It’s often said that catastrophe is one of the more powerful forces in reshaping a man. I believe this is true, but the determining factor in this reshaping progress is how the catastrophic situation is faced. The old saying is “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but in reality, it seems as though modern men will gladly cite this sort of quote after they have “coped” with the event by (in this order):
- Going on a three-day bender
- Crying to their friends at the bar
- Posting emotional and vague status updates to social media (while they’re drunk)
- Buying a new toy to make themselves feel better
- Visiting the gym for three consecutive days and bragging about it on social media (before giving up due to crippling DOMS and never mentioning the gym again)
- Finding a new “hobby” like brewing beer, playing fantasy football, or something else that distracts them and doesn’t require any sort of discomfort.
I won’t delve too deeply into why I believe that this phenomenon is all too common, but chances are, if you’re reading this and you’re younger than 50, you’ve seen a man faced with a breakup or job loss cope in this sort of manner. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself.
A few years ago, I was faced with a serious personal catastrophe. A relationship, a job, and a home had all had come to define who I was. My identity was wrapped up in those three things, and within two months, all three of them were gone.
It all came to fruition so quickly that I didn’t have time to panic. I find it difficult to explain, but there wasn’t even a sense of loss. It was simply a very calm “OK, what’s done is done, those bridges have been burned. But where do I go from here?”
The way I saw it, I had three different options:
- React as I described earlier, setting myself up for more scenarios like this in the future
- Take some time to rebuild my life as I saw fit, ensuring that I didn’t make the same mistakes in the future
- Give up and accept my failure at life
Historically, I had taken the first option so many times, with the same end result that I saw either option two or three as the only possible choices.
Regarding the third option: The fact that “giving up completely” came to be on the table at all was (even at the time) alarming to me, but the idea evolved from a position of logic and not one of emotion. Simply put, I told myself “I am not going to live a miserable, unfullfilling life any longer, for better or for worse”. It was simply one option to break the cycle of failure and disappointment by quietly slipping into the ether. I’ve had relatives and former friends that have done the same, and all it took was a reminder of them to realize “I’m not that guy”.
So it had to be the second option, one of rebuilding. It was terrifying to me. In my adult life, I had not put a single iota of effort into improving my finances, my mindset, my choice in friends, or my lifestyle (other than lifting weights, which I had only started doing two months prior). I had lived my life with my head in the sand. I didn’t enjoy or see the value of hard work or discipline, and would have to erase this mindet immediately.
Right away, after making the choice to rebuild, I understood that this was not going to be an undertaking that was compatible with any part of my lifestyle from the past ten years. I had to drop off the map, isolate myself, and remain cut off from society as a whole until I felt I could re-emerge with a solid understanding of why I had allowed disaster to consume me. I wasn’t familiar with the “bucket analogy” at the time, but the thing had to be completely emptied. I needed no distractions. I had to purge.
The first to go was my social media. I had lived on my facebook feed for the previous five years, and I could scarcely even process the thought of going without my daily highs and lows, without the jealousy, rage, happiness, resentment and fear that my social network brought. When I deleted my account, I was almost choking back tears. I was deleting my only interactions with all of the people I had collected as “friends”.
Within 24 hours, I started to realize that the vast majority of these people simply wouldn’t bother with me any longer. Out of the hundreds of people I called my friends, under a dozen of them made an effort to reach out to me. It reinforced the fact that I truly was on my own, and would have little to no support moving forward. I started to get bitter about it, but before long I felt great. It was as though a dead weight had been lifted off of me.
The truth is, the depression I was expecting never set in. Anger, frustration and disappointment, yes, but never depression. I came to see all of these “disasters” as opportunities. In truth, my relationship with my now-ex had been all but dead and buried for the previous three years. I was passionate about my job, but it was soiled by the presence of my manipulative, alcoholic boss. My house was not in a location I wanted to be tied to. All of these losses had the potential to be chalked up to experience, re-framed and turned into something far better. On top of that, I had made myself too busy to get hung up on the mistakes of the past; I gave myself a mission.
I got a new job that would at least cover my bills, and moved into a small apartment at a friend’s house (the only person, other than my parents, who made it a point to offer a helping hand through this process, I can’t thank him enough) and set to work. I would read day after day, night after night, about psychological disorders and personal finance. I would sit there and think, writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper, looking to decode the reason why I had fallen so hard. Was I nuts? Was I stupid? Was I lazy? I couldn’t figure it out, but I had taken an important step: I started to take an unbiased look at myself and who I had become, just as I had months before in a physical sense, when I entered the gym. It was December of 2012, and I was officially getting started after hitting the reset button on my life.
