There is so much that’s out of our control in life. With what’s within our control, however, we have to make the most of or else our lives, our fate, our happiness will never be ours.
I’m reading, Where Men Win Glory, the odyssey of Pat Tillman. Before that it was, Unbroken, the story of Louie Zamperini. Before that it was, Killing Jesus, the saga of a man who’s impact on the world can’t come close to being paralleled. The books that preceded these were focused on Napoleon and Theodore Roosevelt and Robert E. Lee.
I have a habit of reading about great men, their triumphs, failures, and struggles. And whether I’m reading about the Son of God or the son of two Italian immigrants, it becomes apparent that no man can control everything in his life, but the great ones take full control over everything they can.
It’s this action, this taking responsibility, grasping the reigns of life and using the time that is theirs that separates great men from those who are deemed, common. Each of the aforementioned men took command of what they could control, from their thoughts to their actions, and accepted that which they couldn’t control.
Where most of us fall into trouble is in our attempt to control what we can’t and our failure to control what we can. Furthermore, we wish and dream to control what we’re incapable of controlling, like our starting place in life, our physical abilities, talents, blessings, and wish we didn’t have to control things like our thoughts, our effort, and our actions.
We wish we were born into wealth, yet we wish we didn’t have to wake up at 5am and work 17-hour days to create said wealth. We complain about what we can do, and complain about that which we can’t possibly change. If we are to be named in the same sentence as legends like Theodore Roosevelt or Napoleon or Alexander the Great or Robert E. Lee, we must understand what we can and cannot control, accept it as fact, and do all we can conceivably do to steer our lives in the direction we want them to head by doing our utmost with what we have…
… And what you’ll find in every circumstance is that what we have control over is far greater than what we’re attempting to control at this very moment.
One thing you must be: Bold as a Lion
Complaining About What We Should Cherish
I didn’t grow up with a ton of money. I grew up with even less when compared with the kids in the neighborhood I grew up in, or the Catholic high school I was educated in (of course, when compared with other kids growing up around the world, I was extremely wealthy, it’s interesting how long it took me to realize this). When kids were getting the newest hockey gear for Christmas or their birthdays, I was saving money from my paper route or my summer job at a garage where I fixed tires and changed oil to buy skates and pads from the garage sales that would pop up around town every summer.
Looking back with the knowledge I now have, if I could implant it into the head of that stubborn child I’d see the kids getting gear as gifts and not having to earn said gear as being hard done by, as they were stripped of the gift of earning their gear. Alas, I was a kid surrounded by kids who did nothing to earn the latest skates or pads, and I wanted to get the latest gear with such ease, so on occasion I’d complain to my parents that we didn’t have enough money or that other kids got to travel on planes for vacation while we packed our station wagon and headed up to the interior of B.C. where we’d spend a week or two at a lake house that was lent to us by a friend of my family.
With the benefit of hindsight I can see how it was I that was given the benefit of having to work for what I wore or played in. It was I who was given the benefit of understanding the value of a dollar at a young age.
Of course, I have to note, that I got plenty of gifts as a lad, not everything was earned, but my parents did a wonderful job of making me earn what I should earn in the first place, and not showering me with expensive things that I would grow out of within the year.
My view of my situation was what I controlled back then and my complaints were about things that were out of my control and things that I really shouldn’t have been complaining about, but things, realities that I should have cherished.
Developing Unshakable Character
Each of the men above, save Napoleon, had the characteristic of unbreakable, unshakeable character. Their understanding of write and wrong was so firm, but what was most incredible was their ability to act upon this knowledge. Most of us know what’s right and what’s wrong, yet we constantly wade into the murky waters that we know we shouldn’t be in because of our weakness, our inability to stand strong even when we’re alone, standing against an army.
Do you speak ill of your enemy if given the opportunity? Do you gossip, period? Do you look for the easy way out? Do you look to cheat or lie or steal?
I’m sure we’ve all committed all of the aforementioned offenses. We’ve looked to plagiarize instead of doing our own work and when we got away with it, we did it again. We looked to undercut someone because we knew they weren’t worthy or good, instead of focusing on our own actions and our own path and earning our place without having to bring down someone else to propel ourselves.
We feel it our duty to bring to light the failings of others just so they’re known. We don’t trust that others can see these failings, so we take it upon ourselves to highlight them. We explain our laziness by providing reasons for its existence. We make excuses for our lack of accomplishment, providing reasons (excuses) as to why it hasn’t happened (read: 7 Ways to Become a Better Man).
Every day we compromise our values and our honor to reason and make our lives appear better, to create an illusion that we are something that we are not instead of becoming the man we want to be.
Instead of working harder we tear down the person who is where we’d like to be or the guy we’re competing against. We then rationalize this weakness citing the fact that everyone else is doing the same thing and to not do so would put us at a disadvantage. The disadvantage, however, will come to light when life gets really tough, when our backs are against the wall and our character is exposed.
