If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success. ~ John D. Rockefeller
In business, don’t look for trends; instead invent a new one. Don’t follow leaders in your industry, craft out a new niche.
In life, don’t pursue what has already been pursued, and don’t follow paths that have been laid out for you. This is the worst trap that the majority of us fall into. We don’t take time to really think and decide if this path we’re heading down is the one in which we ideally want to venture.
Success is as much about accumulation – of knowledge, skills, wealth, land, etc. – as it is about exploration. You need both, and when combined you find true success no matter how you define it nor what you place the most importance upon.
Spend some time, real time, a day or better yet a week thinking about your path and what path you want to head down.
You don’t have to make a dramatic change, sometimes we head down a road simply to learn, it isn’t our eventual direction, but we’re learning, absorbing, acquiring the knowledge necessary to step into those paths yet to be travelled.
No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself. ~ Seneca
You have no reason to try to prove yourself to others. They really don’t matter in your pursuit, one that should be yours and yours alone.
You have to, however, prove yourself to yourself. That’s how you gain confidence. That’s how you gain power, strength, and character. And a man who never faces adversity can never really know what he’s made of nor what he’s worth.
Seek adversity by aiming higher and persisting. The flaw in many of our pursuits in life is that we think we find meaning. No, meaning is something you create, not by jumping from project to project or job to job, but by sticking it out and creating meaning in the least likely of places.
The profession is irrelevant. The aim has to be high, but the persistence has to be infinite.
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. ~ Marcus Aurelius
Fear regret. Most fear death or bodily harm or failure, but it’s the fear of regret that will propel us to attempt things we won’t attempt if we fear the latter more than the former.
The fear of regret, of dying with a heard filled with the stinging pain of not taking advantage of opportunity, pushes us to live. The fear of death confines us to an existence devoid of daring adventure or audacious attempts.
Don’t fear death, it’s a constant. It’s something that will come in its time regardless of whether you’re ready or not. Fearing regret, of dying on your deathbed wishing you’d been more and done more and accomplished more should conjure a pit in your stomach that can’t be cured until you start doing what you know you must do, living in a way you deem as life, not mere existence.
Most live a life of cowardice, a life in avoidance of living. They’re pussies. Don’t be a pussy. Don’t fear death, it’s an illogical thing to fear because it grabs every single one of us. Not living, however, is something most do but everyone has the choice not to do.
We can all live, few ever do. Be of the few, not of the many. Live a damn daring life in the face of irrational fears. Be a badass. Don’t be a little bitch.
‘Tis the time of year where we look back on years previous and define what we want to accomplish moving ahead.
We make lists of things we want to accomplish. We give said things deadlines. We make checklists of the habits we’re going to create that will help us achieve what we want to achieve. We think we know what we want, but we never spend the time nor do we dig deep enough to define what, precisely, our idea of ‘life’ is. (Read This:The Ultimate Guide to Setting Life-Changing Goals)
Heck, I don’t. I think about it, ponder it in passing, even settle down for an evening of scotch and a cigar and a book and let both help such a question percolate. I don’t, however, give such a question the time, focus, or strategic planning that it deserves.
It seems like it’s not a tangible question. Too much philosophy involved, and too much change from year to year to give it a day or a week of reflection and strategy. We see the question of ‘what is living’ as a life long pursuit. It’s why we’re here, it’s what we’re here to answer and most of us don’t think we’ll ever actually answer it.
We sure don’t feel like we’re living right now. We wake up and exist on autopilot. Some of this is due to necessity. We’ve crafted a routine that allows us to perform on a level we’re satisfied with, but when was the last time we genuinely felt alive? It was probably on a trip where we did something dangerous or out of character.
Out of character…
What’s ‘in character’?
Is it being safe and conservative about how we act and what we pursue?
We exist in a bubble, afraid to step outside of it into a dangerous world, a sink-or-swim atmosphere of struggle, strife, pain, failure, and seemingly endless amounts of work. We’d rather avoid the discipline that a grand attempt at living requires for the safety of a relatively easy and persistent routine that asks little of us.
