I had suffered the greatest defeat of my adult life.
Vaguely: I was put in charge of a talented team that was responsible for making a very important sale.
The odds were stacked against us. The client had an established relationship with another supplier, and a lot of internal stakeholders were heavily invested in that relationship. But we had a chance. Or at least I thought we did, and I convinced some smart people.
When I learned that we failed, I was crushed. I had put everything into this project. This wasn’t just a professional setback, it was a repudiation of my entire being.
I could have crumbled, but one thing kept me afloat.
I had my foundation.
The week after I got the news, I was in the gym every morning at dawn.
Weightlifting has been a consistent habit in my life since I was sixteen, ever since I learned the rudiments of strength training from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia Of Modern Bodybuilding.
But resistance training is about more than just strength, health, and vanity.
Exercise can be a spiritual and meditative experience. No matter what happens, weightlifting is a centre to which I can always return to. The weights are always there, and they are always fair.
That’s why my first piece of advice to anyone going through a rough spot – myself included – is to hit the gym. No matter what’s going on in your life, if you’re lifting heavy weights every morning at dawn, you can’t be screwing up too badly.
Workouts at dawn were the first habit I imposed on myself in the fallout of my defeat. The second was juice.
Suspend your disbelief; juicing is powerful. The human body requires a much higher volume of vegetables than our diets currently provide, and fresh juice is the antidote to this deficiency. Every day for lunch, I make a simple carrot, beet, celery, apple, and ginger juice that elevates my mood and gives me a calm, stable energy throughout the afternoon.
I didn’t turn to alcohol
I was an alcoholic throughout my late teens and early twenties.
It’s easy to develop unhealthy drinking habits, since our society actively encourages a destructive binge-drinking culture as an essential part of college and post-college life. If Danger and Play hadn’t steered me away from alcoholism, there’s a good chance I’d be doing something as self-destructive and cliched as seeking solace in the bottom of a bottle.
I’m not living on the street.
This recent failure dealt a harsh blow to my psyche, my career – and also my bank account.
If I had followed the standard yuppie lifestyle blueprint, I would be bankrupt right now.
Instead, I’ve always been content to live a frugal lifestyle. This gave me the freedom to do things like spend a year traveling the world, quit a stable job to run my own company, and most recently, invest in a shot at an ambitious goal with a potentially high payoff.
I recognize that failure is opportunity.
The most important mindset that I’ve adopted in life is the recognition that failure is opportunity.
Failure is not desirable. But whenever we fail, the best way to prepare for the future is to focus on the new opportunities that failure creates.This approach to failure is the most conducive to success, happiness and good mental health.
Even when an outcome is overwhelmingly negative, the best practical response is to focus on the new opportunities. Regret accomplishes nothing. Focus on the positive, and you will force yourself to seek out the good from the wreckage of defeat, and open your eyes to the new opportunities that are available.
I’ve never been happier.
That sounds crazy, but it’s true.
There is nothing that compares to the manic passion of war (or at least, a metaphorical white-collar approximation of war).
But once the dust settles you learn what you’re made of.
I learned that I’m resilient to failure. I learned that I don’t need money and professional accolades to be content with who I am. I learned that regardless of my external success or failure, I am happy.
I can rebuild.
The majority of young men in the western world today have no mentors. Many have no fathers. They are adrift in a harsh and unforgiving world, with no one to give them actionable advice that could actually help them turn their lives around.
I’m fortunate that I have a great network of people around me. I have family, friends, and real-life mentors who have taught me so much in life, and still have more to offer.
But when I consider all of the teachers in my life, I can confidently say that Michael Cernovich, the author of Danger and Play, has had the the strongest positive influence on me in my adult life. If I hadn’t had him to help guide me through my late twenties, my best-case outcome would have been a mediocre and unexamined life of quiet desperation.
On a practical level, my weekly routine is replete with tangible applications of habits I learned from Mike:
- Foam rolling/Lacrosse ball/ART therapy (I am naturally inflexible and prone to injury. Without ART I would likely be permanently removed from sports and weights)
- Juicing, Intermittent fasting and Carb Cycling (without them I would be a fat-ass)
- Visualization, meditation, a daily journal (without them I would be less productive, and a mental/emotional wreck)
Most importantly, reading Danger and Play has given me a deeper personal reservoir of strength, willpower, and mental resilience. This is not something that I learned from any particular blog post or podcast; it’s just part of a mindset vibrates from every aspect of Danger and Play.
This strength is what has made it possible for me to take risks, eschew comfort, pursue big goals, and bounce back when things didn’t work out.
Who Are Your Mentors?
Readers: who are your mentors? Who are your heroes? If you don’t have an immediate answer, you are probably stagnant in your life. You are afraid of change, or you are too proud to admit that you have anything to learn.
I’ve written this post partly because I believe in the importance of expressing gratitude (yet another habit I picked up from Danger and Play), but also because you might need a kick in the ass to actually knuckle down and start building a new lifestyle. Stop reading, and start doing. This stuff works.
If you’re looking for a new direction and aren’t satisfied with the current state of your life, spend a week going through the Danger and Play Archives. Read every word, listen to every podcast, and have the humility and willpower to actually start living your life accordingly. Michael Cernovich saved my life. Maybe he’ll save yours, too.