Have you ever felt completely broken? Like life threw you a curveball you never saw coming, and you don’t know how to pick yourself up? This episode will give you the tools you need to bounce back, no matter what life throws your way. Adam Markel sits down with Dr. Peter Nieman, a pediatrician, author, life coach, and accomplished marathon runner. Dr. Nieman’s story goes beyond his impressive career achievements. He’s also faced unimaginable personal tragedy. In this conversation, Dr. Nieman opens up about his daily practices for building resilience, including how he uses gratitude, morning rituals, and even exercise to stay strong. You’ll also hear his inspiring perspective on finding meaning and growth after loss. If you’re looking for practical tips and heartfelt advice on overcoming adversity, this episode is a must-listen.

 

Show Notes

  • What Is Resilience (02:07)
  • Lessons From Dale Carnegie (07:20)
  • Losing A Child (12:03)
  • Shoe Dog (22:57)
  • Getting The Moment Right (29:00)

Get the newest Change Proof Podcast episode delivered directly to you – subscribe here. And, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please give us a 5-star rating on iTunes! For instructions click here.

How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world? 
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

 

From Tragedy To Triumph: Habits For Unbreakable Resilience With Dr. Peter Nieman

Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the show. I have a wonderful guest, somebody that I truly admire and respect. You’re going to love him. His name is Dr. Peter Nieman. He is a pediatrician, author, and life coach. He has authored three books. The first one was called Moving Forward. The second one was 101 Finish Lines: Reflections of a Physician During the Quest to Conquer 100 Marathons. His newest book is called Sustained: A Life Rewritten After Sudden Misfortune.

He has been in private practice since 1987 and has continued to see patients in his clinic in Calgary, Canada since December 16th, 2009. Peter continues to run every day, thus remaining an active member of the Running Streakers Club of America. His wife, Dr. Zamonsky, is a family doctor as well. They live in Calgary and spend most of their weekends in the Canadian Rockies.

They have three children, Katie who’s 28, Matt who’s 25, and John who’s 23. Ben, their youngest child, died by suicide on January 1st, 2020. I know that we are going to cover a number of things, including some discussion of what that tragic loss was like and what has come since then. Sit back and enjoy my interview with the amazing Dr. Peter Nieman.

This is a bit of a PS, a little PostScript to the conversation that Peter and I were having. As we are close to one another, friends, and colleagues, this came up and we thought, “Let’s hit record, get this out there, and add this to the show as well because it’s really important. Peter talked about my wife, Randi. He has been married to the love of his life for 33 years. Is that right, Peter?

Yes. 33 years of a happy marriage, thank God.

In the midst of a happy marriage, a tragedy occurred a few years ago on January 1, 2020. You talked about your process and your wife’s process in dealing with this. Her way of grieving has been different. We thought maybe you’d share a little bit about that as well.

We are very unique human beings. We each and all have our different values and our different beliefs. I don’t want to give advice to anybody. It’s not my place. All I can do is humbly share my own experiences. What I’ve experienced is that my wife looks at the situation from a spiritual angle, a little bit different from me.

In fact, Adam, she has not read this book. She edited some of my books but never edited or touched this book, Sustained, because she’s not ready to do that kind of thing. The message that I would really like to share from my heart is that when you’re in partnership with somebody, make sure that you don’t rush them in their journey to be resilient in their journey and quest to stay strong. Be with them. Walk next to them. Don’t judge them. Don’t criticize them.

What Is Resilience

Allow them to move at a pace that works for them. It’s a bit like marathon running. You know the pace that you can run and should run to get to the finish line. If you go any faster than that, you’re going to crash and burn. You’re going to hit the wall. It’s all about pacing ourselves and being patient with one another. My definition of resilience is the ability to endure consistently with patience. To me, that is resilience more than bouncing back. Thank you for letting me share about my dear wife and my best friend, and the fact that we could still be married even if we handle this misfortune in a different manner.

More than bouncing back, resilience is the ability to endure consistently with patience. Click To Tweet

Thank you, Peter.

Thank you.

It was fun for me to read your bio. I’ve known you for a number of years and I’ve read it before, and I’m always very impressed by the life that you have led, my question to you, however, is what is one thing that is not a part of your bio or this introduction that you would love for people to know about you at the beginning of our conversation?

