How do you best turn your loss into renewed purpose, peace and joy?
In this podcast I interview Rob Swymer the author of the book Surrender to Your Adversity.
Rob is a sales executive who lost his wife Bonnie a few years ago, and through this loss and several other rounds with adversity prior, he shows us how fighting through each experience with resilience, humility and surrender, can indeed deliver renewed purpose and joy.
Rob 7:17 I stand in front of you today, with 30 years of sobriety, and I did that one day at a time. And every year I get my chip, I say the same thing. It’s the power of God and the love of a good woman. And she stood by me the entire time and my family stood by me. I went through a horrific time in my sobriety, I, I experienced suicidal ideation, I’ve conquered that as well, and addiction. Program wise I went through a 12 step program. And these are available not only for alcohol abuse, it was also a 12 step program for life. And it really is about surrendering. It’s about becoming humble. It’s about being willing to make that change. And there were things I did in that program that I didn’t realize were getting me ready for other life events, including, of course, the loss of Bonnie.
Rob 11:38 So with me, resilience is a muscle, right? It’s not a character trait that you’re born with. Resilience is something that you learn through your life experiences. So I talk a lot about how men go to the gym, right? We go and we lift weights, and we run and we work out, we eat, right? We do all these things for our body and our appearance. And our health and our physical health. But we don’t go to the mental gym enough.
Tom 18:07 And you know, you can get so hung up on the past and regret the things that you should have, could have, would have done right. And then there’s all of the anxiety about the future, what is the future hold for me. And so for me, the mindfulness pieces, yeah, be here. Now, this is a journey you’re on and don’t ruminate too much on the past, don’t project too much into the future, just try to be present as much as you can. Self Care was one that I loved. And sometimes, you know, today’s society can have a negative connotation, but I think it’s so important I view it as, you know, you gotta put your oxygen mask on first, before you can even begin taking care of anyone else around you.
Rob 24:15 And I’ll tell you that vulnerability, okay, I hope all these guys are listening, right? Write this down. Vulnerability is a sign of courage.
Rob 28:35 And the other thing that I’ll point out is that, you know, surround yourself with the right people, you know, and surround yourself with people that are inspired, that they’re, they’re excited about life, and they’re grateful for the life they have.
Tom 32:30 You gotta start thinking about this balance in your life. And if those three strands, the body, mind and spirit are together and are tight, you know, there’s no breaking that there’s no breaking that strength and that that is a superpower that you can have.
Rob 34:38 And the other thing when you were talking, I have sort of a funny way of being present. I always say live live like a dog … I live a dog’s life. And people were like, What is he talking about? Right? A good friend of mine, passed this on. He does work with all the top athletes in the world, on mindset and being present. And so here’s what, this means. If you’re walking the dog in the woods, fthat dog is present, the dog is with its master. And it’s fully present, looking at the trees, that the breeze in the woods, the sticks, or whatever, the water, it’s there. If we’re taking a walk with our dog in the woods, we’re on our phone, we’re emailing, we’re worrying about the meeting in an hour. We’re worrying about what we’re going to have for dinner, what’s the weekend plans, the drama in our world, all that any stress, we’re not present, we’re not being present and mindful. So I tell people to live a dog’s life, just that simple thing, put that in your head.
Rob 38:37 I’m a big word guy. So I change one word, and it makes a big difference for me and my internal voice. I mean, everything that happens with that one word, right? If I say move on “from”, I’m not in a good place, right? But if I say move on “with” that I’m in a great place.
Thomas Pisello 0:10
Today, we have an author, he wrote the book, Surrender to your Adversity. And he is Rob Swymer, Rob’s a sales executive, and he unfortunately lost his wife, Bonnie. And that was one of many levels of adversity that he’s faced in his life and that he captured in this book. He was able to fight through each of those and, and get through those experiences with what he calls resilience to find renewed purpose and joy. And we’re here to take those lessons that Rob earned along the way, and learn from them. So Rob, welcome.
Rob Swymer 1:23
Hey, thank you so much for having me, Thomas. It’s such a pleasure to be able to serve you and your listeners.
