25 Things to Remember When Life Gets Hard: Part 2 of the Summer Challenge

Photo Courtesy of Mary Schantz

In December, my new book was entitled, “It Builds Character: A Father Considers His Own Advice.”

By May, the new book was retitled, “Ordinary Hero: Building Character One Day at a Time.”

Why the change?

For starters, the retitle is more memorable and marketable. Sales will hopefully soar and help pay for my kid’s college tuition. Also, the new title is easier to remember, more inclusive, and frankly, more interesting.

Another, more personal, reason for the retitle: My editor convinced me that I needed to fully lean into my story. That I needed to stop using my story as a proverbial shield and, with much respect to Captain America, boldly stand strong in front of it.

So, for the first time, here’s a sneak peak at the book’s back cover summary:

We never really know how we’ll react when life throws us a curveball, but Ordinary Hero shows us how to dig deep and persevere through each setback. 

Blindsided by an incurable, progressive brain disease that impairs speech, vision, motor skills, coordination, and balance, Jay Armstrong bravely stares down his new reality, and through his determination to fight on, he continues to inspire countless people. 

A father of three young children, a husband, and a high school English teacher, Jay was only 33 when diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy. Basic tasks quickly became anything but simple, yet this disease transformed an ordinary life into an extraordinary one. It forced Jay to hit the reset button and gave him a new, refreshing perspective on life.

In Jay’s unforgettable follow-up to Bedtime Stories for the Living, the award-winning author takes us on a journey as he shares stories about everything from accepting a life-changing medical diagnosis to standing in line at the food store to discovering why you should always wear deodorant. These creative, introspective, and heartfelt lessons teach us how to build character one day at a time. 

Ordinary Hero will make you laugh and cry as it examines how fragile life is, how enduring adversities builds big character, and how wisdom is waiting for you in the pearls of your daily routine. These poignant reflections will encourage you to slow down, embrace uncertainty, and discover the unique power that resides within you.

Unmask your potential and read Ordinary Hero today!


True to the ordinary hero’s guise, most of this letter was drafted on my cracked iPhone while doing unheroic things like sitting in traffic on the Garden State Parkway, waiting for the bacon to fry, and watching Maggie chase butterflies in the backyard.

My summer writing challenge is to develop a list of “100 things to remember when life gets hard.” I will share a list with you in four letters over the course of the summer. This is to not only help me navigate my hard times, but to help you, when needed, navigate yours.

Because, sometimes hard times arrive unannounced and they are faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a terrifying, single bound.


1.Eat vegetables and drink water.

2.If you want things to change, you must change.

3.Slow and steady wins the race.

4.Find comfort in others.

5.Dwelling on the past will upset the present.

6.Your acceptance will encourage others to accept.


8.Spend some time each day doing what you love.

9.Stop believing you could have prevented the outcome.

10.Embrace your story.

11.Watch, listen, read, something that will cause you to belly laugh.

12.Say hello to a friend.


14.Hope comes from within.

15.Use caution with your emotions.

16.Life is finite.

17.Don’t dismiss joy.

18.Love yourself.

19.You don’t always have to figure out the meaning of life. Sometimes some ice cream and a walk will do just fine.

20.Accept your contradictions, then manage your contradictions.

21.Struggle awards perspective.

22. Decisions are more important than conditions.

23. Be a good person.

24. Since you can’t go back, go forward.

25. You don’t need to immediately solve all the problems in your life. So right now, just solve one.

Be well,


PS: I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new title and book summary.

Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. I have ataxia and though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.


June Book Promos for You:

Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?

This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:

Finding Freedom, Building Your Best Life

Buy Here!

Recent letters you may enjoy:

Life is Change

Adversity Also Builds This

The Most Painful Letter I’ve Ever Written to You


Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.

For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com

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