Show Notes – Episode 20 – “Staying The Course”
Welcome to The Greg Amundson Show. This is a podcast where Greg will educate and inspire you to live with purpose, passion and a burning desire to develop strength in your mind, body and spirit. Through a disciplined use of our words, thoughts, awareness and attention, we can achieve a mindset of positive expectancy, personal belief and an unshakable faith in God.
Hello friends and welcome to episode 20 of The Greg Amundson Show. Today, my friends, I want to talk to you about the principle of staying the course, how to stay the course in life, whether you are pursuing a dream, a goal or the very purpose of your life, the mission of your life. Whatever it is, you are currently in pursuit of, in order to be successful, you ultimately need to stay the course.
When I was an agent with the DEA, I had an opportunity to test for the DEA FAST team. This was essentially the equivalent of a SWAT team for the federal government. For me, this was the pinnacle of what my career would be. I’d already served on a SWAT team with the Santa Cruz County Sherriff’s office and absolutely loved it. There’s that great saying in law enforcement that when the cops need help, they call SWAT. One of my favorite Hollywood lines of all times comes from the movie SWAT? “You’re either SWAT or you’re not.”
Well, needless to say, when the opportunity came up for me to be on the equivalent of a federal SWAT team for the DEA, for me it was, “Yes, where do I sign up? How can I join the team?” Well, it turns out joining the team is no easy task. It would require 30 days of assessment and selection in Quantico, Virginia at DEA headquarters.
Well, I did some research on the expectations of the team and the type of evolutions that would take place during what would be the hardest crucible of my entire life, and it turned out several evolutions and training scenarios would involved obstacles, evolutions, challenges from significant height, one of which would be fast roping from helicopters. At that time in my life, that posed a major problem because I was terrified of heights.
Well, I happened to know someone who was very confident at heights and who I knew would be able to mentor and help train me for these upcoming evolutions. I called my dear friend Mark Divine. Mark Divine, if that is the first time you are hearing me speak of this mentor and dear friend of mine, 20-year Navy SEAL who went on to found the program SEALFIT which has a resounding success rate in helping candidates succeed in any special operations endeavor. I knew that my best chance of success during the assessment and selection would be spending as much time as possible in the company of one of my great mentors, Mark Divine. I called Mark and asked if he could help me prepare for evolutions involving heights and Mark said, “Of course, meet me in Coronado at the Navy SEAL compound this Saturday.”
Well, that Saturday morning, I drove up very, very early from my residence in El Centro right on the border, and two hours later, I was standing tall at the Navy SEAL compound in Coronado, anticipating a safety brief, Mark providing me with some points of performance on how to navigate obstacles at height, but oh no, that was not to be. Instead, Mark said in a booming voice, “Follow me.” The two words that ring true for any leader, “Follow me.”
Well Mark took off in a dead sprint through the soft sand towards the Navy SEAL obstacle course and we’re running right towards a cargo net. Even though we’re approximately a mile away, this cargo net seems to be reaching into the sky. It just seemed so vast, so tall. And the closer we get, the taller it continues to appear to me.
As we approach, I’m hoping that Mark will slow down and provide me now please some points of performance, some clues, some tips, some strategy, some technique, something to help boost my morale and confidence and courage. But again, that was not to be, Mark actually increased his speed, and as he approached the obstacle, said, “Once again, follow me,” and up he begins to climb. Well I do my best to climb next to him and at the very top we stop.
Now, at the top of this cargo net, there is approximately a two-foot gap between the very top of the rope and then a large wooden beam that looked similar to a telephone pole. And I’m hoping that now we simply climb back down the same way we went up, but of course that is not to be. Instead Mark says, “All right Greg, now, I want you to climb up and over that wooden beam and down the other side.” In that moment, I completely froze. I bored down on that rope full grip as strong as I possibly could as if that rope and my ability to hang onto it, my life depended on it. Mark looked at me and in a very calm voice, Mark said, “Greg, this would be a great time to take a breath.” And in that moment, I took what I recall being the first conscious breath of, get this, my entire life, which is amazing because I was in my late 20s at the time. I was a CrossFit athlete. I served in the military, on a local SWAT team with the sheriff’s office, as an agent with the DEA for already several years. Yet, all that athletic training, all that martial arts training served me naught. Not at all, because none of that training had emphasized the importance of breath awareness. That was the first conscious breath I took and it changed my life because in that moment before Mark give me any other direction, I was fully present. I was right there in the moment.