Awesome. First, I like to start with the beginning. Tell me how you met your wife, Bonnie?
What a great story that is. Thanks for asking that question. So I met Bonnie at 19. I was in college, and I met her on a blind date, if you could imagine. And a moment while my boss actually set us up and said, you have to meet this girl. And so I took her out. And we met, we met, we were in Boston, we met for our date. And I am a believer and a person that can witness love at first sight. He opened the door. And I felt this weird feeling come over me. And I couldn’t explain it. I was actually in a fraternity in college I was dating at the time, I think two or three women. You know, I was definitely not a person that would say I would be settling down or worrying about I never thought of that right?
Here. I am 19. And we saw each other every night, since that night, every night until we were married. And of course every night after that, but we hit it off right away. I was definitely a testament to love at first sight. I broke up with the other three women. It was so funny, all my fraternity brothers were like what are you doing? You know, and I could not control it. I was so taken. And I knew I knew at that moment that Bonnie was my soulmate, and was the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
Wow, I too met my Judy through a blind date as well. Well, that’s funny. Yeah, absolutely. And it was not something that I was eagerly wanting to do. And she was even less eager to do that. But kind of very similar. I saw her and I can remember that very moment. I remember exactly what she’s wearing. I remember the restaurant we met at. I go by it all the time. And I almost picture us sitting at the table still. All these years. Same here.
Yeah, yeah. And that vision forever. Yeah.
Now, you guys built a great life together. I want to learn a little bit about that. Talk about your life with Barney.
Yeah, I mean, we had an amazing love story. And we had a love story that included growing up together. I mean, we were kids. Yeah, you know, and there aren’t many people that can really point to the fact that they grew up with their mate, you know. And we did. We did that together.
There were trials and tribulations, ups and downs, like any other marriage. But every time there was a trial and tribulation, we came out together and came out stronger. And we’re a testament to that to being completely aligned and focused on each other, to make that happen, and, you know, we had a lot of challenges as I go through in my, in my book, there’s a lot of challenges that I personally went through that, you know, she stood by me 200% And never, ever wavered. And for that, you know, I live my life today as a tribute to her because of that.
You know, we had three kids, three great, amazing, beautiful souls that are thriving today. And, and, you know, so we had a great life. We moved from Boston to Atlanta and Just before the Olympics, raised our kids there, and we had an amazing life. We were just about planning our next chapter together as empty nesters when my life-event happened.
Tell us a little bit about that night, because I know it was sudden.
There are so many schools of thought, right, Thomas on what’s better? Would you like to know when that moment is coming and go through it for a certain time? Or would you like to just be hit with it like a two by four?
I certainly was hit with it. And this was and I talked about this in Surrender to your Adversity in great detail. And I talked about that night. And it was just a regular Monday night, you know, and we were, you know, we were sitting around the pool, I finished work and sitting around the pool, it was with some friends and they were in a hot tub and and Bonnie leaned over the waterfall like she would to get water on her face, because she was probably heating up a little bit. That’s what I thought. And after a while, she was really there for a little bit and it definitely seemed like a long time. And when I turned her over, I knew something was wrong.
I later learned that she had a massive brain aneurysm. And was gone really in that second. You know, they kept her on life support and kept her alive. So the family could say goodbye and all that. But I lost the love of my life at that moment, on that Monday night. I mean, you just don’t, you don’t expect that. You know, and you’ve been through it. The listeners here are going through that or have been through it. And there’s nothing in the world that can prepare you for that nothing.
Now, one of the things that you do, is that you credit some of your healing capability with a journey you went on some years earlier, with Bonnie and the family. And that was your hard won sobriety. Talk about that journey, and how getting through that and gaining your sobriety, how that helped you through the healing process and the growth process?
I stand in front of you today, with 30 years of sobriety, and I did that one day at a time. And every year I get my chip, I say the same thing. It’s the power of God and the love of a good woman. And she stood by me the entire time and my family stood by me.
