The Fire Within

That line, the ‘fire within’ is one that speaks great volumes about the warrior mindset. And it calls to mind lyrics from another song.: ‘Hearts On Fire’ by the (excellent) band Survivor. A great line from the song goes:

In the warrior’s code, there’s no surrender

Though his body says stop, his spirit cries: “Never!”

So how do you gain this kind of iron will and determination? How do you develop the unstoppable ability to never give up? It starts by knowing what you want to achieve and by having a set of your own principles. To use yet another quote, Alice Copper and Xzibit sang:

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything

And this is completely true. If you have no specific goal and no set of values that is entirely your own, then how can you be expected to stick rigidly to those values? If you haven’t defined who you are, what you’re about and what is important to you, then, of course, it will be easy to get tempted by good food, trashy TV or other ‘easy options’. Of course, it will be easy for you to be swayed by the influence and the politics of others.

Moreover, having a goal is what will give you the motivation and the energy to get up and work toward the things you are truly excited about. Think about someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson. These are people who have accomplished incredible things and part of the reason for that is undoubtedly their seemingly endless energy. Their ability to get up every single day and know what they want to do.

Can you imagine seeing the Rock look tired and dejected? Have you ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger look indifferent or bored? These people have tireless energy but it comes from a vision and a goal. And so it is with all the most accomplished people throughout history.

Arnie said this of his burning desire and how it led him to accomplish his goals:

With my desire and drive, I definitely wasn’t normal. Normal people can be happy with a regular life. I was different. I felt there was more to life than plodding through a normal existence…I have always been impressed by stories of greatness and power. I wanted to do something special, to be recognized as the best. I saw bodybuilding as the vehicle that would take me to the top, and I put all my energy into it.

The point is: knowing what you want from life will fuel you with energy. Whether that is wanting what’s best for your family, wanting to reach a certain point in your career…etc. Think about a new parent. Parents have seemingly endless energy and will sacrifice their sleep, their finances, and their happiness to look after their children. They can accomplish anything because they have found something greater than themselves. A parent’s love will give them that warrior’s mindset but you can’t rely on just that. In order to accomplish the most and to build the best world for your family and friends, you also need something that is intrinsically motivating to you. In other words, you need a purpose and a goal that doesn’t rely on anyone else – so that even when no one needs you, you still have the strength to pull yourself out of bed and to refuse distractions and unhelpful desires.

Once you have your goal, you will find a passion. And once you have a passion you will find that you have endless energy and drive and that you even speak with more conviction and greater charisma. Did you know that we gesticulate more when we speak about something that we’re passionate about? That’s because we are now speaking with our entire bodies – our body language is congruent with what we are saying. And did you know that when people see us speak in that way, they actually rate us as more charismatic? More inspiring? And better leaders?

When we really believe in what we are saying, we will be more efficient at getting others to believe it. This is how movements are started and this makes us far more attractive and magnetic. And with your goal and your objective, you will better be able to make decisions and to avoid unnecessary distractions. You will be more decisive and you will be more impressive. Why? Because you can consider every decision through the following lens: ‘does this help me to achieve my goals’? If the answer is no, then you do something else. What career path should you take? The one that helps you achieve your overarching goals. What party should you vote for? The one that helps you to fulfill your vision.

Goals and the Warriors

The point of the goal is to have something that is greater than yourself – something worth fighting for. The single-mindedness is something that was central to the psychology of all of history’s greatest warriors, through it took a very different form. Historically, you had your samurai and your knights. A samurai’s training went to great measures to ensure their loyalty to a ‘shogun’ (a master samurai). They would be willing to die for their shogun, just as a king’s knight would be willing to die for king and for country.

Today though, this is dangerous thinking. We are all too aware that our politicians are flawed, and we’ve seen how blindly following a leader or set of beliefs can lead to terrible atrocities. So, what we need to do instead is to create our own set of values and principles. Rules to live by and a goal or vision to strive for. This can change, but we must never let others force us to act against our code. Unfortunately, there is no objectivity ‘correct’ way to approach life. We don’t know why reality exists, what is waiting for us on the other side (if anything) or what the meaning of life is. Therefore, it is up to each of us to make our own way by assessing our own values, principles, and rules to live by.

