Bottom Line Up Front: The toughest fight in any struggle is the fight with ourselves. Learn to win that fight consistently and everything else will lock into place. If we don’t take on ourselves, we’ll never achieve anything of significance.
The First Fight is a Series of Fights.
The First Fight is the toughest and most important fight for many reasons, but to keep things simple we will only list three. First, the goal of the First Fight is Emotional Self-Mastery. Once you start to master your emotions you’ll see improvements in every area of your life. Second, the First Fight is an interior fight to get your thinking straight. Third, fighting the First Fight introduces you to your strongest ally, your subconscious.
First Fight, Fight One: Self-Mastery. Who controls your emotions?
Hardship is good. Setbacks are healthy. What some men call failure (we call it feedback) can be turned into your best friend. Here’s why: hardship, setbacks, feedback introduce you to yourself. You learn who you are when you confront hardship. Do you complain? Do you blame your environment or the weather or the day of the week? Do you turn on those around you? If so, you are surrendering control of your emotions. That’s what a weak man does. All of these weak behaviors indicate you don’t own your situation and are not in control of yourself.
The first step to winning the First Fight is being aware of the problem. Ask yourself how often you blame outside influences for your emotions. Detach from the situation and raise your level of awareness. Then, change any self-defeating emotions immediately. The fastest hack to changing your emotions is to change what you do with your body. Stand straighter, breathe more deeply, or simply force yourself to smile. Try this: If you are by yourself, position yourself like a boxer and throw some shadow punches. Stand in front of a mirror and force yourself to smile. You can change your emotional state at will.
It’s empowering to learn that you can change your emotions on a dime. Not easy, but possible and powerful. When you blame anyone or anything, you are surrendering control because you can’t change them. You can change yourself. Our emotions, our moods, are our responsibility. Think of it like weather—you have to make your own weather. Make each day sunny.
First Fight, Fight Two: What is your thinking telling you?
Self-talk. Our Little Voice. Self-image. Any of these terms will do. They all mean the same thing—what do we tell ourselves about ourselves? This is important because once we get a belief in our heads, we don’t filter what we tell ourselves. If we are not aware of what we have been taught we accept it as being true.
Now, nothing you will read here is new. The way we present it may be a little different, though. Our encouragement to you, as men, I can assure you, is different, but the self-help and self-improvement industry is huge and has been around a long time. Many good men have studied these problems of out-of-control emotion and unhealthy thinking and have proposed innovative, useful solutions. We at AM, though, are approaching you and these questions from a distinctively masculine perspective.
We ask you as men asking other men. So, what do you think of yourself? Do you like yourself? Do you like, do you love, the fact that you are a man?
A confession from when I was 19 years old.
I have always liked being a man. I am passionate about all things masculine and have since I was a boy. The first time I was aware of the savage joy of being a man I was 19 years old and walking out of a Lord and Taylor department store on a sunny spring afternoon. I had just bought some Pierre Cardin cologne. I liked being a man. I loved fighting and winning fights of any kind. I loved the company of men. I was happy being masculine. I loved women and I loved working hard making money at my job. I loved working out and I loved driving cars—fast, slow, I didn’t care. I loved driving. And yes, I did love drinking—and had to get that under better control, but I was young. I enjoyed smoking cigarettes, which changed, but while I was smoking I enjoyed it a lot. I loved life. I loved wine and good food and I loved laughter. I wanted to be as alive as possible and I loved living life as a man. I saw the power, joy and effectiveness of men all around me. I still do. So ask yourself:
Do you know what it feels like to be strong? To be brave? To be confident? To be in control of a difficult or dangerous situation? Are you drawn to or repelled by difficulty and challenge? Do you seek out or avoid confrontation? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we should avoid confrontation, but ask yourself these questions and get to know why you do what you do, why you like what you like, as a man. Where did you get your ideas about being a man? What is your thinking telling you? Do you believe in yourself? What do you fear?
What do you tell yourself when alone in the car? Do you believe you are a winner? Do you believe you deserve to succeed? These are old questions and may seem out of date. I assure you they are not.
“Is this (job, situation, environment) the best I can do?”
