Mental Resilience

“I’m not any different than anyone else. I just believe that you have a lot better chance of beating your problems if you have a determination and a drive to win.” - Robert Garbak

At Farmer Gym we endorse mental resilience. Our workouts are designed to not only build stronger bodies, but also create stronger minds. We believe that through the rigors of fitness, a harder, tougher mind is formed.

Knowing how fervently we promote strong minds, I wanted to turn to a source of inspiration, someone I consider to have one of the toughest minds around. I wanted to gather his thoughts on mental resilience. Where did his strength come from? How can we gain this mental edge? Cue Bob Garbark.

I got to know Bob nearly three years ago when I helped train at and manage a fitness center in Tallahassee, FL. There, I got to know Bob’s incredible story, which you’ll read some of below. The thing that struck me with him, though, is he *never* looked for sympathy; he never wanted someone to feel sorry for him; he never wanted the spotlight. He approached every situation with a warrior’s mentality – a humble warrior. I’ve since moved from Florida, but I’m thankful to have called Bob a co-worker and blessed to call him friend.

Before reading our conversation below, I want to first state the following: I went to Bob nearly two weeks ago asking him if he’d be interested in sharing his story. I gave him my thoughts and my ideas regarding what I’d like to cover. Bob then told me that his local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, was coincidentally doing a piece on him. I had no idea of this when approaching Bob. Nothing below was taken from that article. This is a stand-alone writeup. But I highly recommend checking out what it is the Tallahassee Democrat had to say.

Q: What does mental resilience look like to you? And how does it help us in our daily lives?

A: Mental resilience is intangible. It’s a way of dealing with life and life’s downfalls. It’s a matter of believing in who you are, where you came from, and how you were raised – all while having faith in yourself and knowing that the man up above is going to take care of you.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your past. Tell us where your mental resilience came from and how it has grown throughout the years?

A: I’m originally from the Cleveland, Ohio area. I was quite active as a youth, playing pee-wee football and basketball; I remained active and continued to play sports into my high-school years. It was then, during my freshman year, that I was diagnosed with stage-4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

My mental resilience started the first time I heard the word cancer come out of my parents’ mouths. It was kind of like the movie Over The Top, where Sylvester Stallone’s character turns his cap backwards and he’s unbeatable; to me, I just turn my “cap” backwards, and I am able to beat cancer.

Since high school, I’ve had several close calls with my life. I’ve had a heart transplant, and recently, I’ve had stints put into my new heart. I can’t really explain it, but the minute I get bad news I automatedly go into the mode of winning – beating the obstacles in my way through working out and praying.

I don’t want to look like someone who is battling to live. I always take life’s challenges head on. I got that from my dad.

Q: Why do you believe so many people lack mental resilience?

A: I’m not sure if people lack mental resilience. A lot of people deal with life-threatening issues in their own way, but I believe your determination and fight can go a long way in whether you win or lose.

Q: Do you think this is a trait that can be taught or learned? If so, how might others build this mental fortitude?

A: Yes, I believe it can be taught, but you have to accept the issues you’re facing and you must put in the time and work to handle whatever it is you’re facing. What I mean by that is this: don’t act like you know more than the doctors (or other experts); do exactly what you’re told to do, and then some.

As I said in the beginning, have a relationship with the man upstairs and lean on your friends and family. Don’t be in denial. Be determined to win.

I spent a lot of time building mental resilience by thinking of how awesome it is going be to be cancer-free and to have a new, healthy heart. And I promised myself if I got those things I would not take it for granted and I would continue to take care of myself.

Q: What parting words do you have for our readers? What nuggets of advice would you like to give them about becoming stronger mentally?

A: My advice to people out there in Farmer Gymland is simple:

-Gather up as much information on your particular issue as possible. Ask a lot of questions, even if you think they’re stupid questions – the stupid question is the one you don’t ask.

-Believe in yourself and visualize how great it’s going to feel to win.

-Lean on family and friends and share your story with others who are battling a serious health issue; encourage them to pray, and to take a look at themselves in the mirror and accept what it is they’re dealing with and believe in who they are.

-I’m not any different than anyone else. I just believe that you have a lot better chance of beating your problems if you have a determination and a drive to win.

Jason Harle