Photography by Jeffrey Perez of Oahu, Hawaii
Strength is the ability to overcome resistance and the capacity to endure external force. Life is a revolving door of resistance and pressure. Despite the delusions of a safe-space culture, this is inevitable and necessary. Fulfilled people find strength from the resistance.
They adapt, grow, and are made into a greater version. Others feel victimized that the world didn’t acquiesce their narrow, ego-centric wants. The lesson is sacrificed to a pattern of self-pity that only further entrenches their neurotic mental distortions. There are many factors separating the empowered from the unfulfilled, but none so important as the development of strength.
The Value of Consistent Exercise
When we engage in a consistent exercise practice, we are willingly entering resistance in pursuit of greater capability. We learn to push our boundaries and will ourselves out of stasis. By consistently facing physical resistance, we gain confidence to enter the resistance that permeates every other meaningful life endeavor. Even with the host of health and aesthetic benefits, these mental lessons are the most important result of physical training.
The opposite is also true. Every time you skip a workout, you subconsciously excuse the pattern of avoiding resistance throughout life. For those thinking about quitting their New Year’s fitness regiment, this, more than anything else, should cause you to reconsider.
You can always begin training in a different manner, but physical training is a prerequisite for inspired living. What’s more, if you don’t model that strength, your children will struggle to find it for themselves. Your reluctance to become greater also becomes theirs.
Resistance is the prerequisite for capability and possibility. Even those effortless peak moments of flow are only possible through a pattern of consistently leaving your comfort zone and acting for a greater purpose.
If you find yourself on an amazing Mediterranean cruise, sipping wine, staring into the eyes of your beloved wife as you salsa the night away, you are realizing the fruits of consistent resistance. You took the time to learn to salsa. You’ve maintained the physical vigor to travel and dance.
Uncountable hours have gone into your work so that you can afford this trip, and you’ve resisted the urge to blow your money on less fruitful experiences. Most importantly, your marriage undoubtedly has faced conflict and required sacrifice. Your commitment to the process of resistance and adaptation has allowed you to persist through it all and come out stronger.
Most people spend their lives trying to avoid resistance and pressure. Deluded by the belief that the discomforts of training are harsh and awful, their lives become a cycle of searching for superficial pleasures and distractions. They remain in their comfort zone, trapped by self-imposed limitations, refusing to engage in the experiences that would transform them—convincing themselves that they just aren’t that type of person.
You Actually Love Resistance
Like our immune systems, we require challenge in order to serve a purpose. The revelation of Sebastian Junger’s book, Tribe, is that repeatedly, throughout history, humanity has thrived in times of chaos. Disaster pulls us back into fulfilling nomadic patterns of purpose, connection, and mutual dependency.
For example, when the Nazis dropped bombs on top of London and across Britain throughout the nearly four-month Battle of Britain, the incidence of mental health disorders declined drastically. The same counterintuitive results have been seen in Hurricane Katrina and nearly every other disaster.
Humans are quite resilient. Rather than fractured by trauma, often it is those who’ve faced the most resistance who are strongest. Strength is only built from difficulty. Struggle is inevitable in our lives. However, if we are deceived into thinking that we should not be facing resistance—that having problems is a problem—then we guarantee mental angst and that we will be unfit for the revolving door of challenges that naturally arise.
“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary.”
Thus, the happiest people intentionally seek resistance. They go to the weight room. They struggle to learn gymnastics or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They rock climb, run, and bike. They engage challenging experiences that illuminate different perspectives and possibilities while orienting them to a sense of personal meaning.
When juxtaposed against the norms of modern childhood, it becomes clear why our youth are so unhappy, unhealthy, and reluctant to engage in any experience outside their phones. Society has obsessed upon removing all adversity in hopes that they can give children the outcomes they want for them.
You can’t. Happiness is predicated on the individual becoming capable, competent, and driven to contribute those earned capacities towards a meaningful purpose. We can’t do this for our kids. But, we can show them how to be strong.
The Parenting Pendulum Swings to New Extremes
When a baby is born the parent’s duties extend no further than providing and protecting. However, as children age, the focus should gradually shift towards creating capability and the inclination to contribute towards a purpose. Providing and protecting maximally will conflict with these priorities.
I make sure that my twenty-two month old’s primary needs are covered, but the bulk of my focus goes into manipulating the environment to make sure he faces appropriate resistance in order to grow. As he ages, I will consistently remove dependencies while adding resistance in the form of more responsibilities.
I’ll provide the means, but he will make his own breakfast. I’ll provide the lawnmower, but he will mow the lawn. I’ll provide the expectation, but he will be responsible for his grades and experience lost privileges if he does not give adequate effort. The idea is to shift more emphasis into fostering self-reliance so that he expects to earn his own way and is strong and confident enough to pursue dreams.
