When I walked into the gym at 5:36am today, I grabbed a Sharpie and gave myself a large, temporary tattoo. Across my forearm in capital letters I wrote: RWH.

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It’s Thanksgiving here in the US and my alarm was set for 3:50am. My coffee pot was set for the same time.

I didn’t hit snooze. I stopped by the bathroom and grabbed my new Daily Stoic Journal. I drank a few cups of coffee, returned emails and got some important work done.

At 5:20am I left for the gym, a couple hours earlier than normal. There’s only 1 workout today, offered at 6am and 8am: Murph, the classic CrossFit hero wod in honor of Lt Michael Murphy.

I was nervous about it. No matter how many times you’ve done it, it tests mental & physical limits.

That’s why I wrote RWH on my arm.

It stands for “return with honor“. A couple weeks ago I heard that “RWH” is what the American POWs in the Vietnam War would say to each other as they were individually dragged away to be tortured for intel.

American pilots, including Senator John McCain, shot down & captured during the Vietname War were held in solitary confinement for years.

They would communicate to each other by making tapping and sweeping sounds with brooms. One of their signals was “RWH” – return with honor – a reminder to hold true to their highest values and stay strong no matter the circumstances.

When I heard that story, it floored me. It inspired me beyond measure and I’ve carried with me ever since. As soon as I heard it I recorded a voice note to some of my FLFT & Masters Club groups which you can listen to here.

So, as I went into this hero workout, honoring a fallen American soldier, I wanted to stay mindful of RWH.

When I thought my arms would fail me on the push-ups, I’d stare at those bold, black letters on my arm: RWH.

When I took off on the second run, wanted to quit and could barely pick up my feet, I stared at the message of strength on my arm: RWH.

And though I’m now fresh & showered and headed to celebrate Thanksgiving, those letters didn’t scrub off. In every word I speak today, in every choice I make, I’ll be visibly reminded of this message of honor, pride and strength.

I’m going to find a metal-worker in my area to fashion these letters to go over my doorway.

Return with honor. Make myself proud. Live up to my highest values in every choice. Be brave. Don’t back down.

Return with honor.

Happy Thanksgiving.