When I was a fighter, I was tougher. I lived more like a warrior. It wasn’t just the fact that I was in the ring throwing and taking punches. It was my lifestyle. I practiced toughness. I didn’t talk to people as much. I didn’t look at my phone as often or check my email as frequently. I never went out. I started each day with pain, not pleasure. Everything I ate, everything I did, was in the name of becoming a better fighter.
Discipline ruled my life. You may think that life wasn’t as fun, but it was. There was freedom in boundaries I placed on my life. There was liberation in the limitations. Pain was freedom. There’s less to worry about in life, when there is less in your life.
When we’re focused on one thing and one thing alone – no distractions pulling us from this mission – there’s less to worry about. Actually, there’s nothing to worry about. We’re doing the one thing we COULD worry about. We’re moving forward, progressing, improving. The more we practice, the more we work, the less we worry. Freedom.
Even though I wasn’t on the battlefield facing death daily like so many brave and TRUE warriors do everyday, I was living the life of a warrior. Like never before my life was controlled by structure, routine, and a singular focus.
I want that freedom back.
Today I wake up and I work, but there’s no physical pain in my work, there’s only the battle between me and ‘The Resistance’, as Steven Pressfield calls it. The Resistance: that whichs pulls me away from my work, my craft. The distractions. The cell phones, the internet, the social media, the friends, the TV, the girls and the dates, the fears and even our families. Today it is the Resistance that is my opponent. The Resistence is me. I am the only one who can distract me, and I am the only one who can say no. I’m my enemy. I am my only obstacle. To defeat the Resistance, we have to be warriors.
When I was fighting, it was the same, and it’s the same with every warrior on this planet today, and every warrior since time immemomorial. The enemy has and will always be the same. We just have to identify it and begin the epic, lifelong battle that will ensue once we figure out what we’re fighting.
When I was fighting, my opponent wasn’t my enemy. Some think it is, but it isn’t. WE are always our own enemy. We’re the only one’s who won’t wake up to run at 5 am. We won’t push ourselves to give it everything we have, every round. We won’t press that last rep. We won’t push through the pain. WE, WE, WE won’t get up when we’re knocked down – who gives a fuck who knocks us down, it’s always our option if we get back up.
The Warrior of the 21st Century
I’m finding answers as I write this piece – or should I say peace. I started off with a question, how to be a warrior in the 21st century, and how can I regain my warrior way. To find the answer, we have to look at the heart of a warrior, his beginnings, origins. We have to look at the Spartans, the Macedonians of Alexander, the Romans, the Samurai, the Marines, and every other warrior culture that has come before us. First, the Spartans.
Everything the Spartans did was to breed a warrior and to cultivate courage. They didn’t complain. They didn’t whine or want, wheep or feel. To cry or to flee in the face of danger was the worst kind of shame a Spartan could place on himself. Death was the only remedy for such behavior. There was no empathy nor sympathy, yet there was comraderie, selflessness, and plenty of sacrifice.
The Spartans have shown men and women how to be warriors for centuries, and we are no different.
Freedom In Pain
Respecting elders was a big part of Spartan culture. A young man wouldn’t look an elder in the eye. To do so was disrespectful, it was shameful.
Once a Spartan boy stole a fox and hid it under his cloak. Some grown warriors stopped to question him on an unrelated matter. Beneath the cloak, the fox began gnawing at the youth’s belly. The boy made no sound but allowed the beast to bleed him to death, rather than cry out or reveal his deed.
Pain isn’t an enemy, but a teacher. Physical pain is a good thing. It’s something for us to conquer. Where in today’s society do we have to option to conquer physical pain? In the gym. Every time we train we are our greatest obstacle. Our enemy in the gym is pain, and our failure to push through it.
Pain is a beatiful thing. It’s a test. A literal, tangible test. A warrior recognizes the test and pushes through pain without showing any emotion or pain on his face. To the outward observer, he’s working hard, but there’s no evidence of pain or suffering. This is the mindset we need to take into our training to be warriors in the 21st century. Put our bodies through pain, but give no indication in our expression that we have the capacity to feel pain.
The Warrior is Selfless
A story of Alexander leading his army through a waterless desert goes as follows…
Suddenly, a detachment of scourts came galloping back to the king. They had found a small spring and had managed to fill up a helment with water. They rushed to Alexander and presented this to him. The army held in place, watching. Every men’s eye was fixed upon his commander. Alexander thanked his scouts for bringing him this gift, then, without touching a drop, he lifted the helment and poured the precious liquid into the sand. At once, a great cheer ascended, rolling like thunder from one end of the column to the other. A man was heard to say, “With a king like this to lead us, no force on earth can stand against us.”
