Toughen Up: Keep Your Helmet On

Toughen UP Book by Claude Hamilton

Imagine that you’re travelling from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Victoria, British Columbia. You’ve got a travelling companion—someone younger and more vulnerable than you. You’ve been on the road for a couple of days and your bus stops at a restaurant so that everyone can grab a bite to eat. As you’re eating, you and your friend get lost in conversation, and when you look up—your bus is gone. What do you do?

What if you were only thirteen years old? If it happened today, you’d probably use your cell phone to call your parents.

But when it happened to me, it was long before cell phones or the Internet existed.

When I was twelve, I joined the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets , the junior training program for young people who want to develop their naval skills, learn more about their maritime environment, or someday join the Canadian military. One component of the program was cadet camp, which took place in British Columbia. The summer after I joined cadets, my twelve-year-old friend and I were sent to camp for the first time. We boarded the bus and spent the next couple of days in the back seat. I don’t remember how well behaved we were, but we must have been loud, because the man who was seated in front of us certainly didn’t hesitate to complain about us to the bus driver.

The bus stopped regularly for bathroom breaks and food, but I’ll never forget the day we stopped at the restaurant with the coin-operated video games. My friend and I made a beeline for them and quickly lost track of time. We didn’t even notice when the rest of the passengers filed out of the restaurant to board the bus. By the time we looked up from our games, everyone was gone. It was just me, my young friend, and a restaurant full of strangers.

A wave of panic swept over me as I fought back tears. My friend also realized we were alone—and he immediately burst into tears. I was terrified, too, but I knew I had to hold it together for my younger friend. I had to toughen up. I still remember making a conscious decision to reign in my emotions and do what had to be done. When I speak in my seminars now, I call this behaviour “keeping your helmet on”.

I acted quickly, running into the middle of the restaurant and shouting, “Our bus left!” I sounded panicked, but I felt calm. People stopped their conversation to look at us, and one man jumped up offered to take us to catch the bus. It was a risk, getting in a car with a stranger, but at 13, it seemed like our only option. We hopped in the car and our Good Samaritan did as he promised—caught up to the bus and flagged it down.

By keeping a cool head, I was able to get my friend and I out of a scary, difficult situation. I had to judge whether or not to take a risk and I needed to make a quick decision. I kept my helmet on and it all worked out.

This was one of the earliest times in my life when I had to toughen up, but it certainly wasn’t the last. As I grew up, and eventually joined the military, “keeping my helmet on” became a mantra for me; it’s a phrase that’s gotten me through a lot of challenging situations. And in business, it’s no different. If we want to achieve our professional goals, we need to stay focused and keep our emotions in check, every time.

This is an excerpt from my new book, Toughen Up: Basic Training for Leadership Success.

45 thoughts on “Toughen Up: Keep Your Helmet On

  1. I loved the book Claude! Its amazing to see the points in the book illustrated with personal stories that show how you came to be the amazing leader that you are to be. I’m very thankful that you’re in my life – personally, as well as through the impactful relationships that you’ve developed with other growing leaders.

    I love that I have the book as a companion that I can refer to when I need to ‘Toughen Up’. Thanks for everything that you do.

  2. Thanks for the post Claude. As a mom it brings tears to my eyes thinking of two young boys stranded in the middle of nowhere. You had incredible courage even then to take charge and figure out a solution. I am thankful for the courage you and Lana have shown over the years that has resulted in the incredible Life business opportunity we have today. So proud to be part of tem Kaizen.

    PS. Love the book!

  3. Powerful, explosive book for your heart, mind and soul. If you start reading it make sure you have a few hours, you will not put it down!!! You said it so eloquently (easy for you to say) in your book, Action cures fear….You feel as though you are with Claude and Lana on their journey!!