Finding Your Goal

So, let us start with finding a goal, something greater than yourself to strive toward. A purpose that you will be an instrument in accomplishing. So this might mean that you set about changing the world for the better. Maybe you want to put an end to world hunger, maybe you want to help slow down global warming, or perhaps you are interested in becoming a rock star or a musician. Maybe you just want to get rich. No goal is ‘wrong’, it is simply having a goal and something to be passionate about that will give you the fuel and the fire to keep going no matter what. Goals start with visions. So visualize the way you want life to be 5 or 10 years for now. Picture where you are, what your surroundings are, who you are with, what you’ve accomplished. This should be a vision that makes you excited and energized – your perfect life. For inspiration, consider the times in your life you were happiest, consider what you wanted to be as a child and picture some of your role models and what you can perhaps learn from them. This is what you will picture in order to drive yourself toward change and toward greatness. This is what will get you out of bed in the morning,. And then on top of that, you are going to structure yourself goals – smaller, more measurable steps that will help you to reach that point.

Creating Your Own Code of Ethics

On top of this, you will build your own code of ethics. Your idea of what you consider to be ‘living well’ and ‘doing the right thing’. Again, this doesn’t have to be your conventional set of rules. It might be that you don’t agree with some aspects of the law. Some well-known philosopher are known for views that stay from conventional ideas about ethics and morality. Take Ayn Rand for example, who believed that morality comes from what makes them happiest. She said:

Man has no automatic code of survival… His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. Man must choose his actions, values, and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man – in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

She believed that individual morality should be based on what makes that individual happiest. That means working on things that you love, improving yourself and protecting the ones you care about…who in turn make you happier. Rand would suggest that we should look after our families and our loved ones, pursue our passions and our self-betterment and that way contribute to society. Whatever you believe your code to be, you write it down and then commit to stick to that code. That way, you won’t be persuaded by other people, you will be able to fight for your values and people will know where they stand with you. That said, you also shouldn’t be afraid to evolve and adapt your ideas over time. That is why it is so important to keep reading and keep learning. Keep up to date with politics and what is going on in the world, read philosophy and reassess your values.

There is no value in sticking to one set of goals or principles indefinitely and refusing to readdress them, as ultimately this becomes a ‘lie’ as mush as any other. You should not vote a certain way because you have always voted a certain way. And you should not be afraid to reassess the way that you feel about certain aspects of your code. The point that you will not break your code of conduct while it exists. You have standards to uphold and the simple act of upholding them will make you a stronger, braver, and more impressive individual.

And note that in the ideal scenario, there should be some interplay between what you believe, your personal code of ethics, your goals and your political views. Hopefully, you have a vision for where you think the world should go, what you think life should be like. Your goals are there to help you achieve that, while your code of ethics should also ensure that you don’t miss the trees for the forest. All this results in you becoming a person who knows what they believe and who knows themselves. And when you know that, you will be a greater and more powerful individual.


What it takes to be a warrior

So, what are the tenants of the warrior mindset? What words can be used to describe the modern warrior? Here are just a few:

  • Courageous
  • Self-Disciplined
  • Principled
  • Strong willed
  • Kind
  • Growth-oriented
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Protective
  • Self-Sacrificing
  • Calm
  • Responsible
  • Motivational, Inspiring, Charismatic
  • Noble
  • Powerful
  • Modest (though not necessarily humble)

These are just some traits that a true warrior should strive for. These are some things we will be looking to cultivate and better understand throughout this series. Another great description of a warrior comes from an unlikely source: the Disney film Mulan. These quotes are from the song ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ but in fact, they can apply equally to a woman.

Oh, and in case you don’t want to learn lessons on chivalry from a Disney film, consider the fact that Jackie Chan sang the Chinese version of the song. He’s one of life’s true warriors, so perhaps that gives it just a little more weight…

Tranquil as a forest

But on fire within.

