Self Belief
29 Jan 2013
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In each of the stories below, the main protagonist demonstrated tremendous self belief in the face of extraordinary odds. None of them harbored 'self limiting thoughts'. I find these stories super inspiring.
The Story of Arthur

Arthur was a 47-year former paratrooper. Repeated jumps off airplanes and hard landings resulted in knee injuries. Arthur retired early. He gained huge amount of weight, felt depressed. Eventually, he was given knee braces and canes in both hands to support his weight while he walked around. Doctors told him that he would never be able to walk again normally! For fifteen years, Arthur had believed them. So he would not even try.

One day, Arthur chanced upon yoga training videos by Diamond Dallas, a former WWF wrestler with tattoos and an awesome, inspiring personality! Diamond was the first teacher who empathized with Arthur, had faith in him and motivated him. Slowly, as the video shows, Arthur was transformed, as magic unfolds itself :)

Visual stories are much more impactful than text. So please watch the five-minute video on the right. Then watch an extended version of the same video (9.21). The extended video has a picture of Arthur five years into his journey! He looks unbelievably fit. There is soundtrack throughout the extended video, with commentary by both Arthur and Diamond Dallas. The commentary is moving and insightful.

A memorable quote by Arthur:

"Just because I can't do it today, does not mean that I'm not going to be able to do it some day."

That's the way!

The Story of Mark Block

Mark Block was a 22-year old athlete in University of Iowa. After a near-fatal accident left him paralyzed below his neck, he made a remarkable recovery — after several months of therapy, he surprised everybody by walking on a cane from the hospital. Sometime later, he enrolled in a marathon training course (!) On the first day of the course, he stopped using his cane for walking. Within a few months of training, he defied everybody's expectations by walking 15 miles on marathon day. Later, he got married and had a daughter. He no longer needs a brace to walk and can run short distances.

Mark Block's personal story was narrated in The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer (304 pages, 1998) by Whitsett, Dolgener and Kole. The book was written by three psychologists who taught positive psychology to students while training them for a marathon (a pretty unique course). The book is excellent.

Full story: Mark Block's full story is reproduced here in detail.

The Story of MDS Rich

The Marathon des Sables (The 'Sahara Marathon') is one of the most challenging competitions in the world. Runners have to cover 156 miles in 6 days (an average of 26 miles a day). They have to carry all six days of food supplies and emergency gear in a backpack. Water and tents are provided by organizers. Don't ask me why these runners are doing the Sahara Marathon. But let's see the mindset of one finisher, MDS Rich. His approach is inspiring.

The first para of MDS Rich's long blog article is quoted below:

Four years ago I literally could not run a mile. I had to stop at 3/4 of a mile gasping for breath on a treadmill, with a personal trainer called Clive probably thinking he had his work cut out here. I had decided to start running, get fit and get some personal training after a health check had revealed me mostly okay but dreadfully unfit for a 30 year old man. So, I started to do the odd short run over the next couple of years and eventually even entered an off-road 10k event. I found those 6 miles so hard I could not understand how anyone could run a 26 mile marathon. I certainly knew I couldn't. A few months later in January 2006 I was watching a TV show on the Marathon des Sables. I was in awe of spectacle and could not understand how anyone could survive such as extreme event. "I'd love to do that some day", I announced. "Why don't you then?" came back the reply from my girlfriend at that time. "OK" I announced boastfully, "I will then". I went upstairs, went onto the internet and downloaded the application form. I filled it in and made out a check for £500, the non-refundable deposit sum. The next day I walked to the post box, raised the envelope and let it hover in the slot for a couple of minutes as the enormity of what I had said I would do finally began to sink in. Eventually I pushed the envelope inside. A week or so later I got back a letter. My application was accepted into the 23rd edition of the Marathon des Sables in 2008.

I had two years and 3 months to train from really nothing, to be fit enough to stand at the start line with 800 others from across the world.

Now comes the inspiring part of Rich's story. It strongly resonates with my personal philosophy of life.

Now I have no natural or genetic running ability. I'm still not a fast runner at all. I'd have to train the only way I knew how, which was to make a very detailed plan. What I lack in natural ability I make up for in preparation, attention to detail and the ability to stick to a plan to the letter. I'd never miss a training session because "I didn't feel like it today".

That's the way! I would encourage you to read the above para again and absorb it! For the full story, please see Marathon Des Sables - My Story by MDS Rich.

Other Stories

If you lack self belief, you can inspire yourself by remembering that you were a child once. As a child, you were imbued with tremendous self belief as you learnt to flip over, crawl, stand up and start walking. You took repeated failures, repeated tumbles and repeated falls in your stride. You were persistent. So become like a child to accomplish whatever you have set your eyes on.

1) The Story of Nishad Singh, a 17-year old asthmatic boy who has finished two 100-mile ultra races. He lives in Silicon Valley, California. Asthma makes any physical exercise a major challenge. Nishad's dedication and perseverance is creditable.

2) Huzefa Mehta: Ironman 2003 describes how he finished the Hawaii Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bicycle ride, 26.2 mile run) despite serious setbacks. Huzefa is a friend in Silicon Valley. An excerpt from his article:

Six weeks before the race, on a training ride on Sierra road with Raminder and Ambarish, I had an accident. I fractured my right collarbone, broke two ribs and suffered a mild concussion. In the subsequent weeks, I struggled to cope with the pain and stress. I drew inspiration from the story of Tyler Hamilton who had just months earlier in the Tour de France 2003 won the most grueling mountain stage while riding with a double-fractured collarbone. I resumed training on a stationary bike. I asked my YMCA lifeguard friends to show me swimming strokes using only the left hand. A month later, to the sounds of the Hawaiian chants and drums, I was off the starting line. I began the swim with one arm in the sling, kept ahead of the swim, bike and run cutoff times and completed the race in the sling. I arrived at the finish line on Ali'i Drive to a cheering crowd an hour before the total cutoff time of 17 hours. I had become an IRONMAN, despite the odds!

Always have firm, positive belief that you can do it!

3) Touching the Void (107 minutes, 2004 — Amazon link) narrates the true story of two mountain climbers who were marooned in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. They got separated. One of the climbers fell into a crevasse, broke his leg and still managed to survive! A gripping movie which showcases the extraordinary strength that lies inside all of us.

4) Mind-Blowing Outdoor Adventures by Disabled has YouTube videos and personal stories of the following individuals:

  1. Erik Weihenmayer: Climbed Mt Everest, kayaked the Grand Canyon (blind).
  2. Bill Irwin: Hiked the Appalachian Trail, guided only by his dog (blind).
  3. Kyle Maynard: Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Aconcagua without the aid of prosthetics (congenital, quadruple amputee).
  4. Niki Rellon: Hiked the Appalachian Trail after losing one of her legs 16 months earlier due to a climbing accident.
  5. Enock Glidden: Climbed El Capitan with the help of a crew. He is paralyzed waist down from birth.
  6. Stacey Kozel: Hiked the Appalachian Trail using specialized equipment for her legs, both of which are paralyzed.
  7. Christian Haettich: Long distance cyclist. He lost an arm and a leg in a motorbike accident.
  8. Philippe Croizon: Swam the English Channel. He lost both of his legs and arms in a home accident.

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