Lessons from Home Burning – Part 1

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Physical, Mental, Emotional and Character Strength

On the night of August 19th my home burned completely to the ground.

A few people made comments to the effect of it being telling that the only thing left standing was my power rack. That this was a symbol of strength.

I agree! And that’s what I want to talk about today.

There is the common stereotype of the “all brawn, no brain” individual. In other words, the meathead. And certainly, this is the case for some.

But as a stereotype it is very often wrong.

One of my many books that burned up was Not Just Pumping Iron: On the Psychology of Lifting Weights by Edward W. L. Smith. In fact, I had a whole shelf on one of my bookcases devoted to sports psychology. 

Sure, I’ll admit it. In the beginning I tried to workout as I was interested in looking good in order to impress the ladies…but that was such a minor thing in the grander scheme.

Strength training in all its forms became so much more to me.

It was the first and foremost place where I pulled myself up by my bootstraps from a self-loathing, insecure individual into the person I am today. It was my crucible where I not only forged my body but my psychology and spirit.

No, it wasn’t just because it became a career either. The truth is that was a result of the above, not the cause. 

In Smith’s book he talks about lifting weights as the Yoga of the west. It’s interesting to reflect on because most yoga in the West is a watered down version of what it originally was, i.e. a holistic practice that encompassed body-mind-spirit.

Now, I know I’m not your typical person. Many think me superhuman. 

But that’s just the thing. ANYONE can be superhuman. All it takes is proper know-how and dedication. Compound this overtime and truly miraculous transformation is not only possible, but likely.

If I could transform myself from a scrawny, unathletic, timid boy into a strongman certainly anyone can…if the desire is there. 

No, strength training and fitness is not just about the physical. If that is the case for you, I’m sorry to say but you are missing the boat.

It’s not even all about the mental and emotional though those are such huge parts. In very few other areas have I found such a useful “laboratory” for training your mind’s capabilities and state management. (Throw in competition and/or lofty goals to really amplify these things!)

What is too seldom talked about is that strength training can build up strength of character. 

It can aid you in becoming more virtuous. 

You know, I’ve done some pretty wild and wacky feats of strength. Case in point, lately, I’d been hanging myself by a rope around my neck! Or seeking to do over bodyweight in a bent press. 

Now, my entire gym is gone. But the lessons I’ve learned, who I’ve become, is stronger than ever. 

And I’d let one million gyms burn down before I’d give up what I’ve obtained and who I’ve become along the way.

All the stuff can be replaced. Yet my latest challenge of a house fire is in itself…priceless.

Again, I get it. I’m the odd one out. I’m truthfully not grieving the loss. I’m flowing with it like water in the river of life. 

Every once in a while I get asked what I’m training for. Yes, I train for fun. Sure, I train to hit goals. Of course, I train to be healthy. 

But most of all, I train for LIFE.

Without awareness of it, I was training for this event. Having done so I’ve even surprised myself at how much I’ve taken it in stride. 

I train to be antifragile. 

Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. This means that stressors not only don’t break me, but make me even stronger. In this way a big stressor means big rewards. 

Prior to this, I know that 2020 has been far easier on me than many other people because of how I’ve setup my life. I know that there are people in dire straits.

In other words, I am privileged. Instead of taking that on with guilt, I aim to be a force for good. In other words to actually deserve it.

So I welcome the additional challenge. After all, it’s good to be humble!

I’ll continue to train to best serve my family. I will continue to train to best serve my community. 

I must be strong for those are not. 

The world has some great darkness to it. If we are aware and honest about it, the trajectories of where we are headed are not looking so good. (The fact that most people reading this probably think they know what I’m talking about, but really do not being a sign of such.)

So now more than ever we need strong men and women to step up in every sort of way. In my opinion, you can’t do anything useful if you don’t build yourself first. 

In fact, without the internal work, you’ll likely just get in the way. And I’m not saying strength training is the only way. Far from it. But it has worked really well for me and others I know!

In alchemy, one of the steps involved is calcination. This is the burning away of matter to get to the “salt” principle. To purify to get to what is essential.

As above, so below.

So I’ll take this event as an initiation and move forward. In doing so, I hope I can inspire you in the right direction too. 

There is something to be said for the fact that the only things that survived and are usable left from the wreckage are some of the weights. There’s a deep metaphor here…

In my opinion 2020 still has more surprises in store. And I don’t think we’re going back to normal, or even a new normal in 2021 either.

This is going to be a rough decade ahead.

You must be adaptable. You must be strong. Not just for yourself, but especially for those around you.

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