I recently heard that phrase spoken by Eric Thomas (whom many of you may know better as Eric the Hip-Hop Preacher) while he was a guest on the Ed Mylett Show. (Links to both Ed and Eric’s pages are copied here – they are two of the most genuine and inspirational figures I know of and I highly encourage you to check out their work.)
The context was that Eric was asked, if someone approached him in public, and with only a few moments to interact, what would he say to someone who asked him how to start on the track to living a better life and being a better version of themselves. Eric said to “start where you stopped.”
As I so often do when listening to Ed or Eric, I felt like a lightbulb had gone off in my head. This idea perfectly encapsulated the appropriate action to the troubles and confusion that I have found myself experiencing lately. Many of my recent reflective periods have left me feeling as though I have somewhat stalled in my progress. Lately the target has become less clear as I try to imagine who I wish to be, what will I do to be the best version of myself, who will I help, and how will I do it. I still have the general idea in my head of being a better partner, a greater contributor to society, a better friend, and someone who helps those in need, but the specific image in my head of how exactly I might arrive at this ideal destination has blurred. The situation has left me feeling as if I have somehow stalled on my path to self-improvement and creation of happiness. I have wondered often what exactly I can do next to start, or in this case resume, the journey.
Start where you stopped. Eric’s words immediately registered with me as two different paths, on which I had previously walked, came to the front of my mind. One such path, which at one point brought me so much joy is this very blog for which I am now writing. A recent visit to my site revealed to me that I have not posted a new article since June 30, nearly 90 days ago. It wasn’t long ago that the first thing I wanted to do every day upon waking was sit down on my computer with my books, or some research articles and compose posts that I hoped and thought my help me improve my life, and which may provide the same guidance and inspiration for others. I am not sure why I stopped, I can think of many excuses – life has been busy – much of it with good tidings, but I can see now that some of the purposelessness or aimlessness which I have been experiencing was the void which was once filled with meaning from this blog.
I still have no idea what, if anything, this blog may become but I can say that the creative outlet with which it has provided me, the reflection it has required of me, and the insights which it has revealed to me have made it worth every second of my time invested. If even nobody in the world has been moved what I write here I can at least say it has meant something to me and that I hereby resolve to return to my blogging.
Besides being an excuse for my recent absence, the above is intended to demonstrate how you can take Eric Thomas’s words to heart and start where you stopped. I share my story only to serve as an example and perhaps inspire similar thoughts in those if you who read this. Ask yourself when did you feel like you had the greatest sense of purpose? What did you do that gave you that purpose, how did it make you feel, or why did you do it? Then ask yourself why you stopped. Often times we stop for necessary and worthwhile reasons or events that require more of our presence and commitment and are thus completely valid, but often times we find that once we stop we never resume. The best way to get back to that purpose is to start where you stopped. Sometimes that feels like taking a step back, but one of the greatest mistakes we have made is to presume that we have gone too far up the mountain for us to go back down and find what may be a better path – to put it metaphorically.
If another metaphor suits your fancy, consider a gold miner tunneling through the ground when suddenly they give up their quest for riches and put down their pick and walk away. Go back to where you stopped digging and dig from there, your riches may be just a few more swings away.
Famed psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson has said that what gives humans the greatest feeling of meaning and belonging is the struggle for a worthy goal which either helps others and or serves to make us into better people. To reiterate what I wrote earlier, think about when you felt the greatest sense of purpose in your life, and if you are no longer living with that sense of purpose, go back to what you were doing when you felt that way, and start where you stopped. If you cannot think of ever feeling a sense of meaning, if your whole life has felt devoid of purpose, then work on being a better person. When in doubt, work on yourself. Becoming a better version of you will give you a much needed sense of purpose and commitment, and invariably will ultimately cause you to help others as those with whom you interact will inevitably be more positively impacted by your presence as you grow into a better person.
This post is a discussion of a current events issue that is controversial in nature and hotly debated with anyone and everyone weighing in on their opinion. Might as well state my opinion for the record for those who may be concerned. The issue of discussion is transgender athletes competing in sports.