I must admit I cheated a little bit because I’m a fan of your show. I knew that question was coming, so I gave it some thought. There are a number of things, but let me pick one. It is that I was a Dale Carnegie instructor and I taught the Dale Carnegie training program, which was one of the highlights of my life. They say the famous Warren Buffet has one certificate on his wall, and that’s his graduation certificate from the Dale Carnegie training. Lee Iacocca was a graduate of Dale Carnegie. I wear a Dale Carnegie instructor’s ring. That’s a bit of an unknown in my life.

Hold that ring up again for the people who are going to be on YouTube checking this out. That’s way cool. It’s almost like a World Series ring or a Super Bowl ring. That’s a cool ring right there. It’s like a World Cup ring.

That ring goes with me wherever I go during all my marathons and daily running. Wherever I go, the ring goes with me. It’s like my shadow. To get a bit more serious, it’s a physical reminder of the basic principles of getting along with human beings, showing respect, having the confidence to do public speaking, and helping other people to become better at not worrying and not having stress, in keeping with the theme to stay resilient. We live in a world that’s in an interesting state. Who knows what the future is going to hold? These are very uncertain and strange times, so we do need tools to stay resilient. That’s why I’m excited to talk about it in this episode.

I couldn’t agree more. We do need tools to stay resilient. While we are born with some of those tools, I certainly think we might all agree that these are nonetheless tools that we can acquire, I believe, at any age. They’re vitally important. I don’t think it says anything about a person’s inherent value, intelligence, or worth that they might need to acquire more of those tools.

Dale Carnegie wrote that book probably in the ‘30s. I don’t have a copy handy, but I do have a copy of this book. I’m cheating the people who are reading a little bit out of the visuals, but I’ll describe what I’m holding up. I’m holding up a book called The Snowball, which is a biography of Warren Buffet. It’s been in the hot tub with me. It’s been in the sauna with me.

It’s about 800 pages there, give or take. It took me a couple of months to read this thing. He talks so much in this book about the importance of Dale Carnegie in his life because he was and still is a bit of an awkward fellow in social settings, etc. I would love to know and get your thoughts. Dale Carnegie for people who are reading this has never read his seminal book. It has sold millions of copies. You should go out and get a copy of that. I’m asking you why. Why should people read that book?

Lessons From Dale Carnegie

He wrote three books. One of his more famous books is How to Win Friends and Influence People. The title is a bit deceptive because it means you want to manipulate people. Some people interpret that as such. I don’t see it like that. I see it more as basic stuff that’s not going to change, like giving honest and sincere appreciation. The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. Give people a noble reputation. Remember a person’s name as the sweetest name in every language. Make another person feel important and engage sincerely. Be a good listener. Talk more about other people than yourself. Those things are not going to change. The wars may come and go and the economy may change, but those are the basic bedrock principles of getting along with people.

Relationships are so important. Marriages go through ups and downs. My coach, Alan Cohen, a mutual friend of ours, always talks about relationships as being for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Not all relationships are for a lifetime, unfortunately. How we relate to people and how we relate to ourselves determines how resilient we can be. As we get tested, and in my case, the loss of a child to suicide, it squeezes you, and what’s inside comes out.

The other book from Carnegie too that would be helpful to people is a book that was written in, I believe, 1912, the year the Titanic sank. That’s quite a while back. The story always is easy to remember. In this case, Carnegie went into the New York Public Library. He wanted to see if there were any books on worry because he was a worrier.

He went to the library and went to the section WO for W-O-R-R-Y and was looking. He said there were more books on worms than worry at the time, so he felt he had to write the book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. That book still graces my bookshelf. I’m a bit not like you. I wouldn’t take that book in the bathtub because I don’t want it to get soaked, but it’s a great book that I often look at again and again.

Change Proof Podcast | Dr. Peter Neiman | Resilience

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

I’ve never read that book. That’s 1912. If you could get a copy, you might have to pay more than the Amazon price for it.

Here’s the interesting thing. I’m an author. You’re an author. Probably, our books are going to be out of print at some point, right?

Yeah. It’s in the public domain.

I’m not sure, but I know you can still get it on Amazon or wherever you buy books and so on. It’s a great book for people who worry. God knows. Sometimes, there are things like synchronicity happening. My hope is there’s at least one person reading this conversation who is a worrier, who may not have heard about the book but may know about the one about winning friends and influencing people, and say, “The book on worry, I want to look that up.” We want these people to read our books too.

