If you want to know how to be the best version of yourself start by not letting yourself off the hook.
It’s killing all of your grand dreams and plans.
One day an 18-year-old, first-year university student came up to me and with a straight face said, “I’ve made a huge mistake. I should never have come to university. It’s too much.”
I looked back at him, remembering how easy first-year university was, how relatively easy his life actually is. But to him, readings and quizzes were insurmountable. He didn’t have time to make friends, call his parents, or even relax.
He wondered what hew was doing wrong.
I said, “To know how to be the best version of yourself you need to focus. Find out what is important, and do that, ignore the rest. Second, you need to become more efficient with your time. Third and most important, you need to toughen the fuck up.”
Sounds harsh right? Am I a total asshole or was I onto something?
If you are going to succeed in life, you need to be tougher than life. Okay, you’ve heard this cliche before but how exactly do you do that?
The answer is simpler than you might thing: you beat yourself up. You drag yourself kicking and screaming, into a dark alley and kick yourself in the stomach. Watch the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar, for an example on how to kick your own ass.
It is straight forward enough.
You won’t be overwhelmed and intimidated by life if you take the initiative and beat yourself up first. Because, rest assured, life will throw shit at you.
Look at any successful person. I’d wager you’ll find someone who’s kicked his or her own ass so hard and so often that when life punches them in the mouth they just laugh and say, “try again.”
People (‘normals’ as I call them) are often perplexed when I do uncomfortable (and sometimes downright painful) things. Why do I swim in frigid, icy water or go long periods without eating? Why do I attend meditation retreats with prison-like schedules, exercise until I wanna puke, or restrict myself from enjoying a pleasure for months at a time?
Because I’m training for life.
Want to know how to be the best version of yourself? Do more than you need to . Subject yourself to more difficulty than the future will hold.
Here’s an example from real life: When young football players enter the NFL Scouting Combine, they’re pushed to bench press 225 lbs as many times as possible.
So how do you think they prepare? Do they get strong enough to just barely bench press 225 lbs once and then stop working out? Heck no. They get as strong as possible past 225 lbs so that when they have to bench 225, it feels like 115.
Now apply this principle to life
Because I’ve fasted of my own will, when for whatever reason I can’t get access to food I’m as calm as Trump at a KKK rally.
Because of cold exposure, when I’m locked out of my apartment in the middle of winter I know how to not panic.
When I’m forced to be alone with uncomfortable feelings, I know how to not convert those feelings into empty ben and jerry tubs and 2 am calls to my exes. This is thanks to meditation retreats I’ve done.
Most people have avoided discomfort for the majority of their life, so when they’re forced to leave their chipotle and Netflix cocoon they’re underprepared.
Life will throw hurdles at you. This is guaranteed. If you wait until it happens to try and learn how to jump over the hurdles as they come, you will eat shit and lose your front teeth. This will probably look like you crying a lot, giving up on your dreams, and buying a jeep.
What you need to do is go out and buy some hurdles with your own money (pay people to make your life harder) and start practicing. That way, when life puts barbed wire and mined road blocks in your path you you will soar over them while winking at the cute guy/girl in the audience
Damn you look cool.
“The more voluntary suffering you build into your life, the less involuntary suffering will affect your life.” ~ Tim Ferriss
The real secret to doing hard things is that once you’ve done enough hard things with concentrated effort and a positive mindset, you’ll learn to actually enjoy these things.
Seriously I like being cold, hungry, sore and lonely.
People who have never worked out usually hate the first month at the gym. ‘Why do my arms hurt, I can’t get off the toilet, why would anyone do this, I am a big ol baby and my bum hurts.’ Whereas people who’ve trained for years, love the feeling of soreness and are excited by it, it shows that they did something, that they pushed themselves in a new way.
Learning to be drawn to uncomfortable situations is the most assured way to guarantee your success. (Farting in a crowded elevator isn’t the kind of uncomfortable I am referring to either. Though to be fair, if you made eye contact with everyone in the elevator and whispered “it was me”, I would be proud of you.)
Here are some challenges to get you started on your own boot-camp if you’re confused about how to make life harder.
- Be quiet and motionless for as long as you can. Be aware of your breath. Try to enjoy it.
- Be kind to someone while they are being mean to you.
- Let someone tell you that you are wrong and say thank you, even when you know you are right.
- Show gratitude.
- Appreciate all you have received, even the socks and underwear
- Think deeply about yourself and your life from a third person view.
- Commit some random acts of kindness without claiming responsibility.
- Take a Toastmaster class or do public speaking (stand-up comedy?).
- Learn a new language and try to speak it with a stranger.
- Meet new people.
- Cook a type of cuisine you’ve never cooked before.
- Try something new during sex, even if you think it’s weird, especially if you think it’s weird.
- Sit silently for an extended period of time.
- Take a swim in frigid waters.
- Do a 24+ hour fast.
- Go bungee jumping or skydiving.
- Try to lift the heaviest thing possible until you fail.
- Go for a run until you can’t move your legs.
- Try some intense breathing exercises (I’ve got a few if you’re unsure).
If you sit around while its comfortable and do nothing, when things get tough you are going to get crushed like a microwaved kiwi. Comfort kills. Stay out of your comfort zone, and as soon as you feel yourself getting comfortable, throw an uppercut at your own life.
We can use your own willpower to put ourselves through training so that the next time a problem is out of control and we can’t correct course, we know how to respond, to navigate the situation and when all else fails, how to suffer with grace.
The irony is that the harder you make your own life, the easier life becomes. Therefore every break you take, every indulgence you embrace, you make it harder for your future self. You make yourself a little softer. Take that peach out of the microwave. The next time you want to take it easy remember you are actually about to make your life a whole lot harder. Good luck kicking your own ass.
Check out Some of Our Deep-Dive Guides on the ManTalks Blog:
How to Find Purpose in Life: The Ultimate Guide
How to Find a Mastermind Group: The Ultimate Guide
Self-Confidence for Men: The Ultimate Guide
How to Find Your Life Purpose: A Step-By-Step Guide
Thomas Walker is a frequent contributor to ManTalks. He is also the co-founder of Metta Natural Awareness Beverage, a revolutionary drink built around helping peoples bodies adapt to stress to improve their performance.
Thomas is a passionate fitness enthusiast and world traveller. He gave up a career in law to pursue his passions and become an entrepreneur. He has re-invented his life a number of times, constantly using a return to his deeper purpose to guide him.
Thomas is constantly on the lookout for tools and methods to help himself grow. He is active within the ManTalks community and a proud mastermind member. To contact Thomas go to drinkmetta.com or projectkailo.com