6: The Art of Living – Epictetus, Stoicism, & Serenity

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The Art of Living is the classical manual of Epictetus (a Stoic philosopher who lived from A.D. 55 to A.D. 135) on how to live a good and moral life. It has helped me effectively meet everyday challenges of life, deal with life’s inevitable major losses, disappointments, and adversity. It came at a time in my life when I did not have a philosophy of inner freedom and tranquility to follow.

It started me on a path to mastering my desires, performing my duties well, and learning to think clearly about myself (Temet Nosce) and my relationship with others. It gave me the ability to see that some things are in my control, and some things are not.  I can either accept things, or resent them, but most importantly, my will is always within my power.  Well there are some things are within our power, and some things are not.  Sometimes the things that are not come in the form of an unexpected violent cancer.

My Aunt, the one who gifted me this book many years ago, is in a fight for her life. She is fighting for her husband, her boys, her family, and her future grandkids. She is a warm ball of light stuck in a human body, and that human body is failing her.  There is not much I can do physically, but I don’t think it starts or ends there.  This is an opportunity and reminder that Strength is a Choice, and there is something I can do in her honor.  I can use this platform to pass along the gift that she gave me to you.

I give this book to people very frequently because it helps learn the art of living a good life. Since I cannot physically hand each of you a copy, I would like to take this opportunity to share the gift with you via the podcast in my Aunts honor. The Sisu Way podcast is telling a story, and this is part of the journey.

Vulnerability is Strength, so I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me. In following podcast I present, read, and paraphrase some of my favorite parts of the book with you. To begin, I open with The Serenity Prayer.

Humbly,

Scott McGee

TheSisuWay.com

5: Val Voboril – Strength is a Choice

 

 Val Voboril is the everyday woman with super-powered fitness.  She is a mother, 4th Grade teacher, and a 6-time CrossFit Games Athlete.  But these titles do not define her. The quality of her character is shown through her resilient spirit, her unconquerable soul, and her commitment to teaching kids that they have the power to choose strength.

Val’s successes has not come without a dip, a trial of “failure.” Despite her almost super-human powers, in 2015 at the CrossFit Games California Regional, Val doubted herself and felt the fear of disappointing others by failing to meet certain standards. This is a place we have all been. We have all been knocked down, but that’s not where we have to stay.  She thought about the kind of message she wanted to send to her daughter, her students, fans, and the community.

Her dad asked her:

What do you want the story to be to tell your daughter? That you pulled through, gave up, or persevered when it was hard?

When faced with adversity, we have a choice. Val found strength in having fun and connecting to the community. She used strength and love to conquer. Val remembered to smile. Through this simple act, Val showed the power of having fun. That Health is Wealth. In turn, through her unconquerable spirit she prevailed in competition and triumphed over her own adversity.

Val is not only a role model to the CrossFit community, she leads the way by teaching her students the importance of a positive attitude and how to get themselves out of a dip. This mindset and indomitable spirit is why we at The Sisu Way are proud to welcome Val as our first guest.

Vals website: Just Val

Instagrams to follow: @valvoboril  @1scottmcgee  @thesisuway

Books: The Art of Living

Daily Stoic

Temet Nosce – Know Thyself

4: Health is Wealth – Memento Mori – Movement is a Gift

Health is Wealth” is one of the tag-lines of The Sisu Way, but if I were to make the title of this episode longer it would say, “Health is Wealth, Movement is a Gift, and Your Will is Within Your Power.”

Without health, all the perceived wealth in the world is irrelevant. We all have health, if you didn’t you would not be able to listen to this podcast. If you can’t hear this podcast then be grateful you can read these words. If you have the ability and resources to purchase whatever device you are listening to it from you have health.  We also live in countries that allow podcasts, and other peoples opinions can be heard.  These are all gifts.

There is a latin phrase, Memento Mori, which means remember death, or remember that you will die. This stoic practice of reflection on mortality is an opportunity to reflect on the temporary state of our being and to appreciate what we have in the moment… health, the gift of movement, the freedom and opportunity to choose strength, and the gratitude for it.

Buddha said: To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

To go a bit further, beyond just a healthy you….is a healthy you full of appreciation, gratitude, and a resilient mind to see the gifts in the world instead of what you don’t have. The ability to wake up from wants and needs and appreciate what you have right now. Remember to forgive and love yourself, and take a moment to really appreciate the ability to see, hear, and talk with your loved ones.

