As a new agent at the FBI Academy, I found that our instructors took great delight in uncovering our weaknesses. Once discovered, their dry little hearts made it their mission to push us as far into our discomfort zones as possible.
Since I had trouble with push-ups, my coach made sure he was the one to count each and every push-up for our interim FIT test. He started out counting every push-up, and then we hit a magical number and he kept repeating, “Nine, nine, nine.” I did the ninth push-up nine times before he counted it!
All the while I’m thinking, “I don’t have any reserves left. I’ve wasted them all on the ninth push-up.” I finished that test missing the critical points I needed to graduate from the Academy.
This was one of the most important failures of my life because the consequences were tremendous: I would not become an FBI Agent.
Time and time again, I go back to this failure to explain my success in life. This failure was traumatic. I felt as though I had hit rock bottom and I was filled with desperation. It was at that moment I heard my calling, and my heart created the mental toughness I would need to succeed.
I could not be mentally tough if my heart was not in it (click to tweet). My calling was in the direction of the FBI, so I mustered the grit to keep at it until I passed the physical fitness test.
Find the Path with Heart
If there is heart in your path, failure is nothing but another opportunity to try again (click to tweet). Mental toughness enables you to attack the same problem again and again until you succeed. Your tactics may need to change, and you may be required to re-route, but the destination will be the same.
If there is no heart in your path, failure will seem overwhelming (click to tweet). Failure will be enough to persuade you to try something new, and you will keep drifting until you finally succeed at something.
Average people stop there—at success. And pretend, or hope, that their heart can be found there.
Failure can be a wonderful clarifying process. It can fortify your determination to succeed, or it can lead your mind to wander so it can consider another direction in life.
Once I realized my career as an FBI Agent was in jeopardy, my calling became crystal clear, and I kept working at building up the strength so I could do enough push-ups to pass the test.
Distinguish Between Passion and Heart
Passion is an overused and overworked term. When someone starts talking about their passion, I break into a sweat. It usually means their obsession of the moment. It’s easy to be passionate when things are working out, and this is what makes passion so seductive. But when passion ebbs, it can evolve into frustration and annoyance.
Heart, on the other hand, is deeply embedded into the DNA of your being. It is who you are, stripped of all pretenses and baggage. If your failure is attached to a project that has heart, you will not be deterred by a few bumps on the road.
Align Goals with Your Calling
Failure may mean that you are misaligned with your calling. If you are pursuing your true calling, as a heart-based leader you will have a whole library of inner resources you can tap into so you can bounce back and move forward with success and strength.
If you are aligned with your calling, you will keep moving through storms and cultivate a thick skin that sheds negativity like a raincoat. You may be discouraged, but never down and out.
I passed the final FIT test and became an FBI Agent. Even in the midst of all the worry and anxiety, there was a peace because at the center of my mental toughness was a path with heart.
How has heart given you mental toughness?
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