Find Your Grind and LOVE IT

This post was inspired by a podcast I recently listened to by 3DMJ on motivation throughout decades of training in the gym and dieting to get beyond lean. What does it take? One of the 3DMJ coaches mentioned that you find your grind and you love every bit of it.

We can competitively attack our own weak nature. Life can and should be good fun, and yes we are all in this together, but god damn I love to win a battle that I sign up for, and I think there is a bigger picture mentality there.

Yes I am a naturally stubborn, self-perfectionist kind of person. I generally don’t care about what others are doing in the grand scheme of things. Sure, other people do great works and I appreciate and respect that, but man when I wake up I get to MY grind, my battle and my focus—not someone else’s. How did this come to be? Or, maybe the larger question is: How does this become a day-to-day experience and where is the constant source of inspiration? Let me break that down and save your lives.

Where did my military-like inspiration come from and why is fitness, eating clean, becoming better, learning constantly and learning how to master myself a part of my daily grind? There is not one exact place this fire comes from, it is spread out in multiple sources. To list a few:

  • Death. The fact that this body is temporary gives my constant cause to reflect on the bigger picture and not sweating the small petty shit life throws at you.
  • Hurt and pain. Eventually I decided to rise up because I was in a low, low spot in my mind and body. Reaching rock-bottom was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
  • Others. Since I am constantly surrounded by people I eventually began to help others by just being an awesome person. People around me get more fit, lighten up, laugh more and generally feel more accepted—all because I stick to my grind and ask for nothing in return.
  • Meditation. I have been a meditator for about 15 years and still learning a lot. I practice for one hour every single day, no excuses. In the morning, before bed, mid-day—if I miss my allotted morning routine then I make up for it, period. There is a deeper meaning to life and a deeper part of us, meditation is seeking union with that and the rest is the reaction to our practice.
  • Internal High Standards. For some reason I have a high standard for myself, I am my own biggest critic and IDGAF about what someone else thinks I’m doing obsessively. Getting too lean? Exercising too much? Focusing on self-perfection too much? Ya, I am, get lost. I set my own bar of what is too much and chances are no one can ever know what that feels like until they succeed at their own passion. I’m ok with perfecting something I’m proud of and mastering the art of whatever-the-hell-I-want.
  • MGTOW. I do not seek approval from the opposite sex. I am living my own life and deciding what happens next.

 

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Find something YOU want to perfect and don’t tell anyone, just enjoy your own greatness

I embrace the suck, love the grind and know for a fact that each and every time I conquer my lower, weaker, instinctive mind, I rise up even more powerful than before. The more will I use, the more I have in the end.

How does this become a day-to-day experience? You love it. After a while you need to find another challenge because cold showers or running a faster mile or getting to 8% body fat already happened. Nothing is out of reach and once you set your mind on goals you need to get after it. Soon enough they get accomplished, you reevaluate and set more. It is a cycle that needs constant attention. We don’t just set a plan and let the years pass. Check-in with yourself once a week if you have too and assess where you are in the mission and what the next plan of attack is. Don’t get content, ever.

My constant source of inspiration is the small successes I repeatedly go through. That earlier part of regular reassessment I talked about pours over into making sure this remains a part of the rest of your life. Just because you set a goal doesn’t mean you are done. Eventually that goal is met or you get closer to its end and have a little more time and mental real estate for the next thing—there always needs to be a next thing. The nature of the mind and this earth is that there is endless variety and experience. Getting complacent with progress and just becoming “happy with where you are” is all fine and dandy, but usually doesn’t work for long-term success. The man that can reach to a new height is not the kind of person to then stand still when that height is met. He usually thinks, “How can I achieve that faster? Better? More efficiently?” The key phrase you need to use is, “What’s Next.”

We want long-term goals with short-term points of victory. Don’t get caught up in a miss here or there, remember that there is a larger concept in mind and never stop reaching. Enjoy your progress and love what you can create, but don’t let that one victory turn into halting progress for the next aspect of your being.

Weight Lifting VS Bodyweight Training: Which One is Best?

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The two systems of training are so different that when used together the athlete has more capacity for strength rather than using one of them alone. A complete and balanced routine cannot be created with weight-lifting alone since the major pressure applied is on the muscle tissue itself—lacking in real joint strength for serious weight smashing. Body-weight training focuses on a full range of motion, putting pressure on joint mobility and tendon flexibility—lacking in targeting hypertrophy in muscle tissue due to your bodyweight never changing drastically.

The main component in increasing difficulty for body-weight movements is leverage, but the average trainee will be unable to move quickly enough to more advanced positions to create hypertrophy compared to a simple weight-lifting program that adds weight to the exercise every set. But, the bodyweight trainee is setting his joint strength up for future heavy loads and safer lifting in the future.

The blend of weight-lifting and body-weight training has withstood the test of time for athletes of a variety of sports and they continue to be the strategy for modern-day coaches and olympic athletes. Let’s go over the most basic routines for both, creating a foundational knowledge that can later build to much more complex routines. However, at the core level of training hides a profound truth: a simple routine is going to outperform any complex or sudo-advanced techniques. Over time the greatest in the gym have simply either added more weight to the same exercise or decreased the leverage making a simple pushup into a full planche.

A Note on Machines and Isolation Movements

Get rid of any machine or isolation training unless you are either carb depleting for a physique contest or so plateaued that you can’t add any more weight to your sets and you need a change (in that case you messed up already by not adding a deloading cycle). The principle behind that idea is based on testosterone recruitment needing large amounts of pressure placed on the muscles. The less strain and stress on your biceps, the less testosterone recruitment will be needed in the body.

Machines have been created for the carb-depleted athlete in order to prevent injury in a weakened state. More mass and more efficiency in general will be supplied from multi-joint compound movements from free weights. You will get a better pump in the gym and more potential for hypertrophy if you perform barbell curls instead of one-arm dumbbell curls.


The Last Weight-Lifting Routine You Need

Thanks to Casey Butt, Ph.D., you never have to worry about a complex strategy for gains in the gym—he’s already done the work for you.

• Squats
• Bench Press
• Bent Over Barbell Rows
• Overhead Barbell Press
• Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
• Barbell Curls
• Donkey Calf Raises
• Reverse Crunch, subbed with any ab work that uses the entire body. 

That is it. Anything else will not be as effective for a basic goal of mass and strength. The beginners use less weight and sets, the advanced just increase weight and sets with a slight change in movements. Dr. Casey outlines his 3-month program on his website. You can thank me in 3 months, but you will probably see results in 1.

When you get near the last month of the routine, Casey subs the old routine for some new work:

  • Front Squats
  • Incline Presses
  • Pullups
  • Upright Rows
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Wrist Curls
  • Ab Work

Make sure to read his rules and resources pages. He backs every claim with science and peer reviewed studies, having some incredible detail for the training routine as well.


Body-Weight Training

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Body-weight training is simple, but advertising for programs and overall BS has made it all confusing for the beginner. The foundation for all body-weight training are in the following movements:

  • Pushups
  • Dips
  • Pull/Chin-ups
  • V-ups

Within each of those exercises lay hundreds of more complex and demanding leverages and ranges of motion—they all stem from those 4 exercises. Every man should be able to perform the following routine:

  • Pushups: 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Pull-ups/Chin-ups: 3 sets of 8
  • Dips: 5 sets of 5
  • V-ups: 3 sets of 12

I consider this routine a warm-up for myself and those that I train. I have also encountered people in the past who could not actually do one pull up or one pushup. You can imagine how shocked I was to see that for the first time, having believed my entire life that not being able to perform such basic tasks would be impossible (surely everyone can do a pushup), not so. Every man should know exactly how many pushups he could perform spur of the moment. Pulling up your own bodyweight should be a basic task for regular, everyday life.

A Word on Cardio:

30 minutes of sweat, 3 times a week: Cardiovascular performance is one of the easiest exercises to perform. If you can walk then you can do cardio. Do not underestimate fast walking. Olympian, drug free bodybuilders throughout history have been known to employ fast walking for 30 minutes everyday before contests.