I went through a horrific time in my sobriety, I, I experienced suicidal ideation, I’ve conquered that as well, and addiction. Program wise I went through a 12 step program. And these are available not only for alcohol abuse, it was also a 12 step program for life.
And it really is about surrendering. It’s about becoming humble. It’s about being willing to make that change.
And there were things I did in that program that I didn’t realize were getting me ready for other life events, including, of course, the loss of Bonnie.
And then that’s when I started to do the research. That’s when I started to become a student of myself, a student of personal development to kind of peel back, going back to my childhood with severe adversity in my childhood to say, How did I get through that. And then I realized that I was doing the same basic things every time and sometimes not even knowing it. That’s when I said, you know, I’ve got to write this book, and I’ve got to pass on these lessons that I’ve learned, but also just make them simple. And there’s a lot of work in those, but trying to make it relatable and consumable for anybody to be able to take these three steps and, and that’s what I realized that the program gave me that foundation.
I was a student. I realized what I was doing. I realized, now I can really take it to another level, which is what I’ve been doing. And in my speaking engagements, and in my coaching engagements, I’m able to do that because I say this all the time. And it wasn’t the doctor, nothing about nothing against doctors. It wasn’t the psychologist, it wasn’t the medication or anything that got me sober. It was the other addicts across the table. That got me sober.
So it is that experience that we pass on. That you pass on here. I’m so grateful that you’re doing this, because we can relate to that experience. And we have some lessons that we can pass on and that’s really that’s my purpose. That’s what I’m doing now. And that’s my whole life purpose is to bring this message forth, and to be vulnerable in my message right to tell me I tell others really what I went through and not hold back. Because if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all in.
I too, have a sobriety story. And that was the day after Judy passed, I put down the bottle as well. I’ve not had a drop since. And that was really important for my healing journey. I did not go through a program. But I repeated a lot of the same aspects that I know are part of the 12 step program, where you really have to go back and say, “Look, I know I’m hurting from this loss. That’s so prominent today. But there’s a lot of other hurts that this is triggering in me”.
So you’ve got to go back and kind of address those old hurts. And forgiveness and surrender. Were two big pieces to what I had to go through to sustain that. I mean, you can put it down for a little while. You know, the medication and what you were doing with drinking for a while, but unless you address those deeper seated issues, I found that you’ve got to do some work there. Otherwise, the demons come back.
Oh, they did? Well, they’re always there. See, that’s the thing. You know, they’re going to the mental gym like we need to do, and they’re getting stronger and stronger. So they’re just waiting, right? And you know, those demons, that they’re just waiting for us to trip up, and they’re gonna be right there.
Yeah, exactly. Now, you speak about adversity, being the greatest teacher, and your quote “Resilience is the antidote to adversity”. Talk about resilience and the five key aspects that you document in the book.
So with me, resilience is a muscle, right? It’s not a character trait that you’re born with. Resilience is something that you learn through your life experiences. So I talk a lot about how men go to the gym, right? We go and we lift weights, and we run and we work out, we eat, right? We do all these things for our body and our appearance. And our health and our physical health. But we don’t go to the mental gym enough.
So let me go to the mental gym. That’s when we develop that resilience muscle. So I’m really keen on that message,that I speak as na advocate, like you do, for men’s mental health, because we’ve got to normalize the conversation. And by doing that, we can build that resilience muscle, right.
And that’s the key, to make sure that, as you’re building that muscle, you’re getting stronger and stronger. And you can pass on that strength to and model it for your family, your community, your friends, your business associates. They feel that energy, right?
When you build that resilience, muscle, it’s so important. So I do talk a lot about that in my book. And, again, something I learned that I was doing without even knowing it, I was building that muscle, right? And then when I started to really, you know, develop that I said, Okay, this is this, I got something here. And that’s when the surrender came in, to give in, not give up right to give in, not up by changing that one word. And that was the key for me mentally to change that word. It’s not giving up, it’s giving in. Because I related it to a place where I became humble and I became the servant of the program. And okay, I’m getting into this right. And then that’s when it all came together for me.