At the center of the issue is Lia, formerly Matt, Thomas, an NCAA men’s collegiate swimmer who underwent sex-change procedures to become a woman, and would not long thereafter win first place at the NCAA national swimming championships in March of 2022. Lia has unwittingly become the face of controversy surrounding transgender athletes and their participation in sports. The issue, as so many are, is highly polarized with one side is adamantly opposed to allowing transgender athletes, especially male-woman transitions, to compete in gender-classed sporting competitions, while the other side labels any attempts to enforce such restrictions as transphobic and oppressive.
The aim of this blog is and always has been to help foster a sense of happiness within ourselves and amongst our peers so that we can be happier together. To teach strategies, share wisdom, and inspire thoughts and actions that help us build happier lives. If Matt Thomas felt that the best way to become happy, to truly be themselves, was to undergo a sex change operation and to become Lia Thomas, then good for them. I cannot imagine what a tough situation that must have been. To grow up so confused and conflicted, unsure of one’s true identity, not believing themselves to fit in, and perhaps even wondering if they were worthy of love and happiness. Who among us can presume to know what makes another person happy other than that person themselves? I applaud Matt for taking these steps and to becoming what I hope is a better version of themselves.
What I do not support is the unrestricted permissibility of transgender athletes to compete in GENDER classed sports. Read that again please. I did not say I oppose transgender people, and I did not say I am opposed to transgender athletes competing in sports. I am however opposed to participation of transgender athletes in gender-classed or gender-divided sporting competitions.
Here is why.
It is not sexist to point out that there are fundamental anatomical, biological, and physiological traits that favor men over women in athletic performance. Men possess greater muscle mass, a higher percentage of lean body mass, and hormonal advantages – specifically a significantly higher rate of testosterone which allows for quicker recovery, greater muscle growth, and greater power output over female athletes.
This is a scientific fact that is not up for debate. It is not an opinion. Yes, there are certain female athletes who can outperform a large portion of their male counterparts and there are plenty of females in society who are in better shape than many men. But if there is no distinct advantage to being a man over a woman, then why do we even bother to have gender classed athletic competitions in the first place. The reason is that the men would dominate to such an extent it would be considered unfair.
The point I would make to those opposed to the restriction of transgender athletes competing in gender classed sports would be the innate physiological differences that favor men or men who because women later in life.
Matt Thomas was ranked 65th in the country in the in the 2018-2019 (when he was a man) season at the 500m freestyle event. After undergoing a sex-change operation and becoming Lia Thomas, Lia, as a woman, won 1st place in the 500m freestyle.
It is possible to make such bounds in 3-4 years, but undoubtedly the advantages of competing against women -advantages not present when Matt/Lia competed against other biological males, helped Lia earn this edge. Lia Thomas is 23 years old. She began the transformation from male to female in 2019, at roughly the age of 18. The male body starts developing significant amounts of testosterone around the age of 12, as early as 10, and generally no later than 15. So even assuming late-bloomer status, Matt Thomas enjoyed the added benefit of elevated testosterone levels for a minimum of three years, giving him a physiological edge against the female swimmers against whom he would compete as Lia Thomas several years later. This is the equivalent of doping on performance enhancing drugs for 3-5 years. This is illegal in any NCAA, Olympic, and almost every form of professional sport. How is that fair that the national champion of swimming was able to enjoy such an advantage over the competition.
Some sporting competitions are not drug tested and some are not divided into gender based categories. Strongman, in which I compete, is not drug tested and I would hazard a guess that most of the men and most of the women athletes are or have taken some form of PED. We understand that this is a legal part of our competition. It is an even playing field. What is not fair is when an NCAA athlete enjoys an advantage that equates to several years’ worth of PED usage while the competition, born females, would be suspended or banned for doing the same were they to supplement with equivalent levels of testosterone. If a female athlete was found to have the same level of Testosterone that Matt Thomas had in 2018, she would have been guilty of using PED’s and suspended from competition if not banned. Likewise for any Olympian.