Shreddedness, Vascularity and the Six-Pack

Nutrition, plain and simple. If your diet is not on point then chances are you will have a subcutaneous layer of fat and water, possibly excess glycogen stores as well, giving you a fuller but fluffier plumpy look instead of being vascular and ripped. Sorry, but if you are not one with your macros you won’t be getting too lean.

You have to understand macros to really tone down and get the last of the fat gone. The veins coming up to your belly button and the bicep ropes climbing down to your forearms all pop out from low fat and water underneath the skin. To get there you have to get rid of the chin and lower abdomen fat stores, while maintaining a regular cardio schedule to constantly look dry.

Intuitive eaters can get close, but you have better chances of tracking macros. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Those with high metabolism and are born skinny and dry looking, well, you are a hard gainer so sucks for you in that area.

Ok you saucy beautiful bastards, good luck.

Man in the Making: Becoming a Modern-Day Chief

When we lose our tribes, our wiseman, our leaders, our fathers—even our own chances to be tested for courage and strength—there is only one option to carry on with meaning and purpose: we become the Chief of our own tribe. We must become the wisemen that can lead the youth in our future and test ourselves for virtue, courage, strength and honor. There should be no regret in our thoughts from an action that doesn’t suit us. If we argued it was from passion, if we missed an opportunity it is because a greater one presented itself. When our will is tested we have only one choice and that is to exercise our ability to freeze the situation and act it out as we see fit. Becoming the Chief of our own domain, our own mind, will bring its own rewards and wisdom that we can later rely on.

This idea of leadership has been the dream of man ever since we first walked the planet, and that dream is dying as man is removed from the open-lands and clear prairie skies, replaced by sky-scrapers, endless machines, broken printers, work-place dynamics, trivial quarrels—all things that demand nothing from us but normal, everyday compliance. We aren’t tested anymore and are values aren’t being put out on the line for everyone to behold. The day-to-day has gotten a tad boring as we perform routines that we wish someone else would do. For the futuristic-technological-revolutionary, you are in no better time and place to act out your vision; however this is really a small percent of the human population. And it’s not that technology isn’t a miracle in itself, but it brings about a type of societal dependance. Man relies less on his own capabilities and potential as technology advances to fulfill the roles man once got his hands dirty with.

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“The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.” – Gilbert Chesterton

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Molding our destiny to include past virtues with modern comforts

Man as an island reigns power over one thing: himself. It is his own mind, character and attitude towards life that he has complete control over. What a man wishes he can fulfill—whether that be virtuous or corrupt is up to him alone. No outside influence can determine us. We can of course be influenced, but nothing acts on us without our approval. That is man’s birth-right and that is man’s greatest power. The dream of man is not a complex idea since we all essentially desire to be content, wise and put to good use.

We want to be asked to do things and relied upon, that is our nature as providers. When something else is able to do it for us, we can either adapt and create another potential for need or become idle and let our vices take over as we waste away.  The daily routine of man who worked with his hands, and the Chief who led his tribe, a father who had to provide food for family—all of them lived their life based on life-or-death skills. There was no doubt if the hunt was on or if a horse needed to be broken in—every day presented itself with a challenge that man had to solve. Today’s decline in masculinity is now obvious: life or death challenges that goad us to our highest potential have been taken away.

There’s another way to living life that brings thrilling adventure and unknown potential. The daily grind can become a sought for event when a test of strength is upon us and our abilities become needed. Once we have responsibility—to ourselves and to others—a day will go by in a series of moments that will leave little to desire. The key is to creating our own walls so that we may find a solution, climb over it and conquer a challenge. When no challenge is presented we have to create one. When life has gotten too easy we have to make it hard. 

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“Let us calmly and in a manly fashion to to work, instead of dissipating our energy in unnecessary frettings and fumings. I, for one, thoroughly believe that no power in the universe can withhold from anyone anything he really deserves.”

-Swami Vivekananda

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Wake Up Early and With Determination

Clay Relaxing

The single most powerful technique for taking back our lives is waking up before the rest of the world does. In those quiet hours of contemplation man can finally sit down and find himself, undisturbed by the earthquakes of others’ thoughts, problems, rules, egos and bullshit. The times in life that you truly own and have for yourself are the darkest hours of the morning. There you can be you, man, and think your own thoughts or choose to not think at all.

The start to every day is the second we open our eyes. Any time we wake up and roll over to get 15 or 30 more minutes, our day starts off with doubt and hesitation. Start the day by making your first choice one of will and without question. “I’m going to wake up at this time, whether the body likes it or not.” Talk to your weakness and tell it to wither and die, because eventually that is exactly what it does. Without giving weakness energy, just like haters, it has nothing to sustain itself and so it disappears just as quickly as it came.

This discipline of waking up in the dark morning hours, at least an hour before having to begin your routine of normal “getting ready”, is unmatched by any other discipline as it will never get entirely easy. Cold showers, gym training, eating right; all those disciplines become natural over time. Waking up early, in my 11 years of doing it on a daily basis, is something that the body fights with you constantly. Evening life fluctuates so much that the morning routine will feel easier on some days, hard on most—good.

Wake up, slug some water that sits right next to your alarm clock and get the hell up with passion and be ready to conquer anything.

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“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth and wisdom.” -Aristotle

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Control the Mind

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After you get into the swing of waking up early, the next step will be to enter the stage of Ritual. Ritual has been shown in studies to project success into the users life with either placebo or actual effect. Scientists are having trouble calculating the “Why” in different cultural rituals throughout the world, but the data shows that the people who use ritual on a regular basis succeed in their projections if the ritual becomes a part of the equation.

Ritual can be as simple as a specific kind of coffee drank at the same time each day, in the same place. For me that is a double-shot of espresso, black as cigar ash at 4am everyday. This period begins the collection of focus one needs to fulfill goals and prepare for what is about to happen. What is about to happen? Whatever the hell you set out to do.

Controlling the mind during this morning ritual will show results the first day it is done. The first time this ritual is missed the effects are equally as obvious. Messing around with the ritual and getting sloppy will show in your mood and in your mind throughout the day. You will be off, and for those without a ritual right now have probably been off for a long time. It’s time to grow up and separate yourself from young people who need mom to get them up and ready for school. As an adult, and as a man-in-training you need to understand responsibility when no one is looking, when no one needs you. In a sense, our highest self always needs our complete attention and respect.

Sip your coffee, still your mind and observe your breath. The room around you, the dark starry night, the kitchen counter—all of it needs your observation. Be still and enjoy being with yourself. Oddly enough this calm never really leaves you once the Ritual is established.

Create a Private Spiritual Connection

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At some point in your day you need to contemplate on ideas that go deeper than the instinct or intellect. Beyond the basic needs of food, procreation, activity and rest, we need to expand our thinking to go where there is no need or want of anything. In the area of contentment is where man breeds the thoughts that can potentially change his life. Moments where we think nothing except our place in the universe can’t be forgotten, else life becomes a constant carrot-walk with one step in front of the other, never really going past the carrot.

What goes beyond your job? Even beyond family, friends, education, money, all of it. What is the force moving wars, traffic, commerce, what is the force behind your heart-beat and breath? These are thoughts that bring you from a myopic sight of reality out into areas of thinking that can naturally destress the entire musculoskeletal system and even lower blood pressure. Without detaching from the normal grind we will just get overly tense and end up in a poor mental state. The Chief, the leader of the pack needs to have the overview, and keeping the overview means big thinking. “Where am I going in life?” Instead of “Where am I going for lunch?” Both important questions, both need to happen at some point. Make the bigger questions happen daily.

Learn a Skill/Craft/Hobby

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After work or school and when off in general from other duties, man needs to know how to use his hands. The main reason is for mental peace and clarity, but in close second is so he is not an incompetent jackass. Plumbing, light-electrical, masonry, wood-working, general building and construction—these skills are not that hard to grasp the basics from. Replacing a toilet is not rocket-science and you should know how to do it. One day you will need to take care of a house, that means knowing how to paint it, care for the siding, fixing the lawnmower, replacing the leaky p-trap underneath the sink: real basic stuff that any half-brained fellow should be able to master. No one is asking you to build a bay window, that is the skill part.

