Back to writing:Inspiration and character building

Kyle Maynard. Dude doesn't have fucking arms.

Kyle Maynard. Dude doesn’t have arms.

UPDATED August 17 2013

With my recent thread on Reddit i’ve felt an urge to return to writing my little guide on weight loss. Here’s the ending section, may it motivate you to turn some stuff around.

I know most of this will be fairly contentious which is why I left it for last.

I firmly believe that in order to succeed in life, and especially in weight loss or a consistent workout plan, you need to become indifferent to all the negative influences surrounding you and introduce positive influences. This does not necessarily entail a hiding or removal from the world, but training in becoming indifferent to it, and developing a love of what is good; you must love and cultivate what is beautiful in yourself and reject what can degrade or destroy you. For the former, I would recommend studying the philosophy of Stoicism. It’s a practical virtue philosophy for life which focuses on developing indifference to factors outside of your control and developing a joyful life of service to those around you. It’ll help you not get angry when you have setbacks in your quest to lose weight and improve your health, to see those setbacks as what they are and to focus on what is within your power to change. Stoic wisdom will help you confront feelings of inequity, inadequacy, betrayal, attack and misfortune. Your desires for irrational things and for things not in your best interest will evaporate and be replaced by a love of what is good. Start with Epictetus (the Enchiridion) and then check out his discourses, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. Shakespeare also serves this purpose.

I also think it would benefit you to commonly think on the greats who have come before and try to imitate them. Our societies overwhelmingly pay worship to whores, weaklings, criminals, addicts, and charlatans in two thousand dollar suits. Instead of doting on those who drag us down look to the bad asses whose sacrifices and virtue allowed for this system of abundance and waste we now squander.

No one is more bad ass than James Stockdale. Dude was shot down over Vietnam and tortured in Hoa Lo prison for seven years. When they tried to use him on Vietnamese state TV as a propaganda piece he scalped himself. They broke his legs a ton of times, and he refused to betray his country. When they tried to force him to give a confession he slit his wrists. All the while he upheld the military chain of command amongst his fellow prisoners, instilled in them hope to continue fighting in their own way and served as president of the Naval War College following his release. Whenever you bitch about “but I want to eat that pizza everyone else is” think of Stockdale in a puddle of his own shit and piss, alone in the dark, with broken legs. Is your life really that hard?

Warriors like that should be your inspiration and your role models. The classics are a good place to start. You will find powerful role models in stuff like the Iliad, the Bhagavad Gita, Odyssey, and Aeneid, and historical heroes in accounts such as Plutarch and Livy. Cato the Younger and Cincinnatus, such god damn bad asses. Think on the historical founders and mythic heroes of your civilization, and strive to imitate their action, persistence, service, love and good. Find some dudes who you can look up to, and who make you swell with feelings of admiration. Men have been blown up before, crawled on their bellies until they could drag themselves on their knees, until they could walk for a few moments, falling and cursing, until some bloody years later they could lift cars and run without end. Be proud of being like them, and of living with no apologies for your own strength. Surround yourself with others who appreciate the good life, health, restraint and other virtues which are important for the heroic, self-realized individual. You should be proud of your friends, not have to apologize for or rationalize their selfish, destructive behavior. Banish the negative, destructive and unhealthy where possible, and where not possible, become indifferent to it.

Begin a regiment of meditation. Meditation doesn’t imply merely thinking about random things in a dark room – rather it instructs a deliberate process to examine and transform our thoughts. Two suggestions: Stoic and Theravada Buddhist techniques. The former involves an action on waking. Think of all the things that could go wrong today. Maybe you could crash your car. Maybe someone will make fun of you. Maybe they will bring cake into work. How will you deal with this? How will you NOT deal with this? This allows you to prepare and anticipate the worst things that could happen, and then develop a plan to confront those things. If someone brings a cake into work and all your weak, pale co-workers are ingesting it, you should be prepared not to. Do not allow events like this to suddenly ambush you, otherwise your instincts, rather than wisdom, may prevail. And while instincts help us survive, they do not often help us flourish. In this way we can prepare effective strategies to confront our problems rather than confront them recklessly, and we also are less shocked when misfortune befalls us, allowing us to deal with setbacks in a more sober and less hysterical way. You will see the scale go up some days, and for seemingly no reason, maybe even after a huge effort in the gym. What is the response? Not shoving cake in your mouth, but instead thinking about things rationally. Buddhist meditation is a bit more technical, but do look up Mindfulness and Loving Kindness meditation, as they are immensely rewarding.