This is largely because we’re afraid of the wrong thing.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
We fear death more than we fear not living.
WHAT IS LIFE?
I’m trying to figure this question out myself. What I do know is that it’s filled with contradiction.
The dichotomy is that you need adventure, you need to get outside of your norm, but you also need discipline and focus or else you’re not going to accomplish much. (Read This:The Lost Art of Discipline)
Accomplishment has to be a big part of life, but it can’t be the only part of life. Discipline exists not only to accomplish, but to give freedom.
The man with no discipline may live for a time in an adventurous state, but at some point he’ll be too fat, too broke, too lazy to venture into the corners of the world where his definition of life is found.
On some level, we exist to accomplish. Accomplishment is the realization of our potential. It’s putting our talents and interests to use, and not just for ourselves, but for the betterment or enjoyment of others.
Developing a skill, mastering it, then creating something with it is accomplishment. It takes a great degree of discipline to do such a thing. It takes focus and clarity and intelligence.
Accomplishment is a massive part of life. Without it, in a life where we exist purely for existing’s sake, we serve no purpose. We can have pleasure, happiness, and joy, but without doing something, we serve no purpose, and it’s purpose that holds more weight than pleasure.
Pleasure is cheap. It gives us finite thrill and happiness. Accomplishment is hard won. It takes time, effort, and persistence.
No matter your definition of living, be it filled with daring adventure or family life, it is won on the back of effort. You cannot get something without giving something of equal or greater value, and often that thing you give is effort over time without the guarantee of reward.
Most people will read that last line and instead choose an easier way of life. When you’re not trying to become very good, even great, at anything, you can excuse yourself from this requirement of persistent effort, but you then also have to excuse yourself from winning. That is, you’re not going to become the man you have the potential to become because you didn’t dare to aim high enough.
Whatever you think you want to accomplish right now, aim higher. The higher the better. More audacious is more exciting, and excitement is where life is found.
While the masses exist in worlds where they know they can do what they set out to do with moderate amounts of risk and effort, dare far mightier if you want to truly live.
Adventure & Daring
There’s a reason why we like adventure movies, action movies, movies where fellas go beyond what we’re able or willing to do; we see adventure, wading into dangerous situations, and exploration, as living.
It’s the height of living.
Read Farther Than Any Man, by Martin Dugard, and tell me that Captain James Cook doesn’t inspire you. Exploration is at the heart of what it is to be a man. We’ve always wanted more. We want to find out what’s hiding around the corner, what’s beyond our knowledge.
Accomplishment and adventure is what living boils down to.
Yes, relationships and family and building a legacy are incredibly important, they’re necessary to live a flourishing life, but to live, to use your time engaged in living rather than intending or wishing or wanting, is to work and embark on the most grand adventures you can possibly embark upon.
On both spectrums of life, you need to dare. Whether it’s setting the most ambitious goals you can set for your career, your work, and your craft, or sprinkling some daring into your journeys.
What’s been done, what your friends are doing, what you’re told to do, these cannot be your focus. There’s nothing exciting in achieving something that took no guts or grit. There’s nothing exciting about sitting on your ass for an entire vacation, staying within the confines of your gated community.
Whatever you do in life, dare greatly.
About The Author
Chad Howse: Chad’s mission is to get you in the arena, ‘marred by the dust and sweat and blood’, to help you set and achieve audacious goals in the face of fear, and not only build your ideal body, but the life you were meant to live.
Because there is very little honor left in American life, there is a certain built-in tendency to destroy masculinity in American men. –Norman Mailer
Be aware of the trends that develop in society and why they develop. You can’t always go with the flow nor should you want to side with the masses. Sometimes you have to fight what’s going on around you by forging something stronger within you.
Honor is fleeting. It cannot flourish where vanity is king. It won’t thrive where envy and jealousy are the most common attributes.
Honor is the standard by which you carry yourself. It’s acting with justice and respect, integrity and character. It’s being a moral man when everyone else acts in convenience.
