On Suffering

How do I suffer?

  • In the mornings from a poor night’s sleep.
  • Mobility issues in my hips and shoulders. Back and neck pain.
  • Wanting things that I do not or cannot have.

Nearly all my suffering is either physical or mental. Occasionally, I suffer emotionally. Emotional suffering I usually include with mental and falls into the “I want but cannot have” category.

I must live with my suffering. It is generally accepted as a natural part of my life. It is what it is. But should that be the case?

A poor night’s sleep.

There are those who are adamant that this is a condition associated with getting older. Yet, I have seen older adults that do not struggle with this. Why is it only some that have this problem? Why do I have this problem? I can’t imagine this being a genetic flaw. And if is not genetic, then is it self-induced?

Reasons why my poor sleep performance is my fault:

  • Slept too long the morning before.
  • Not enough activity during the day.
  • Too much stimulation (or stimulants) in the evening.
  • Too much food/water before bed.
  • Alcohol. Click here for a wonderful Art of Manliness podcast on whether to drink or not.

If I check any of the boxes above, then I am ultimately to blame. If I don’t do anything to change these behaviors, then I will suffer.

Mobility and pain.

When it comes to mobility and pain issues, I must look to the fix. As we age, these problems will only get worse if they are not addressed. Mobility issues can be corrected, but it takes work, consistency, and patience. Pain, in my case, can be remedied through strength training. If not, the only other solution is surgery. With these two options, I will take strength training any day.

Unfulfilled wants and desires.

“What is the proper limits to one’s wealth,” Seneca asked. His twofold answer is to have what is essential and then to have what is enough. Beginning with the essential, do I and my family have it? Well, that depends on what is essential. At one time, essential meant food, shelter, and clothes on the back. Today, some would consider medicine, internet, television, phone, a car for each family member of driving age, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and a whole host of “I can’t live without it” consumer products.

My family has food, shelter, and clothes. Some of the extras are important. Medicine to treat illness, a phone to communicate, and reliable transportation will certainly make life easier. But do I need the latest phone to play the latest game, the newest car that passes the “socially acceptable” test, or the game-changing drug that will melt all the bodyfat away? I don’t need any of these, I only need what is enough. Constantly chasing after the newest and what everybody else has will leave me always wanting no matter how much I already have.

Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.

Eckhart Tolle

I don’t have to suffer. It is not a requirement for existence on this planet. I can analyze, I can correct, and I can desire less. I might not be able to remove all my pain and hardship, but I can take the steps to eliminate most of it from my life. Rather than being overwhelmed by a multitude of suffering coming from a multitude of different areas, I can target them individually until the majority are removed. Suffering is only necessary if I allow it to be.

Obstacles in Life

There was a change in Thursday’s practice schedule. It was a little chaotic, and Alec didn’t have a chance to warm-up. This was my fault. I should have had him do it on his own or work a few minutes with the other class.

Right away, I could tell something was off. So far this season, Alec has had phenomenal practices. He has been attentive to the lectures and has given 100% in the drills. I have been happy with his progress. But at this practice, that wasn’t the case. He was distracted during the lectures which made his drill practice subpar. And then when it was time to wrestle, he had no confidence and was beaten by everyone he went against. What was going on?

After every practice, Alec and I have an After-Action Review (AAR). The one after this practice didn’t go well. I highlighted all the things he did wrong. Usually, I start with all the positives and then proceed to the areas he can work on. But in this case, it was all negative. As his athletic manager, I dropped the ball and didn’t consider the underlying factors. Later that night, we talked about what could have been better. We both agreed this was a one-off event, and we would do our best to learn from it and then move on. We also talked about why he was wrestling and its real-world applications.

The Obvious

The obvious application is how to handle a physical confrontation with another person. Wrestling is a great preventative measure against bullies. Bullies do not prefer to prey on a superior target. It does not enhance their reputations if they cannot defeat their opponent. Therefore, the bully looks to target a victim that is deemed mentally and/or physically weaker. A strong capable body and mind is one’s best defense against the bully.

In Relation to Math

As a part of our conversation, we discussed math. Mathematicians must be able to solve the problem in front of them. These problems range in complexity. Some problems are seen often. Once we understand the steps to solve them,  the problems become easier. But other problems are more complex and require more time and effort. Fortunately, most problems have a solution.

The wrestler’s problem is the opponent. The skillset, speed, and strength of the opponent determines the complexity. And like math, there is usually an available solution. The winner of the match is the one who discovers the solution the quickest.

In NOT Giving Up

Wrestling is one of the great sports that effectively taxes the mind and body. Enough pain and frustration will cause the faint of heart to throw in the towel. For the wrestler, the key to victory lies in overcoming the desire to give up. After all, the last one standing gets the crown.