Once, you find your center

You are sure to win.

We must be swift as a coursing river

With all the force of a great typhoon

With all the strength of a raging fire

Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

Still, and calm on the outside then, but with great power and strength on the inside. Not driven by impulse or whim, but by a greater purpose. Never bending to the will of others and never giving up when the going gets tough. That is the warrior spirit.

You probably don’t live on the battlefield and you probably hopefully will never need to see combat. But there are plenty of ways that the warrior mindset will apply in your day-to-day life as well and plenty of opportunities to demonstrate what it takes to be a warrior.

Perhaps the easiest way to consider this is to look at all those times that you weren’t a warrior in your life. These are the times when you fear, your anger or your lack of motivation and willpower got the better of you. Consider this:

  • You wake up in the morning and realize your favorite shirt is torn, you spend the rest of the day angry with everyone, sulking and not focusing on your work. This very small inconvenience has ruined your ability to stay productive and it has made other people feel bad.
  • It’s raining out so you call of your plans to visit your friend down the road, who you know was looking forward to the get together.
  • You’re trying to lose weight but you’re low on energy and so you eat a large piece of cake.
  • A friend faints at a party and instead of staying calm and following a correct protocol to make sure they’re okay, you instead get in a flap, scream at everyone and make matters worse.
  • Your boss needs you to complete an assignment before you go home. You resent the idea of staying later and you’re feeling tired so you rush it and put in less than your best work.
  • You have been telling friends for years that you’re going to write a book and that it is your dream to become a published author. You get home and the first thing you do is crash on the couch and watch trashy TV.
  • You break a glass in the kitchen and when your partner asks who did it, you blame your friend who was round the other day.
  • You get into a physical altercation with someone in the street and run away – leaving your friends or family to deal with the danger on their own.
  • You are getting onto a train and instead of letting the elderly lady on in front of you, you push ahead.
  • Your friends are peer pressuring you into smoking weed and accusing you of not being fun. Smoking weed is something you have no interest in this hypothetical situation but you let yourself get talked into it for fear of appearing lame.
  • You are happily married when an attractive woman/man makes their move on you. You give in to your momentary impulse and you sleep with them, effectively wrecking your relationship with not only your partner but your children as well.
  • You are unhappy in your relationship or job but you stay in it because you don’t have the heart to tell the person or you are too afraid of what the future might bring.

Some of these examples are more extreme than others. Of course, there is a big difference between eating ice cream when you really shouldn’t and being swayed by hate speech! And occasionally losing your cool is normal. But while these points might all seem very different; they essentially come from the same thing: weakness.

Weakness is often the source of our problems and even of evil. Weakness means giving in to things we know aren’t right, or making excuses and putting off our goals.

Now let’s look at how someone strong might approach the same issues:

  • You wake up in the morning and realize your favorite shirt is torn. You shrug and wear something else, recognizing this is a very small issue in the grand scheme of things!
  • It’s raining out and you don’t feel like going out. But you know it’s the right thing to do, so you man up and you go.
  • You’re trying to lose weight but you’re low on energy. You dig deep, find that fire within and head to the gym.
  • A friend faints at a party and you remain calm, cool and collected. You assign jobs to people and check they’re okay.
  • Your boss needs you to complete an assignment before you go home. You resent the idea of staying later and you’re feeling tired but you complete the work to the best of your ability nevertheless. You speak to your boss about not putting you in that position again.
  • You have been telling friends for years that you’re going to write a book and that it is your dream to become a published author. You get home and resolve to write two pages a night.
  • You break a glass in the kitchen and when your partner asks who did it, you own up and face the consequences.
  • You get into a physical altercation with someone in the street. You make sure your family and friends are safe while trying to calm the situation as best you can.
  • You are getting onto a train and you always stop to let the old lady on first. And the old man. And anyone who was there first.
  • Your friends are peer pressuring you into smoking weed and accusing you of not being fun. If you want to, you do it. If you do not, you do not.
  • You are happily married when an attractive woman/man makes their move on you. You have control of your feelings so you turn them down.
  • You are unhappy in your relationship or job so you discuss that unhappiness with the other party and look for ways to improve the situation. That might mean finding a new job or ending the relationship but it is better than dragging it out.