Honor is doing what must be done and what’s just even if it be a detriment to yourself. You don’t matter, your character does. Character is what helps you make decisions. Character is what helps you navigate the uncertain and murky waters of life.
Convenience has no place in an honorable man’s life. Convenience doesn’t rule his decision-making process. It can’t. Yet, it takes practice and self-awareness to understand what road should be travelled and what decision should be made.
We cannot be men if we do not live and act with honor in spite of our own welfare.
It’s easy to be honorable when honor is the easy decision, the sexy decision, the profitable path. But that’s not what honor is. Honor is staying the course through ridicule and pain, through trials, tribulations, and disaster. It’s not compromising who you are for convenience’s sake, nor fame’s, nor popularity’s, nor wealth’s.
As honor leaves American life, the attempt to destroy masculinity in American men, in all men, will follow.
Don’t let it.
Aspire not only to be a good man, but aim to be good at being a man. Be the protector and provider of your family and your community. Be the last line of defense. Be the source of logic and wisdom. Be all you can be or be nothing.
To achieve any goal, the ability to focus and concentrate our power of attention is crucial.
The modern world vies for our attention in a million different ways and through a million different avenues- television, the internet, clever marketing, partying, worries about money and existential threats to our survival… just to name a few.
Most people do not take any intentional steps to combat the inundation of information that unceasingly overloads our nervous systems. Instead, we end up getting caught up in the riptide current of noise and confusion.
With attention and focus scattered in a million directions, many are rendered too distracted and impotent to self direct their life course. As a result, the majority of men and women end up taking the path of least resistance – being a product and propagator of whatever direction the culture leads them; a worker and a consumer.
If we don’t consciously choose where to direct our attention, we will be unable to push past barriers and persist through the inevitable trials and challenges that life will hand us. Further, we’ll have little control over the stories our minds generate about ourselves and the world, and will become easily discouraged.
To combat this trend, we must take active steps in our lives to harness and draw in (concentrate) our powers of attention.
When it comes to achieving goals and creating things of unique value for others, focus and attention are more important than ability or talent.
You could have all the ability and potential in the world, but with a distracted, diffused mind you will never achieve that which requires diligence, persistence, and consistent effort (anything worthwhile).
Your life will be lived on automatic. You’ll give up at any sign of adversity, or get lost in the glittery distractions of the modern world.
Success Is A State of Being
When you think of success, what comes to mind? For most, it is the realization of a goal (money, status, prestige, strength, etc.). Success is conventionally defined in terms of achievement. Dictionary.com defines success as, “the accomplishment of one’s goals.” Basically, to succeed means to reach a desired finite point in the future.
I’d like to present a different definition of success. To me, success is something that can only be attained in the present moment. Success is a process, not an end result. It is a choice to persevere through challenge and persist right now. After all, right now is the only time we can ever take action.
Success isn’t about outcomes and the momentary pleasure that comes with reaching a goal. It is about attitude and action.
In any moment, we can choose to be successful by giving our 100% focus to the tasks at hand. Reaching our goals will be an inevitable byproduct of a successful attitude towards the present moment.
Success is the ability to direct attention and effort towards that which is most essential. A successful person accepts his current position in life without judgment or worry. Obstacles in the way are merely seen as challenges to overcome and grow from. He then works consistently and deliberately, day in and day out, to achieve his goals and change his circumstances.
If you had the choice, would you choose to worry, complain, or feel sorry for yourself? Would you choose to become apathetic and give up when faced with challenge? (Read This: Own Your Emotions)
Engaging in these mental/emotional habits is true “failure,” since they do nothing except get in our way and paralyze us from taking action.
So, would you engage in these destructive thought patterns if you had the choice not to? Or would you choose to develop a successful relationship towards your circumstances and the present moment?
The Power of The Placebo Effect and Framing
Framing, or the narratives we tell ourselves about the events and circumstances of our lives, is a hugely important determining factor in cultivating a demeanor of success.
Science has repeatedly shown the power that the placebo effect has on our lives. Many write the placebo effect off as inconsequential (“It’s just placebo”).
