I caught myself doing it again. Using search terms like ‘challenge like 75-hard’ or ‘pullup challenge’. I sit here in track pants and a new tee that Santa brought me, riding the last few bumps of a good COVID infection. Nothing major, but enough to sit my butt down for some recovery. I started to pull apart some of my ambitions for 2024 by way of looking for something to kick-start the year. That’s when I figured it out; I don’t need another discipline challenge. I need to be disciplined.
That statement is pretty punk rock. In fact, I think the act of pursuing progress is pretty punk rock.
Let me explain.
There are a handful of explanations for our current position. We’ve managed to get here by way of generation after generation of people just like you designing a better world for us to live in today. I think it’s natural to be a part of that cycle and for us to look for something more. Maybe it’s something we can actually add to the lexicon of advancement. Maybe it’s something we can help move forward.
To do that – to help move us forward – in whatever capacity you wish to step forward for, you’ll need to make sure you have capacity for offering more of yourself toward that bigger picture. The ability to endure that process is what will set you apart from others that try – endurance is the baseline for all progress. If you can’t sustain your effort over time, your short, white-hot bursts of energy will look like a matchstick trying to light your living room.
Those two ideas; that you are a part of something bigger that you can actively help move forward and that your personal endurance to do so is based on your capacity for work, is the model for an idea I’ve been playing with lately.
Personal responsibility is the new counter-culture.
I grew up a 90’s kid, doing what 90’s kids in Ontario did. I spent my life on a skateboard. Slapping stickers on street signs and waxing curbs. Hanging out behind loading docks and listening to Millencolin. I played in a few thrashy, frantic punk bands – drums or guitar or, you know, screaming.
At that time, I distinctly remember feeling like I was part of something that wasn’t the cookie-cutter version of what I was supposed to do. Especially because my grandparents lived with us and I was told routinely that I should conform to what their generation thought the regular come-up should look like, I always had a certain pride about cutting my own wake through the channel.
But, I kind of feel like that now, too. I feel like there’s a large wash of unsaturated ‘normal’ that conflicts with what I know is possible. Almost like there’s this established aura of ‘good enough’ that hinges on an apathy we’ve been taught.
“So what if I don’t get it done. Nobody else is doing it.”
“Every time I try to get this going, it gets shut down. Fuck it.“
What I’m suggesting here is an active response to the mechanisms that are designed to prevent us from moving forward. An aggressive posture and calculated movement toward making things better despite the organized industries that rally against this idea.
You don’t need a discipline challenge.
Challenges like 75 Hard, GoRuck and Miracle Mornings offer you something. That’s for sure. In fact, I’m a big fan of those programs because they can not only inspire change but can help build a better understanding of how to build habits. The thing is, those time-limited challenges can help you do a bunch of stuff, but they don’t really help you to understand why those actions are helpful for the big picture.
Remember, this is predicated on the premise that there are multi-billion dollar industries operating to actively interrupt your personal and organizational progress.
Read that again.
There are multi-billion dollar industries operating to actively interrupt your personal and organizational progress.
Every day that you don’t invest your effort into fighting back against the forces that are trying to usurp your lifestyle, you are letting them win. These industries are spread between media, nutrition, finance, fitness and leagues more. Take a few moments to think about how your perspective on health, world events and your own reflection in the mirror are adjusted by content streams, shitty ingredients and the algorithmic influence of millions of dollars worth in advertising.
The idea that you might not be in total control of the way you think should be fuel enough to make a change. I figure we don’t really take that information to the very root often enough. Since we’re so habit-driven, it makes me wonder how many of my habits are borne out of this, too. How often am I acting the way programmers want me to act?
How much of my day to day life is built on a foundation that’s been poured by advertising firms, focus groups, malicious state actors and bot-farms?
A discipline challenge might serve well to help me get back on the treadmill specifically, but they largely miss out on this critical idea – we need to understand the specific areas of our lifestyle that can be improved so we can build personal capacity to help move forward the institutional problems we all complain about online.
You know – how the training division is missing the mark?
Or, how your kid’s school isn’t running the right extra-curriculars?
And, how the rookies coming up aren’t like they used to be?
Oh, and you know how everybody is complaining about X?
Okay, so what’s the answer?
For a long time now, SIXFEET has been preaching the importance of ‘operational readiness‘. I believe that is the functional, realistic answer. Operational readiness is the overall holistic, personal measure of your capacity. It’s the promise you make when you get on scene – I’m ready for this.
Operational readiness spans nine sectors of your personal lifestyle. All of these sectors are entrenched in your routines and are informed by intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
Whoa now, slow down.
As we’ve been prattling on about in this article, the dimensions of your lifestyle see expression via your effort (or lack thereof) but they receive influence by a couple other factors. You’ll have a baseline set by your own come-up. The lessons learned by your environment and your own interpretation of your experiences will set those intrinsic or internal motivations. However, the extrinsic or external motivators we’ve covered above are constantly carpet-bombing our day-to-day. With a scope and scale that an industry that employs thousands of people can build. The odds aren’t in your favour for beating that back without understanding what’s actually under attack.