  4. Claude, you’re book is AWESOME!

    I remember reading that part and thinking about what I would have done in that situation when I was 12… I probably would have been more like your friend; I would have curled up in a ball and cried – hoping someone would have enough sympathy to see what was wrong and fix it. (but at the same time hiding so I wouldn’t be embarrassed from crying… how far would that have got me?)

    I love how your book teaches us the importance of being tough enough to take action and take responsibility for ourselves.

  5. Great post Claude, it’s so ironic that our coaches, mentors and the leaders we see at seminars and hear on cd’s seem to reach out at a time where “keeping our helmet on” is crucial for forward success and this blog is no exception. You and Wayne continue to help me stay dialed into the correct bering and never lose sight of that precious north star(aka the big goal(s). Thank you for sharing such details that simply re-affirm to those who follow your example that it starts with simply making that important decision and managing it or like Stephen Covey says “to keep the main thing the main thing”. Keep your helmet on has been an area that I strive to do, even when every option suggests otherwise and I thank you for such a great example in yourself and Wayne.

  6. Thank you Claude!! Many thanks for a fantastic book with so many principles that everyone needs to put into action. Thank you for your honesty, your warmth, aqnd your transparency throughout the book, and in your life. You and Lana bring so much inspiration to thousands and thousands of people. You both completely live out the term ‘servant leadership’!! We are blessed to have you as our fearless leaders..and any who read this book will be blessed as well!!

    God Bless!!


  7. What an outstanding book ! I recommend your book to anyone who has a heart beat, and occasionally has to look themselves in the mirror.
    I’ve listened to enough of your CDs and heard you speak from stage, often enough that you can hear you voice as I read. I even marked the pages were I think if you were really speaking to me, you’d be “yelling” your passion at me.
    This book will stay in my reading list, just in case I forget to keep my helmet on. Hope to see this make it onto the Top 50 book list, as #6 :-)

  8. Hi Claude,

    Great article. This shows how you are a true leader and live by example striving for excellence and are willing to over come any obstacle! I love how you walk your talk and teach us by example to solve problems!
    Thanks for teaching us to keep our helmets on!

  9. Thanks for the story. I had butterflies in my stomach thinking about this. I believe many of us have childhood memories like this. If we can think about moments when we were tough before (and cringe and laugh), it can help us when going through tough stuff at the present. Moments like these make us stronger.

  10. Claude you certainly know how to put into words a good stiff jab with the left and a nice quick upper cut with the right. A great read for all “Tough Guys” who think they are tough. It certainly brings a different perspective to what the general population thinks being tough is. To all those who have not read this book READ it, it will Toughen you Up mentally and prepare YOU to meet greatness.

  11. Claude, fantastic job on the new book. The leadership principals that you share with the stories from your life give amazing incite on what you have been through in your life up until this point. I love the fact your leading right now today and making a huge difference in many peoples lives. Excited to see you raise to one of the top leadership experts in Canada. Proud of you pal

    Alex Nickerson

  12. Claude- as I’m reading this blog I’m also listening to your Cd “Chase a Cause” Team377- especially track 10 & 11. Being in the battle as a Team & fighting for someone else’s Freedom is the sweet spot of LIFE! Thanks for being Tough and leading the way!

  13. Great Post Claude – We love your book and it is going under many Christmas trees this year for young and old. Working in the education field I see kids – teenagers – starving for good role models this book will inspire many to keep their helmet on and plough forward.. We are thankful for the love and courage you and Lana have shown us. Showing us that it can be done if you are willing to keep your helmet on and give 110% in life.
    Joe and Marianne

  14. Claude your book has been amazing I can’t wait to get it into others hands. Your Story will give hope to many and stiffen many a spine. Thank you for standing up and leading in a time when so little true leadership is out there. You and Lana our two of the best roll models I have ever met. Its so great to see what you have started, but that’s only the beginning for we can’t wait to see the what a difference that you make in our world!

