What do Benjamin Hardy and I have in common?
Other than graduating from the same university, we both completed 24-month service and ecclesiastical missions.
I’ve had a lot of people asking, and I feel it’s about time I finally shared more about this once-in-a-lifetime experience that helped me grow from a boy into a man.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the impact that my 24 months in England had on my life. I appreciate daily the self-discipline I developed while I served.
Sometime I will go into more detail on the specifics of what I did each day as a missionary. Here are just a few life lessons I learned on my mission.
Get up early
Every day I woke up at 6:30 am almost without exception for the entire 24 months. I am a firm believer in what Benjamin Hardy writes here because I have experienced these benefits myself:You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5–7 AM
While serving a humanitarian and ecclesiastical mission at the age of 20, I learned potentially the most important…medium.com
“How you spend your morning determines your success in life.
How you spend your morning determines who you will become.
How you spend your morning determines whether you become world-class at something, or remain merely average.
How you spend your morning is the difference between making tens of millions of dollars and making less than 100 grand.”
— Benjamin Hardy
My 24-month mission is proof that Hardy’s advice is correct. And, although imperfect, I’ve continued the practice and achieved great success from it ever since.
The late nights of college life after my time as a missionary led to me breaking the habit for a time. But once I finished my undergrad, I quickly got back to arising early.
It was easier to get back to waking up early after not doing it for a time because I had done it over 700 times in a row on my mission.
Everything in my life has improved as a result of this simple habit.
My marriage is better because I wake up early, and my wife has noticed too.
My career is better because I wake up early.
My relationships with my kids and friends are better because I wake up early.
Everything in your life will improve if you wake up early.
Do what you fear
A large part of being a missionary is talking to people, and I was a shy kid at 19 when I began my mission.
Talking to strangers every day was really hard.
I remember one particularly awkward moment in the beginning when I was getting trained. We were knocking on doors, and my trainer said the next one was all mine, he wasn’t going to say anything.
When the door opened, I said nothing.
As promised, he said nothing.
I continued to remain frozen in silence for what felt like forever. I don’t remember if my trainer spoke first or I did, but when we broke the silence it was a welcome relief for all of us.
That was the beginning of me realizing how bad I was at talking with people.
I knew that the only way to learn was to jump in with both feet, so I did. Not a month later I was feeling confident about talking with strangers. The numbers recorded, but tried not to focus on too much, also were showing that I had improved.
A quick side note — we did record our work with numbers. But every day we would remind ourselves to see the people around us as people, not numbers.
If I hadn’t taken the leap of faith to just begin even though I was unprepared and afraid, I would never have overcome my fear of people. Today, I can write and give talks and teach with confidence, all because I learned that lesson at the beginning and spent 24 months perfecting it.
Often in life, we are afraid to do things that we know are good for us, but we must do them anyway if we want to grow.
Take that leap.
It’s in the doing, not just thinking, that we learn to overcome our fears and reach a higher level of success.
Leave your comfort zone
This principle goes hand in hand with embracing fears as one of the most important lessons I learned as a missionary.
When I began my mission, I was desperately homesick. I learned through a loving trainer, however, that if I put my heart into the work, I could make it through.
By focusing on what was ahead of me, not behind, I not only overcame heart-wrenching homesickness but also became a successful missionary.
At 19 I could have been fulfilling many other life goals I had. It would have been far easier to have stayed home, even if I had been working hard in college or at a job.
I could easily have given up and gone home when I was terribly homesick.
But I wasn’t there for me. I was there to serve others. I knew that by serving others I would be preparing myself to serve the family I would have one day. The family that I now have and am much better able to care for because I got out of my comfort zone as a 19-year-old.
I stuck it out in a place and time that I was uncomfortable in and my growth skyrocketed.
When I came home to the U.S. 24 months later, people hardly recognized me. I mean, I had aged and didn’t have as much of a baby face anymore, but that wasn’t what made me most grateful.
I had grown up because I persisted in something that was uncomfortable, and it’s made all the difference in my life since.
You don’t have to go on a mission to improve
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking something like “well that’s all nice and good but I can’t or won’t ever do that.” You don’t have to be a missionary to learn what I’ve learned and grow how I’ve grown.
Although I do highly recommend missionary service. I might be a bit biased though.
If you will begin the habits of waking up early, doing things you fear, and getting out of your comfort zone, then you will grow.
It really can be that simple.
However, you must make these practices into habits. It’s not enough just to wake up early for four weeks then revert back to your old ways.
But don’t go beating yourself up if that’s what happens. The only true way to fail is to stop trying.
I spent 24 months waking up early, and it was still hard to maintain when I finished my mission. It’s okay to falter, but you have to be committed to staying consistent for the long run to see lasting results.
Because I woke up early for so many days in a row, I can survive times of needing more sleep. I know that I can go a day or two of extra rest if my sick kids keep me up because the habit is built into my character.
It’s funny as I’ve now been home and read books like The Power of Habit how I already knew a lot of what they teach. I lived many of those principles of habit development, for example, as a missionary.
Rarely do I read a self-help book without thinking something like “hey, I learned this on my mission!”
Which is another key lesson to follow — while learning by reading is essential; learning by doing always wins over learning by reading alone.
Sometimes we question too much, analyzing endlessly to find how to work smarter. Questioning and discovering what’s essential is important.
But it’s ultimately in the doing of the work that we discover what is essential and what is not. I learned just to jump in scared and get the work done when I was a missionary, and it has improved my life ever since.
I will always have a special place in my heart for the people and places in England. If you showed me a picture of the British countryside right now, my heart would ache to return. I learned and felt so much that it hardly does my mission justice to write a short article about it.
Let alone the hundreds of pages of journals filled with events and life lessons I wrote while there.
I hope to write more about my missionary service in the future. I have to admit, the world we live in sometimes gets me afraid to talk about my religion. I don’t know what I’m scared of more — being made fun of or people thinking that I am a prude because I’m religious.
But then again, I know how to be afraid and do something anyway because I learned that as a missionary.