In the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans gave us all a lesson in what it means to be relentless in life and the standards we hold ourselves to.
“Fight in the shade”, the Spartan Warrior, Dienekes told the messenger when he claimed the Persian Empire’s arrows would blot out the sun. Leonidas and his 300 Spartans weren’t wavered by this notion. In fact, they joked about it as they assaulted deeper into the dark side.
I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology and an admirer of the Spartan way of life. It was disciplined, it was self-aware, and it was savagely in pursuit of creating a society built on a higher standard. This is something I think about every day today because modern society is far from high standards in my book.
I’m certainly not a Spartan Warrior, but I like to strive for that higher standard in every aspect of my life.
You see, there are two sides to this life. There’s the light side which everyone sees, knows, and hears about. And there’s the dark side that only you can see. It’s the brief moments in time when there’s no camera, there’s no social media posts or live streams, and there’s no one watching or hearing anything. It’s when you’re doing a late-night training session and you’re the only person in the weight room. It’s when you just finished a 2 hour MMA class, and you stay late to put in extra bag work while everyone else goes home.
When no one is around to see you, you’re in what I like to call the “dark side”.
The dark side is the place where we are faced with a strong temptation to quit, slow down, or take the easy way out. This temptation creeps in when we are left alone, and it’s harder to resist it in the dark side but that’s where we are faced with the decisions that will define who we are. Because it’s what we do in the dark side that defines us in the light. It’s the moment you wake up 30 minutes earlier than your alarm clock and you get to decide whether you go back to sleep, or get a jump on the day.
Going back to sleep isn’t the choice that gets us further in life, but every day millions of people do exactly that.
The dark side is essentially the absence of outside accountability. Because no one’s around to hold you accountable, it means you have to put on the shield and assault the objective alone, which is a tough choice to make… Over the past few years, I’ve become absolutely obsessed with being productive when I’m in the dark side. To be productive simply means to make the choices that are going to get you to your goals faster.
If your workout partner cancels on you, suck it up buttercup. You still have a workout to smash. You don’t go home early, and you don’t skip.
The problem with the dark side and modern society is that so many people crave the attention we can generate from posting selfies and live streams of us “making the hard decisions”. While some of us do it for accountability like myself. The majority of people do it for the attention. People love to be liked and by today’s standards that means “likes” on Facebook, or hearts on Instagram. We’re so connected and transparent with our lives that the dark side has been reduced to brief moments in time.
This is both a good and bad thing.
It’s a bad thing because it’s conditioned people to thrive on attention, rather than doing the right thing without someone having to know about it. Because of this when these individuals cross over into the dark side they are incredibly weak at making the hard decisions that actually matter. It shows too… It shows in their health, their relationships, and in their overall position in life. They always want to promote the wins, but never the failures.
It’s good because it also mitigates the amount of time we stay in the dark side. We have to make hard decisions whether we’re in the dark side or the light side, but it’s certainly easier to make them with the added accountability you get from the light side.
I find sharing the failure to be the most rewarding thing you can do.
This is why I’m an advocate for absolute transparency. Which means to simply share as much of your life as possible when it comes to your goals and winning/failing. This doesn’t mean I’m going to give you a cribs style video of my house or give you a tour of my gun safe. It means I’m going to tell you when I had a healthy lunch, AND if I bought a pizza. It means I’m going to show you when I kill a workout, AND if I skipped leg day. It’s not about sharing your intimate details and compromising OPSEC just to prove you’re putting in the work. You can be transparent without compromising your security.
Absolute Transparency means you share your failure as much as you share success, and by the nature of doing this, you will fail less often. That’s the goal anyhow.
It doesn’t feel good to share failure, but it does two things that help you tremendously.
#1 – Trust
It develops trust with the people watching you. When people see that you’re open to sharing failure, or otherwise embarrassing things they get a sense of authenticity from you, and people love overwhelmingly authentic people because the world is so full of shit.
#2 – Negative Reinforcement
In negative reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing, or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus.
Aversive stimuli tend to involve some type of discomfort, either physical or psychological. Behaviors are negatively reinforced when they allow you to escape from aversive stimuli that are already present or allow you to completely avoid the aversive stimuli before they happen. Simply put, negative reinforcement makes you not want to make that same bad decision again that led you to failure in the first place.
For example: Before leaving for a weekend trip, you prep healthy meals (the behavior) to avoid having to eat out, and ultimately gain weight (removal of the aversive stimulus).
That decision was more than likely one you made while in the dark side as well. Unless of course, you decide to bring it into the light via transparency.
The dark side isn’t a place we can completely get rid of, so that means we have to learn how to live with it and make the most of our time while we’re in it. For one to completely remove the dark side from their life it would take perfect discipline and visibility at all hours. We’re not perfect, and to have 100% visibility would essentially mean we would have a camera on us every second of our lives. It’s just not possible. Therefore we must adopt a specific mindset about our performance in the dark side.
With the addition of absolute transparency into your lifestyle, it will allow you to become more productive as it will funnel you into making the right decisions in weak moments, but transparency will only take you so far. The rest of the puzzle is learning how to reprogram your brain from reaction to action, and you can do so with a little reverse engineering of your thought process.
THE 2 MODES OF LIFE
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My theory is that we must live with the light, and the dark side. And we must also live with action and reaction. There’s no way to eliminate the negatives because we need them to live. We need them to live because, without them, the challenges of life would cease to exist.
Without challenge, we would never discover or truly come to know what we are made of. So for me, I will continue to stay obsessed with the dark side, and more specifically my performance when I’m in that zone. As well as re-conditioning my brain to default to action more than reaction. We can never master it, but we must strive to get as close to it as possible. Otherwise, we will live a life of averages or below.
So will you “fight in the shade”, or retreat under the cover of darkness?
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