The warrior is mentally and physically strong and this allows them to stick to their code of ethics and to work toward their vision for a better future – instead of doing what makes them feel good in the short term. Ultimately, this leads to much greater happiness, much greater peace and much greater pride. And not just for you, but for all those around you.

The Warrior Mindset

Have you ever felt like life is hard? Life it can sometimes be a struggle to get up in the morning and do all the things that you have to do? Do you ever wake up feeling constantly tired and stressed? Does life just seem too much? Sure, I get it. You have lots of work to do. You have debt maybe. Maybe you’re tired of shopping and maybe you’ve got a stomach ache.

Now think about a true warrior.

Think about someone who sleeps rough, unsure of whether they’re going to die during the night. Then they wake up, no time for a shower or a nice breakfast, and they leap straight into action. They ignore their wounds, they take lives, and they see their friends and their brothers in arms shot and killed in front of them. But now I get it. You’re tired. You had to work until 6pm last night…

What I’m getting at, is that your life isn’t really hard. You might think it’s hard and sometimes it might feel hard. But there are people out there with much worse lives than you. There are people out there who live with crippling illness and not two cents to rub together. And many of them do this with dignity, grace, and bravery that puts the rest of us to shame.

You see, the warrior mindset actually has nothing to do with combat. In fact, the hooligans that start bar fights and that think they’re hard for starting fights are about as far from true warriors as it gets. Ask anyone who has seen real combat if they would want to risk their health and waste their energy on looking for trouble.

The warrior mindset is different. This is about knowing what you want and going for it. It’s about being hard and it’s about not letting little things get you down. It’s about pushing ahead with what you know is right and it’s about carrying responsibility and hardship on your shoulders with dignity and pride. It’s about not letting your emotions get the better of you and it’s about not taking the easy answer or the easy route to solve your problems.

So where do this title and this approach come from? What is the theory behind the warrior’s mindset? Of course, it comes from our romantic image of the warrior and from stories of warriors from history. It comes from tales of our bravest men and women who fought actual battles while remaining cool-headed, sacrificing themselves for others and doing incredible things.

Now, we all know that in reality, not every warrior fits this mold. For every heroic individual who put themselves in the line of fire, there would have been hundreds more soldiers that complained, that was in it for the wrong reasons, or that wouldn’t put themselves out for others. Romanticizing warfare is, in fact, a terrible idea – it is a truly horrific state of affairs and very few people feel like warriors when they are faced with enemy fire. But it’s that image of the ideal warrior that we’re looking at here. And at our notions of history’s greatest warriors like the Samurai or Spartans.

The point is that some people manage to stay cool and calm in even the worst situations. Some people constantly forge ahead and do not allow small inconveniences or a lack of creating comforts stand in their way. And those people put us to shame. Those people make our complaints seem very minor indeed. Now imagine if you could take that same mindset and apply it to modern life. Instead of getting tired or bogged down, instead of being distracted and tempted, you would instead drive forward with an unstoppable, bulletproof mentality. Your enemies would quake knowing that there was nothing they could do to stop you and your career obstacles, relationship goals, and financial plans would all crumble beneath your will.

If you apply an iron will and warrior mentality to a modern lifestyle, you get extreme efficiency, determination, and pride. Self-discipline, determination, and self-sufficiency are traits that make us strong and that help us get what we want. They are traits that make us good parents, good friends, and good partners. They are traits that help us to live with ourselves and to earn respect and admiration from others. Imagine if you had the mental strength to sit in a freezing cold shower for hours on end. Imagine if you weren’t phased in life-threatening situations. Take those traits and then put them up against the absolutely measly challenges that most of us face today. They would fall like dominoes.

Having a warrior’s mindset and going through modern life is like bulging with muscles and having to lift 5 kg. Developing that warrior’s mindset is like a workout for your mind, your philosophy, and your soul. It will make you unstoppable.

