Avoid the burn. Contrary to popular belief, the burn is your enemy.
The times ahead of us are not going to be easy. The forecast is grim. We had a good run for a decade. But now, we’re about to face uncertainty on a new level. Thick skin is in fashion.
“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” — G. Michael Hopf
Pavel Tsatsouline has a thing or two to say about become and stay strong.
If you can’t pronounce his last name, I’ll explain in the next title. But if you do mispronounce something, that only means you learned it by reading.
Getting the last name right is nothing more than a trivial feat. The story behind the name is what counts.
Pavel Tsatsouline /Pa-vel Sat-so-leen/
He is the chairman of StrongFirst, a global school of badass and strength. Pavel was an instructor for Spetsnaz (Russian special units) and the Soviet special forces. He is now the subject advisor to U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. secret services, and the U.S. Navy SEALs. Pavel authored at least 10 books about strength, and he’s widely credited for introducing the kettlebell to the United States.
Pavel is tough as it gets, and he can teach you a thing or two about becoming and staying strong, both physically and mentally.
I don’t mean ballooned-local-gym-bully strong, I mean the old-school-badass-larger-than-life strong.
“If you think you are only strong if you can lift a certain number, whatever that number is, you will feel pretty weak most of the time. Strength is not a data point; it’s not a number. It’s an attitude.”
Being strong is not a metric. Perseverance and fighting for a better tomorrow is not a number. You can re-read your university materials to death and still break down before an exam and fail that course. You can sweat a thousand push-ups and still run from a fight.
Being strong is an attitude that will take you through life to the best of your abilities.
“If you are wondering what ‘strong’ is, it is probably not you.”
Doubting yourself distracts you from the important stuff. Strong humans don’t question whether they’re good enough, they research how to do things.
If you’re wondering whether you’re the right person for the job, you probably are not the right person.
Like Meditation, you don’t question will your breath, you ask how to breathe. The same applies to strength, both mental and physical.
“Strength is a skill, and, as such, it must be practiced.”
Everything in life is a skill. Most talents are overrated, as the most successful people on the planet are not crazy talented. The 1% is stubborn and doesn’t give up easily, but they’re not insanely gifted. In fact, the world is full of failed talent.
Mental health is not given either. We learn how to cope with life the best way we know-how. Sometimes it’s luck, but most times, it’s our stubborn work to become better humans. I’ve learned how to become calm; I’ve learned how to be stronger; I’ve learned how to write; I’ve learned how to paint; I’ve learned how to persevere. Nothing was given, and I had to practice daily.
Your strength is also a skill, and you have to practice staying strong despite the world falling apart.
“If you’re training for strength, you want to try and avoid the burn altogether. The burn is your enemy.”
The globalized culture installed a sense of overworking to accomplish results. You must train harder, and work longer, and give your 200% every time to be a decent human, right? No, I don’t agree. And Pavel doesn’t agree either.
Pareto’s principle says that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of the action.
You can work 4h a day and still accomplish as much as you would digging your early grave with 12h shifts. You can lift half the reps and stay as strong, or become even stronger. You can spend 15 minutes writing every day, and write 5 novels a year.
Pushing yourself until exhaustion is toxic, and it will damage your resolve and enjoyment. If I forced myself to write 6h every day, I’d stop writing long ago.
“Training is something that should be enjoyed.”
Live for the process, not the results. The destination is never as satisfying as the journey.
You shouldn’t hate your work nor your life. Your stomach shouldn’t twist on the way to the office — whether that is in your living room, a coffee shop, or the corporate building.
Thinking about your family and friends shouldn’t make you sad. You have to make it work. Enjoyment won’t come out of itself. Find the right place and the right environment to enjoy yourself.
Pavel Tsatsouline was born behind the Iron Curtain and managed to win on both sides of the cold war. He is inherently strong and provokes admiration despite your ideology.
Take the five quotes above and think about how you can become a stronger human.
Thick skin will be the spring-summer fashion of 2021.