Alec may not participate in the sport of wrestling his whole life. Yet, he will be wrestling throughout his lifetime. He is going to face situations where quitting will be an available option. Whether it is frustration with friends and family, co-workers and supervisors, or kings and countries, he will have to navigate seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What he does now will develop him to meet those future challenges head-on.

The real obstacles in life lie in the heart of man.

Bertrand Russell

The real beauty of wrestling is that it develops confidence and courage. To show hesitation is to show a lack of both. Currently, Alec has neither as a wrestler. He will get there, but he isn’t there yet. My job as his “manager” is to get him there. Of course, I want him to win, but winning at this stage is less important than his journey to excellence. Time under tension is one the best ways to develop muscles. Time under tension (experience) on the mat is going build both his confidence and courage. It is going to enable him to overcome the obstacles he is facing now and the future real obstacles he is going to face in life.

Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.

Epictetus

Examining Epictetus #32 Daily Improvements

I am believer in destiny. Specifically, I am a believer in my own destiny. There is a person out there who I am meant to become. If there is one primary objective I have in this life, it is to become that person.

Though I have always believed this to be the case, I have not always lived it. I have spent years trying to discover who this person is supposed to be. I have spent an equal amount of time coasting along and not even searching for this person. And unfortunately, I have also spent a considerable amount of time trying to deny who this person is. Sadly, those were the times when I was my most miserable. To be someone you are not supposed to be is a most unhappy existence.

But what does Socrates say? “Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.

Epictetus

Several years ago, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t happy with my personal progress and needed a change. I got comfortable and was once again coasting through life. Diet and exercise were the first major shakeup. If I wanted to change who I was on the inside, I must change who I was on the outside. It is amazing how many people understand this concept, yet do not take the steps to make this change!

Once I established a routine for my external being, I began to work on the internal. This meant watching less television, spending less time idling through the days, and more time hitting the accelerator on my own development. Believe it or not, this was the easy part. As an avid reader of fiction, all I had to do was switch my content. No longer was I delving into someone’s fantasy world. Instead, I began immersing myself in the real world.

What were the benefits of these two changes? I look and feel better, and I am more attune to my surroundings. A step in the right direction! Finally, my feet were firmly on the ground and walking toward the person I was supposed to become. But that step was not enough. I had to keep going by adding more layers. The next step was to share my journey and begin helping others. Yes, I was on a very personal quest, but part of that quest was to leave some portion of this world a little better off than when I found it. And the only way to do that was to keep improving.


Every morning,  I wake up with the desire to take another step. With these words from Socrates in mind, I attend to my own improvements daily. It is truly a delight as I see the progress being made, as well as  the potential of what is to come. Someday, I will be the person I was destined to become. And if I can do this, so can you. All you must do is take that first step.

Pessimist or Optimist

Buy low, sell high. That is the ideal of every day-trader. But for many, that is one of the hardest things to do. When the stocks are at their lowest and seemingly in a freefall, the one with limited resources will have a difficult time pouring money into it. And when the stocks are at their peak, who is to say what tomorrow will bring. How much potential profit could be left on the table?

The best times to get in is during the times of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). It is also the most dangerous time. Whether one gets in or not all depends on the outlook. Is this an opportunity or a potential disaster?

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist see opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

Seasons come and they go. War, depression, and plagues come upon us and go away, only to be replaced by the next critical event. All of it could precede the end, or it could become the catalyst for a new beginning. It is all a matter of viewpoint, all a matter for hope or despair.

Winston Churchill found himself in a war to end all wars. It was one of the darkest times in memory. He survived and went on to enjoy a time of peace, a time when the world could rebuild and repair itself. Yet, that was short-lived. A couple of decades later, he was once again thrust into another war to end all wars. He could have sat on the sidelines and allowed others to fight. Instead, he maintained his belief in a brighter future. He was the optimist that saw opportunity in one of history’s greatest difficulties. A worthy example for all of us to follow.

Winter Is Coming

The Summer ends and the final preparations must be completed.

The Autumn comes and with it the leaves. So many leaves, and they must be gathered quickly.

Winter. Is there enough wood for the fire? Are their leaves left that will make walking treacherous?

Spring. A new hope of a brighter future. Yet, the work is never done.

A couple of years ago, my family and I moved from the city to the country. Before the move, I never really considered the seasons. Of course, I saw the beauty in it all, but it never had that great of an influence on me. When it was warm, I wore less clothes and sweated more. When it was cold, I dressed accordingly.

These days, I spend much of my time considering the seasons. When the Winter leaves and the Spring comes, the harshness goes away. The darkness recedes and is replaced by a welcoming sun. The fields need to be planted, but this labor isn’t too bad because the promise of pleasant days is on the horizon. Everything done in the Spring is to prepare for the Summer, then the Autumn, and finally back to Winter. It is a never-ending cycle.