“Every man needs a skill he can be passionate about.”

We not only provide for others, but men also provide for themselves. If you were alone in the woods you would construct blades from wood and metal, so in today’s world you could essentially do ten times more badass skills that are game-changers for your life. Personally I focus on baking sourdough breads in a wood-fired oven. I had to learn how to make an efficient, long-burning fire to heat an oven to 900F and slow-heat the oven to saturate the stone floor. That is all after the learning of working with sourdough cultures and flour. When I’m not baking I focus on making my own beer. I guess you could say my passion is zymurgy.

Creating and crafting with your hands is an essential part of self-mastery. Without constructing the elements of this world we end up mentally and physically atrophied, becoming useless to any part of society. If learning with your hands doesn’t work, then learn skills in the mind. Become an excellent speaker, writer, historian or debater. Become a Ben Shapiro and study until you can’t see straight.

Skills and crafts are highly underrated, especially for the snowflake play-pretend generation of young men in the world today. Essentially we have now a whole culture that went backwards in style and made their pants too tight to sit down in. The craft of the children-in-disguise today is to reshape their hair every week and shorten words from “situation” to “sitch.” Good luck with that. For those that are ready to grow up, feel free to shave the beard, tuck in your shirt, tie your shoes and stand up straight. Men ought to reflect the soldier in dress, attitude and know-how.

Exercise Daily

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Physical fitness is the last part of the daily challenge. There are many more walls to put up in our lives, but physical fitness goes back so far it has become an eternal strategy for elite living. Be ready for any challenge life offers—either physically or mentally—by daily pushing the body past its limits.

Weightlifting, cardio and bodyweight training are the most effective forms of physical workmanship and culture. They have the most carryover to any other sport or life-activity and can be cycled through when in periods of rest from one another. Daily training can also be described as a solitary time of personal perfection. In the gym or track we test ourselves, by ourselves, and are under no man’s guide but our gut instinct.

Knowing how far to push and hurt takes experience, but more importantly it takes knowing who we are as men and what we are all about.

There is a tendency of obsession that can come over the fitness enthusiast. I know because I was once addicted to fitness heavily. You know when you have gone beyond healthy when you feel like less of a person if you miss a day of training. Relax. Fitness does not take over normal life for the non pro-athlete. We have jobs, family and responsibilities that go far beyond exercise. What exercise does is amplify all other areas of life. It is the one activity that allows us to keep going with everything else we love. Basic fitness also improves mental clarity and overall happiness. I believe the real benefits of physical fitness go beyond the body and into mental and spiritual health.

 

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Embrace The Suck: Getting comfortable with life’s challenges

Defining The Suck

Today and every day you are going to wake up, walk outside and enter a world filled with different kinds of people with different thought sequences, different pasts and different paradigms. There is not going to by any perfect situations to guide you. Your attitude will be tested, your opinions and feelings will be challenged by others and someone at sometime is going to attempt and crush your personal world view. Welcome to the Suck. Welcome to an arena that can be used for personal unfoldment.

Life is supposed to present challenges (The Suck) for our benefit. Situations arise as we move about the world in action. People we work with, fragile tools and sturdy machines, our feelings—all of these appurtenances of life will at some time or another change shape or break, leaving us slightly confused or upset. Embracing the suck means getting comfortable with life’s hard-hitting nature and even holding out your chin while saying “Hit me with your best shot.” Once we accept the reality of our own uniqueness and can rationally express ourselves without excessive emotion we can move about the world with ease. This natural flow of existence becomes noticeable to others, we pick up like-minded souls as friends, the law of attraction increases, supervisors increase dependency and/or promote; all these seemingly “good luck” occurrences are just a natural result of Suck embracement. Another word for this new personal attitude is effective or proactive.

A Word On Discipline

I love discipline, you could say I’m a little obsessed with it. Let me explain a bit about the personal disciplines I use on a daily basis.

  • I almost always wake up by 3:40am.
  • Sleeping-in for me means 5am, year-round.
  • I take regular uncomfortable and shocking cold showers.
  • Every day begins with meditation and worship of my deity. 
  • Each meal I eat is measured to the gram or to the cup and I track every macronutrient.
  • No day is complete without at least one hour of difficult bodyweight training and cardio.
  • I use self-denial for foods I want to eat because I am the boss, not the tongue.

Why live this way? Because it is hard. It’s not the easy, comfortable or quick moments in life that build long-lasting character. It is the hard, uncomfortable pressure in hot-house conditions that molds us into great men. Making our own private lives that much more challenging will make the outside world a breeze, a game to be played with an upper-hand.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

John F. kennedy

 

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Getting organized will force you to squeeze out unhealthy habits

Embracing the suck means dealing with all the crap life has to offer with a smile. It means digging down deep inside our hidden courage reserves and pulling out each morsel so we can live another day. When the process is regular our willpower grows—we actually have more than we started with. Taking from our will is not like withdrawing money from a bank; after a while you would be fully depleted and depressed, unable to go on. When we use our willpower on a regular basis our reserves actually increase. Each task done better than expected builds more strength and more courage to face a slightly more difficult experience.

Inherent Stoic Values

The trouble starts when we aren’t aware of negative reactions to hard times. By clinging to hardships with regret or remorse, wondering why bad things happen to you, nothing is accomplish or learned. We take no wisdom away from the situation. Not everything is going to be shiny and perfect even when you embrace the suck, and the point is that it doesn’t have to be. Eventually you will be able to keep going and stand back up after taking that right-hook from life. It is not that these moments will never happen, on the contrary they have too, we just aren’t hesitant about moving forward. We then begin to fully embrace the suck as we drudge through life’s sticky and painful situations.

Never feel sorry for yourself. There shouldn’t be a glimpse of sadness in your mental capacity. When the suck of life comes you just have to bear down and plan your next move. This is a perfect moment for an affirmation to get you by. One of my thoughts during tough times is remembering the fact that I am making changes in life and making powerful moves rather then just keeping quiet and not making a sound or bothering anyone. Making a difference in your life is going to become obvious to others at some point. Eventually someone will notice a different routine or attitude and immediately project their fears and insecurities on you. Your doing good, keep going regardless of the haters.

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Haters help create The Suck, so get ready for them

The Sucks Footsoldiers

Why are there haters? Well, you should know since you and I were once haters of something, or someone, at sometime in our lives. That fact might be a little embarrassing, but it is true if you look back far enough. There was a time in our past that we didn’t fully support someone we knew, or perhaps didn’t even know, because they were succeeding at a faster rate then we were. Maybe we doubted them secretly or maybe we even told them they couldn’t sustain the pace. Being a hater is just a natural part of growing up and feeling jealousy. The key is to let haters have their doubts without letting it disturb your vision.

He who takes his orders gladly, escapes the bitterest part of slavery—doing what one does not want to do. The man who does something under orders is not unhappy; he is unhappy who does something against his will. Let us therefore so set our minds in order that we may desire whatever is demanded of us by circumstances, and above all that we may reflect upon our end without sadness.

-Seneca

Embracing the External and Internal Suck

Mastery comes when the Suck no longer takes our cool from us. Sure, we may react to a situation beyond what was needed, but the master can reel himself back within seconds. A few key words in an overextended discussion can be, “Let me clarify,” “What I mean is,” “I agree, but I’m still seeing it from this perspective,” “You have a lot of experience in this area, what do you think about this?”

We can use language to disagree and install our point to our supervisors or loved ones diplomatically. The challenge comes when we give the other person no oxygen at all, or little space to also put their view in perspective. Letting people know they matter and that you are listening, not necessarily agreeing, makes a huge difference in interpersonal communication.

