Toughness is a Sword Sharpened by Inconvenience

To build mental toughness, you have to inconvenience yourself. The early morning runs if you hate late night runs, the late night runs if you hate early morning runs, the snowy, cold, the worst conditions you can get, put yourself in those conditions and really make it inconvenient, and you start to get a genuine expectation of winning for the price you had to pay.” Chael Sonnen

We love to do what we love to do. We avoid what we hate to do. Even if these hated tasks toughen us, we avoid them. We do what we love first, give those areas of our lives the most attention, and procrastinate when it comes to the things that inconvenience us. We don’t like them, so we give them less importance. We rationalize their avoidance, and being lazy when it comes to carrying them out.

This is the mindset of a child, a boy who’s unwilling to do what’s necessary to succeed, only what’s necessary to “be happy”. It’s a mindset of weakness, laziness, and entitlement. It’s a mindset I fight with daily – losing some battles, winning more – a thought process that we must all fight, destroy, slay, and kill, if we’re going to succeed.

Sharpening the Sword of Toughnessulric

The Spartans didn’t send their sons and future soldiers to a luxurious summer camp to prepare them for the horrors of war. They sent them to the krypteia, to kill, steal, and suffer. If their suffering in the krypteiacould come close to the horrors of war, they may become tough enough to endure them. If they broke during their rite of passage, they would be discarded, but saved from something they clearly couldn’t handle.

When I was boxing, our training was a form of krypteia. The 2-3 hour sessions starting with shadowboxing, then bag drills, then sparring, lifting, and calisthenics, capped off with work on the pads, were pure pain. I suppose you could pace yourself, you could give the illusion that you’re throwing your hardest, fastest punches early on in the bag drills, so you had something left in the tank for sparring. But that would be doing yourself a disservice.

It would be cheating yourself of growth, improvement, and of pain.

Pain was both the enemy, and the ally. It was the gage that determined your conditioning, but also the sensation you wanted to extend; to push. When pain arrived it was a warning for some to stop, for others, a challenge to continue to push their tolerance.

Today, my gages are a little different, as are yours. Physical pain and inconvenience is still a necessary ally, but there are other ways in which we need to sharpen our sword of mental toughness – ways we’d rather leave untouched, but if we’re going to do anything worthwhile in life, if we’re going to make a dent, leave an impact, and our fingerprint on this planet, inconvenience needs to be our ally, not our enemy.

Man Up!

I don’t love to wake up at 5 am. I guess I’d rather get up on my own accord, and start my day doing something that was easy. But life isn’t easy, and I’d rather not practice the easy. By giving in to the easy road daily, we’re preparing ourselves for failure when the hard road inevitably comes.

It seems like a minor detail: when you wake up, even how hard you train, whether you walk or run, work or surf the net. After-all, no one but ourselves witness these moments. Therein lies the power of quitting when no one else knows. Mental toughness, strength, power, being a man, or whatever you want to call it, is an internal battle. It’s a war that we need to force upon ourselves if we’re going to win at life.

  • Spence

    Life is a battle. We must become warriors in our own rights in order to succeed. In my own case, I didn’t grow up with everything handed to me. I had to work and push to get through school, and I had two other jobs on top of that. Between my parents they had 5 jobs at once. I’ve finally got to a point now where I don’t need to struggle as much as before. So did my parents. One quote I love is “if your not moving forward, your moving backward”. Something to think about…….

    • Great quote. You’re a lucky guy to have parents that lead the way like that, appreciate them man. Happy to hear you’re at that point where both you and your parents don’t have to take such a heavy load. Thanks for the comment.

  • What you are talking about is the Hard Path. It’s opposite the path of least resistence. It’s a path of pain. To walk it requires resilience and determination. Fortitude.
    It’s the road that leads to character. To manhood. And few are willing to tread that path.
    Only adversity can build a man into all he should be. It is the resistence that makes us stronger. To take the easy way out is to shun all that makes you a man.
    It’s castration of the worst kind.
    Travel the Hard Path and you’ll find out exactly what kind of man you are.

    • Indeed. And very well said man, thanks for the comment.

  • Downsie

    I think you meant, “The early morning runs if you hate early morning runs, the late night runs if you hate late night runs.” Love your blog… keep up the good work!!!

    • Thanks man I’ll have a look at that. Appreciate it!

  • moises

    What I see in the people here in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) is always procrastination, lack of willpower, people have no discipline in their jobs and especially in workouts and eating … it’s unbelievable how people do not like to leave the comfort zone and also has no ambition and do not dream big, want everything easily, without fighting … sometimes I feel a bit lost for thinking differently from others. Good post man!

    • Thanks man! You’re not alone there in Brazil, it’s here in Vancouver, and everywhere pretty much. One place that does inspire me though, is New York. I love the hustle out there. Probably why I like visiting so damn much.

      I guess it’s just an east coast mentality.

    • Herbert William

      Hey moises, are you leaving in Rio? My name is William, i leave in Niterói and i’m finding for groups and new ambients where i can literally regen my habits, not only scaping the deep rat race i’m in, but really pushing myself and starting the victory hard road we all want. In this moment i’m the skinny guy, without a mentor, tracking a north to follow.

      If you have some links feel free to share with me. Thanks and sorry for the crap english, i’ll solve this soon.

  • Rupert

    I’m very interested in trying your program, but here’s my question. I read somewhere, probably on a board, that there are a ton of chin-ups and pull-ups involved. If I’m not fatigued from doing other exercises, I can probably knock out a few sets of 7 pull-ups and maybe 10 chin-ups, but definitely not more than that, and whole lot less if I’ve been doing other lifts. Am I going to be unable to follow your program?

    • No you’re all good man. Just do cable pulldowns or an inverted row.

      I say pull-ups, but you can do pulldowns – not a huge deal, whatever gets you the reps. You should be good to go. Check it out man, and get on the forum so I can track your progress and answer questions!

  • Scott

    Awesome article! I’ll be reading this often as a kick in the backside when I need it. It’s a great reminder that the best days are the ones where by the end you’ve got nothing left and can only collapse into bed.

  • Kido

    Realy good post. Just like you said this mission isn’t internal and that’s why it’s also realy powerful to find people to fight with.