What Does It Mean to Be Strong?

Being strong physically and emotionally is essential to being a man. Emotional strength is something that is sorely lacking in today’s men. Emotional strength is so important that this is why other men and women are hard wired to shit test you. Yes, other men will shit test you and if you think about it, you shit test other men. The reason is simple: women shit test to see if you are a worthy mate, men shit test to see if you are someone worthy of allowing into their tribe. Ultimately, a shit test is something that is testing your emotional strength.

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In short, emotional strength boils down to having an incredibly strong sense of self. The lion knows who he is. There is no angst, no anxiety, no worry, he IS the king of the jungle.

 

A strong sense of self is your frame. If you read any PUA sites or forums you’ll immediately notice that frame and frame control are among the most written about topics. The PUA definition of frame is certainly true, yet myopic. Your frame is much more than just passing shit tests and controlling your interactions with women. Your frame is your belief system. It is the set of beliefs that guide you in all interactions, not just with women. Once you’ve established your belief system then you must be congruent with your inner beliefs. This is often referred to as integrity. Behaving this way becomes your frame. You need to know who you are, how you interact with the world around you. Violating your integrity will cost you. The less you live authentically, the more depressed you become.

To begin with, you must find your core values and beliefs. Who are you and what do you stand for? What are your non negotiable stances? You should know who you are in relation to all things. If you don’t know any of these things then work on establishing these foundations. One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from “Operation Werewolf”: “Know who you are by becoming who you want to be.”

Who do you want to be? What would you look like if you were this man? How would you behave if you were the man that you want to be? What would that man stand for? How would his relationships be with other people? Be honest with yourself. Remember, you are not living someone else’s life and they aren’t living  yours. In this quest of yours taking time to write in a journal will be essential. I would also recommend controlling your thoughts by mindfulness and presence. Once you have a basic idea then begin to act like that man. Action will be the only thing that changes you. Be authentic. As you gain strength your own weaknesses will be more apparent to you. This can be frustrating. For most guys it is demoralizing and they give up. While you will act to correct your weaknesses, you should also accept that you have them; every man does. As you uncover more and more of yourself in relation to who you want to be, your ideal may change. This is OK, it means that you are growing.

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Strive for consistency in your moods and behaviors but balance it with passion for life and fearlessness. While I am a major fan of reading and educating myself, much of your progress in this area will come from the ring or the gym. In order to know yourself and who you really are you must fight and you must lift. Getting into a ring with another man and fighting or grappling is a great equalizer; there is no bullshit. The gym will also teach this to you as 300 lbs is always going to be 300 lbs; either you can lift it or you can’t. As Henry Rollins said; “Learning about what you’re made of is time well spent and I’ve found no better teacher.”

Finally, its not all about you. Others are relying on you to be a strong man; society, your business, your buddies, your wife, your kids,, your animals and your parents. They all need you more than ever to dig deep down and become the strong man that you are destined to be.

Until next time.

 

Cold Showers and Excellence

After taking ice cold showers in the morning for several years, I recently realized what I had truly learned from these showers.

What I realized is that I was doing the bare minimum, just kind of sucking it up and getting it over with. This was fine, but after a while I needed to grow. It was then that I realized this was a moment to excel, to push myself. The cold shower itself was uncomfortable enough, but forcing myself to stand under it the complete time and other small adjustments enabled me to push myself further.

There is a huge difference between doing something, even something strong or noble, with an aggressive attitude or a defensive attitude. The difference lies in this: with any combat sport if you get back on your heels and just block punches you will eventually get hit. Actually, you are gonna get pulverized. If you get aggressive, block and counter you may still get hit, but you are going to move the fight in your direction.

How many times have you gone into the gym to crush a workout and only wound up doing the bare minimum to call it a work out? Yes, you did it, but did you do it with excellence? This is difficult. One of the temptations in being task oriented is to become robotic just doing the task and crossing it off of your list. Don’t get me wrong, laying the foundation of making lists and completing them is necessary, but this is a stage that you must grow out of. The next stage is deeper, this is the arena where you battle not only your physical limitations but your emotional and spiritual limitations as well. This is a battle that we will all face for the rest of our lives.

The lesson applies to all facets of our existence. In work it will make the difference between a life of mediocrity and a life of excellence. For instance, if you have a blog in the hopes of making money you will want to work on it daily. You can write a few sentences here and there. Technically you’ve done what you set out to do; the bare minimum. The other option is to write, research, learn and doing whatever it takes to make your blog a success. This is excellence.

