The true measure of the power a man wields isn’t in what or who he controls, but how much power he has over himself. Power, in the sense of position or rank or responsibility, can be given. Power, when it’s given without true merit is of little value as the man who’s given power is unlikely to have the respect of those he commands, nor their fear. (Read this: The 6 Steps to Being a Respected Man )
Power earned is a whole other animal, and power earned in this world starts with the power over the Self, over the desires and wishes and wants that every man has. Within this article we’ll lay out steps that every man can take to gain more power over himself, for when he has power over his most powerful weapon – his mind, body, and spirit – he will be able to accomplish whatever he sets his sights on.
One of the first books I read in its entirety was, The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. It’s a fine book, a great book for any man looking to improve his position in life, but also a great book to understand the psychology of the masses. In this book, which I’ve read a couple times but not in at least a decade, Machiavelli poses the question as to whether it is better to be loved or feared? He says feared, partially because love can turn to hate but where people fear you as a leader so greatly that they won’t dare turn against you.
The real answer between this a and b question, is c, respected. If you’ve ever respected a man, who he is, what he stands for, his integrity and his ability, you’ll know that respect is far more powerful a tool than fear or even love. It combines them both and speaks to the spirit of a man. If a leader has subjects who respect him, they put their soul into carrying out the tasks he gives them, the missions he sends them on. He becomes more than a boss, but a leader, more than a commander, but a father figure.
Searching through history’s generals, CEOs, and even spiritual leaders, its quite easy to choose archetypes to prove this point that respect is more powerful than fear or love. On the battlefield, there may have never been a greater general than Robert E. Lee. Rare is a man who’s life is led by his values, unflinchingly so. Even more rare is it that a man’s enemies hold him in higher regard than even their own soldier and generals and leaders. Lee was a man who fought against the odds, who led with focus and action, and a man who had as much control over himself than most other men in history.
He’s the same man who saw how his love for something even so simple as whiskey, could lead to his downfall or even a sub-par performance in life.
Outside of the battlefield, the choice for an archetype where respect is proven to be even more powerful than fear and love – although this man was loved, as was Lee – the most famous man the world has ever known makes the choice very, very easy. Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t a pure pacifist, as displayed by his tirade in the Temple, flipping over the tables of the money lenders and salesman making a mockery of His Father’s house. He was a radical. A radical that became the most powerful man the world has ever known, and he did it with respect.
We’ll focus more on Lee for the purposes of this article because of his rise and his battles that are more documented through his letters, and they’re battles that each of us shares.
Power Over The Self
Every day we are embattled in a war to live as best we can, to ward off the things we don’t need to be doing, the distractions that pull us from our mission, and the things that weaken our resolve. Most of us give in to these “temptations”, these promises of an easier route. The few who don’t rise to heights that most men simply can’t fathom. (Read this: 7 Steps to Improve Focus and Productivity)
As you can see in Lee’s story, his incredible sense of honor and discipline and his ability to choose what’s right, not what’s popular or easy, didn’t actually lead to him conquering the world or earning a lot of money, it may have, in many cases, led to more pain and hardship than the easy route would have given him; however, there is no man in history respected more by both friends and foes, there is no general in history who is respected as much by all those who fought against him and for him. This is true power. It’s power that starts with the power over the Self.
If you want to be a leader of great men, a man who leaves this world a better place, a man who leaves an indelible mark on this fine planet, the first step is the hardest, gaining control and power over the man in the mirror.
1. Lay out your laws.
Rules and laws can get in the way, they can get in the way of the greater mission. Take Christ, for example, he attacked the Pharisees and the law makers in his parable about the prodigal son because they lost the spirit of what they believes in the laws that ruled their lives. They saw faith as a set of rules, not as a belief or love as Christ did.
Your own, personal, laws, though, should free you from the chains that bind you to mediocrity. They should free you to become a better man.
Write your laws down, keep them close, and commit yourself to not straying from them. Just as Lee loved the booze, he saw it as something that would hold him back. Now, I too love whiskey, but it’s not something I stay away from. It’s a reward for work well done, for a long week, it’s something that brings friends together and makes laughs even more abundant. It’s his law, though it isn’t mine – at least not at the moment.
A few laws you might add:
– I will never envy, I will instead rejoice in the successes and victories of others, even my competition, for the better they do, the harder I have to work to keep up.
– I will wake up early every day, no matter what day it is, where I am, or the night that preceded it.
– I will never curse my situation, nor compare it to another’s. Comparing our life to that of another can only lead to unhappiness, laziness, and self-pity. ‘Tis the cowardly road to take.
– No matter the decision I am faced with, I will choose the one that is right by my conscience, not the one that is easy, nor even more lucrative. I will not rationalize opposing my morals no matter how easy it makes my life.
– I will persist, always, because I know I am on the right path and I am tough enough to endure whatever life throws my way.
