Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Battles Which We Must Win

"Everyone is improved and preserved by corresponding acts: the carpenter by acts of carpentry, the grammarian by the acts of good grammar.  But if a man accustoms himself to write ungrammatically, of necessity his art will be corrupted and destroyed.  Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest actions destroy him.  Actions of fidelity preserve the faithful man, and the contrary actions destroy him." (1)
In short, "we are what we repeatedly do." (2)  It is common to consider philosophy in all its forms to be merely a system of thinking.  Often neglected is the fact that philosophy is designed to let us live better.  Through study and practice, we develop a system of thinking that governs correct action.  The physical practice part is the easiest to neglect.  When one thinks of spiritual or philosophical practice, they probably think of such acts as meditation or study.  These are certainly good and useful examples, but they do not take into account that the conclusions that we come to mentally must be acted on in the day-to-day process of our lives.

I am transitioning from western boxing to Muay Thai kickboxing.  While both are stand-up combat sports, there are quite a few differences, and many of the habits that I have learned to be "good" in boxing are resulting in my taking a lot of beatings in Muay Thai.  Also, having developed some degree of competency in boxing over the years, it has been quite a while since I took much of a beating.  For the first time in a long time I am finding myself on the bottom of the totem pole.  I have solid defense from a boxing perspective, but that did not keep me from getting my nose damn near broken in the first two weeks of Muay Thai. 

Wednesdays are the main sparring days at the new gym.  I was supposed to miss the session this week because I had an appointment in Los Angeles during the class time.  Last minute, my appointment got rescheduled and now I find myself available.  Because I had mentally "checked out" for the day, the realization that I no longer had an excuse not to go hit me like a bucket of cold water.  For a while, I considered other options.  I could go for a run, which I told myself would be almost as good, and would work on my conditioning.  I could use a day off, as I was already beaten up from the last couple of days.  After all, the rest time would "do me good." 

When we have this conversation with ourself, it is simply because we want to avoid doing the thing that needs to be done.  It is a battle with ourself, and these battles must be won.  "It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men." (3)    

As I endeavor to be a faithful, persistent and disciplined man, I recognize that it is only through consistent acts of fidelity, persistence and discipline that it can be achieved.  So this afternoon I will ignore that fact that today was supposed to be a day off and I will do the thing that should be done.

Quotes from today's posts attributed to Epictetus, Aristotle, Vince Lombardi.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Strong Mind Conquers a Strong Body

David Goggins is one tough, tough man.  He is a Navy Seal who has served in Afghanistan.  After hearing that several of his friends had died there, he dedicated himself to raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that raises money to fully pay for the college education for the children of fallen soldiers.

"He dedicated himself."  You hear that kind of thing often.  For most of us, it means about as much as most of the rest of the things that we do; you know, half-assed and half-cocked.  For Goggins, he chose to go a different route than having a bake sale or car wash.  After running an internet search for the "10 hardest events in the world," Goggins decided on the Badwater Ultra Marathon.  This course is an absolutely grueling and debilitating 135 miles in the desert heat of Death Valley.  Temperatures rise to 130 degrees in the summer, which is when of course the race is held.

After getting in touch with the race promoter, Goggins, who then weighed 280 pounds and had never even ran a regular marathon, was told that he would have to qualify.  Goggins accepted this and signed up for a 100 mile race 4 days later.  At mile 70, Goggins stopped for a break and found that he was pissing blood from kidney failure.  He started walking at what he estimated to be a 40 minute mile pace.  As he had to finish the 100 miles in less than 24 hours, he knew that he would not qualify based on that current speed, so somehow, despite his kidney's failing and despite the fact that he had broken all of the small bones in his feet, Goggins started running again.  He finished in just over 19 hours, qualifying for Badwater.  After losing 30% of his bodyweight in the next 3 months, Goggins came out of nowhere to finish 5th in his first Badwater Ultra Marathon.  He has since gone on to win the race.
David Goggins hates to run.  He absolutely hates it.  Not in the way that a lot of runners "hate it but like the runner's high" type of attitude, but honestly and truly detests every part of it.  For Goggins, doing the thing he hated to do was his way to grow as a person and to strengthen his soul.  He does not take days off.  He sleeps a little less than 4 hours a night, waking at 3:30am to run 15-20 miles before his full-time duties in the military begin.  As my friend Eric likes to say, "he embraces the suck."  This is one baaaaddd man.

His now-defunct blog is called "Show No Weakness."  I would highly recommend a thorough dive into the archives.  This is one intense dude, and his attitude and beliefs are not for everyone.  Hell, they are barely for anyone, as you can see in the comment section of many of his posts.  People ask him why do something he hates, why deal with so much pain and discomfort, and why not just stop and smell the roses now and again.  Goggins stops and smells the roses differently than other people.  For him, he is living by doing, by challenging, by persevering, and by constantly winning the personal battle against himself.

None of us will come close to matching his will, his discipline or his determination, but we can all take something away from his example.  Our limits are far, far beyond whatever we have fooled ourselves into believing, and if we let it, our mind will carry our body when our limbs are too weak.

If nothing else, watch this video: