Are You Mentally Strong?

If you are old enough to read this, odds are your mental and physical health have been tested. Sometimes a missile strikes from the outside (out of our control) and, just as often, our debilitating issues are self-inflicted (no one is perfect). Addiction, health problems, low self-esteem, abusive family members, the death of a close friend, negative self-talk, and relational conflicts are just some of the battles we encounter on our journey called life.


A big, burly man drove by Curtis Bartlett Fitness Center for several months before walking in the front door. Some days he would park and get out of his truck only to back out and drive away. One day he timidly walked through the door and I happened to be behind the counter. Although he was a big man, his psyche was fragile. Over the ensuing months he kept coming and confronting his mental and physical issues. He recently emailed me the following words. 

Hey Sam,


I just wanted to thank you for believing in me when I felt like the whole world was against me. For so many years I've faced obstacles in life that really beat me down. Down to the point where sometimes I didn't see the point in pushing on through it. 


At my age I never once thought my life situation would be what it's like today. Life can change in a matter of seconds for the good or bad. I've had so many let downs, lies and back stabbing. I shut out 95% of the world. I had given up on myself because I felt so useless. Still do at times. 


I took a month to myself, alone in the woods to work on my mind and try to find the desire I once had to be fit and healthy. Past medical issues, (lungs, stroke, back, knee and hand surgeries, severe depression, PTSD, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis) just to name some I've been through and still battle. It took a lot for me to take that first step through CBF’s front door.


Rather than see me for what I had become, you noticed something about me I thought was long gone. You believed in me and gave me the opportunity to be part of the CBF family. I didn't know if I'd be back the next day or not. I didn't know anyone in your gym except you and Caleb.

A lot of people don't come to the gym because they think everyone there is in immaculate shape and they're too ashamed to be seen in a public gym just as I was. 


After being around everyone at CBF, from teenagers to 85+ year old's, I learned everyone has their own story. Stories you wouldn't know just by simply looking at them. Some have gone through open heart surgery, quadruple bypasses, full titanium leg bones, prosthetic legs and still doing leg workouts and cardio, hip replacements, knee replacements, cancer patients, Parkinson's, car wrecks, and the list goes on and on. There's one of almost every kind at CBF. Some are young, old, out of shape, in between, and some are super fit.  But they all have one thing in common. No matter which category they fall in, they are seeking to "Live Inspired". 


I never met Curtis, but I know he would be well pleased with what has been accomplished in his honor. I still have a long way to go and a lot of issues to deal with, but I have learned through CBF that there are still good people left in this world. 



I was touched by this man’s words because liberating greatness is why we started Curtis Bartlett Fitness. Curtis was aware that mental health impacts physical health. A heavy smoker can’t stop due to his dependence on chemical dopamine. He says to himself, “why workout until I stop smoking.” A vicious cycle. A mother and successful business woman has high blood pressure and her doctor says, “slow down and get some exercise or more serious issues are in your future.” She really wants to but an abusive childhood with poverty falsely convinces her that if she takes care of herself her career will crumble. She volunteers at church and takes care of other family members, but self-care is hard because deep down she does not feel worthy. An overweight high school sophomore has been bullied at school. He wants to get stronger but fears others will make fun of him at the gym as well. He continues destructive patterns of overeating and excessive exposure to social media. 


A word recently added to our dictionary is antifragile. It is an adjective that means “becoming more robust when exposed to stressors, uncertainty, or risk.” Because I am an extrovert and seen by some as a confident leader, it would be a mistake to assume that I don’t struggle with mental health issues. I am far from perfect - mentally, physically, or spiritually. As the third child of four boys, I was the peacemaker. I witnessed my older brothers get into trouble and learned how to keep the peace at an early age. This skill helps me build motivated teams and lead successful enterprises, but also causes me to question my own identity.  I rescue people in unhealthy ways and spread myself thin in multiple projects because I lack the courage to set boundaries. I fear pursuing my most profound dreams because of caring too much what others think. 

What am I doing to become more “antifragile?” Like Mr. Anonymous, I embrace solitude (he went to the woods, I get on my horse) in order to meditate, pray, take inventory, and set goals. I have friends who I trust enough to be transparent about my struggles. They don’t judge, nor do they let my distorted thinking go unchecked. I work out five days a week to relax my mind and generate the energy needed to stay in the battle.


How do you stay mentally strong? The best is yet to come.


A warrior,




William S. (‘Sam’) Bartlett is a leadership practitioner who has guided both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to high levels of success. Sam’s diverse experiences have made him a sought after motivational speaker and consultant to results driven companies. He is a noted authority in the areas of team building, employee engagement, customer service, conflict management, leadership, and what it means to “live inspired.” Sam has a love and passion to help others succeed. At 62, he compet

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