The amazing quality of that breath is I relaxed my grip. Now, I’m not referring to my physical grip on the rope, I’m referring to my mental grip on fear. I released my grip just a little bit. Well, sadly, the release of grip in my mind did not last that long because Mark looked at me and said, “Okay, climb up over the beam.” Once again, I lock down on the rope with my grip and I walk down on fear yet in my mind.
And then Mark said something else and equally profound. Mark said, “Point to the [0:08:58] [Audio Glitch].” In that moment, I took another breath of [0:09:05] [Audio Glitch] on what was taking place in my mind, and I realized in that moment, [0:09:15] [Audio Glitch] had to point the true cause of the fear, I could point to nothing except my own thinking. My thoughts about that moment in space and time were causing me fear. That was a breakthrough for me because what I realized was, “Wait a minute, I’m defeating myself. If my thinking can prevent me from doing something than I actually what to do, my thinking could just as easily help set me up for success. Oh wow, what a gift Mark gave me in that moment. And in that moment, I took another super conscious breath, and in my mind I said, “I can do it. I believe in myself. I’ve got this.” I looked at Mark and said, “Hooyah.” And up and over, that beam I went safely down the other side, and Mark and I continued to run multiple evolutions, tackling all of the obstacles on the course.
In a matter of hours, I completely changed my life in the sense that up until that moment in my life, I was terrified of heights. The bizarre feature of my fear is that there had been no incident in my life that could substantiate fear of heights. I simply decided somewhere along the way in my youth that I was going to be afraid of heights. And in that moment, I overcame that fear.
Now, did I have a healthy respect for heights? Absolutely. However, from that moment forward, I made an oath to myself that I would only use my mind, I would only use my thinking whenever I was in a situation in which heights were involved, I was only going to use my thinking to help me overcome that challenge, whenever it would be.
Well, as Mark and I wrapped up that physical training, Mark gave me a word of advice that I carry close to my heart to this day. I’ve passed on this word of advice in a variety of contexts to family, friends, loved ones, and now, my friends, I pass on this word of advice to you. What Mark said to me was, “Stay the course, Greg.” Stay the course.
Now what I have come to understand about the real meaning of the wisdom that Mark transferred to me in those three simple words stay the course is this, my friends. In order to stay the course, you have to essentially stand your ground. The keyword here that we reflect on is stay and stand, both of which are implied to mean that the action is taking place in the present moment.
The nature of our mind is such that we have the ability to project our thinking into the future or regress our thinking into the past. In other words, our body can be here and now and our thinking can be somewhere else entirely different. Ultimately, in order to be successful, in order to really be piercing our intention with the full spectrum of our potential, we have to merge the mind and the body both into the fertile soil of the present moment.
A dear friend of mine named Andy Rios, phenomenal operator in the world of SWAT, former SEAL himself; and another dear friend of mine named Andy Stumpf, also a former Navy SEAL, they are in complete agreement with me and with Mark Divine on the power of staying in the present moment whenever we are faced with any assemblance of a challenge.
In my book Firebreather Fitness, in doing research on micro goals and the power of staying in the present moment, I spoke at great length with Andy Stumpf, and Andy shared with me a strategy he used as he was going though Navy SEAL BUD/S, the epic grueling enduring training program to become a Navy SEAL. What Andy Stumpf did was remarkable in the context of micro goals and his ability to stay present.
Andy explained that he never set a goal more than approximately four hours in the future. And I asked him, “Why four hours?” And he laughed and said, “Well, that was the time of the next meal.” In other words, Andy simply was setting a micro goal and that goal was, “I’m going to make it to the next meal.” Then as he was enjoying that meal, the next micro goal would be, “I am going to make it to the next goal.” Or in the case of Andy, that goal being the next meal. And I thought to myself, wow, that is extraordinary. That’s a very powerful principle. His micro goal was never more than four hours out of reach.
