In honor of Robin Williams, whose sun set prematurely on August 11, 2014.
In honor of Robin Williams, whose sun set prematurely on August 11, 2014.
Our personalities are as distinct as our clothing choices, but commonalities exist among people with similar psychological traits just as they do with shoppers who are guided by similar fashions. Among the options available to learn more about what makes us tick, becoming aware of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type is perhaps the most powerful. For me, a reflective individual who has spent years contemplating why I think and behave as I do, identifying my personality type — and studying its characteristics — has been life-changing.
I recommend three online resources for learning more about your psychological wardrobe. If you wonder why you instinctively feel drawn to the noisy center of a crowded room or why you exhaustively analyze all of the competing variables before making a decision, these three websites could provide meaningful answers. Whether you possess a casual interest in gaining more personality insight or a gnawing hunger to interpret the complex inner workings of your mind, these platforms serve as worthy portals to the knowledge you seek.
First, a brief background.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), who was a younger peer of the legendary Sigmund Freud, developed a theory of personality concepts as part of his pioneering work in analytical psychology. Two of the best known of these concepts are introversion and extroversion, which many contemporary practitioners believe exist on a continuum. Those who are more introverted in nature generally gain energy in solitude; those who are more extroverted typically charge their batteries when in the presence of others.
In the 1920s, an American educator named Katharine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) took a keen interest in Jung’s work in personality concepts. She did so after investing considerable time and energy formulating her own personality theories while raising and homeschooling her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1980). After Katherine Cook Briggs read Jung’s work in the early 1920s, she dove into the psychiatrist’s theories and convinced her daughter to follow her on the intellectual journey.
What emerged from their collaboration — and the resulting decades of scholarship with her husband, Lyman Briggs (1874-1963), an engineer with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. — was a four-letter personality type. Today it is identified as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or MBTI®. Once you become aware of which of the 16 four-letter code combinations you most closely align with, an extraordinary door opens into a room (or a walk-in closet) filled with wonder and understanding.
My first recommendation for learning more about your personality type is the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website, which is the authority on all things related to this renowned — yet still sometimes controversial — framework. The beginning of the “MBTI® Basics” page is featured here:
My second recommendation is for MBTIonline.com, which allows you to discover your official MBTI® identifier by taking the 93-question Myers-Briggs assessment for $49.95. The estimated time for this instrument is 15 minutes. (Note — A link to MBTIonline.com is also found on the Myers & Briggs Foundation site.)
The welcome page of MBTIonline looks like this:
My third recommendation is for 16Personalities, which is hosted by UK-based NERIS Analytics Limited. This user-friendly and pleasingly visual website offers insightful descriptors of NERIS’ own modified versions of the official MBTI® four-letter designator.
The modified versions, which feature a fifth letter — A or T, representing assertive and turbulent, respectively — still include the sixteen separate personality types. However, each one is complemented by the fifth A or T descriptor*. The sixteen basic types are presented here using names, illustrations, and four categorical groups (Analysts, Diplomats, Sentinels, and Explorers).
You can identify your type by taking their free NERIS Type Explorer®.
Each of these sixteen types features its own detailed series of pages that offer insights into how that type’s tendencies (in thought and behavior) manifest in such areas as Friendships, Romantic Relationships, Parenthood, Career Path, and Workplace Habits.
Here is an overview of the ESFP type, which 16Personalities identifies as “The Entertainer.” The four-letter acronym stands for Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving.
As an INTJ (“The Architect,” pictured below) — a type that describes introverted individuals who rely on intuition and deep thought to navigate their lives — I have found tremendous value in both the Myers & Briggs Foundation website and 16Personalities.com. By revisiting these destinations, I am reminded why I possess the psychological wardrobe that I do — the symbolic pants, shirts, sweaters, and shoes that reflect the different parts of my personality.
When I find myself struggling to understand why and how I act, I am grateful for the insights that these sources offer. Although I give serious consideration to the materials they provide, I also scrutinize them as a healthy skeptic. I think it is best to be cautious about adopting any framework in its entirety. The three resources recommended in this post provide general roadmaps for greater understanding — not prescriptive, turn-by-turn directions for living a better life.
