Friday, September 7, 2012

The Lifer Series Part 9 - I will cut off emotional leeches and vagrants

In part 7 of the lifer series I wrote about casting out backstabbers, cowards, and liars.

In this installment, I am going to talk about it from a slightly different end.

How to not be an enabler, and how to better not only yourself and your life, but possibly your friends and those you care about.   This is done by not aiding and supporting habits and virtues that tear them down, and keep them in the blackness of the abyss.  If you do this, and they still choose to stay there, then there was nothing you could do to help them anyway.  Unlike casting out cowards, backstabbers, and liars, this is more  about peeling away and cutting off the things that keep your life from progressing forward to the next level, and what you want your life to look like.

Help yourself first - 

One of the very basic tenets of life, that has been proven over and over again, is that you must first help yourself before you can fully help others.  You must first be happy with who you are, before you can embrace life wholly.  You must first be confident in who you are, and what you are about before you can pull someone else out of the quagmire.  Think about do you help someone else out of quicksand when you're drowning in it too?

Amazingly, a lot of people have no idea how to really get to this place.  This is because they generally don't know how to grok lifer rule 5..... Most people find unhappiness in their life, because they let the things that happen to them in life define WHO they are.  The key issue here, is usually failure.

They use failures in life to shape what they think of themselves, and have a hard time letting go of failures, insults, perceived shortcomings, and slights.

"I didn't get that promotion" -- failure
"I missed that lift" -- failure
"I failed that test" -- failure
"I can't sustain a relationship" -- failure
"I can't get a date" -- failure
"I don't fit in with a group" -- failure

"I failed's all I know how to do."

People let these things in life define them, rather than seeing them as part of what life is.  They think others see them as a failure.   Thus...."I'm a failure."

You are the only one who gets to define who and what you are, and what your life is about.  You have all the power to make decisions that empower you.  This is such a hard thing for people to comprehend and believe, but it's entirely true.  No one can "make" you happy, sad, mad, apathetic, jealous, whatever.  You CHOOSE to feel that way.  If you want to define yourself as a failure because you have failed at certain things, then you will be.  You will constantly wait on yourself to falter and to fail like it's some sort of predestined fate.

Let me lay down a knowledge bomb on you here.  You are not predestined to fail.  The key, is being smart about picking your battles.  If you've never stepped foot into a fighters Cage, and plan on fighting Anderson Silva then you're gonna fail.  You can't really stand up and say with any amount of legitimacy "I tried to be a cage fighter and failed."  No you failed to win a fight against Anderson Silva, and you were retarded for using that as the measuring stick for whether or not you were meant to fight in MMA.

Your path should have been....

First you would find a reputable MMA studio.
Then you would put the work in.
Then you would take some amateur fights.
Then, if you won there, you'd eventually turn pro.
If you turned pro, you would have to work your way up the ladder.
If you did that, you'd get a title shot.
You'd THEN you would get your ass kicked by Anderson Silva.

I guess Chris Leben does kinda suck.....

Now even though, the end result was the same both times, would you consider yourself a failure for losing?  You could if you wished.  Or you could see the big picture, and see all of the little success' that got you to that point, and that one loss in no way, shape, or form, defines who you are and what you are about.

Failures in life are not only inevitable, but a requirement for getting better.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.  Period.  Unless you are a prodigy, everything you do in life will come with some success, and some failure.  It's what you do with that failure that defines whether you get bitter, or better.

Learning how to be happy with who you are is most often about what to do with those failures.  A failure could be something that steers you away from something you shouldn't have been doing in the first place.  Like a job, or a relationship, or MMA fighting, or smoking crack.  It may not be evident at that moment, and may not reveal itself until later, but if you dwell on the "failure" aspect of the present, instead of looking to the future, you will stay mired in the sludge and quicksand.

If you are ever to eradicate the blackness that envelopes you, you must come to terms with the fact that crawling out of the depths of it means your hands will become blistered and torn.  At times the climb will be incredibly painful, and you will question if it's really worth it.  However you have to focus on the goal.  The goal is to climb up and rise out.  Not to do so unscathed.  The blisters and blood and pain is all part of the climb, not part of "failing".

You have two choices.

You can let go, and fall back into the blackness.  However I promise you that each climb after a fall becomes increasingly harder.  Each time thereafter, it gets easier to let go.  It gets easier to take the fall and succumb to failing.

"I'm supposed to fail.  I'm not supposed to make it out."

You will capitulate to your perceived inability to climb out of the depths known as your own personal misery and failure. You will then live your life vicariously through those that do what you think you can't, or you will hate them and bemoan their existence for it.  Jealousy will become your horse, and you will ride it with strife and resentment.

You become the leech.  You become the vagrant.  

Before you can cut off the leeches and vagrants, so that they are forced to help themselves, you must first exile yourself from that existence.  

This starts by using the power to decide what to do with failing.  Accept failing as a normal part of succeeding.  Use your failures as an ingredient to get better.  Learn and grow from them.  You are not accepting failure as the final solution, just as a bump in the road.

