Your Duty Matters


On my blog, I write a lot about the concept of duty. I’ve written about why we should do it, I’ve looked at how it’s changed throughout history, and I’ve discussed convenience and excellence—the two major internal cultures that every individual has to choose between. But today, I want to tell you what duty means to me.

When I toughen up, I’m doing my duty. When I choose excellence over convenience, I’m doing my duty. When I’m doing my very best, living my life’s purpose, and achieving my potential, I’m doing my duty. Why? Because we’re all connected, and we all have our jobs to do. Each one of us has something very specific that no one else in the world can do in quite the same way. If we don’t do that task to the best of our ability, if we decide to make excuses when the going gets tough, we let everyone down. As author and pastor Mark Batterson once said, “Uniqueness isn’t a virtue, it’s a responsibility.”

When I was still working as a military diver, it was my buddies’ responsibility to look out for me. And I did the same for them. In the military, the way you do your duty could mean the difference between life and death. Thankfully, they did their duty, and as a result, I’m writing this blog post today.

The story of Paul Kariya’s winning goal in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals is one of my favourite examples of a man who’s done his duty. According to the Calgary Herald, he took a major blow to the head at the hands of Scott Stevens. He was taken off to the dressing room for first aid, and everyone assumed he was out for the game. To the crowd’s astonishment, he came back out onto the ice and scored the winning goal. He did his duty at a time when everyone would have completely understood if he’d decided to bow out.

Now think about your life’s purpose. Are you working towards it? Have you chosen a culture of excellence? Because if you aren’t, the world is missing out on whatever it is you do best. It may not be a matter of life and death (although it’s possible that it is), but it will still make a difference to someone. As I wrote in Toughen Up, “We’re all worse off because some people choose convenience over excellence in their lives. And we’re all better off because some people have chosen to do their best, to live their life purpose to its fullest.” American president Theodore Roosevelt put it like this: “The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, safety first instead of duty first, and love of soft living…”

It’s probably not your life’s duty to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals. But maybe it is. Or maybe it’s your duty to be a patient parent, even when you’re exhausted. Or to build a business that helps others. Whatever your duty is, will you tough it out when you’re on your last legs? I hope so. After all, everyone else is counting on you.

Enjoy your weekend!


Changing Your Life With Perseverance

Jim Rohn made an notable observation when he said, “Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.”

It’s interesting because many people seem to think that character is built-in; either you won the character lottery or you didn’t. But Rohn’s right—a good character is a habit that’s formed by consistently making the right choice for the right reasons.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t all have a little help. Each of us has our own strengths and, when we push ourselves to discover them, we often learn that they can be quite useful for building character.

When I was in the military, I took a performance test that was disguised as an advanced training course. The test was designed to weed out the best people to pursue a new career in diving. It was an impossibly strenuous course, and we operated on little to no sleep and limited nourishment. We were up at all hours of the day and night–running, swimming, and working out. It was an emotionally challenging time, and we were all forced to push ourselves to our limits, physically and mentally. Now here’s the catch: the course didn’t end until we were down to just six people. The longest record was 21 days.

Everyone was given a whistle, and when they were at their breaking point, they blew it to indicate that they were giving up. I had some tough competition—each of the twenty participants were at the top of their current line of work, whether they were medics, infantrymen, or search-and-rescue technicians. But still, it wasn’t long before we were down to nine.

After all, it was easy to quit. If you weren’t in the top six, nothing bad would happen to you. You just went back to your current high-level career. But if you won… you got to move on to a new diving career with a new mission. You’d be taking your career to the next level. And it was all up to you.

The night the test ended was also the night I encountered one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever endured. That night, we were woken up for a run after only an hour and a half of sleep. We were asked to bring our diving gear along with us.

We ran and ran. We passed all of our usual landmarks and kept running. It felt like we were never going to stop. I knew I didn’t have much left in me, so I started playing mind games, telling myself to run to the next landmark before giving up. Then, when I hit the next landmark, I’d set myself up for a new challenge.

Finally, we hit the water, and without letting us stop to rest, the instructors told us to suit up and start swimming. At that point, I really knew I was done. But then I heard a whistle. We were down to eight!

There were only two of us left to quit, but I decided to try and push through until one more person whistled. When they did, I was almost ecstatic. I’d be done soon! It was my turn!

