“How little you know of human happiness, all you comfortable people.”
I don’t know who tried to put it into your head that the aim of life was to be comfortable and happy all the time, but it’s a lie.
Like so many other lies perpetrated on us by those with something to sell, this one is insidious in that it lulls us into a life devoid of satisfaction and purpose.
Our lives are easier than they have ever been, and yet nobody is happy. Everybody wants more than they have already when in fact, happiness is wanting what you have already. They are constantly seeking, striving, always looking for the next thing that’s going to make their lives easier.
Of course, these are generalizations.
One has to use sweeping generalizations if one is to be listened to. With many people who are sleepwalking through life, that’s the only way that I can grab your attention. Nobody is happy, and it’s because of this unreasonable desire for comfort in all areas of our lives.
(This is NOT a personal attack, and it’s my ardent wish for you that you don’t become or remain one of those people)
We don’t want to struggle for anything any more, and the mere notion of going without when we don’t have to is anathema to many.
Everything is supposed to come to us, faster, easier, and with less effort and strain than ever before. Which is fine, if we want to control certain variables in our life so that we can give more effort to other areas.
By which I mean that it’s perfectly reasonable to make certain areas of your life easier or more efficient so that you can give maximum effort to other areas that are more personally meaningful to you.
But this is not what is happening.
Comfort is the guiding principle today, and one is met with a wave of complaining and indignation if someone’s plans for an easy life is meddled with to the slightest degree.
Inconvenience anyone at all, and you’re going to hear about it.
This comfortable “they” want 20-minute abs, instant pasta, cars that drive themselves, a computer that matches them with a life partner, an algorithm to tell them what to do with their lives.
God forbid it starts to rain and they have to feel our most precious natural resource fall on their skin.
An 8-hour work day in an air-conditioned office with a snack bar downstairs and fresh water being pumped to every floor? How dare they!
One of my biggest (literally, he’s freaking huge) role models is CT Fletcher. Before he made it big in YouTube land, he trained private clients in a gym in California.
Hovering around the poverty line, one thing he would absolutely NOT tolerate was complaining or whining in any form.
He could barely afford food, and yet, when clients complained that he was pushing them too hard, and when they weren’t ready to make themselves suffer for the body they said they wanted, he would throw their money back at them.
He’d rather go without food than listen to their complaining.
His guiding principle was effort, and what he could never abide was the interminable desire for comfort.
You should drop this unrealistic goal as well, and here’s why…
The Pain Period
Arnold Schwarzenegger, another one of my role models, used to speak often about what he called “the pain period”.
He was referring to the last few reps of the set, when most people give up, and bodybuilding champions eke out 2 or 3 more. It’s during this pain period where all the major muscle growth occurs, and if you’re not willing to put yourself through that, if you’re not willing to subject yourself to that pain, then you’re not going to grow.
You’re going to remain average.
Average and frustrated.
Sadly, that’s where most people are at. Average and frustrated. They value comfort more than they value discipline, more than they value progress. It’s why they’re never going to amount to anything, and it’s why people like CT Fletcher all have physiques that the rest of us can only stare at in wonder.
You can get bogged down in the details of how they did it, and talk about macros and range of motion until the gym lights go off, but there’s one major force at work, and that’s supercompensation. The muscle is subjected to discomfort (there’s that word again), it gets broken down, and when it repairs itself it comes back bigger and stronger than ever.
Comfortable bodybuilders are small and weak bodybuilders.
How Comfort Kills Your Spirit
You have your personal pride to think about. Your integrity. It suffers fundamental and almost irreversible damage if you let it atrophy through lack of use. Comfort just can’t provide the levels of personal satisfaction and pride that expending yourself in the service of a worthy goal or aspiration can.
Comfort just can’t deal with the level of work that’s required to make something worth building. Be that your body, a non-profit initiative, a business, a life. Comfort just won’t make it happen.
And when you have a dream of some sort, and you fail to take action towards making it a reality, you’re being dishonest with yourself. You’re pulling back out of fear, and your spirit suffers after a while.
That thing that makes you “You” suffers, and you slide into what Thoreau famously referred to as “quiet desperation”. Trapped in a life you made yourself out of your own unwillingness to be uncomfortable.
I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret among us philosophers, and that is that the universe was not designed with your comfort in mind.
Pestilence, disease, injury, personal loss, worldwide calamities, the silence of the universe…all these things assail us and confront us at every turn. Safety and comfort don’t actually exist anywhere in the universe, and this is an extremely difficult truth for mere mortals to accept.
As much as everything amazing about the universe is inside you, and the two of you are inseparable, it also doesn’t give a damn about you.
Things were never meant to align so that you never had to lift a finger. So that you never had to help someone besides yourself. So that you never have to reach for something beyond that which you believe yourself to be capable.