These motivators are what discipline challenges usually hit. They try to redefine some of the intrinsic motivators overall or eliminate some of the extrinsic motivators. Discipline challenges rarely look at the system that makes up your operational readiness as a systemic process and instead chunk out slices of it (fitness most commonly) to hopefully create a new motivator out of the positive results from the work involved.
Understanding the Nine Domains: No discipline challenge required.
Emotional: How are you feeling once all the static stops?
– There are flashing screens, social pressures and tremendous information overload at play.
Financial: How do you stage your bank account for the future or a major problem?
– It’s easier than ever to buy shit you don’t need. If you lost out on work for a month, can you keep the lights on?
Physical: Can you run, lift and fight?
– You don’t get to schedule the big one. There are many outlets defining what is ‘enough’.
Intellectual: Can you clearly identify false information?
– In the age of AI, you must know the difference. Learning is a skill.
Social: Who is in your circle?
– It is entirely possible to have people poison your well. It’s not comfortable, but you may have to ID the actual people who are negatively shaping your lifestyle.
Occupational: Are you solving problems?
– Culture boils from the bottom. You’re an asset toward making things better or you’re not.
Spiritual: What do you believe?
– You should have your core beliefs clearly defined and operationalized.
Environmental: What does where you stay say about you?
– The state of the places you stay are a reflection of your operational readiness.
Creative Readiness: Do you produce more than you consume?
– Developing your ability to rethink complex tasks is something that we steep in expression.
The REAL discipline challenge is iterating and moving on all of these domains.
For about a month, I started posting about a ruck march called the ‘SIXFEET 12 MILER’. I told people on our Instagram (@sixfoxtrot) feed that they could ruck 30 pounds over 12 miles with no specified time limit. As long as it was done in one trip and some kind of proof was sent, I’d send out a SIXFEET ruck patch – no questions asked.
Exactly 1.09 percent of our followers completed the SIXFEET 12 MILER.
I figure that number represents a larger swath of people. Around 1 percent of the population, I think, are staging to actually make things better. They’re taking on the personal responsibility of developing their character. Those people – the one percenters – represent the shift needed to regain ground in the fight for our minds, bodies and souls.
Patch holder or not, dear reader, I’d like to imbue this thought; the nine domains outlined above make up your own ‘readiness’. No matter your role, you will be called to action. Your capacity to help in that moment is measured by the work you do in preparation for your call to duty.
If you’re a parent, it may come in the throws of a midnight fever. If you’re an employee, it may come after one of your distributors is hit by ransomware. When your crew is called to ‘the big one’, only your personal preparations will sow the investments needed to perform.
All at the same time, all the time.
In our article; The Heroic Ideal, we make the argument that several standards are constantly being sent for measure against your performance. We use the phrase ‘all at the same time, all the time.’
This mindset is applicable here.
The nine domains of your readiness are active all at the same time, all the time. If you are too preoccupied with outstanding debt, you won’t be able to focus on good exercise. If conflict at work takes up too much of your mental real estate, it will be more difficult to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients in each meal. When you are too taxed from a course, your sleep will inevitably suffer.
Doing 100 pushups every morning for 30 mornings is a good way to do a lot of pushups. That process doesn’t illuminate the holes in your domains of readiness. Actually, it may even make existing sore spots a little more problematic. As you become more critical toward your ability or inability to perform those pushups, you may be misusing energy you could otherwise invest toward course correcting on some of the issues that already plague your lifestyle.
Instead, I suggest a focused and deliberate measure of your habits to see if they’re serving you. I would look at actually listing each domain (perhaps in a journal!) and forming a wide-area look at where each one fits into your current day-to-day.
Are you in balance?
Do you need to intentionally spend more time on one domain?
What is the smallest possible expression of effort toward that domain that you could muster on a daily basis?
Can you tie that effort into something you’re already doing?
To identify the places you need to personally attend to is to take back power in your decision making process. It’s the act of admonishing your future self against the systems that are actively trying to pull apart your hard work. It’s our last bastion of control in a world of dopaminergic brain-hackers.
Figuring yourself out and getting your shit together is the new punk rock.
Henry Rollins (lead singer for Black Flag, pictured above) wrote an article in 1994 about his discovery of fitness and weight lifting, but also about what that did for his perspective.
There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.Henry Rollins, Details Magazine, 1994.
Derive from this post one thing; your very existence is hunted. Concurrently, by corporations, energy vampires, social leeches and time itself. Certainly, the obligation to prepare for the events in your future that will test you rests solely on your shoulders. By focusing your efforts on what you can control within the nine domains discussed above – you can bolster your chances of survival.
And maybe, if you’ve got the endurance to do it, thrive.