By Justin Wright
I was recently sitting in my office at the gym finishing up some work when I became overcome with excitement. My heart started to beat a little faster as I became briefly distracted by thoughts of training that afternoon. The images of promised suffering flashed across my mind, and they brought with them a sense of peace and contentment that I find hard to articulate.
I know there are others out there like me, and I know that many of you have likely read a number of these blogs. My hope with this one is to explore my inner-workings a bit, to expose myself like a clock that has been disassembled. Perhaps, by wading through the gears, coils, and springs, I can more deeply understand what makes me tick. In the process, I hope I can connect on a deeper level with those of you who feel these same feelings.
The fatal flaw
Every hero in every story has a fatal flaw. This is generally their undoing, the one thing that causes them to perish or that causes the story to end in tragedy. For the great warrior Achilles, his pride was his downfall. He truly felt that no man could defeat him in battle and this led to his demise.
This tragic flaw doesn’t necessarily lead to the hero’s death, but it is a weakness that causes them to struggle. To use a modern example, Harry Potter’s flaw is that he is willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves. He is willing to put himself in danger to do the right thing and protect others. While this gets him into trouble, it’s also the only reason that he becomes a hero in the first place. Without this aspect of his character, there would be no story.
I believe that every single one of us has a fatal flaw. No human being is perfect, and there is one aspect of everyone’s character that both defines them and destroys them. Every person has the opportunity to be heroic, and thus we share the same penchant for being flawed that every hero possesses. The sooner you can learn to understand your flaw, the sooner your story can begin.
Growth and challenge
I spent nearly a decade pursuing the opportunity to be a professional athlete. The process cost me a great deal including personal relationships, career progress, long-term health, and short-term comfort. I created and participated in an indoor Ironman-distance machine triathlon to raise money for charity and test my will in the process. I completed 24 grueling hero workouts in 24 hours to raise money for the Navy SEAL Foundation. More recently, I have chosen to wrestle in a local tournament after a decade away from the mat. I have not been around a group of human beings who enjoy suffering as much as wrestlers since I stopped after high school, and boy did I miss it!
It was while sitting at home after one particularly hard practice that a true understanding of my own flaw materialized in my mind. As I stared in the mirror, cuts across my face and forehead, pain radiating down my neck, I began to smile. For better or worse, I enjoy pushing myself to the brink because the constant challenge and the constant growth are necessary for me to be happy. I am an adventurer, an explorer, but in ways much different than Indiana Jones. Instead of pursuing treasure in an abandoned temple, I am instead searching deep within myself for the essence of what makes us human.
I am obsessed with this challenge, with the never-ending quest to grow and evolve. There is a higher level of consciousness available to those who are willing to pay the price of physical hardship for mental and spiritual growth. The mind has so much untapped capacity, but it requires us to exhaust our physical reserves of energy to successfully excavate it. How many tales, books, and movies describe this concept? It is a common plot because it is inherently true: the hero can only reach their highest potential after a crucible of will, one that often brings them to the brink of death.
It is at the times where my physical discomfort is highest that I think the most clearly. Some of my most lucid thoughts have occurred at the darkest times during the challenges I have pursued. At five o’clock in the morning, working through hour 19 of 24, I felt clear-headed, rejuvenated, and refreshed. It is times like these that leave no question about my passion and my purpose.
There are many vessels for growth and development in this life. I have found none as effective and time-efficient as a true physical crucible. Just like our favorite heroes, it is only at the brink of disaster that we can achieve our full potential. Only once we have exhausted our physical body, and must instead rely on our will, can we realize exactly how much we are capable of. Until you have truly made a decision to keep going at all costs, to ignore your body giving up on you, you cannot access this higher level of self.
The price is steep, and most are not willing to pay the cost of admission. The road is hard, and most are not willing to carve out a path. The doubt is crippling, and most are not willing to believe in themselves. Ah but the victory, the victory is so sweet and most will sadly never experience it.
What makes you tick?
I have known for a long time that I had an obsession with finding the edges, with exploring the limits. It took deep reflection to understand the connection that this had with my happiness. It’s funny to realize that some of my best memories are during times of intense suffering. There seems to be a correlation with the degree of physical discomfort and the clarity of that memory in my mind. I can see the darkest times playing like a movie inside my skull, and reflecting on these moments makes me smile.
Find what makes you tick, find what makes you excited to be alive, find what makes you jump out of bed in the morning. Life is precious, and I believe that it is a shame to leave our edges unexplored. There are countless stories of men and women doing incredible, impossible things because their willpower exceeded their physical limitations.
Every one of you reading this, right now, is capable of 10 or 20 times more than you think you are (and that’s a low estimate). Accessing this increased ability is remarkably simple: all you have to do is make a choice. You have to decide, firmly, that you will accomplish what it is that you wish to do.
The problem is that this decision requires you to give up comfort, to pay full-price in sweat and blood. There is no buying on credit when it comes to your ability. The sacrifice must be paid up front, in full. I know there are others out there like me. I know there are other people exploring, looking for answers. This is my flaw, but it is also what has told my story. There are many more chapters to be written, and I hope that I can inspire some of you to pick up your own pen as well!