“No.” That was the answer a young Norwegian named Lauritz Sand received from his father when he said he wanted to go to art school.
His father wanted him to become an architect.
Lauritz resisted & launched his first art exhibition when he was 19.
It failed. Miserably. But he never regretted trying.
So relenting to his father’s wishes, he graduated from the Stockholm Technical School in 1899–and then immediately joined the Royal Dutch East Indies Army.
Graduating from officer school in 1902, he spent the bulk of his time with a team of other surveyors, mapping local archipelagos.
It wasn’t conquest. But he was learning.
Four years later — after graduating from officer school, he left to strike out on his own, building and managing plantations across the world. Using his skills as an officer and more than a little stubbornness, he created a beautiful piece of paradise he named the Pagilaran Estates.
While WWI raged all around him and for almost the next decade, he made lots of money.
In 1918, he founded & presided over the South Zuid Sumatra Syndicate. He went from rich to really rich. Lauritz had made a name for himself as a tenacious leader. A guy you could count on to turn your investment into tremendous returns.
It wasn’t just one day or one project. It was year after year. Idea after idea. Mission after mission. Business venture after business venture. Decade after decade.
But that old stubborn streak inside him kept flaring up. He was tired of just making money.
He longed to return to his home in Norway.
And so in 1938 at 59 years old, he and his wife Annie returned and settled in Bekkestua. It was quiet, and they were happy.
But over the years, the itch to travel and conquer and “build something” began to return. He was in the early 60’s when Lauritz started to plan his next big move.
But all at once, Germany invaded Poland–and Lauritz canceled his plans to move abroad. Norway refused to enter the European maelstrom and declared neutrality. Lauritz was safe.
As long as he stayed out things. That turned out to be a tough choice for a stubborn guy like Lauritz. Even if he was officially retired.
Throughout Norway, pockets of resistance quietly began to push back against the Nazi occupation.
Behind the scenes, Lauritz threw himself into the fight.
He quickly became a leader among the resistance, becoming known for being “dynamic and outward, with temperament and inspiration”. Those are fancy word to let you know that he was a bad-ass, old man.
He focused his efforts on covertly documenting German military outposts, dusting off his cartographical skills from his time in the Royal Dutch East Indies Army.
He built an underground network of operatives to pass his documents to the Allied Forces in Sweden and England, dubbing it “XU”. He was massively successful in helping the Allies with important information like troop numbers and strategy.
But all of that was about to be undone by one of those operatives. Her name was Laura Johannesen. Lauritz would have never guessed that she was a Nazi spy.
Through a series of meetings within the Oslo restaurant Theatercaféen, she learned how Sand ran the XU.
And used it against him.
A few months later, the Germans arrested Lauritz Sand. He was an old man. But the Germans were determined to break him. After all, he was a resistance leader with valuable intel.
That turned out to be harder than they ever imagined.
Crack. They broke an arm when he wouldn’t give them any information.
Crack. They broke his other arm when he remained silent.
Crack. Crack. They broke both of his legs when he resisted turning on his friends.
When the couldn’t break his spirit, they sent him to be tortured by the Gestapo at Victoria Terrasse, the Nazi’s Norwegian headquarters. It was a painful, dark, and scary place.
You were sent there to die.
It was not uncommon for a prisoner at Victoria Terrasse to fling himself out of a window to commit suicide before he could be interrogated. It was horrible.
When Siegfried Fehmer, known for his brutal interrogation tactics, couldn’t break Lauritz, they sent him to an already overcrowded Nazi labor camp. He was more dead than alive.
But he refused to give them a single name. A single plan. A single bit of intelligence.
So they beat him again. And broke his body. Almost to the point of death. And then they treated him, so they could try to break him again. It was a calculated plan — working to beat him and torture him so he wouldn’t die before divulging the secrets of the resistance.
They broke almost every bone in his body, leaving him for dead on numerous occasions.
It was said that he was the most tortured man in Norway.
In a strange twist of fate, his steely will became symbolic with Norwegian resistance. This old man with a stubborn streak was standing up to the entire German army.
An old man. A weakened man. A beaten man. His determination gave the other prisoners hope that they too could hold out.
Eventually, the Nazis realized he would not relent. There was nothing else that they could do that they had not already attempted. So they decided to execute him by firing squad.
They would put an end to this symbol of resistance. That failed too.
Nine days before he was to be shot, the Nazis surrendered. The war was over. His torture was finished.
He had survived.
It is said he only told his captors one word: “Nei” (Norwegian for “NO”).
He would not divulge his knowledge of the resistance. He would not betray his fellow countrymen. He would not allow the Nazis to rule his country. The answer was “NO”.
“NO” now. “NO” later. “NO” every time he was put to the test. “NO.” “NO.” “NO.” “NO.” “NO.”
He would back down. He would not quit. He would not give in. The answer was “NO.”
Shortly thereafter, he was knighted by King Haakon VII for his bravery and endurance.
Today, you will see a statute of Lauritz Sand in Griniveien, Norway as a testament to his incredible story of will. It’s inscribed with a single word: “Nei.”
He understood the power of “NO.”
The decision of was all his to make. No one else could make him back down, slow down, quit, cry, or give up. That was completely his choice. Even in the middle of a torture chamber.
The exact same is true for you.
No one can make you quit but you. It’s on you. Your decision. Your choice.
It does not matter what you are going through. It does not matter if life is unfair to you. It does not matter how old you, the color of your skin, your gender, job title, the level of your education, or how much money you have — or don’t have.
Giving up is a “you thing”. Completely.
Let that soak in for a minute. You are right now exactly where you should be. You are completely in control of your life. You get to choose anything you want. You can create whatever you decide to create.
Own it. Believe it.
Act like it.