* — Please be aware that this fifth letter is an element that is not endorsed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions impact 1 in 5 adults every year. That is why, since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.
Whether you are a trial attorney, a truck driver, or a teacher, you can be susceptible to these painful and sometimes debilitating conditions. They can emerge slowly or suddenly.
Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health is significant — especially for men. All too often, those who suffer remain silent, fearing the shame of being perceived as weak or faulty.
If you are struggling, please summon the courage to reach out to someone you trust. Asking for help does not mean that you are helpless. It means that you are human.
The first step may be terrifying, but it is necessary for finding long-term relief. Trust me. I am “1 in 5 adults.”
And I am someone who cares.
Yours in support,
Brian / Mr. Bishop 🙂
To learn more, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
On October 25, 2018, the New York Times published an online article by Hayley Phelan — who generally reports on fashion, shopping, and culture — entitled “What’s All This About Journaling?“* It’s worth seven minutes of your time.
Why? In her short piece, Ms. Phelan (who is pictured above) shares details of her recent return to journaling as an adult. She also provides commentary from two of the most respected names in the field of expressive personal writing: author Julia Cameron and social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker.
Now in her early thirties, Ms. Phelan began journaling as an adult at the age of 29. Why? Her now ex-husband recommended she do so to, in part, cope with the stresses of their dissolving marriage. At the time, he was journaling by following the recommendations that Julia Cameron describes in her landmark book The Artist’s Way, which has sold more than 4 million copies since its publication in 1992.
In her seminal work about creativity, Cameron challenges readers to pen three hand-written “Morning Pages” shortly after rising from bed each day. As Ms. Phelan notes in her article, Cameron describes this writing as “strictly stream of consciousness.” To read about how Cameron addresses questions related to the Morning Pages routine, please see her 2017 blog post entitled Morning Pages: FAQ.
In addition to interviewing Julia Cameron for her article, Ms. Phelan corresponded with the foremost researcher in expressive writing, Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly every news story about the process and potential of journaling written in the last decade features at least a quotation from Dr. Pennebaker, who is recognized as one of the world’s experts on writing therapy, a form of expressive writing that he is credited with developing in the 1980s.
Pennebaker’s book Opening Up by Writing It Down, which is now in its 3rd edition, shares his research about how focused writing can help us process trauma and lead to faster recovery. Ms. Phelan notes that Dr. Pennebaker is not necessarily an advocate of daily writing. Why? If frequent journaling results in “rumination” that causes anguish, he recommends a shorter-duration approach. His research has revealed that just several intensive writing sessions lasting 15-30 minutes can yield measurable decreases in stress and increases in one’s ability to cope effectively in the aftermath of trauma.
Ms. Phelan describes how her journaling practice, which has now stretched into its third year, resembles Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. She writes “three to five pages every morning by hand.” And how does Ms. Phelan assess the effectiveness of this routine? She explains: “[J]ournaling provided me with an important outlet for the debilitating anxiety that had come to paralyze me at odd hours each day. And besides, I enjoyed it. It was fun to wake up every morning and spew a hurried black scrawl all over those straight blue lines.”
Please see her full article “What’s All This About Journaling?” if you are interested in personal writing; it is worth seven minutes of your time. And stay tuned for future blog posts about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Dr. Pennebaker’s Opening Up by Writing It Down later this spring. In the meantime, pick up a pen and give journaling a try!
* — Three days later, a version of the article was featured on page ST7 of the paper’s New York edition with the title “Writing in a Journal Can Help.”
Note — The photograph of Haley Phelan at the top of this post was obtained from her website, hayleyphelan.com. The illustrations featured in this post were borrowed from the online version of Ms. Phelan’s article, which can be reached at nytimes.com. The covers of The Artist’s Way and Opening Up by Writing It Down were taken from Julia Cameron’s website and the website for the Guilford Press, respectively.
For every ink + sky sticker that is sold, $1.00 is given to the NOCC to provide education and programming for local youth in these three critical areas:
If you would like to purchase ink + sky stickers for your water bottle, laptop, snowboard, or class binder, please click here.
