Challenge the Storm – Where it all Started

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June 21, 2016
challenge the storm

The Story Behind Challenge the Storm 

In May, 2015, the idea for Challenge the Storm was born. Poetry had been an outlet I used to channel my anxiety for just under six months. On a stormy evening, flying up the east coast, it dawned on me that I was not the only person struggling – something that we all know, but often fail to truly acknowledge. Each person on that airplane had their own unique struggles. Pain is not relative. Pain is just pain. We must support one another throughout our own unique struggles. Together, we will fight. Together we will battle on.

Ash Beckham articulates this with such clarity, in her 2013 talk at TEDxBoulder1

Hard is not relative. Hard is hard. Who can tell me that explaining to someone you’ve just declared bankruptcy is harder than telling someone you just cheated on them? Who can tell me that his coming out story is harder than telling your five-year-old you’re getting a divorce? There is no harder, there is just hard.

Source:   Ash Beckham: We’re all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up

The decision to change yourself

When we look around at a world so full of jealousy and resentment, each moment is an opportunity to make a difference. A kind word, a helping hand, the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference. We so often refuse to acknowledge the challenges faced by those who we view with envy. We see the new car, a bigger house, a tailored suit – but do we see the stress, the issues at home, the failing health? No. We plead ignorance to the existence of anything less-than-perfect, in our imperfect world. So I ask you this: what will you do when you are faced with your next challenge? What will you do when you recognize someone else is struggling?

We make important decisions each time we encounter such situations. We can choose to ignore them, pretend as if all the pain and hardship will go away if we shut our eyes tight enough. Or we can choose to face our storms head on: to battle the very thing that frightens you, taking away the power it once held over your head. Your resilience in the face of adversity screams like thunder for all to hear. You roar from the mountaintops: you will not be defeated, you are not afraid.

The decision to influence others

This decision is not just made one time. This decision is made each and every encounter. Each success is followed by another challenge. Each failure is followed by another opportunity to succeed. What we do with those opportunities is ours to decide. These decisions, however, are not limited to the narrow world in which we, as individuals, live. These opportunities extend far beyond what our eyes can see. Imagine for a moment the stranger in the elevator. This stranger rides the same elevator as you, carrying with her years of experiences different than your own, with an entire life made up of different people with whom she interacts.

Now imagine if you performed one small gesture, an unexpected compliment, which changed the entire tone of her day. Her newfound levity is then bestowed upon a colleague, who gives the gift to a family member. Without breaking a sweat, you have affected multitudes of different circles with a simple compliment. If we use the powerful realization to change the way we interact with those around us, to be more generous, more loving, more understanding, imagine the world we can cultivate. A world full of kind-hearted people who have challenged their storms, and who are committed to helping you challenge your own. Each day is a new chance to make a positive impact. The question is, will you accept the challenge?

Challenge the Storm

A swift breeze grazes my cheek
Ominously forewarning of the imminent storm
In the distance, a stark wind howls
Unrelenting rainfall so dense it canvasses the horizon
So persistent it dims the distant sun behind a gray haze;
Steadily marching ever closer

A sudden gust of wind, unexpected, robs me of my breath
I reach for my chest to save what little air remains,
But it escapes my grasp
I race for shelter as the storm gallops forward, mercilessly
swallowing everything in its path
But then, a Voice rings out,
with a seemingly impossible request:
“Be still. Do not fear the storm.”
“Be still. Do not fear the storm.” …
Remember: always Challenge the Storm
Still breathless, I halt, trustingly obliging
With the shelter in reach, I obey, holding steadfast
“Do not fear.” resounds the Voice. “Challenge the storm”
The storm so close I can taste the salty danger
My obedience is tested with each crashing droplet

I stand firm, challenging the storm
Surrounded by darkness, the clouds black out the summer sky
“Do not fear,” I am reminded. I wait.
Resilient, my fearless conviction illuminates the darkened sky
Now here I stand, triumphant, having victoriously challenged the storm

The Voice returns, now with a deep, lasting echo
“Success is not found in the outcome. Success was achieved
the moment you accepted the challenge.”
Remember: always Challenge the Storm

~ A. Hanna

Check out Ash’s full TED talk here:

Alex Hanna

Alex Hanna

By day, Alex works as a technology consultant. By night, he runs Challenge the Storm. Suffering from depression and anxiety, himself, he dedicates every day to helping one single person. Something as small as putting a smile on someone else's face may have a bigger impact than you think.

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