I recently finished the book Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly. In this book, he concluded the proverbial ‘wild man’ seen in folklore, has been given way to societal execution and banishment through social expectations, religious persecution of manhood, and the fear/shirking of the sexual energy deep within each of us.
While this isn’t a blog about sexual energy, it ought to be noted that many elements of early christianity were very quick to shirk off the existence of sexual desire, with Paul commanding married men to ‘act as if they were not married’ and boldly stating there’s no room in the kingdom of heaven for those who give way to sexual actions commonly found acceptable at that time. What many people do not know is that castration was quite common in the early days of christianity, as sexual acts were damned to the category of sin, rather than as expressions of human nature and chemistry.
“What has not been rent or broken can never be whole or complete.”
Similar to the shirking of ones sexual energy and natural drive, there’s a societal impulse to shirk excellence and the desire to succeed; a crime I feel just as heinous as denying critical elements of our human composition. Pride, the recognition and internal acceptance that one is capable and above average, is given second seat to equality and fairness.
In each olympic sport, there can only be one gold medal winner. Yet we live in a society where even the losers get trophies and medals for ‘participation’. I believe this creates individuals incapable of accepting the reality that there are instances in life where only the best and most qualified person is fit for particular roles. When second-place-Billy – familiar to receiving trophies and prizes for participation – gets turned down for school applications, job interviews, and female companionship, what is he to do? He’s now engaging in an arena where he knows nothing of the rules of engagement.
Bluntly, these past few weeks have been excruciatingly painful for me, as I experienced an unexpected drought of business. The inner Billy told me to keep my head up and wait for things to get better…that I somehow deserved a turnaround. However, the inner ‘wild man’, described in Iron John, told me to not throw my future to the wind of whim, blind hope, and laziness, but to set my hands to the plow, drum up business, and make ends meet.
One of the final points of Mob Rules: What The Legitimate Businessman Can Learn From The Mafia was to be aware of your roots, never forgetting them. Ferrante also made an excellent point about those who grew up in the comfort and benefit of those who put their hands to the plow and found success after years of blood, sweat, and tears. He compared two famous mob leaders who had similar circumstances with their sons. One raised his son to take a traditional route, going to school, college, and ultimately becoming very successful in a more legitimate industry. The other had a son who took over the family business and had a bloody reign with greed, a thirst for power, and countless murders. He was booked in prison with twelve life sentences by the age of twenty-four. My age.
I fully expect there to be moments in my life where things are far more comfortable than they are now. However, after nearly five years of self-employment, I will never forget the humble roots that have kept me grounded through periods of difficulty, hunger (both for success and food), and lack. Pressure creates incredible diamonds and I believe difficult circumstances are capable of crafting some of the most successful leaders, innovators, and accomplished individuals, should they be willing to stand tall during moments of pressure and also allow themselves to undergo the period where they will be cut, refined, and polished.
As I am now pulling out of this time of difficulty, I can confidently hold my head high. Sacrifice was necessary and there was no room for selfish ego. However, I’ve proven to myself that I am capable of both creating and seizing opportunities as they present themselves.
If it feels like you’re fighting for your life – you are. Every moment and every breath matters.
Success is a combination of intelligent, targeted, intentional choices that combine over the period of a lifetime to create a track record of excellence.
Failure is a similar series of choices that shirk opportunities, embrace hollow pride, and give false weight to greed with no respect for others, culminating in a life wasted.