Resilience: 4 Steps to Developing an Unbreakable Mind

I spent most of my early teens suicidally depressed, I didn’t just think that I was a loser, a nobody, that I had no future, I knew those things, if that makes sense. I got to the point where I didn’t want to just not be those things, I got to the point where I didn’t want to exist.

Here I am, all of these years later, I’m 35 years old and every single thing that I achieve, every single thing that I do, I do through the eyes of my 13 year old self, and so, to show my younger self just how much he’s capable of, I frequently bring my body and my mind to their absolute limits. Discovering those limits means going beyond them, and going beyond limits has consequences that generally involve large amounts of suffering and adversity that need to be overcome.  

My first year and a half of business I worked so hard and endured so much stress that I had to work off of a mattress on the ground because I felt like my body was on fire if I sat in a chair for more than a few minutes. 

As an extreme introvert filled with anxiety, I spent thousands of hours recording videos before I even felt comfortable enough to upload a single video for my business. You think this is my first YouTube channel? I made hundreds of videos and spent over 100k of my own savings on a channel that failed. 

I spent my late 20’s abusing stimulants and productivity drugs while deprioritizing sleep, and 3 years ago that caught up with me, I got hit by a chronic exhaustion that I still haven’t recovered from, most days I take multiple naps  and I’m never above a 6 out of 10 on the energy scale, I wake up every single morning exhausted and in pain, yet I continue to push forward.

So when did I become so resilient?  and maybe a better question, how have I been able to overcome “negative” circumstances at a time where it seems like everyone else is becoming a victim to them?

There is this idea of perfect life, a life filled with happiness and free from suffering, this is the life that the system wants us to aspire to and as a result, many of us do everything that we can to avoid the pain of suffering, as luck would have it, there’s a product, service and remedy for every single thing that we perceive as ailing us, or maybe it’s not luck, maybe it’s just a false reality designed to convert us into profit. 

Anyway, despite what Facebook and Instagram would have us believe, the “perfect life” does not exist, it’s a trap, the only guarantee in life is that we will suffer, heartbreaks, the passing of loved ones, and our own imminent demise.

Yeah, we are going to die, sorry, but in the words of Homer

“Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed”

A rose can be beautiful only because it will inevitably wither and so much in the same way that death is actually a precondition of beauty,  suffering is very much precondition of life, I’m not just talking about “the act of being alive”, being born, doing everything we can to avoid suffering, and then dying, was never living in the first place. 

Suffering is a precondition to a life actually worth living

So if suffering is the inevitable battle of life, one that we should not hide from, but instead charge towards. Resilience is the armor that allows us to endure everything that such a life is going to throw at us and keep moving forward. 

So, how do we forge the armor of resilience? 

Resilience is developed through repeated overcoming suffering and adversity

Let me be perfectly clear, it is impossible to develop resilience without overcoming difficult challenges. This post is not going to make you resilient, and if you were watching this post hoping to become more resilient, I hope I can help you to see how absolutely absurd that idea is, almost as absurd as watching a video about confidence, and thinking that you’re suddenly going to be confident. 

I do however believe that I can effectively show you the path, but to know the path is not to walk the path, to walk the path is to know the path. 

My first experience with overcoming adversity was essentially just surviving my early teens, from that moment onward, I had the idea that I was resilient, and a little bit of proof that I was capable of being resilient, but I needed more. 

Recently, I decided that I was going to start boxing, I had the ‘“dea” that I was tough, but, anyone can think they’re tough, until they get punched in the face. Throughout my initial training, I always had the idea that I’d get back up ready to fight after being knocked down, then I did my first full sparring, where a sneaky left hook knocked me unconscious, everything went dark, my body shut down, but within a few seconds, after my system had essentially rebooted, I was back on my feet, ready for more. That’s where the idea that I could be resilient in a fight, became a reality. 

And I’ve been knocked out in relationships, friendships, business and I always had the idea that I’d be able to weather those storms, but it wasn’t until actually weathering those storms, over and over and over again, repeated exposure to and the subsequent overcoming of immense suffering and adversity, where I went from “believing” that I was resilient, to actually becoming resilient. 

Resilience starts in the mind, but it can only truly be forged on the battlefield. 

Don’t give yourself the option to not suffer

As legend has it, the spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes landed in Mexico in 1519 with just 600 men. Upon landing, he gave the order to burn the boats, his men would have to either conquer or die, retreat was not an option, and against overwhelming odds, they were victorious. 

I think most of us know intrinsically that we must first suffer to do anything great, the problem is that, despite knowing this, the idea of having to suffer through something, frightens us. 

As Nietzsche remarked in Human, All Too Human

 “They fear their higher self, because when it speaks, it speaks demandingly.”

I’m at a point now where, when I hear that voice speaking to me, I generally do what it asks, but to get to this point, I had to learn to first trust that voice, which meant that I had to perceive struggle as something that was beneficial to me. 

