Trials of a Man
It's not secret that trials build character and build a man. This is why men invite difficult things. For any difficult event you come out better for it (assuming you know how to frame it and aren't a whiny bitch). The strongest people we know have been through difficult things. It teaches you more than you could ever read about. You are forced to grow to overcome it.
After a discussion of what makes a man, and rituals of manhood, I started thinking about the different trials, and possible rituals I'd been through in my life that made me a man.
One was definitely wrestling. That was the most difficult thing I'd done yet. I went from a 1-13 season in middle school to getting constantly pinned in my first two years of high school. I was a thin kid who struggled to make it through practice. I had to push myself, be dedicated, deal with defeat, be disciplined, it was absolutely wild. It was one of the hardest and most enjoyable things I've ever done. It completely changed my attitude. I put on some muscle and learned work ethic. I went from back of the pack in runs to team captain. I became the guy that worked hard and dedicated to build himself up from nothing. My wrestling habits are what keep me working hard in the gym every day.
But apparently God thought I wasn't quite there yet. So then I got Crohn's disease (triggered by mono) in 11th grade of high school. I had finished all-county in wrestling, then 3 months later I was 20 pounds lighter (106 pounds) and basically unable to eat anything without violent pain. I traveled to Spain (stupidly) to visit my mom and I was so sick I could barely walk around the airport my abdomen was in so much pain. When I came home I realized I was closer to dying than I thought. I only ate rice and beans two months straight after that. I went camping with my friends for a week and brought 3 meals a day worth of rice and beans. This required a different kind of perseverance. I had to find the inner fortitude within myself to not just survive, but rebuild myself. This took a change in mindset and mentality. Without wrestling I may have not had this strength. I became the guy who could rebuild himself stronger in the face of setbacks and devastation. This is what motivates me to go out and live life fully, and to take risks, because I've already experienced the worst.
But the Universe still thought I was too beta. When I went away to college I started getting stomach cramps again (not nearly as bad). I got really freaked out. I dropped out on a top 20 college in the US to come home to community college and sort out my health. I got limited support from anyone but my dad (because everyone has a boner for liberal arts colleges). I was so devastated about what everyone thought and about "ruining my future". Luckily, at community college was where I discovered philosophy. Eventually I sorted out my situation and started thriving at a local school. I still get judgment for being home but I own it. I had already wrestled and been through painful autoimmune disease, I could handle this. I became the guy who does his own thing. I learned to rely on myself and my own validation. I was going to make myself, I didn't need school or anyone else. I was going to live the best life for me. I decided I wasn't going to give a fuck what anyone thought anymore. I started truly following my own compass.
But nature still thought I had some growing left to do. So then I got the mumps after a bad flu (I was always a seasonal illness contractor). This was two weeks of pure hell in terms of vomiting, fever, muscle aches, and difficulty moving. Not only that but my balls got swollen and then shrunk. It was extremely uncomfortable. But I had been through health troubles before. It was familiar territory. I decided to get my health as straightened out as possible after this. Fixed my hormones, started supplements, really committed to greatest health possible. I haven't been sick since. I became the man who took full control and responsibility for his life. I decided that life was mine for the conquering.
No one event made me a man. There were many others not mentioned. I've got weird medication side effects like paralyzing anxiety (makes more sympathy to people with a mental health problems), skin deterioration, and short term memory problems. I've experienced the regular problems any human being does.
But after the accumulation I have fostered and self grown my own masculinity and toughness that I would have missed out on otherwise. I am going to face challenges in my life and, although I don't want unnecessary hardship, I invite them. They've made me the man I've become. They have tried me enough for me to, as Rian Stone says, stick myself into manhood and say "I'm here, try and move me."
It’s a Process
I've been going the self improvement route for about a year now and I can honestly say I've made leaps and bounds. I am a completely changed person from who I was, closer to who I want to be (my true self). I've read close to 10 books on the self improvement subject and read countless amounts of articles. Honestly, I consider myself a mild authority on it.
Still, I am not always where I want to be. In the moment it can feel like I've made no progress at all because I feel so far from my goal. It's a moving target that's overwhelming and confusing. It's chaotic and I only sort out a small piece at a time. As if that's not hard enough life can throw you a fucking curveball.