More stock should be given to this phenomenon, however.
The placebo effect basically shows that our fundamental beliefs about situations directly affect the outcomes, and oftentimes in profound ways. If we believe that a sugar pill is actually an anabolic steroid, it will have a much more powerful effect on us than if we think it’s just sugar.
All else being equal, what we think can literally influence physical matter. Such is the power of our minds.
I do not necessarily mean this in the cliché “law of attraction” sense that merely thinking a certain way completely shapes our reality. But certainly, our consistent mental and emotional patterns do produce certain corresponding neurochemical reactions in the body.
We also selectively attend to information in our environment that validates our frame, which then turns it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
[Quick example: If we are constantly thinking anxious thoughts, we will produce cortisol in the body, our minds will be less open to seeing solutions, we’ll be less charismatic, and be overall less primed for good things to happen to us.]
A lot of times, our internal mental states are determined by our external circumstances. People tend to give more energy and attention to “what is” than what they want to create.
If we’re poor and out of shape, our thoughts tend to turn towards how poor and out of shape we are, which only serves to fuel the fire of that paradigm via our daily (lack of) motivation and (lack of) actions.
If we’re healthy and wealthy, our thoughts tend to reflect that external circumstance, which also pumps momentum into that paradigm.
Regardless of the present circumstances of our lives, we can maintain consistently positive mental/emotional attention towards our goals. Action combined with a proper mindset/frame will produce the most profound results.
If we realize that to a degree, what we believe to be true can have a substantial impact in shaping the trajectory of our lives, then we can essentially choose helpful frames and omit ones that hurt us. We can then brainwash ourselves into believing these frames regardless of our present circumstances.
Doors will open up where only walls used to exist in our previously undisciplined use of our minds.
Other Real World Effects of Framing
Most of the time, most people are not consciously choosing their narratives. The narratives happen automatically and often are not useful or beneficial. Further, a lot of these frames are deeply embedded into our psyches; they are implicitly and explicitly instilled in us by parents, peers, school, the media, and past experiences.
The Neo-Darwinian “survival of the fittest” mentality, for example, frames the world through a competitive and selfish lens, where species must struggle and compete within and amongst each other for resources (as opposed to a world where species cooperate and live in an interconnected, symbiotic web).
Our relationships to the planet and one another reflects this collective framing of reality, and we come to feel that life is a competitive struggle to survive and gain resources (in essence a scarcity mindset).
In a blog post, Scott Adams (a political/social commentator and creator of Dilbert) talks about the palpable real world effects that framing has had upon America in relation to the presidential election.
He says, About half of the citizens of the United States think they elected a president who will “drain the swamp” in Washington DC and negotiate good trade deals for the public. But the other half believes they are living in 1930s Germany and the next Hitler just came to office. Those are very different movies, yet we all sit in the same theater at the same time. It’s trippy.
In this example, you can see how powerful framing and narratives are in determining our experience of the world. The same baseline reality has generated two entirely different narratives within the American public.
The differing interpretations of the election illustrate that people confuse the narratives overlaid onto reality with reality itself.
Aside from physical sensations, much of the negativity (or positivity) experienced by people is predominantly a result of the story/interpretation (frame) and NOT the event itself.
Frames powerfully inform our decision-making processes and can generate positive or negative emotional states within us without anything changing in our physical environment.
Any framing of reality is a relative perspective at best and, as in the case of the election, can be replaced with other equally convincing narratives.
Complaining, feeling discouraged or sorry for yourself, despising your current circumstances, guilting and shaming yourself or others, and worrying- are all framings of reality that are counterproductive and hold us back (how much do these patterns reflect the behaviors of the “Social Justice Warriors,” who in my opinion reflect very poor management of the mind and emotions?).
Looking at “setbacks” as challenging opportunities for growth and transformation is also a frame. Seeing yourself, no matter the ups and downs, as on a constant path of growth and development is another frame that is helpful to you.
Some of these frames are useful, and some aren’t. What’s important is to realize their interchangeability.