From a characteristic standpoint, the first one that you talk about in the aspects of resilience is self awareness. And I think this one is really important, you know, as we’re going through the loss, it’s easy to get hung up and just the survival process itself. But you’ve got to kind of pull in a little bit and start to do some reflection. Talk about why self awareness is so important.
Well, I believe self awareness is important for every aspect of your life, right? And because if you’re, you know, you’ve got to know where you are before you can see where you need to go, right? There’s got to be a journey, right? It’s I talked about, like, if you’re going to climb a mountain, right, you, you have to know which trail you got to know where you are, when you start, you know, any obstacles in the way in any kind of midline corrections you may have to do and all the data that you’re going to need to get to the top. It’s no different than anything else you’re doing in life. So that self awareness is so important. And the way I sort of interpret that in the book is my first step. My first step is to accept and acknowledge, right, it’s to accept and acknowledge right trade in your expectations for acceptance. You do that? Not only do you have self awareness, but your entire universe changes in the relationships you have with other people and the relationship you have with yourself changes, right? And it’s that simple little act. Trade in expectations, right?
Yeah. And there were so many expectations on us throughout our lives. I know I always struggled with expectations that I thought my dad had in me, right. I know a lot of us as men dress that I’m sure it’s some of the healing you had to do? Oh, yeah, it was, you know, expectations of the community around you, expectations of your children through the grieving process, expectations of friends and family. And there’s a lot that gets thrown on us in this new role that we’re taking, we not only had all our old roles, but now new roles and new expectations. And I think, as you said, kind of not taking those on. And just being self aware of, okay, here’s where I am. And I don’t have to worry about those expectations that everyone else has, which for me, is probably one of the most important aspects.
No, I couldn’t agree more. And I thought, I’ll talk about this, I know, you’re, you’re going to ask me the one key takeaway, and it needs to stay, it’s always the same, right? It’s give yourself permission, you know, give yourself permission. And, and that is whatever, you know, you need to do right to be you. Right?
As we go through the five. The other one I thought was really good was mindfulness. What do you mean by that?
So for me, it’s being present, right? Being mindful of who you are, and where you want to go. It’s also being present in the moment, there’s so many distractions, not much noise, when you’re going through the grief process. And I can, I’m thinking back, it’s been, you know, nine years now, for me, and I’m thinking about all the noise, you had all the opinions and the friends and the people saying what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. And I think that, you know, if you’re not mindful of what you need for self care, if you’re not present in the moment, you can get so caught up in that, ya know, and I remember that I remember like, Okay, should I do this? Should I go out? Should I? Should I look like I’m having fun? You know, should I have fun again? Do I give my permission to laugh out loud?
I mean, stupid things like this went through my mind, like, you know, what are they going to say, if I’m in there, you know, sitting around the campfire laughing at jokes? I mean, oh, my gosh, what is he doing, which is supposed to be grieving? And? Right? Isn’t he supposed to be grieving? Well, how long is that? Right? And so, you know, those are the kinds of things that I discussed, right? And especially when I speak of grief and giving yourself permission, and I bring in that whole, you know, Brene Brown talks about shame, right? And oh, my gosh, will that play with your mind? Right? I think I have a half a chapter on that. Right? And, you know, get that out, right? There’s no shame in anything, your reaction is your reaction. And you need to, you need to get rid of that. Right. And you need to do what’s right for you. Right. And give yourself permission.
Yeah, I totally agree. And you know, you can get so hung up on the past and regret the things that you should have, could have, would have done right. And then there’s all of the anxiety about the future, what is the future hold for me. And so for me, the mindfulness pieces, yeah, be here. Now, this is a journey you’re on and don’t ruminate too much on the past, don’t project too much into the future, just try to be present as much as you can. Self Care was one that I loved. And sometimes, you know, today’s society can have a negative connotation, but I think it’s so important I view it as, you know, you gotta put your oxygen mask on first, before you can even begin taking care of anyone else around you. So talk about that. Rob.