Challenges are not based on people alone, but when they come from ourselves—our vices or weaknesses—we don’t need to include anyone else or whine/mull about it. Embracing the challenge in those situations requires practice with our willpower, mantras or affirmations to turn our mind around, maybe even a support group that focuses not on the problem but on cleaning up every other area of life. From my experience though, true embracement of personal issues is finally resolved in the chambers of our own wisdom. Rarely will an external influence give us capacity to complete something. In almost every situation where no one else is needed, we must cross the finish line alone.

For Those Still Struggling in Vice

There are so many different kinds of vices out there, and there are so many different kinds of users that have their little rituals and preferences. Take yourself back to younger days and remember when using your vice was fun, remember when it was a special time of personal joy. Now what is it. What has this time become. Probably regretful and insipid. No more joy springs from our vices, no more wisdom can be extracted. It’s time we discover which category we fit into and crawl our way to salvation. Let’s talk about pornography users.

The Quick Thoughtless One Chances are you don’t have much of a logic mind built yet and reasoning doesn’t occur when you see a Google Image of some half naked bikini actress when you went looking for that Nike shoe. As soon as you see it your heart races and the clicking advances begin. Down the whole of Google madness, each click offers you a chance to “View More” in that lower right hand corner. You do for a few minutes and soon enough a Google Search for a school project turns into your latest regretful energy expenditure.

Solution:

  • When you use the internet, especially Google Search and Google Images, make an affirmation to repeat to yourself. “I will stick to my project’s purpose and stay focused.” Then you may begin—remembering all the while that your focus and concentration on the subject at hand will lead you to further success if you remain one-pointed.

The Late-Night Reader You like to read before bed. This user has his cell phone as an alarm clock and has just enough energy before sleeping to read a quick post on Reddit or search the web for an interesting news article. What you secretly wanted was a quick search for beautiful women. As you surreptitiously begin searching you hope to stumble upon something naughty, “Oh, it was just there,” and then it begins.

Solution:

  • No more reading before bed. Sorry, you just can’t handle your desires. A master of himself can choose to do what he wants when he wants, but you? Nope. You can’t even pick something to read. Remain focused on not reading before bed for about two weeks, then choose a publication during the light of day and have it ready as an ePub or PDF in iBooks. When you are ready to read you won’t have to go to the web.

The Planner What a good strategist you are, downloading a well thought out video for later. The Planner can hold off on his vices until the time is right and execute his immoral behavior in peace. Sure, he will go through regret and exhaustion like everyone else, but he validates his profligacy by going all out. “If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right.” One video turns into ten, as he attempts to watch them all in one session. The next morning he has a few left over and consumes them with an enraging licentiousness. Whoops. The chaser effect is strong, he’s already down for the count and depressed and he enters a week of binging.

Solution:

  • It’s time for the Planner to realize he is really good at tactical work. He can easily gather information through research and execute his attacks with ease. Find something that isn’t a vice and approach it the same way. Once you find something that brings you joy you are going to master it. Devour books on the subject and enjoy this new, guilt free knowledge. Finding that thing is the key to your success. Willpower is there already.

The Thinker This user has sex on the mind and can visualize an erotic fantasy by just looking at a stop sign. He’s good. The mental fantasy turns to Google Images and then a video or two is in store. The mental game is so strong that his cravings manifest in the vices of a child. The different types of women, i.e. hair color, bust size, skin tone, all of it merry-go-round in his mind as he determines who to discover next. Maybe she can be shopping or maybe she will be attacked. Eventually the ramifications are endless and you go through a few weeks of ideas from that excited and passionate mind of yours. Don’t worry, the fantasy never ends and the variety grows as thousands of new stars are born every day for that Los Angeles porn shoot.

Solution:

  • Your mind’s ability to visualize what you want to see is a power not everyone has. You can visualize clearer-than-reality situations that most people have to attend 3-day seminars by Tony Robbins to understand. Use it for good and you will quickly rise up. Visualize your future self as a living movie in your mind and make it happen. Instead of seeing that vice, see yourself completing your goals. That means you need goals.

You can see that in every single vice user there is a complete person with all of the weakness and attributes of the other. Where one lacks creativity he will enter into the stage of The Quick and Thoughtless One. When we get better at our vice we become The Planner, and then The Reader and then The Thinker, all the while evolving into a responsible-less person without any real contribution to our higher nature. In essence this is the young boy in today’s society. We don’t have to plow the fields early in the morning with Dad, nor is mom home and making supper with Sis. We wake up, everyone is gone to work and we find something in the freezer to microwave. School/work is decent because we don’t try that hard but we get by so no one complains. Too shy or shallow to impress anyone so we dive back in to our secluded lives never actually amounting to much.

This whole time we had the abilities of the greatest minds of history and we reversed the flow of power out of our dicks.

Great men develop themselves as The Thinker, The Planner, The Late-Night Reader, and even The Quick-Thoughtless One—but they use those abilities for good. At night they can’t stop thinking about how electricity can be utilized better, so they exhaust themselves by studying for their Masters degree. Or they have a spontaneous idea on how cars can be more fuel efficient and quickly write down their thesis. The Thinker and Planner merge into one as day become night while they sit and work, eat little and change the future.

Men become men not by succeeding, they see their downfall before it happens and turn it into a success. Use your birth-given abilities for good and the world will start to magnetize towards you. The sexy urges of the lower mind will actually disappear into exile as you support the flow of energy in the opposite direction. Go up, think higher, see yourself using life as best as you can. Find out which type of person you are and sharpen those tools, find the correct purpose of your abilities and enjoy.

 

*Inspired by the community at Reddit

Living With A Higher Purpose

Eventually we have to come to a spiritual crossroads as we live, in order for a whole picture to develop. With a secular understanding of life there isn’t really much to hope for except all going well with this birth and some good luck. That’s not where I speak from.

To bring out the deeper meanings of yourself, and of life in general, we need to start reflecting on what really lay within us. Beyond willpower, beyond strength and masculinity, beyond our mental abilities to cognize facts and withdraw falsehoods—we have to contemplate about the bigger picture. The more I do this as a part of my daily routine, the more I am able to understand how man begins, struggles and eventually succeeds. I can’t necessarily write about it either, there is something inside that can’t be written about or expressed with grammar.

Our deeper meaning is obvious to me. We live as souls in bodies and reincarnate over and over and over again until we rise up above the lower areas of consciousness and into transcendental truths. Reality is not just what we see and feel but something that is so grand our minds are not built to cognize all of it. The more we search within, the more peace we can bring out. In other words, we don’t have to understand why we were created or at what specific point of evolution we are at. Eventually we reach contentment in life and where we are, knowing that we evolve at whatever pace we go at and just work at  it day by day.

We already know enough to move forward, all of it is in our common sense abilities of reason and logic. Once developed we can make our own calls with just a few pointers from those we love and trust. We know mistakes happen, and we know each one is a stepping stone to get to where we want to be. No one is perfect and when we do reach that eventual perfection that resides as the soul, as us, then we no longer need to be in physical bodies.

When man has been sufficiently buffeted by the world, he awakes to a desire for freedom; and searching for means of escape from the dreary round of earthly existence, he seeks knowledge, learns what he really is, and is free. After that he looks at the world as a huge machine, but takes good care to keep his fingers out of the wheels. Duty ceases for him who is free; what power can constrain the free being? He does good, because it is his nature, not because any fancied duty commands it. This does not apply to those who are still in the bondage of the senses. Only for him, who has transcended the lower self, is this freedom. He stands on his own soul, obeys no law; he is free and perfect. He has undone the old superstitions and got out of the wheel. Nature is but the mirror of our own selves. There is a limit to the working power of human beings, but no limit to desire; so we strive to get hold of the working powers of others and enjoy the fruits of their labours, escaping work ourselves. Inventing machinery to work for us can never increase well – being, for in gratifying desire, we only find it, and then we want more and more without end. Dying, still filled with ungratified desires, we have to be born again and again in the vain search for satisfaction. “Eight Millions of bodies have we had, before we reached the human”, say the Hindus. Jnana says, “Kill desire and so get rid of it”. That is the only way. Cast out all causation and realize the Atman. Only freedom can produce true morality. If there were only an endless chain of cause and effect, Nirvana could not be. It is extinction of the seeming self, bound by this chain. That is what constitutes freedom, to get beyond causality.