Warrior Part 6

Gates of fire, a novel about the Spartans and the battle at Thermopylae. The author, Steven Pressfield wrote about how the Spartans trained:

” The hardship of the exercises is intended less to strengthen the back than to toughen the mind. The Spartans say that any army may win while it still has its legs under it; the real test comes when all strength is fled and the men must produce victory on will alone.”

Having the will to fight on and not quit is more of a trait than it is something you can “learn” through conditioning. A warrior never leaves a fallen comrade behind and only needs to look to his left and right to find a reason not to quit and to keep the will to drive on until the war is won.

Once you learn to subdue you fear and vanquish panic, you will be on your way to achieving the warrior mindset.

Warrior Part 4

Any time you look at people who are successful, you’ll learn that it usually happened because they were able to get really good at a few things by repeating them until they excelled at them. A couple of the other traits of successful people are that they are able to learn from other people’s mistakes and can look at other successful people and understand why they succeeded. They then apply those learnings to their own life.

I try to do that as much as possible. When there’s something I don’t know about, I find someone who is good at it. I observe how they do it, and then, I just try to, basically, mimic what they are doing.

We’ve all heard the term, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” One thing I have always tried to do is stay good at a few skills. The way to do that is to pick out the skills that you believe are most important to maintain and then make practicing those skills an integral part of your day.

The way to master a skill is to learn how to do it the right way, establish the proper technique and practice it regularly. If you’re practicing bad technique, you’ll just get really good at doing something wrong. In addition, it’s important to remember that all skills are perishable: Just because you are the master of a skill today does not guarantee you will be a master five years – without practice – from now. Dedication to daily practice is the best way to maintain your skills.

A warrior mindset means having the discipline to become extremely good doing just a few things.

Warrior Part 3

Being a warrior is about showing up to the fight when every bone in your body tells you to run in the opposite direction. It’s about striving for greatness so that you know either the elation of high achievement and victory or the pain of defeat; but in any case, you can hold up your head proudly, knowing you showed up at the fight as opposed to running.

In his 1910 “Citizenship in Republic” speech, Theodore Roosevelt said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

     What defines you as a true warrior is your ability to face danger. That doesn’t mean you want to be a hero or that you’re some kind of a superman because I can tell you from personal experience that one of the most difficult things to do is to override the basic human instinct to protect yourself. You must have the discipline to counter your innate instinct for survival to then run toward the gunfire. It’s having that mentality that you’re going to put yourself into the fight, particularly if you are connected to those who are in the fight, to get in there and to help them, no matter what.

Warrior Part 2

The root of fear, anxiety, panic, and self-doubt is the lack of experience. Having a warrior mindset means being able to set aside or subdue your fear and anxiety so as not to panic in the face of danger and to diminish self-doubt and project self-confidence toward the eyes of any opponent. Confucius once said, “He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.”

Once you learn to subdue your fear and vanquish panic, you will be on your way to achieving the warrior mindset. The biggest contributor to fear and panic is the unknown. The best way to conquer the unknown is to not only face it but to dive, head first, into it. By immersing yourself in your fear, you will achieve “stress inoculations,” as a result of which you will be able to function and think with clarity, even under conditions for which your previous response would have been panic.

Warrior Part 1

The path to becoming a warrior is not an easy one, because at its core is discipline. A warrior is a master of spherical awareness, ever vigilant with their head on a swivel. They know their operational environment, can improve, adapt and overcome all adversities, and while they’re able to accept that they aren’t invincible, they never run from adversity; instead, they face it head-on. The warrior fights with their mind, body, and soul, and while they have emotions, they must master keeping them at bay to fight without letting them interfere with their clarity and lucidity. None of these things will come easily, so do not be discouraged. The only path to master anything, particularly the warrior arts, is via hard work and diligence. It is particularly difficult to master anything in the physical world until you conquer the demons in your head that foster such impediments as fear, anxiety, panic, and self-doubt. Once you can eliminate these counterproductive and debilitating thoughts, you can move forward in mastering the warrior mindset.