I wish I had $1. For every time I said that in a speech, you know, it’s like, it’s so true, right? Everybody knows that they all laugh and I’m like, Look, it’s true. And when, when my life event happened, I remember the moment in the hospital, she’s sitting by her bed thinking about you know, when I turn around, and I see my kids, and I see my family.
What are they going to see? Right? What are they going to see? And I was hyper focused on making sure they saw strength. Making sure they saw a model of a father and a husband that was going to not only get through this and survive it, but was going to thrive. Find a way to thrive after this. And I remember that The moment I remember it, I’m you can tell I’m in that moment right now. And and, and I’ll tell you, it was powerful. Because when I made that turn, that’s what they saw. And you know, my kids are thriving today. My family is thriving today. I found love again, today. My life I am blessed beyond measure. And I believe it’s all because of that moment that I was consciously aware of what I needed to do in that moment. That’s what I believe.
Yeah. And if you didn’t have that epiphany, then for those who hadn’t, and are on this journey, you can have that moment at any point in the journey. Any point it happened for you right then and there early. But you can decide right this moment that this is, this is exactly what I need to do going forward. And that’s where purpose really comes into play, right? And finding that new purpose, talk about purpose as one of the five resilience traits.
So I’m a student of this game called physical intelligence, I’m certified in this, and this is really talking about the language you use internally and externally, your body language, your focus is sort of your triad of state, and how it affects the hormones in your body. What’s released. So if you’re going through this grief, if you’re going through this massive amount of grief and in uncertainty, and you know, cortisol is just running through your body that’s fight or flight, that’s caveman brain is, right? That is all fight or flight. So how do I switch that? How do I switch that to oxytocin, for example? Oxytocin is the love hormone. But it’s also the belonging hormone. It’s the purpose hormone, the trust, trusting yourself.
So that’s what I try to do every day. And that’s really about purpose. If you have a purpose, then you are going to release the right hormones, it’s good to have some cortisol, right, you got to survive, right? We still have things we got to deal with, too much cortisol is going to flip you to where you’re just panicking in panic mode. And you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to do things that are rash, irrational, you’re going to, you know, you’re not going to be the best self. I pulled that out. And I said, How can I do that? Well, I need a purpose, right? We all need a purpose. So the book goes into detail about the steps you can take to get to a place where you can actually look in the mirror and say here is my purpose. And that’s going to give you that oneness you need with yourself, it’s also going to give you a chance to reimagine who you are as a widower, or a new person in the world. Now, after that life event, right? You’re going to be somebody different, you’re not going to be the same.
Your old identity is not your old identity anymore. No, you’re not known as a partner to Bonnie anymore. So what are you going to be now and that’s a big change for everyone. And you need purpose in being able to find your way through that to find that new identity.
The other thing you mentioned, that was incredibly important in your sobriety journey, and I think is not leveraged as much in the grief journey is that of positive relationships support. That other addict that other alcoholic sitting across from you kind of guiding you and being that mentor, right? They’ve been there, they’ve done that, they’ve gone through the trials, they’ve gone through the tribulations, they’ve fallen back, they’ve, you know, all of that and you’re able to learn from them. As men, we tend not to seek that help out too often. It’s hard for us to share and give that help to others. But that’s one of the five key aspects of resilience is positive relationships. Talk about that.
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I’ll tell you that vulnerability, okay, I hope all these guys are listening, right? Write this down. Vulnerability is a sign of courage. Yeah, it is a sign of courage. And you’ve got to have that vulnerability to reach out and get help. You’ve got to do that. We, it’s our responsibility as men to normalize that, right? It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to say it’s okay not to be okay. Right. It’s okay to say that and to admit it, and the longer you don’t admit that, then the more you’re going to get deeper in the hole of depression. Right. And, you know, you’re not going to move forward right.
Sometimes there’s medication with alcohol or drugs. or other things like relationships that are are unhealthy, right?
