Guest Post: Progress, Stagnation, and Helping Your People

This is a guest post from my close friend Scott which was spurred by some conversations we had about stagnation, frustration, and moving past training plateaus. We have been discussing being truly helpful to those who come to us for advice and support. Scott is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a dedicated multidisciplinary self-defense practitioner. He walks the walk. He had great thoughts on the subject, so I just asked him to write something for you guys. Here it is.

 

A post shared by Mark L (@growingupguns) on

Negative Self Talk

Sometimes we get into our own heads. Sometimes we let people get into them who don’t belong there.

I recently was awarded my brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even though most folks in the know would likely say that at this point I wouldn’t have a problem doing just fine in most jiu-jitsu schools, there are plenty if times when I feel like I have no business tying a jiu-jitsu belt on at all. This is me, introducing doubt that I know isn’t real but still takes a bunch of time to move past. The thing that helps me is talking to my coaches and training partners about these things and being reassured that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That’s how a team or tribe is supposed to behave. To support each other, particularly when a member comes to you basically saying “I need help.” Sometimes it’s just a 2 minute pep talk, and sometimes we need hands-on, direct assistance with an issue. I’ve been fortunate to have a great jiu-jitsu training environment that provides that type of support in spades.

YOU’RE NOT HELPING

Having given an example of the ideal situation, let’s examine its opposite. What’s really unfortunate is that this opposite is a common thing. If we’re really interested in seeing the people who we would consider our friends, family, tribe members, etc., grow then this opposite needs to be addressed.

If you’ve ever told someone to simply just –
Be faster
Be stronger
Squeeze harder
Lose weight
Read more
Suck it up

…or any variant of the above, with no offer of actual assistance to the person asking, outside of those “recommendations”, you are far more of a hindrance than help and you probably should have abstained from commenting. Captain Obvious doesn’t have a seat at the table here.

what you owe your peers

Most folks who would have read this far are on some type of personal journey towards betterment in any number of varied pursuits. If we mean to make our individual selves better, to be a greater service to the whole, at some point we’re going to need some help in one way or another. If we’re smart, we’ll ask for it. If our people are truly our people, they’ll offer up their help and make good on that offer. That last part can become a rarity. Life happens to all of us, but if you say you’ll be there, move mountains. Don’t be that guy. Honor and Loyalty are real things that actually hold weight with your peers. If you don’t take yours seriously, the ones who do will have a hard time taking you seriously.

Also, on helping people… If you know someone is working towards something, let them know that you notice that. Not with criticism or resistance, but with positive pressure. Proclaiming “that’s stupid” to someone who didn’t ask (outside of a safety issue) is pretty rude and inconsiderate. I don’t enjoy being rude and inconsiderate to the people that I trust and care about and I’d bet they don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of it. Particularly if they are doing work that you aren’t doing. Don’t like lifting weights? That’s fine, but don’t dump on someone who does or ask them to skip a workout for sit-around-and-do-nothing time. If what a person is doing is important to them and will lead them to being a happier person, you should be a borderline cheerleader for them.

Dressing up for the part is on you, but a text or phone call saying, “how was it this week?” can go a long way towards helping your people stay on track. This appears to especially be an issue with significant others. I’ve seen way too many times one person wanting to pursue a goal and the other half of the relationship putting the brakes on it through complaining or resisting the idea. If you do that, you are hands-down being a prick. Stop that. Your selfish tendencies are preventing what is supposed to be one of the people you care for the most from realizing their goals or seeking out their own happiness are absolutely zero help in what is very likely an already strained relationship. We can’t make each other happy, but we should get out of the way when one of our people are making moves to find their own happiness. If it’s a training partner that is thinking about picking up a new routine, going to a new gym, taking classes with a different instructor, reading a new author, or trying a different diet, support them. Let your people know that you support them. Confidence breeds competence, and in turn competence breeds greater confidence.

If you happen to be a winner of the genetic lottery, try to be patient with those of us who aren’t. That’s not to say that those blessed individuals aren’t working, but the fact is that some things come easier to some than they do others. Just because a person doesn’t have sub-.25sec splits on a shot timer, hasn’t lost all of those 50lbs, can’t run an 8 minute mile, or doesn’t have a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift doesn’t mean that they’re not working, either. If you want to help folks, volunteer to actually show up and help. Just giving one sentence’s worth of criticism over the internet doesn’t really help anyone at all and kind of makes you look like a douchebag to the rest of the readers.