I’m a big fan of Emmet Fox. I probably have said that more times than people might care to read again. He wrote some books back in the day as well. Those books can have such an impact on our lives. Almost like relationships, you read a book for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. There are some books that have been with me almost for a lifetime, and I expect they will be with me for the rest of my life. The Carnegie book might be one of those as well, it sounds like.

In the Jewish tradition, in the Talmud, there is a saying that before a man or a woman dies, you have to do three things. You have to write a book, plant a tree, and have a child. Each of those three things is very symbolic in terms of touching future generations. Planting a tree, that was before the environment was a big deal. The Talmud is old. It also said to have a child and write a book. Writing books takes a lot of work. It’s fun. I’ve done three so far. I love it.

We talked about my first book, you and I, called Moving Forward. COVID happened and another book came out, which is 101 Finish Lines. That related to my quest to do 100 marathons before age 60. The latest book I wrote was about what it was like as a dad, a pediatrician, and a human being to face the unexpected loss of a child who decided to leave this world by suicide.

Do you mind if we dig into that a little bit? I’m really glad you brought it up.

Losing A Child

It will be my pleasure. When we last talked, it would’ve been 2020. Ben is my son’s name. He passed away on January 1st, 2020, which was before COVID. We marked the four-year anniversary of living life without Ben. I said something to you that you picked up on and then repeated to your audience. I said that when a tragedy hits us, we have three choices. We can let it Destroy us, Define us, or Develop us. You wanted to talk more about the development part, I remember. I’d be happy to discuss any of those three Ds or whichever direction you want to go.

When a tragedy hits us, we have three choices: we can let it destroy us, define us, or develop us. Click To Tweet

Why don’t we pick a different D since people can go back in the archives to talk about the development piece of it? It can be Destroy us or Define us. You can do 1 of those 2 Ds. Did one resonate with you?

There’s a Japanese tradition that if a piece of pottery breaks, instead of throwing it out, the Japanese people glue it together with golden glue, and it looks beautiful. The name for that is Kintsugi. If I were to do an elevator talk about the book, Sustained, that I wrote, it would be that our life got broken when my wife and I discovered our son’s body. Yet, the pieces have been glued together. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about resilience and gratitude. I’ve learned about the importance of mourning rituals. I’ve learned about the importance of eating healthy, exercising, having role models, having mentors, and constantly looking for opportunities to grow and improve.

We all know as a medical doctor, I see teenagers who have PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but there’s also what we call post-traumatic growth. When tough things happen, there’s a saying that it can make you better or it can make you bitter. By the grace of God, I believe that the tragedy that befell us has made me better, not bitter. I’m very thankful for that because people say it’s one of the worst calamities that can befall any human being. One other thing is I made a note here that I wanted to mention.

Pause there. Can you hold that for one second?

Sure.

My follow-up is I would love to know how that tragedy has defined you.

I can tell you it does not define me as a victim. Sometimes, when something like this happens, you ask questions like, “Why me? What did we do wrong? What did we deserve?” People, in the year ahead, God forbid, may be diagnosed with cancer or get laid off. Their resilience will be tested in many ways. There is something about human nature that I don’t understand, and that is guilt. It’s the thing about blaming yourself, not having self-compassion, and looking for reasons. Sometimes, there are no answers to these things. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of becoming a victim, blaming your destiny or other people for your situation.

What is interesting for me is to discover how many other famous people, not that I’m famous, lost children. Mark Twain lost three children. Marcus Aurelius lost a number of children. He buried his own children. Art Linkletter lost a child. Paul Newman lost a child. A lot of famous people lost their children, and that did not define them.

The neat thing, too, that I’ve discovered is that when you go through a tragedy like this, it’s good to hang out with people who have had a similar experience. I have a second family. I wrote about it in the book, Sustained. The first part of the book talks about this family of people who also lost children. We have become like a second family. There’s so much we can talk about, but if you want to stay resilient, it’s important to have a good group of people you can hang out with. These are people who will understand you, won’t judge you, accept you, encourage you, and be there for you when you need them.

