Ditch the Resolutions. Be Resolute.
What does it mean to be resolute? It’s a combination of persistence and courage that keeps you balanced when you’re walking a razor’s edge between failure and greatness. Being resolute has nothing to do with writing goals on a list and everything to do with charging into the unknown to discover you are capable of so much more than you ever could have imagined.
In the following stories, you’ll meet people who embody the spirit of being resolute. They have the determination to keep the big picture in sight and the grit to inch a little closer to exceptional every day.
Making history for Greece at the top of the world
The summit of Everest taunts climbers from camp four. It’s the last stop before teams make their push for greatness to stand atop the highest peak on earth. Camp four is also a gateway to the death zone, an elevation so cold, harsh and devoid of oxygen that nothing can live here. In the death zone, your body turns on you. Even while you rest, every breath is a struggle. Delirium sets in at a critical point of the climb, where one wrong decision could kill you. Your gait becomes unsteady and you slowly start to lose consciousness as your brain swells.
By the time Panagiotis Kotronaros hit the dead zone on Mount Everest, he was still more than 3,000 feet below the summit. The winds were beyond brutal, and the threat of a freak storm was a constant worry. The 200-plus dead bodies still scattered across the mountain served as a constant reminder: people don’t belong here.
The winds had already battered his team into retreat on their first summit attempt and he knew if the second attempt didn’t pan out, it could mean defeat for the Greek expedition.
At 20,000 feet, every part of Panagiotis’ body was telling him to turn around. At 26,000 feet however, it was telling him to lay down and die. How did he get there and how could he possibly push forward?
An unlikely climber with an iron will
Pursuing his dream of becoming a climber required a whole different type of perseverance. Panagiotis grew up in Athens. His family didn’t have a lot of money and were not keen on sports.
“Neither me nor my two siblings were close to nature or close to the mountains,” Panagiotis remembers. “Touching Everest was a dream. For me, initially, it was an unattainable goal, especially if you take into consideration my background – no climbing experience, no financial resources, and coming from an urban zone.”
But Everest had what he calls a “magnet” effect on him. As a teenager, he created a dream board for a school project depicting the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest. That project set him on an unwavering path to stand on the roof of the earth.
“Climbing strikes the right balance of fitness and the contact with nature,” Panagiotis says. “The thing that really got me with climbing is that you set a specific goal and this triggers the process of handling the single parts of it.”
Panagiotis worked with what he had available to him to begin his training. He started running, hiking swimming and cycling. He was thinking more about nutrition and studied everything he could about the technical aspects of climbing. He sought out sponsors willing to help him get the equipment needed for professional mountaineering.
His first expedition came in 1995 when his group summited Shishapangma in the Himalayas. At 26,289 feet, Panagiotis would get his first taste of the death zone.
“The fact that it was our very first expedition, we knew that it would make it a challenging venture,” Panagiotis says. “The ever-changing weather conditions, the lack of experience and knowhow, the glaciers, the difficulty of the body to adjust to extreme conditions…all those were factors that could cost your life.”
That first expedition gave Panagiotis the strength and confidence to keep pushing toward his goal of summiting Everest. By 2004, he was not only ready to attempt Everest, he was leading the five-climber Greek expedition.
Continue the story in Aloe Life Magazine.
Fighting his way to greatness
There’s no shortage of hard knocks on the road to becoming a professional MMA fighter. While the sport is steadily growing in popularity globally, a career in mixed martial arts isn’t exactly lucrative for most fighters. But life is good at the top for a lucky few.
Andy “Taz” Young has never been in it for the money. He has no illusions about the fact that he’s been training his whole life for a career that could come crashing down with a single injury. But with a few big wins on his record, including a world championship, the top is in sight.
At his level, he’s only facing elite fighters. He’s racked up some big wins and felt the sting of some hard losses. Andy says the thing that keeps him going is perspective. He’s learned to embrace pain, and there's plenty of that to go around in his line of work.