You no longer know anything for sure. Go on YouTube and watch some TED talks, every week. Open your heart to positive change and new directions. The same old doesn’t work. Throw out the past. That girl/guy who broke your heart isn’t going to fall into your arms one day. They are fucking someone else, loving it, and think you are disgusting. Hard truth: you might be. But not for long; now you’re in training, like a Spartan, like Batman in the Dark Knight Returns after a period of painful exile. Don’t ever look back. Charge forward. Get to your feet again. Charge forward. Force yourself to smile and buy some new clothes. The future is open now, not closed to darkness and hopeless. Keep watching those TED talks. Don’t buy anything from any “gurus” but listen to them all, and what appeals to your reason, experiment with. Some won’t work, but some will. Hey, your life just substantially improved because you’re now thinking about things in a novel way. Map out every hour of the day and get all this stuff in. Plan. Schedule. Act.

How do you describe yourself? What words define you? Abolish all negative labels. Come up with a list of words which would describe the heroic you, the you who others aspire to be. It’s not good enough to just “get by” anymore, hiding in the darkness and hating yourself. Nope, it’s time to become worth a damn. Can’t think of heroic traits? Stop watching TV and read some ennobling words which steel your spine, leave the city (even if it takes an hour) and go on long hikes in nature, listen to music with fills your heart with strength and reach for the sky. Here are some suggestions for things you can hope to embody: fortitude, temperance, justice, prudence, strength, health, dutifulness, decorum, modesty, mercy, humor, humanity, wholesomeness, truthfulness, courage, compassion, hospitality, filial piety, moral autonomy, loyalty, rectitude, benevolence and honor, to name a few options. Look up “virtue” and define your virtues. Write them down. Memorize them. Keep them close to your chest and do not speak of them; rather embody them in action. Create a credo that you recite each morning to drill them into your head. Say them in your head everywhere you go. How do I respond to this? With courage. How do I respond to that? With justice. What am I? Honest, just, prudent, honorable, strong. This list of words now defines you, not the old. If anyone calls you something else or tries to degrade you, sever yourself from them. You don’t need that shit just like a drug addict doesn’t need someone offering them a hit which will chain them back to the ground.

Begin a program of positive visualization. This involves picturing yourself from the outside succeeding in what you are doing. See that pretty girl? No, she isn’t going to laugh at you when you approach; she is going to accept your offer, because you are a fucking boss. If she doesn’t: her response was out of your control and is irrelevant, it does not say less of you, and it just means that the dice did not roll to your favor. See that barbell on the ground, loaded with weight? You are going to lift it. Imagine the muscles tensing and then exploding with power. Grab the bar and picture yourself from ten paces away. Do everything with intensity, control and precision. A fury against the prison surrounding you. Lift it. Some great challenge ahead? Picture yourself having completed it, not failing it. The sweet feeling of victory, a well-earned exhaustion and respite from weary labors. As you hear the voice of resistance trying to distract you, picture this end in benefit of you and become aware of it and then let it subside. Positive visualization isn’t wishful thinking, and failure is possible, but you mustn’t fail due to lack of belief in yourself. If you fail, that’s great – it means that you are getting closer to victory and will prevail the next time. Tell yourself this, even if you don’t believe it. Keep it constant.

All that disbelief, insecurity and self-loathing was installed by a world which is oriented to defeat you. You will triumph over it by hardening your body, training your mind and refining your character. You will feel pride for the first time in many years, and you should bask in it from time to time, absent the conceits of ego. Rather reflect with an awareness of the dark past, the hopeful present and the goals to follow. Goals which should be penned on a wall and looked to upon waking every morn. Include visions of the heroic you there: that is to say what you are now and are destined to master in time.

There is a cult of failure in western culture. A cult of excuses and of emasculation. You’re leaving this cult behind and it’s going to be scary. It’s scary, but you’re about to take control and feel good for the first time in so many years. Imagine waking up and feeling amazing, and knowing exactly what’s going on and where you are. This isn’t a fantasy, it’s now. And you’re now a force for good in this world. No one can stop you but you. All those laughing, stupid motherfuckers are dead wrong. And all those like you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel just as badly and NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Find them online, at school and on the street, cling to them, and move mountains together. Believe in them and by doing so, believe in yourself.

Go out in the world, grab it by the neck, shoot your gun into the mouth of doubt and do what you want.