Thank you for your generosity and support!
If your laptop, class binder, water bottle, or car window could use a boost of color, consider these ink + sky stickers. They feature rounded corners, so they won’t roll up once applied to a surface. And the stickers are made of glossy laminated polypropylene, so they are durable enough for outdoor use.
Better yet, for every sticker that is sold $1.00 will be donated to the North Oakland Community Coalition. The NOCC is a Lake Orion-based 501(c)3 non-profit that works closely with area schools, health care providers, law enforcement and emergency personnel, local governments, and other service organizations.
“Since 2007, the North Oakland Community Coalition provides critical prevention education and programs related to underage drinking, youth substance use, and mental health to encourage a responsible community where healthy decision making is valued and where individuals and families thrive.”
By purchasing a sticker, $1.00 will be donated to the NOCC so that it can continue to provide critical resources and education for our community. Most recently, the NOCC brought the award-winning film Suicide: The Ripple Effect to the auditorium at Lake Orion High School. The free screening occurred on January 14.
Purchasing an ink + sky sticker allows you to support this website and a local non-profit that makes a positive impact on area youth. As a former Laker Orion teacher, I stand behind the North Oakland Community Coalition’s mission and message.
Two different stickers are available for purchase using PayPal or a credit card. Regardless of the quantity selected, they will be shipped for FREE in the continental United States. After you place an order, expect them to arrive in 4-5 business days if you live in Michigan. An extra day or two may be necessary for delivery to other states. If you live overseas (e.g. Ireland, Germany, etc.), please contact me about shipping options.
ink + sky sticker — $3.75
This sticker measures 1.5″ tall and 4″ wide, and it features rounded corners. It is made of glossy laminated white polypropylene, so it is durable enough for outdoor use. A $1.00 donation will be made to the NOCC.
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inkandsky.com sticker — $3.75
This sticker measures 0.75″ tall and 4.5″ wide, and it features rounded corners. It is made of glossy laminated white polypropylene, so it is durable enough for outdoor use. A $1.00 donation will be made to the NOCC.
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Direct donation to the NOCC — $5.00
Would you like to do more? Show your support for the North Oakland Community Coalition with a direct donation in $5.00 increments (example: a quantity of 2 will result in a $10 donation).
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You don’t need to walk on the moon to make a difference for our kids and their health. You only need to take one step forward and demonstrate that you are sticking with them.
The North Oakland Community Coalition and ink + sky appreciate your support.
Note — The North Oakland Community Coalition logo and the promotional image for Suicide: The Ripple Effect were obtained from noccmi.org. The photograph featuring the moon was taken by Ganapathy Kumar, and it is available on unsplash.com.
With the Super Bowl coming up tomorrow, the time is right to share these two artifacts from my younger days — a colored-pencil illustration and a printed letter to former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. If you watch Fox NFL Sunday, then you are likely familiar with Bradshaw’s unique mix of humor and insight.
Growing up in the 1970s and early 80s in Pittsburgh, PA, my brother and I quickly became fans of the hometown Steelers and their roster of now-legendary players including wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene, linebacker Jack Lambert, fullback Franco Harris, and center Mike Webster. Please see the end of this blog post for critical health information about Webster, who tragically died at the age of 50.
These men that we cheered on felt less like all-stars and more like the tough blue-collar laborers who spent their days in front of blast furnaces in Pittsburgh’s steel mills. The members of our football team were symbolic neighbors. Here is an example of those everyday heroes. These are the members of the formidable defensive line known as the Steel Curtain: Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes.
Although I never played even one season of touch football as a kid, cheering on the black and gold was almost a cultural requirement if you lived in Pittsburgh at that time. After all, under the watchful gaze of coach Chuck Noll, the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980. They were the first NFL team to win four championships.
It must have been close to 1980 when I created the illustration pictured above — and the letter seen below. Despite the time and effort that were invested in these two pieces, I never mailed them to their intended recipient. Sorry, Terry. I hope you can forgive me.
The sheer number of spelling errors is laughable given the fact that I became a high-school teacher and earned a master’s degree in English literature and composition. But at least you can see that even as an elementary school student I was dutifully editing my initial draft. The erasures are evident, but my “corrections” may be just as bad as — if not worse than — the mistakes that came before them. I was really trying hard, though.
