We don’t live in the Darwinian landscape of ages past, where survival was dependent on our strength, our cunning, or our mental fortitude.
We don’t compete for resources within the walls of this modern paradisial empire. There are enough Doritos Locos tacos and value menu McNuggets to go around. And there are enough iPhones, computers, and videogames to keep us distracted from the lingering problems technology hasn’t solved yet. In truth, one can conceivably live their whole life without voluntarily subjecting themselves to the soul-forging rigors of competition.
We don’t have to step into Teddy Roosevelt’s arena and get our face bloodied and battered because there is plenty of standing room outside the cage.
Most of us face very few of the trials that shaped our civilization. More and more often we have the option to opt out of adversity. Today, hunting is a luxury, not a necessity. It is an expensive hobby. Outside the military or LE community, interpersonal violence is a sport or simulation, not a crucial component to survival.
Consequently, we have created a large swath of self-affirming, overconfident, drones whose unmerited self-worth is matched only by their uselessness. They lie to themselves in the mirror before getting on their keyboard to critique Connor McGregor’s ground game, having never rolled a five minute round or taken a punch in their life. They throw on their XXL jersey with another man’s name on their back and cheer for hours on end with thousands of people just like them.
They are the Untested.
Untested because they haven’t been forged by the fires of competition. Sure, they can tell you about proper swimming form and the best ways to spend your gym time. They know exactly the right play to be called on third and long and have the clearest hindsight vision known to man. But if you ask what bestows upon them the experience to merit their expertise, you get a vague potpourri of word vomit reminiscent of a child lying to their parents.
This is because the Untested haven’t faced the humbling enlightenment of pain. The pain of inadequacy. The pain of training. The pain of anticipation. The pain of failure. Having never stepped in the arena, they’ve never had to lose. Instead, we reward as a culture the act of standing pathetically in the mirror and whispering empty, unmerited affirmations to ourselves until we actually believe them.
If I struck a nerve with that one then good. Years worth of learning is contained in one punch to the face. I know because I’ve been that guy standing pathetically in the mirror, lying to myself about what I’m capable of, with absolutely no rational reason to believe it.
“Yeah, I’m just bulking right now, but I could probably still run a 6-minute mile…”
“I could tap that guy out if I wanted to…”
The delusional hallucinations of someone who hasn’t been tested… in fact, we’ve all been there. Mentally weak masquerading as competent and strong. The only way out is to embrace the enlightenment of pain and competition.
Pain grounds your mind to reality. Competing against nature. Competing against others. These endeavors cause physical and psychological discomfort that quickly expels the most deep-rooted lies you tell yourself. Pain is truth. You ARE out of shape. NO, you won’t just passively burn off three donuts. NO, you don’t have the technical fighting skills you think you have.
Those who regularly test themselves… Those who compete… Those who consistently expose themselves to the possibility of failure… They are slow to detract from others who are competing in the Arena. They are slow to pretend they have it all figured out. But as the comforts of the first world ever expand, these people are becoming more and more scarce.
You don’t have to go far in your ancestry to find tough men and women who contended with nature and adversity. Whether it was in war, wilderness, or want, hard men and women created the abundance of modernity. While every generation has claimed that the one following it had it made, only recently have a majority of people been allowed to flip the game of life to the EASY setting.
Opting out of the effects of the weather.
Opting out of the effects of true starvation and poverty.
Opting out of sports.
Opting out of military service.
Opting out of the constant threat of violence.
Opting out of personal responsibility.
Seeking out challenge, and pushing ourselves to our limits is the only way to hold a candle to the legacy of their sacrifice.
So opt for toughness. Mental. Physical.
Test yourself against others. Contend. Thrive in pain. If you are at work, become the most competent person there. Put in enough work to become the person that everyone depends on. If you are in school, compete. Treat your classmates with respect and always lend a helping hand, but compete to be better. And if you don’t know where to start… And the only thing you have control over is your own body, then start there… Build yourself to where you have something truthful to tell yourself in that mirror. Competition and failure build confidence in all other aspects. Thrive in pain.
Contend. Contest. Compete.