– Swami Vivekananda

“Only freedom can produce true morality,” says Vivekananda, and that is where all my writings have come from but unable to go that far.

How can we really become our truest potential if we don’t accept something greater out there? If all we were born for is going through challenges, embracing the suck, and helping others then that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Evolving out of childish issues, learning to communicate with others, nurturing healthy relationships and raising children is only one layer of existence. The timeline of a human’s life is long enough to really get all that down, but what is left?

The deeper truths of who we really are, and how to get in touch with that essence, is where we end up after the first layer of reality is discovered to not hold much potential. In fact, the core belief in life after death can motivate us beyond what we were normally doing to better everything else. We can finally have a reason to become our highest potential if we know that the effort involved is not in vain.

There’s no eternal hell or sin we have to worry about, just souls evolving in fleshy bodies life and life after life until anger, jealousy, resentment, violence and hurt is out of our thinking for good. This allows us to not hate those who live seemingly evil lives with an understanding that they are learning, evolving, and just going through their life to create these karmas. The law of karma is unfailing and is dependent on reincarnation to work.

Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it.

– Paul Brunton

That’s all I really had on my mind today. In fact that’s what I have on my mind everyday. Meditation has been one of the greatest tools in my belt but it isn’t everything. We have to cultivate our character in order to control the wandering mind. We have to resolve our past so our future is harmonious. It’s a lot of work but it is why we are born.

 

Both the Absolute and the personal God are real; only the former is the logical prius of the latter. The soul when it rises to full attention knows itself to be related to the single universal consciousness, but when it turns outward it sees the objective universe as a manifestation of this single consciousness. The withdrawal from the world is not the conclusive end of the spiritual quest. There is a return to the world accompanied by a persistent refusal to take the world as it confronts us as final. The world has to be redeemed and it can be redeemed because it has its source in God and final refuge in God.

– Sarvepelli Radhakrishnan 

Self Mastery Series: Justice

Did that last post on vice have enough time to sink in? When we said earlier about this path being difficult, that harmonizing ourself into students of mastery was challenging, we meant it. If you are thinking about improving and uplifting a wiring mechanism that has been formed over decades—your brain—then the “easy” is over, let it go. What we have ahead of us is hard, but it is our destiny. The other path is one of least resistance and slothfulness. Bullshit your way through tasks and hope no one bothers your routine. Good luck with that.

For the rest of us, let’s look at what it means to acquire the virtue of Justice.

 

Plato’s Republic

Let’s begin by reflecting on Plato’s meaning of Justice. I capitalize Justice because we are referring to the whole being of man, not just a virtue or single characteristic of attitude. Justice is a major theme throughout Plato’s dialogues (which I highly recommend you give a read, they are many in number but each one stands for something important) and it appears that Socrates’ whole life was spent on inquiring into the nature of justice, courage, love, honor, piety, ignorance—and the opposites. So, we were talking about Plato’s Socrates and we were mentioning the big Justice. Here we go, read slowly:

  • But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being concerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, which is the true self and concernment of man: for the just man does not permit the several elements within him (courage, wisdom, temperance) to interfere with one another, or any of them to do the work of others,—he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals—when he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and co-operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action, and the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over it ignorance.

Stunning, isn’t it? What an amazing writer Plato was. On a sidenote, we can’t really be sure Socrates said everything to this degree or if it is anything he said at all, but we know there was a man named Socrates and he did go around questioning everything. Eventually he annoyed the wrong people and was tried for corrupting the youth, a serious offense in those days. Today, I would imagine many idols in the media are guilty of corrupting the youth but we as a society don’t restrict or restrain as much as we ought to, but I digress.

See how highly Socrates considers Justice? Do you ever think of yourself that way?

Imagine going about your day looking into each action and wondering, “Is this gas station clerk ringing up our order with courage? And have I acted Modestly towards my appetite?” Ha! Of course we don’t think that way, but imagine if for one day you did? Imagine then that you obeyed the laws of Justice. What would your day be like?

Plato, and philosophers in this Golden Age, often describes matters of the soul to a scale of music, hence the sentence “…and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale…” There is a tuning idea there, as if we are taking bits a pieces of our nature, of which Socrates says there are three major ones—courage, temperance and wisdom—and refining each one so they harmoniously are in sync with one another. The tuning of them, and the consequent action that follows, is justice. The opposite is ignorance. What if you do a bad thing on purpose? You might ask. Well philosophers like Socrates believed that man was inherently good, and that even wrong action was done because the doer believed they were doing good. This makes terms like good and love absolutes. They are true in every circumstance.

  • “When he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private business”

No matter what we do, we do so with justice. We act in accordance with nature and goodness if we harmonize ourself. You see here is the catch: We must define ourselves as courageous, modest and wise, and then all our actions reflect this person. We don’t micro-manage ourselves, or as Covey says we aren’t walking on ice around people. We just are. We are good, noble people who act well. The details then become the joys of life.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates, Glaucon and Adeimantus yearn to know what justice is; not only its meaning and what it is not, but if justice is worth having as opposed to its opposite. There is an argument at hand that injustice might be the more powerful position in life, one which a winner would choose. However, most cannot hold to this as they are virtuous philosophers and so they seek to dive in to the meaning of justice.

We left off at the whole man or the big picture of Justice. Harmony within oneself using the 3 tenants—modesty, or temperance, wisdom and courage. There are whole dialogues on each of these virtues, and even virtue itself and one day I should love to go over those. But for now we must finish the current conversation on justice.

  • “Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils,—no, nor the human race, as I believe,—and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.”

This famous statement now requires explanation by Socrates’ audience. They ask: “Who then are the true philosophers?” To which Socrates says: “Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.”

Sometimes I think this quote “Until philosophers are kings…” can be used for the microcosm instead of just the macro. Maybe it describes the state of our mind, the family unit, the community and it expands from there. Could it also mean that society won’t have peace until each one of us become harmonious within?

In going over the meaning of opinions, we hear a short dialogue explaining who is not a philosopher. This beautiful quote comes describing just that, while at the same time again defining this “lover of wisdom.” On a sidenote, in Greek dialogues like this, the opposite of an answer must be dissected and proven correct for it to remain true. Thus we know the inquiry is correct and absolute.

  • “And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter’s eye to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them—are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?”

I love the antithesis of the philosopher as a soul with “no clear pattern.” In what way are you lacking in a pattern? Have you felt lost before and “unable to look at the absolute truth” like a painter looks at a piece of art? There is beauty and good all around us but we often miss it.

Plato, now far into the Republic and explaining various truths, writes as Socrates and says of the soul and the fullness that resides in it:

  • “Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.”

The power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already. Is there no more a thing to say after hearing something like that? This reminds me of another teaching of Socrates when he says there is no new knowledge, only recollection, for the soul is immortal. Another common theme in the days of polytheism is Gods and deities roaming the inner worlds, living out dramatic lives awaiting Earth’s souls to join them. There is a divinity in man and soul, while at the same time the play of good vs evil.

In the second half of the quote we are reminded that the soul learns in stages and that we must adjust to the “sight of being.” Being and becoming are two stages of unfoldment. From youth to maturity we strive to become something. Here we learn that being already exists. We are inherently good and need no further “becoming.” Open up to it and see what is right in front of you.

Now almost finished with the Republic, Plato takes you through one last look at the nature of one who controls his appetites:

  • “But when a man’s pulse is healthy and temperate, and when before going to sleep he has awakened his rational powers, and fed them on noble thoughts and enquiries, collecting himself in meditation; after having first indulged his appetites neither too much nor too little, but just enough to lay them to sleep, and prevent them and their enjoyments and pains from interfering with the higher principle—which he leaves in the solitude of pure abstraction, free to contemplate and aspire to the knowledge of the unknown, whether in past, present, or future: when again he has allayed the passionate element, if he has a quarrel against any one—I say, when, after pacifying the two irrational principles, he rouses up the third, which is reason, before he takes his rest, then, as you know, he attains truth most nearly, and is least likely to be the sport of fantastic and lawless visions.”

