s not about the guy in the blue tights and red cape 😉

Here’s one of the trailers:

I certainly plan to see it myself, because my personal commitment is to bring the cultivation of personal resilience back into the educational system, so that our schools can once again start guiding the young toward lives full of health, self-confidence, intellectual honesty and diligence, self-fulfillment and superior leadership.  

And the educational system that does this will not be the same one that:

  •  Repeatedly gave my then grade 8 daughter pictures to color as a regular homework assignment in French class.  How the f#%! do you color “in French”??!!
  •   Developed an entire high school curriculum for languages like German and Latin where you didn’t even hear about key elements of grammar essential to make a basic sentence during the entire first year
  • Drove lots of kids away from their natural fascination with science by boring them to death with tedious equations about stuff that didn’t interest them
  • Had me going to the dean of a graduate school to protest a final exam I considered so insultingly simple as to be a joke (masters level students getting 10 identification questions to be answered with no more than one sentence each??).  Imagine my shock when the dean informed me that several students had failed!  

Education has long since degenerated into the (largely) state-run babysitting service.  Isn’t it time to do something about an educational system that’s manifestly inferior in several important ways to those of many ancient cultures?  

Be sure to go see this movie!!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 

Overwhelmed By Everything (OBE)? Here’s Your Exit Strategy…

Turn up your speakers or read the text version below:

MP3 File

In the world of personal resilience, one of the toughest nuts to crack is beating the OBE syndrome.  Yes, when you’re chronically overwhelmed by everything, you simply won’t see the EXIT signs that are right in front of you.

It’s surprising how many people can take positive action to take back their health, their fitness and other areas of their lives, while still remaining run off their feet from day to day.  In fact, lots of high performers in all walks of life are very unhappy workaholics. 

So listen: if you need to get a grip on your time and energy, there is hope.  Just follow these infallible steps to building your exit strategy:

1. Drill this Into Your Skull:

You cannot beat overwhelm by doing more stuff.  You can only beat overwhelm by a) doing less, and b) doing what you do more efficiently.  

2. Identify Your Key Results:

What results are you actually responsible for?  In every area of your life, what are the top 1-3 results that you are primarily on the hook for?  What does your employer really need you to do?  If you’re not quite sure – and that’s distressingly common in the business world – go and ask!  What do your spouse and kids need most from you?  What 1-3 results do you need to see with respect to your health?  Write all this down.  Then distill it down further until you have a list of not more than 5 things that, if you were to accomplish them in the next 12 months, would give you an outstanding life.

3. Identify the Activities that Will Produce Those Results:

For each of those key results, identify the 1-3 activities that will contribute most to bringing them into reality.  Now you know what to focus on.  Of course, you should always get a sanity check from several people whose judgment you trust.  But once you’re sure what they are, you’re light years ahead of 99% of the population.

4. Identify the Activities that Contribute Least to Your Key Results:

What are the time wasters in your life?  Does your job have you stuck in endless meetings that go nowhere and contribute little to the results your employer really needs?  Then you need to stop attending (yes, there are creative strategies for handling this, but there’s no time to go over them here ;-).  Are you buried under a mountain of admin you hate and, for that matter, aren’t very good at?  Do constant interruptions plague you?  Once you know what’s in the way, you can take measures to eliminate these time-sucking energy vampires.  This alone could save you up to 3 hours per day!

5. Block Off Time to Work on Your Top Priorities:

Open an Excel spreadsheet.  Don’t worry if you’re new to Excel; you’ll figure it out.  Personally, I suck at Excel, but I won’t live without my weekly spreadsheet.  So label the sheet Monday to Friday across the top and put the hours of your day down the side.  Now block off the time you need.

Let me give you a hint.  Do NOT start by scheduling everything else in your week first.  If you do that, you may find there ARE NO blocks of time left.  You take the blocks you want FIRST.  And make them early in the morning, when you’re fresh and motivated.  Yes, you can schedule other blocks later in the day if you wish, but stake out the early morning.  And if anyone or anything gets in your way, threaten them with grievous bodily harm until them back off.  Okay, just kidding.  But unless you FORCE everything else out of your way, you won’t get the time you need.

Why early morning?  Easy.  You’re most likely at your most productive.  And you’re setting yourself up to finish your major priority for the day by 10am.  Try this and you’ll see.  If you can get the really important stuff done before lunch, you’ll feel absolutely wonderful!  For the first time in ages you’ll feel you’ve taken back control of your life.  