Change Proof Podcast | Dr. Peter Neiman | Resilience

Sustained: A Life Rewritten After Sudden Misfortune

The book is Sustained: A Life Rewritten after Sudden Misfortune. Back to that question of how it has defined you, from what you’ve said to me, it has made you better, not bitter. That’s an odd thing. I want to take a moment here to sit with that. There are almost no words. Being a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine finding words for what it would feel like to lose a child under any circumstances. For it to make you better seems counterintuitive. It feels counterintuitive, and yet, that’s what I’m hearing from you. It’s that you are better and not bitter as a result.

Here’s a quote from the book. If I may, I want to read this. It came from an ancient philosopher called Aeschylus. He said, “He who learns must suffer. Even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart. In despair, against our will, comes wisdom by the awesome grace of God.” That was written thousands of years ago.

The thing, “He who learns must suffer. Even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart.” In despair, against our will, this is not what we wanted, but it’s what we got. Against our will, such a catastrophe or calamity befell us, and with that comes wisdom. I don’t know who designed the universe that way, but it is incredibly true that if you have an easy life, you’re not going to grow as much as you have a tough life.

If we had our choice, we’d all choose more comfort. We would choose the easier path. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about that. I’m not making a judgment for any of us in regard to that. Sometimes, there’s a greater force at play that creates this transformation. It’s very much a cliche to use this as an analogy, but it’s so on point to look at the way a butterfly emerges or how a butterfly is the net result of an excruciating metamorphosis for the lowly caterpillar.

In many ways, we are that creature, that caterpillar. We may be not so lowly, but perhaps divine and perfect as we are. Yet, metamorphosis is in our destiny. It’s part of our reason for being our raison d’être. If you resist it, and so many people do resist the metamorphosis, perhaps that’s the quiet desperation. I forget who wrote that line. It’s been quoted often that everywhere, people lead lives of quiet desperation. Perhaps that’s an element of that quiet desperation, to know that somehow or another, you haven’t fulfilled your purpose because, on some level, you’ve resisted the metamorphosis, which is painful.

We’ve talked about the role of faith and where we’re all coming from. People confuse faith, spirituality, and religion. I’m going to be raw with you. For me, I’m coming from a Christian tradition. It may offend some people, but let me explain. I want to be like Mr. Rogers, the TV guy. That, to me, is a great example of being kind, being nice, treating people with respect, and being helpful. That’s the kind of faith-based person I want to be.

I also talk a lot about Buddhism. Sometimes, people think I’m a Buddhist, but I’m not. What you said is sometimes, we suffer more because we cling. That’s one of the principles of Buddhism. They call it the second dart or the second arrow. The first arrow is the loss, the disappointment, the bad news, the divorce, the cancer diagnosis, or the rebellious children. Endless list of possibilities. We then inflict upon ourselves that second arrow where we wish for things to be different when they cannot be.

Sometimes, we suffer more because we cling. Click To Tweet

There are days when I walk by my son’s bedroom. We left his room the way it was. We haven’t touched it four years later. I’m not sure if we’ll ever do something about that room. Maybe when we sell the house. I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far. I catch myself saying, “I wish it could have been different,” and then I realize, “It is never going to be the same again.” It’s ineffable. It is what it is, so it cannot be otherwise.

One of the problems in life is what they say. What we resist will persist. If you resist growth, resist pain, or resist negative things and you always want to be comfortable, then you’re going to suffer. It’s a fact. Life is not fair. Plans change. People disappoint you. Whether you like it or not, you have to adjust to what has happened.

We’ve been sharing some of these statements that people may have heard of, or maybe they haven’t. I would imagine some folks have jotted down and written some things or at least made mental notes of things that you’ve shared. For example, which is the one I’ve repeated a few times, is that you can be bitter or better as a result of something. It’s simplistic yet also profound.

Another one of those has to do with the word suffering. Let’s not split hairs about it. We do enough of that with the gotcha police out there. Suffering is optional. That’s what I like to think of it. We can experience pain and not suffer, in my opinion. Pain is something that is inevitable. Suffering is optional. That’s strictly about your mental outlook around it. That’s a really powerful distinction that when you apply it or when you’re able to bring consciousness to a moment in your life that is difficult or excruciating even, it can be the difference between, “How will I emerge from this?” versus, “I see no way out. I have no way out.”

Shoe Dog

I want to change gears a little bit. you and I could continue down this road because we are so kindred spirits and I know we can talk about this stuff for a long while. I want to talk about running. In part, I want to do it selfishly because I’ve been reading something. The universe is so cagey, so quirky, and such a mystery. I say universe, but also, for me, the language is God. I don’t have a problem. Not only don’t I have a problem, but I love God. I’m not a fan of religion personally. That’s not to bash any religion, not even the one I grew up in, but that’s how I’m baked.

