This is a guest submission from Akshay Nanavati from

Less than 2 miles to go and the heat cramps began to spread beyond my legs.

I could barely walk anymore. Running was no longer an option. With the sun beating down on me, I could only stagger my way to the end. I knew that the cramping would escalate and the pain would be much worse as soon as I stopped moving, but quitting did not enter my mind.

How could it?

The pain that follows victory is never as bad as the lifelong pain of regret.

So I did the only thing I could do. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Finding My Way Out of the Darkness

Thirteen years ago, I squandered away a year and a half of my life with drugs. I even lost two close friends to that lifestyle as a result of the degree to which we immersed ourselves in self destruction.

But sometimes life hands us a moment that acts like a trigger, a strong enough driving force, which incites a radical change in our lives.

My trigger was the movie Black Hawk Down. Witnessing the courage of men in war made me ask myself, what would I do if I found myself in a situation where I would have to lay down my life for another human being?

I did not have an answer, so I decided to find out.

Almost overnight, I stopped smoking marijuana, dropping dangerous amounts of acid and snorting cocaine. Instead, I enlisted in the US Marines despite two doctors telling me that boot camp would kill me because of a blood condition I have called Thalassemia.

But I survived. In the process I discovered the greatest gift in life…

The Gift of Adversity

Vince Lombardi once said

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.

After overcoming the ordeal of Marine Corps boot camp, I sought out other battlegrounds to test myself. I wanted to discover the infinite rewards that lie on the other side of fear when we push our mind, body and spirit to its limits and beyond.

I have since been mountaineering all over the world, ice diving, cave diving, I have almost been killed by a falling boulder while glacier caving in the Himalayas, and I have broken 4 bones in 3 months from skydiving and rock climbing.

Then in 2012, I quit a corporate job and spent over $15,000 to drag a 190 pound sled 350 miles across the second largest icecap in the world for one month. I came back home with no job and built my business from the ground up.

In each one of these endeavors, I felt immense fear, misery and struggle. That is what made them worth pursuing.

Every challenge helped me grow in confidence to handle the next one I voluntary put myself through and each one taught me how to navigate through the obstacles that life would inevitably throw my way as well.

But the greatest lesson from all of these expeditions into the unknown came during my time in Iraq with the US Marines.

Life Has No Meaning

“I find myself less motivated to wake up in the morning, even to work out or train, because I don’t want to wake up to the shittiness of this reality”

Those were the words in my journal two months into my deployment.

I was naive and a fool. I came to Iraq with clear expectations on what I wanted to experience in war. But how can you have expectations in war? The nature of it is inherently unpredictable, especially in counterinsurgency warfare.

I soon realized that my external reality would not change, the only thing I could change was my response to it. By doing so, I took control of my destiny.

Because all experiences in life have no inherent meaning, neither did my time in Iraq.

Simply by choosing a different meaning to the external reality and taking 100% responsibility for my response to it, the last 5 months of my deployment became enjoyable and one that lead to immeasurable personal growth.

Four months into the war, my journal read:

“It is a situation beyond my control, so I will just accept it, adapt and make the best of it. My mind has become free.”

How I Found Time, Location and Financial Freedom

After Iraq, starting an online business in the field of personal development became the obvious option for me.

Not only did it allow me to continue serving others and give me the freedom to work from anywhere, it seemed the best choice for someone constantly in search of the limits of the human potential.

So I got trained as a coach, I started guest blogging, pitching media outlets, going to networking events, speaking, finding JV partners, attending personal development and marketing seminars. I did whatever it takes to grow my tribe and find more clients.

Building a business was not easy. I got a lot of no’s from potential clients, I got a lot of rejections from partners and media outlets, I failed constantly.

But just like running, climbing a mountain or crossing an icecap, there are obstacles. I get to choose what I make them mean and ultimately, the only way through them is to take action. Finding success in any endeavor was nothing more than a combination of small, mundane, even boring actions taken consistently over time that led to the results I wanted.

And now, I am leaping back outside my comfort zone with new business ventures. I am writing a book, starting a non-profit foundation, building online training programs and I will soon launch my most ambitious business idea yet.

All of these projects will simply deliver the message of which my latest endeavor is the vehicle.

Embracing the Impossible

To escape drugs, life blessed me with a trigger that changed everything.

But sometimes we have to consciously create that trigger for ourselves. Earlier this year, that is exactly what I did.

Although last year the VA diagnosed me with PTSD as a result of my time in Iraq, I chose not to abide by that label.

I instead chose to devote the rest of my life to running from border to border across every country in the world to unite the human family and create a space for peace and community in the world.

I have no idea when I will complete this or even if I will, but it doesn’t matter. Because for me the journey itself lies in the destination.

More importantly I believe running and athletic pursuits in general have the power to unite a world torn apart by strife, inhumanity and indifference.

Camaraderie is forged through fire. It is molded through struggle, not within the confines of our comfort zones. That is what transformed the men I served with in Iraq into brothers. Now I hope to create one global human family through another form of hardship – running.

Is the Pain Really Worth It?

Despite being dizzy, delirious and severely dehydrated I successfully completed the last two miles of my run across the length of Barbados.

When I got into the car, just as expected, the cramping escalated into my entire body and the pain got worse. Much worse.

Geeta, the owner of the Yellow Bird Hotel who so graciously hosted me on this run and my new mother in Barbados, watched me suffer with grave concern.

“Why do you do this to yourself?” she asked.


What do you think? Is it worth it?


About Akshay

While Akshay Nanavati is on his mission to run across every country in the world, he continues to help others develop unstoppable mindsets and build a business they love. To learn more about about how to use neuroscience, psychology and spirituality to achieve personal and financial freedom check out his site Existing2Living.

You can also connect with him, learn more about his work and get updates from his runs on facebook and twitter.

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