For example, last night I was at the bar (underaged) and it's not really my scene. I usually am early to bed and early to rise, not out at 2am. Also, I can't drink, so while everyone is getting drunk I am stone sober. I felt very out of my element. It's chaotic, and where I normally talk to girls and have a much better level of social acuity, I felt pretty lost. Didn't dance or talk to girls (that I didn't know), didn't hit on girls. I was pretty frozen. I had a perfect opportunity to approach a girl who kept looking at me and the iron went cold as I waited too long (hence why rejection is better than regret).
I felt pretty frustrated and that maybe I was like I was still the guy I was a year ago. That's when I remind myself: it's a process.
In order to actually self improve, I've found you need some of the following things. Patience, sustainability, principles, (proper) mentality, and practice.
Patience is one I discovered last night that I've probably been lacking. I was reading the Book of Pook (I haven't finished but 10/10 would recommend). Specifically lesson four, which essentially says patience is a masculine virtue. The superior man is patient because he knows he is the prize. He knows that in the end the missed opportunities or times things didn't workout won't matter, because he is high value in who he is. He doesn't run around or compromise himself, he simply keeps keeping at it, and waits. This is extremely important.
Sustainability is possibly the most important. Odds are you are going to fuck up. If you aren't able to keep going, you won't accomplish anything. A few things go into sustainability. One is that you can't completely beat yourself up every time you make a mistake. Opportunities are abundant, if you have your eyes open (post coming soon). If you miss one, another will come. Another is that you have realize the goal your after, and be passionate about it. This keeps you motivated and directed. Also, you have to be flexible, if something doesn't work, it gets scraped, until you find a way that does. Finally, you have to realize that it is a process (title reference). You won't be where you want in a day or a month, and your goals will chance, but you have to keep after it anyway.
Principles are a complicated one. I don't really mean them in a moral sense (unless you mean moral as in having a value system) as much as I mean a cumulation of ideas compatible with the world that allow you to be flexible. Maybe better stated as the principle of why things work. If you think you should lift just "cause TRP says so" then you aren't going to get very far. If you understand the principles of self discipline, hard work and exertion, and pursuing long term goals where you can't see day to day change, it's more likely you'll enjoy it and be committed to it. You can add similar things in your work or other areas (martial arts). Same thing for approaching girls, understand that girls inherently aren't any better than you, then you'll be able to more easily approach girls and have natural conversations.
(Keep in mind that principles are not the opposite of pragmatism. If pragmatism is doing what works (what works is the truth), principles are the deduction of what works in every situation and every possible situation, or heuristics, which work most of the time (the stuff that works even when shit hits the fan (AKA probably the truth)))
Mentality is important because everything else is useless if once you face a wall or failure you suddenly believe that you are unworthy of pursuing your goals, or they are completely unattainable. Essentially "it's a process" is adopting the mentality that you will continue to work even if you don't see the results you except. Mentality goes into all areas and I won't talk about it too much because there is so much information out there, but a few I think are useful are: abundance mentality (that things in the world are abundant and plentiful for you rather than scarce), "true" confidence (that you can handle and overcome whatever is sent your way), growth mentality (that life is a constant journey of improving, learning, and growing), worthiness (that you are deserving of the things you want and you have ever right to go and take them), and call to action in life (the fact that we aren't here forever and we need to fulfill ourselves by doing things and completing the things we care about).
Practice means not only that you are going to go out and try, even if you fail, but also that every time you fail, it's just practice. It makes you better for next time. No matter what happens, you need the practice. The wrestler who loses the state championship had good practice with not only high level competition, but with losing, because we will lose a lot so we need experience with it. Every trial in practice, every test is practice, even when you do it right. Every mistake and time you could have done better it practice. It builds you up.
This is what keeps me going. I see the better version of myself and he is reaching for my hand, nearly touching my finger tips to pull me in. Every experience and trial gets me closer to him. Every success and fuck up pushes me just slightly closer where I can feel him and feel his breathe. He is the carrot that makes me trample and push and impression through the world. But unlike the donkey, I will grab him.