The relentless pursuit of perfection


The Long Road

If you've started taking regular doses of the red pill, you're going to realise pretty soon that you face certain shortcomings as a man which you know that you must overcome. And when you embark down the road of serious, constant, rigourous self-improvement, you're going to come to certain points in the journey where you will be sorely tempted to give up, to turn back, to say, "it's too difficult, I can't do this".

It would be so easy to give up. It would be so simple to turn back. But sooner or later, you're going to realise that there is no going back.

Once you have taken it upon yourself to achieve fulfillment in your life, and you have accepted the responsibility that you have to yourself, your family, and your people to be the best version of yourself that you can be, you will find that this is not something you can simply give up or lay down. The commitment to this path is eternal, and while you might falter along the way, you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to truly quit.

The reason for this is simple: while it would be easy to give up, the value of the knowledge that you have gained through whatever enlightenment you have achieved so far is simply too great for you to refuse to continue. This applies to every discipline of your life- whether that be approaching women, becoming strong and fit, taking up a martial art, becoming an elite programmer, or whatever you choose to dedicate yourself toward as a life goal. Once you truly decide- truly make the commitment, with the most serious mind- to be the best, then the only direction left before you is forward.

Obstacles

Let me give you a real and very personal example. I've been studying the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga for nearly 7 months now, and I feel as though I am more than ready to take the test to get to the next level. At my school, though, the policy is very simple and very clear: you have to take a clinic with an instructor of the school, and only when he thinks you are ready, are you allowed to test (at least for Yellow and Orange Belt).

Last week I went to my third such clinic, almost desperate to prove to my instructors that I was ready for the trials. There were far too many people who turned up to that clinic, though- it was really more of a class than a clinic, because the Master Instructor was training us that day- and as a result it was impossible for the instructors to make a definitive decision about who was and was not ready to test. In the end, I was not judged to be worthy.

I came away deeply disappointed, furiously angry, and bitterly unhappy, wondering if there was really any point in continuing. It felt like I had wasted 6 months of my life studying an art with nothing to show for it. I gave serious thought to simply quitting the school after my contract with it expired, abandoning the art, and refusing to have anything to do with it any longer. I was sure that I was ready to test, and surely my teachers could see that- after all, I'd trained in front of them for so long by now. I stewed about it for a few hours, wallowing in bitterness and disappointment, after I came home, and figured that I'd come to a final decision the next evening while lifting weights in the gym in what I have long since come to think of as "blessed solitude".

The next evening I entered the gym and immediately entered that special headspace that all powerlifters get into when lifting hard and heavy. And that was when I started thinking about what the Master Instructor had told us, both in a short speech to us all at that clinic and in similar speeches in other classes. Over and over again, the Master told us that he regards Yellow Belt as the single most important belt in the entire curriculum of the art. Those who test well at the Yellow Belt level do so because they have very solid fundamentals, and because they have driven themselves to seek perfection in the art. The best students do not merely seek to be good at this stuff- they seek to be perfect. That means that they execute every single strike with the goal of making this one better than the last; they execute every single technique with the goal of seeking out small errors in their form and correcting them.

In short, they seek mastery.

Looking at it from that perspective, I realised that I simply could not turn my back on the art. I just couldn't do it and look at myself in the mirror the next day. Looking at it that way, I could no longer justify the urge to quit, because I realised that in order to seek that same elusive perfection, I had to overcome my own limitations- mine, and no one else's. No excuses, no dodges. I couldn't just give up and invalidate everything that I had learned- I had come too far down this road to do that. I realised that I'd gotten my motivation for studying the art backasswards. I had thought that I wanted to test for the next level simply to learn new material and progress upwards, but that night, I realised that I actually wanted much more than that.

What I truly wanted was to stand before my teachers, having proven myself worthy of their teachings. I didn't just want to study the art- I wanted to become a part of the living, breathing tradition of Krav Maga, to uphold the values of honour, discipline, courage, and martial prowess that define the art and those who practice it. I wanted to show, beyond any possible shadow of doubt, that I understood and respected the fundamental ideas of the art. I wanted to prove to the Master Instructor that I had earned the right to stand before him as his student through hard work and dedication, instead of just being one of many, many paying customers for a service.