This undercutting, complaining, talking behind the backs of others does nothing but weaken us, it prepares us to fail when we have nothing to fall back on. When we’re stripped naked and forced to stand on our values there will be nothing to stand on; no strength, no honor, if we continue to compromise those things we know to be good, in the name of making our lives easier, we will one day be exposed, if it hasn’t happened already.
This strengthening starts with understanding how life is, then building upon it without wishing it were different.
Change how you view the world: 5 World-views You Need to Succeed
Your Foundation of Truth
Life is filled with battles. There are those battles against the elements, like time and motivation, and the battles against the Resistance, distractions and things that keep you away from your work and your mission, and battles waged between ease and honor.
It’s ease that has crept into our society, and with this desire for ease even within the hustle, character has been its victim. To be a man of honor you have to understand your own thought process, your weaknesses and strengths and draw a line that you just don’t cross.
Where many fail is in seeing their situation for what it is. We see our poverty, but that’s where it ends, we don’t see the control we have just the hand we’ve been dealt. We see our obesity, the terrible genetics we’ve been given but not the donut in our mouth or our lack of discipline. We see the failed business attempt but not the lesson within the failure. We give control to the events when the control over our lives can be in our hands. Even when we can’t control the events we can control how we perceive them and react to them.
The battle for many is seeing what is rather than complaining about what isn’t. If you’re fat, it’s important to know this. If you’re poor, the same. If you’re weak, scrawny, lazy, ignorant, it’s important to understand this foundation, because without this understanding there’s no improvement or that it isn’t how it has to be, but that you’ve been led to this point by your own actions, or just by a shitty hand. And if this hand you’ve been dealt is shitty, accept it, it is, you cannot change the hand but you can change what you do with it.
When I was a kid I needed to understand that I was being a wuss, that I was complaining about something that I had no business complaining about. I had to earn my hockey gear, that’s how it was, and as such I should have focused solely on making as much money as possible so I can buy the best hockey gear I could possibly buy or becoming so good that I make it to the level where your gear is bought for you. Simple.
I later had to realize that I was too scrawny, and that to become the best athlete I could become I had to become stronger.
Accepting that you’re fat or weak or lazy isn’t a depressing thing, there’s no “feeling” in this acceptance, just truth; liberating truth. When you accept it as something that is, you can turn it into something that was.
From there your foundation of truth evolves and your road to strength develops.
The Path to Unbreakable Character Isn’t for the Weak
The road of honor is the hardest and most arduous road for a man to take which is why so few take it. It’s filled with subtle battles and the persistent presentation of easier ways out. It’s life-long. It never ends. But as you face this battle daily you become stronger and much better equipped to face it, and even tougher battles, in the future.
Look to the men presented earlier in the article. Robert E. Lee, for one. He did what he saw to constantly be true and just even if that meant doing what was the most difficult thing to do. He didn’t take the invitation to talk ill of his enemies, nor fight against his brothers, though both would have been easier to do. In the end, his road of honor led him through much hardship, to a country that disowned him, to dead friends and pressure that would have led the average man to question his path and ultimately choose the easier one. Yet as a man of honor that’s the road he had to take and it’s one he followed until his death.
In no way did this road of honor make his life easier, which is why so many in today’s society, and in past societies, have fled to easier paths. It doesn’t promise victory nor glory nor greatness nor even happiness, yet it’s the road that a man must take if he’s to become his best.
Christ could have fled his unbearably horrible and painful death quite easily. Yet, as man of honor he knew the battle that had to be fought and developed the courage needed to face a painful, unjust, unwarranted death when an extended life very easily could have been his. His death what in line with his values. To run, to save himself wasn’t.
How many of us would face death when we could very easily live, but living wasn’t in line with our values?
Tillman did what he knew to be right and just and honorable and in the end it cost him his life. He knew that his duty was to fight the evil that attacked his country, and though he died in the war he always let his conscience, his sense of right and wrong and honor lead the way, and the foundation that allowed him to make such tough decisions was his character.
Roosevelt’s life was one that was filled with tough decisions but decisions he made with his gut, his conscience, his sense of right and wrong and not a desire to become popular.
Zamperini’s code of honor evolved and eventually gave him a foundation to stand upon, guiding him through some of the worst tortures and obstacles that a man can navigate through, each of which somehow leading to a man with a positive outlook on the world even after having survived such atrocities.
Letting your character lead your life isn’t easy, nor does it promise victory. It isn’t a life filled with rest and relaxation, but it is the life that a man must live if he’s to call himself a man, a leader, an alpha male.
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t live a life of honor.
It isn’t the easy life, nor the life that most strive to live. It’s one that’s filled with tough decisions and even more difficult actions. It requires of you control over your emotions and the courage to identify your weaknesses. It needs of you rational thought and purposeful strides toward what is right, not what is easy.
To become a man of character requires practice. It requires you to know yourself, your weaknesses, what roads you will travel if character isn’t leading the way. It also requires courage. We all know right from wrong, good from bad, but the majority of us lack the character to make the tough choices, the just choices. It’s within you, this man of honor and character. Your potential is dependent on you living as this man. Next time you’re faced with a tough decision, remember this, remember what’s at stake, and make that choice that will being you closer to the man you can become, a man of honor.