The above text should be read several times. Revel in its eloquence.

Another line from Socrates: “He has to be master of others when he is not master of himself”

Isn’t this hard to hear? To think that when we lose ourselves to the instinct or base mind, when we act against our own higher nature, we become owned to others priorities. When we don’t have control over our own self we lose the rights to it.

The end and final thought of the Republic is on the soul and its immortality. I will end here due to time. Enjoy the last sentiment from Socrates and pull from it what good you can:

  • “Wherefore my counsel is, that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.”

That is justice and that is where we want to be. Man of Meaning is not a fun, lighthearted sidetrack from your daily routine. This is a man’s quest to finding himself and getting on with life the way it is supposed to be lived. Every moment has to be analyzed. Every thought needs direction or else we start to slip. Once you actually make this disciplined life a habit, then you become unshakable.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Legatus for the idea of the post, written together months in advance.

Self Mastery Series: Vice

What makes a man unique is his ability to seek and find great knowledge in his short time on Earth. Women have a biological need, and a time-tested clock, to eventually start a family with the best possible mate for her social value. This is a reality that everyone ends up facing at some point as they mature into their roles. Men don’t tend to use hypergamous values when determining a mate, and actually have a much closer relationship to love rather than the woman’s idea for logical family strength vs weak selections. Women are not less important than men and if that was your conclusion based on what I previously said you have misunderstood. We have roles, we have genders and we have biological duties that make each gender and role harmonious if played out accordingly. Trying to fight this reality has led woman, and a great deal of men, to frustrating lives and unresolved issues. Pew research has found this true in a recent study of stay at home moms. 

Now that we have a clear understanding that man is more available to seek deeper truths with his time on the planet, we can focus on self-mastery in a way that makes it approachable and appropriate. This is where working on ourselves gets difficult beyond what we have spoken about before because it dives into man’s most intimate weakness: self-pleasure.

Vice

vice  |vīs|

noun

immoral or wicked behavior.

• criminal activities involving prostitution, pornography, or drugs.

• an immoral or wicked personal characteristic.

a weakness of character or behavior; a bad habit

The last definition available for vice is the one I am referring to throughout the article. I also wouldn’t use vice in a religious tone implying that God is in some way offended when man masturbates and He is planning on smiting the wicked. As we have already mentioned in earlier posts: Damage to ones own self is indeed selfish as he is the very thing worth saving. In my opinion God is fine and dandy with you using self pleasure as a way to distract yourself from what you should actually be doing. I don’t believe in hell or sin, so don’t mistake my views for religious fanaticism. Perhaps I am a fanatic of self-reliance and discipline.

In our search through life we end up seeking some sort of wholeness or some completeness that either rebuilds us after losing our way or our learning is new as we reach an age of maturityusually that means the age we stop partying and start to realize we have to do something with our lives and actually make something of ourselves. In other words, we build a more personal conscious as we get older and doing immoral things begin to actually feel immoral. But we aren’t monks. We never signed up for some sort of purity vow and to never ogle a beautiful woman again. Right? Yes and no, actually. Our highest potential tends to naturally avoid licentious behavior.

Historically great men statistically outnumber monks by an incredible margin, they will almost always be civilians like you and me. Even Epictetus, renowned Stoic philosopher, began life not as a civilian but as a slave and eventually was freed. He then taught some of the most profound truths ever written. Socrates was considered a madman and fool by many of his peers, yet today we consider him the father of Western philosophy. His disciple Plato was just a man—no monk—yet he demanded perfection of himself and his teachings are said to have been around for 2400 years! The same goes for Aristotle, Seneca, past U.S. presidents, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan, Robert Speer, Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, H.D. Thoreau, and of course the list is endless as long as you are connected to the internet.

I didn’t list one monk yet these men have shouted from the rooftops about discipline, austerity, hard work, virtue and honor. Not one of them was under vows to be ordained as a priest or monk of any religion yet they proclaimed a monk-like virtue molded their character to fulfill their dreams and become men of meaning. 

Self-mastery does not mean you become perfect. It means you sacrifice that which is easy for that which is hard.

On the path of self-mastery we invariably come across the fact that our biggest obstacle is ourselves. That happens because it’s true, but because nothing outside of us is going to dramatically change what we are made of. No one approached Michael Jordan as a child and said, “Oh one last thing, Mike, you need to be the greatest basketball player in history, ok?” No one did that for him and no one has done that in order to create a self-made man. All of the magic comes from within yourself, and it is usually just a mixture of discipline, self-denial of pleasures and consistency.

What we want to happen on this path is progress, not perfection. Virtuous and strong men do not avoid failures, pitfalls, distractions—what they do is overcome them over time. Anticipating failures can be a powerful tool to keep you from entering despair and frustration as you take a few steps towards your goal and a few backwards. No boxer ever enters a ring expecting a perfect match and never to be hit. He trains for the hit and is determined to get back up. Progress not perfection.

Self-mastery, complete effectiveness and downright virtuous duty means we are on the path of self-denial, otherwise known as sacrifice. We give up those things that are no longer any use to us and to our goals. Let someone else enjoy the childish things, but for us we have work to do. It takes constant effort to retrain the mind and body to obey our every command. The waking hours isn’t enough, sleep and dreams must also be a place of purity if want to completely own up to the duty we have as men.

Excessive Pleasure

I keep crying out to myself: Count your years, and you will be ashamed to desire and pursue the same things you desired in your boyhood days. Of this one thing make sure against your dying day—let your faults die before you die.

-Seneca

If you spend time masturbating to pornography you are still living in a child’s mind. I know that is hard to hear when we have been conditioned since youth that masturbation is normal, and it may be for a very young man still learning about his body, but as we grow older this habit must end before we waste valuable time. While you are triggering your brain to want spikes of impulses and arousal based off a screen of pleasure, people are training, eating better, reading more, watching their children grow up and becoming who they were supposed to be. There is no valid argument that says you couldn’t be doing something more productive than using pornography. 

Much has been written about excessive pleasure and it goes beyond masturbation. Overeating, laziness in physical and mental activity or vegging out, retaliation for pleasure’s sake, all the way to theft and drug/alcohol abuse enter into the pleasure or dopamine centers of our life and create an illness that takes us away from the men we ought to be.

For moral virtue or excellence is closely concerned with pleasure and pain. It is pleasure that moves us to do what is base, and pain that moves us to refrain from what is noble. And therefore, as Plato says, man needs to be so trained from his youth up as to find pleasure and pain in the right objects. This is what sound education means.

-Aristotle

We are reeducating ourselves. This path means remolding the clay-like mind into a miraculous pot of ever evolving mastery. Once reshaped the real adventure of manhood begins. After we have become stable we can help others and become a leader, before self-mastery we are just flopping around in lower states of mind.

Away with those disordered pleasures, which must be dearly paid for; it is not only those which are to come that harm me, but also those which have come and gone. Just as crimes, even if they have not been detected when they were committed, do not allow anxiety to end with them; so with guilty pleasures, regret remains even after the pleasures are over. They are not substantial, they are not trustworthy; even if they do not harm us, they are fleeting. Cast about rather for some good which will abide. But there can be no such good except as the soul discovers it for itself within itself. Virtue alone affords everlasting and peace-giving joy; even if some obstacle arise, it is but like an intervening cloud, which floats beneath the sun but never prevails against it.

-Seneca

If you can’t say out loud what you do in the hours you are alone then you are not a leader. You can’t be the example if you let the animalistic instincts take over to have their way with your body. Wisdom is gained by letting go of vice, letting go of self-pleasure, letting go of lazy and unproductive behavior of any kind. To be constantly effective and a man people can depend on is exhausting, but it is your destiny.