Imagine being on a road trip to somewhere you had been waiting your whole life to go to.  On that trip, you find yourself standing in front of a bridge that has fallen.  Would you reroute, and find a new way, or would you just turn around and go home?  The bridge is something that keeps you from reaching your goal, or destination.  However it's not until you decide to quit, and that there is no other way, that you have accepted failure as the only option.

"What if that is the ONLY way?  And now I can't get there?"  

"I didn't end up where I had initially planned.  However, I ended up at this other spot.  I must say, it's pretty f'n cool, and I think I could settle in for a while here until I decide what I want to do next.  Or I may stay here until that bridge gets fixed.  Either way, I have options."    

The second part is understanding the short comings that have to do with you failing.  If you failed a test at school because you did not study, then you already understand where the shortcoming came from.

If you're a white guy built more naturally like Hulk Hogan, and your passion is the 100 meter dash, and you want to run it in sub 10, you're probably that same guy that tried to fight Anderson Silva right out of the gate.  You're not being very self aware about your limitations, and being supremely retarded.  

That belt is not from winning a 100 meter dash in track and field

Most people that I know, or have known, that fail or think of themselves as failures did not give themselves the best chance to win.  Either through mental or physical preparation.

Giving yourself the best chance to win - 
Pick your battles.
Look at failures as temporary roadblocks that you learn from.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Learn how to be happy with your own goals and aspirations.
Attack those goals and aspirations like a fucking Silverback on PCP.

Grasp these concepts, and you will climb out of the depths of the blackness.

You cannot rescue the truly condemned - 

For most of my youth, I tried to rescue people I loved from things that clearly were destroying their life.  I thought for the longest I could save them from these things, before I had to eventually let go of them, in order to move on in my own life.  I did not fail in saving them, they failed to save themselves.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, some of us live long enough to grow up and regrettably have to watch people we love and care about toss their life into a river of shit over and over and over again.  To no avail, we try desperately to save them from something they willingly want to be a part of.  Logic doesn't work, ass kickings don't work, interventions don't (always) work.  Or sometimes they do, but it's usually temporary.

Most people live the life they want to live because they like it, or it's comforting to them in some way only they can understand.  Trying to save them from something they are willing to sell their soul from is futile.  I can tell you from experience, it's an incredibly helpless feeling.   When you want so badly for something better in someones life, and they refuse to take your hand.

Eventually, if you don't cut these leeches off of you they will suck the life out of you.  If you don't force them to stand on their own, and quit being an enabler, they will drag you down into hell with them.  Trust me, I know.  I speak from experience and personal journeys that I'd never wish on anyone to have to go through.  These can be big things, like drugs and alcohol, or "smaller" things like self loathing and pity parties.

It's the loved one who is an addict that you need to stop giving money to, or rescuing from danger.

Or the friend who constantly has man/woman drama going on in their life.  You are constantly subjected to catering to their emotional needs as they make the same mistakes over and over again.

Their burdens eventually become your burdens.  Your canvas eventually starts being painted by the same paint brushes that is painting their life.  Their shades of black and gray eventually start mixing in with your reds and greens.  If you don't wipe away those smudges before they dry, their burdens will become part of your canvas forever.

The truly condemned, those that love the abyss and the darkness, cannot be rescued from it.  They love the self loathing and stench of the stolen and crushed souls that walk this path with them.  They take comfort in the vileness of it all.  You cannot save them.  If they are to be saved, they must make the decision to climb out of the cave of their own accord.

I would.....

The other types of leeches and vagrants, are the people in your life that burden you but not to the degree of the condemned.  The "I would" leeches.

They haven't tainted their canvas with smudge and blackness, but there's not a lot going on there either.

I want to move forward, and get better, and do something.  But they are paralyzed by the fear of the unknown and failure.

"I would do that but...." is their favorite phrase to coin.

You know their heart is good, but they can't ever seem to find their way down the right path.  So, they simply don't take a path.  Which isn't always a bad thing either.  But eventually the baby birds have to leave the nest and take a chance.

Cutting them off here, is more about giving them a nudge, and letting them sink or swim a bit.  If they have the same fear failures that you might have had, then help them get over it.  But give them enough gentle nudges to help them start walking their own path.

If that path comes to a fallen bridge, let them know you've been there, and the choices that you made about it.  How they have choices too, but they have to make their own.  They have to decide if they want to succumb to failure, or just reroute their path.


  1. Good read. The part about failure goes hand-in-hand with making small goals.

  2. This is a quote from one of Jamie Lewis's recent blog entries. His opinion is a little more of a dreamcrusher than this post, Paul, but I still think it's a worthwhile reality check. Some people aren't meant to do certain things and will have to work VERY hard to accomplish them (even at just adequate levels), along the lines of Hulk Hogan as a sub-10 second sprinter:

    "If you're 190 and you cannot squat 300 lbs in two years of training, DO NOT POWERLIFT. You will not only never be good at it, but you'll just look fucking retarded in the process. Same goes for people who want to be oly lifters but suck at overhead work, or who are slow, inflexible, or unagile. If you're ugly, don't kill yourself trying to become the next super model. This seems elementary to me, but the internet seems to have put it in everyone's head that they should research the fuck out of things (badly), then discuss those things on message boards (using pseudo-intellectualism that would make a beret-wearing junior college philosophy major blanche), THEN try them. If you've done that, punch yourself in the face- you're likely too stupid to succeed in killing yourself, so you might as well not bother attempting suicide."

