“When it can’t be done, do it. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist.” -Paul Arden
Chances are there is a wound inside of you right now that you do not have any intention to reveal to the world.
You conceal it. You lurk in its profundity, shielded from its ability to empower. But despite the terror that masks it, you desperately want to release it. You long to connect, to live authentically, and to inspire others. Not so that they feel good, but so that their lives may be brought even the tiniest glimmer of hope, of transcendence.
In our quest to create impact, to put a stamp on the world, there is one primary tool—one key component—that must be present in order for your gifts to arise in confidence. There are other components, but this is by far the most important, and the most ignored.
The answer? Fortitude.
Fortitude is defined this way: "mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously." It's one of those concepts that sounds wonderful, but is rarely practiced. Why? Because it's difficult. It requires a great deal of us. It challenges our inner spirit. And it must be learned—slowly, patiently, with persistence.
Fortitude is developed, primarily, through intention: to use your time wisely, to forge a path unique to yourself, not knowing where it will lead. That is the essence of freedom.
Fortitude is absolutely essential. It must be developed and practiced. This is what will allow you to move ahead relentlessly, even when—especially when—no one seems to care. You learn the power of commitment, and wage war against the titans of complacency.
First, attend to the aches within, and use them to connect. Others need you. They are in pain as well. They want to hear your story, but are afraid to share theirs. Do not judge them for this; empathize with their fear and act as a vehicle by which you can allow them to gift themselves to those around you in vulnerable, meaningful love.
Your brain is almost always going to want you to do what’s easiest; to endlessly pursue what’s most pleasurable. This will usually result in emptiness, so fight it at all costs. It is a battle which you must fight every day. Treat it as such, and you will soar past the vast majority of those around you.
Do not obsess with feeling good all the time. It is hopelessly overrated. I have almost universally had the greatest impact on others when I wasn’t feeling happy or amazing.
Rather, it has most often come about when I’ve set my mind to a task, obsessively focused on my weaknesses, and offered myself with not the slightest expectation.
This takes time. It is never easy. It should not be easy. It should challenge you. It should fill your being with such resilience that you’ve no choice but to shine as a beacon of hope.
You will have moments where you are faced with the opportunity to love, or the opportunity to shirk in fear. As my friend Amber Adrian says, “the fear yells a lot louder.” Get used to this, and yell back. Not through anger, but through action, persistent love, and forgiveness. Forgiveness of others, yes, but most importantly, of yourself.
Most people who pursue what they long for fail, over and over again. Yet their lives are lived. Their hearts are motivated not by attainment, but by offering.
Develop your will. Not to be cool, or to have fun, or to have more sex. You’ll always want these things; they’re woven into the paradigm of your consciousness.
Instead, develop your will to suffer. To transcend difficulty. To test the recesses of your soul.
Do not give in. When you falter, shackled by arrogance or sloth or self-sabotage, forgive yourself quickly, for to not do so is an act of belligerent selfishness.
Awaken every day to the fact that this is your one and only shot.
As AJ Leon has said, “this is not your practice life.”
He’s right. This is not your practice life, but life itself is practice.
So release your gifts. Don’t live every day as if it were your last, live every day as if it were your last opportunity to serve.
The sooner you go on autopilot—existing as a wandering zombie, the sooner your contribution will disintegrate into the abyss.
There is no time for that. There is only now, what is in front of you today, in this moment. Fixate on the dreams you most desire to awaken, and destroy the scourge of distraction.
Become aggressive in the use of your time, for enough time has been wasted to claim a billion lifetimes.
Accept your weaknesses, and resolve to not allow them to destroy you. You must do this every day, as there will be victories, and there will be tremendous failures.
Face the inner resistance inside of you, and listen to it. This will immediately cause it to lose some of its power. Do not attempt to reason with it, or make any agreements with it whatsoever. Steven Pressfield reminds us of its power this way: “Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” Know this, and internalize it. Remind yourself of this daily, and never ignore it, pretend it isn’t there, or claim in any way that you’ve beaten it. If you do that, it will already have won.
You haven’t beaten it, and you never will. Accept this, and build upon it. You do this through action. The action is never perfect. It is never good enough. But it is never discontinued. If you discontinue the action you are called to do, you discontinue your very self. You cease to be truly alive, and you suffer. Those around you suffer. And the world sheds a tear. A tear of unintended, unnecessary loss.
Thus you must not allow this to happen.
Fully accept that some circumstances in life are outright awful, but commit to acting anyway. How? By facing every circumstance you find yourself in—especially when the circumstances are terrible, destructive, unimaginably devastating. You don't approve of the circumstances, but give thanks for the opportunity you have to choose how you will respond. You will often be very unsuccessful in this. But this act will engender compassion.
It will recall the white shores of love
The delicacies of vulnerability
And move you forward in a spirit of generosity
This is a supplication of our ethos, before those who need us
So many more need us than we can possibly imagine
Do not believe otherwise, it is the way of indulgence and segregation
It is the active curtailment of the human experience
The breaking of our souls, for the good of none
So move ever onward. Today presents a lexicon of choices before you. You will make thousands of choices today anyway—most of them unconscious—so zero in on the tiny fragment of them that are in your control and take a fucking stand.
Enjoy being restive. Become patient in your impatience. Your impatience to make an impact, to foster growth not only in yourself, but in those around you.
Awaken your confidence. Yes, it’s in there. It’s been beaten, battered, deceived, attacked, even vanquished. But it has not been taken from you. You may have given it away, but it can be reclaimed.
Recognize that your freedom is your greatest gift. Do this via the contribution that you slowly build, and then offer the world. Both of these must be done. You must build, and create, ferociously. But you must also offer what you create. This is pivotal. You must face your fear of failure, and of success. You must be willing to make enemies, to be ignored, to be mocked and ridiculed, not for what you believe in, because that’s easy. No, for what you do. What you present to the world.
Chris Brogan understands this better than most in the entrepreneurial space. He both understands and lives the virtues of fortitude and service. In his latest book, he writes "We exist to serve our community. That's the most important mind-set to maintain." He's quite right about that, and the reality is that you cannot serve if you do not share of yourself. There is no way around this, so if you want to make an impact, do, then share. If you do this, the opportunities presented to you will be boundless.
And remember: You will create most of your work—the mundane, dull, hair-splitting work, on your own. In the shadows. Absent from view.
This means that when you present yourself to the world, which you must do deliberately, you do so in the knowledge that the opportunity is a gift. You develop the highest standards for yourself. You act as if your legacy is being created in this very moment, not at a date yet to be determined.
And you forsake lying, especially to yourself.
This is the essence of fortitude: grace followed by action. Most of us aren't very good at either. So get on with it. Love when you don’t want to, and create when you're scared. You will hate this at first. But do it anyway, and then a month, a year, or a decade later, you'll step back and see the creation that you have wrought.