I had the pleasure of speaking to Gravesend Grammar School (their 6th form and year 7 and 8s) and in doing so it forced me to completely revise how I thought of what we do. In short we, as human beings, are stressed every day. If that stress meets our tolerance, we adapt to it. I.e. you learn how to deal with the stressy boss, your manual work strengthens your body as does the gym, your new course increases your intelligence and sharpness of mind.
The problem is that when the stress isn’t met by tolerance…. we break or quit. And that is the foundation of my keynote. Enjoy
14 billion years ago the big bang occurred, creating matter and it wasn’t until 10 billion years laters that life was first created where single celled organisms were put to the test of battling the elements. If they survived, they could replicate and if they didn’t their genetic lineage would end.
We later get the evolution of DNA containing information on how its host should develop to withstand the tests of the environment until 14billion years after the big bang and 200,000 years after the first homosapien, two genetic codes formed to form us. Human beings with specific advancements and still limitation that if we test may cause us to adapt and if we overreach may cause us harm.
Now, my role at the Revitalize Clinic is to make sure that all 3500 of our patients and clients are well adapted to and thrive within their environment. Many come to us in pain, or unfit to scale even a staircase quickly. The genetic code that enables them to run, be strong etc. is non-expressive and the genetic code that causes them to store fat is now clogging up their arteries and possibly leading to an early death.
Now, I’m quite ambitious. I want to open 50 clinics over the next 5 years and we’re currently on our 2nd at the moment. I’m continuously having to simplify our message as to what health is to better connect to our patients and our customers. I need to at least be able to put across to our patients what optimal heath is because if they really understand it, then they can attain it. So I think I have the most simple, easy to understand definition of health. But I want to see if you can help me. So I am going to ask you for your definition of the following:
What is Genius? Or at least intelligence?
See, my most simple definition of intelligence is the ability for the internal world i.e. the inner workings of our mind to have an effect on the external world.
Now that being said, is this person a genius? Put your hands up if you agree
Genius is a label we place on people when that connection is beneficial for the spectators or wider community. It is the demand for that specific form of intelligence that earns the label genius.
What is fitness?
Is this person fit?
Or this person?
What about this person?
See I would say it is the ability of the brain to co-ordinate the body in the external world
What is health? Something to summarise mental health, physical and physiological health?
My definition would be tolerance of oneself to stress or trauma. I.e. how tolerant are you to criticism, to viruses, load, strain…
but there is a slight problem with this definition.
Chronic vs Acute Load
There is certain trauma the body can adapt to. For example when I was boxing, before a fight my heart would race, I was extremely stressed and a lot of the time I would scare myself out of a fight. Adrenaline would get the better of me and I would risk losing the fight due to my flight fight response going off the chart.
But between fights I had a few weeks to collect myself, prepare myself, learn and adapt to the process until I could eventually towards the end of my career, feel so calm that I would fall asleep before I fought.
But what if I was fighting all day every day? My mind or my body would without a doubt break. I would probably suffer from chronic strains, pain and post traumatic stress syndrome.
After boxing I took up weight training. I would each week add around 2.5kg to my deadlift until eventually I could pick 260kg off the floor and I took a British title. But what if I was holding that weight every day. It would likely tear both my shoulders clean off.
When we expanded a year ago, every day I had to consult my landlords, solicitors, spend more money than expected, I thought I was going to fail, every day I was scared that I would lose everything that I had worked so hard for. I heard voices in my head that I was a failure, a let down, that I would never be successful. What started as a 1 month project became a 6 month project.
People started to comment saying I was changing. I felt a darkness come and sit with me every so often until it grew into a monster and it engulfed me. I couldn’t walk to work without crying. I saw myself as completely worthless. I was breaking down and I was soon diagnosed with depression. It exposed some very deeply held negative beliefs I held of myself
The reason why the previous definition of health “tolerance to trauma” is incorrect is that it misses out the point that we are all humans. And there is stress and trauma that we can deal with and others that we cannot. And it is up to us to monitor what we can and what we cannot adapt to. We should consistently push ourselves to meet the demands of the environment.
Beyond this is greater intelligence, virtue, greater experiences, greater fitness; and we should do this with full acceptance of the outcome for better or for worse
There is a philosophy I started following after my recovery from depression called stoic philosophy which is a philosophy of self development, tolerance and rationality.
There is a metaphor in stoicism of the archer. The archer is in control of everything until the moment the arrow leaves the bow. You’re in control of how well you study, how well you train, how you behave, how polite you are. You are not in control of other people’s judgement, of the home you’re born into, of your examiners’ opinion or even your university interviewers. Focus on the process, take joy in the process and accept the outcome
If the archer misses. He just takes another shot
But be mindful of your limitations that will break you if you reach them. Because what is a limit today, will be a stepping stone next year.