I like so many aspects of all of them. The idea that you can integrate wisdom, knowledge, and spirituality in so many different ways and not be relegated to one discipline or another appeals to me because I’m a bit of an iconoclast. I’m not a big rule guy. I don’t like being hemmed in by conventions. That’s me. People don’t have to buy that.

The interesting thing is I started reading this book. We’ve shared a few book titles in this episode. It’s called Shoe Dog. I had said to you before we started the recording that I wanted to ask you about something but I didn’t want to tell you what it was. I started reading this book, Shoe Dog, which is a pretty new book. It’s a business memoir by Phil Knight who is the founder of the company. Nike.

Change Proof Podcast | Dr. Peter Neiman | Resilience

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Exactly. When it was founded and when he started it in 1962 or 1963 thereabouts, It was called Blue Ribbon, which was a made-up name. First of all, I wanted to ask you,. Have you read it? What do you know about it? I’m only about 1/3 of the way through. D ecember 16th, 1998 is our son Max’s birthday. He celebrated his 25th. December 16th has particular importance in your life as well as someone who runs. What is that date? Could you tell us what it means to you?

Absolutely. I’d be glad to do that. First of all, I did the Boston Marathon twice in 1998 and 1999. I then wanted to get back to Boston and I always missed the qualifying time by 1 minute, 2 minutes, or 3 minutes. I got to a point where I said, “I’m getting a bit older here. I’m going to try to run 100 marathons by the time I’m 60.” I’ve done 114. No injuries, thank God.

I also said, “This is a goal that’s very doable. What if I, for the rest of my life, don’t skip a single day? What if I run every day for the rest of my life until I take my last breath?” I made that decision on the 16th of December 2009. I celebrated fourteen years of running. It already marked 5,132 consecutive days of running.

When I knew you were going to ask me, “What is not in your bio?”, I was debating whether I was going to tell you that I’m also known as a streaker, but I thought that would be dangerous because people will misunderstand. There is such a thing as a streaking association, but it’s the Running Streak Association. I have a great example. I went out. It’s in Canada. It’s a bit cold. It’s winter. I do use Nikes and always have been. It’s not like religion right here. It is not for everybody. There are a lot of choices.

As I was lacing up my running shoes, heading out of the door, looking toward the east, and seeing the dawn there, I said to myself, “This is symbolic of a great day coming. What a privilege to take a breath. What a privilege to take an in-breath and out-breath. What a privilege to meditate while I run and enjoy my body, my health, and my fitness while looking forward to the show.”

The running part is important, but it’s the return on the investment that really helps me. In many of the books that I wrote, the best ideas I got were when I was out there running. The endorphins flow. The blood flow to the brain is better. One of my favorite books is a book called Spark written by a doctor at Harvard. He talks about how exercise can help us be resilient and not depressed. His name is John Ratey.

Here’s the deal. People ask me, “Why do you do it? Do you do it for ego issues? Do you do it to brag? Do you do it because you’re bored?” Some people say, “You should rest. You should take some days off,” but I don’t see it that way. We don’t take a break from brushing our teeth every day or getting a good night’s sleep every night. Once it becomes part of a habit and part of a lifestyle, and you don’t almost have to think about it, it’s a beautiful place to be. I encourage the audience of the program to pick something that they care about and make it something they can do consistently. You don’t have to do it every day, but at least maybe once a week, twice a week, or whatever.

Do gratitude. I know you really do believe in the importance of gratitude. We are kindred spirits. Grateful people are often optimistic and happy. It’s very difficult to find a depressed person who’s grateful. Gratitude is so important. I’m thankful that I can run. I’m looking forward to many more years of running. God willing, if I’m healthy, I’m going to do my part. I’m hoping God will do His part. Do you remember there was a guy who was running for the United States? He was an endurance athlete. He was a Christian. He said a prayer. It went something like this, “Dear God, you pick up my legs. I will put them down to the easy part.” It’s a team effort.

Getting The Moment Right

I couldn’t agree more. Before we hit the record button, you mentioned something about gratitude. You referred to an episode that we published a little bit ago. It was a year-end, year-beginning solocast. It was just me. I made everybody suffer to tune in to me for twenty or so minutes as opposed to the brilliant people I get to interview. I talked about this concept of getting the moment right. Could you share your thoughts on that concept and how you apply it or use it in your daily practices?