For more info and episodes go to: TheSisuWay.com

Instagram: @thesisuway

Personal: @1scottmcgee

3: Strength to Love – MLK “Loving Your Enemies”

Episode 3: Strength to Love is about perspective. This episode stands to provide a different light on the finger pointing mentality we sometimes show, and instead, turn the light back on ourselves. We have the ability to chose strength, love, and forgiveness.  This leads to growth, not pain.  We are the master of our fate. We are the captain of our soul.

I open with the Man in the Arena, a speech by Theodore Roosevelt that hammered critics who look down upon people who are trying to make the world a better place.

One of those people was Martin Luther King Jr. He is someone I very much admire. His approach to dealing with hate and negativity is so simple yet very difficult. It starts with analyzing ourselves and forgiveness. We can show the strength to love by looking within. We can heal by actively and intently listening, taking accountability for ourselves, and learning to forgive. That includes forgiving ourselves. His sermon, Loving Your Enemies, is covered in the middle of the podcast.

I close out the episode by providing a way to stand up in the storm and have compassion for those that fail. I provide tenets I try to live by and a social media challenge.

The goal of this episode is to shine light on some of the dark thoughts we have and show you that it’s okay to put the heavy bag of resentment down. It’s time to surrender. Love is the Way.

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Books:

Strength to Love – Martin Luther King Jr.

2: Strong Willed – A Parents Story about Strength, Willpower, & Resilience

Episode 2: Strong Willed, is a story of strength, fortitude, and a celebration of resilience told through letters that were written to my sons from several months in 2015. In Episode 1: For Dad I looked back to the generation before me. In this episode, I take a look at the generation after me by sharing a story of life and death with my son, Connor. This story may bring you thoughts of sadness or grief, but I want to change your perspective on that.  This is a story of choosing to overcome adversity, and how an unborn child recalibrated his father’s mindset with one powerful kick. Things happen to us, but like Connor proved, those things don’t define us.  Good and bad things come and go like life speed bumps, but you can choose to have an unconquerable soul and turn anything into an action for good.

This is only part of Connor’s story, as I will discuss him more throughout this podcast.  In this episode I tie together the words my parents wrote, especially my dad, in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I share how I forgave my father about writing to his grandson too late in life, from a letter he wrote me on March 16, 1981.

Time is not a right, it is a privilege. Life is precious, unexpected, and unpredictable.  But like my mom wrote to me in 1979, “This world is only as you make it.” Health is wealth. Vulnerability is strength. Strength is a choice.  You are the master of your fate. You are the captain of your soul.  Choose strength and be unconquerable.

Books mentioned on the show:

The Art of Living by Epictetus

Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

1: For Dad – The Why

Welcome to the first episode of The Sisu Way Podcast. There are many reasons for this passion project, and I’d like to start the show with my ‘why’. One of the major themes is the awareness, appreciation, connection and gratitude for life and the opportunity to leave lessons for the next generation.  In this episode I share a deeply personal experience (12:41) and lesson in the balance of life and death. Within the same week, my first son was born and my father died.  Life is a privilege, not a guarantee.  It’s a reminder that health is wealth, and there is no time to waste in sharing how you feel with your loved ones.  With that being said, I encourage you to start writing for your loved ones, and have the generation in front of you do the same.  Don’t assume your kids know that much about you as a person, or that there will be lessons for them if something were to happen to you.  There is generational information that is lost between is, and there is something we can do about it!

Another reason for the show is to motivate, inspire, and help others.  I want to grow this together into a movement for service and personal growth.  Surrendering, writing more on social media, and opening up personal thoughts is something I decided to do because I found it reached someone at the right time.  That connection helps build us both up. Battles, adversity challenges are all universal and unavoidable but we have a choice how to react to it. Our attitudes and thoughts are in our control.  Accountability is happiness and strength is a choice.

This episode was a relief for me to record. I did not know how I would feel recording solo for the first time, but I am glad I did it. I hope you appreciate my honesty and I humbly thank you for listening. I am very excited for what this show has in store for all of us!

Stay strong,

Scott

Pain Now, Pride Forever.

Written in September 2016

Hard times build hard people.