I recently began reading an autobiography of a man who completed Kyokushin Karate’s “30 Man Kumite”. For those unfamiliar with this, it is a grueling sparring session against 30 men consecutively for 1 minute each. The skill of the fighters faced also increases with each man. There are some certified bad asses roaming this planet who have also completed the “100 Man Kumite” and a “300 Man Kumite”. I digress. This book is interesting in that it is really the author’s karate autobiography. The point is that all of his training for his whole life came down to this moment, it prepared him for this moment. All of the difficult training was its own philosophy, it taught him what he needed to learn. It taught him to understand in strength. Had the author not pursued excellence in his training at all times he may not have been passed this test later in his life.

It takes work and strength of mind to build ourselves up in this way. We live in a society where people expect accolades for just showing up. We also live in a society where appearing to be is just as good as actually being. We all want the rewards without the blood, sweat and tears. This is one of the many, many benefits of the combat arts; when you get into the ring or on the mat with someone else you are authentic, there is no faking your skills. There are no excuses, you find out who you really are and what you are made of. I recently watched a documentary on Vice’s “Fightland” about a dojo in Amman, Jordan. One interviewee, a very religious man, stressed how he was planning on fighting in the ring because he said, “I don’t want to lie to others and I don’t want to lie to myself.” He wanted to find out exactly what he was made of. He was searching for authenticity. This is a truly noble search.

 

Understanding in Strength

My absolute favorite prose written about lifting weights is Henry Rollin’s “The Iron”. Its just phenomenal. In it he cites Yukio Mishima on strength. Mishima said that he could not contemplate romance unless he was strong. This really resonated with me and to be frank its something that I’ve written about extensively in my own journaling. What I have come up with is that in order to understand anything I must understand it in strength. I can only understand life when I am strong. These revelations have made a profound impact on my life.

Often when I was younger I searched for something that I could not put into words. What I searched for was a masculine identity. I searched like a thirsty man in the desert, looking for some sort of oasis to quench my unquenchable thirst. I didn’t find it. What was offered to me as masculinity was like drinking diet soda, people say it has great taste but its just not the same as the real deal. At the same time I was bombarded at school by female teachers treating me like there was something wrong with me for being interested in the things that boys are interested in. I found that there were sanctioned places to be men and I tried them only to find them utterly useless and disappointing. I knew there was more.

When writing in private on some of Mishima’s writings I have isolated what I searched for. Authentic masculinity is on the fringes. I thought about what my junior high and high school teachers would have thought about Mishima. He would have been branded a fanatic, a rebel on the fringes, someone counter to the zeitgeist of the times that is held so dear. This is exactly where Mishima’s authenticity lies. He is on the fringes, he scares because of his authenticity. He is what Ernst Junger would call the “Forest rebel”. I don’t know about his homeosexuality or bisexuality, these things seem up for debate, I will let others debate him. For our purposes he was a man with a background much like many of us today. One important thing that the young Yukio encountered was being raised by women and around girls a lot as a child. This had a profound impact on his life. Now comes the line of departure; he knew that he wasn’t getting what he needed to get to become a man, so he did what he needed to do to change it. He had an Epiphany of sorts and made the appropriate changes. I laugh when I read critics talking about how he swung in the opposite direction to a “hypermasculinity”. What else was he supposed to do? Just sit there and take it like the rest of them? No, he began to get into natural bodybuilding, martial arts and swordsmanship. He lamented that the spiritual aspect of the samurai code was no longer being passed down from father to son in Japan.

These experiences led Mishima to understand that strength comes first. As Henry Rollins says in the Iron, ” a strong body will produce strong thoughts.” This is right out of Mishima’s classic “Sun and Steel”. Training and excercises in self discipline condition the mind to think in a strong way. I have seen in my own life that particularly with weight training, the greatest limitation on my progress are my own thoughts. Right now is all that we have, right now is the time to change our thinking. Right now is the time to be strong.

Thinking in a strong way is difficult, we are not taught to do this, its actually discouraged. I would venture to guess that very few men are taught how to think in a strong manner today. Some try to compensate with braggadocio and putting others down. Others embrace their “feminine side” or cede any remaining scrap of their masculinity to women. Neither of these ways of thinking are strong ways of thinking. Strong thinking is incredibly difficult. I don’t pretend to know it, as a matter of fact, through my journaling I only recently became able to put it into words. What I do know is that when I practice it my entire world is turned upside down. I feel positive, strong, a sense of well being and my creativity doubles. My workouts also improve dramatically in intensity. I do not accept anything less than living up to my commitments to myself.

Understanding in strength is the masculine way, the way of the warrior. We must first seek strength. We must be true to ourselves. Every time that we sell ourselves out we feel the repurcussions in our lives. Mishima understood this well when he wrote, “Cowardly words make the heart itself cowardly, and being regarded by others as a coward is the same as being a coward. The slightest flaw in word or deed causes the collapse of one’s philosophy of life. This can be a hard truth to bear.”