“The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth… their delight is in self-mastery… They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.”  — Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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I’ve been contemplating the difference between “hope” and “expectation” as of late; the subtle internal and external messaging that is created by the use and outward manifestation of these words.  That, and how “grit” figures into the mix.

While at a recent IDLife VIP event in Atlanta, friend and IDLife CEO Logan Stout gave an impressive “embrace the grind” talk to the 200 or so attendees that reminded me so much of this recent post: Inviting Your Worst Fears to Meet You for a Cup of Coffee.   These are themes that carry us through, and implore us to triumph over, the struggles of life.  Much in the way that sports enable us to examine the struggles of this realm in a (somewhat) controlled environment, this realm’s battle’s can always be seen as a microcosm  of the greater, metaphysical battles explored in religion and myth.

As above, so below.

Heady conversations to be had at a business event, for sure.  But to limit the definition of IDLife to that of simply a “supplement company” is to reduce Paleo f(x) to “just a health and wellness conference”.  Both are so, *so* much more than what they might appear at first glance.  Both are movements, in the truest sense of the word.  Both epitomize the essence of change-the-world mindset; Soul and Sustainability.  The heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world attitude. 

Back to Logan’s talk: I couldn’t help but to think of my formative years in sports; Pop Warner football, AAU Track and Field, and those early, transformational lessons in delayed gratification, rallying from loss, and embracing the suck.  Those lessons that began in my pre-teen years serve me well even to this day.  I couldn’t have known it at the time, but that endure-the-pain-and-grind skill, cultivated through 3-a-days, Oklahoma drills and 200 meter repeats would help me as much, if not more, off the gridiron and track as it would on it.

The fact that I’ve endured the walk through many a “vallies of total suck” in my life (and lived to tell the tale) can be directly attributed to the grit I acquired on the tracks and football fields of south Texas.  And the discipline of both endeavors kept a wild and unhinged young adult tethered with purpose and a reason to live for something other than self, when it otherwise could have gone so terribly sideways.  Those lessons were refined in collegiate athletics, and in the military.  And they serve me well now as an entrepreneur.

We’re all well aware of the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise —  the prevention and treatment of “diseases of modernity (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sarcopenia, osteoporosis) — however, the most powerful benefit just might be the lesson that one of my high school football coaches imparted to me: “if you ain’t pro-gressin’, son, you’re re-gressin'”.

That about sums life up.  You’re either moving forwarward, or getting dragged back down to the muck and mire, the bewilderment and inaction of the masses. Fear, it can be said, is the calling card of the herd.  And all fears can be traced back to a single root fear: the fear of death. You know what can give you the wherewithal to spit in fear’s eye?  Overcoming hardship.  But how do we achieve any sort of hardship in the comfy-cushy world we’ve created for ourselves? YOU have to go out of your way to find  or create it.  Because for most of us living the cushy western lifestyle, it’s not gonna come at us.  We’ve engineered hardship out of our lives; our technological savvy having done a marvelous job of making life safe and predictable.  There’s no hero’s journey left to survive.  And of course the downside of that is we’ve lost any such natural mechanism by which to “sharpen the iron”, so we have to manufacture that mechanism ourselves.

Yes, I work out to be physically fit and healthy.  I am of firm belief that the body is the temple (and instrument) of the soul.  It should be cared for as such.  However, there is the continued-inoculation-against-cush aspect I’m looking for as well. Plant medicine serves a similar purpose for me in the mental and spiritual realm.

I truly believe that one of the major problems our society must overcome is this: rare is the person who will voluntarily submit to challenge and strife.  Fear of the unknown (and its close cousin, discomfort) is, for most, insurmountable, and it will be dutifully dodged unless there is a forced encounter.

And of course, at that point, it’s too late.  It’s like being told, last minute, that you’re up to fight Mike Tyson.  Good luck dealing well with that stress.

Back to that “if you ain’t pro-gressin’, son, you’re re-gressin'” quote: words of wisdom from one of the most influential mentors in my early life, Lloyd Alexander.  It pains me to say that we lost Lloyd recently; something that hit me pretty damn hard.  He was one of the strongest, grittiest individuals I ever knew, and I grew up around a lot of strength and blue-collar grit.

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Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was just a kid himself (mid 20s) back when I played for him.  He was, though, truly ahead of his time in the X’s and O’s of the game, in psychological motivation, and in strength-and-conditioning.  And it’s no accident that I wound up playing for the same collegiate head coach (Jim Wacker — one of the finest motivators ever), and hold the same undergrad degree (Poli Sci; “it’ll teach you to think for your damn self“) as him.  It was on Lloyd’s urging that I forgo opting to play for a large, Southwest Conference school after graduating, and head to the much smaller Southwest Texas State, with Jim Wacker at the helm.  Lloyd had a gut sense that the NCAA would soon put an abrupt end to the egregious recruiting violations of the Southwest Conference, and it would be the players who’d be left in the post-apocalyptic scramble. I thank God that I listened to him.  The sanctions came a little later that he’d guessed, but the severity of the sanctions he’d predicted were spot-on.  And at one point, there was only one school in the old Southwest Conference not on NCAA sanctions.

I have to say, though, that those recruiting trips to the big schools were the stuff of legend.  Absurdly ridiculous, when I think about them now. But in the end, listening to Lloyd changed the course of my life.  I’m forever indebted.  We should all be blessed with mentors like Lloyd at critical points in our lives.

But damn could the man manufacture some serious “challenge and strife”; every season a mini “hero’s journey”.  His theory being that the actual game or meet should be a breeze — physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It takes dedication and energy from a coaching staff to continually keep that kind of pressure on a team, and it takes total buy-in and faith-in-the-process from the team to endure.

And the thing is, that same pressure / buy-in synergy is absolutely necessary for us to thrive in the cush-and-ease of modernity. Learning how to feel comfortable being anything but comfortable is a skill not easily acquired.  But once it is acquired, the everyday strife of modern life is much less of…well, a strife.  I’ve seen people meltdown in situations where I could remain totally calm and rational.  Which is why, when flying, I always sit in the emergency exit aisle.  No offense, but I don’t want someone who’s merely hoping to survive plugging the exit for those who expect to survive.

A quick aside on that idea: during halftime of one particularly hard-fought game (against a team who was, quite frankly, more talented), SWT head coach Jim Wacker’s parting words before we re-took the field were (and I paraphrase here) that the only real difference between these two teams now was that they hoped to hang on and win, and that we expected nothing less than a win.

And we did win; just as we’d expected.  I think, too, that it was at that point that I truly understood the power of an unfailing expectation.  Hope is passive; someone or something gonna save you from this, that or the other.  Expectation, on the other hand, requires YOU be an active participant in the final outcome.  And that shift in mindset makes all the difference in the world.

A bit of a tangent, but it should be noted that cockiness is ego’s having become twisted in this process.  Calm expectation is a manifestation of the realization that, yes, I (ego) does have a small part to play in this, but that the much greater contribution here is that I (ego) is really no more than a conduit of the power of the universe (or God, if you like) acting upon a well-tuned (and tuned-in) device.

 

Heal thyself, harden thyself; change the world –

Keith

 

 

 

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