I know you’re self-deprecating when you say you torture people so they listen to you. Sometimes, there’s a time to have a guest, and sometimes, there’s a time to do what you did. I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in to you and taking notes. What jumped out for me was to get this moment right. It’s going to mean different things to different people, but to me, it’s important.

What Eckhart Tolle teaches is that we are human beings having a spiritual experience. He says that sometimes, not doing but being is important. To be in the moment, to be present, to be grateful, to know that you have a breath, and to understand that you’re more than what you see on the outside and you’re more than form.

This shirt that I’m wearing, the button that I’m touching is the top button. When all of us get dressed in the morning, and while you are wearing a T-shirt, I’m sure sometimes, you do wear a shirt, the key thing is to get that button right. If you get that button in the right hole, all the other buttons subsequently will fall into place. That is the moment of now. T here is what I call my MVP principle. We think of MVP as the Most Valuable Player in sport, the World Series, the Super Bowl, or whatever. In my mind, M stands for my Motives, V stands for my Values, and P for my Priorities. If I can get this moment right with the right motives, the right values, and the right priorities, then like this button concept, all the other things will fall into place.

I’m writing down what you’re saying because I love the nuance there. In this episode, I shared my standpoint with the world being what the world is, which is it’s the world. It has always been what it is. That’s the obvious. It feels challenging. People are in a great deal of confusion and anxiety, and we see that and hear that. We can’t ignore it. I don’t want to ignore it, so I chose to speak to it a little bit and be audacious enough to share some thoughts on something so complex as that.

To me, it was keeping it simple to recognize that we all feel this heavyweight in the ways that we feel it and there’s a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders. Yet, my belief system says to me that the only thing we need to do, the only duty we have, and the only true responsibility we have is to get this moment right. If you could imagine a world where that was the only singular focus of everyone, to get this moment right, what would that mean to each of us individually, and what would that mean to the world collectively?

There’ll be less suffering. There’ll be more of the four brahmavihārās in Buddhism. The four brahmavihārās are known also as the four immeasurable truths, which are to have love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, which is a state of in-between. You’re neither too excited nor too sad to have a balance. Imagine a world where those four qualities are at work more because we get the moment right. It will be close to a perfect world. We live in an imperfect world, but it’s something to aspire to. It’s something that we should all try to show more of.

Can you have what is called sympathetic joy? For example, when I look at your books, watch your guests in your show, or when your wife and you post pictures on Facebook about your family, I can look at that and be happy for you. That’s called sympathetic joy. I’m not going to sit there and say, “Their kids are alive and I lost a child.” That’s not how I think. To have sympathetic joy is an incredible quality. Can you have too much of it? No. Can you have too much inner peace? No. Can you have too much love for other people? No. Can you have too much compassion toward others in yourself? No. That’s why the Buddha called it the immeasurable truth. There’s no limit there.

People might subconsciously or unconsciously take exception to the statement, “Can you have too much compassion for yourself?” At least from my experience, first and foremost, and those that I’m closest to, we withhold compassion. We withhold it from ourselves.

You can't have too much compassion for yourself. Click To Tweet

That’s so true.

We are so quick to judge both ourselves and others. These are the things we work on. To me, when I say, “Get the moment right,” if the only thing we were responsible for was to get the moment right, we don’t have to solve the world’s problems. We don’t have to correct someone, change someone, or change something necessarily, but in that moment, what does it mean to get your breath right or to get your thoughts right? If you can do that and you can get your thoughts right, first and foremost, then you are on the right foot.

To use your great analogy and that wonderful example, you get the first button. When you get that first button right, it’s so easy for the other buttons to be aligned. To me, so many of the complications of life are difficult because we can’t find the simple truth in it. What is the simple truth or the objective truth? If you’re lucky to find that, that does set us free.

Free from suffering and we’re in a place of peace. It takes work. Here is another thing I feel like we need to share. I know we may run out of time soon. As I’m sitting here, I am reminded of the meditation I did one morning before I went for my run. I’m going to share it with you and the audience, hopefully, because it will land for you the way it landed for me. It’s a visual image, and it’s a very important one.