Just when I was about to blow my whistle, someone else beat me to it. The challenge was over, and I was in the top six. There were just seconds between winning and losing, but I kept persevering, and in the end, it paid off. We were finally done, after 19 long days.

Staying true to my character and testing my limits allowed me to take a step in my career that I almost missed out on. Has there ever been a time when perseverance changed your life? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments below.

Changing Your Perspective

Claude Hamilton


It’s easy to get discouraged when the going gets tough. But I want you to try something. The next time you reach the point where you can’t even imagine what more could go wrong, and you just want to hide under the covers and admit defeat—try changing your perspective and celebrating instead.

Like I mentioned before, unless you’ve met adversity, you don’t know how strong your character is. You don’t know what you’re fighting against, and you don’t have anything to push you forward. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Maybe instead of throwing our hands in the air, we should be welcoming the opportunity to grow.

I wrote in my book, Toughen Up!, that people only become great when they have to struggle, adapt, and overcome. And I stand by that. Think about the last time you achieved something great. It wasn’t easy, was it? If you’ve been facing difficulties while trying to achieve your life’s purpose, congratulations! You’re probably on the right track.

Remember when I was first starting out and I experienced those unexpected rejections? Before that happened, things had been going relatively smoothly, all things considered. Of course, there are always bumps in the road when you’re starting a new business, but I was very optimistic and had plenty of energy. So when I was rejected a couple of times in a row, without even getting a chance to present my business, it was devastating. It was hard to push through and keep going. But I did—and I learned from it. I focused on keeping my character strong and, instead of dwelling on the fact that I was rejected, I looked at ways that I could achieve a different outcome the next time. I changed my perspective! I toughened up and kept going.

Claude Hamilton


It’s been years since that disappointing day, and I still get rejected. But now, I try to learn from it so that the next meeting might go differently. And sometimes those rejections are for the best. Maybe that person just wouldn’t have been a good fit for my business.

One of the toughest challenges is learning to deal with attacks on your business and your personal goals. Writer Henry James addressed this when he said, “I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.” Now, that doesn’t mean we have to go out looking for enemies, but I think it’s important to remember that if we’re doing truly important work, we’ll naturally provoke those people. And when that happens, instead of doubting ourselves, we should celebrate the opportunity to strengthen our character.

There’s an old saying that hits the nail on the head: “If you haven’t been misquoted, you probably haven’t said anything that matters. And if you haven’t been attacked, you probably aren’t doing much that will really make a difference.”

Has disappointment or rejection helped make you stronger? Share your experience in the comments!

You are the people you associate with

Blog post 14Think about the top five people you’re spending time with. Are they successful? Committed to a cause? Do they toughen up when they need to? If this sounds like the people you’ve surrounded yourself with, chances are good that you’re going to be pretty successful yourself.

On the other hand, if those five people aren’t working towards anything, quit when the going gets tough, and have poor lifestyle habits, you probably do the same things.

My mother smoked for 42 years. Eventually, she got to the point where she needed a machine to help her breathe at night. When she reached that point, she decided it was time to quit. But amazingly, some of her friends weren’t supportive. They would offer her cigarettes and try to convince her to start smoking again. Thankfully, she resisted, but those friends were no help at all.

Fortunately, we get to choose the people we spend time with. For example, in the early days, when I was still building my business, one of the men I was working with called me up and asked if we could talk. We met in person, and he told me that he wanted to take a break from the business. As I questioned him, I realized that this “break” was actually a subtle way of quitting. So I responded with, “Ah, man, we were doing so well. I was really relating to you, we were getting along really well, and I was enjoying my time with you. We were kickin’ butt. We were on a path to really growing our business, and I thought you’d become a leader in our company. And now you want to quit. It’s really sad.”

Harsh, right? Well, I was probably a little harder on him than I should have been, but it was really important to me to make sure I was surrounded by successful, likeminded people. After all, one of the pillars of my system is knowing that there’s only one way to turn a loser into a winner. It has nothing to do with giving them money and opportunity. It’s all about changing the way they think.

That was a tough conversation, but there was an important principle I needed to pass on. If you spend time with people who are willing to give up when they get tired, or when things get tough, their attitude will influence you. Having courage means loving yourself enough to say, “I will not let my goals be hindered by people who aren’t willing to work to achieve theirs.”

It’s possible that my former associate did have a good reason for taking a break–maybe he wanted to play baseball to strengthen his relationship with his son. If so, that’s wonderful. But we need to remember: we can’t achieve our goals if we’re constantly falling back on excuses.

