Reflections On The Need To Be Aggressive

Aggression has many negative connotations to it. When you think of aggression you might think of recklessness, unintelligent, lacking self-control … aggressive behavior can be seen as a character flaw. This can be true. I am not talking about simply aggressive behavior, however. I’m more interested in implementing an aggressive mindset.

This notion comes from Jocko Willink‘s book Discipline Equals Freedom (I have covered ideas by Jocko in a previous post). When I read the short two and a half page passage on aggression I began thinking about two things: being passive and being active. In writing, being an active writer is not only encouraged, but it is almost a rule, as far as there are any rules when it comes to writing. Active writing is one where the character is doing something instead of things happening to the character. The latter being passive writing. Jocko is essentially speaking about this when he talks about keeping an aggressive mindset at all time.

You don’t want to be helpless, not in control, waiting for things to happen to you. That manner of existence is riddled with uncertainty. It is hard to imagine how, living in such a way, one can ever reach his or her goals or dreams or be prepared enough to take on some opportunity that will push them up the right path.

Instead of a passive existence, one has to be active. Aggression is not bad if used correctly. Being aggressive comes with being prepared. At all times. Ready for what comes at you. Ready to go after what you want. With an aggressive mindset, you don’t wait for the last minute to do something. You don’t wait for some opportunity to pass you by before changing. You don’t wait for others to improve your life. Waiting does not belong in this mindset. You are instead, actively seeking improvement, betterment, organizing and disciplining yourself and what you can control so that you are always ready and acting.

Far too many times I’ve been passive. Waiting at the last moment to study and getting mediocre marks because of it. Waiting too long to start sharing my thoughts and writings. Waiting for the right moment. Too many times I have considered something unlikely to happen without making an attempt at it first. There must be some fear of rejection or disappointment behind this passive way of existence.

Having lived in that passive manner, I know it gets one very little out of life. Being active on the other hand, being aggressive at all times, striving to take what you want, comes with a will to win rather than just a hope of participation.

Aggression can be friendly if used right. Aggressive mindset can bring order and control in your life. Formulate plans. Implement plans. Go after what you want and take a risk or two. Deal with rejection if that is the outcome of your aggression. Improve yourself from that point so the rejection is less likely to come again and go after it once more. Always being in attack mode because all I know is the other side of the coin is not pretty. Rather be aggressive than passive.

You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

I see in myself, Lucilius, not just an improvement but a transformation, although I would not venture as yet to assure you, or even to hope, that there is nothing left in me needing to be changed. Naturally, there are a lot of things about me requiring to be built up or fined down or eliminated. Even this, the fact that it perceives the failings it was unaware of in itself before, is evidence of a change for the better in one’s character. In the case of some sick people, it is a matter for congratulations when they come to realize for themselves that they are sick. (Letters from a Stoic, Seneca)

How many among us walk around with sickness without realizing it? Part of the issue is the everydayness of life. People have to look after their children, work most of their waking hours, pay bills, sit in traffic, be surrounded by people they don’t like and so on. Just the simple act of smiling can be tough let alone the need to take care of oneself physically. Just exercising for 30 minutes can be seen as a win. After all of this, where do you get the time to take care of yourself mentally? To be reflective? To realize that you may be sick?

I think many of us understand that we could be better than what we are but just don’t know how to navigate life properly in order to become better. The day to day breaks us down, grinds us into these beings who aren’t fulfilling their potentials.

We accept this individual that life has made us and believe that person is you. We tell our children about growth and change while we stay the same. We feel as if a word like ‘potential’ is reserved for those who haven’t been molded by life.

However, such belief and acceptance is usually the result of not being reflective, of not controlling your mind and allowing your mind to control you. Your mind is great at manipulating your thoughts to rationalize the person you are. It doesn’t want you to grow because that requires effort which is accompanied by struggle. The mind wishes to be comfortable, the path of least resistance and so, we too walk this path and will keep on walking this path.

Life would be so much easier if someone could come along and fix all your issues with a snap of their finger. A genie of some kind but that’s not how life works. In reality, apart from your close family and friends, no one really cares what you are going through. That’s because everyone is going through something. So, if you want to improve, regardless of the stresses of your life, the first step has to be reflective, to acknowledge that you are sick.

One way to achieve this reflective nature is by cleaning your room, as Jordan Peterson often says. Too many times people point the finger outwards and blame others for the way their own life is. You can’t improve as an individual if you are constantly blaming others. Once you turn the eye inwards, look at yourself, see the mess in your room, see the symptoms of sickness and start to take ownership for them, you can slowly see the change in your character.