And I realised that night that I didn't care how long it took to achieve these goals, not really. Sure, sooner would be better than later- I'm a busy man, I've got books to read, scripts to program, and idiots to avoid, after all. But mastery takes time, and if you're not ready, then sticking to some artificial schedule is not going to speed things up unless you dial things back and focus on the basics once more.

Once you realise what your motivations truly are, and once you figure out whether your motivations are worthwhile, you'll realise very quickly that if they are worthwhile, then giving up is not only shameful and dishonourable, it is also infeasible. You simply cannot give up all of that wisdom, that hard-won confidence and skill, just because you hit a few bumps along the way and forgot to put on your big-boy pants that day.

The Fundamentals

As I hope you can see, this doesn't just apply to martial arts. Let's say that you've stalled out in your attempts to hit a PR in the squat rack (like I did, a few months ago). You'll eventually come to the realisation that your form is poor and that you need to correct it. At that point, when you're squatting more than virtually every other man in the gym, are you really going to say, "f*** it" and return to doing those stupid body part split isolation exercises that everyone else is farting around with and which never result in anything other than frustration and burnout? Of course you're not, because at that point you will have seen the tremendous gains that come from hard work, discipline, and an iron will.

Or let's say that you've taken the teachings from Roosh's Bang and Day Bang and you've gotten some real success, perhaps even several actual lays, but you've suddenly hit a slump and you have no idea why. Are you seriously going to tell me that it's time to pack it in and give up, and return to the stupid old blue-pill approach of waiting for "the One" to come along and fulfil all of your Beta buttboy dreams? Of course you're not.

The only way to overcome these mental blocks- and they are almost always mental- is to focus on the basics once more. If you read the works of history's greatest warriors- Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings comes to mind- you will recall that every single one of them viewed the fundamentals of their respective arts as absolutely paramount. Every modern highly skilled martial artist- including 5th, 8th, and even 10th Dan black belts in Krav Maga- will never walk into the dojo or onto the mat and start practising releases from head-locks or bear hugs or knife threats or gun standoffs. Ever one of them will instead focus on the absolute core elements of their art- punches, kicks, and strikes. And every single one of them will do so with exactly one goal in mind- the relentless pursuit of perfection in all that they do.

Stand Up and FIGHT!

Perfection is, by definition, unattainable. That does not make its pursuit worthless or fruitless. And once you clear your mind and focus specifically on the fundamental aspects of your chosen field, you will eventually realise that the things that were holding you back really weren't that difficult to overcome after all.

Once you de-load on your squats and fix your form, you'll eventually be able to squat 315lbs for a set of 3 reps, without problems, when previously just doing one rep with proper form was really hard. Once you master your inner game by focusing on your own confidence and tranquility of mind, you're not going to find it difficult to talk to that HB9 in the corner, because you're just not intimidated by her- indeed, at that point, if your game is tight, she is probably going to be intimidated by you. Once you practice pistol and rifle shooting to the point where sight alignment and sight picture become second nature, you're not even going to think about how to line up the target; what you're going to care about is narrowing the gap between your current scores and the perfect 100.

It all comes down to how hard you're prepared to work on the basics- and once you've truly mastered those, then there actually isn't much to worry about after that. Sure, the situations and the techniques get harder, but they're just different applications of the same basic problem- the problem that you've solved many, many, many times before. It makes no difference whether we're talking about loading another 5lbs on the bar for a heavy deadlift or approaching that insanely hot babe in the corner who's been giving you signals all night long- it's all about how well you understand the basics. Once you understand those basics, you understand yourself- and you understand that what is impossible is simply a matter of what you are willing and able to take on.

Seek then to be not merely good but perfect with your fundamentals, whatever your chosen field, and mastery will eventually come. It really doesn't matter how long it takes. All that matters is that you meet the road in front of you with courage and resolution, to move forward, always.

Comments

  1. Turisas is great. I listen to that album while cleaning my apartment yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're fantastic. I saw them play live earlier this year shortly after PaganFest. They absolutely killed live. I actually had a chance to see them live at last year's PaganFest but ended up walking out just before they hit the stage. BIG mistake. When I saw them this year, I was kicking myself for a week for skipping their gig earlier.

      Bands like TURISAS exist to remind us that power metal can be fun, epic, and silly all at the same time...

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