There is dishonor in yielding to the evil, or in an evil manner; but there is honor in yielding to the good, or in an honorable manner. Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life–long, for it becomes one with the everlasting…

…And this is the reason why, in the first place, a hasty attachment is held to be dishonorable, because time is the true test of this as of most other things; and secondly there is a dishonor in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them, or, having experienced the benefits of money and political corruption, is unable to rise above the seductions of them. For none of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no generous friendship ever sprang from them. There remains, then, only one way of honorable attachment which custom allows in the beloved, and this is the way of virtue; for as we admitted that any service which the lover does to him is not to be accounted flattery or a dishonor to himself, so the beloved has one way only of voluntary service which is not dishonorable, and this is virtuous service.

-Plato’s Symposium

Self Mastery Series: The Stoic Man

” What,” say you, ” are you giving me advice? Indeed, have you already advised yourself, already corrected your own faults? Is this the reason why you have leisure to reform other men?” No, I am not so shameless as to undertake to cure my fellowmen when I am ill myself. I am, however, discussing with you troubles which concern us both, and sharing the remedy with you, just as if we were lying ill in the same hospital. Listen to me, therefore, as you would if I were talking to myself. I am admitting you to my inmost thoughts, and am having it out with myself, merely making use of you as my pretext.

-Seneca

Why do we have to continue to speak of correct manners, appropriate behavior and of courage and virtue and justice? If we were perfect and all-knowing then we wouldn’t be in an earthy coil, wrapped up in family issues, personal weakness and interpersonal disharmony. It is because man is constantly evolving that we recapitulate the teachings of the more evolved and wise—this is how we become wiser.

Not every man is a Stoic, but every man has Stoic principles within him. Every man is born with certain abilities that he can either use to his advantage or let them lay dormant in the caverns of his being. I suggest we create an ebullition of guidance from within as we study men who were more aware of their reasoning facilities than the current generations.

Becoming Aware of Our Own Wisdom

Self-mastery is the key to all success in life. Everything begins within you—every hope, every dream, every idea, every fantasy— every step forward that you take begins with you agreeing to it. If we can accept that everything stems from you allowing it to, then we can understand why our success depends on self-mastery. Why? Because if each thing begins from you, then you need that starting point to be clear, correct and precise. Once this begins to take place in your life everything will slow down a little and you will begin to observe two things: 

  1. You decided to be where you are: mentally, physically, emotionally
  2. You decide the future

Stoicism has a few key principles, and within each one of us these principles exist already. There is no accumulating Stoic ideals, only revealing what was there the whole time. We have right now:

  •  The faculty of pursuing an object and avoiding it
  •  The faculty of desire and aversion
  •  The faculty of using the appearances of things

Stoicism teaches that Man is not animal but soul. Being soul and not body we can think and act appropriately. Thinking and acting as something separate from appearances means nothing inherently affects us. Whatever bothers you is your decision. 

Socrates believed man’s ignorance lay in his inability to measure. Specifically, he felt man could not measure pain and pleasure in both the short term and the future. We constantly seek pleasure with pertinacity. For some reason our untrained mind is like water and flows to the spot with the least resistance. Keep an eye on it and soon you notice what Epictetus warns about in the first chapter of his Discourses. Do not act on what appears pleasurable and observe to see if it is true or not. If it isn’t lasting, then avoid the pain. This teaching is simple but the practice is what separates adults from “boys in men’s bodies,” as Seneca would say in his Letters.

The way to self-mastery is simply observing yourself closely enough so that each action comes from either a well thought plan or idea, or an adjective-free state. By adjective-free I mean a state of mind where we have not pre-judged the person or situation with ill feelings. Often times we send ideas to our mind through a filter of qualifiers, “My neighbor is (insert such and such qualifier based on past experience),” “I feel pain during long, boring meetings and can’t concentrate.”

You have chosen to create your neighbor in a certain way, so you see that in each experience. You have decided a business meeting is long and boring as real concepts, all created by you. The meeting itself never said its duration was extended or that it wasn’t that exciting of a meeting. The thing itself never speaks for itself because it is of Nature.

When philosophers speak of Nature with a capital N, they are speaking about the reality of life you see around you. This is most easily captured in the nature outside, e.g. the trees, grasses, sky, etc. Nature is still and calm, moving along in its own path without any help from man, so we can use it as an example of self-sufficiency. But nature also refers to the way we are, and especially the way life is, before we color it with explicatory language. We over analyze to the point of losing the original meaning, which when left alone isn’t really all that complicated.

The man of self-mastery simply uses nature, or the moment in between speaking, to fill his mind, actions and thoughts. When we can slow down and observe we can begin to sense a deeper appreciation for just being alive.

Over the next few posts on this series I’m going to take you through different areas of our lives that need improving, and areas that just need sharpening. I hope any reader will reflect, observe your own situation and see where you lack and excel. Self-mastery isn’t about performing a few new tasks and taking cold showers to become a civilian marine. What self-mastery requires is patience and having the ability to be ok with failing, as long as we observe ourselves close enough we will begin to become uplifted, motivated and self-redirecting on life’s course.

But do you yourself, as indeed you are doing, show me that you are stout-hearted; lighten your baggage for the march. None of our possessions is essential. Let us return to the law of nature; for then riches are laid up for us. The things which we actually need are free for all, or else cheap; nature craves only bread and water. No one is poor according to this standard; when a man has limited his desires within these bounds, he can challenge the happiness of Jove himself, as Epicurus says.

-Seneca

Men of Iron and Steel: The Wisdom of Robert Speer

In a small book of lectures appropriately titled “The Stuff of Manhood,” Robert Speer outlines his philosophy of excellence, specifically that which pertains to the nature of virtue in a nation and of Man. His perspective radiates out from what each of our personal morals should demand, to the ideals and ethics of society as a whole. In his first lecture titled “Discipline and Austerity” Speer drills into the reader the fact that whether we agree or disagree on military training, the nation must decide if it agrees with basic principles of self-discipline, obedience and enjoying hardships. His words have a powerful, intoxicating effect. We cannot deny the truth in which he speaks this first paragraph,

“Whether there should be compulsory military training in America is a question which some people will answer yes or no according to their general theories and others according to their observation of the actual effects of such training on moral character.

   But whatever our views may be on this familiar question, whether we regard military service as ethically helpful in its influence or as morally injurious, we cannot differ as to the need in our national character of those qualities of self-control, of quick and unquestioning obedience to duty, of joyful contempt of hardship, and of zest in difficult and arduous undertakings which, rightly or wrongly, we consider soldierly, which we attribute in such rich measure to our forefathers, and which the moral exigencies of our national task to-day as peremptorily demand. To put these primary and elemental needs as sharply as possible, let us call them discipline and austerity. Our American character needs more of both.”

Speer is not wrong about what man ought to bring himself to, but neither does man fall short permanently. Life is cyclical in nature and as it rotates around it repeats itself. In other words, man is always returning to himself in an act of self-mastery. The genius in Speer’s words is never going to be cliche because someone is always coming up out of the grind of life having fallen and gotten lost. Another person will always be succeeding in life, ready to take on new challenges as they get absorbed into their purpose. Both situations require constant effort. On one hand, the fallen spirit must yearn to rise up; and on the other, the triumphant man must continuously remind himself of his roles and goals in life; service to others then becomes his main goal.

Man’s need for discipline is compared to military training due to it being an eternal reference point. When we are confused about where to go we can always refer back to a soldier’s perspective, and it syncs well with redefining a man’s lot in life because men are inherently attracted to the qualities and character of solid, concrete and personal perfecting systems. You didn’t know that, did ya? Man in and of himself will naturally hold the seed of mastery within him, but whether it grows and blooms into a fully formed structure of dynamic effectiveness is up to him.

Easy Way or Hard Way

The whole point of discipline and austerity is to become unshakable. Why do we want to become unshakable? Because life, while sometimes seeming to grant us our every wish, is not that easy when we start to reach beyond what we are normally capable of. Once we endeavor to pass the gate of our surroundings we enter into an unknown battlefield. There is competition, jealousy, backbiting, ladder-climbing, cut-throat politics and consumerism. Life never held simplicity, it only seems that way because we are always yearning for a greener pasture. “Oh things were simpler before cars.” Oh ya? Ever heard of the occupation of picking up all the dead horses in the neighborhood and hauling them off to a glue factory? Right, imagine that.