In the same vein as clean your room, Jocko Willink’s concept of extreme ownership also makes you confront your own actions. Extreme ownership essentially says that everything that isn’t right in your life is your fault. This may be harsh and perhaps untrue in some cases but by taking on this responsibility you feel a sense of control. If it is all your fault then you are also able to change it. Your actions caused the sickness, your actions can cure it.

Another way can be through mental warfare. To go to war with yourself, as David Goggins did, to push your limitations through such extreme pressure that you only have two choices: Improve or quit. Goggins initially did this through his rigorous studying schedule which included writing out whole textbooks by hand over and over again in order to overcome his learning deficiencies. Discipline and work ethic built through such a task then helped him physically overcome the barriers of Navy Seal training and ultramarathon running.

Goggins was able to shape his mind through work but it was only after he understood that he was sick and that the only person that can cure him was himself.

Perhaps the end goal is to become a friend to yourself. A good friend, a true friend call you out on your mistakes, tells you you’re acting poorly, makes sure you know that someone cares for you, that someone is holding you up to a certain standard, someone who is pushing you past your perceived limitations and that someone can be you. You can keep yourself in check if you are strong enough mentally. But before strength comes the acceptance of weakness, before you can get the medicine, you have to know that you are sick. But once that is known, you must also understand that you are the strength, the cure, the medicine.

What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all. (Seneca)

 

Your Feelings Don’t Get A Vote

I know what I am supposed to do. I also know what I shouldn’t do. It’s as clear as black or white and yet, there is a struggle in my choice to do the right thing. Why is that?

According to Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, that struggle comes from the resistance that lies inside of you. As Pressfield put it:

It’s not writing that’s the hard part. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Resistance comes in many forms and its goal is to win small battles. Resistance understands that the more you give in, the stronger it gets. So, the snooze button helps resistance gain an immediate victory. It plays into the soreness you are feeling so you think it’s a good idea to skip the workout. It’ll tell you that you are too hungry right now and that it’s best if you start your work an hour or two later, once you’ve eaten something. Knowing full well that in a couple hours, it’ll come up with another way to procrastinate. It’ll pick at that negative voice in you that tells you that you’re not good enough or that what you are doing isn’t worth the trouble.

A simple way of understanding when resistance might show its ugly little head is:

Any act that rejects immediate gratification for long term growth, health or integrity.

What makes resistance a hard enemy is that it is self-generated. It comes from within. Also, it can never really be beaten. It can only be overcome for that day and then, the next day it is another battle with that inside voice.

If you don’t understand resistance, you can be easily manipulated. If you don’t know who the enemy is and cannot see the signs of the enemy then how can you expect to win? To be free?

The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Resistance can be that master. It can run your life and ruin it. This might not be in the usual sense, for you can still live a good life with Resistance but you will never be able to live the life you wish to live if your actions are dictated by Resistance. So, in this sense, ones life being ruined does not come from financial bankruptcy or poor relationships and things of that nature but rather, this understanding in you that you caved in to the struggle and hardship that comes with aiming at the highest possible life for yourself and that you settled for some worse version of yourself.

Finding the enemy is half the battle, the other half is actually beating it. One way to fight resistance is to change your perspective on it.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

In this manner, you can gauge the authenticity of your action if you feel this need to not do it. To delay the action. To do what is opposite and to take the easy path. All of this can bring clarity to your mind for you know that you are on the right path when there is a great deal of Resistance in you. So, you can be thankful for that voice inside of you.

Another way to do combat resistance is by controlling your mind.

This is where, the former Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink’s advice on mind control matters. For Jocko, mind control means controlling ones own thoughts and impulses rather than that of someone else’s, as it’s traditionally understood. You can control your mind and fight resistance in a simple way: just don’t give resistance a vote.

You have control over your mind. You just have to assert it. You have to decide that you are going to be in control, that you are going to do what YOU want to do. Weakness doesn’t get a vote. Laziness doesn’t get a vote. Sadness doesn’t get a vote. Frustration doesn’t get a vote. Negativity DOESN’T GET A VOTE! Your temper doesn’t get a vote. So next time you are feeling weak or lazy or soft or emotional, tell those feelings they don’t get a vote.

 

 

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Jocko Willink On Dealing With Stress

I previously wrote a blog in which I introduced Jocko Willink and one of his core principles of prioritizing and execute, this can be found here. As the title suggests, this blog is concerned with handling stress and who better to take advice from than a former navy seal commander.

Stress also needs no introduction. We have all experienced stress and sometimes dealt with it successfully and other times not so successfully. It is for those times where stress got the better of us that I turn to Jocko for advice.