I think competition is good for our psyche and our bodies, and that most people do not get enough. Everyone should engage in competition whether it be mental of physical in nature, whether it is in one-on-one style competition, team competition, or simply a competition against yourself. Everyone can and should compete. This includes transgender athletes of any sort. I am glad that Lia Thomas continues to swim. It is likely a positive outlet and a place where she can enjoy the power and wonder of her body and the natural beauty and ability it holds. I do not think it fair though that Lia, or any other transgender athlete, compete in gender classed sports where the participants have been bound to the limits of their own physiology and have played by the rules to earn their place at that competition.
I do hope that there are gender neutral athletic competitions or classifications where athletes such as Lia can participate, and so that they can enjoy the camaraderie, health benefits, and joy that is competing in sports. As I said before, competition is good for us, and it makes us happy. And everyone has a right to be happy.
I intend make this issue solely about Lia Thomas. Lia only has the responsibility and the weight of being perhaps the most famous example of a transgender athlete. If I were to meet Lia I would tell her how proud I am of her for doing such a courageous thing, to become herself and to open herself up to vulnerability in the face of criticism, misunderstanding, and outright hate. I would offer my support and encouragement to whatever her hopes and dreams are. I hope that more people, who feel this is right for them, will be moved by her courage and that others would learn in the process to be more tolerant and understanding, so that we can truly be happy together.
This weekend I had the privilege and honor to compete at the United States Strongman’s National Championships, the largest and most important event for the sport in which I compete. This began as a dream of mine 14 months ago when I suffered a disappointing loss in a regional qualifying contest in March of 2021. After this defeat, I resolved that I would compete and win the 2022 National Championships, the event which just took place. I dedicated myself to making this dream into a reality with relentless passion, effort, discipline, concentration, and sheer power of will for the next 14 months.
I did not win.
Specifically, I placed 13th out of 31 competitors in my class. Not bad, but far from the podium which I will confess that I had fantasized about often.
And yet, I am still happy.
I am happy because true happiness is not built on external accolades like whether we win or lose a competition. When I won first in my extremely competitive qualifying regional contest earlier this year, I was overjoyed. For days after the event I walked around beaming with pride, responding with joy to all of the congratulatory texts, calls, emails, and comments, and I felt like I was the king of the world. This was the same contest I had left humbled, humiliated, and seriously injured just last year. But after just a few short days, the feeling faded, life returned to normal, and I found myself at more-or-less my baseline level of happiness. Thanks to much effort and work, that baseline level of happiness is now pretty good, better than it ever has been perhaps, but the point is to demonstrate that even a tremendously proud and joyous win will only leave us temporarily elated, but not lastingly happy. True happiness does not come from winning, nor should true sorrow come from losing.
I remain happy not merely in-spite-of but also because of this loss. How do we embrace defeat and learn how to make even a humbling experience into an opportunity for growth and happiness? The stoics have an idea called “Amor Fati” a love of fate, which is the idea that because so much of what life entails is beyond our control we must learn to at least accept if not love whatever may happen. Though disappointed in the outcome I am loving and appreciating what may be gained from losing and from not achieving my desired outcome. The loss gives me the opportunity to accept defeat with graciousness. Perhaps Life, God, the Universe, or pure chance felt that it was more important for me to experience the temporary pain of defeat, as a chance to strengthen my resolve and to practice what I preach. To embrace what may come and to be happy in spite of whatever may happen, focusing on my own reaction and decisions rather than my perception or feelings about whatever may have happened.
By not winning I given the opportunity to enjoy renewed enthusiasm stemming from making such great progress and realizing that I can push myself even harder and grow even more capable at my craft. I am happy at this opportunity to recognize that while I made great strides that I must and that I can achieve even more.
This loss gives me the opportunity to focus on systems rather than merely on results. The systems I had in place like discipline, commitment, effort, and intensity were successful and will be valuable tools at my disposal not just for future athletic endeavors but of all worthwile pursuits in my life. While the final result was not the desired outcome, these systems enabled me to achieve tremendous growth and to achieve unprecedented personal capabilities. 12 weeks ago I was simply incapable of performing 2 of the 5 events. By committing myself to these ideals and winning systems, I was able to perform a lifetime best in 3 of the 5 events performed. If I were to focus merely on results, I would miss the opportunity to be happy over the impressive amount of growth realized by committing to systems.