Absolutely, And I couldn’t agree more. So that’s what that’s all about, right is being vulnerable, being humble and making sure that, you know, you make those changes in your language right to yourself as much as the outward language, right? But here’s the key. And I know people are dealing with this, they’re going through this and you’re gonna relate to this, too, if you’ve got shatter, coming from all your friends, what their opinions are. Right? We get that we love them. We love them all. They’re part of our life, right? But you know what, it’s our journey, just like AAA was my journey. It’s my journey, not theirs. So whatever you do, block out the noise, and do what’s right for you. Yeah, and no judgment, Game of judgment. It’s what’s right for you. And I learned that I learned that the hard way too, sometimes.
And you’ve got an outline of three key steps to build the resilience muscle that I think really sums this up. So just walk us through those three.
So the first one I already mentioned, accept and acknowledge right. And that is really to trade your expectations for acceptance. Once you do that, you’re humble. You’ve accepted you’re not fighting upstream anymore.
The second step is to actually thank the adversity. I am so grateful for all the adversity in my life from as a child, when I went through to, you know, all I can have I have adversity every day all day like we all do, right? So I talk a lot about and I’m starting to introduce this theory about adversity stacking. Right. So just like the book, Atomic Habits talks about habit stacking. I took that theory. But what if I did that with adversity? So thank your adversity, and stack that adversity large and small, we think it’s there to make you stronger, not break you.
The third is to evaluate, evaluate your options. So I pull back, I evaluate, and then I move forward. My new purpose and my new perspective. Now, I interviewed many people all around the world about this, and I interviewed military leaders. And I said, you know, surrender? What does that mean to you? And they said, Well, we pull back, we get a new plan. And then we go forward again, right? Yeah, we do things differently. They never ever said give up. Yep. Right. They never said stop. They always said we pull back, we reevaluate, right? We huddle. And then we go in for a new, new purpose, new perspective. That’s what we have to do. You know, if the best and brightest military minds are doing it in war, why can’t we do it in our life? Right?
I agree with that completely. And it’s part of that growth mindset where, you know, you take a few steps forward, you evaluate, it may be the right steps, there may be one or two of those steps are wrong. And yet, you’re not afraid to fail through that process. You’re not afraid to surrender, and maybe redirect. And I think that’s important. We’re not going to get everything right. through the grieving process. In fact, it’s a guarantee we’re gonna get a lot wrong, I got wrong upon wrong.
There were things that I look back on. I’m like, What the heck are you thinking? Well, I wasn’t thinking, and I need to get myself grace for that. But as long as you’re learning from that, in this new journey, I think that’s the important thing, the evaluation, the pullback, the take a few steps forward, and making sure that you’re learning from every experience.
I couldn’t agree more. And the other thing that I’ll point out is that, you know, surround yourself with the right people, you know, and surround yourself with people that are inspired, that they’re, they’re excited about life, and they’re grateful for the life they have. And, you know, I always say that and, you know, everybody knows the saying, you know, you’re the five people that are in your circle, right? is who you are, right? And I go one step further. And I say, if I’m the smartest guy in the room, I’m in the wrong room. Right? And this is how we have to evaluate like, who are we spending time with? You know, are we continuing to level up our game? Are we a student of our game? You know, we always say be a student of the game, but be a student of your game.
Yeah, one of the things that I did when I went through some of that evaluation was I realized that I was doing a lot of things physically to improve, lost 60 pounds through the sobriety and the exercise program and I was doing a lot from my mind growth mindset podcast, consuming that spirituality was something that I wasn’t working on as much. I mean, there was definitely a spiritual awakening post but not not being exercised. And so like you spoke about, you’ve got to exercise these things.
My spiritual exercise came with then seeking out people who were more Spiritual who could guide me? Today I’m having lunch with two pastors just to up my game. So I’m not by any means the smartest guy in the room, when it comes to spirituality is an example, you know, get out of my comfort zone, go to lunch with a couple of pastors and talk about my life experiences with them and have them guide me in in the light with that, um, talk about spirituality in your journey. Was that an important aspect? Because we talked about the physical and the mind?