It goes like this. In the center is a green dot. Around the green dot is a yellow circle. Around the yellow circle is a big red circle. On the outside is this big red circle, then the yellow circle, and then in the middle, a green dot. What represents the center is that in our life which we can control and we can have influence over. That’s the smallest. Around that comes that which we can influence but we have no control over, but some influence. The big red circle is the reality of our lives which we cannot control and we cannot influence. It’s in the context of getting the moment right. We need to be wise to control the controllable and not fuss over things we cannot control and we have no agency over.

Change Proof Podcast | Dr. Peter Neiman | Resilience

Resilience: We need to be wise to control the controllable and not fuss over things we cannot and have no agency over.

 

One of my favorite authors, a Buddhist teacher, is Tara Brach. She wrote a book called Radical Acceptance. The word radical means at the root. When a woman gets a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, they remove the lymph nodes and the breast. It’s radical surgery to get hold of the cancer. Radical acceptance is at the root. You accept the things you can change.

It’s like the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this, “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That’s probably another thing about getting this moment right. What kind of wisdom do you have to know the difference between what you can control and where you have agency versus that which is not under your control or your influence? Let it go and accept it. I want to circle back to Dale Carnegie.

I was thinking that it’s stop worrying. It’s going to be in the book.

In the book, there was a rhyme, it was by Mother Goose or something. It says, “For every ailment under the sun, there is a cure or there is none. If there is one, try to find it. If there is none, never mind it.” A bit of poetry and lightheartedness, but a lot of truth in that, right?

Indeed. I always love our conversations. They always seem too short to me. This is a good place for us to conclude. To our audience, you’ve learned a lot starting with Peter or Dr. Nieman’s bio and his brand new book, Sustained: A Life Rewritten After Sudden Misfortune. All of your books are magnificent. They’re all available on Amazon. This is direct to our audience. If you have questions for Dr. Nieman or myself, please feel free to put those questions or comments, because the comments are also super valuable to us, at AdamMarkel.com/Podcast. You can leave a question or comment there.

As always, this will not be a no-AI or no-chatbot response. It will be us doing that. If you’ve got somebody in your life, and, as I imagine, you probably do, whether it’s a colleague, a friend, or a family member that could benefit from reading some of what was shared and some really important things we were able to touch upon, share the episode. Maybe it’s good for them. We don’t know. We can’t control that. That’s beyond our control, but we can certainly show effort.

It also helps us, so thank you for doing that. When you share the show, when you provide a review of some kind, or when you rate the show on the platform or you’re consuming it, it helps the algorithm. I don’t understand it that much. I know that it puts it in front of more people and more people get access. You’re doing us and our community a service and a favor to take the time out of your busy day to do those things, so thank you for that.

Lastly, if you want to check in with yourself, see where your level of resilience is on the mental side, the physical side, the emotional side, or the spiritual side even, which in our world of resilience research, it’s not about spirituality, but it’s about alignment, if you’re curious about where you are, you can go to RankMyResilience.com. In three minutes, you can get some insight scoring for yourself. See how that has changed. If you’ve taken the assessment in the past, you can check it again and see how you’re doing. It is a snapshot in time. There are free resources that come after that.

Peter, as always, I want to say thank you for taking the time to share a piece of yourself with us. I said to you before we even started the recording that my wife, Randi, adores you. She is a litmus test for me, always, about people. I’ve been both a good judge of character and a poor judge of character in my work in the world at times. The world of you is always confirmed by Randi’s view of you. She adores who you are, how you show up, what you do, and how you’ve moved forward.

It defies description of how you move forward from such a thing that has happened in your life and your wife’s life. Thank you for sharing your story and for writing about all the things you do. You’re planting trees. You’re helping to regenerate. This world is a bit torn and tattered probably as it always has been, but thank you.

It’s an absolute pleasure to spend this time with you. Time flies. I’ll always put a plugin for what you’re doing. There is a saying, “Bean by bean, the bag gets full.” If we can get one more reader to follow you, one more person to get more resilient, and one person that helps somebody else to get more resilient in a world that is full of uncertainty, that’s what success looks like. That’s what meaning and purpose is all about. Congratulations that you’ve come this far. How many years has the show been on?

We’re probably into our sixth year. It has been 300-some episodes. It has been a minute.

I’m looking forward to 60 years, but that’s maybe unrealistic. Let’s go for ten. I’d love to be back on your program when you celebrate your tenth year.