“I have the opportunity to achieve this goal and so many others don’t,” Andy says. “I have an opportunity to change my life, to change my family’s life and to positively impact the lives of others. I think about the people I have lost and I can feel them willing me to live life to the fullest.”
Chasing a lifelong dream
Andy started training in martial arts at the age of five. He wanted to be strong like the superheroes on TV. Andy’s older brother Chris was also enthusiastic about martial arts and the two spurred each other on and pushed each other to progress.
“I was very lucky to have a great childhood,” Andy says. “My parents and family were very loving, caring and made sure I had everything I needed. I grew up close to the coastline of Northern Ireland with a plentiful supply of forests nearby, so we always made the most of that and got outdoors, enjoying plenty of hikes and being active.”
Andy also drew inspiration from his grandfather who was a boxer with the army. His stories about boxing in Africa, tough training and passion for the sport influenced Andy to train harder.
He studies various forms of martial arts, devoting himself to his training and envisioning his dream. While his friends were socializing or relaxing after school, Andy was training well into the night. He was passionate and dedicated to art, but wasn't yet sure how his future would manifest itself.
Andy was first exposed to the sport of mixed martial arts at the age of 18. MMA was just starting to gain a small foothold and a passionate cult following.
“It was a natural fit for me,” Andy remembers. “I could combine all the styles I’d learned and use them together. It was a true test and I knew in my gut that this was what I was meant to do. I’d always dreamed about one of the best martial arts fighters as a kid and this was the perfect way to do that.”
He worked his way up through the amateur circuit and before too long, found himself fighting at the professional level. Here, the stakes are higher and the risk of physical injury greater. Andy feels like this is where he was meant to be and is confident he’ll take his fighting career to the next level.
The key to competing at the highest level
Strength and technical skill will only take someone so far in the professional fighting game. Andy says mindset is the most powerful weapon in his arsenal.
“Building a proper belief system in yourself is the foremost priority,” Andy says. “Next is putting in the physical work. This takes discipline, there are times you are sore, tired and don't want to keep going. But it's that small difference of making yourself do it that matters.”
Small acts of persistence add up over time to make someone stronger, more intelligent and more disciplined, Andy believes. Whether it’s an extra round on the pads, doing stretches after practice, eating the right foods or mindfulness practice, the benefits add up.
“It’s the small edges you gain that let you win the race,” Andy says. “My striking coach says the difference between a winning race horse and last place is only fractions of a second.”
It isn’t the strongest, most technically-skilled fighter who comes out on top, but the most disciplined, persistent fighter with the right mindset and self-belief.
With MMA growing in popularity, the crowds are bigger, the competition tougher and the potential greater than ever. Andy Young is hitting his stride at just the right time, a fact that isn’t lost on him.
“One day I will die,” Andy says. “Why should I complain? Any temporary discomfort I'm going through won’t last forever. When it goes away it is replaced with greatness and success. I am living out my passion right now.”
Choosing to fight when the battle comes to you
There are some fights you just can’t train for. Stage 3 breast cancer is definitely one of those battles and Catherine Un already had plenty on her plate when she got the diagnosis in 2014.
Seven year earlier, she’d come to Dubai from the Philippines in search of a new, wealthier life. The largest city in the United Arab Emirates is a playground for the young and upwardly mobile with a lifestyle that can be as excessive as its glimmering skyline. It draws people from all over the world who hope to strike it rich and live it up in the process.
Catherine Un was certainly having no trouble acclimating to the fast pace of the city and did what many expatriates do: party on the weekends, meet new friends and explore the region.
She also did what many of her fellow Filipinos do when they move to Dubai: jump from job to job trying to find the right opportunity. For Catherine, that meant being the first member of her family to move so many miles away. She was completely on her own.
This made her employment situation a little rockier than her social standing. She bounced around from a real estate office to a construction company to an oil and gas conglomerate, a total of five jobs in her first eight years in Dubai.
