The human condition is one that gravitates towards ease. The technology industry has taken this fundamental human desire and made billions in feeding it. The TV, the cell phone, the car, the airplane, the computer, the search engine, and social media all provide a shortcut to an end.
The airplane, obviously, a shortcut to a destination, and social media, a shortcut to human interaction, an ability to portray whatever “you” that you’d like to portray without having to interact on a one-on-one basis. This desire for ease that’s constantly quenched by the latest innovation isn’t all positive. With everything at our fingertips, the things that once developed strong, manly characteristics and just values in our population have all but disappeared. When hardship inevitably enters our lives at the most inopportune time, those things that have brought us ease have also weakened our resolve. They’ve left us open to the disease that is self-entitlement and envy. They’ve opened us up to the infection that is laziness, an evil that not only makes our lives worthless, but negatively effects the rest of our society as well.
As ease becomes the way of life, hardship can no longer happen by chance, it must happen on purpose, and daily. We have to look for ways to make our lives tougher, not easier. It’s in this self-inflicted hardship that we become tougher, more resilient, and better equipped for the tribulation that will one day come anyway. This self-inflicted hardship builds the characteristics that were once commonplace in society, like honor and character, even confidence.
Character. The Forgotten Ally.
Success, in previous generations, was the result of the development of something called, character. It was a necessary ally on the road to becoming the man you wanted to be. Then came the 60’s and 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and success became contingent on skills like salesmanship and interpersonal skills. Character has since lost it’s value in the eyes of society and the men and women who inhabit it, but it hasn’t lost it’s value in our lives, our development, and our quest for happiness and purpose.
Character, however, isn’t developed in ease. Anyone can be nice and good when everything is nice and good. It’s when the shit hits the fan that our true character is revealed.
When I say “hardship”, I’m including all forms of tribulation, be they grand, epic, audacious adventures that require lot’s of hard work, persistence, and sacrifice, or physical hardships that one incurs building their own home, and yes, even working out.
Hardship, for the purposes of this article, is the opposite of ease.
The Gym: The Zone of Hardship
One of the best places we can develop character and toughness is in the gym. All of life is confined to the hour of training we do in the gym. We’re forced with tough decisions. We’re forced to persist or quit, to be real with ourselves about our effort, or to lie to ourselves and continue on the path of living a false life that we’ve always been on.
The gym is a microcosm for life. You have to push through pain to grow. Not everyone pushes through the pain. They think they’re working hard, but they really aren’t. They like simply being there, and feel that’s enough. It isn’t. And it’s not “enough” to merely show up in life and go through the motions. You have to work and hustle and force yourself through and past those areas in your life when all you want to do is quit.
The gym is life. It’s where you can test your mettle every day. You can pussy out, or push through. If you push through, even if you fail, you become tougher and more resilient. If you quit, you take a giant step back that’s compounded every other time you quit early. In the gym, just like in life, quitting weakens you and persistence strengthens you.
Resilience isn’t developed like it once was. And though I hate to describe a perfect past that never existed, there are things in our past that were better, just like there are things in our present which are better than they were in our past.
Toughness, grit, and resilience are characteristics that are fleeting. We’re coddled, at least in comparison to previous generations. The only way to rise above this, is to put yourself outside of your comforts. To become resilient you have to try and fail and try again. Faith is the most paramount and valuable ally in becoming resilient. But faith isn’t merely a birthright, but something you strengthen in pain, not in success and triumph.
Hardship is your best friend as in pushing through pain, loss, and failure, you become tougher and more resilient, you strengthen your will.
Much is made of this thing called confidence. It’s why most of us enter the gym, trying to grow stronger and tougher and more muscular. But true confidence has to be rooted in toughness. It must be accompanied by purposefulness and assertiveness, or else it isn’t confidence.
True confidence, though it can be heavily aided by the physical pain that happens in the gym, must be forged under less than ideal circumstances. It’s nearly impossible for a guy who’s been given everything in life, who doesn’t push himself beyond his zones of comfort, to be truly confident. A boy who has to work at a young age and make his own way in the world, however, is given a far greater opportunity to develop the confidence that comes from persistence and resilience, as well as hard work and failure.
It’s a gift to lose and to fail. It’s a blessing to be at a disadvantage. It’s only then that you’re forced to figure out how to make this disadvantage into an advantage.
True confidence is knowing that you can handle any situation.
Theodore Roosevelt displayed true confidence in his unwillingness to ever back down from a challenge, no matter how outmatched he may have been, or how likely the result would be his death. He consistently, in situations of conflict, ran to the conflict, challenging the aggressor, rather than fleeing to safety. This is the way of a man. It’s this confidence that also has to be forged as TR did, by placing hardship upon one’s self.
Develop confidence by putting yourself in dicy situations that scare you, even situations where your life is in danger, not in any way to feel that rush that will inevitably come from living so close to the edge of life and death, no, more-so in not letting the chance of death deter your ambitions for adventure.
Fight the bully, don’t run. Respond to threats in kind. Don’t back down from them in fear. Tavel the world, broaden your horizons and face those things that scare you, but you know you must conquer. Don’t merely wait for these trials, seek them out, find them, place them upon yourself to test your will.
Confidence is born in both wins and losses. Wins, however, if they are to be grand, have to come on the backs of smaller wins and failures. These smaller wins exist in the battles you and I wage daily.
The Battle We All Wage Daily.
Steven Pressfield called it the Resistance, that thing, be it fear or laziness or anything that stops you from reaching your potential and getting your work done. You face it daily on the battlefield of life, whether you know it and accept it or not, the battle is waging.
If you don’t accept the fact that you’re at war with your weakness everyday, your weakness – in the form of laziness, fear, a lack of ambition – wins. It grows. It compounds and turns into a monster that will only be defeated whence you realize that you’ve lived a small life, not at all reaching your potential, constantly in the shadows of your fear.
It’s in fighting this battle that you become tougher. It’s this battle that is the self-inflicted hardship. You fight it when you sit down everyday and work. Everyday. You fight it when you stick to your training routine or your nutrition plan (like the Man Diet). You push it back when you use TV as a reward rather than as a break.
You have to fight this battle of attrition if you’re to become the man you know deep down you’re destined to become. It isn’t easy, but that’s the point. Actually doing something with your life is hard. Leaving a legacy and an imprint on your society, etching your names into the history books doesn’t occur through a life of ease, but only through hard work, sacrifice, and persistence.
Fight the battle everyday.
Put yourself in situations that aren’t optimal or ideal or easy, and love it. Love the fact that you’re not only taking the road less traveled but that you’re taking the just road, the road that will strengthen who you are and the man you’re to become. Man up. Fight for your life. You have one. Make the most of it by not making it easy.