That’s a guarantee from one streaker to another.

Keep streaking.

I love it. Thank you so much again.

Thanks. To all your friends, your wife, and your children, tell them lots of warm wishes from cold Canada.

Always. The warm-hearted Canadians. That is the truth.

Dr. Peter Nieman is one of a kind. He’s truly a special person. Can you imagine that person there being your child’s pediatrician if you have children or if you’ll have children in the future? Imagine being so fortunate and so lucky to have a pediatrician like this. He’s truly incredible. His amazing wife, Corinne, is also a family doctor. These are really good people. As good as they are, they’ve experienced an excruciating tragedy in their lives.

Things happen. Sometimes, really tragic and horrific things can happen to good people. I don’t think there’s any distinction there about that. Things happen in life and we can’t understand it always. In fact, many times, we don’t understand it, and yet, we still have to process it, and we do it for particular reasons that transform and allow for those experiences to be of value. Peter said we can either be bitter or we can be better. He has certainly chosen the path of being better as a result of a very difficult thing.

We covered so many things in this episode. We talked about the concept that I was sharing in a solocast at New Year’s about getting the moment right, how we get this moment right, and what that looks like. He provided this wonderful example of what that conceptually can be by analogizing it to how we put a shirt on that has buttons. You typically start with that button at the top or near the top. If you get that one right or you get that first button to be aligned, all the buttons below it fall into place. I thought that was a great way to describe the concept of getting this moment right, getting our thoughts right, getting our breath right, and getting our body in that moment, whatever that moment is, to be in the place where we are fully present and here and now in this.

We talked about Dale Carnegie. Somehow or another, that came up. We talked about so many different books in this episode. He recommended a couple of books that I’m planning on getting, but there’s this one about how to stop worrying. I’m a recovering warrior worryholic. I don’t worry as much as I used to, for sure, but I still find myself doing that or falling into the old default mode as many of us do. This is an old Dale Carnegie book from 1912. It’s for me. It’ll be cool to find a copy. I’m sure there are some copies out there. I haven’t looked yet, but I’m going to look for one very soon.

We talked about gratitude. We talked about the importance of December 16 in our life with our son’s birthday and Peter’s life and how he has run for 5,132 days consecutively. He has run and has completed 114 marathons, which is remarkable. We talked about this wonderful concept of wishing to only be truly helpful. I mentioned that at the end of our conversation, this idea that comes in miracles and the idea that we can wish to be truly helpful. It’s one of those things that we can remind ourselves, “I wish only to be truly helpful.” It’s a beautiful statement.

We covered philosophy. We talked about Buddhism, we talked about religion a little bit, but spirituality mostly. We talked about relationships and how that old statement of having a relationship for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and what that can mean in other contexts. This was a conversation that because we talked about tragedy and resiliency in the face of tragedy, it is an episode that you may want to bookmark and keep handy for future reference. It’s an episode that you might want to share with somebody else in your life, whether it be your friend, colleague, family member, etc. As always, we appreciate it when you do that too.

I enjoyed this conversation. All I wanted out of it was to be with this dear person, be present with him, and not keep to any kind of an agenda, but follow the breadcrumbs, which I feel like we were led divinely along the path in this conversation. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed the interview. As always, we’d love your feedback. Feel free to provide us with that. I wish you the most beautiful day or evening. Wherever we’re finding you, wherever you are in the world, and whatever you’re doing at this moment, I’m sending you my love. Thank you so much for being a supporter of this show and a part of our community. Ciao for now.

 

Important Links

 

About Dr. Peter Nieman

Change Proof Podcast | Dr. Peter Neiman | ResilienceDr Nieman is a pediatrician, author and life coach. He has authored three books: “Moving Forward”; “101 Finish Lines: reflections of a physician during the quest to conquer 100 marathons” and most recently “Sustained: A Life rewritten after sudden misfortune”

He has been in private practice since 1987 and continues to see patients in his Centre 70 Clinic in Calgary Canada. Since Dec 16, 2009 Peter continues to run every day thus remaining an active member of the Running Streakers club of America. His wife Dr Zamonsky is a Family Doctor. They live in Calgary and spend most weekends in the Canadian Rockies. They have three children, Katie (28) Matt (25 )and Jon (23) Ben , their youngest child died by suicide on January 1 2020.