Take a few minutes to think. Are you letting excuses stop you from achieving your goals? If so, it’s time to reconnect with your reason for pursuing that cause in the first place.

Building Courage

blog post 12When I was in training, our instructors would have us run for hours. This was no light jog; it was a sweaty, gasping-for-air marathon. They’d watch until they saw us begin to struggle. But did they let us stop? Not a chance. They’d push us to run through our exhaustion and draw from energy stores we didn’t even know we had.

This might seem excessive to someone without military experience, but there was an important reason for this exercise; it built courage. It prepared us for that inevitable moment when we’d have to make a tough choice between satisfying our bodies’ needs (in this case, taking a much-needed rest) and doing the right thing (trusting that our instructors had our best interests at heart and following through with the training).

Wondering what this has to do with courage? Imagine you’re on a ship. You’ve been working hard all day, performing tough physical tasks in harsh conditions. You’re exhausted. Your muscles are aching and you’ve strained your back. You’re on your way to bed when someone shouts the words that you never want to hear at sea: “Man overboard!”

What do you do? There isn’t much time, so you need to make a snap decision. Do you cross your fingers and hope that someone else steps in and fishes him out? Or do you push past the fatigue and the screaming muscles and dive in after him?

The running exercise was designed to help build both the courage and the stamina to go after that person. Our instructors wanted to know that if someone needed us, we’d find the courage to help, even after we’d reached our limit.

Would you have ignored the shouts, leaving that man to someone who was able to conquer their exhaustion? If so, I’ve got good news for you: courage is a habit that you can develop. Start making the right choice on a regular basis, and when the going gets tough, you’ll be more likely to find the courage to do the right thing. Think about it. If you start cutting corners on the little things, how are you going to respond when real courage is required?

When I was at one of my first big business meetings, I remember being astonished by all the people who weren’t taking notes. After all, how would they remember what they had learned? Building a business is tough even with advice—I couldn’t understand why would they make it harder on themselves by failing to preserve that important knowledge.

The tough questions

Claude Hamilton Tough QuestionsDuring my talks, I like to ask my audience a few tough questions. These questions are difficult for many people, but the funny thing is, the people who would rather avoid these questions are usually the ones who need to think about them the most.

The tough questions:

  • Are you doing a good job? For your country, your family, your friends, and your career?
  • If you’re building a business, are you doing it for money? Or are you chasing a dream or fighting for a cause?
  • Do you believe so strongly in your life’s work that you’ve cried over it?
  • Have you felt the thrill of making a real difference in a part of your world?
  • Does your cause inspire you to be bigger, better, and stronger?
  • Are you willing to fight for your cause?


Although these questions can be uncomfortable, the answers will tell you if your life is on the right track. And if it’s not, your responses will put you on the path that your life is meant to take.

There’s a second way to know if you’ve veered off your life’s path, and it has to do with attitude. If you find that you’re spending a lot of time consciously adjusting your attitude, chances are good you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Because if you’re truly heading in the right direction, you’ll be so excited, so passionate about your cause, that you won’t need to make adjustments—you’ll naturally make the right choices for the right reasons because you’ll be able to visualize your goal.

Some of us find our life’s purpose early on, but for others, finding that cause takes a lifetime. If you haven’t found your purpose yet, keep your attitude in check, do the right thing when you make your decisions, and keep thinking about your dreams. Eventually, something will click, your attitude will fall naturally into place, and you’ll know that you’ve found your cause.

It’s important to remember that even if you’ve found your life’s purpose, you’ll probably still spend some time in the Dissatisfaction stage, the place where most people give up because they think it’s just too hard to achieve their dreams. But if you’re tempted to throw in the towel, remember that everyone has something unique to offer and, if you’ve got the right attitude, your best efforts will make a big difference for others—your family, your friends, your colleagues, maybe even people you’ll never meet.

Want your dream life? Find the cause that you’d work towards for free, simply because you feel driven and passionate about it. I guarantee that if you find your purpose, you’ll also discover all the happiness and joy that your life has to offer. And remember, the first step is keeping a positive attitude.

There’s one sentence in my book that sums up today’s post perfectly, so I’ll leave you with this: “You will never, ever regret working your hardest for the thing you care about the most.”