The pain.  The pain you feel is a white ball of healing light. -Tyler Durden

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. -Marcus Aurelius

Does what happens to you keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?

NOPE – Then get back to work.

The following is free form writing.  I found out today that after dedicating hundreds and hundreds of hours of work and sacrifice towards a goal, I did not make it. I failed.  When I found out, the first image that came to my head was a visual memory of the look on my son’s face when I had to leave him.  He was two years old and wanted to play with his dad.  I remember having to clear him from the threshold of the door so I could close it.  He had a lack of understanding in his eyes, but his understanding of the world made more sense then mine. We locked eyes as I closed the door.  Those hours, those moments I will never get back. He will never be that age again.  I let him down. 

The moment I oriented myself on the information I had received, I felt like someone had died. I felt like I was under water, my hearing changed, time slowed, I felt like someone had their hands on my heart. The feeling felt similar to when my dad died and when we found out about Connor. As I sit here, I temporarily feel like any laugh or smile is only surface related.  There is a deep level of grief. 

This grief, this pain, I want to meet face to face.  I want to allow it in.  I want it to hurt me.  I’m lucky because it hurts. I want to cry.  I will grieve.  I will respect these feelings.  I will get up and stand with them.  I am brave enough to face them. I will stand up in the storm.  I will face these arrows.  I will be proud and unbending in defeat.  I cherish these moments.  This pain is a blessing.  

Continue reading

Val Voboril – Our Wonder Woman

Val Voboril is the everyday woman with super-powered fitness.  She is a MOTHER, 4th Grade TEACHER, and a CROSSFIT athlete on the way to her 6th CrossFit Games.

But these titles do not define her. The quality of her character is also shown through her lesson in resilience, her sisu story, and how she came out of her dip which began in 2015.

At the 2015 CrossFit California Regional, Val struggled mentally and failed to qualify for the Games.  Her passion for competition that previously drove her to multiple successful competitions wasn’t there. Val, despite her almost super-human powers, had doubt in herself and felt the fear of disappointing others.  This is a place we have all been, but it’s not where we stay.  She thought about the kind of message she wanted to send to her daughter, her students, fans, and the community.

Her dad asked her: Continue reading

Keep Swimming

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Grief: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow;painful regret.

As humans, we go through the best and worst parts of our life.  If we are fortunate enough, we have friends to help us along the way.  Sometimes, those friends know when to hold us up and when to let us fall so we can learn to stand back up on our own.  Because when we do stand, we come back stronger than before.  We might be dinged up, have some scratches, bleed, but those heal and form the scars of life we are lucky to have.

A very close friend of mine, one who fits the mold above, sent me something recently that resonated with me.  It is what inspired me to share a post here after some absence.  He and I have been through the balance of life together as it relates to light and dark, life and death. We have experienced life and death at the same time as if one was passing the baton to the other.  Our stories are unique, but the struggle is universal.  After reading this post, I knew I had to share it with others because I feel it may help Continue reading

Be a Good Man

In my last article, Be the Light, I wrote about Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon called, “Loving Your Enemies.” I wrote that we can do better, we just need to open ourselves up and actually listen to each other.  In order to heal, we should begin by analyzing ourselves, taking ownership of our own actions, utilizing purposeful/healthy communication, and learning to forgive.  What I am seeing is “sides” that want to prove they are right. Sides that want to defeat, point fingers, or share things on social media that are aimed at defeating instead of healing.  I see people sharing what they think is for the greater good, but in fact it is adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Spreading hate and negativity multiplies hate and negativity and I see what it is doing to us.  This is a spiral of destruction that is rooted in darkness. It corrodes our thoughts. This is not the path to the mountaintop. 

Social media posts and what people share have consequences.

Pointing out how the strong person stumbles is not the way. The credit belongs to the people who are actually in the arena, trying to be good people. They stumble.  We stumble. The way to help each other is to be good people and to support others.  To stand up in the storm and have compassion for those who fail. This starts with us. We always have a choice when it comes to our actions. I would like you to consider this when on social media. Think to yourself: Is what I’m about to post going to help or hurt anyone?  Is this going to spread love or hate?  Sometimes hate is deceptive.  It’s easy to spread hate disguised as love, because you might not even realize it.  The devil is deceitful. Mind your words because they matter. You don’t know who you are affecting.  Continue reading

Be the Light

The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies. My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. -MLK Jr.