What I find especially charming is the question that concludes the letter:
“isn’t it niec Terry _____?”
The superscript yes no and accompanying arrow bring to mind the stereotypical folded paper note passed to a love interest across the classroom. Such missives often seek an answer to this question: “Do you like me? Yes or No.”
I’ll never know if Mr. Bradshaw would have found value in my artwork or composition skills, but as a man in his forties I take pride in the fact that I created these offerings — and that I was thoughtful enough to keep them as part of my small collection of childhood memorabilia. I still enjoy expressing my creativity, and I love to explore the possibilities of the written word. Those two interests have only grown.
This Sunday the venerable Tom Brady (age 41) and the much younger Jared Goff (age 24) will take the field at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with their teams, the Patriots and Rams. Although I may watch part of Super Bowl LIII, I’ll still be rooting for the Terry Bradshaw and Pittsburgh Steelers of my youth. The game seemed much simpler then, more like a true athletic contest than a media-saturated “event.”
But I recognize that somewhere in New England and Los Angeles there are young boys — and girls! — excitedly drawing pictures of their gridiron heroes and penning sincere letters of admiration. I hope that the parents of those children encourage them, and that they search out stamps, envelopes, and mailing addresses. But before you send off their illustrations and fan mail, please take pictures of their finished work. Years from now, you’ll be grateful that you did.
The Brothers Bishop (1980) — Pittsburgh, PA
The importance of Mike Webster (1952-2002):
If you have seen the 2015 film Concussion, which stars Will Smith as the real physician Dr. Bennett Omalu, then you are likely aware of Mike Webster’s name. In that sobering movie, Webster is played by actor David Morse; his portrayal of the declining physical and mental health of the former Pittsburgh player is haunting. If you enjoy football, I strongly encourage you to watch this film.
Mike Webster, who was a Hall of Fame athlete and recipient of four Super Bowl championship rings, played for the Steelers from 1974 to 1988. But the man known as “Iron Mike” eventually suffered unbelievable horrors because of the game he loved. As a center, Webster’s body — including his head — was hit repeatedly by opponents. The innumerable collisions caused what is now recognized as CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The condition, which forensic pathologist Dr. Omalu was instrumental in identifying, is unforgiving in the way that it destroys the brain.
After his career ended in 1990, Mike Webster’s life began to unravel. The best description of what occurred to him can be found in his New York Times obituary. In that article, Webster’s downward spiral into homelessness, addiction, and psychological trauma is described. Mike Webster went from an on-field superstar to a divorced, confused, shame-filled, and broken man in less than ten years. He died at the age of 50 of a heart attack.
The damage from concussions is very real. And those injuries harm not only the physical body, but the mind.
Please investigate the topic of CTE, and please use good judgement when deciding how you, your friends, and/or your children play sports that can result in repeated blows to the head. Short-term success is no replacement for long-term suffering.
Note — The photograph of the players who formed the Steel Curtain was obtained from the Heinz History Center. The photographs of Terry Bradshaw and Mike Webster were borrowed from the website of Behind the Steel Curtain. The publicity image for the Super Bowl was found on the website of the Tampa Bay Times.
Perhaps the most vibrant notebook that I own, the Disney Characters Journal is the third to be featured from the group that I affectionately call The Fantastic Four. Why choose this name? The set of four unique journals was designed and constructed by a pair of my former students, Meagan and Kathryn. If you missed the first two blog posts in this series, please see the following:
This notebook’s front and back cover feature dozens of Disney characters — including both heroes and villains — that were carefully cut from multiple sources and then assembled into collages that sit beneath a veneer of packing tape. This process likely took hours.
Before I share the journal’s first entry, please realize that it was penned on June 4. There is no significance to this particular date, but the fact that it lies less than ten days before the end of the school year (and thus on the eve of summer vacation) means two things:
So if you sense an excessive level of optimism in the following passage — as though I was channeling the spirit of Walt Whitman — these are the reasons why. Not four cups of coffee. But I do enjoy coffee, especially dark roasts. Anyway, I created this entry (which is followed by a transcription) in either my 1st- or 2nd-period class during a five-minute free write with my students. It was Thursday, June 4, 2015.
