The 'HMS Endurance' caught in the ice in the Weddell Sea of the Antarctic during Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, circa 1915. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leaders Must Endure

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Since being challenged to do so by a buddy of mine – just because I mentioned that I’d like to do that someday – I’ve been training for a marathon. To do that, I continued with my regular running regimen and added ‘long runs’ on Sundays. Long runs, for me, started as 12k and grew into half marathons before I landed a 30k run last week. The thing about long distance running is that it takes quite a bit of time to do. With that time, I’ve gotten quite a bit of thinking done. Specifically, about failing to launch MISSIONFORWARD, what our next steps might look like as an organization and how leaders must endure.

Endurance is something you can have. It’s something that we all have, if you measure it by way of a spectrum. It’s the ability to withstand. It’s seeing, feeling and going through hardship but continuing despite the obstacles.

Fun fact, my Grandma has a coat of arms on her dresser that references her maiden name. On the banner that spans the wooden plank, it reads Per Ardua. Or, ‘through hardship’. Nothing extra. No fat.

Through Hardship

I’ve said this kind of thing before. It’s a resonant statement because it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you come from, hardship is coming. Sometimes, you’ll get to pick your hardship. Do you want the hardship of maintaining discipline or the hardship of reverting back to your old ways?

Sometimes, hardship will pick you. You’ll encounter loss and heartbreak. You’ll have to navigate hard situations.

In either case, leaders must endure. Not only for themselves, but for the people who need a guiding light through those difficult chapters. That might add extra layers of stress – knowing that people depend on you even if you’re suffering, but it’s true. To make sure we can attend to anything external, we need to make sure we can be best prepared for hardship. Because it’s coming and we know that ahead of time, we can prepare.

MISSIONFORWARD

I first thought about the idea on a run. About half of my good ideas come about when I’m running. The other half are probably lost to the shower or while I’m driving or some other place I can’t take notes. I remember pulling out my phone and just sending a message to myself on FB Messenger: conference.

I began talking to people. On Zoom. In person. The more conversations I had, the more I recognized that I was at least traversing the right road. See, I found all kinds of people doing great work, but for the most part, they were segregated to their own little silo’s. So, we’d have Jeremy Burns from Toronto Police working on educating officers about the specific needs of veterans. We’d then have Frontline Forward bursting at the seams with good programming for local first responders. All useful in their own right, but separate nonetheless.

MISSIONFORWARD was supposed to be a conference, or, a gathering that would tie knots between the people, organizations and agencies doing the work to support mental health in frontline populations. I also wanted to create an arena where we could talk about how to do the work. Somewhere we could build out a base for movers and shakers in big organizations to launch wellness programming.

MISSIONFAILED

I booked the hall. Paid the deposit. Received sponsorships from Grand River Counselling, CMHA, Boots on the Ground, Infinum BJJ and Brant Mental Health Solutions. Started marketing…

Oh, the marketing.

Hundreds of emails sent. Hundreds spent on ads. Hundreds of conversations.

6 tickets sold.

Eventually, I pulled the plug. We didn’t come close to the number of tickets required to run the event. The venue needed a certain number of butts in seats to make the catering happen.

Then, I had a decision to make.

From here, the choice before me was plain to see. I could fold this thing up into a neat little bow and call it ‘a project I worked on once’ or, I could endure.

When I get to thinking on a run, it’s usually because there’s not much else to do. Once you’re 10k out from home, you’ve got make it 10k back. That can be a test of will, but if you center your mind forward, it becomes a lot more manageable. Almost like thinking about the future – be it the next lightpole at the side of the street or the next swing at a big problem, makes the actual act of endurance more relative to the now.

If I think about something I want to do in the future, it gives me the right frame of reference for what I’m doing today.

If I had chosen to close up shop and call SIXFEET a failure, the problem of formal mental health supports for first responders not only still exists but could maybe be made worse by my tapping out. If only for the ghosts of the projects that SIXFEET could have created, the landscape for helping our helpers would have lost out.

If SIXFEET is what I think it is; the preeminent platform for first responder wellness, then we must stay in the fight. Leaders must endure.

Through events like GoRuck, I’ve learned that leaders must endure.

A Weekend Thing

I don’t know what it is yet. In fact, the Google Docs braindump document is entitled ‘Weekend Thing’.

A larger-scale event isn’t going to happen right now. I’m fine with that.

But, I’ve met a BUNCH of people who are passionate and committed to empowering the back end of civil service and I think I’m leaning on an idea that might help them.

Some kind of overnight group. A one-off experiment to tie together some of the things that I honestly believe could help catapult those passionate people into a whole new space. Some span of time that would enable us to work, eat and learn.

See, there’s lessons I’ve learned on the road; with a backpack full of bricks, that I think I could have only really learned with that special circumstance. Endurance, I believe, is a crucial skill for leaders. For people who are committed to making things better. Because in doing so, they’ll have to fail. When that happens, they too will be left with a choice; do I put down my ruck and call for a ride or am I here to fucking party?

Per Ardua, internet, we’re here to fucking party.

Leaders must endure.

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

1 Comment

  1. Well said 🙌 This is exactly what I needed today. I’ve been facing some choices myself lately, questioning if any of this is worth it or if I’m “good enough” to achieve anything and become a better leader. But looking at the big picture and seeing the work you and others are doing tells me it is indeed worth it and the work does matter.

    I will not stop until the work is done. I will fail but never quit. Per Ardua!

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