Yes, I am disappointed that I didn’t win. Who likes losing? But when I reflect on this event, I realize that even if I had performed to the best of my abilities and not made a few costly errors in technique or focus such as I did, I still would not have won. The winner was that good and that much better than me and of most of the field. Why should I be sorrowful that I did not win? Rather than lament defeat I intend to continue committing to the systems that bring results and true happiness and to commit myself to continued progress.
Some may say that my acceptance of defeat or nonchalant attitude is precisely the reason I din’t win. That winning is the only acceptable result and those who are happy with not winning will be losers for life. I disagree, and whether that keeps me from ever reaching the highest form of victory in winning a national championship (in the context of my sport of course) or not, I know that I will remain happy, and to me that is the ultimate victory. Think about how many successful or accomplished people you know who are empty and sad. Success does not lead to fulfillment or happiness.
“Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Eleanor Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” If I compare my performance to others then my joy is robbed as I realize that 12 people did better than I did. When I don’t compare, I am able to appreciate that I completed many impressive feats which I had never believed myself capable. My joy and happiness comes from being proud of what I was able to do through concentration, discipline, and will. Sometimes in sports there are winner-take-all zero-sum games with clear winners and losers. But in strongman as in life, this is rarely so. There is room for all of us to experience personal victory and happiness when we don’t compare.
I share this post as both a form of ownership in accepting responsibility for the consequences of my actions, for the costly mistakes made that diminished my performance, but more importantly so that readers may recognize a real world scenario for how to put the philosophy of happiness and positive psychology into action. It is realistic to say that 5 years ago such a humbling moment would have crushed me and had me questioning my value as a human and debating if life was not worth living. Because of the reading, research, and learning committed to the study and understanding of happiness, I have elevated the baseline level of my emotional and psychological state so that even under such circumstances I am able to remain happy not merely in-spite-of, but because of my losses.
I trust that you can do the same and I will happily assist you if I may.
Today I want to talk about Brian Johnson, or as he is more commonly called, the Liver King.
You may have seen the over the top videos of a brawny, shirtless man wandering the streets of New York with a weighted sled, rucksack, and kettlebells in tow as he strolls down Broadway; or you may have seen him devouring a bulls testicle while after a grueling, and also shirtless, workout of the ski urgh, rowing machine, and various dumbells, barbells, and random weighted objects. This is Brian Johnson, or rather the Liver King, who has taken the internet by storm and garnered attention each in the forms of awe, appreciation, controversy, and malice.
The @liverking now has over 2 million followers on Instagram and he is as controversial as he is popular. Some of his more divisive beliefs include a condemnation of many of the trappings and comforts of modern society – which he claims are harmful, and his diet which consists almost exclusively of raw meat and animal organs. You can view his website here: https://www.liverking.com/
He has adopted an admittedly absurd and over-the top but undeniably attention-grabbing persona in the Liver King, and some of his philosophies may not be 100% backed by science. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to dismiss all of Brian Johnson’s claims as the Liver King. In this discussion I will review some of Liver King’s core tenants in what I hope is an objective manner, to demonstrate that behind all the posturing, screaming, flexing, and caricature of a persona, that the Liver King makes some valid statements which when followed can improve the quality of our lives.
Beginning on his website, liverking.com, LK’s mission statement is: “every man, women, and child has the right to be strong, healthy and happy. To live life with robust energy and biological resilience. To go from mere existence in life, to discovering that which makes life worth living.” Ok, so we are off to a good start. His mission closely resembles my own mission for Happy Together, therefore this warrants further discussion. His focus is on biological and physiological health and believes, correctly so, that prioritizing physical wellness creates the opportunity for health and happiness in our social, mental, spiritual, and emotional lives. When one pillar of our total wellbeing suffers, the temple of our existence cannot stand. Focusing on physical health, as LK has done, is an excellent first step to building complete wellness.
