How to Adopt the Buffalo’s Approach to Challenges in Your Life

Photo Credit: Tammy Hockhalter

Sometimes I feel like life throws me a non-stop supply of challenges.

It’s exhausting.

I don’t blame anyone who starts slipping into their minds’ darker recesses. I’ve previously shared how I realized late in October 2021 that I was dealing with depression. I wish I had simple answers that could alleviate suffering instantaneously.

Or do I?

How to Deal with Personal Challenges

I’ve always been conscious about the language I use – maybe being a writer has helped me visualize the differences words have in how they make me feel. That’s why I say ‘challenges’ instead of problems. One of the most significant lines from my favorite show, How I Met Your Mother, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it when written, “Problem Accepted!”

That’s the first step. If I look at something and give it all my power to believe it’s insurmountable, I won’t even try. I learned a valuable lesson from my wife, hearing her dealing with bureaucrats stuck saying “No” and chose instead to pose the question back to them, “How could we solve this to move forward?”

Personal challenges range from health, income, fulfillment, mental illness, and job loss, you can easily [insert your current challenge] here and see if this resonates.

I don’t think there’s any feeling worse in the world – than hopelessness.

Part of the healing journey is taking the most critical step: believing that I am enough, I am worth it.

I’ve spent years doing as much as possible and learning techniques and processes for personal growth. I realize now that I’ve been running on a treadmill – never reaching the ultimate destination because I was forgetting the most important thing: look within to step off the treadmill.

A Profound Lesson from Buffalo’s

While waiting in line for three hours to sort out my passport, I read Rory Vaden’s book, Take The Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving Success. Jessie recommended it to me for various reasons, one of which was how I used stairs for my mental shift to train for my year challenge of climbing Table Mountain, whereby I stopped using the lift – and always took the stairs.

Rory shares a story he learned while growing up in Colorado, a state uniquely split in half by the Rocky Mountains to the west, and the Great Plains to the east. When a storm sweeps across the Plains from the West, cows sense the storm and try to run east to get away. Not exactly a great choice considering their ‘speed.’

Thanks to evolution on the plains, the Buffalo faces the storm – and charges into it. They’ve learned the storms going to hit them one way or another, so why not pick the option that minimizes the pain, frustration, and time spent in the storm?

Same storm – two different experiences.

How to Cultivate Wisdom out of Knowledge

In 2022 there is no shortage of information. We have access to more information at our fingertips than Bill Clinton had as President of the United States.

… but knowledge doesn’t automatically mean wisdom.

You can read a book (or this post) and understand what a person shares. As I’m writing this I’m reminded of a personal belief that you learn far more from someone by their actions versus what they say. Would you trust a broke financial advisor?

A major standout point from Rory’s book is the experiences he shares that made him who he is. It hit me like a ton of bricks how simple the formula for success actually is. I think it hit me because I was able to connect it with the insane physical challenges I’ve been able to accomplish.

Self-Discipline.

If I were ever to have a child, self-discipline would be the fundamental principle I’d drive into their head to build wisdom. Wisdom means looking at a major milestone you achieve and realizing that you don’t magically get bestowed something like inner strength at the end: it was within you all along.

Wisdom means you can dissect a milestone and see the ingredients that made you successful. Discipline, perseverance, patience, adaptability, gratitude, and intention — these are all things we can cultivate.

Thus it’s not important what someone achieves – it’s what they are prepared to do day to day, moment to moment.

I must explain why I say self-discipline and not just discipline.

Why You Should also Take The Stairs

When I decided to ban myself from using any elevator (including one in our apartment block), I suddenly found myself at the end of a long day (already climbed the same eight flights at home five times), standing below the stairs well past midnight. Of course, my mind would play games with me.

“No one will know,” it whispered quietly.

