A bit over a year ago I wrote a post about the nature and destructiveness of fear. For deep introverts, nothing is more effective at holding us back from becoming the men that we were meant to be. Nothing is more destructive to our normally unshakeable inner strength and confidence. Nothing is more deadly to our sense of who we are and what we can do.

In reality, though, what is there, really, to fear in our lives?

If you really stop to think about it, most of us live lives of considerable comfort and stability in Western society. Relative to our ancestors, we've never had it so good. Yet we seem to be more afraid than ever of doing great things, of being great men. We seem to live in perpetual fear of offending the wrong person, of saying the wrong thing, of somehow stepping outside of the norms that a sick and irrational society imposes upon us. Sure, we can live in fear of losing certain things in our lives- our jobs, our families, our communities, our positions in society, et cetera ad endless nauseam. But once you adopt a longer and larger (heh) view, you quickly come to realise that fear only has a hold of you if you let it.

Don't let it. Break the hold that fear has upon you. If you have a goal, but some irrational fear is holding you back, then do whatever it takes to destroy its grip upon you. You have very little, if anything, to lose- and everything to gain.

It doesn't actually take much to accomplish this. All you need is a goal, and the mind, the body, and the will to work toward it, no matter what the cost.

In recent weeks I managed to accomplish two major goals in the space of as many weeks, and in the days since, my self-confidence and self-belief have been sky-high:

  1. I hit 455lbs on my deadlift with nothing but a belt and chalk- without injuring my lower back, and
  2. I tested for, and achieved, my yellow belt in Krav Maga
I had wanted to hit 455lbs on my deadlift before I went home for my holiday last year, but it didn't happen for a number of reasons. Most of them had to do with the inevitable fatigue and poor form that set in toward the end of the year- I was tired, and it showed in my deadlift numbers, I was struggling to deadlift every week and my form was slipping from time to time. Eventually, though, I trained back up to where I was previously, and decided to go for it. I knew that if I screwed up, the penalty could be potentially quite painful- but I was at peace with that. I also knew that if I could hit 455lbs without injuring myself, then nothing could stop me from progressing to a higher level.

That day, I setup the bar, approached it as I always do with a thumping tune in my ears, grabbed the bar, gripped hard, took a deep breath, and lifted.

A few seconds later, I realised that I was holding 455lbs upright and my spine hadn't gone ping. The feeling was of pure power- no matter how tired my body was, I had finally achieved my goal. And nothing and no one was going to stop me from moving onward and upward. That fear that I had lived with for over a year was gone. In its place was raw, powerful knowledge- of hitherto unknown possibilities, of new goals and new personal records.

The following week, I appeared for my yellow belt test at my Krav Maga school. Now I've written before about just how much that meant to me, and I can tell you this- achieving that rank, as trivial as it sounds in the great scheme of things, was of absolutely paramount importance to me. I didn't want to get to that level for purely selfish reasons- sure, it's always fun to learn new material and to progress and develop one's skills further. But that's a very short-sighted view of the nature of the art and what it means. There is so much more at stake in a test like that.

When you stand before your teachers in the art in a test, you are attempting to demonstrate to everyone watching that day that your teachers know what they're doing, and that the time that they have spent on your instruction was justified. You are attempting to uphold the core ideals of the art. You are an ambassador for the school- you are its avatar, its representative, its ambassador to the outside world. If you are unwilling or unable to be such, then you should not- must not- take the test. It's just that simple.

When you test for any belt in any martial art, you are showing all the world that you have earned your new rank, that your skills are real, and that your training has a purpose.

When I appeared for my test, I wasn't nervous. I knew the material. I knew I could perform it under pressure. I wasn't worried about my performance in the test- but I was worried about whether my teachers would judge me worthy of continuing in the art. It's one thing to simply demonstrate the material- any clown can demonstrate a roundhouse kick or a release from a headlock if given sufficient time and training, and indeed many do, I've been to quite a few Krav Maga tests where I walked out thinking, "that guy is worthy of a yellow belt?!?". It takes real skill, control, and finesse to show techniques like that at full speed and under full control. Proving that you have these attributes requires scoring pretty high on the test- and we were being graded by the toughest examiner out of the bunch that day.

The test itself wasn't very long- maybe 15 minutes tops to demonstrate 11 segments of material- but by the end of it, after we'd all caught our breath and calmed down a bit, the guys from my school all knew that we'd kicked ass. And as we sat in front of our new belts and heard our scores, I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I belonged in that school. No longer was I some clueless white belt just going through the motions and paying for a service- I was now part of the family, part of the living, breathing traditions of the art.

There is no substitute in a man's life for that feeling of real accomplishment, of coming home from a job well done and knowing that one has earned the respect of one's peers and teachers. And that feeling puts everything else into perspective- especially fear.

For what is there, after all, to fear any more? As long as I don't take stupid risks, as long as I strive to be the best version of myself that I can be, nothing and no one can hold me back- except the man staring back at me in the mirror. When put into that kind of perspective, the stupid trivial stuff in life just doesn't matter any more.

So to you, I offer a simple challenge: why are you holding yourself back from being the best possible version of you? What have you got to lose?

Or, to borrow a passage from the excellent writing of one Col. Tom Kratman:


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