About This Episode
Whether big or small, we all experience adversity in life. It could be something as small as having a bad day at work or something more significant like going through trauma or the death of a loved one.
These “storms” are an inevitable part of life, and when they do hit, we have three choices:
- Give up and be stuck in our victim mindset
- Trudge through life, struggling to survive, or
- Learn to see the opportunities amid adversity and thrive.
Ideally, we will choose to thrive. That’s what Bill Murphy, author of the book “Thriving in the Storm: 9 Principles to Overcome Any Adversity” and our guest on Brilliant Thoughts, a SUCCESS magazine podcast, and I talk about in this episode.
After suffering through an abusive childhood, he takes us through his journey of healing. Despite the trauma, he has thrived in both his business as a recognized mortgage originator for over 25 years, and in his passion for ultramarathons and Krav Maga.
But he didn’t stop at that. He made it a point to extend that abundance to others through his work with several charities, such as the Make-a-Wish foundation, and as a juvenile counselor.
The book is a compilation of journal notes and the things he learned over the years—nine principles and some exercises that we can practice to help us break free from a victim mindset and adopt a thriving mentality instead, once life’s storms do arrive.
“You can still accomplish things,” Bill says. “And some of those hardest challenges are the biggest opportunities for us.”
When life gets tough, how can we better protect ourselves and our mental health while still moving forward and achieving the goals we’ve set for our personal and professional lives?
Bill has always been a high-achiever, whether in business or in extreme sports like ultramarathons and martial arts. That’s why he never thought, despite the tough childhood that he had, that he could be suffering from PTSD and depression.
He was aware that he had some anger, angst, and anxiety. “Anxiety was the word that was used in place of ‘depressed,’” Bill shares. Sometimes, we say, “I’m anxious,” or “I’m overwhelmed,” not knowing that it is our mental health that is suffering and that we need help.
That’s what happened to Bill. He read a book about male depression by Terrence Real called “I Don't Want to Talk About It” and the story resonated with him. It was probably the first time he thought “I might be depressed,” but he didn’t know why.
He was advised to seek psychiatric care, and like all busy entrepreneurs, Bill was reluctant to go at first. After kicking and screaming, he finally went to a PCS (psychological counseling services) facility in Arizona, where his transformation would begin.
He was diagnosed with depression and PTSD, and at first, he denied it—"I'm not worthy of PTSD, because that's a warrior’s diagnosis. … I'm not on the battlefield,” he says.
“I didn't even give myself enough credit to be worthy of a diagnosis,” Bill adds.
But during the week he stayed in that PCS facility, he worked with his therapists to unpack the trauma of his childhood—so terrible that his mind has repressed it, and he had to call his mom and sister to help him recollect his early childhood memories.
He described the abuse he went through in a very matter-of-fact manner—he felt fine. He was functioning in society just fine, but he wasn’t okay. He was just able to survive it because he lost himself in his work, his martial arts, and ultramarathons.
“But what the problem was was that when I would lose myself in my work, I would take that angst from my work and bring it home,” he shares.
He also realized, while unpacking the traumas of his abusive childhood, that he didn’t care about the kid who was the younger version of him. If it was another kid going through the exact same situation, he would have felt empathy for that other kid—empathy that he didn’t show for himself.
The transformation happened when he saw the two therapists who were on his case crying for him. “The change happened right then and there, when I said, ‘Oh, my God, that happened to me. And they're crying because of what happened to me and that kid that's inside,’” Bill shares.
It changed how he looked at things and how he empathized with the young kid who was him.
And that is really important. A lot of us get so busy with the problems we want to solve, the goals we want to achieve, and the money we have to earn that we forget to love ourselves enough. We need to learn self-compassion to protect our mental health, succeed, sustain ourselves, and thrive in life, despite the storms.
Thriving in the Storm
Not all of us will go through the same thing Bill went through, but we all have our fair share of pain and adversity to overcome. When life throws curveballs at you, it is easy to be in reaction mode—to feel annoyed, stressed, or discouraged—and quit the day. But that victim mentality only serves to weigh us down and hold us back.