The path which LK has laid out to his followers involves what he calls the “9 Ancestral Tentants” which he says are “designed to bring out the best versions of ourselves, by re-aligning our lifestyle, diet and behaviors with a Primal way of being.” Let’s look into those tenants to see if there are valid points or if this guy really is just a poser and a wind-bag as some of his social media haters would claim.
Per the website: “The first tenant of Ancestral Living is Sleep, because it trumps everything else! It’s the time when body and brain detox, recover, rebuild and restore.” He adds in advice that you should view natural sunlight first thing upon waking so that you may maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, and to avoid eating 4 hours before bed to properly regulate neurotransmitter, digestive, and hormonal responses.
Nothing in this tenant is controversial and in fact it is strongly supported by modern science. Early ancestors would not have had to be deliberate about rising early to view the sun, because this was part of their natural sleep-wake cycle. Modern humans need to be more intentional about when we go to bed and when we rise, because we keep ourselves up late with distractions, sleep in late, and many of us neglect to spend time outdoors getting natural light through the eyes. Most of us either work remote and can move from bed to the home-office without setting foot outdoors or we quickly shuffle from the shelter of our home, into transportation and into an office. Either we fail to get the necessary light exposure to moderate circadian rhythm as well as immune function benefits we get from vitamin d synthesis and we fail to maintain a healthy sleep cycle that mimics the day-night cycle of the sun and earth. Furthermore many of us get poor quality sleep when we do sleep, or don’t get enough because we live in a culture where sleep deprivation, being sacrificed for working ourselves to exhaustion, is a badge of honor. Sleep is where our cells heal, where our hormones are balanced, where our brain is restored, and our immunity is boosted. Improper sleep will quickly collapse the quality of your health.
I would recommend listening to LK here and try to take a 20-30 minute walk outdoors first thing in the morning, even if it is cloudy, so that you get a decent amount of sunshine to regulate your sleep cycle. Supplement this with a set bed time that allows you to get sufficient quality sleep, and so that you can rise appropriately early to attack your day.
Verdict on Tenant 1: Great Idea
“The second Ancestral Tenet is Eat because we evolved eating the whole animal.”
Nothing at this jumps off the page as completely ludicrous, but when we examine his posts and videos, we understand that when LK means the whole animal, he means the WHOLE ANIMAL Some of his most popular content typically involves him eating raw animal organs including but not limited to liver, brain, heart, and perhaps most shockingly: testicles.
Liver King, and many others, believe that a carnivore diet (a diet of only meat) provides ample nutrition provided of course that the animal from whence the meat and organ is harvested is of good health (this might be the biggest struggle in modern society – to find a truly healthy animal to eat). I personally don’t follow a carnivore diet, but I know a number of people who do, and who have seen tremendous improvements in both objective and subjective measures of health. I don’t know about nutrition to make any advice here, other than to say: consult with your doctor or a dietary professional before engaging in a carnivore diet, or any other diet, especially if that carnivore diet includes raw food. My best feelings come from eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as part of a balanced diet, which though it differs from LK’s diet, it does cut out most of the harmful ingredients in modern food. The key thing here isn’t just what the Liver King is eating, it is what he is NOT eating which is processed foods.
In discussing the raw food in LK’s diet, should point out that fire was discovered and implemented tens of thousands of years ago back during prehistoric ages so eating raw food doesn’t necessarily reflect a true “ancestral” tenant which he is so fond of. Eating cooked foods allowed our ancestors to properly digest certain foods, and to consume greater quantity of food, while also eradicating the risk of certain bacteria that could easily wipe out a primal prehistoric human just as it could you or me. I understand that Liver King probably enjoys the challenge that exposure to potentially harmful pathogens would provide in allowing his immune system to grow and strengthen, but my biggest suggestion here is that you cook your meat, but LK is not wrong in the least to suggest we alter our diet to become healthier and happier.
Verdict on Tenant 2: Slightly Controversial because of the raw food, but we could all stand to eat less shit common in the modern diet
“The 3rd ancestral tenant is to move. What you do with your body is just as important as what you put into it. By maintaining a ‘healthy level of movement,’ one develops a healthy approach to consumption, where instincts become far more identifiable and beneficial.”