If the goal is to grow your family, team, or tribe, making sure that they not only know that they belong there, but are made to belong there through the shared efforts of the group is a good idea.

If you are one of those people like the rest of us – keep plugging away. Don’t let yourself talk you into quitting and definitely don’t let outside voices lead you off course. Find good people who like what they do and are good at what they do to surround yourself with.

“It’s not the critic who counts….” – Teddy Roosevelt

Scott F.

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Memento Mori : Negative Visualization Practice

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff

Here’s another non-firearm related post on this firearms blog. I’ve been going through some hard times and this stuff is on my mind. I’m writing it out to share what has worked for me, and I’m hoping if you work through this post, you might come out more joyful.

This post is the result of watching my social media feeds, and constantly being in awe at the lack of perspective that I see people have regarding what real problems are. My ‘real problems’ scale is pretty well adjusted, and it’s one of the gifts that having cancer gave me at an early age. I understand pretty well what real problems are, and day to day life struggles don’t trouble me too much.

That lesson is irrelevant to you unless I can help you put your things in perspective to calibrate your ‘real problems’ scale without giving you a life-threatening disease or injury. I’m going to attempt that with this post.

I’m hoping this post will help you understand a few things for yourself:

  1. Things aren’t that bad
  2. It can always get worse (but it’s currently not)
  3. Create a distilled understanding of what makes you, you.

We throw around terms like ‘first world problems’ when we talk about our Wi-Fi dropping while we’re watching a movie or Starbucks being closed when we’re looking for a cappuccino. The issue I see is that people generally have so few real issues, that they confuse their day to day hiccups as real problems, and don’t realize how well things are actually going (even when some things are going a bit bad). So let’s work a two step process and we can calibrate ourselves.

Distilling down your identity

This is a useful thought experiment that Dr. William Aprill discussed with me when I was beating myself up while I was having trouble walking and using my hands from Chemo-induced neuropathy. I was feeling sorry for myself because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to shoot guns again and certainly wouldn’t return to being athletic by any definition of the word. He asked me to figure out what, “makes Mark, Mark.” So I did what he suggested and thought through what, at minimum, I am. What would I have to lose before I would no longer identify as Mark. Here’s how that thought experiment looked.

Am I still me if I lose…:

  • my 500 lb deadlift?
  • my successful career?
  • a flush bank account and investments?
  • my ability to train in combat sports?
  • my family?
  • my ability to stand up for more than 30 minutes before I hurt too much?
  • my ability to consistently remember where I left my keys?
  • my ability to breath without mechanical assistance?
  • my functioning organs?
  • my ability to remember my families faces/names?

You get the idea. I ultimately identified my line in the sand. Your homework is to think through a list of things you generally self-identify with, and pick out the line past which you will no longer be yourself. This is not easy, and might be uncomfortable. Spend a minute to do that now.

You now have the lowest rung in your ladder defined. You have looked past the walls your ego puts up to define yourself and dug down to what you actually are. What makes you, you. If you’re going through some trouble in life, as long as you haven’t been pushed past that line, you still have your identity. You can still be you.

Negative Visualization

The second part of this post will take a page from the Stoics. The technique is called Negative Visualization. It’s the practice of spending a small block of time imagining scenarios where you undergo profound loss of things you value most. The goal is to put yourself in your nightmare scenario for a short time (3-10 minutes), then when your meditation time is over you may realize that everything in our lives is ‘on loan’ and worth cherishing. Even the mundane things. It will brighten your heart. It will also teach you that things could definitely get worse, but they aren’t at the moment. That’s another thing to celebrate.

If things are currently going rough for you, spend your mediation time thinking about how it could be worse. You’ll find you can always imagine a way to make it worse, and you’ll be thankful that it’s not that bad yet. Our constant adaptation to our circumstances can trick us. This exercise will force perspective in a powerful way.

Here’s some examples:

  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a house
  • Loss of a child
  • Major health crisis
  • Major health crisis of a loved one
  • Loss of bodily function
  • Breakup of a family
  • Your own death

The only thing you have absolute control over is how you think about your circumstances. Everything else includes an element of chance outside of your control, and letting that ruin your mood is wasted energy. This is, of course, easier said than done. It’s a constant process of course correction.

Everything, up to and including our ability to breath, is a fleeting magical gift from infinity. If something is taken from you, be thankful that you had the opportunity to enjoy it. We’re going to be OK.

Thanks,

Mark

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