Beginning a new composition book today. I like starting off, embarking on a new writing adventure with limitless potential in front of me. My pen directs the course. My mind pushes it forward.
Summer rises up ahead, a bright orange-yellow glow that beckons for a marriage of reality and possibility. So much intellectual freedom. So much openness. So much joy. Barriers previously noted have been withdrawn, and my senses expand wildly as I imagine the possibilities of the spaces in front of me. Every day becomes worthy: it is full of possibilities, tantalizing the spirit, coaxing out the best from the soul, provoking the imagination.
Days are investments — conscious efforts glazed with the unexpected. Releasing so much that could be!
This journal’s Disney theme was not accidental.
Although I am not a mouse-ear-wearing fanatic, I do have a history with the company that has brought dozens of legendary characters to life through animated features, live-action films, and theatrical productions. For a semester during my undergrad years I participated in the Disney College Program Internship in Orlando, FL. Rather than attend classes at Michigan State in the spring of 1996, I spent five months immersed in Disney culture, tradition, and hospitality. My students — including Meagan and Kathryn — knew this.
Pictured below are my identification card and name tags. You might notice a yellowish hue to the latter; that was caused by long exposure to the bright Florida sun.
During my internship I enrolled in a series of classes taught by Disney executives that dealt with such topics as marketing, communication, guest service, and hospitality management. I was also taught about the rich history of Disney culture, learning about such concepts as the two-finger point (never a single finger, as that could be perceived as rude) and the understanding that all Cast Members exist “on stage” and thus they constantly inform the Guests’ experience.
Although the classes were instrumental in helping me understand Disney philosophy and gain some awareness of how large corporations function, the real learning occurred at my work location. For 40+ hours per week I served in a retail shop situated on the ground floor of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is more commonly known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to park attendees. The tall salmon-colored building looms ominously at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (one of WDW’s Orlando theme parks).
After Guests plunged multiple stories in a fright-filled elevator car, they were deposited into a hallway that led to my gift shop. There we offered them picture frames, bellhop caps, and all manner of custom-themed products that you might find in an upscale hotel: monogramed towels, guest books, door hangers, disposable cameras and film (it was 1996, after all), and small collectibles. Our biggest seller? T-shirts featuring various Twilight Zone-inspired designs and slogans. We sold hundreds of t-shirts every week.
While working in my location, I wore the costume seen below. It featured a double-breasted suit, white dress shirt, tie, and striped suspenders. The young ladies between Mickey and me were two other MSU students who were also participating in the College Program Internship in the spring of 1996. They are wearing the costumes that were used at their work locations. Please note that although Cinderella Castle stands in the background, I did not work in the Magic Kingdom.
Now let’s shift gears. What follows is this journal’s second entry, which was written on the same day as the one featured above (June 4, 2015), but during the next class period. You will notice a significant shift in tone and content, because an event loomed ahead that was causing me considerable nervousness: reading students’ names at the graduation ceremony held at DTE Energy Music Theater.
Turning the page to the next class! Sitting in third hour now. Graduation is coming up next week. Wednesday evening at DTE in Clarkston will be our destination. We’re there for a relatively long span of time: about three hours. I’ll be ready. I am under less stress than last year. Should not have any trouble with getting my names ready. Middle of the alphabet. Won’t have to wait nearly as long as last year. Felt dizzy last year, but I am optimistic that that was a consequence of incredible levels of stress being revealed at a time of heightened challenge — an especially demanding situation requiring considerable focus and public presence. I know I will be calm next [week?]. Like the SEALs
Results will come from these steps.A few observations…
First, the optimism of the first entry has been replaced with a realism shaded by caution. I am clearly apprehensive about the upcoming ceremony and the fact that I will — for a short time — be reading students’ names before an audience of close to one thousand people.