Who are you?

blog post 8Building my business was hard. At times, it was overwhelming, discouraging, and frustrating. But it was worth every bit of work, energy, and sleepless night. Because if it weren’t for my business, I may not have ever learned who I really am.

Last week I wrote about Kenneth Blanchard’s stages of success. I mentioned that Lana and I really struggled to get through the Dissatisfaction stage. It took us quite awhile to develop the attitude that we needed to get through that phase, but we did it. And, oddly enough, I think one of my biggest motivators was a statistic that I heard on television one day. The show said that the person who stays home with his or her kids will spend more time with them by the time the child is three, than someone who has a nine-to-five job will over eighteen years. When I heard that data, I just sat there, stunned, thinking about the implications.

Later that day, I told Lana that I really felt like we had to make a change. I told her about the findings, and that I couldn’t stand the idea of missing out on so much of my children’s lives. In the end, we decided that the answer was to continue building my business. If we succeeded, it offered the best of both worlds—time with my family and the financial freedom to do many of the things we wanted to be able to do together.

So Lana and I decided to reapply ourselves and really go for it. We refocused and pushed through the Dissatisfaction stage. And it wasn’t easy. We didn’t see much success in the first couple of years, and throughout the third and fourth years, we were still constantly learning lessons.

But I’m grateful for those lessons, because they made me who I am. As I struggled to make important business decisions, I would often find myself asking, “who am I?”. And at times, that was a difficult question to answer. But eventually I figured it out. I knew that, in a perfect world, I would spend all day at home, with my wife and children. But I also knew that ultimately, I wanted to be a better man. I wanted to show my son how to take care of himself, to build character, and to be kind. I needed to set an example.

When I realized this, I knew I had hit on something important; I had discovered my life’s purpose. Once I figured that out, things began to happen for me. Because I had a goal that I could envision, I was able to keep my attitude focused and positive. I began to make decisions with that goal in mind, so every choice I made brought me closer to achieving it.

I mentioned earlier that building my business was often overwhelming, frustrating, and discouraging. But despite the challenges, the journey was also exciting and rewarding. Best of all, it helped me discover my life’s purpose. And I’m not sure that I would have figured that out if building my business had been easy.

It’s All in Your Attitude

allinyourattitudeI once read a book that made a particularly big impact on my life. It was Man’s Search for Meaning, written by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. In his book, Frankl tells the story of his life as a concentration camp prisoner. This remarkable man survived four different camps, and somehow managed to remain positive throughout the entire experience. His story is moving; in fact, one quote in particular never fails to humble me:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
-Viktor Frankl

When I think about these words, I can’t even fully fathom the horrific experiences that these people lived through. They lost loved ones and they were starved, cold and abused. But still, they found it in their hearts to share what they had to give. I hope that if I were in a similar situation, I would find the strength to help people, too.

Some of you will remember that a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Eight Strengths that lead to success. Over the course of my career, I’ve discovered that these eight critical factors have to power to make or break a career, a marriage, or a family.

“Attitude” is the first of these strengths. It means staying positive when things get hard, trying again when you don’t succeed, and learning from your mistakes. Before you do anything in life, it’s extremely important to make sure that you have the right attitude in place. If you don’t, you won’t even get off the ground. And, as I learned from my time in the military, the right attitude begins with good thinking.

For years, leaders and visionaries have known that our thoughts determine our attitudes. The great Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” And he was right. The people Frankl was writing about kept an attitude of human kindness, despite the fact that everything else was taken from them.

I’ve seen a lot of people start working towards a goal with confidence, excitement and great ideas. But as the challenges begin to pile up (and they inevitably do), many people start to lose that energy and eventually, they give up. That’s why attitude isn’t just about starting strong. It’s about continuing to think positive thoughts all the time—no matter what you’re going through.

It’s as simple as this: we can choose our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our attitude. Our attitude affects our behavior, and our behavior determines the direction of our lives. So before you start your next project, make sure you’ve got the right attitude in place. You’ll need it if you want to succeed.

Eight Strengths that Will Change Your Life

Soldiers bootsFor a couple of months when I was seventeen, my days were anything but typical. They began at 5:00 a.m., when I would bolt out of bed to run in formation with a number of other people. For the rest of the day, I could expect to be yelled at by drill instructors, and to perform endless repetitions of push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. I also learned how to hang my uniform properly, spit-shine a boot in seconds flat, and make my bunk up flawlessly.

