“The fatigue of the climb was great but it is interesting to learn once more how much further one can go on one’s second wind. I think that is an important lesson for everyone to learn for it should also be applied to one’s mental efforts. Most people go through life without ever discovering the existence of that whole field of endeavor which we describe as second wind. Whether mentally or physically occupied most people give up at the first appearance of exhaustion. Thus they never learn the glory and the exhilaration of genuine effort…”
― Agnes Elizabeth née Ernst Meyer
The Fork in the Road
Every great person, every influential business, every historical movement has a fork in the road where the decision of quit or the soldier on is a real and present danger.
I have come to a revelation as I have passed through this journey in life: we reach that fork several times.
I had to make that decision when I was 9 years old whether to continue to live with an abusive parent or seek the refuge of my former foster home.
I had to make that decision when I decided at age 19 to go back to college instead of selling crack cocaine.
I had to make that decision when I decided to leave an unfulfilling job right out of college and go back to law school.
I had to make that decision when I was in my last year of law school whether to go for a career track tailored toward the entertainment and sports industries or just getting a law degree.
I had to make that decision when I had not passed the bar exam for the 3rd time whether to take the exam again or give up and quit.
I had to face that decision two weeks after dealing with all of the work I have done in my career and being attacked personally and professionally in a way that could ruin both.
Each time, I’ve had to draw from a well of a promise God made to me when I walked down the aisle to give my life to Christ at 9 years old.
Walking Down the Aisle
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago with my foster mom, Emma Lily Mitchell.
She was a woman of short stature, a few inches short of 5 feet tall.
She wore a curly salt and pepper wig and was in fantastic shape for a woman in her 70s.
“Mama” as I affectionately calmed her, loved the Lord.
She was the head of the Mother’s Board at the church I grew up in, Burnside Community Baptist Church on the South Side.
I don’t know what a job like that entailed, but I do know it was important in that moderately sized congregation.
The mothers were all elderly women, most of them widows and grandmothers who on the first Sundays of the month wore white outfits with nameplates, badges signifying rank, and white gloves.
The mothers sat in the rows right behind the deacons. Because Mama was so important in the church, my twin sister and I were allowed to sneak over and sit with her until it was our time to travel downstairs for children’s church.
As a foster child of an active member of the church, I practically lived at the church. We went to Sunday school every week and we were involved in the churh’s community outreach.
We would have sleepovers at the pastor’s house, and the pastor, Florezel Porter, Jr. was my Godfather.
Periodically the church would have musicals, essentially a revival night on a Friday or Saturday evening consisting of more songs than a normal Sunday morning church service and a shorter sermon than those Sunday gatherings from the pastor of the church.
Of course as church kids, we had to go.
At the outset of these affairs, I initially enjoyed the music.
The various parts of the choir working together and the choir director flailing his hands to and fro in a flowing choir robe was a dazzling sight to behold.
After a few songs went by, the experience became like torture as the minutes ticked away like what seemed an eternity.
Falling asleep was forbidden, even though these ceremonies could trail into the night past 10 o’clock.
Other than the initial enchantment with the choir and impending boredom, none of the events held any significant importance in my life other than the routine of my required attendance.
One evening, that all changed.
The music danced in my ear, almost shouting to the inner recesses of my spirit.
The words nurtured my soul and told me all about my life and made me feel like I was 80 years old.
Various preachers rose to make remarks and hummed to the rhythms of the previous song, and tailored interlude messages to match the upcoming rendition by the choir.
Even those words poked at my soul.
All of a sudden, I felt isolated in that little church that sat across the street from my elementary school.
Me. My life. My mortal existence in my body. My soul. Eternity felt in an instant. God.
The preacher at the time began an altar call, consisting of cajoling anyone who may not have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior to publicly profess it by walking to the front of the church.
My twin sister and two other young girls who my foster mother frequently babysat sat next to me in the dark, tense church.
As if some flood overcame the row, one by one they all got up to walk to the front of the church.
It was a vibration I could feel in my inner being.
All of a sudden the whole revival seemed to stop, and the sanctuary seemed to spin and tilt like a set of the Price is Right displaying some new price to win.
It was not a game show.
It was real life.
I was the contestant.
It felt as if the world awaited me to make a decision. not necessarily about the eternal destination of my soul, but for whether I would put my faith and trust in a God I could not see and did not know much about at such a tender age.
All at once I felt as if I saw my life flash before my eyes.
No longer was I 9 years old.
I was 14. 19. 20. 24. 26. 29. 32. 40.
