No Challenge, No Growth

No Challenge, No Growth

I am sure you have heard the term, “No Pain, No Gain.” Think about that for a second…..Now think about a situation where you were challenged. Did you gain from it? The answer is most likely yes. But if you are struggling with the term, think of it like this, “No Challenge, No Growth.” What challenges have you had? What have you gained from them? What does a challenge teach us?

I can remember the first day I stepped foot on the BUD/s grinder. That was the first time I had ever seen it, I had never seen it in any movie, documentary, or in person before that time. I went into BUD/s with calculated ignorance. I did this for a reason. The reason was that I did not want to overthink any of the situations coming my way.

I knew there was a lot of unknown coming my way, uncomfortable situations, and hard testing. They do not just give out Tridents to people, I had to go through the gauntlet to get it. I was “prepared” at least I thought I was. My fitness was below standard, my first open ocean swim was laughable at best. Immediately after my first swim, my swim buddy and I got hammered for about 20 minutes because we sucked so bad.

It would have been easy for either of us to turn tail and ring the bell. But as my swim buddy and I turned away from the beach, he started laughing nervously and said. “Let’s not have that happen again.” In my mind I was contemplating all the scenarios in my head, I was starting to spiral downward. I didn’t see the silver lining in the situation just anger and frustration. However, there is one thing I did that changed everything.

Turn off your brain

As I started to spiral, I began to think about how my swim buddy and I were marked, students. We were under the microscope, but that is by design. No one is expected to crush BUD/s. At the time, I didn’t understand these things. I just wanted to excel. But how do you come from a pressure cooker and then excel?

By turning my brain off. Seems simple but a lot harder than you think. We are taught throughout our lives to fear, fear. Or if you are in trouble, there is a probably a good reason for it, and you should suffer proportionally to the damage you caused. However, what does fearing, fear and dwelling on the damage do? Nothing productive. It only gets you further into emotional, physical, and spiritual debt.

How do we go about turning our brains off? First, realize you are starting to spiral out of control. Some indicators of this will be when you had a rough day, and you cannot pick yourself back up. Or you are lashing out at everyone else, trying to offload your anger and frustration to someone else. These are just a few indicators and realize everyone has different ones. That being said, in general from what I have seen these are how frustrating situations manifest outwardly.

At this point mentally say stop. When you say stop mentally, immediately bring up a picture of your family, or look at your goal sheet, focus on something that inspires you. What really makes you focus beyond the challenge in front of you? Whatever “it,” is bring it to your immediate attention. Refocus that energy on something else, stop the spiral.

Take it Apart

From here your mind is able to give and receive. When you are stuck in the spiral, all we want to do is dish it out to people but not receive. The action of dishing out not only stops your team from working together but can have further repercussions with clients.

Now that you are now ready to receive think about the time leading up to your predicament. Is there anything you could have done to prevent it or make it less devastating? When my swim buddy and I came in last for the swim, we were constantly reminded that we could be removed if we didn’t make the next swim. I had to take ownership of that and solve this problem.

But was there something we could have done before the first swim to prepare ourselves? Absolutely, we could have taken swimming more seriously, we could have asked for guidance on how to swim faster, there are lots of things we could have done. What could we have done during? Guided better, focused on the task at hand. How about after? Turn our brains off and stop ourselves from getting pissed and lash out but instill a plan to correct our weakness.

Now the big problem is sliced into smaller digestible issues. You put the ownership back on yourself and empower yourself to problem solve. When you are in a position to problem solve, you are able to give and receive.

Take Action

However, we are not out of the weeds yet. We still need to enact change, so the problem gets better or entirely corrected. At this point, you have completed some of the most essential and difficult tasks. Turning your brain off (hard for me), and taking the situation apart (sometimes harder). There is no reason not to keep your momentum at this point. But you have to be willing to move forward.

My swim buddy and I could have easily blown off the reprimand and the ridicule we received. We would have ultimately failed and never achieved our ultimate goal. What a waste that would have been. We took it upon ourselves to utilize the resources we had around us. I spoke with an award-winning collegiate swimmer and practiced guiding more seriously in the ocean. My swim buddy did the same.

One week later we had another test. The instructors were waiting for us to fail. We ignored them and set off for the swim. This time we finished mid-pack. Almost 20 minutes better than before. We actually became some of the fastest swimmers in the class. We eventually got split up and joined with other swim buddies to help even out the class. Our entire class at this point was passing the swims, it was actually pretty amazing.

By the time our BUD/s class had our last swim, which was a 7-mile open ocean swim. My swim buddy and I came in second a minute or 2 behind the leader. The outcome was only possible because I went through the process. I shut my brain off, broke it down, and took action.

It is possible for anyone of us to make the best of a situation. It may not seem like it at the time, but it is entirely possible. Some situations take longer to figure out than others, and that is fine. Just allow the process to work itself out. Do not get stuck in the spiral.


I am confident that if you really take these steps into consideration. You will see massive results. No one is expected to crush BUD/s it is designed to crush you and then build you. Much like life, it is easier to die than to live. I do not mean die in the literal sense but in the self-destructive sense. If you let destructive behaviors consume you, then you are not open to receiving and cannot take in any more life. Do not let this be you. Take back control and let life build with you not against you. Practice this by looking at a past situation and utilizing this process. See what is gained.

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