Stress as an Element of Change
When I was seven years old, one night, I was told I had to sleep with my radio on. So I turned on this radio, turned up the volume. There was no programming, it was silent, and I went to sleep. A little after midnight, this loud siren blared through the radio and I flew out of bed. With my family, we ran out the door, ran down the hallway, ran all the way down to the basement where everybody else was waiting. And we were scared. Then this roar of this jet plane flew overhead. And we heard the high-pitched whistle of this bomb that had just been dropped. And this whistle was getting louder and louder as this bomb was getting closer and closer. But we couldn’t tell where it was, because it was too high pitched. It could have been a block away or it could have been right over my head. And all I could do was wait. Until I hear the explosion, and our building shook just a bit, the lights flickered, and I thought “Wow, I’m still alive,” but I knew someone had just died.
Now that was in 1981 in Tehran. And the reason I tell you that story is because I know what stress feels like. I know you’ve been through stress, you may be going through stressful times right now. So let’s talk about stress.
The word stress was coined by Dr. Hans Selye. He worked with rats. He found out that when he created stress in their life, they developed the same diseases that humans have, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, obesity. And so his conclusion was that stress most definitely does make you sick. But if you ask Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, he would say “Let me show you what it looks like when people don’t have any stress.” He would say, “Follow me.” He’d walk you out his office, walk down the corridor, walk outside the front doors of the church, walk across the parking lot, onto the cemetery, and he would say, “Look down here. None of these people have any stress.” So then, researchers in the laboratory wanted to find out what happens if you remove stress. So they took single-celled organisms, amoebae, in a petri dish and they took away all their stress. And they gave them the perfect amount of food, the perfect temperature, perfect environment. They gave them high-definition TV’s and Tempurpedic beds, and these amoebae, these single-celled organisms, they all died, early. Way earlier than they should have died. So the conclusion was stress is necessary to sustain life. So then Dr. Peale was right, that without stress we’d die. So which is it? Is stress good or is it bad?Here’s the definition of stress, stress is a force that causes change in your life. By definition, it’s neither good or bad. You see, in this slide the force that got the soccer ball to move is the same force that can rearrange this gentleman’s face. Or it could be the force that scores the winning goal in the World Cup that causes an entire nation to celebrate. It’s the same force, it’s neither good or bad. Think about exercise. When we exercise we’re putting stress on the body. You do it properly, you get stronger, you get healthier, you get fit. Do it improperly you get hurt, you get sick. Same force. Talking about financial stress, I know business owners. Under financial stress, some of them will lock their doors, pack their bags, they walk away from their dream. And then you have people under financial stress, they step up their game, they innovate, they work harder, they produce. Their business evolves, it’s better than after the financial stress than before. Same force, different outcome.
So what’s our goal then? Is our goal to reduce or not reduce stress? My solution: get strong. Get strong so you can take the hits and still keep moving forward. Get strong so you can carry that burden and not have it know you down. Get strong so you can accept all the responsibilities that you now want, and succeed every single time, get strong.
So how wide is the GAP? GAP stands for General Adaptation Potential. It’s your body’s ability to adapt to stress. That stress can be physical, emotional or chemical. The G-A-P is the measure of that. To give you an example, if the GAP is really wide, you can handle a lot of stress before you can get sick. If the GAP is narrow, a little stress will knock you down, you’ll get sick. How wide is the GAP? This is what I do in my office every day, we measure that GAP. You see, when I’m working with my private clients, you come into my office and we run a battery of tests. Checking things from the structure of your spine all the way to the function of your autonomic nervous system. We use state of the art technology like spinal thermography, surface electromyography, and using a pulse-wave profiler. We’ll do heart rate variability. We’ll find out how much stress you can handle. What your potential is to handle that stress. And I’ll be able to tell you if the stress in your life is setting you up for illness. And if that is the case, we’ll come up with a program and a plan to increase the GAP, strengthen you, make you healthy, so you can take on those responsibilities and succeed.
So let me tell you why this can save your life. Dr. Russell Reeves, one of the most famous cardiothoracic surgeon is quoted as saying, “If you live long enough you will eventually be faced with a health challenge. How you come out of that challenge depends entirely on how you’ve been living your life up to that moment.” He’s a great surgeon, he says, “If you’re on my operating table, I’m going to do a good job, I guarantee you that. But that doesn’t determine whether you live or die. It’s how you been preparing for that event.” Mohammad Ali said the exact same thing, he said, “The fight is won or lost away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, long before I dance under the lights.” It’s not how you fight, it’s how you prepare for the fight. Are you prepared? You see, the experts are saying that we’re going to be forced eventually to step into that ring. And our opponent can be bigger than us, more powerful than us, and stronger than us. Whether we win or lose depends not on how we fight the fight, but how we been living our life and preparing and training up to that moment.
When I’m hired to speak in corporations, conventions, or churches this is the point I teach. That your level of health depends entirely on how much stress you can handle. In fact, your level of success depends entirely on how much stress you can handle. Your family depends entirely on how much stress you can handle. Your income depends entirely on how much stress you can handle. So embrace the stress so you can succeed in your career and excel in life because that is how greatness is achieved.