“Am I the best man I can possibly be?”
“Do I let the women in my life put me down?”
“Do I let other men put me down? How do I respond when other men put me down?”
“Am I in a position where being the best man I can be yields me results that I want?”
Are you in a job where being better actually matters or are you rewarded for being mediocre? Most of us are actually rewarded for sub-par performance. There are reasons for that to be ok, but we benefit the most when we are explicit and intentional in as many areas of life as possible. So, if you’re performing sub-optimally there should be a good reason for it and it should be moving you toward a goal. In most employee situations we are not rewarded for bringing exceptional value. This has to do with being employees—which can be emasculating—more on that later.
Maybe the job you have is the best you can do. I doubt it, though, because as a man, you’re endlessly adaptable and can grow bigger than any problem or any situation. Maybe you’re in a challenging environment that demands your best, but that’s rare in this economy, especially if you’re an employee. If you like where you are, if you like your options, if you like where you live, what you drive, the clothes you wear, and more importantly, if you are pleased with how you have performed for those you love and lead, congratulations. But now, ask yourself, “Could I do better, be better, achieve more, if I were a better man?”
If you’re married, have you come through on the promises you made to your wife the day you married her? Have you fulfilled her expectations?
First Fight, Fight Three: Getting your subconscious to work for you.
Quick, oft-repeated true story: A hard-working serial entrepreneur makes and loses millions of dollars over and over again. He reaches a certain figure, short of his goal, and then loses it all. Over and over again. He hires a coach. The coach asks him if he has ever written down clearly and in detail the goals he is trying to achieve. He responds, “No, but I know in my head.” The coach tells him to write down his goals and to describe in detail and in writing the life he seeks to achieve. The coach nags him until he does it. He writes down in eye-watering detail exactly what he wants. He reads it to himself three times a day for 90 days and quits. He fires the coach. He goes back to his old habits. Stops reviewing his goals. Roughly 18 months later he is inking a deal. He stops, reviews his life. Gets out his old detailed description of his life and goals. Guess what? Everything has fallen into place precisely as he described it in spite of his being unaware of his progress. Powerful? Very.
I have even more powerful illustrations from my own life. House. Truck. Investments. Deals. Relationships. Strange and powerful examples, good and bad, of my subconscious driving me toward results.
We make countless decisions every day. Many we are aware of, but most of our decisions are made without our conscious knowledge. In our skull resides the most powerful computer in creation. Our brain works tirelessly 24 hours a day and has since before we were born. Once we are born, it works and drives us incessantly toward whatever goals we tell it we are trying to achieve. It moves us when we don’t know it moves us. It informs our emotions, our decisions, our appetites, our inclinations. Self-help coaches have written extensively on this topic and I am here to tell you it’s more powerful than you can ever imagine. Here’s the tricky part: Your brain works with whatever it picks up. It moves you where you tell it to whether you know you’re telling it or not. What are you telling it to do? What do you look at before you sleep? Our brains set the stage for our next day while we sleep. Are you even aware of what your brain is telling you to do, subconsciously?
The first, best book on this topic is “Think and Grow Rich”, written by Napoleon Hill in 1937.
You should get it. Any goal-setting book will teach you some very helpful tips for getting your subconscious working for you. It starts with writing down what you are trying to accomplish, looking at your written goals three times a day and reading them aloud before you sleep. If front of a mirror is ideal.
Call to Action. First, recall the most disastrous time your emotions got the best of you. Write down that you will never allow that emotion to get the better of you again. For just 3 days, review that statement 3 times a day. Make yourself aware of how you feel in those three days. Second, write down the following sentence, “I believe in myself because…” and finish the sentence without stopping. Or, if that feels artificial, try this one: “The most successful and happy I have ever felt was when I …” and recreate how you felt and what you were thinking in that scenario. Third, write down, “For the next 3 days I will wake promptly at (choose a time you want to rise in the morning), get out of bed without hesitation and will be in a great mood.” Read that statement out loud before you go to bed and read it silently to yourself two other times in the day. Note how your morning wake up changes and how it changes your approach to each day.