But I’d know. Standing at the bottom, was I a cow or a buffalo? By climbing it again I learned I do have the self-discipline to do what is needed while nobody is looking. After all, nobody was waiting at the bottom or top of Table Mountain to see if I was climbing every day. I developed wisdom through training and planning by doing the following:

I was excited to climb every day for an entire year for no other reason than it excited me beyond belief – it set my soul on fire.

Everything else was secondary. Even raising money for charities.

My question to you is: Are you doing or focusing on what you love?

Even better: what are you prepared to do that you don’t love (like taking the stairs) in aid of your dreams?

Eight flights of stairs did nothing physically to prepare me for climbing the equivalent of 71 Mt. Everests – but it had a profound impact on my mental strength to get up every day and tackle another climb. Think about it, it wasn’t the act of climbing that built mental fortitude – but the choice made at the bottom over 1000 times to run into the storm.

Taking the stairs means reading something like this and putting it into practice daily. It’s amazing to think that confidence is actually the result of thousands of hours of practice.

So Now What?

The harsh reality is that life will be challenging whether we face the storm or not. We need to let go of wanting easy and realize that keeping things simple is within ourselves.

I’ve spent so much time overcomplicating life because I’ve been searching for answers outside of myself and neglecting my inner voice for most of my life.

Even after climbing Table Mountain every day for a year, I neglected the simplest lessons: doing what I love and being the best at it is how I serve the world best. Actually, scrap that, how I serve myself best within the world.

The world is always going to appear chaotic – especially if that’s what we focus on. One of my favorite sayings is:

Success comes to those working too hard to look for it.

~ Unkown

So the equation I’ve learned is simple:

Want to be the best athlete? Train, sleep, eat, and believe harder than anyone else.

Want to write that book? Set time aside every single day and write. Sit for two hours looking at the screen, even if nothing comes.

Whatever you love doing – what is the hardest permutation you can do once and see what it’s like?

The most difficult thing to overcome is feeling worth the success you’re aiming at. Believing in yourself even when no one else does. Getting up and doing it even when it feels pointless. Falling over or failing again and pushing one more time.

As I heard recently – if you are scared try something because you’re 40 and it’s going to take four years to achieve? Well, in four years you’ll still be 44.

So why not give it a try and have four years of doing something you love.

Take the Stairs of Life.

How Depression Forced me to Re-evaluate How I Express Myself with the World

Spending time in Nature is a big help for depression. In Japan doctors prescribe “forest bathing” for physical, mental, and emotional health – known as Shinrin-yoku

It’s been one hell of an emotional rollercoaster for all of us, but definitely for me the past six months and hence the radio silence. I’m working on being better at expressing myself and posting more frequently. As such, subsequent posts will go into more detail about my depression, but give some context, in October 2021, I finally realized I’ve been living with depression for a couple of years. Depression has given me some beautiful gifts – one of which sparked a meaningful journey of self-discovery.

Part of that journey reconnected me with my purpose of expressing myself freely, without reservation or fear of “what others may say.” That’s not to say I’m absolving myself of responsibility to be intentional with my words or ignore how my words are received. As Retired Navy SEAL Rep. Dan Crenshaw says, “Try not to offend others – try even harder not to be offended.”

I’ve been struggling with this, but I believe intention is everything. My intention is about building community and getting people to think differently about how we feel about ourselves and how that impacts the world. To believe in our power to build community.

Honestly? I’m tired of constantly seeing division (especially being based in the USA now) and what irks me in most cases: the very thing people accuse others of is behavior they themselves demonstrate.

Seeing that has helped me constantly question my own shortcomings and blind spots. Do I treat others with the same respect I’m asking for? I’m doing my best, but I’m learning that being conscious of something tends to result in deeper thinking around what I say and do.

Ask – And Be Given An Opportunity to Practice

I’ll never forget this quote I read as a teenager:

When you pray to God and ask for patience, He doesn’t just give you patience – He gives you opportunities to practice patience.

I wish I knew the author to credit them.