Speer’s Stuff of Manhood doesn’t beg us to tie our shoes and tuck in our shirts, it says that one day you won’t actually have a choice. Boy either becomes man or he becomes bum. If we don’t grow up with discipline then at some point in life we need to grab a hold of it like your manhood is falling off a cliff. Grab hold until your hands bleed and never let go.

 “For a man to love himself so much that he never thinks of his neighbors, to blind his eyes so completely to consequences that he can live for the passing moment,—this is a very easy philosophy, and the man or the woman who is able to practice it will seem, for a while, to live in the sunshine, a fine butterfly, smooth-going life.

   All this is easier than to say, not, What is my impulse? but, What ought I? not, What do I like? but, What is best for all the world? not, What is the easy way? but, What is the hard way over which the feet go that carry the burdens of mankind, that bear the load of the world? But, though it is the easy way for a while, there comes a time when it is no longer the easy way.”

Your mind is going to seek the easier way. The mind’s job is to keep you safe and sound but your will grows weak while the mind is allowed to take over and wrap everyone in a special blanket of safety. “Everything is all right, we are all safe and no one is struggling or getting tired,” the mind will say. As soon as a challenge comes along we will crumble. It could be at work when your boss asks you to push on a new front and expand the department, or in traffic when someone tails you and all you want to do is slam on the breaks and force them into a collision—as if that helps. From small to large tests of our capacity, life finds a way to see what we are made of. Those who wish to have smooth sailing instead of a bumpy road can have their mediocrity. But, my friends, our real joy lay deep within the caverns of self-mastery.

 “There comes a time when, having always indulged ourselves, we can’t break the habit; when, never having taken our lives in our hands and reined them to the great ministries of mankind, we discover that we cannot. We find that we obey our caprices; follow any impulse; cannot stick to any task; do not know a principle when we see it; have no iron or steel anywhere in our character; are the riffraff of the world that the worthy men and women have to bear along as they go.

   Now I suggest that we put all this positively to ourselves, for every one of us knows that we are treading near some of the moral realities of weakness and need in our day and nation. Why should restraint, obedience, the authority of duty and God be let into our lives? In order that out of all these things self-control may come. And why should there be this submission and control of our lives by duty, and truth and God ? Well, the reasons are obvious, the moment we begin to think about them.”

If you have ever had the opportunity to be without vice then you know exactly why we seek virtue: contentment. To abide in your own greatness is something to behold. Man truly is an island of self-sufficiency and worth, once he reaches the shores of his own virtues. We can find these people in society or in stories of great heroes or those who acted bravely when called upon.

 “The men and women who will not run away from any task, who stand steadfast in truth, upon whose every word we can rest our whole soul, grew out of a certain discipline and education.

  And it is this that gives freedom. There is no freedom outside of character. Liberty, as Montesquieu says, is not freedom to do just as we please. Liberty is the ability to do as we ought. And the freedom that we need is not the freedom of caprice and whim and listening to our impulses. It is the freedom that enables our eyes clearly to see what right is, and then empowers us to do it.”

Much of the trouble that we face today can be found in social media. Social media, or any form of instant communication, is a type of drug. Instagram might not look like your typical narcotic, but when you dissect what happens in the brain when these instant gratifications take place, your brain lights up with dopamine and you get excited, one scroll after another. Down the labyrinth of notifications, instant change and novelty— right in your hand. A screen in front of your eyes made of fake light projecting a picture show of fantasies. Get away from it as soon as you can.

The light of a starry night sky is better and more healing than anything a digital picture can offer. How can you even have a conversation on reddit without constant refreshing of the page, god that is depressing isn’t it? If you never train yourself to charge up on nature and silence then all of your energy will be pushed out as you seek another form of excitement. The internet alone is truly a grand phenomenon that when taken to excess is a sure cause for illness. When used with discipline, though, these things can be a game-changer in regards to work and social systems. But if you don’t have any inner capacity for strength or restriction these things will drag you along in its endless variety.

 “And we must learn in this school the things we value and desire most : purity and delicacy and refinement of character, for they cannot be acquired elsewhere. So much social standing nowadays is uttered in terms of self-assertion and indulgence and the ability to have any whim or caprice gratified. This sort of self-assertion, this caprice, is regarded by many of us as the highest mark of social authority, whereas we know it is precisely the opposite, that it is self-restraint and self-control and self-surrender that mark the finest lives.”

The Need to Fight

Some of us have grown up in angry homes and angry communities. Either kids are fighting at school, parents fighting in the home or we see high emotions and anger in politics and world events. People can be base, crass, rude and ineloquent creatures that think it is ok to lose one’s cool and fight fire with fire. They are wrong and they look ridiculous.

Children retaliate. Little boys and girls name-call and use silly one-liners to attack a schoolmate. Adults were supposed to grow out of these habits and make their mind into a respectable place where discussion and conversation can happen healthily. Getting back to virtuous manhood means we have to get a little more intellectually astute and a little less brute—only a little. By default I think men are more aggressive, more protective, more demanding and certainly the male sex is physically stronger and prone to defending that reputation. There’s nothing wrong with learning how to defend oneself, many great men were also boxers, but we have to know when and where to throw punches.

Getting angry, or even getting overly emotional, shows clear as day that you are prone to let your defense down and let the pleasurable or gratifying nature shine through. We only resort to that because we do not yet know what it feels like to out wit someone or be the bigger man and let something go. The bigger man wins in the long run, the angry fool remains the same. If you are to exude leadership then you have to be the kind of man that knows right from wrong and does not answer to any immoral decision. This goes into the private arena as well. If you are willing to act towards pleasure over wisdom, you are sure to show weakness in the public.

 “Our modern ideals of what constitutes high social and national standing and character say : ” Fight fire with fire. Dishonor releases honor from itself. He struck you foul ; strike him so in return.” But the man who had learned self-restraint in the school of God’s loyalty and truth, who understood that power is ours, not to use for self-seeking, but for the good of men and for God’s honor, would not stoop to any such disloyalty and shame.

  Once more. Whose judgment is of any value? What does passion bid me do? What is my whim or caprice for tonight? No men will ever come to you and me if we have not been trained in the school of moral discrimination, if we have not looked on ethical principle and duty in deciding the question whether each thing- is really right for us and for the whole world. If we are to be men and women to whom people will come for comfort and strength and guidance, to whom our own children can come with assurance that they will get the truth, we must be men and women who now place ourselves beneath the firm discipline of God.”

Speer brings it back around to the nation:

 “Now I have put it—this matter of our need of discipline—in the most personal and individual way, but it is our great national and corporate need. The body of a nation can only exist through the ordered discipline of its members and the spirit of a nation like the spirit of a man needs to be cleansed of all the lusts of willfulness and self-indulgence. The spirit of our American nation needs such cleansing.”

Robert Speer is a religious dude. He is a staunch man of Christ and I don’t relate to Christianity, but I’d like to end just as he does at the end of the first lecture with his idea of “taking on a cross of our own.” This idea of taking on burden for the purpose of getting stronger is so profound it can’t be left out. By living too easily we actually stunt our growth and delay its progress. Take away the cross idea and you have a foundation in which to live, if you are secular or a follower of another faith.

If you don’t have a burden, or cross, or karma, or any trouble—start to take on service for others and selflessly help and mentor for others. Take their cross or their karma or their trouble and make it your own. Build yourself up mighty and strong and reap the rewards that life holds.

 “No strong man was ever made against no resistance. We develop no physical power by putting forth no physical effort. All the strength of life we have we get by pushing against opposition. We acquire power as we draw it out of deep experience and effort.

   Those of us who were not born with a cross must find one, those whose lives have been smooth are deliberately to find ways of roughening them, so that we may know a life of power and fellowship and can go out to real work, and be prepared for that greater life and greater service which await us elsewhere than here.”