With increased focus, awareness, and attention comes the ability to consciously select the frames that are beneficial and stop running the frames that are counterproductive.
The Limitations of Framing
Any interpretation (frame) of reality is, by definition, limited. To frame is to explain, and to explain is to define something in specific terms. When you put full faith in a certain narrative, you have to omit lots of information that would contradict or invalidate that narrative.
This is not always problematic (and can be beneficial in certain instances), but it can cause us to formulate opinions based on a very biased, narrow and incomplete sets of information.
It’s not just negative framings of events that serve to limit our perception of reality. Positive frames can be just as detrimental. Hitler once stated, “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
Being “positive” and “optimistic” is certainly unwarranted in many cases (such as if you were living in Nazi Germany). It often leads to denial and pretending that our circumstances are better than they actually are out of a fear of facing reality.
The sensationalist news media excels at creating narratives based on incomplete or partial truths that have the effect of misleading people about the nature of the world they live in. Imagine that globally, a million good things happen in a day, and 4 bad things happen. If the media only reports on the 4 bad things that happened (because negative events garner attention), people will be led to think the world is more dangerous and evil than it actually is because they will never hear about the good things going on.
They develop a framing of the world based on very incomplete information. This limited frame is then mistaken for the total picture, when it’s actually just a very partial truth based on limited information.
If we believe that the threat of a terrorist attack is always looming over the horizon, for example, we will make much different decisions than if we realize the minimal chances of one occurring. We will be much more willing to give up our civil liberties in exchange for protection from an exaggerated threat.
Throughout history, narrow framings of reality and the accompanying set of agreed upon cultural assumptions have led to mental enslavement and the control of the masses by the few.
Transcend and Include: Cultivating Body Awareness to Use Our Minds Effectively
As Eckhart Tolle says, Strictly speaking, you don’t choose to think; Thinking happens to you. The statement “I think” implies volition. It implies that you have willfully chosen to think what you think (or that you think in the first place). For most people, this is not yet the case. “I think” is just as false a statement as “I digest” or “I circulate my blood.” Digestion happens, circulation happens, thinking happens.
Most people are unconsciously and automatically interpreting, judging and analyzing whatever is going on around them based on an inability to control their thoughts and frames.
We gain a false sense of comfort in believing we understand the world around us, but the downside is we become trapped inside of a very limited perspective (and life situation). We exchange the uncertainty (and potential expansion) that comes with not knowing for the comfortable prison of certitude.
Simply enough, this pattern can be combated with the cultivation of body awareness. Body awareness sharpens and concentrates our focus, which in turn helps us to refrain from adopting narrow personal and collective frames by activating the witness/observer within us.
When you can witness your thoughts and emotions without completely believing in them, you can choose to stop telling negative stories (and deluded positive ones).
As we hone our attention, we no longer will automatically put full stock in whatever narratives our minds churn out.
Body awareness cultivates your power of attention. For many of us, our attention is usually scattered outwardly into the external world and in thinking. When your attention is directed internally, you draw it out of distractions and literally concentrate it into bodily sensations.
As you make this a habit, your ability to choose where to direct your attention increases. Not to mention you become much more tuned in to the needs and desires of your body. Attention becomes like a beam of light that’s concentrated through a magnifying glass. Concentrated attention literally makes us more powerful and effective.
Indirectly, our resolve and ability to endure is strengthened as we become more “embodied” and grounded in our present moment reality.
This enables us to face life’s challenges head on instead of running into a pleasant mental fantasy, distraction or anxiety.
In a 2011 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Fadel Zeidan and colleagues discovered that an increased capacity to direct attention into the body (via meditation techniques) effectively reduces a person’s subjective experience of physical and emotional pain by 27% and 44% respectively (a margin larger than the effectiveness of morphine and anxiety medications).
They go on to say:
Because meditation likely alters pain by enhancing cognitive control and reframing the contextual evaluation of nociceptive information, the constellation of interactions between expectations, emotions, and cognitive appraisals intrinsic to the construction of the sensory experience can be regulated by the meta-cognitive ability to nonjudgmentally sustain focus on the present moment.