I spent those months in basic training in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. It wasn’t easy—in fact, it was more challenging than anything else I had experienced before—but that was the point. We needed to toughen up so that we’d learn the discipline, the skills, and the courage to serve in the Canadian military. The experience that I built up as a cadet certainly helped, but it still took a lot of determination to stay tough through the grueling physical and emotional demands of boot camp.

It was a surprise to me at the time, but the emotional challenges were harder than the physical ones. We had to learn to follow orders without question, even when those orders didn’t seem to make sense. We learned to respond to the harsh words of our drill instructors with a simple “yes, sir”. And we had to adjust to an entirely new way of life with very limited contact with our families. I know now that emotional challenges are almost always tougher than physical ones—whether you’re at boot camp or building a family.

Not everyone could handle the challenges of boot camp. Even some of the people who excelled at meeting the physical demands had to go home because they couldn’t handle the emotional toll. As I began serving full time in the military, I started watching people closely, paying attention to the actions of people who failed and those who succeeded. I began to keep track of what worked and what didn’t, and I started making a mental list of traits that seemed to lead to success.

After I married Lana, I noticed that these same traits also seemed to benefit people who were building families and businesses. These characteristics make up what I call “The Eight Strengths”:

• Attitude
• Courage
• Character
• Duty
• Honour
• Relationships
• Passion
• Tenacity

Remember when I wrote about my definition of toughness? I explained that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re physically strong or resilient. It means that you continue to work towards your goals, even when the going gets tough. But to pull that off, you need some very specific skills. That’s where the Eight Strengths come in.

These traits may like obvious ingredients for success, but they’re emphasized less and less these days. And in many cases, they’re disappearing because people never have the chance to develop them. Out of love, more and more parents are trying to shelter their children from challenging circumstances and experiences because they want them to have the easiest life possible. While this is an admirable goal, it doesn’t necessarily give children the opportunity to build these Eight Strengths. And those lost learning opportunities can make life difficult for children later, when it becomes impossible to shelter them.

But if you work to build these strengths, in yourself or your children, you’ll accumulate the tools needed to toughen up—no matter what happens.

Do You Need to Toughen Up?

Toughen UP Book by Claude Hamilton

Think about the toughest person you know. What makes them tough? Are they physically strong? Are they able to deal with a lot of stress without showing emotion? Or do they know how to get what they want, no matter what the odds?

When I was in the military, we thought of “toughness” as a purely physical characteristic—how well we could handle physical demands and keep going, despite the challenges. But as I’ve moved through the various phases of my life—as a cadet, a diver, a husband, a father, and a business owner—I’ve redefined the word. I’ve watched those around me build businesses and families, and I’ve noticed that the difference between success and failure seems to come down to one, simple skill: the ability to take punishment and keep your original intentions. That’s how I define “toughness.”

If you’re a parent, think about your goals. Likely, you want to raise a healthy, happy child, guiding them with as much love, patience, and compassion as you can. But what about those long nights of teething and ear infections? The days when you can hardly keep your eyes open? Do you still manage to crawl out of bed when you’re needed and spend the night cradling and soothing your child?

Maybe you’re a business owner. If you are, you probably have a mission statement and a long-term vision for your company. But every business has its own challenges. Whether you’re experiencing an unexpected financial issue, a supply shortage, or a customer service complaint, how you handle it is often the factor that determines the outcome. Do you stay true to your mission statement? Do you continue working toward that ultimate vision?

True “toughness” is shown by the parent who makes it through stomach bugs and teething and still provides all the love and comfort their child needs, night after night. It’s demonstrated by the business owner who, in the face of a customer complaint, keeps their overall goal in mind and addresses the complaint in a calm, respectful manner.

As I write in my book, Toughen Up!, “a truly tough person is gentle and caring most of the time but knows how to stand up for something, overcome challenges as needed, and keep doing his or her best even when the odds are overwhelming.”

Remember, a positive attitude can be the difference between success and failure. If you stay positive and stick to your beliefs and your goals, good things will start to happen for you. If you let the challenges bog you down, your attitude will suffer—and you’ll lose focus on your vision. Positivity keeps you on track, while helping you defeat challenges and obstacles in a way that leave your integrity, your confidence, and your mission intact.

Over the coming months, I’ll be writing more about what it means to stay tough as you navigate life’s ups and downs. Have you had a recent challenge? What did you do to toughen up?