My approach could be taken to extremes—encumbering him with far too much work while never bothering to mitigate the dangers of power tools—but, this is not the norm.
“It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled until those of mature age are already sunk into corruption.”
Charles de Montesquieu
The current standard model of parenting is to provide, far past any reasonable age, to protect from all pain, and to solve every problem for our children. Today’s bulldozer parents obsess on giving outcomes while neglecting to foster capability and interests.
They give more than was once conceivable, but their children are unable to become more. Parents refuse to let their children roam away from their safety net and blunt any natural feedback mechanism that could have prompted personal correction prior to the more painful manifestations, like obesity and depression.
Absent of experience and resistance, the youth remain weak, incapable, and lost. These norms are only exacerbated by the cultural norms children are immersed within. Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts are normal breakfasts. School days are a revolving door of sweets and sitting.
Students come home only to sit and play Fortnite or lose themselves in social media scans. Lobotomized children are rarely at imminent risk of physical peril, even as their bodies and minds slowly decay. Both biological addiction and social pressure conspire to keep kids scrolling and seeking their next fast food fix.
Immersed in comfort and convenience, we’re experiencing the hardest time ever to be a parent. It’s easy to pull your children to purpose, authenticity, and capability when there is a dire need for sacrifice. We thrive in times of necessity like the great depression and World War II. Connection, competency, and authenticity are just the norm.
Modern affluence, on the other hand, has allowed “provide and protect” to go too far. The American Dream of building a better life for yourself has been perverted to a dream of giving children everything they could ever want. We must seek to make our children capable, not comfortable.
The Strength to Fight Our Standard Model
So, how can you fight the cultural tide of dependency? How do you fight the standard model? The best thing you can give your kids is consistency, strong boundaries, and a better model.
Consistency is built from clear values. Value strength, effort, responsibility, and playful exploration. Despite the commentary you’ll elicit from the over-coddling masses, these are the most loving gifts you could ever offer.
There is no stopping your children’s exposure to the culture of dependency on sweets and tweets and you could be too extreme, provoking rebellion. By consistently explaining the why behind your beliefs and allowing kids the freedom to experience how others live while outside your home, you’ll imprint a strong impression they come to respect and emulate.
Still, we need to own the environments we can control. Create clear boundaries at the home for nutrition, phones, screentime, and behavior. Immersed in a culture of impulse we can’t expect our kids to naturally make the right decisions in regard to mental and physical health. Absent of boundaries, youth today will fall into very real addictions to unnatural foods and smartphones. We must be strong parents with the intent to do what is right, rather than popular.
An awesome life is only built from strength. Model that. It all starts with the discipline of physical exercise. Many use the busyness of raising children as their excuse to stop training. Children must learn that they aren’t the center of the universe. Furthermore, your health and training example is the greatest gift you can give them.
Enter resistance as a habit of daily life and your children will learn to do the same. This then will give you the strength to set strong habits in regards to eating, tech-use, relationships, and standing for convictions. Your model is the best antidote to the standard model youth will see everywhere else.
“The standard model is life as we know it. It is the promise of happiness and fulfillment if you only just follow the expected and “normal” path through Western life.”
We cannot be fulfilled unless we grow into strong, capable people, empowered to chase our own dreams. Immersed in modern norms this strength is more necessary than ever. It takes strength to exercise, to eat well, and to adopt self-nourishing practices outside this insane standard model. We all grew up in this environment. We’re all working at a disadvantage. Embrace a personal responsibility to overcome circumstance and be strong anyway.
Your children need you to be strong. They’ll become your model far more than any abstract vision you have for them. Strong parents. Strong kids.
This Week’s Mission
If you’ve been following along you’ve seen the foundational philosophy behind my effort to create a stronger generation. Each article has come with a mission. In an effort to create more clarity and support, I’ll also be developing a Strong Parents—Strong Kids video series and beginning to address more specific strategies and interventions to create conditions that promote thriving, healthy, strong families.
Let’s get to the basics of strength. How about an old-fashioned strength workout? If you have a favorite, go for it. If not, here is mine:
Warm Up (2 Rounds):
- Superman x10
- Push Ups x10
- Pull Ups x5
- Split Squats x5 per side (5 second pause at bottom of each)
- Front Squat – 5, 3, 2 (add weight each set)
- Side Plank – 3×15 seconds per side
- Bird Dog – 3×5 per side
- Romanian Deadlifts – 3×5
- 1-Arm Push Ups or Typewriter Push Ups – 3×3 per side
- Bent-Over Rows – 3×10
- Bar Roll-Out – 3×10
Short, sweet, and to the point. Perfect for busy parents.
If you haven’t already, get the Essential Guide to Self-Mastery for free and begin the Self-Mastery Training Plan. A self-possessed parent will pass these gifts on to their children. What could be more important than mastering yourself so that you can become the person you want to be?
Life is too short to be normal.
Source: Strong Parents, Strong Kids