After only a few weeks, I felt renewed, like I had a “breakthrough”, when in reality, I had barely scratched the surface. Full of bravado, I came out with all guns blazing, good-intentioned, yet still naive and stupid. I had the opportunity to date a new girl who I found attractive, fun, and smart. “Why not?” I thought. “I need to get back on the horse”.
This turned out to be a massive mistake, unsurprisingly. The attractive, fun, smart veneer was almost immediately stripped away to reveal an insecure, angry, miserable person, who was determined to drag me down into the abyss with her. Still being of a scarcity mindset at that point, I ignored the sensible option to sever ties and send her packing, instead seeking to pull her deeper into my life, to try and make her “happy” (and we all know exactly what happens in those scenarios). At best, she was a setback and an annoyance. At worst, she became a huge headache, a waste of time, and a roadblock on the path to rebuilding myself.
The whole idea of really going full-bore with this idea of a “period of exile” didn’t end up happening until about six months later, when I accepted a new job two hours away, in the middle of nowhere. Once I moved into my new apartment and got settled, I was ready to get started. Aside from Miss Waste-Of-Time showing up every Friday night to complain and pick fights with me, there were really no distractions in my new location. I had a good job, a gym on the premises, and lived in a sleepy, boring town where I knew virtually nobody.
I would wake up, go to work, lift weights, go home, eat, write or read, then go to bed. Day after day, week after week. Stress slowly faded away, save for the always-argumentative Friday nights. Saturdays were for laundry and grocery shopping, but little else permeated my sphere, and I wanted to keep it that way. I was pushing through to my goal of betterment, despite the human roadblock I had foolishly allowed into my life.
As another six months passed, it was plain to see I was making measurable progress. I became leaner than I had ever been, as I was intermittent fasting throughout this time period, and lifting five days a week. I was reading and pulling in new, exciting information every day. And I had gotten serious about writing. Not just rambling incoherently, but actually writing thought-provoking insights about my experiences during this process, even if I was the only one reading them. This became an indispensible tool for problem solving and development.
Months later, I came out the other end of the proverbial tunnel. I had long since dropped Miss Waste-Of-Time, and I haven’t spoken to her since. I was in the best physical shape of my adult life, and the best mental shape of my adult life. But I was genuinely shocked at my outlook when my job disappeared to New England, causing me to take the severance package and move back to “civilization” in July of 2014.
I hadn’t “gone into exile” as I had told myself I was doing. Rather, I had completely moved on. I no longer fit in the mold I created for myself from 2000-2012. This became obvious when I tried to re-unite with some old acquaintences. I found that I no longer had anything at all in common with them, as they were still just going out to the bar and getting hammered at 80’s night, gossiping about who was fucking who. It was like being stuck in a time warp. It really could have been any night in 2005, and the only difference would have been the clothes they were wearing (and the amount of body fat they were sporting).
And so it went with most everything else from my old life that, in the back of my head, I thought I’d eventually want to get back to. I had zero desire to create another facebook profile, to go back to the bars, the lazy days spent in front of the TV, my old life of fucking around and killing time, sitting on the sidelines. It was a new world, a new reality. I had momentum, and with nothing standing in my way, I wasn’t about to let it go to waste. So I kept going. I started riding my Downhill bike again, and won a race for the first time in my life. Newly single, I made an OKcupid profile and started playing the field. I found and studied the Red Pill through articles, podcasts, and books, helping me reach the next level, and the next, and the next. All remnants of my old life faded from a recent memory to a distant one.
That period of “exile” has become far more important than even I intended it to be: It was a foundation that has been built upon. Without it, my life would be incredibly different. This website would not exist, I would not be planning to move to the other side of the country, I wouldn’t have stuck with the gym, I wouldn’t have become an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t have met my current girlfriend, and I wouldn’t have discovered all of the resources that have taken me to the next level. Sometimes I think of what my life would look like if I hadn’t built this foundation. It’s actually terrifying yet still strangely entertaining. Where would I be? What would I be doing? Who would I be spending time with? How bad would it have gotten? Would I still even be alive?
Thankfully, I took the steps to make sure I would never have to find out.