The seasons of the year make me cognizant of the seasons of my life. I go through stretches full of hope, just like the Spring. I enjoy the long days and smooth flow of the Summer. And in the back of my mind, I know the seasons of my life will continue to change. It is only a matter of time before the Winter comes.

All the seasons are important, but I find the Summer to be the most dangerous. If I fall into the trappings of ease and comfort, if I become lackadaisical in my preparations, then the Autumn will come, and I will not be prepared. I will do in the Autumn what I should have done in the Summer. Before I know it, the Winter will be upon me, and I will be behind. The Winter is where the real struggle will begin. Cold, dark, lonely. Will we survive another harsh season?

The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King Jr.

It is in the winter where we are tested. It is a time when we discover who we really are, who we can become. We must do more than survive in the dark times, we must learn to thrive. Therefore, if we want peace in the Winter, we must prepare for war in the Summer.*

War in the Summer of our lives means to prepare and test ourselves for the Winter that will inevitably come to each of us. For it is in that Winter that we will ultimately be measured. Are you ready?

*We make war that we may live in peace. -Aristotle

The 8th Virtue: Silence

There are the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, discipline, justice, and courage. Then, there are the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Silence is not one of these seven virtues, but maybe it should be considered the eighth. It could even be the greatest of all the virtues as it gives greater weight to the others when silence in incorporated with them.

Wisdom

He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of calm quiet.

Proverbs 17:27

A squeaky wheel gets the grease. The reason why is simple. Nobody wants to hear it. The wise one who makes the most noise will grate upon the ears of those within earshot. Eventually, he will get silenced and his words, no matter how profound, will be lost.

Discipline

Let silence be your general rule; say only what is necessary and in few words.

Epictetus

Discipline is all about restraint. It is doing the thing you know you should be doing even when you do not feel like it. Exercise, diet, and sobriety all require discipline. What else requires it? Your tongue and the words you say. How many ships have been sunk from a set of loose lips? How many times has a foot been inserted into the mouth? I can’t speak for others, but I know I have erred in this regard too many times to count. All because I could not temper my tongue. The sad part is in every instance, I created a communication barrier that did not need to exist. Every time! If silence was my general rule, I would have come away clean. Instead, I tripped with my tongue and fell on my face.

Justice

The closer people are to the truth, the more tolerant  they are of the mistakes of others.

Leo Tolstoy

Truth does not need to be loud. The whisper of truth is so profound that it can be heard throughout the universe. And it is in silence that we have our greatest capacity to understand it.

The ones that do not understand this are the ones who make the greatest noise. They want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged and the farther away from the truth they get, the louder they become. Look at the greatest issues that face our society. Look at the ones that would persuade you to their side. If it feels forced, if coercion is the modus operandi, one must beware.

Courage

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.

Mary Anne Radmacher

One does not see a grenade tossed amongst his comrades and exclaim, “Oh look, a grenade. I will jump on this and save everybody!” No, the hero simply jumps on it. He makes the ultimate sacrifice without any hope for acclaim. Sacrifices should be made in silence. Anything less cheapens the act and even repels those who would normally applause such actions.

The agreement is made between the mind and the heart. “This action, I will perform.” We make many of those quiet contracts throughout the day. As Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Well done is better than well said.” It is the action that counts. And if we cannot complete the task, then we listen to the quiet voice in our hearts that commits to turning the failures of the previous day into tomorrow’s success.

Faith

The disciple James wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Simply put, true faith is demonstrated by our actions. One can cry out their beliefs all they want. But without living it through their actions, it is worthless. It is dead. Words mean little if there is no action behind them.

If we are always crying out our faith, what are the chances they will fall on deaf ears? People don’t really care what we say, but they do care what we do and how we make them feel. Talking to someone until I am blue in the face will assuredly alienate them. Better to pique their curiosity by quietly demonstrating my faith.

Hope

Almost 100% of my hopes are selfish. I hope others do well because I love them. I hope for a better world because I and those I care for live in it. I hope for myself because I see what is possible and have the desire to achieve it. My hopes for my future not only benefit me, but they benefit those in my circle. Therefore, I visualize what it is that I want to achieve, I make the plans, and then do all that I can to execute them.

Persist in visualizing the ideal man you are determined to be, and always think of yourself as you are ambitious to become. This mental attitude will help you to match your dream with its reality.

Orison Swett Marden

This is my communication with my future self, not with others. My hopes I keep close to my heart. Like faith, it is not what I say that matters, it is the action. Why brag about my hopes to others when they have their own hopes and dreams to contend with?

Charity

“Look at me. This person suffered, and I, out of the goodness of my heart helped them! I am awesome.”