Yeah, certainly was, I mean, the program. You know, I was always a spiritual person. Right. And I grew up in Boston as Boston Catholic I went to I was actually, yeah, you know, and I was actually a singer in church when I was a kid and growing up, and so I went to, I don’t know, seven masses a weekend, I think I was, you know, I was always I was always at the church. Right? And, but I became very spiritual when I got into the program, because, you know, because it was part of that surrender for me, right. And I, it was a God of my understanding who I choose, I choose God, right. And I’m, you know, I’m not a, you know, I wouldn’t say I’m a religious, you know, highly religious, but I’m definitely spiritual.
I pass that blessing on the way, the way I relate this Thomas’s, I look for God moments, right. And, and I talked about this in the book, and I talk about many that I’ve had in my life, and that I’m grateful that I was able to recognize them. And when I speak in front of groups, I tell them all the time, it’s like going down the highway in your car. If you’re just looking straight ahead, you’re gonna miss all the scenery, you’re gonna miss all the nice beauty in the world, right? Or the cars that are passing you or other things that you have to see right to be safe and drive.
It’s the same thing in our life, if our heart is not open, and we are not spiritual to understand this something greater than us, right? Then we’re going to miss those God moments. And what would attract me, so I just feel bad, right? That you would do that. So when I, when I started to recognize these God moments, as God moments, then I really opened up, right. And I do it all day. I think that and I welcome those God moments. And, and I accept them. And more importantly, I try to learn from them. Right.
Yeah, so some of those moments, yeah, their blessings, and then others are lessons, right. And so, I know for me that one of the key aspects for me to really reconnect sometimes is unplugging and getting away. I’ve taken a couple of retreats that had been invaluable to just get out there taking a walk in the woods to talk to God. And there have been epiphanies, poet poems, or how I kind of communicate with him. And the poems that have been gifted during those walks in the woods are treasures in my life. So I encourage anyone, like you said, you’re driving down the highway, you’re trying to concentrate on the road, because there’s a lot of traffic, there’s a lot of noise, you want to make sure you’re staying safe and alive, and you’re missing everything.
Sometimes, getting away, getting back to nature can be a great way to get back to your spirit. And, you know, just trying to exercise it like a muscle is the other important thing. reading scripture, if that’s where your spirituality comes from, highly suggest surrounding yourself with people doing the Bible study, things like that can really help to build that muscle, just like you’d go to the gym. And, and a friend pointed out to me, Look, you’re spending, you know, two hours in the gym every day, you’re spending an hour or two on a growth podcast, as you’re taking your walks, you know how much time you’re spending in the spirit in the spiritual world, you know, in that realm, and it wasn’t an hour or two, it was, you know, maybe listening to, you know, a little couple of minute Bible app moments.
And so it’s like, you gotta start thinking about this balance in your life. And if those three strands, the body, mind and spirit are together and are tight, you know, there’s no breaking that there’s no breaking that strength and that that is a superpower that you can have. You speak about something really important, and that’s living in the light. And I love that part. What do you mean by that?
So, for me, I have a daily reprieve every day to start my day in the right way. Right? And I don’t always get a look, I don’t always get it right, that’s for sure. But living in the light for me is making living in a beautiful state non negotiable. Right? And what that means is starting your day out with a state of God there’s always something you can be grateful for. And that’s the baseline of how I start my day. That’s the baseline of how I continue throughout my day is I things come at me, you know, but for me living in the light is, is just that it’s, you know, make living in a beautiful state non negotiable. It’s just that there’s no, there’s no turning back on that. And, and for me, it’s it is the grace, the gratitude.
And the other thing when you were talking, I have sort of a funny way of, you know, being present. I always say live live like a dog, right? heard me say this, but I are live a dog’s life. And people were like, What is he talking about? Right? A good friend of mine, pass this on. He does work with all the top athletes in the world, on on mindset and being present. And so here’s what, here’s what this means. If you’re walking the dog in the woods, for example, that dog is present, the dog is with its master. And it’s, you know, fully present, looking at the trees, that the breeze in the woods, the sticks, or whatever, the water, it’s there. If we’re taking a walk with our dog in the woods, we’re on our phone, were emailing, we’re worrying about the meeting in an hour. We’re worrying about what we’re going to have for dinner, what’s the weekend plans, the drama in our world, all that any stress, we’re not present, we’re not being present and mindful. So I tell people to live a dog’s life, you know, just just that simple thing, put that in your head.
