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From Surviving to Thriving – How Mental Toughness Fuels Vision and Strategy

We, frankly, have very little genuine control over our lives but insist that with the right amount of grift, we can avoid adversity or manipulate it in our favor. Wrong. Adversity is inevitable; it would be a better use of our energy to cultivate mental toughness which allows us to respond out of resilience rather than fear or frustration. Philosophies like Stoicism, the Quiet Ego, and Positive Disruptance can help us build resilience – preparing and armoring ourselves to continue the fight, instead of trying to control infinite and unpredictable external events. The question we must ask ourselves then diverges from how to limit hardship and becomes how to navigate transformative terrain without abandoning our plan. Mental toughness, enabled by constructive philosophies, is our armor; our plan is our victory.


Stoicism, often misunderstood as rote emotional detachment, is a philosophy that teaches us to control our reactions to uncontrollable events1. We can deliberately choose how to respond to events around us as agents, instead of being victims of consequence. The fundamentals of Stoicism – emotional detachment (from external things, not relationships), accepting the inevitability of adversity, and developing enduring virtues – allow us to be genuinely present in every moment, good or bad, and do so without being influenced by hardship1. In the context of our development plans, maybe we define our goals based on virtues – what represents our character, instead of what is represented by external validation. This would allow us to focus on what we control, our actions, instead of looming uncertainty dictating our reactions.

The Quiet Ego

Typically, success is associated with a strong ego – self-assertion, self-centered determination, and unwavering control; the Quiet Ego concept sheds light on the effectiveness of humility and selflessness and goes so far as to say each is critically productive for mental toughness, which is inarguably the driving factor of success2. Empathy, adaptability, and optimism are the focus of the Quiet Ego construct, indicating that our true strength lies in our capacity to enable meaningful social connections (support network) which can be transformative and bolster our developmental achievements. Contrast this with the conventional egotistical attributes of self-centeredness, rigidity, and the need for control that tend to isolate you. A Quiet Ego fosters optimism, social connection, and characteristics of resilience so that you bend but don’t break in the face of adversity, as opposed to inflexible characteristics of egotism that shatter. Being able to acknowledge mistakes, accept criticism, and adjust accordingly supports the mental agility required to pursue the unknown2.

Positive Disruptance

Positive Disruptance reframes challenges as opportunities for innovation and growth and enables positive impacts on individuals, communities, or organizations3. Unlike conventional disruptive practices that derail us (dislodging our consistency or plans), Positive Disruption encourages us to reframe our minds to harness creativity, technology, and novel ideas to improve existing processes or solutions in place.

Continuous learning strategies and community collaboration to keep your improvement plans on track could prove vital for the success of your personal development plan, so keep this in mind4. As you seek to leverage support for novel ideas and new strategies through Positive Disruptance:

  • Look for technical insights from those with shared experiences or knowledge4
  • Look for bold innovations from those with different experiences or knowledge4

Pushing Boundaries

We need our Vision and Strategy to be meaningful and constant; this can be our foundation as we continue to forge forward. Stoicism is our playbook – determining and enhancing our capabilities, Quiet Ego is defense – safeguarding our progress, bending without breaking, and Positive Disruptance is offense – gaining ground, getting closer to our goals.

Regardless of your Vision and Strategy, survival is not the end state, so resilience isn’t enough. It’s a necessary skill, but resilience only keeps you in the fight; it’s one component of becoming a WayMaker. Where does your growth come from? The stability, perspective, and opportunity that come with adopting these philosophies are your armor for battle or your cushion for comfort. The difference is made as you lean into or away from the fight. We think about “what if” scenarios all the time but the fact is we’re living “but no, thanks” because we shy away from advancement constantly.

This is not an intellectual exercise. It’s a challenge to do something. What makes these principles real? In Warriors and WayMakers, I explained that we want self-discovery for you and that I’m here to help put the journey into words. I did that, and I’ll continue doing that, but I gave you the construct to show yourself that you’re committed to your journey. Build your journey. Change is constant – how are you constant in return? How are you going to take control of what is uncontrollable? Are you empowered (to make a change), or smarter (can define a change)? The difference will become evident as you continue contemplating what you “used to be” or what “would be nice”; looking back at what used to be is a better feeling than what would be nice.

Your strategy will come alive when it’s grounded in your vision making your plan clearer, and more tangible. Resilience is how we stay the course along transformational terrain, allowing ourselves to continue learning and earning along the way. Prevent yourself from living the consequences of events around you to start shaping your destiny as a product of the events around you. We may not get to control what we go through, but we do get to control how life goes through us and determine the value of our experiences. Ultimately, the decision at this point is to choose your role – WayMaker, or passenger.

Do you want to learn more? Check out:

The Series: Transformative Thought

The Book: Be Relentless: If the obstacle is the way, then we must be WayMakers.

The Podcast: “Be Relentless Podcast”!

The Fuel: Sisu Stamina, Performance Evolved

  1. Isaacs, D. (2023). Control and Stoicism. J Paediatr Child Health, 59: 709-710. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.16300
  2. Kesebir, P. (2014). A quiet ego quiets death anxiety: Humility as an existential anxiety buffer. PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e512142015-328
  3. Lotfi, M., & Saghiri, S. (2018). Disentangling resilience, agility and leanness: Conceptual development and empirical analysis. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 29(1), 168-197. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMTM-01-2017-0014
  4. Jain, A., & Mitchell, W. (2022). Specialization as a double-edged sword: The relationship of scientist specialization with R&D productivity and impact following collaborator change. Strategic Management Journal, 43(5), 986-1024. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3357 
  5. Mayo, J. (2023). Be Relentless: If the Obstacle Is the Way, Then We Must Be WayMakers. Forge Publications, LLC.

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