I became more afraid than I have ever felt in my entire life still to this day.
I realized my mortality.
I felt even more alone.
“I’m scared,” I said in my thoughts.
As clear as day I felt a voice whisper, “I’ll take care of you.”
Legs feeling like jello but assured of the promise I was just given, I walked down the aisle to confess my faith.
A few short days later I adorned white sheets, stepped into a lukewarm shallow pool in the church’s basement to my awaiting pastor and Godfather.
I didn’t feel fear then. Mostly I took in the crispness of the sheets that draped over my shoulders, the blue-green color of the pool, and how the dim light about us reflected on the water’s surface.
My pastor said a few words and then dunked my head and brought it back just as swiftly as a child playing with a buoyant rubber duck in the tub.
Jeffery Itlzer is the author of “Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.”
The motivation behind the book arose from a 100-mile ultra marathon Itlzer and his friends competed as a 6-man relay team.
The race was an unsupported one where participants had to bring their own supplies.
Itlzer and his team brought a plethora of food, supplies, a tent, and even masseuses.
Itlzer noticed the exploits of a peculiar participant who happened to run the race by himself bringing only a folding chair, a bottle of water, and a bag of crackers.
Turns out this peculiar participant was a United States Navy SEAL.
Itlzer then tracked down the SEAL and invited the SEAL to live with him for a month to figure out his motivation.
The day of SEAL’s move-in the SEAL asks Itlzer, “How many pull-ups can you do?” then challenges Itlzer to do all of the pull-ups he can physically muster.
Itlzer, not being a world beater at pull-ups, does only 8.
The SEAL the commands Itlzer to take 30 seconds and repeat the exercise.
Itlzer does 6.
“Again,” the SEAL commands.
According to Itlzer he “barely” does “3 or 4 more” and is spent physically.
“Alright we’re not leaving here until you do 100 more,” barks the SEAL.
Itlzer thinks to himself the impossibility of finishing the task.
The SEAL then pushes Itlzer to painstakingly finish the 100 pull-ups one by one.
Itlzer eventually completes the task.
And that was only Itlzer’s first lesson.
The 40% Rule
Itlzer learned from the US Navy Seal we are far much more capable than we think we are.
“When your mind is telling you that you’re done, you’re really only 40% done,” according to the SEAL’s philosophy, now known as the 40% rule.
Give or take a few percentage points up or down according to Itlzer, the 40% rule applies to many aspects of life.
For example, an astonishing 99% of marathoners finish marathons.
Most report “hitting a wall” around mile 18 where their limbs feel like rubber and they experience extreme fatigue and exhaustion.
However, most marathoners in making the choice to start, also make the choice to finish.
The 40%Rule and The Conversion Experience
The seemingly otherworldly scene starring me and God in a little baptist church on the South Side of Chicago is known in the Christian faith as a “conversion experience.”
Every time I’ve felt my back against the wall in my life, I’ve remembered this promise from my conversion experience.
“God you said you would take care of me.”
And with that, I feel confident, inhale deep and take my second wind.
That second wind is filled with the Lifeforce that created me.
Many people claim to know, trust or believe in a deity, a higher power, a force of creation beyond them in a variety of faiths.
When the chips are down, it is the very moment many of us choose to merely exist and eschew the power of a living, breathing and eternal force that built galaxies, causes the sun to rise every day, and our hearts to beat without our conscious involvement.
Or, it may not be the first time we’re faced with adversity that causes us to drift into the abyss of a banal existence.
It may be the weight of having to draw our empty bucket from the well of faith over and over again that finally becomes a chore for us.
Our joy is robbed, and so is our motivation.
We begin to believe the lies our busy mind makes up.
That business dies.
That relationship drifts to oblivion.
That dream turns from a scream to a fading whisper.
The bills become a never ending yoke around our necks.
Instead of responding “good” when people ask how we’re doing, we listlessly reply “just hangin’ in there.”
The exact moment when we are ready to shift our “good” to “just hangin’ in there” and go down the familiar road of mediocrity at our forks in the road is the point where we are only 40% done with where our journey must take us in a particular stage in life.
Draw from faith and dig from inner strength.
Sure it will be painful, and yes it may take longer than anticipated.
However, the exhilaration of pushing past our comfort zone and a trial of faith will equip us for even greater challenges.
Head back to the beam.
It’s time for another pull-up.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and yogi. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group, and a contributing writer and host of the Radical Inspiration Podcast distributed through Wanderlust/Yoganonymous. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including: international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio; written and contributed to digital pieces for CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.
© 2016, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.
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