Sometimes for those of us participating in the sport of CrossFit, a micro goal could simply be the next repetition. I’ll share with you, in some of the really emotionally challenging moments of my life, such as the loss of my dad, the death of my mother, my micro goal was the next breath. That’s as micro as we can go. I’m simply going to live for the next few hours breath to breath.
When we collapse and retreat that far into the present moment, we’re not surrendering, we’re not lying down and giving up. In fact, we are welcoming the presence of God into our life. Recall that before the spirit was formed in us, God had to breathe the breath of life into our body. Therefore, every time we breathe, if that is in fact the most micro level we retreat to, that’s a very powerful potent place to be, breath to breath.
The next piece of advice that Mark gave me was equally profound my friends. Mark said, “Greg, there’s bound to be sometimes in that course when you are going to question your resolve. How about writing yourself a letter?” Mark left that advice fairly open-ended. As I drove back to El Centro, two-hour drive along I-10, later that afternoon, I thought to myself, yeah, that’s exactly what I need to do. I need to write myself a letter because I’m going to write myself a letter in the present moment, when I am clear on my intention to be successful in that course. Therefore, in that course, in a moment when my mind maybe retreating to the past and when I maybe progressively projecting my mind into the future, both of which are preventing me from being in the present moment, I essentially need an anchor. An anchor for my soul as we learned in scripture is extremely important. I’m going to anchor my soul, my intention, my commitment to myself by writing myself a letter. And therefore, if during the course I have doubt, I have uncertainty, I can read a letter that I wrote to myself to solidify for myself that I’ve got this, I can do it.
That’s exactly what I did. When I went back to DEA headquarters, my station in El Centro, I went right to my desk, I typed myself out a letter, I printed that letter and then I put that letter neatly folded in an ID cardholder upside down that I wore in a lanyard my neck. Now it was upside down and so that I could bring it out from underneath any garment I was wearing, flip it up. And as I made that rotation, now the script would be right side up and I could read it.
My friends, this letter had such an impact on me that I still have that exact letter that went with me 30 days. Thirty days, I read this letter, oftentimes, multiple times a day. I have this letter, it’s framed and I’ve got it here with me now. I’m going to read this letter to you, my friends, and I encourage you to do what I did. Follow the advice that Mark gave me, write yourself a letter.
If you have a goal, if you have a challenge in your life, if you have a dream, I want you to write yourself a letter. Make a commitment to yourself. There is something very, very powerful when we project through our mind, through the body, whether it be written with a pen or a pencil or typed out that transference where we project, where we transfer, where we move, where we express and express means to press out. When we express what is in our mind onto paper, it becomes very tangible, it becomes very real, it becomes that anchor for our soul.
Here we go, without further ado, the letter I wrote to myself. I write: Greg, remember when you read this, where you have been and what you have done and what you have learned and how you have helped others. The decision to test for FAST was a decision you made. You made this decision because you believed in yourself. You believed in your ability to succeed and you believed in your ability to encourage others to succeed as well. You can do it. You will always know in your heart you had the courage to attempt something challenging, difficult, strenuous and demanding. God is with you, Greg. God is helping you. Be at your best every day. Greg, above all, remember this. Through Christ, you can do all things. You are brave. You are a warrior. You can do it.
That’s a powerful letter. And I feel absolutely certain, I have conviction that the Holy Spirit moved through me as I wrote this letter to myself. Some qualities to the letter I want to point out to you because I believe this letter was infused within me by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there’s a quality within this letter that I wrote to myself that essentially speaks to you my friend right now.
What I want to point out first is that what God inspired me to write to myself was in the service of other people. Notice that I wrote to myself that I believed in my ability to encourage others to succeed as well.