Salary wasn’t ideal either, and Catherine often found herself frustrated and spinning her wheels. She knew there was opportunity here, she just didn’t know how long she’d have to wait for it. Still, her new home mixed in enough excitement that she continued to stick it out.
A mighty hammer comes down
Uncertainty in her work and social life paled in comparison to what came next. She had just started as the secretary to the oil and gas CEO when she received news that would isolate her even further in her journey. Breast cancer, stage 3.
It was a devastating diagnosis, but one that Catherine couldn’t afford to sit back and wait on for treatment. Her medical insurance through her job was all she could count on to foot the bill, so she was scared to tell her boss about her condition for months.
She thought he might view her as unfit to work, which would mean having to give up the Dubai dream and returning to the Philippines. Without saying a word to anyone, Catherine routinely drove two hours away to endure radiation in the morning before clocking in at the office.
Catherine couldn’t fight this alone forever. Shortly after she began treatment in February of 2015 her mother, Guandoline, flew out from the Philippines to help take care of her. Chemo did its worst on Catherine, zapping her energy and strength and giving her a crippling case of trembling knees that made it difficult to stand up and support herself at the office. At times her immune system was so weak that chemo sessions had to be canceled altogether.
Finding friends, hope and the will to fight
Guandoline hated seeing her daughter in such pain and spent her days looking for any remedy that would make this experience bearable.
Off a tip from someone she met in Dubai, Guandoline found Forever without knowing anything about the business. Catherine was in her fifth month of chemo at the time and was skeptical of adding a new obligation to her already exhausting schedule. Nevertheless, her mother insisted she go to the local Forever office and at the very least meet some new people.
It turns out she didn’t have to go far. The Dubai Forever home office just so happened to be in the same building as her work, and Catherine only needed to travel a few floors to check out her first team meeting. Her skepticism came with her, however, and she was prepared to hear business pitch after business pitch from people just trying to make a sale.
She realized she couldn’t have been more wrong when one story struck a familiar chord. A woman began talking about her battle with cancer and how the treatment, not just the disease, wore her down mentally and physically. She also shared how her Forever network gave her back the strength and hope to fight again.
The woman’s name was Lovely and she also hailed from the Philippines. She shared how aloe had helped her feel better during her own treatment and promised to be there for Catherine with whatever she needed. Catherine was thankful for the advice but nervous about where the money would come from to pay for a new supplement regimen. Once again, Guandoline was there to help, signing herself up for the business on Catherine’s behalf and bringing home the first few months of products.
Catherine finished up her last session of chemotherapy in 2015 and the victory in the bout with cancer gave her a new perspective on her purpose in Dubai. The nights out became a thing of the past, replaced with a duty to share good health with others just as Lovely had shared with her. She continued to make the short trek down to the Forever office every day to listen (really, this time) to the amazing success stories of Managers. Every meeting left her feeling more alive and inspired, and pretty soon she was encouraged to share her own powerful testimony.
Through a blog and social media posts about her story, Catherine was able to bring friend after friend into the Forever office. That she became a Manager after only three months isn’t what filled her with positive energy; it was promoting healthy living that became her true calling. Catherine knows first hand how difficult it is to get sick in a foreign country, and she now lives to inspire the foreign community of Dubai to take charge of their health before it’s too late.
Life is a little less lonely, too. Forever has become a true family affair for Catherine – Guandoline stayed in Dubai and has a successful Forever business of her own. Catherine’s brother also made the move to share in the opportunity.
Without the support of her mother, Catherine would have never found Forever. Without Lovely’s testimony, Forever may not have had the impact it did on Catherine’s life. Dubai is more fun than ever now that Catherine is more conscious about what she eats and how she treats her body. She’s been cancer free for over two years and has been touching lives for just as long.
Health has become Catherine’s wealth, and she’s enjoying both like never before.