Much of the time, thinking (and framing is an aspect of thinking) distracts us from feeling and inhabiting our bodies.
To achieve these results, I’m not necessarily asking you to sit in the lotus position and meditate. I don’t do this and it’s not necessary to achieve the results found in the study (although it could be helpful for you).
Simply making a habit of feeling into the body, fully engaging the senses, occasionally paying attention to the breath, and sitting with our emotions while going about daily life is all that’s required to generate focus and presence.
By making this habit a part of your daily life, you begin to separate your awareness/attention from stories and narratives and become aware of the neutral, baseline reality.
It is only at the point that we transcend frames/stories that we develop the power and ability to choose frames that are truly useful to us. When we can sense the world without judgment of it, we can then choose constructive judgments that serve to inspire and motivate us.
The Future Belongs To Those Who Can Focus
Now more than ever, the ability to choose where to focus our attention is the most important commodity we have. It is the highest determinant of success or failure.
We must develop the ability to choose our frames while at the same time practice drawing our attention inward, thereby increasing our powers of awareness observation and objectivity.
It takes concentrated effort and personal will to go against the current of culture and pave your own path.
If you are not in control of where you put your attention, the momentum of culture and society will literally consume you. A lack of focus and vigilance allows for external entities like corporations and manipulators to swoop in determine our opinions for us, as is being done currently in our consumer society (If you have time and interest, I highly recommend watching this four part BBC documentary on the matter).
I probably don’t need to convince that we are currently entering a brave new world. Technology has made many jobs obsolete, and the middle class is being hollowed out. Economic uncertainty continues to increase, and working for a corporation and having your livelihood dependent on factors out of your control is no longer a sustainable path. As a result, the world increasingly belongs to the creators and innovators.
In order to thrive in a rapidly changing world, we must grab the bull by the horns and take our lives into our own hands.
Learning to unplug from the multitude of distractions that vie for our attention and regain our powers of concentration and focus are essential to thriving in the coming years.
About The Author
Mike Wuest is a writer and personal trainer who motivates people to live life on their own terms. His goal is to deconstruct the personal and collective cultural mythologies that keep us apathetic and enslaved to disempowering belief systems.
I mean to make myself a man, and if I should succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else. ~ James A. Garfield
A man is a lot of things, most of all he is dependable. He is his word. He is his work. He isn’t the complaints and cries of the masses. He’s stoic and resolute.
To make yourself a man in modern times is to essential buck the times, it’s to oppose the trends. To be a man is to want not what trivial minds aspire to possess, but to see the deeper meaning in life, in what we’re here to pursue.
Make yourself a man, and you’ll succeed in everything else.
Aspire to possess the virtues that the life you want to lead depend on. They’re virtues that will help you persist, but not only through anything, through the doors and paths that you should follow as an honorable man. As society turns its back on the manly virtues that built its roads and bridges and fostered its freedom, aspire to develop what was once praised.
To make yourself a man is a necessary and honorable quest. Manliness is earned. Don’t mistake it with being a male, they’re two very different things.
Manliness is won by enduring life’s hardships with honor. It’s won by doing what must be done without seeking acclaim. It’s earned through persistence without false pride.
Make yourself a man; it will be the foundation for the life now only found in your dreams.
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man without trials.” ~ Seneca
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To endure is not enough. We all face hardships in our lives, and to simply go through them without complaining is not enough to constitute a life well lived. One must pursue hardships, aim high enough to experience the greatest trials, face fears so great that an average man would crumble.
Don’t pat yourself on the back because you’ve endured some kind of trial. Realize, in order to live well and to flourish, you need trials to forge the manly virtues and qualities that grand goals depend on.
Go into the dark corners of the world. Attempt what others are afraid to do. Endure when most would quit and give up. Persist longer, strive harder, get up earlier, work harder, and do all of the things that are becoming unpopular in our modern politically correct society.
In short, seek our trials because they make you the man you want to become. It’s trials that will help you become a winner.