Again, nothing controversial here. Think about your average day. Most of us spend 6-8 hours in bed, 8-10 hours sitting at a desk, 1-2 hours commuting (while sitting), and 3-4 hours vegetating on the couch before we go to sleep. Assuming the high end of each activity, that leaves at most 1 hour of time for movement, but realistically most people will find a way to remain sedentary during that activity as well. The fact is, modern humans move less, much less, than our ancestors whose bodies evolved to run, walk, hunt, fight, squat, and crawl. Now we are confined to simply sitting or lying down almost interminably, and the results are chronic degradation of our muscles, joints, bones, and our physical well-being. This becomes mental distress , low self-esteem, headaches and general chronic poor physical health. To correct this course, we must be more intentional about moving our bodies.
Even those of us who think we are active are probably not as active as we imagine. A 90-minute vigorous workout will not be enough to offset the remaining 22.5 hours of sedentary living. In addition to regular rigorous exercise 4-7 days a week, we should all adhere to tenant 3 and move more which can be done such as scheduling 5–10-minute blocks where we will get up, walk, and stretch or drop to the floor for some pushups to break up prolonged periods of inactivity. It doesn’t matter how you move, just move. Make it easy by doing so in a manner that is enjoyable to you.
Verdict on Tenant 3: Great Idea
“The fourth Ancestral Tenet is Shield because we need to avoid dangers just like our early ancestors did, but instead of running from lions, nowadays we run from seed oils, excessive wifi, EMFs, and man-made poisons.”
Some of this, like abstaining from toxic foods, while other parts garner visions of a man in a tinfoil hat. While some might argue that wifi, EMF etc are harmful, I think that the evidence that such exposures are truly harmful is not yet backed or widely supported by the scientific community.
I suppose we could stretch this out and say that if you are avoiding WiFi or EMF then you are likely spending time outdoors, and moving (tenant 3), generally preferred to spending time locked up sedentary and indoors, but I have a hard time stating with certainty that exposure to WiFi is a major threat to society. While perhaps not a threat to our existence, we could all stand to put our phones down more often.
Verdict on Tenant 4: Somewhat Exaggerated
“The fifth Ancestral Tenet is Connect. Our early ancestors were in constant contact with the earth 24/7/365. The earth has a slightly negative charge which provides a grounding force for our electrophysiology. With the advent of rubber shoes, cars, houses and elevated beds, we no longer come into contact with this grounding force. Think about it, when was the last time you had your bare feet planted on the earth for any real duration?”
Much like tenant 4, I am not convinced that the issue of being disconnected from earth is as big a deal as it is made to be. However, it is indicative of other potential concerns. If we are connected to the earth we are presumably outdoors, likely moving our bodies as nature intended and not locked into technology.
There are those, many of whom I respect, who suggest that contact with trees or with the earth can have a eugenic effect. I will plead ignorance and admit I must educate myself further as I pass my verdict on this tenant. I would say being connected to the earth is likely a good thing but probably not a cause for alarm for most, and probably plays a relatively small role towards our well-being when compared to other tenants.
Verdict on Tenant 5: Somewhat exaggerated
“Comfort is not good for the organism. This is why the sixth Ancestral Tenet is “Get Cold.” In modern times, we simply put on some clothes, turn up the heater, or avoid the cold altogether by staying inside. No one likes that uncomfortable frigid feeling that comes with cold, especially when we have access to warmth 24/7.”
There is a great deal of evidence validating LK’s statements on the value of cold. Andrew Huberman, David Sinclair, and other noted scientists have recently discussed at length that cold exposure is better for the following reasons: cold exposure triggers hermetic stress which is good for longevity; builds mental fortuity as we compel ourselves to do something we don’t want to; it boosts metabolism and metabolism supporting hormones; increases alertness by boosting dopamine; and enhances our ability to deal with mental or physiological stress.