Second, the wordy sentence dealing with “an especially demanding situation” refers to an event that profoundly changed my life. During the previous school year, in April of 2014, I began experiencing surges of acute anxiety in my classroom. These unannounced waves of fear and paralysis occurred when I was leading instruction, and they normally overwhelmed my senses. I was often forced to stop speaking and regroup, which was deeply humiliating because I was typically standing in front of dozens of teenagers. A symbolic narrative documenting what occurred that month — and during the three years that followed — can be found in The Ranch Hand, which was my first blog post. That composition stands as one of the most honest pieces I have ever written.
Third, the reference to “SEALs” (and the four steps that follow it) emerged from watching a History Channel feature called The Brain: Mystery Explained. In that documentary, which you can watch a portion of right here, the narrator explains how U.S. Navy SEALs manage fear and stay focused in incredibly stressful situations. They rely on goal setting, rehearsal, positive self-talk, and controlled breathing. As soon as I watched this program, I latched onto the four-part series as a way to try coping with the periods of anxiety that were disrupting my professional life.
My last observation…
Although I worked for The Mouse over two decades ago, I am aware that modern life rarely plays out like a Disney movie. Instead, the moments of joy, comfort, and belonging that enliven us exist alongside those that are filled with sorrow, distress, and loneliness. Navigating these highs and lows shapes our character.
I would like to thank Kathryn and Meagan — my former Honors English 10 students and current college undergrads — for providing me with this journal that features another kind of character. The colorful faces on its front and back cover keep me smiling even long after I filled its pages with my thoughts.
Since I was 16 years old I have been journaling because it helps me process the events and emotions that I am experiencing. When something excites me, I write about it. When something terrifies me, I write about. When I face a challenging decision, I write about it. Nearly thirty years of journaling have shown me that it yields relief and insight.
If you are struggling with soul-testing lows — or surging to great heights and wondering how to capitalize on those peaks of creativity or vision — consider picking up a pen and recording your thoughts on paper. Not for an audience, but for you. In time, you may realize that the small world inside you is actually a castle full of wonders.
Curious to learn more? Please see my Getting Started Page for a few suggestions.
When do you feel like your most genuine self?
During moments of praise or celebration? After achieving a victory, beating a fierce opponent? In the wake of reaching a long-standing goal? While experiencing an insight or stumbling upon a link between seemingly unconnected events?
Or, do you feel most authentic when you have reached your limits — when you have nothing else to give?
The man pictured above may be uniquely qualified to provide an answer, one that could reveal a fundamental (yet often ignored) truth about the human experience. And his answer might change the way you think about the relationship between the intelligence of your mind, and the wisdom of your body.
More than three weeks ago I listened to podcast host Rich Roll’s interview with former water polo player Ross Edgley (above), a 33-year-old British phenom known for extra-ordinary athletic feats. For example, he has…
Google his name, and you’ll find more photographic evidence. The man’s accomplishments are incredible. And as you can see, he looks like a cross between a Navy SEAL and a magazine cover model.
But you would never assume Edgley’s unfathomable physical determination and athletic prowess by listening to his cheerful banter, which features a disarming English accent. His laugh-punctuated delivery and self-deprecating humor make him sound like a twenty-something sociology major living on his own for the first time in a London flat.
During Edgley’s conversation with Rich Roll, the Brit recounts his experience swimming around mainland England — a distance of over 3,200 kilometers (more than 1,700 miles) — in 157 days. During the nearly six-month journey, he never once stepped foot onto land. The closest he got to terra firma was the boat he slept on for six hours at a stretch before he got back out into the Atlantic’s frigid waters. This incomparable event was known as the Great British Swim.
Rich Roll’s full podcast interview is available at “Ross Edgley is the Real Aquaman — Lessons in Fortitude From (Arguably) the Fittest Man Alive.” Even if you are not into swimming or endurance sports, what Edgley accomplished — and the struggles he faced while doing so — will blow your mind. He voluntarily subjected himself to unbelievable hardships, and he shares the insights he gleaned from those obstacles in his conversation.
Perhaps the most powerful remark from the cheerfully-boyish Englishman is the one that Rich Roll, who is himself an ultra-endurance triathlete and former Stanford swimmer, featured in the podcast’s promotional image:
This is the line that — more than three weeks after listening to the full two-hour conversation — continues to reverberate in my head.