In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, Jocko simply states two things concerning stress.

First is to gain perspective. Not to minimize what you are going through but it is always good to understand that other people have been through much worse. This does not mean that what you are going through isn’t important. It is important and it is real but remember, those people who have had stress beyond what you have ever experienced, they made it through that, they figured out what was required and they were able to deal with their stress, which means you can too.

But warriors have faced much much worse: The Battle of the Somme, or Gettysburg, or the Battle of the Bulge, or the Chosin Reservoir. Humans can withstand almost inconceivable stress — and you can too.

Perspective allows you to take a deep breath and calm your mind and think clearly.

Secondly, you must detach from your situation. This is done in order to see if you have control over whatever it is that is causing you stress. This is a simple yes or no. If the answer is no, then, you just have to accept the situation that is causing you stress.

The worst thing about incoming artillery fire is you can’t control it. It is happening and you just have to accept it. Don’t stress about things you can’t control.

However, if the answer is yes and you do have control over the situation that is causing you stress, then detachment allows you to see your own lack of discipline and ownership of the situation which has resulted in it becoming a stressor. So, simply take control of the situation, solve the issue and relieve the stress.

Jocko Willink On Prioritizing and Executing Tasks

Jocko Willink is a former navy seals commander. Willink was the commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi. Jocko along with Leif Babin wrote a book called Extreme Ownership, which is about the leadership principles the two men learned during their service and how they found these principles to be universal and adaptable to everyday life.

In one instance, Jocko and his team found themselves in an awful position. Exposed on a wide open rooftop with no cover, completely surrounded by higher, tactically superior positioned enemy in the heart of the enemy controlled area. The enemy were free, they were moving and they knew where the SEAL unit was. On top of all of this, there were two matters where time was of utmost importance. One was the explosive charge that would set off the IED blast and the other was an injured SEAL member who needed urgent care but could not be reached at the moment.

The pressure, the stress, the flood of incoming thoughts, all of which can break an incompetent leader but a competent one can overcome it. Jocko followed one of his principles of leadership: Prioritize and Execute.

Even the greatest of battlefield leaders could not handle an array of challenges simultaneously without being overwhelmed. That risked failing at them all. I had to remain calm, step back from my immediate emotional reaction, and determine the greatest priority for the team. Then, rapidly direct the team to attack that priority. Once the wheels were in motion and the full resources of the team were engaged in that highest priority effort, I could then determine the next priority, focus the team’s effort there, and then move on to the next priority. I could not allow myself to be overwhelmed. I had to relax, look around, and make a call. That was what Prioritize and Execute was all about.

The highest priority for the SEAL team was security, to defend themselves. After that came, getting off the rooftop and getting to the injured SEAL. The third priority was a head count to make sure everyone was out of the building. One after the other the tasks were completed. Once focused they could accomplish the task due to the expertise and training of the SEAL members.

Prioritize and Execute principle is verbalized simply by the SEALs:

Relax, look around, make a call.

Another important factor to using this principle is understanding what might disrupt your plan.

A particularly effective means to help Prioritize and Execute under pressure is to stay at least a step or two ahead of real-time problems. Through careful contingency planning, a leader can anticipate likely challenges that could arise during execution and map out an effective response to those challenges before they happen.

I found this similar to a stoic principle of preparing for the worst. That whatever you hope or plan for, the complete opposite can happen and it might happen so one needs to understand this concept, plan for it and accept it so, in the instance it does happen, you can react without irrational emotions.

Prioritize and Execute principle really stuck with me after reading the book. Not because I find myself in a war like situations being shot at while being in a vulnerable situation. But rather like everyone, I have a life, I have problems that arise at random, some that don’t go away, other issues that come and go. All of these disrupt the flow of progress, productivity towards my goals. Things I wish to do with my writing, things I need to do with my studying, the goals I have for my health and relationships. The pressure or stresses of these are of course not comparable to what the SEAL team had to deal with but the principle they used is the same principle anyone can use in order to improve their own situation.

Depending on the times, one has to put certain tasks in front of others. You have to choose what is the most important thing to do right now. You might have to sacrifice time from other tasks you wish to do in order to handle your priority. The main message I took away from Jocko’s situation was that one cannot focus on multiple tasks and expect to excel at them all. You have to focus on one thing, execute your plan towards that one thing and then turn all your focus on the next task. In that way, you can expect the most to be accomplished.

Focus is what gets the job done but in order to focus you have to remain calm. So, if you ever find yourself overwhelmed whether it is being your life is in danger or if work/relationship pressure building up, just remember to relax, look around, make a call.