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What Strong and Disciplined People Do
There is a reward for your efforts. There is an ultimate reason why you are putting yourself through all of this discomfort. Perhaps the work itself isn’t what you desire (or perhaps it is), but what the work makes possible: the chance to find yourself. The chance to discover what you’re truly capable of.
You will see your capacity go up. When you become really good at suffering, you cease to suffer. That’s just one of the subtle facts of life on this planet.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “Choose not to feel harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. If you don’t feel harmed, you haven’t been.”
There are ways to accomplish this, and it starts with your questions. You have to be asking yourself the right questions, and you have to be reminding yourself of the power of discomfort every single day.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
“What would be the most difficult thing to do right now?”
“What’s the most important very next action that I could take?”
“What am I avoiding out of fear and uncertainty?”
“Am I going bold enough?
“What am I really afraid is going to happen?”
“Can I survive this discomfort?”
As for me, I live a life of discomfort. In the midst of plenty, I live an ascetic experience much of the time, and that allows me to achieve the uncommon. I go without a lot of things voluntarily, often just to prove to myself that I can. To prove to myself that I don’t need those comforts in order to be happy. My happiness doesn’t depend on anything external, and I’m not like most people.
Sound conceited? That’s just my personal integrity talking. I’m actually very humble, for reasons I won’t necessarily go into here. But I am very vocal about the fact that I don’t need to be comfortable all the time in order to be happy and to create.
I torture my muscles for an hour and a half every single day, and that’s not comfortable.
I stuff 5,000 calories into my muscular body every single day because that’s what I need in order to grow, not because it’s comfortable or easy.
I write an astonishing amount, given the fact that I work several jobs and run a non-profit, all while reading at least 100 books every single year.
Netflix and cheeseburgers sound a lot more comfortable, but Nietzsche doesn’t read himself. Weights don’t lift themselves. I have to be there, grinding it out, day after day, year after year, and I’m willing to put myself through that.
What’s more, I remind myself to be uncomfortable every single day.
I literally have it written down where I can see it multiple times per day, and that means I am constantly making myself uncomfortable with something. Whether that’s reaching out to a role model of mine via email and asking for their advice, talking to women I want to go out with, or the physical stuff I mentioned above. Every single day.
Finding Your Motivation
Motivation doesn’t have to be this esoteric idea that nobody really understands. It’s achievable, for everyone, and certain actions and thoughts bring it about, while others make it more and more unlikely.
I won’t go deep into motivation here because that’s not the purpose of this piece. The purpose is to spread the idea that comfort is the common enemy of creation. What I will say though is that my personal motivation comes from those who were/are themselves extremely uncomfortable.
I’m talking about the holocaust survivors like Elie Wiesel and Viktor Frankl. People who persisted on starvation rations for years and years under the constant threat of death by their German terrorizers.
I’m talking about the millions of children under the age of five who will STARVE to death this year alone.
I’m talking about the people like CT Fletcher and Arnold Schwartzenegger who battled inertia and crafted physiques synonymous with the word godlike.
And I’m talking about the single parent wearing many hats, facing impossible odds, working to provide for their children.
There are uncomfortable people everywhere, and solidarity with them can make our own lives impressive in our own way. We can appeal to our own strengths and demand nothing from Fortune to support our happiness.
Comfort is only an occasional enemy. Our modern world affords many conveniences, and we should appreciate them as such. They make our lives significantly better, but we must maintain the awareness that they can never do the heavy lifting for us.
They can never make us as happy as we can make ourselves.
If you want to do the work that is worthy of a dignified and noble human being, you’re going to have to be uncomfortable sometimes. You’re going to have to extend yourself in the service of a worthy cause, and you’re going to have leave the rest of humanity behind.
When everyone else is complaining about their parking tickets and their Wifi, you will be hammering away at an obstacle of your choice. You will persist until either it falls or you do.
Your comfort will be that you have temporarily succeeded at the task of self-overcoming.
You will have given truth to the idea that every day is part of fighting the good fight. And without complaining, you will be ready to begin again tomorrow.
All the best,
THE GODLIKE DISCIPLINE HANDBOOK
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It features 13 concepts that are absolutely critical to achieving superhuman self-control, and gives 64 specific, actionable strategies to help you master self-discipline and willpower.
May your discipline become godlike.
Matt Karamazov is a human rights activist, boxer, and writer who reads at least 100 books every year and throws 300 punches per minute. His website, Godlike Discipline, is dedicated to raising money for causes like Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch, among others. It’s also dedicated to helping people tackle their biggest willpower challenges. He also like death metal, and so, consequently doesn’t get many second dates. Here he is on a horse.