July 28, 2015

Every man needs a war

There is something about struggle that can make us stronger. That is not under debate, the entire sports industry lives off that, and the rise of Crossfit as a mental release as much as a physical one is testament to the idea.

But, I think we have it a little wrong when it comes to hurting ourselves on purpose. The thing I really like about my sport is yes, that there is suffering, yes, there is struggle, but the Crossfit world seems largely obsessed with going so deep it takes a week to recover from every session.

Not every Crossfit studio has this obsession but orthopods have never been this busy with blown out knees and backs and just about every person who has done Crossfit has done some form of serious body harm to themselves (mostly dudes though).

I am all for the learning by suffering movement, as you all know. What this article is about has more to do with the meaning than the action, and the above just illustrates a little background to this.

Every man needs a war. The war is the ability to overcome, to conquer, to collectively be better than someone / something else.

It’s why these multiple stage events are so big now. It’s why events like Warrior attract thousands of people to come suffer in the mud, to overcome their fears, their minds and their friends.

Our modern day keyboard warrior lives are not conducive to finding things to conquer, so we have created them for ourselves, together with sponsors who spread the message and cover the expenses, so that we can be ‘better’ human beings.

I, myself, found my war in Ironman years ago. While the offroad stuff was merely a distraction, it was the dedication, the competition and the learning of Ironman that attracted me. Sacrifice, commitment, suffering, again and again, is what excited me, all in the hopes of going faster. I spent hours and hours and hours by myself, thinking, tweaking, building this body to become a weapon at something.

Then when I got good at it, I wanted more, so the offroad scene caught my eye. So much more pain, so much more to learn, and the landscapes bigger and more rewarding, its no wonder I am now an adventure-based athlete who wants more, bigger, better, higher things, mountains and landscapes to conquer. Right now I am planning a really stupid 8 days of war against nature and myself.

There are three things which form part of this war:

– Man vs Nature
– Man vs Man
– Man vs Self

Most important in our age is the 3rd one. Everything is so easy to get out of these days that we need to learn how to deal with things, how to manage a bit of suffering, by doing things that require us to contemplate our existence and know that our imagined sufferings are not really that bad.

As a married man now, I am committed to making things work with my amazing wife forever, because the alternative is just too easy. Divorce is easy and perhaps its because people don’t ask the tough questions before they get married, they don’t discuss because they hope it will just work out. It doesn’t work like that and open, honest communication, sometimes really difficult conversation, leads to progress.

So our war is the same. It’s only by practising that we can have success when the chips are really down. How will I respond when my adversaries put in an attack at an Xterra, in my business or when my wife wants me to grow with her in something that is huge for her?

I will only be successful having practised these things and exercise is a great way to get that done. There is very little on the outcome of going out for a massive run, only to fail with 5km to go and having to walk to the end. No big deal.

If you fall and end up with scratches / bruises or a few stitches here and there, because you really pushed your skill to the limit, pushing it again when it comes to making really big choices that affect your work life, your financial life and your family life, it will seem easier because you have practised, you know the emotional response and stimulus and you can put your head down and get it done.

We need these wars. They prepare us for the real world, like the army used to. They prepare us to compromise, to commit and to endure, because we all have to do those things in many spheres of our lives.

Create your own ones, smile at yourself when you fail, and keep going until you can endure more, commit more and know that at some point, something that would have made you stumble in life and create real emotional as well as physical negative changes, will just sail by as you cope like a champion.

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