That was one of the great lessons that Mark and his amazing staff taught to me during the epic crucible of Kokoro camp. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on our teammate, we are blessed twice. Why are we blessed twice? Well, as we helped other people, we allow the benefit of cause-effect of karma to work in our favor. As we turn our attention away from our suffering and we focused on encouraging, helping, supporting, loving, motivated another person, we allow the universe to reciprocate that action and that quality in our favor. In other words, as we take the time, the effort to help someone else, someone else takes the time and effort to help us. It’s the law of the universe, God created that. Secondly, when we take our eyes and our attention off of our own suffering, the suffering takes its attention away from us.
In the CrossFit goal setting course that I taught for years, one of the laws that encourage people to abide by was this. What we focus our attention on will increase in our life. Therefore, if we are focusing on our suffering, we are going to experience a lot of suffering. But if we are focusing on loving, encouraging, supporting, benefiting, being a blessing onto other people, do you know what we are going to experience more of? Blessing, encouragement, support, motivation, we get what we give.
Also, notice that I referenced scripture. I knew that I would need the support of the Holy Spirit, I would need the presence of God in my life during that course. And I write to myself, “Above all,” meaning above my conviction that I can do it, I wrote, “Above all of that Greg, remember this, through Christ, you can do all things.” And that’s so important to understand. If we’re trying to navigate the ebb and flow of life on our own, ultimately, we will never reach our full potential. However, when we navigate the ebb and flow of life with the support, with the presence, with the strength of Jesus Christ with us, in us, strengthen us, then and only then we’ll be able to accomplish our dreams, our goals, our mission, our very purpose in life.
My friends, I want to share with you a Bible verse that I encourage you to consider committing to memory. That Bible verse comes from the Book of Psalms. Remember, the majority of Psalms was written by one my Bible heroes, David. David as in David and Goliath, one of the greatest warrior kings of all time. David writes, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What a beautiful Bible verse to commit to memory, to remember that God made you and I my friends in His image. What image is that? An image that is fearfully and wonderfully made. Now the word wonderfully can speak for itself.
However, the word fearfully takes some greater understanding. To fear something, that term, that word is oftentimes used in the Bible in relation to our experience of God. To fear God, in the Bible, is a great blessing onto one’s self, to experience the presence of God with fear. However, we have to understand the context of fear and so that we can better appreciate what the Psalmist is encouraging us to experience in our relationship to our self, to our own image.
To fear God means to respect God. To fear God means to appreciate God. To fear God means to honor God, to revere God. And what are we respecting, what are we honoring, what are we revering? The power, the innate power, the Creator of the universe is worthy of our love, our respect and of course our fear. Yet it’s not fear in the sense that we would fear perhaps a bully or in my case, the fear of fearing heights.
It’s a fear of love. We are in such admiration. We are in such awe. We are in such astonishment of the power of God that we fear out of love. We respect the power, the authority of our Father in heaven. And it’s that context that the Psalmist encourages us to utilize this great piece of scripture.
Therefore, when I commit to memory and when you commit to memory and repeat within the temple of your mind, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” what you’re proposing to your subconscious mind is that you are powerful, you are worthy of respect, you are worthy of admiration.
And when we merge this scripture, this Psalm, and we layer that scripture from the Old Testament onto the New Testament, I can do all things in Christ through strengthens me, now we really have our self a beautiful razor sharp double edge sword in which any way we wield that sword.
We are cutting out of our life any self-doubt, any anxiety, any uncertainty, any nervousness, any fear is gone. It’s cut out of our life because I swing the sword one way, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. However, now, I realized that respect, that admiration, that wonder I have in my creation is substantiated on the life of Jesus Christ.
Well, my friends, I hope this episode has been of encouragement to you. And my friends, I want to encourage you further to, in the words of my dear friend and mentor Mark Divine, I want to encourage, motivate you to stay the course. Stay in the present moment. Stand your ground. You can do it. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Right now, in this moment, as you take the next breath, my friends, know that the presence of God is with you.
Remember, you are made in the image of God. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You are brave. You are courageous. And my friends, I believe you can do it.
My friends, until next time. May God bless you, keep you safe and I will talk to you again very, very soon on our next episode together of The Greg Amundson Show.
Thank you for listening to the show. Please subscribe, rate and share this podcast. You can find more info at gregoryamundson.com. Take care and God bless.
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