In order to thrive in any storm, we need to have the right mindset—a positive, “can-do,” thriving mindset—and apply the principles, routines, and practices that support that mindset.
The first step is always a self-discovery journey.
For Bill, it is making peace with the past. It is difficult for us to move forward when we carry all the baggage and negativity that only burdens us. Accepting the pain, regardless of whether you were wronged by others or it was self-inflicted, and forgiving the people involved allows us to let go and move forward.
People who hold grudges spend their life chasing after things—they never get ahead.
Building routines such as practicing gratitude, affirmation, and journaling can help solidify this resolve to adopt a thriving mindset. Exercise also plays an important role to our mental and overall health.
According to Bill, people who are stuck in a victim mentality and have messed up routines go about their day at work and in their personal lives in reaction mode. When things don’t go their way, they quit, making excuses such as “I am bad at this. This isn’t for me. I don’t have the right systems in place.”
But a person with a thriving mentality, who builds routines like a fortress to keep the storm at bay, and ends their day with the right headspace can deal with curveballs. They are able to think, “I got this.” Instead of complaining about not having the right systems and staying in reaction mode, they are more intentional in winning the day. They focus on creating systems, and that creative process energizes them.
The things you choose to read and the information you consume also play a part. Learning is an important part of succeeding. Having goals for ourselves and helping others allows us to focus our energy on more productive and constructive endeavors.
Knowing why makes this easier.
And when we are sold on the mission we chose for ourselves, we are more motivated to identify and break the bad habits that no longer serve us and replace them with better, more productive habits.
The more we put these principles into action, and the more we learn to love and take care of ourselves, the better we can appreciate the journey. Instead of living our lives going for one goal after the other, we are able to pause, look at the scenery, and not take for granted the lessons we learned along the way.
“The journey is going to teach you way more than the end result and the accomplishment because you learn so much,” Bill says.
Principles in Action
What do these principles look like in action?
Bill and his team, working in real estate as mortgage originators, also felt the worry that most agents in the field feel. With the current state of the economy as it is, it is understandable.
We’ve heard a lot of people, even in the news, compare our current market with what happened back in the 1980s before the market crashed. Part of making peace with the past is acknowledging where those fears are coming from and knowing that while things might look similar to the Great Recession, they aren’t the same. And it doesn’t have to be the same.
It’s unproductive to focus on our worries, which, according to research, don’t come true 90% of the time. “And even if [our worries] do come true, they're not as bad as they seemed,” Bill says.
We should instead focus on the opportunities that are present.
“You have to prospect way more than you ever have. You have to talk to people way more than you ever have. You have to get face-to-face with way more people than you ever have. … you have to make sure your marketing is top notch and working at a high level like everything needs to be working incredibly well, more so than you ever needed it to work,” he shares.
The key is to know our “why”, build routines that drive us toward our goals, and focus on identifying and breaking the habits that hold us back.
One piece of advice that Bill has for us, in terms of identifying and breaking bad habits, is to get a coach.
“Journaling will help you… identify some patterns,” he says. “A good coach is going to help you uncover and guide you through it.”
We need accountability partners—whether they are our family, friends, boss, coach, or mentors—to help pinpoint the things that we need to work on, and guide us as we work through them.
And read books! If we want to get good at something, we should learn the craft, get coached, and really immerse ourselves in it.
As Bruce Lee said, “I don't fear the guy with 10,000 kicks. I fear the guy who practices one kick 10,000 times.”
Listen to the podcast for the full conversation and to learn more about Bill.
Where to Follow Bill Murphy
You can follow Bill Murphy on his website, ThrivingintheStorm.com, for more information. He has blogs and a workbook from the book exercises there, and some course works coming out soon.
And if you want to know more about the nine principles and exercises to have a thriving mentality, get his book, Thriving in the Storm: 9 Principles to Overcome Any Adversity on Amazon and other leading bookstores nationwide.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.