Men and women today are the opposite, we are selfish. Society has had its hand in making us so. Wealth and luxuries are the measure of success, not the men we are. To be a warrior of today we have to be selfless. We also have to forget about wealth – yes, coming from an ambitious guy who’s building a business this may sound odd, but we have to forget about wealth.
Wealth, in the financial sense, isn’t the end game of a warrior. Alexander didn’t want wealth, he wanted accomplishment. To conquer, to expand, to be great, these were his goals, wealth was nothing to him.
The night before he and his army left to set out to Persia, he brought his sergeants, generals, commanders and such, to his side and he began giving away all of his properties. He gave away everything. Then a man asked him, “What will you keep for yourself?” “My hopes.” Alexander responded.
Today, money can’t be the motivator for a warrior. Helping people can be. Greatness can be. Accomplishment can and should be. Being the best at something while helping others be their best is a must. Perfecting our craft, practicing, becoming a great athlete, writer, business man, or leader. These should be our focus. Materials will come, and we can accept them if we want, but a true warrior doesn’t have any need for them.
Men of Honor
“The samurai code of Bushido forbade the warrior from approaching an enemy by stealth. Honor commended that he show himself plainly and permit the foe a fighting chance to defend himself.”
Honor is a diminish virtue amongst the men of today. We do whatever we can to win. We lie, we cheat. We steal from those who put their trust and hard earned money in our hands. We strap bombs to kids and send them into public areas. We attack people from behind. The culture of today worldwide, lacks honor. There’s little honor in politics. There’s more in sport, but far less in business.
Even though the world around him is lying and cheating and being rewarded for it, the warrior doesn’t act without honor. To be a warrior in the 21st century, you may have to be the only man you know who lives by the code of honor that has fled from the heart of the modern man.
Be Willing and Eager to Embrace Adversity
Adversity is avoided. Why would you embrace hardship? Because there’s growth in hardship. It toughens us. If it comes our way, a warrior knows the benefit of adversity. He welcomes it. He doesn’t evade it or look to avoid it. He rushes to it. He stands firm and fights.
“The Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy but where are they.” Plutarch
A warrior may spend his whole life fighting. He may spend his entire life in conflict, whether the conflict is internal or external, it matters little. A warrior of antiquity, and a warrior of the 21st century lives by the same code.
“Be brave, my heart. Plant your feet and square your shoulders to the enemy. Meet him among the man-killing spears. Hold your ground. In victory, do not brag; in defeat, do not weep.” ~Archilochus
There is no other enemy than the one within. We have control over our mood, our outlook on life, what we accomplish in a day, what we allow to pull us away from our work, our mission. We are the Resistance, and an artist’s, an athlete’s, a warrior’s, a preacher’s, a teacher’s, an entrepreneur’s battle is against the Resistence. It always has been.
To be a warrior in the 21st century, we have to identify this enemy – no matter what we do in life, or where we want to end up, we have to identify this enemy. This is the way of the warrior. We then have to have the courage to defeat it, and to be the men of honor that the world sees such little of.
There are forces pulling you away from greatness, from your daily work, from the process. Only you can defeat them.
The warrior’s life is one of practice. OUR life should be one of practice. Whatever your career or mission in life, work isn’t what you’re doing. You are practicing. When I was fighting, I’d spend hours in the gym practicing, perfecting my craft. I’d throw different combinations. I’d practice my slipping. I’d practice getting stronger and faster in the weight room.
Today, I practice becoming a better writer and teacher. I learn new ways to help you build your ideal body, to motivate you. I read books. I learn how to become a better writer, and then I write. Every word, every second in front of the computer is practice. Anything that pulls me away from my practice is the enemy, the resistance.
This is how I will be a warrior in the 21st century. I will face my enemy, stand firm, and fight amongst the man killing spears.
The Warrior. The Enemy. True Freedom.
A warrior of today is no different than the warrior of ancient Greece or Rome. The enemy remains the same, it has always been within. The battle, even though there may be one raging in the physical, has always been internal, and it always will be internal.
Where we differ from the past is in that we aren’t willing to be warriors. We don’t want discipline, because we see laziness and excess as freedom. But it isn’t. It’s emptiness. I know. I’ve been lazy, and I’ve been ruthlessly disciplined. I can’t explain it, but when my life was ruled by discipline, things were clear. My purpose was clear. Where I was going and who I was becoming was vivid. I was happy. I’m happy today, don’t get me wrong, but there was something else going on when I was fighting, something deeper. The internal battle was evident, whereas today it’s clouded.
I began this article with a question: how to be a warrior in the 21st century?
After writing it, I will LIVE the answer, and I encourage you to do the same.
“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
*Article inspired by The Warrior Ethos, by Steven Pressfield.