LK is 100% correct, modern humans spend almost the entirety of their existence in a state of comfort that was enjoyed few and far between by our ancestors. Moderate levels of stress are what David Sinclair calls hermetic stress and are good because they encourage the cells of our body to optimally function. Cold exposure is perhaps the single greatest example of hermetic stress.
Verdict on Tenant 6: Great Idea
“The seventh Ancestral Tenet is Sun for the natural production of Vitamin D. This prevents tooth decay, increases immunity and improves overall health. The vitamin D produced in the body from midday sun exposure works synergistically with the other fat-soluble vitamins A and K which helps us to remineralize our teeth, support key metabolic factors, improve energy metabolism and optimize immunity.”
We have alluded to the benefits of sun exposure in previous tenants such as tenant 1 due to the association of healthy sleep cycles and sun exposure.
There is a wealth of scientific studies and experiments showing the numerous benefits of sunlight. It comes with the obvious caveat of not over-exposing ourselves to the sun. Sun exposure is associated with greater immunity, greater happiness, decreased anxiety and depression and more. Nearly every cause of mortality is associated with vitamin D deficiencies. Depending on our natural levels of melanin, where we are on the planet, what the season is, etc., as little as 20 minutes of direct midday sun exposure. Consult with a doctor for how much sun exposure is appropriate for you, but most of us could all stand to enjoy more sun in our lives.
Verdict on Tenant 7: Great Idea
“The eighth Ancestral Tenet is Fight. Our ancestors evolved fighting, hunting, protecting, struggling, persevering and eventually winning. And when we win, we get rewarded with a boost of dopamine and androgens. In modernity, there are not a lot of natural opportunities to put yourselves in harm’s way, to overcome real struggle, to really fight for something of value. I believe for us to really thrive, we have to possess a type of high courage to continue to fight for something meaningful, to foster an inner fire, to take real risks and to continue to create ways to win. This is how we avoid falling into a rut.”
I am glad that LK took the liberty of elaborating that he isn’t suggesting that we go start a street fight, but that we can simulate the neurological effects of successful combat by setting goals that challenge us and overcoming them – although you could honor this tenant by engaging in organized combat sports in a controlled environment. Tenant 8. somewhat echoes the sentiments of tenant 6, but once again, humans today live in a near perpetual state of comfort. To grow and succeed as humans, we must set difficult goals that challenge us to become a better person so that we may grow towards an ideal version of our selves and so that we enjoy the spoils of a victory won by committing ourselves to success.
Verdict on Tenant 8: Great Idea
“The ninth Ancestral Tenet is Bond. Since the inception of our species, we have belonged to a far greater purpose. Our ancestor’s purpose was guarding the perimeter from danger to protect one’s tribe, hunting and foraging to feed one’s tribe, building, tool making and weapon making to shelter and shield one’s tribe, caretaking and love making to nurture, to nourish and to grow one’s tribe, there was purpose in teaching and in tradition, and in play, that cultivate traditions and deepen social bonds. That kind of purpose, support, care and attention decided whether people would live or die.”
If it weren’t for our extraordinary ability to bond, connect, and cooperate, human’s would likely be extinct, having succumbed to a host stronger, faster, and bigger predators. Yet here we are, and we owe a great deal of our survival and development to our social bonds.
Today, especially on what I hope is the tail end of a pandemic, our social bonds have never been weaker. The average person’s evening is spent lying on the couch, scrolling through social media and interacting with precisely nobody. The modern person interacts less with others than we ever have before. Humans are social creatures by nature, and it isn’t just our social health but our biological health that suffers when we fail to bond. The oxytocin exchanged between a mother and her baby within the first moments after birth are critical to healthy development of the child into a functioning adult. Solitary confinement is perhaps one of the cruelest forms of punishment imaginable and those who endure it often suffer irreparable damage and are rarely able to successfully reintegrate into society.
Look no further than the results of the previous two years’ World Happiness Reports, where depression and anxiety have both gone up to unprecedented levels. Most experts believe that the lockdowns from the pandemic and the subsequent isolation are responsible. In a world with already scarce social interactions, even fewer interactions have contributed mental health concerns at record levels. Bonding with others can help address these worries.
