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 to Unlock Self-Doubt’s greatest Gift

PHOTO CREDIT: Seth Winterhalter

A gift from self-doubt? I hear you ask suspiciously. I know! Who knew right?! If you’re like me, then you’ve probably been plagued by self-doubt in your life. That’s 40 years’ worth of struggle for me. Frankly, I’m over it.

Let me take you through the events that unlocked it for me.

Self-Doubt’s icy grip

Self-doubt’s frustrating. I get a great idea, only for that little gremlin to arrive and keep poking me, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

It doesn’t take long for it to call back-up: its wicked stepmother fear.

Fear’s that dark room with a supposed grizzly monster waiting to do unthinkable things to me.

But when has that ever happened??? The worst parts I mean. I’m still here. I haven’t lost any limbs to monster fear activity.

It makes sense that my DNA is encoded with the fight or flight response to being outside of my comfort zone. In the stone age being alive meant what I was doing was working – and stepping out the cave jeopardised that.

No matter how many times I rationalise this though, it doesn’t stop self-doubt from creeping in. Ever.

So, what can I do??

Unlocking the gift

There is hope. I recently enforced an 11 day ‘silent retreat’ while on our stay home order in New York. This was the result of attending NourishX’s ‘digital balance’ course and seeing how much I use my phone each day and how quickly that time becomes a full month out of the year. Throw in a bombardment of news from every angle about COVID-19 and quite frankly, I’d had enough.

I needed a mental break away from the barrage of fear being pushed into the world.

It was exactly what I needed.

The break gave my mind the freedom to explore ideas like self-doubt from a place of love without distraction, to analyse it’s recurring role in my movie.

It was only on the Tenth evening that I wrote this epiphany in my reflections before bed:

‘We can’t remove self-doubt – it’s ALWAYS going to nag us – like our moms to pick our clothes up off the floor. They only stop nagging when we take action and pick up the clothes! It’s not the self-doubt (nagging mom) that’s the problem, it’s the inaction that is’

Mind. BLOWN.

Jesus only took 40 days in the dessert. I took 40 years…

Jokes aside, I’m incredibly grateful to understand this at such a young age.

I re-framed my understanding of self-doubt and realised it’s not something to overcome: it’s a guide, a neon sign shining ‘THIS WAY’.

How crazy is that???

Fear and self-doubt are actually here to show me the way.

That’s their gift – they confirm I’m on the right path.

What I love about this revelation, is it reinforces all the ancient wisdom around flowing with life, not forcing it.

Think about it. Who ‘wins’ in any battle?

Good versus evil. Man versus woman. Beach versus ocean.

Self-doubt isn’t something to overcome – but rather understand and use.

Instead of succumbing to it, I’m learning to pause and reflect realising:

The bigger the doubt, the greater the growth waiting on the other side of taking action.

It’s about the Journey

Since my teenage years, I strive to improve, grow and learn. I was aiming for a specific point I was supposed to reach before serving others.

The question at the center was always ‘why am I here?’

That’s a pretty broad (never mind daunting) question, implying something to reach waaaaaaaay in the distance.

It was only while climbing the stairs in our building training for my next challenge that I had a better question enter my head:

‘What am I made of?’

I tell you, it was like fireworks went off in my brain! Such a simple question to constantly push me to do my best now. Whatever I learn, will be carried into my next challenge I create to face; or the bigger ones like a world-wide shutdown.

This was first taught to me climbing Table Mountain every day for a year and I’m happy to report – the lessons were learned! I know this because my gratitude and enjoyment happened every day – and not when I completed it. It happened along the entire path – and not just at the top.

This taught me why someone can experience depression or a lack of fulfillment when completing a goal.

The goal doesn’t bring fulfillment, appreciating the growth along the way does.

I have a bonus secret to share:

Whatever idea you have that sets your soul on fire? Everything you need to achieve it is already inside you. It won’t magically be given to you once you complete it, as though a queen appears to knight you.

I’m picking the clothes up off the floor now without being shouted at.

I hope you do too.

If you want more information on the Digital Balance Course click HERE