  15. Grand-tastic evenin’, Claude!

    I am privileged to be a member of Terry (and Jamie’s) tribe of leaders. Besides us, there are also a fantastic cadre of guys named Chris, Sean, Scott, & Justin – we’re all right there with you & its a pleasure when you’re able to visit us down in the OH!
    Am nearly done with the book – there are so many nuggets of truth, wisdom, and learned helpfulness to mine out & apply.
    Thank you so much for pouring your head, heart, and will into writing it so we can follow you. Being a pathfinder to transformational information is something that cannot have a price tag placed upon it.

    May God continue to bless you, Lana, and the boys. Best always!

  16. Hi pal, when I read your book the first time I was filled with alot of emotion, almost like I knew you during your childhood. Not sure if its because of all the time you invested in Ray and I but your book Toughen Up is amazing glimpse of the type of person you were even before your biz career. This book is one that I will read to my boy Beau and he will feel so cool that he knows you and your sons Wyatt n Gryffin. I will save Beau’s autographed copy of Toughen up for the right time in his life. Thanks for sharing so many leadership principles threw out this book. Attitude/Courage/Character/Duty/Honor/Relationships/Passion/Tenacity. I’m looking forward to teaching Beau these 8 strengths that help him be tough in some of his lonely hours.
    love ya

  17. Having the life experiences, dreams, struggles and victories of such a great and inspirational leader all in one book is truly amazing. Thanks for writing your book toughen up and I can’t wait to finish it and pass it on!

  18. Great book Claude. I’ve been using your book as one of my go to books while mentoring a group of teenage boys at our church youth group. There are so many amazing lessons to apply to there lives. The stories always have them laughing and engaged in the weeks lessons.

  19. Cluade great book my friend I love the keep your helmet on attitude you carry through out the book as well as your life . Thanks for setting the example of leadership the rest of us can follow if we choose .


  20. Claude,

    Thank you for posting this today! I sat down with my kids to kick of their school day with your blog and you just happened to have posted a story that they could so relate to.

    Your book is fantastic. Thank you for putting your experiences into book format so we can all learn to toughen up more. It is not something I learned growing up, that’s for sure! Good thing its never too late. :)


  21. Hey Claude, I like the mantra you used “keep you helment on.” A mantra to help remind yourself to alwqays stay tough or as you would say “Toughen Up!” Great post Claude!

  22. I absolutely loved your book Claude! Every page I read made me want to be a better me. You and Lana are a blessing to many and a great example to all.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next book! ;-)

    Jenny LaPierre

  23. Claude, fantastic book! Still working my way thru it as I also read Tim Marks’ book “Confidence of a Champion” and “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Malz. Can hardly wait to see you again in the STL area!
    Love ya man!

  24. It is not easy to keep your helmet on when urge for panic sets in. I have worked hard on this, but find myself still learning the lesson. Thanks for the post Claude and for being a great example.

  25. Hi Claude
    I have been enjoying the read of your new book Toughen up!
    What I love most of the book is the fact that you remain who you are and that person is described all through your book.
    There is a greater respect for where you have come from and who you are as a leader leading thousands and thousands of people to a better life.
    I count it a privilege to be in your crowd.
    thanks for your example of a true man, a top rank leader,a faithful husband and now a father of great example!!!
    About changing lives
    Leadership at its finest in all these area

  26. Claude,
    I can’t thank you enough for writing this book! I loved it. I have been on the team (Kaizen FreedomChasers)for a few years now, and have found the Life and Leadership principles to be extremely valuable. I enjoyed reading about your experience as a Sea Cadet. I am currently the Deputy Commanding Officer of an Air Cadet Squadron in Dutch Settlement NS and each year I give the graduating cadets a book, almost always something I have read thanks to LIFE. I am excited that this year in June I will be giving all 9 of them your book. Thanks again! Alicia

  27. HI …







  28. Hey Claude,

    i read that book i have to congradulate you for it, that one built me up. It’s a very inspiring book and your story also…

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