Exorcism for the Can’t Evens

“I can’t even” is Newspeak for “I suck, please pet me.”

If you’ve never seen Pumping Iron, the 1977 documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training to win  Mr. Universe, then you need to. It’s tremendously weird to watch, especially now that we’ve seen Arnold as our governor here in California and we know he was juicing harder than than the Odwalla factory.

The most important things about Arnold are that, above everything else, he was a hard worker and he had an unshakeable belief in himself. If his partner did 5 sets, he would do 6. He came to America with nothing and was a millionaire through real estate before he was ever famous. The man knows how to grind.

His enemies during his competition body building days all recount his use of psychological warfare. He would tell his opponents how fat they looked or how uneven their deltoids were. Anything to introduce doubt into their minds, to make them question themselves, to make them quit.

Arnold’s about to axe some hard questions.

Arnold, who was born without any chill, was ruthless because he knew most people want to quit. Most people want to sit down and accept their flab and failure. They revel in their debt. They adore people who tell them good things about their bad habits. Most people are happy in some sort of bondage. They can’t wait to give up their power.

This all starts with negative self talk. In order to move forward on your goals with the quickness, you must banish any sort of verbalized doubt. I don’t know if it’s magickal or psychological, correlative or causative, but people who say they can’t do things, tend not to do things.

I’ve heard it a lot lately in conversation about this blog you’re reading. People always say, “I wish I could do that.” Here’s the secret. You can. Anyone with a computer and a few minutes carved out of a busy Netflix and Instagram binging schedule can do what I’m doing. The only natural advantages I have for blogging are that I like writing and don’t mind if people think I’m an asshole.

Hemingway was not concerned with your feeble opinions.

A surprising place I’ve heard a lot of negative talk is gyms. You’d think the people I’ve trained with over the years were Russian widows from the Old Country.

“Ugh, this is going to suck.”

“I’m never going to be able to lift that.”

“This workout again? Oh noes!”

Maybe you are about to buy yourself a ticket to trouble-walking-up-the-stairs-town. So what? As far as I know, no one in this country is being forced to work out. It’s a privilege most people in the world don’t have. I get to workout. It’s fucking awesome. Especially when it’s hard.

Look, I’ve been that whiny bitch more times than I can count. That’s why I feel comfortable telling you (and myself) it’s time to harden the fuck up.

You might think you’re hard, but you’ll never be “lifting weights made out of rocks and lion shit” hard. You think these bad motherfuckers make excuses?

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t accept criticism or have an honest view of yourself. We all know those flakey assholes who are asking the universe for things like it’s a fucking disembodied Santa Claus. And all you “fake it till you make it people” should just stop forcing your unqualified delusions on the rest of us. Try improving yourself until you’re worthy of consideration.

Cal Newport, who’s book Deep Work I’m currently loving and forcing on anyone who will listen, has another book titled So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I own it, and haven’t read it yet, but the argument of the book is one I’m ready to accept without cracking the spine: You must always attempt to be excellent, otherwise you will be dispensed, and then you will be unhappy.

Oh, you’re a little sore today? Look a this savage.

Another book, one I have read and consider essential, is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Ultimately we really don’t have much control over our lives. Your genetics will determine a lot of what you’re capable of. Then whatever damage your parents did is piled on. Sprinkle a healthy dose of crumbling civilization on top and you’ve got a recipe for existential despair. But you do have control of your attitude towards those things.

Where a lot of people go wrong is thinking they have to always be cheering themselves up or seeking out positivity. Fuck that. It’s exhausting. The world is not a nice place full of disco rainbows and unicorn jizz smoothies. All you have to do is not be down on yourself. Plenty of other forces in the world will do that for you. Those are your enemies, don’t help them.

And look, you might have something legitimately awful in your life. I just read a blog post written by a young woman in her 20s who has been fighting cancer for like ten years. It’s come back and it doesn’t look good. She got a raw deal for sure  and only an asshole would tell her “to think positive.” If there’s any time to be upset it’s when your body is killing you.

If you find yourself whining, ask “what would Fedor do?”

Most of you reading this are like me. You’re alive and among the most successful and comfortable people who have ever lived. If you have hot running water and a toilet, you live better than royalty did a couple of hundred years ago.

Listen, I’m guilty of all the weak shit I’ve just written about. I’m human. But I’m making a commitment to eliminate negative self talk. Consider it spiritual aerodynamics. You’re just taking away what gets in the way.

Strip yourself down to the essential and go hard, no matter what size engine you have.

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