I knew that struggle was necessary, but I still feared it initially, because I lacked experience with it, so what I would do and continue to do this day, was to essentially force myself into situations where struggle was and is not only inevitable.

I put myself in situations where immense struggle is inescapable. When I decided that I was going to compete in an ironman, I immediately signed up, paid my registration fees, bought all of my equipment, and booked a round trip ticket to South Africa where the event was taking place. While training for that Ironman, I tore my bicep, developed impingements in both shoulders, and developed severe plantar fasciitis in both feet, but I was already committed, in my mind, I had no choice.

When I started my business, I went all in, investing all of the money I had, for the first year and a half not a single day went by where I didn’t have some sort of massive struggle to contend with, but I had locked myself into a cage with the reality that if I didn’t figure out how to make things work, I was going to be completely screwed. 

So no matter what sort of issues I deal with, recently my puppy almost lost her eye and my dad was in the hospital with a life threatening bacterial infection, I still found the ways to get things done.

Entonces, sin importar el tipo de dificultades que enfrente, por ejemplo, hace poco,  Ro casi pierde su ojo y mi papá estuvo hospitalizado con una infección bacteriana que pudo ser mortal, aun así, encontré la manera de hacer las cosas.

My point here in all of this is that, rather than simply convince myself that I’m ready for the struggle, which, let’s face it, has a high probability of failure, especially considering that video games, PornHub, and yummy food are never more than a few feet or a few clicks away. 

I instead look to create a situation where there is no escape, where I have no choice but to rise to the occasion and overcome. Burn your boats.

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We should seek to suffer

As we overcome the various, inevitable obstacles that come as a result of doing things that involve suffering, a funny thing happens. 

We begin to perceive struggle not as an obstacle, but instead as something that we ought to seek out. Instead of running away from the voice within us that demands greatness, we begin to heed its call.

There are times now, where I sense that I’m not struggling as much as I could be, and that is a signal for me to seek out more suffering. I have learned to love pain, more specifically how I deal with pain, for everything that it teaches me about who I really am, far beyond the simple “idea” of myself. 

In the words of Epictetus:

“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths… Dig deeply. You possess strengths you might not realize you have. Find the right one. Use it.” 

Resilience is how we create our true world

There is an opposite to resilience, can you guess what it is? Here, I’ll pause the video and give you a second.

Ok, if you guessed “fragility” or “victimhood”, those are both acceptable answers. 

As we move through life, we’ll meet lots of people who attribute everything “bad” in their lives to things they cannot control. In the present day, most of society is comprised of people who see themselves as victims, rather than learning to seek suffering, these people learn to seek sympathy, in fact, so resigned they are to live a life unworthy of living, that they actually begin to perceive others who are striving for something, as threats.

Now for as easy as this is to observe in others, the real trick here, is to be able to observe this in ourselves, and to observe this is actually rather simple, look at any situation where we are facing adversity and consider the following question:

How much am I focusing on what I can’t control? and How much am I focusing on what I can control?

Victims exist in the world they cannot control whereas, true livers of life exist within the world they can control. 

They focus on the things we can change, while accepting the things that they can’t. And a funny thing happens when one exists within the world they can control, they begin to realize, over time, that they can actually control the world in which they exist. 

Summary

Alright guys, so let’s do a recap. Pain and struggle  are necessary to live a life worth living, and resilience is the armor that keeps us alive and allows us to continue the battle. To forge it, take note of these four points:

1. Resilience is developed through repeated overcoming suffering and adversity

It is impossible to develop resilience without overcoming difficult challenges. It is through getting knocked out over and over again, and getting back up, that the idea of resilience transforms into actual resilience. 

2. Don’t give yourself the option to not suffer

Modern conveniences have made it far too easy to escape suffering. Rather than even give ourselves the option, we should instead throw ourselves into situations where struggle is inescapable.

3. We should seek to struggle

As we develop actual resilience by repeatedly overcoming challenging obstacles, observing our growth and development as a result of this will lead us to perceive “struggle” in a way where, instead of running from it, we’ll begin to actively seek it out.

4. Resilience Is how we create our true world

Resilience frees us from “blaming” the things we can’t control and living life as a victim, allowing us to focus on what we can control. When we exist within the world we can control, we realize that we can actually control the world in which we exist. 

I’ll leave you guys with a final quote from Nietzsche, which if fully understood, can help immensely with the forging of resilience. 

“He who has a why, can endure any how”

Me personally, I do everything I do for my younger 13 year old self. 

Alright guys, I’d love it in the comments below if you guys could share some of your own stories or struggles with resilience. 

And check me out on Instagram @nelsonquest, I’m going to keep posting channel news and live stream notifications there. 

Ciao and cya in the next post.   

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