I wanted to write this piece because I know we have a chance. There is good in us, there is light that wants to connect. After my conversation with my friend Sal Masekela (WODcast Podcast 240 1:15 and 280 53:40) seeing the response from the listeners, it reinforced the my belief that we can do better.  I am in a unique position that allows me to use my experience for good.  We all are.  We just need to open ourselves up and actually listen to each other. I mean actually listen to understand, not just hear and wait to deliver your point.  That is “versus” and a selfish mentality that does not lead to empathy and growth.  I see sides that want to prove they are right.  It hurts when I see darkness where there should be light.  It’s time to set down that bag of judgement, anger, bitterness, and retaliation.  Love is lighter and lifts us all.

Matin Luther King did many sermons that have impact on society today.  The quote in the photo below is from a sermon he did at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1957.  The relevance of his words feel like they could have been easily said today. It deals with learning to love your adversaries. “Loving your enemies” was so basic to King and part of his basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. This applies not only to people, but to situations and circumstances.  If we were to ask King today Continue reading

Character Building

You  cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself.   -James A. Froude

I have been blessed with the health and ability to complete workouts in honor of our Country’s finest people and fallen heroes.  I am one that is still here with the ability to drive on using the gift of movement and the strength of mind to appreciate the moment.  I am bathed in humility by the character of heroes that have given their lives in service to others, and I am sensitive to the lasting impact it makes on their families.  I revere them and I’m forever grateful.

Lt. Michael Murphy is one of those heroes. When Michael Murphy completed the workout that was eventually named after him he called it “Body Armor”. I think the workout not only makes your body stronger, it makes your spirit more resilient. It’s a character builder. The grind we go through in this particular workout is universal yet so simple. You learn to drive on through the doubt and pain while encouraging your teammates around you.  That is beautiful pain.

This year I wore some old body armor and carried the Sisu Hammer for the entire workout. I carried it on the run, held it on top of my feet while doing strict pull ups, and held it in my hands during the squats and push-ups. The hammer simulated a protection weapon that men better than me aren’t here to carry anymore. It represented a weight that I felt honored to carry, and no matter how heavy it was, it was a gift of burden that shows I am alive and can feel pain.  How lucky am I? Continue reading

Strong Willed – Part II

 

*Three months after the words of Part I.

Its not what happens to you, but how you react that matters. -Epictetus

Every obstacle is an opportunity. I truly believe that. In this case, the obstacle gave Connor the opportunity to live.  At this point we have been through five intrauterine blood transfusions and have kept Connor alive. The doctor has successfully transfused Connors blood through a long needle that went though Amanda’s stomach, into her womb, and into a vein in the umbilical cord. We were very fortunate to have this option.  Here’s why.  During this process, we were getting regular ultrasounds to check the status of Connor’s hydrops (cranial/body swelling and heart size). At one of our standard ultrasounds he switched over to a type of ultrasound that shows blood flow.  What he saw was another very rare condition called Vasa Previa. Vasa Previa, in our case, was a fetal blood vessel from the placenta that was crossing the entrance to the birth canal.  If that vessel ruptured, Connor would suffer from rapid fetal hemorrhaging and die within minutes.  The fetal mortality rate is estimated to be as high as 95% if not diagnosed before birth. Amanda was immediately put on bed rest, even though she had been CrossFitting almost daily till then. We needed to restrict her movement as much as possible and for as long as possible. We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. The doctors wanted her in Labor and Delivery for seven weeks antepartum, in Continue reading

Strong Willed – Part I

This story may bring you thoughts of sadness or grief, but I want to change your perspective on that. Connor’s story is a launchpad of strength, triumph of fortitude, and a celebration of resilience. I spent some time marinating my thoughts on how I and if I wanted to share this deeply personal information, but I think it is important to tell this story. I have talked about it before on my social media (#connorstrength) and on podcasts, but this is different.  I am going to share the story from letters I have already written to both of my sons.  This is a lesson I learned from the experience I wrote about in, “For Dad.”  This letter was written the day we found out Connor (only 22 weeks in utero) was very sick. This is the beginning of The Sisu Way for me. Continue reading

Resilience & Community