6. Review Your Priorities Every Night:

If I were to wake you out of a dead sleep at 2am and ask you exactly what you’ll be working on in the morning and what time you’re going to start, you should be able to blurt it out even before your eyes open!  Clarity is the key.  You must be totally clear on what you’re about to do.  This eliminates the wasted time that comes from indecision and guess-work, and it also allows your subconscious to work on the issues while you’re asleep.  

7. Eliminate Interruptions and Force Your Schedule on Others:

Yes, it sounds brutal and egotistical, but I can tell you now that unless you build the schedule that works for you and stick to it, other people will “invent” your schedule for you and you’ll be miserable and frustrated because, despite the flurry of useless activity they force on you, you won’t get a thing done!  

Refuse phone calls during your key result working time.  Refuse meetings.  Block off the time in your Outlook or Google calendar at work and at home.  As for that time-sucking monster called email, don’t you dare check it more than 3 times per day, and never before your first block of working time.  

8. Get Rid of Low Value Tasks:

When you find yourself spending hours doing work you hate or work you’re not good at on a repeated basis, that task is a prime candidate for elimination.  You’ve got to get it off your plate.  Your choices are a) delegate it to someone else, b) outsource it to someone else, or c) just ignore it until it goes away (yeah, it’s shocking how much of the work in most enterprises is so useless that, if it’s not done, there are no consequences!).  

So take this blueprint as your exit strategy and start using it right away – it’ll make a huge, positive difference in your life.  And if you want to know more, if you want more help, come to this Wednesday night’s teleclass to learn even more.   Reserve your spot right here:

I hope to talk to you then!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Warrior Wisdom from the Klingon Empire – Part 1

We engage in all kinds of practices to improve our resilience: we do Yoga, Qi Gong, running, Pilates, meditation, eat good food, and much more.

Yet, in the end, you can never be more resilient than your own personal foundation is. What is that foundation? It’s your CHARACTER! And character is composed of the fundamental virtues
of courage, honor, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, loyalty, trustworthiness, duty, gratitude and much more.

You can pump iron all day long and become the strongest person on the planet, but if you don’t have that solid foundation of character, you’ll forever remain a pathetic weakling and an idiot.


Today’s Resilience Tip comes from one of Hollywood’s most highly developed fictional cultures – Star Trek’s Klingon Empire. In the video below, veteran classical actor Christopher Plummer
reprises his role as Klingon General Chang, a role he originally played in the 1991 movie “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country”.

As Chang welcomes young Klingon officers to the elite command academy, he says, “Past achievements mean nothing here. I don’t care about the names of your fathers or your family’s lineage.”

Of course he doesn’t – warriors have a very keen sense of reality. They won’t abide the falsity and political correctness that all cowards readily hide behind. Chang cares only for what’s real.
And only concrete RESULTS are real.

Without this dedication to reality, to the TRUTH of things, you can never become resilient.

Then he goes on to add, “What I do care about is your breaking point, how you conduct yourselves in battle…”

It’s only when you are taken to your breaking point that you can discover your character. You can lie to yourself about it until then. But the breaking point always reveals the truth.

That’s why all true athletic training, military training, and definitely all true SPIRITUAL training takes you to your breaking point. It’s the only way to find out what you’re really made of.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s General Chang himself to talk to you:

If you want to become a resilient person, you need to take all this to heart!


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Warrior Coaching International – transforming

your mind, body and spirit into SOLID STEEL…

…wrapped in cotton 😉

Resilience Tip: The Immutable Truth…

Do you want to become resilient?  Do you want to live up to your true potential as a human being?  Are you ready to take life by the throat and suck out all its marrow, as Thoreau put it?

Then give up the idea it’s going to be easy or comfortable.  Give up looking for ease and pleasure and start looking for challenge.  Teach yourself to revel in challenges and difficulties, spend your time devising tests for yourself and thinking of ways to make yourself tougher.  

Confucius said, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor can the human being be perfected without trials.”  This principle is immutable.  

“No one ever became holy being coddled in his mother’s arms,” said the Eastern Christian sages. 

You have to know fatigue, exhaustion and even failure if you want to become a “real person”.  Failure, by the way, is not defeat.  Defeat only occurs when you give up!  The person who falls and yet never gives up is a true warrior.

We can’t boast about our civilization until we’re worthy of it.  In ancient Greece it was said that being born in Sparta doesn’t make you a real Spartan.  In ancient Rome they said that being born Italian did not make you a Roman.  These names were to be won by sweat and blood.  

Need inspiration?  Try these:

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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