– When I set my goals I won’t let my perceived limitations limit the audacity of my goals, I will set the highest goals I can possibly set in any given field, and then I will give them the effort needed to accomplish them,
Laws aren’t limiting when they forge a stronger spirit. Write down laws, though not too many, that will guide you to become a stronger version of the man you are right now. (Read this: The 21 Laws of Manliness)
2. Practice these 5 disciplines.
When you have control over those desires that lead to laziness, inactivity, and ultimately regression, you become stronger and more effective in every other area of your life. The friends I have that lack discipline in one area ultimately lack it in others, and I’m the same. When one area slips, the dominos begin to fall.
Practice these 5 disciplines daily to become tougher, grittier, and better.
a. Wake up early.
Don’t wake up early to work earlier than anyone. Wake up earlier because it’s not easy, and when you perform tasks that aren’t easy, other tasks become easier, but also to do what comes next.
b. Start your day with exercise and reading and silence.
The best CEOs in the world typically wake up early, but they do so to create clarity and to “prime” for a successful day, they don’t just get up and start working. Adding an hour of priming to my day, where I exercise (lightly, not my actual workout, check it out here: my morning routine), read, and write down my goals, has given me much more focus throughout the day, resulting in a heck of a lot more accomplishment.
c. Plan daily.
If your days aren’t guided by a plan, you won’t accomplish everything you want to accomplish. Plan both your days and your weeks, and keep your plans as simple and as focused as possible.
d. Plan annually.
Plan big picture stuff as well, with the year coming to an end it’s a great time to plan your year out and all you want to accomplish within the next 365 days.
e. Train your bloody arse off.
Working out not only helps your mind and your health and your energy levels, but within each workout there are moments where you want to quit. It’s these battles that we need every day. We need them because they make us tougher. They make us stronger. They exist in our work day, but more literally within each set when they pain becomes unbearable but we’re able to somehow squeeze out another rep.
3. Start with one.
Where disciplines are concerned, don’t start with everything all at once, start with one and build upon that single discipline. The same goes with your laws. Identify the single thing that’s most important and build upon that. As you grow, as these tough tasks become easier, you add more on to your plate.
But conquer one before you move on to two.
4. Write down your priorities in order.
Knowing where you stand in life will help you determine the right decisions to make.
I’m reading the book American Sniper, with Chris Kyle. He, like Robert E. Lee, labels his priorities as God, country, then family. Interesting. Yet it has allowed both him and Lee make decisions based upon the order of their priorities.
Most of us don’t even know our priorities, let alone what order they’re in. Determining where you stand on the bigger issues in life is important.
For example, your priorities could be in order, but that doesn’t mean you love one more than the other.
You could go God, work, family, or, God, family, career. By focusing on your career ahead of your family, it doesn’t mean that you love your work more, but that in order to serve your family as best you can, you have to take care of business first. That being said, I would put my priorities as God, family, business, because I work for my family and by taking care of business I serve them better.
Business gets more time and effort, but family gets quality of time. With that said, I’m single, so God and business are pretty much all that exists.
When you know your priorities you can make the tough decisions in life easier, or if not easier, clearer. Having control over the tough decisions in life is having control over the Self, it’s having a clear path that so few truly have in life. It’s liberating. It free’s you up to do all you can do and be all you can be.
5. Have your goal, bigger mission in print.
Don’t just have dreams, intangible wishes that you hope will one day come to fruition. You’re not a child, start setting the big goals you want to accomplish in life.
There I said it. A man who isn’t improving or going anywhere important (even if that importance is within him, or completely focused on his family) he can’t look in the mirror with pride and he can’t live with purpose. So set some goals, audacious ones, and put them on paper.
Figure out what you want from life, and even if you’re not sure on the method to get there, understand where you want to be and the method will one day show itself. (Try this: How to Reach the Unattainable Goal of Your True Potential)
On this note, write out your perfect day.
We’ve covered this on the site a few times, but writing down your perfect day in great detail, from the time you wake up, to the smells, sights, sounds, to who you wake up next to, gives you a clear vision as to what you truly want.
You’ll also find that what you really want isn’t a fast car or a mansion, though those may be in the day, you want meaning, you want purpose, you want love and you want to matter.
Power in the real world can’t be given. If it’s handed to you, it will be mocked. If, however, it’s earned, like it was for Lee, Christ, Napoleon, or Wallace, you’ll have both love and fear wrapped up into the magic that comes when you’re truly respected.
To be a man that other good men respect, you have to have power over the Self. You have to be able to accomplish what you set your mind to, you must have purpose, unshakable focus on a path that no one, no thing can knock you from.
It’s when you’re going somewhere great, being somewhere great, that you gain true, loyal followers who respect both your mission, your path, and who you are. This is where real power lies.
Read this next: A Real Man’s Guide to Living a Legendary Life