  3. I always use squat beginners as the example for fear of failure. When some of my friends asked me to introduce them to strength training I was more than glad to do that. So they start training. Their bench press, overhead press and deadlift skyrocket except their squat. They whine and whine and whine some more on how their genetics only allow them to squat 90kg for 3 sets of 5. And finally when they will aggravate me so much that I just want to bitch slap them I tell them today you'll fail on the squat, numerous times. So I get them warmed up. Then I put 10-20kg more than what they were using before. They are like "Orde it's too much I can't" and they fail. I have them rested then they try again and again and suddenly after the third or forth failed attempt they lose their fear and squat that weight. Then you see how much they are astonished by themselves and they start making big improvements.

  4. excellent. just chiming in to let you know this series is appreciated.

  5. Excellent article. Gotta question for you Paul. i train at a westside gym and all of my supposed "friends" train there as well. These so called friends basically call me a pussy for doing a linear progression program and not wanting to get sucked into board presses and box squats. i really would like to set up all the essentials in my garage to train on my own. Aside from the rack and plates, what equipment would you recommend for setting up a garage gym for powerlifting and overall size gain?

    1. squat rack


      bands (for assistance stuff, not "band" movements)

      3 or 4 good bars

      TONS of 45's, 25's, 10's, and 5's

      2 very good dumbbell collars (1 being olympic plate)

      dip and chin bars

      that's a good place to start

  6. What an article man. Just what I needed in a rough personal time period.

  7. I'm assuming you've had at least some of these people come back to you at some point, saying they've changed. Was there a chance for them to recover your trust? How? If not, is it possible to throw them a lifeline while remaining on guard - or should you just get the hell out of there?

    I may, or may not, be faced with that situation in the very near future. If not, I know for sure I did the right thing ending my closest relationship. However I've only just realized that she needs saving which makes me hopeful to hear from her, just so I can help her see where she really is at in life. In that situation, I'm half-worried that my trusting nature could get me fucked over should she turn to me when her life re-enters the inevitable shitstorm.

    Essentially, I want to help if and when I can actually do something worthwhile, but I may need to stand back while she sinks, just for the fear that she'd drown me with her.

    1. Noble -

      That's about that person earning your trust back by doing the things they need to do, to get better. So yes, you can throw a life line while remaining on guard. In fact that's pretty much what you have to do.

    2. Yup, that's pretty much what I feel. I've had a lot of people telling me that I shouldn't even bother with the life line at this point, when I tell them that I wish I had the opportunity. Their advice seemed either cowardly or uncaring, however.

      Ah the internet - where you can always find like-minded people to confirm what you want to know. Thanks Paul.

  8. excellent read Paul. i have to say that it hits close to home for me, especially the part about helping your self before you can help others. I am a substance abuse counselor now, but i myself had a substance abuse problem for about 15yrs, and after getting way to into Heroin i committed multiple robberies that landed me 5yrs in prison with another 5yrs post release supervision parole.At first i didn't think i had what it took to help others but then i realized that i was in great position to do just that.A lot of what you said in the article i say to my clients all the time. You make who you are and that's that. I can honestly say that I am the happiest and most successful i have ever been, and ever since i started lifting it has became a huge part of me. I have a question for you, for the last 2 weeks my bench workouts have sucked! I just got back from the gym and didn't make my planned lift. this is the first time this has happened to me while getting ready for a meet. Paul, if you have had days like this then you know what it does to you mentally. My question is, what do you do if you have sessions like this? I am 4 weeks out from my meet. By the way, thanks for the advise you gave me last week with my girlfriends IT band.

    1. Jim -

      I take a bad day for what it is. A bad day. It happens to all of us, and that's why I have the 80/10/10 rule. Don't get too up on yourself when you kick ass, and don't get too low when you get your ass kicked.

      You'll be fine, brother.

  9. Reminiscent of Virgil from Dante's inferno.
    I'm trying to learn to come to terms with your advice
    Normally I love the fact that strength, mental or physical, is something that can't be given. If you develop it, you have something that no-one can buy, steal, or be given for nothing. It's definitely a double edged sword sometimes. It's frustrating to watch a friend fail to do something that I know I could do, but can't do for them.

  10. This resonates so much.

    Paul your writing is getting better and better. This article evoked so much imagery. Fantastic.

  11. Damn, I needed to read this at the moment, found out that a course I had applied for had been cancelled (I know, not exactly major shit right here) but I was still pretty bummed out yesterday - It made me think of the "circles" post you made a few weeks ago.

    Felt a bit sore yesterday as I had put my hopes, plans etc into 1 specific thing, but the thing your writing made me realize is that I can either boohoo about it, or chose to reroute and find another way to get to where I want to go.

    Certainly feeling a lot more positive today, thanks Paul!