fight photoOne of the biggest success principles I have learned from being involved with Orrin Woodward and the Life business is, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.  Being a tough, thought-reframing, pain-ignoring, conflict-resolving, overcoming and problem-solving man or woman is a big part of what it is all about to be a true success.  As you probably noticed, the saying is not ‘if’ it gets tough, its ‘when’ it gets tough.  We will all face obstacles, challenges on our success journey.  The question is will we be ready to face these mini-golliaths as they come up on the road to success. We have all heard the old cliche statements like, ‘success is always on the other side of inconvenience’, ‘dream, struggle, victory’, and ‘The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory’, etc….  The more I dig into leadership and success, the more I am convinced that all these cornball statements are absolutely true!  God has equipped us all with abilities way beyond what we currently believe.  Let’s have the faith and trust in this to be tough and see it through.

As I am sitting here in my office thinking of what to write next, I look around at my bookshelves chocked-full of biographies of the most successful & tough people that have ever lived.  People like Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Shackleton, Sam Walton, Tom Monaghan, Jackie Chan, Chuck Yeager, Jay Leno, Jim Elliot, Vince Lombardi, Cal Ripken, the apostle Paul, Theodore Roosevelt, and countless others.  People who are or have been the best in the world at their respective craft, but at the same time have proven to be about as tough as you can get.  There is a definite correlation between ‘success’ and ‘toughness’.  In other words, if you want to have more success and move on in life, it’s time to TOUGHEN UP!

Here are 5 ‘Toughness’ life categories and some tips and resources to help you toughen up:

The battle of the mind – due to our fallen nature, and the ever-present trials and tribulations of this world, our thinking always tends to head as they say, ‘south of cheese’.  In other words, it starts to become doubt-ridden, negative, whiney, cynical, sarcastic, depressed, and over all ‘stinking’.  Orrin Woodward is one of the best in the world I have seen at constantly reframing his thinking and never letting it get close to ‘south of cheese’.  A few months ago, Orrin was interviewed by a top international success magazine, and the interviewer/writer asked Orrin what he did when he had a bad week?   Orrin said, ‘A bad week?  I never have a bad week!’  The interviewer said, ‘Ok.  What about when you have a bad day?’  Orrin replied, ‘A bad day?  I never have a bad day!  If I have a bad second, I am doing everything in my power to reframe my thinking and stop that weed from growing even before it even starts!’  Pause for a minute, and truly consider the magnitude of this little glimpse into Orrin Woodward’s life.  If you can understand and embrace what he was telling that interviewer, you will be on the road to massive success.

Physical Pain – One common factor of all people, no matter where you come from, or how well you live, is that we are physically falling apart and almost always, somehow sick or in pain.  If you were in a room of 1000 people and somehow could read their minds, you would realize that everyone has some physical issue that they are fighting through.  Here are some examples – common cold, back-pain, head-ache, arthritis, digestive problems, allergies, and many, many more.  The key to overcoming this ‘pain’ is not obsessing over it, and telling everyone you know about it.  The key is to not buy your own excuses.  Listen to what Dr. David Swartz says in his mega best-seller, the Magic of Thinking Big:

Study the lives of successful people and you’ll discover this: all the excuses made by the mediocre fellow could be, but aren’t made by the successful person.  Health excusitis ranges all the way from the chronic ‘I don’t feel good’, to the more specific ‘I’ve got such and such wrong with me.’  Millions and millions of people suffer health excusitis and is used as an excuse not to do what they need to do to become successful.

Here are four things you can do to lick health excusitis:  1) Refuse to talk about your health.  2) Refuse to worry about your health.  3) Be genuinely grateful that your health is as good as it is.  4) Remind yourself often, ‘It’s better to wear out, than to rust out’.  Resolve to ‘live until you die’!

Conflict – Orrin Woodward says in his Top 100 leadership book, Resolved: 13 Resolutions for life, that:

Whether leading a business, church, or charitable organization, the ability to resolve conflict is essential to success.  Everyone should make it a rule that if he thinks about a hurt more than once, not being able to forgive the other party, that he should address the issue promptly.

If you have a conflict with someone, and both of you desire resolution, use the following 5 steps for conflict resolution:  1) Affirm the relationship.  2) Seek to understand.  3) Seek to be understood.  4) Own responsibility by apologizing.  5) Seek agreement.

Failure – It is important to understand that ‘failure is not fatal’.  In fact, it is a necessary learning step on the way to success.  Abraham Lincoln famously failed himself to success.  Have a look at this impressive list of Lincoln failures on the road to becoming the President:

1832 – lost his job, 1833 – failed in business, 1835 – his sweetheart dies, 1836 – suffered a nervous breakdown, 1838 – defeated for speaker of the house, 1843 – defeated for congress, 1848 – defeated for congress, 1854 – defeated for senate, 1856 – defeated for Vice President, 1858 – defeated for senate.

In 1860, after failing, reframing and learning several times, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.  In the famous words of the not so famous Chumbawamba band, ‘When I get knocked down, I get up again.  You’re never going to keep me down!’