“You find the most honest version of yourself in complete exhaustion.”
Every time I consider these words I acknowledge the wisdom that they contain. As more and more of us are spending our days seated at the office, riding elevators instead of taking the stairs, and stopping the car at the mailbox rather than walking to the curb, true physical exhaustion is almost never encountered.
Yes, many of us do work ourselves into stupors while leaning toward computer monitors for hours on end. And many of us do run ourselves ragged chauffeuring the kids to six different after-school activities every week. And many of us do frantically tackle every imaginable task in order to climb one rung higher on the corporate or organizational ladder. In these efforts, however, we become weary out of wear.
What about exhaustion caused by physical exertion for the sake of exercise? Or transportation (e.g. walking or bicycling)? Or gardening? Or the sheer joy of movement found in climbing a tree, navigating a playground, or scrambling up a steep hillside to catch a sunset?
Far too few of us experience the pleasurable fatigue of a body testing its limits, however modest those current limits might be.
I don’t believe that a person needs to resemble Ross Edgley to benefit from the clarity of mind, sharpness of focus, and renewal of the spirit that complete exhaustion can yield. As a recreational runner — and a very slow one, at that — I regularly shuffle through one-hour workouts and feel physically depleted. But I also feel remarkably calm, centered, and capable. My senses of sight, touch, and smell become acutely sharp, and I am aware of subtle shifts in wind speed, humidity, and temperature.
Somewhere along my normal route, which features a long stretch of rail-to-trail hard-pack, my mind releases the worries that were churning when I laced up my running shoes. I’ll likely return to those stresses later, but during the slow cool-down walk to my apartment door I revel in the steady insistence of my breath and the reassuring prominence of my heartbeat. My limbs are tired, but also fluid and responsive.
The moments when I feel the most authentic — the most me — occur when I am physically spent. And maybe that is where we all can find our truest selves.
You don’t need to be Ross Edgley to do this, however.
In these efforts that exhaust the body, you just might find who you really are.
Instead of working yourself under, what if you worked your body out?
For more about Rich Roll (pictured below), please see these blog posts:
Note — The image of the map of the Great British Swim and the photographs of Ross Edgley were obtained from redbull.com. The only exception is the one of Edgley towing the Mini Cooper, which was located on the website of Littlegate Publishing. The publicity image for Edgley’s appearance on the Rich Roll Podcast (RRP) and the photo of Rich Roll were obtained from richroll.com. The photograph of the sunset was taken in Longmont, Colorado by the author of this blog post.
The following was originally shared as a Facebook post on Sunday, December 16, 2018.
As a long-time Michigan resident, I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jessica Starr. As an English teacher, I am also remorseful for the seeming inadequacy of language to address the manner of her passing: suicide. This limitation is very troubling.
The word suicide can strike such fear, grief, and discomfort in us that we do not even want to *consider* discussing the concept of taking one’s own life – and, nearly as important, the painful circumstances that precede that dire decision. Few words carry such terrible weight.
I am not a psychologist, nor a physician. But as a human being, I believe that greater awareness about suicide needs to be spread. That understanding begins with conversations — ones that necessitate vulnerability. Therefore, they are not easy. So too often, I fear, they are avoided in favor of less-sensitive topics.
Since learning of Ms. Starr’s passing Thursday morning, I have been wondering if I should say anything about her loss. In the wake of such a tragedy, demonstrating respect and remembrance are essential. As the days have passed and I have read stories about her life, my resolve to express “something” has built. That something is this post.
Our current language around suicide is insufficient; the dialogue is often too infrequent, and too clinical. A change is needed. If you are a Lake Orion resident, and you feel similarly, please feel free to reach out to me – or to share any comments and/or ideas below. I want to get a conversation started. Thank you.
Postscript — If my words have caused any unintended offense and/or exceeded my good judgment, then I humbly apologize. They are meant to, in some small way, honor Jessica Starr’s life and legacy.
Note – The image featured above is the official headshot of Jessica Starr (1983-2018), and I obtained it from her bio on the Fox 2 Detroit website.