We live in unprecedented times with extreme levels of stress. Stress doesn’t build character – it reveals it. Social media is a pressure cooker, and almost like a wild horse: it’s unpredictable and a little scary (can even harm us if we are not careful), but with patience and a willingness to understand, it has untold opportunities for us.

It’s the same old story of what we focus on is what we create. If you dispute that, give me a call – I have an entire year climbing a mountain with the sole purpose of building community around what we can do to prove it. I was only surrounded by incredible human beings that year.

My shortcomings have been a lack of confidence in my beliefs. Without faith in my own voice, I’ve relied on others to tell me how many words I should write, when to post, how frequently to post, and every other metric under the sun.

In December, it took an intense vision quest in Kaapsehoop to realize there’s nothing more powerful than speaking my truth in service of building community. The reality is it’s not the time of the message, but the message itself that’s important. I learned that when I posted for the first time on Facebook this past Saturday, sharing Rudy Van Dieman’s story of climbing Table Mountain every day in 2022 for his community in Mitchells Plain. Usually I would’ve tried to post at the “best” time and yet – it’s currently got a record 43 shares.

Coming to terms with realizing the power behind speaking my truth and being safe to do so, is obliterating my depression. My depression was caused by my inability to speak freely and feel comfortable telling you things like I’m very spiritual. I’m a round peg, and I’ve been adjusting my message to a square world – and the more I did that, the deeper I fell into depression. No more.

What can YOU take from this?

Start thinking about what inner desires you suppress and feel apprehensive about sharing with the world. Ever since I was a little boy, I felt different and unable to express how or why I felt different, and I became angry. So much so my parents bought me a punching bag to unleash the anger inside. Considering they were parenting in the ’80s without Google’s help – a phenomenal bit of intuitive parenting. Perhaps one of their most significant accomplishments in guiding me to become the man I am today.

I’ve been inactive, not just here, but on social media too. Purely because I’ve felt inept and devoid of anything worthwhile to say. Which fueled the depression in an out-of-control negative spiral. It’s as if I placed a ridiculous weight on my shoulders that I must become a sage to be of value, saying something new or coming up with revolutionary ideas to save mankind.

But we don’t need revolutionary ideas – we need people to stop living in fear and act in ways that respect themselves, others, and our beautiful planet. So simple – but oh not so easy. We’re all on a journey of exploration to understand how complex life is and embrace the sacredness of life.

Spirituality isn’t about being right – it’s about moving past the container of our mind to discover our soul’s potential in service to others.

There’s an excellent chance one of you may unsubscribe while reading this. But there’s also a good chance I might get an extra 2 subscribers by becoming more forthright. Perhaps 1,000. But that’s not important.

The point is, writing has nothing to do with how many subscribers I have – that’s just my ego demanding validation. The real value lies in living my truth and no longer suffocating my souls’ voice, which means I’d rather have 1 meaningful connection that creates change than 1 million shares and views. Case in point; what Rudy is currently doing for his community.

Where to from here?

As a South African living in the USA now, it’s abundantly clear what a phenomenal country South Africa is for one reason: The People.

Don’t believe me? Feel free to confirm with Jerry, President: North America, South Africa Tourism.

The number one reason tourists tick for enjoying their visit to South Africa is the people. 

One of my plan with this platform and my voice are to learn more about and share South Africa’s rich stories of our resilience. THAT we have in abundance and need to start recognizing in each other and ourselves.

As a quick example, did you know that Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria performed the world’s first middle-ear surgery using 3D technology?

It’s easy to complain about what’s wrong. Heck, I even throw my hands up now and again – but I always have this little voice saying, “Yeah? So what are you going to do about it?”

Take action. Become a problem solver and figure it out – whatever it takes.

I believe we’ve been stripped of the belief in what we can achieve when we work together. We don’t need corporations or governments for tremendous change to occur. Imagine each person on earth deciding to never harm another person. A small commitment with untold worldwide repercussions.

Sooooooo – 2022 is shaping up to become one helluva ride. The question is: are you going to get into the driver’s seat? Or sit in the back?