Making such a statement tears down the goodness of the deed. It builds up one’s pride and highlights the distress of the recipient. Who is the good deed for: the giver or the receiver?

The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let your good works be so profound that your words are not necessary. Like courage, diminishing them with your self-righteous acclaim lessens the effect and may cause resentment.

Silence

The 8th virtue and possibly the most sublime. It is a virtue to be enjoyed by those around us, as well as one, that we can enjoy ourselves.

Bending to the Truth

There is black and white. It is a clear division between right and wrong. There is no question about it. It just is.

And then, there is the gray. It is the fuzziness between the two that adds complexity to that which should be simple. It is the muddy waters that distorts, entangles, and glosses over the easily identifiable.

Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.

Miyamoto Musashi

Navigating the gray is difficult, but it is necessary if you want to get to the pure. The truth is law. It does not change. And no matter how much I want to manipulate it, I cannot. Therefore, I am left with the choice Musashi gave me: bend to its power or live a lie. One is a snare that can entangle my feet and leave me powerless. The other brings me the freedom I desire. My only choice is to submit to the truth. If I bend to its power, my steps will be sure, my way will be unhindered by the distractions along the way. I will be free. Freedom is what all of us desire, yet so few find it. There is no bending the truth, only bending to it.

Your Evolution

My first experience with the study of evolution was a poster on the wall. I would lie in bed and stare at the pictures. Each generation was a little sleeker and a little better. In the early years, the advancements were slow. Oh, the design elements were fantastic. However, the technology was not all there. It took years to get up to speed. And when it did, oh man, it came in the blink of an eye. What led to this evolution? It was a creator with a vision and a team that could bring that vision to life. The poster I had on my wall back in 1988 was the evolution of the Chevrolet Corvette.

My next experience with evolution came from the history books. It wasn’t the theorized evolution of what might have happened, but the actual evolution of mankind from the iron ages to the technological marvels we see today. In the beginning, progress was slow. Changes occurred in thousand-year increments. Then around the Renaissance, progress sped up to the century pace. Next, we progressed from decades to annual improvements. Finally, we come to the present where advancements come faster than we can keep up. What was new yesterday is almost a dinosaur compared to what is new today.

We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.

William “Bill” Hicks

Do I believe in evolution? Yes, though not in the same sense many profess to believe. We live in a highly evolved world, vastly different today than it was 10,000 years ago. Traditional evolutionists would say one leap takes millions of years. That is beyond my ability to calculate. What I see is progress coming slow in the beginning and exponential growth now.

Of all the places where I hope my personal theory in evolution proves true is within myself. My growth started out slow. How long did it take me to master basic tasks as a child, teen, or as a young adult? As I continue to learn, things are speeding up in my middle years. I have not let off on the throttle of my personal growth. I can only imagine what the possibilities will be as I continue to move forward, as I continue to evolve.

Feature photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Bound by Anxiety

I was living a nightmare. It was a bad rendition of George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” I was in my late 20’s. I had a decent job. But with all the debt I racked up from the Army, I was struggling to get by. Every cent I earned hardly covered my living expenses. It certainly was not enough to get ahead. I was miserable and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of buckling down and proactively doing something about my situation, I took what little money I had, bought some booze, and did my best to check out from reality.

I wanted to get better, yet I didn’t know how. I was stuck at the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself with no visible means of escape. Life was miserable. I was miserable.

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. -James Allen

James Allen

My external situation was dire. The person I had become was one that I did not like. What I needed was a miracle. And that miracle, it was one that only I could provide. I needed an internal miracle. The process was slow. It began with letting go of the past, then I had to remove the shackles of an uncertain future, and finally I had to concentrate on the present.

To affect the external, one must look at correcting the internal. If not, one might remain bound by anxiety.


Feature photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

A Champ’s Price

The great champions made what they did look easy. Of course they were talented, but that is a characteristic that can only take someone so far. The magic ingredient is the work they combined with their talent. Endless hours went into perfecting the basics. They ate, slept, and practiced.

As Babe Ruth said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Champions don’t give up. They get knocked down, probably more than anybody else, and then they get back up. Again, and again. And after each time they get up, the knockdowns come fewer and farther in between.

If you are going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price.

Bud Wilkinson

The greater price is what separates them from the rest of the field. Comfort is an after-thought. Complacency is unacceptable. Only a select few can be a champion—only those willing to pay a greater price.

The lesser price is for everybody else. It is for the ordinary. And it doesn’t matter if it is in sports or everyday life, champions pay a greater price.

What price am I willing to pay? I don’t have to look far to see the ordinary. If I settle for being like everybody else, if I settle for average, then that is all I will ever be. I won’t be a champion if I settle. If I don’t do things different, then how can I expect to be different?

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Jim Rohn

Feature photo by Steven Erixon on Unsplash.