And when you’re, when you’re stressed out, or when you’re, you know, in a high anxiety mode, I tell people to disconnect to reconnect. And that’s, and that’s how you can do that. And I do it throughout the day. Right? It’s not something that is just inherent and natural for guy like me either. And like, you know, I have a high pressure job like most and it’s like, you know what, I’ve got to, I’ve got to disconnect to reconnect. And so just something to remember, it’s just a little fun thing I said, Little dog’s life, you know, and, and people laugh at, and they go, Yeah, you know what, I’m gonna try that,
Live like a dog. I love it. And that was an important part of my healing as well Rob was, I did take my dog out for walks, I live right next to a park and I’d go in the woods. And I would disconnect. And I would look at the leaves, and I’d look at the trees, and I would touch the trees, I would go up and just touch them. And just try to Yeah, like, I’m grateful you’re here. And I’m grateful our paths cross with this tree, the cypress tree that’s so big around, you can even put your arms around it. It’s been there for 400 years. And that was my way of reconnecting with reality in a world for me that was shattered. But it was going out and seeing the beauty of nature. And even through all this tragedy that I experienced, there’s this incredible beauty that I wasn’t noticing, and now is my time to slow down.
And actually I notice it now. You know, because, like you said, in our high pressure jobs, we’re always thinking about the future, and that next deal or the next, you know, whatever it might be, and, you know, even in our relationships, you know, we tend to we send it all will go into that next thing. Next thing and, you know, life what’s happening. Life happens while you’re making other plans. Yeah. You know, and I don’t think it needs to be that way. I think it needs to be much more about the journey.
What’s the one piece of advice that you’d like to leave with our growth warriors or widowers today?
Yeah, I mentioned this at the beginning. For me, I say it very often, it’s to “give yourself permission”. It’s the toughest thing you’ll have to do. You know, it was for me, to give myself permission to move on with Bonnie. Not from Bonnie.
Again, I’m a big word guy. So I change one word, and it makes a big difference for me and my internal voice. I mean, everything that happens with that one word, right? If I say move on “from”, I’m not in a good place, right? But if I say move on “with” that I’m in a great place. I’m here right now, every day. I would say give yourself permission. And, and whatever that means for you. Right? Is it permission to to move on with your spouse in your heart, it’s a stamp in your heart, it’s never going to leave and that’s okay. You know, give yourself permission to have fun. Give yourself permission to live again and thrive, not just survive, but thrive. And, and you’ll be better for it. That’s my advice.
Rob’s book. I’m holding it up for the video. Surrender to your Adversity. It’s a wonderful book, a short read, but a powerful one. It goes over Rob’s dealing with adversity, the advice he has in the framework he outlined here, and you captured it well, brother. Thank you so much for all that you do.
Thank you, Thomas. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great spending some time with you and your listeners. Thank you so much.
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About The Host
Growth Evangelist / Growth through Grief Founder
Tom Pisello is a widower and the father of two daughters. Tom lost his wife Judy in 2017 after her ten year battle with cancer.
Tom founded the Growth through Grief site, resources and ministry to help share his personal experiences to grow through the grieving process, and to share with others to help in his own and other’s healing process. Through this process, Tom gained his sobriety, lost 60 pounds, gained a growth mindset and rekindled lost faith, now sharing these hard-earned lessons and the lessons of other widowers and experts with you.
Prior to creating Growth through Grief, Tom was a successful serial-entrepreneur, analyst, speaker, and author of the business books Evolved Selling and The Frugalnomics Survival Guide. He was well known as “The ROI Guy”, founder of Alinean and Interpose, a Managing VP of analyst firm Gartner, Chief Evangelist for Mediafly and founder of the Evolved Selling Institute and host to the popular sales and marketing podcast – Evolved Selling
I’ve had 2 love stories that captivated me like that. Both were lost to illness. Now, I’m rebuilding me.