Verdict on Tenant 9: Great Idea
He may present an absurd and somewhat laughable character due to his histrionics, and while it is worth noting that he flies in private jets, and lives in a mansion, and that his impressive physique would appear to be the result of performance enhancing drugs as it is his ancestral lifestyle, but the Liver King might just be worth listening to. I am of the opinion that much of the hate he receives is by insecure individuals who feel threatened because of his in-your-face, loud approach which challenges the unhealthy trends which society now comes to understand as normal. I think that normal has come to be associated with such a low standard that anyone who challenges the norms and dares to be exceptional runs the probability of drawing the ire of his peers. Whether or not Liver King truly abides by his established tenants is irrelevant. People will look for flaws in his philosophy because it gives them validation to continue being less than ideal versions of themselves, because to challenge critically examine themselves the way the Liver King does is uncomfortable and frightening. People would rather criticize and look for an excuse not to listen rather than take the time to consider that these ancestral tenants, perhaps not necessarily needing to be followed to a T, can and will provide improvement in our sense of happiness.
Since this blog was started, I have often written about success, progress, self-improvement, and transformative processes wherein I encourage people to pursue better versions of themselves. During such posts, I have been conscious of how to effectively communicate that I am not suggesting that you need to change because you are imperfect (we always will be) or that you must change because you are unworthy of love, joy, or happiness in your current state – you are. What I find myself wondering is how to encourage people to pursue personal excellence, to make tough decisions that will lead to a better and happier future without implying that they ought to be unhappy until they choose to change?
“Happiness is not the belief that we need to change but the realization that we can.”
Shawn Achor – The Happiness Advantage
Enter Shawn Achor. I have read several of Dr. Achor’s books including “the Happiness Advantage” where discusses the research that he and his colleagues have done, demonstrating that happiness comes before success rather than happiness being a byproduct of success. In reviewing my notes on his work, I came across a gem of a thought which I had previously overlooked, and which seemed to answer my questions above about how to encourage progress without diminishing the present. Dr. Achor wrote: “happiness is not the belief that we need to change but the realization that we can.” This was the very answer I had been looking for.
The possibility of Change
We are all imperfect beings, and we always will be. While don’t have the possibility of perfection, we do have the capacity for growth. When we realize our potential and take action bringing us toward it, we create more joy and more happiness for both our selves and for the world as we embark on a transformative journey wherein we are improved not by reaching the destination but by choosing to take the journey in the first place. Recognition that we hold potential for improvement does not diminish the present. To make progress we must first recognize our worthiness, and learn to be happy in the present, even as we commit to growth, otherwise the potential for growth is stunted. While we are both worthy and imperfect in present state, I believe we owe it to ourselves to make a conscious decision to commit to progress even when perfection is unattainable. It isn’t the destination of perfection but the journey of growth and the changes we make along that path that make progress worthwhile.
Aim your progress towards a worthy and noble goal
The one caveat I would make to this is that we must be careful that our idea of progress, and that ideal towards which we strive is a worthy investment of our lives. We must begin with the end in mind and have a firm understanding of our desired outcome, our target, because if our shot lacks a target we would never know if we hit it. As you formulate your desired outcome, imagine the type of person you will become as you achieve that result. What does that person do and what emotions do they express. More importantly, what type of values does this person exhibit? These values and these emotions will be your compass on your journey to growth and will ensure not just that you are successful but fulfilled spiritually and emotionally. As Tony Robbins once said, “success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” Do not work your ass off for success but neglect to become fulfilled.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Henry David Thoreau
It is ok to have goals that may seem superficial, it is ok to want more money, it is ok to want to be famous. What is important is not so much what you want as are the 3 questions of: why do you want it; what will you do when you have it; and what will you be willing to do to achieve it? As long as the why’s and the what’s are noble, you will become a better and happier person as you pursue personal progress. Thoreau once wrote “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” What you will become is a better version of you, and in becoming a better version of you, you create a better version of the universe. Change not because you must, change because you can. Don’t change because you MUST, choose to change because you CAN.