A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity. After I became the $300,000 man, I was right in the middle of one of the most difficult crucibles I had ever had to deal with—though I didn’t quite know it at the time. From my perspective (see diagram), when individuals are in a crucible, they have three options:
I was also facing the possibility that I would have to be medically retired from the military. The doctors told me I would receive a nice disability payment for being wounded in combat, but I wanted none of that. Instead, I wanted to continue to serve and was not ready to leave the military, much less be considered “disabled”.
As steadfast as I was at times, I was having a hard time coming to terms with my “new normal”. As I wrote in this post I felt like I was not good enough anymore. I was ashamed, and I was too scared to let anyone into what I was dealing with—I was decorated for valor and was being told by medical professionals that I would not be able to stay in the Army.
I was a warrior. What do warriors do when they get disabled? When they’re vulnerable?
With the help of family and friends, I started to fight again. I transformed my “Why Me?” to “It Starts with Me!”
In the words of Brené Brown, I found the“courage to be imperfect.” I slowly began to accept my new identity as a wounded warrior, and my attitude started to improve. I realized that the only one who expected me to be my old self was me. No one else did.
Once I returned, I continued competing in endurance sports. Before I left, I completed the New Orleans Half-Ironman, as well as several other shorter-distance races, and after I returned, I got into obstacle course racing, completing several Spartan races. I also got involved with a great organization—Team, Red, White,and Blue (RWB)—and through my involvement with them was able to help others reintegrate and recover from their own injuries and challenges.
I have been with Team RWB for over four years now. It is an amazing organization, and I truly believe in its mission to “enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”
Last year I got the opportunity to participate in one of the most rewarding events I have been involved with the organization to date. Several Team RWB leaders and teammates were selected to take part in a leader development experience for the top 18 high school quarterbacks in the nation as part of the Nike Elite 11program at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The experience was designed to take the quarterbacks to the "edge of uncomfortable" so they could grow and develop as a result. The quarterbacks were going to be put through a series of military style missions that would last approximately 7 hours. It was during that time that we were given a chance to share our leadership experiences with them and give them a better understanding of what it meant to be a leader and the responsibility that came with it. I am looking forward to returning to the Elite 11 Camp this summer.
A true test of our character is how we overcome adversity. As I reflect back on the last 10 years, the takeaway I want to share with readers is simple: Anyone can overcome adversity.
Life will throw multiple challenges at you. If it hasn’t already, rest assured that it will. It was Ernest Hemingway who wrote that the world breaks everyone. The bright side, though, is that most of us will be stronger at the broken places. Overcoming the adversity in your life and taking the third path when you’re in the crucible will make you stronger, I promise. With the help of family, friends, and community we can learn from and find meaning in adverse circumstances, but no one else can conquer your adversity but you.
Here is to another 390 years. IT Starts with ME!