Murphy’s law  – If something could possibly go wrong, it probably will.  Are you prepared to handle the problems that you know are bound to happen?   Leaders are problem solvers!   Listen to what Robert Updegraff says about troubles and obstacles on your job:

A man should be grateful every hour of every day for the troubles of his job: they pay at least half his wage or salary.  For if there were no troubles it would be easy to get someone to do his work for half, or even a third, of the pay he is getting.  If he wants a bigger job, with a better income, he has to look for more troubles, and learn how to lick them.  A bigger job will usually gravitate to him–often actually seek him out–if he is capable of coping with the problems and troubles that go with it.  Especially is this true if he has cultivated the knack of doing everything pleasantly and with apparent ease and assurance.  It is this special knack, which incidentally is perfectly possible for any man to cultivate, that usually puts the fancy edge on a salary.

I hope this article and the amazing resources cited help you to ‘TOUGHEN UP’ on the road to success!

God bless,

Kirk Birtles

About Kirk Birtles

Follower of Christ, loving husband, father of 4, TEAM/LIFE leader, community builder, entrepreneur, difference maker, and fun loving outdoorsman.

16 responses »

  1. robbyandemily says:

    Great article Kirk! I loved the point out of Orrin’s response of when he has had a bad day! Truly I sporting how well he has governed his own ship.

  2. pmit2188 says:

    You always have the right words to toughen me up Kirk. It’s better to be reminded of those leadership principles daily. Thanks for being the great leader you and Cassie are.

  3. Clint Fix says:

    The battle of the mind has got to be one of the hardest battles (at least it is for me). In today’s age of Constant Negative News, it’s easy to lose sight of the opportunities that exist. It’s hard to avoid hearing about our economy, unemployment, the breakdown of the family, the lack of virtue in our society and many other issues. However, your last point is powerful because with all of those problems comes massive opportunity for those that are willing to toughen up and do something about fixing them.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  4. Tom Bitson says:

    Great post, Kirk! The battle of/for OUR mind! We have the power to control what we do, and it is made easier for those that learn from others that have accomplished the same. It’s time to start flexing some muscles most Americans have forgotten about, and find some more who want to do the same!

    Thank you for being you!

  5. Jim Croyle says:

    As usual, Kirk, your articles come just at the right time. Awesome article. I can’t tell you how much Michele and I appreciate the Birtles Leadership. Thought provoking and right on target.
    Each day I will continue to “toughen up”

    God Bless,


  6. Daniel Pinkelman says:


    Just as the others have said so far, what an amazing post. Staying tough, and not releasing the pressure during struggles, allows us to grow so much more from an experience. I would love to write more but I really don’t know what else I could say – you hit everything.

    Galatians 5:13

  7. joe says:

    Why is this so easy to say. logically it makes sense. yet it is almost impossible for most to do. i commit to grow and change as needed to get as close as i can to “LIVE THE LIFE I ALWAYS WANTED” thank you kirk for all you do.

  8. JB Thompson says:

    Kirk, this is a great article. I like the way you talk about re-framing in a no excuses kind of way. You are truly leading the way. Thank you!

  9. seltrib says:

    When the going gets tough the tough get going…and when your involved in LIFE you know where your going…..Great message.

  10. Sarah Marsh says:

    Fantastic article Kirk. Not only did I appreciate the reminder but the in depth examples and detail. I appreciate you taking the time to write such a professional and insightful blog! Leading by example as always and teaching from results!

  11. Leo Wines says:

    Super post KB!! Be careful now,Chumbawumba may have a comeback tour! All joking aside, such truth in your post, thanks for the wisdom, time and energy it took!

  12. Kim Decker says:

    I know you have told us this so many times and we all know how true it is…The obstacles will be removed one at a time and we get tougher by the day. My thing is “I will never give up, or even think about doing so” Thank you for your great leadership and your freindship. Cassie and you are truely amazing people.

  13. Gene Turner says:

    Kirk, What a fantastic post. I should print it out and put it in my car. Awesome follow up to “Attitude of a Winner.” I can own each excuse listed. Now it’s time to disown them. God bless and Merry Christmas.

  14. […] leadership industry teach in our own back yard this January. As a successful physical therapist, Kirk Birtles used the principles he now teaches to gain freedom in his time and finances. He is also well sought […]

  15. Awesome post Kirk, what a perfect post for you to write about. I know I don’t know you super well, but just based on your leadership talks, chatting with you a few times and knowing how massive your community is, you are one tough dude! I don’t doubt you are on your way to being one of the top leadership experts in the world. Looking forward to having you and Cassie speak in Madison in a couple weeks! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  16. Sara Wikle says:

    Thank-you Kirk!! Awesome post. Love the reference to Chumbawumba’s I get knocked down. My theme song!!! Also, my son’s favorite song when he was 5. Whenever he is having trouble I remind him of this song. Have you ever read “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer? Well worth reading. It helped me many years ago. It might be a good time for me to read it again too.

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