Precepts: Hardcore/Softcore, Rocketship & Superhero

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Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!

You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.

Precept 50: Hardcore/Softcore

I grew up as a boy raised to be a typical “red-blooded American male,” meaning that a great deal of value was placed upon me being the best, beating others, excelling at a wide variety of sports, coming in first, winning the gold medal, getting the girl, etc., etc., etc. Indeed, like many Westernized culture males, I grew up heavily influenced by peers and modern entertainment to believe that one of the highest aspirations a man can strive for is to be superior in approximately five disciplines: driving, fighting, f*%king, shooting, and sports. As a result, I frittered away many years of trying to prove to the world that I was that kind of a man, thrusting myself into hardcore competitions, chiseling a muscular body and generally shying away from my natural, creative, artistic side that loved violins and going to symphonies and listening to epic soundtracks and chess and watercolor art and weepy, romantic movies – because guys just aren't supposed to like stuff like that. But now, I step back and look at my own sons, who I've raised a bit differently. Sure, I've taught them to value hard work, being fit, chopping wood, carrying water, sweating, bleeding, blisters, and being able to protect and provide, but I've also taught them that you don't have to be the best. You don’t have to compete. You don't have to be hardcore. You don’t have to win. You don't have to be a superstar athlete with big muscles. You don't have to photograph and brag about everything on social media and be famous. You can just be and flow. I am now grateful for the example of a relatively type B, easygoing wife (a former athlete herself) and the fact that I've learned over many, many years of observing her (and now, my sons, who it seems take after her more than me in this respect) that even if you're not a hardcore competitor, that there can be a great deal of satisfaction, relaxation, and enjoyment along with impact and value bestowed upon the world by simply following your unique purpose in life, even if you're a male and even if that's art, music, creativity, writing, design, gardening, or any of the “softer” skills in life that a typical Westernized male might even make fun of or consider to be less valuable or worthy.

After all, just imagine how you'll feel when you're 65 years old with beat-up joints, no ability to win at any physical competitions, a failing physical body, and a realization that you poured no energy into barely anything except your flesh, your performance, and sports. I think that many modern men “hide” behind this mask of physicality because they've learned it is sexy, it is cool, it is desired by women and the rest of the world, and it is a way to demonstrate that a man is enough. But that's a lie. Maybe that defines you, but maybe it doesn't. Maybe you can be a renaissance man who can both throw down a Crossfit workout, do a sprint triathlon, compete in an obstacle course race, and roll Jiu Jitsu with the best of 'em, and also play music, write fiction, cook amazing meals, and write movie scripts. Maybe you can be hardcore and softcore. Maybe you developed a protective mask that paints you into just one of those categories while barring you from giving yourself permission to explore the other. Either way, consider asking yourself: are you being your true authentic self, or simply being who you think the world wants you to be? And if you want to get a bit more complex, you can also ask yourself if you're just identifying with the “true, authentic self” that is easiest because it comes easy to you, or if your true authentic self who actually serves the world best is going to be a mix of both doing what comes easy, and also doing what is a bit difficult. Usually, it's the latter. Usually, you need to be willing to both do burpees and play the piano, shoot animals with a bow and also photograph them with a camera, fire guns and paint, or box and play chess. Men especially need to think about this concept more. So do it.

Precept 51: Rocketship

Here's a powerful exercise for you: what if, tomorrow morning, you stepped into a rocketship being sent to space, and just as the ship was taking off and you were waving to your smiling family and friends on the ground below, the pilot spoke into the overhead radio and said, “Oh, by the way, we are never coming back to Earth, and you are never going to see or speak with your family or friends ever again.”

What would you think? What would be left unsaid, or undone? What sudden, desperate, regretful thoughts might be churning through your brain? Who would wish you'd have said one last thing to? Who did you need to love more? What did you need to do less? What did you need to do more?

Look, I realize that one way to think about an exercise like this is in a very defeatist, depressing manner. But you can also think about it in an empowering manner, meaning that you can be doing today – especially with your loved ones – exactly what you'd be doing if you were stepping onto a rocketship to space tomorrow and never coming back. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is spend those hundreds of hours on that ship just clenching and unclenching fists, gritting and staring at the ceiling, and wishing you'd said and one what you knew all along you should have been saying and doing.

Precept 52: Superhero

I was recently reading an article in an old Spokane city magazine in which I was voted as one of the “Top 20 Entrepreneurs Under 40.” In the interview, when asked what I did for my company, which at the time was named “Human Wellness Solutions,” I said that – among many other items – I:

-Ran all my advertising and PPC campaigns

-Designed and coded all my websites

-Managed all my affiliate relationship and campaigns

-Managed all my social media accounts, including posting, commenting, and messaging

-Recorded, edited, and produced all my podcasts and videos

-Wrote, edited, designed, and self-published all my articles and books

-Managed design, formulation, and shipping of my supplements company

-Personal trained dozens of local clients in the Spokane community and online

-Raced competitive age-group Ironman triathlon

And of course, I also did all my own taxes, mowed my lawn, homeschooled my kids, and generally took a great deal of pride in being a self-sustaining man who didn't need anybody's help with anything, could do it all myself, thank-you-very-much, and would sleep when I was dead (for years, I slept about four to five hours a night while burning the candle on both ends with work and working out – leftover habits from college, during which I averaged three to four jobs at a time and would take 28-32 credits a semester, which was a massive physical and mental workload).

But guess what? I was an idiot. Sure, there is value in hard work, there is a time to “moonlight” multiple jobs, and every human should inevitably have a time in their life in which they're uncomfortably putting money in the bank and working even more than they may even feel capable of. However, I've gradually learned that I don’t have to be a superhero. I don’t have to do it all, and neither do you. So be humble. Admit when you don’t know all the answers, and be willing to say “I don't know” more. Admit when you need help, and be willing to delegate more. Sure, seize the day and recognize the fact that many people do and achieve less than they're capable of, but also learn to recognize when you're painting yourself into a corner by saying “yes” to too many opportunities. After all, I know of exactly zero people who ever laid on their deathbed wishing they'd worked more. Most simply ask themselves whether they loved enough and were loved enough. Is that why you're working so hard? If not, step back and begin to extract yourself from things you don't need to be doing.

That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!

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3 thoughts on “Precepts: Hardcore/Softcore, Rocketship & Superhero

  1. peter metcalf says:

    Ben…With compassion, and wishing you the best, take the photo of your soaking in a hot tub after you’ve been in it longer :) The pain in your brow and heart are plain, to me at least. God bless you.

  2. Ellen says:

    Ah,with parallel to Ecclesiastes, Ben (Living Life Backward, David Gibson: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End) Bless you

  3. pei says:

    Over a few decades, I realised that achieving many things do not need to be accomplished by the end of youth. Still in my middle age, I am trying to find my way in life of gaining success. It seems that all the challenges I had faced in the past helped me more than harm because there is always something to improve at when things are missing. Most of my friends had passed on earlier and I am grateful to be alive during these unprecedented times.

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