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Garbage In

Last week I forgot to take out the trash. Since I’m currently renovating my house, I’m accumulating both garbage and recycling at an elevated rate so I really couldn’t afford to miss a week. The good news is that there are still options available for disposing of trash. The bad news is that they cost more resources like time, money, and energy.

I can…

  • Try to catch up over future weeks

  • Ask my ex if I can take up some space in her bin

  • Take a trip to the city dump

  • Dump illegally in an apartment complex dumpster

The first option costs time and risks a nasty odor filled garage in the meantime. The second costs my pride and someone else’s resources. The third costs literal money (and time/energy) and the fourth costs the integrity of my personal values.

What’s the point?

Too many tactical professionals are filling their buckets with garbage stressors without efficient mechanisms for mitigating their effects.

This comes at a cost. The overflowing prevalence of episodic acute stress and chronic stress, particularly in the absence of effective coping strategies, do not leave much room for potentially favorable stressors like physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually challenging training. Even if time permits training that’s intended to stimulate growth, the recovery bandwidth needed to capitalize is likely already being spent on the body and minds’ battles against late night gaming, cheesy puffs, movement and social incompetence, and financial recklessness (like that $800/month truck that’s never been put in 4-wheel drive except that one time overcoming the curb in the Taco Bell drivethru).

It’s time to MOBILIZE. It’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s time to shed the faux safety of a small shell and expose ourselves to elements that stimulate growth.

A popular saying right now is, “You can only adapt to what you can recover from.” While I understand the sentiment, adapting primarily to purposeless stressors perpetuates to a stagnant cycle of survival that is not conducive to wellness, let alone high performance. Before we talk about recovery, let’s apply some stress worth recovering from! Let’s shift from a victim to a victor mindset by filling our buckets with stressors that, when combined with RESET, have high potential to stimulate personal and professional growth.

How do we do that?

  1. Purpose

  2. Perception

  3. Performance


Select a simple* but hard** thing that is relevant to an outcome you need or want to achieve.

*“Simple” does not mean easy - I just don’t want you to overcomplicate it.

**”Hard” does not mean impossible - It means to disrupt the status quo by stepping outside your current comfort zone.

Your prioritized stressor(s) should be influential (actually moves the needle), controllable (yours to manipulate), implementable (but will you actually do it?), and sustainable (but can and will you actually do it consistently over time??).

You can choose something that demands physical, intellectual, emotional, and/or spiritual energy or evokes temporary discomfort in one of those spaces.

Maybe discomfort for you is drinking water, going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating a vegetable, calling your parents, or asking for help. “Hard” is relative to the norms of the person looking to challenge him or herself.


Perceive stress as an opportunity for growth instead of a threat to your safety.

Perceiving the possible positives yielded by engaging with stress, as discussed in detail by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, can be made more powerful by appreciating the value of our role within that engagement.

We at The Initiative much prefer the slogan, “All you can do is all you can do”, compared to its counterpart, “It is what it is.” The former popular phrase implies a locus of control that, while limited because we don’t live in a vacuum, still recognizes the valuable part we play in sculpting our own fate. The latter phrase implies we are only helpless passengers on a journey dictated by forces completely beyond our control. Sure, we can press our face against the window and watch the world burn until we arrive at our final destination, but I rather do what I can to extinguish some flames and light some others along the way.


Perform the hard thing.

Overcome inertia. Get uncomfortable. Walk the walk. Run the run. Take the hill. Read the book. Call your parents. Ask for help. Chew the broccoli. Swallow your pride.

Give yourself a reason to RESET. Apply the stressor that has potential to stimulate growth through positive adaptation. Now, apply repeatedly because a single dose is likely not a high enough frequency to drive physical or psychological change.

Keep in mind that the stressor you’re applying is an input. The stress you experience as a result is the output but not necessarily the outcome. The outcome depends on how well you RESET from the stressor and the stress it causes. Over time, you should become progressively more resilient to the originally hard input, reducing its effect and introducing the need for a more aggressive stimulus.


I never mentioned removing the “garbage in” because you’ll inherently substitute some of that garbage with more purposeful stimuli. Of course, we still need to reset (recover) from even the best intended stressors. RESET is something I plan to discuss within my next blog (number 2 of a 3 part series), Garbage Out. Rather than reducing the negative or intentionally exchanging it with something positive, start by simply adding in something hard but also purposeful and realistic - You’ll likely leave less room for wasteful byproducts of poor life choices.

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