The Hard Way - ITS Tactical

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The Hard Way

By ITS Guest Contributor

Editor-in-Chief’s note: This post was written by Schaefer  and originally ran on The Art of Manliness.

“The essential thing “in heaven and earth” is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” —  Friedrich Nietzche,  Beyond Good and Evil

In 1989, Wyoming-native Mark Jenkins set out with three Americans and four Russians to become the first to bicycle all the way across Siberia, starting at the Pacific port town of Vladivostok and ending 7,500 miles later in Leningrad. Battling mud, wind, injuries, and sub-zero temperatures, the 5-month journey took them through hundreds of villages, an 800-mile swamp, the Ural mountains, and a culture permanently hardened by the savage taskmaster of communism.

The trip planted the team in the  Guinness Book of World Records, but what made it remarkable was not that it was long, but that it was hard — brutally, numbingly, painfully… hard.

The Hard Way

We don’t come across that word too often when discussing heroes or success. Everything we long for is easy and instant. Without a shortcut to the end we often conclude that the journey isn’t worth the time and effort. We want everything neatly packaged and ready for immediate consumption — our food, our friends, even our faith.  Our lives have come to resemble those of tourists, wanting the experience, but not wanting to stay long enough to risk experiencing the realities that come with permanence and commitment.  In fact, “hard” has become more of a scarlet letter rather than a badge of honor. Let’s face it, the idea of spending years busting your butt at the same job or pursuing the same goal has become downright antiquated, a fool’s game.

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Carnegie  are finding their stories of long persistence quickly displaced by those of the flash-in-the-pan celebrity tabloid genre. Teenage phenoms, reality “stars,” 20-something internet billionaires, and people for whom success and its spoils came swift and early are the new cultural heroes and idols.  With each new fresh-faced superstar, the idea of success as a secret formula to be unlocked rather than something to be worked for is slowly cemented into our brains.

“He or she is naturally-gifted,” we proclaim, inwardly hoping that we too can find our own hidden talent or skill to make us famous, rich, or at least…noticed. The books and seminars that sell out most quickly are those that promise the  easiest  steps to a better life — the secrets that have been known for ages by the rich and famous, but somehow managed to escape your radar until this very moment.

This “easy” epidemic has reached every aspect of our culture from health to education to relationships. People don’t want to workout and eat healthy because it’s hard. No problem, according to the creators of 1,000 different diets promising a great body with little to no effort. As for expanding one’s knowledge, why waste time reading a whole book when you can get the gist from the Cliff Notes? And relationships? Well, working through marriages can be difficult, so “experts” have stepped in to hand you a Kleenex and pat your back as they tell you, “You deserve to be with someone who adores you for you, don’t feel bad about ending things and moving on to someone new who will better meet your needs.”

Avoiding What’s Hard

At some point it has become acceptable to avoid things because they’re hard. Success has become some sort of self-help scavenger hunt with all of us desperately wanting to find an easier way than just grinding it out, a magic solution to life’s equation waiting to be uncovered.We cut corners and call it “optimizing.” We take the path of least resistance and dress up our cowardice in the guise of efficiency. And in doing so, we’re killing ourselves, one life-hack at a time.

There’s nothing wrong with working smarter or making things more simple. There’s no reason to make something harder than it has to be. And I’m not suggesting we go back to plowing fields by hand or walking uphill both ways to work. The problem is that many of us have begun to think that if something is hard, it is automatically wrong and must be changed or substituted immediately. In the process we often fail to reach our real goals, substituting in ones that are more “realistic.” And more importantly, we rob our character of some much needed pruning. We’re missing out on a fundamental truth of manhood —  doing things that are hard molds boys into men  of strength and character.

In the recent blockbuster smash  300,  audiences and critics were shell-shocked by the ripped and chiseled bodies of the actors and stuntmen involved. How did they get so jacked? Surely they were  Hollywood-ized,  right?  Wrong, says Mark Twight, the man behind the regime that molded these actors and stunt men into Spartan warriors. Writing to the critics he responded curtly:

“It appears everyone has an opinion about ‘300′ and how the actors and stunt crew achieved the level of fitness and consequentially, appearance for the movie. I have read that it was all CGI, make-up, steroids, etc. However, no one has come right out and said, ‘those guys worked really hard and had the self-discipline to control what they put into their mouths.’”

In short, these guys got their stuff handed to them 10-12 hours a day, five days a week for four months. It wasn’t pretty and they didn’t get the usual, “Way to go buddy!” or “‘Atta boy!” after each set. Instead they were called losers and mocked for being fat. Not the kind of positive, feel-good, self-congratulation you would find most life-coach gurus promoting. It was brutal, it wasn’t fun, but it worked. It was hard, hellishly hard. Lead actor Gerard Butler summed up the experience saying, “Pretty much anything Mark Twight offered up was so difficult in the kind of way where you wish you had never been born — and even more than that, wished he had never been born.”

Absolutely nothing replaces hard work. No shortcuts, no 5-steps to success, no secrets. This may come either as a blessing or a curse depending on how one looks at it.  But, what makes the hard way so important for men is not just the end result, but the character built along the way.

Carpe Diem

It may sound cliche, but the journey we take often matters much more than the destination. How we live our lives each hour, each day determines the type of men we will be in ten years. Knowing this, we should construct our lives to embrace difficult challenges which will mold our character into one of discipline and perseverance. In doing hard things on a daily basis we’re constantly training ourselves so that on other days, in other situations, we can remain solid.

The hard way may be scoffed at as old-fashioned, but it produces integrity and strength far more meaningful and concrete than any gold star along the way. This method of living produces men who remain faithful to their wives and children, decade after decade. Men who refuse to sacrifice their integrity for short-term results or gain. Men who at the end of the day are fulfilled with the fruit of their labor.  Men who finish a marathon rather than simply starting a million sprints.

If we can develop in ourselves a certain zeal for the hard things in life we will reap the benefits for years to come. Not only victories won along the way and character developed, but a fulfilled life at the end of the day. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once put it:

“But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: The Art of Manliness is a fantastic Website dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man. It features articles on helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men.  Check them out and be sure to subscribe! Since ITS and AoM admire each other’s work, we’ve agreed to swap one article each month to share with our respective readers.

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  • LeRoy

    Loved the post. I am a big fan of AoM because of how it calls out what men really need to be. This was right in line. Will be following you for sure!

  • Awesome article!

  • Raven

    Great article!
    Ok, fat guy sermon warning!
    I have been re-vamping my own lifestyle with my roommate and working towards a better body, diet, clean mind and it has NOT been easy. I was 365lbs in 2008 and I didn’t care or really notice that I had become so fat! I remained this size until late 2009 and finally said “I feel and look terrible, I need to step up and put out or I’ll be dead at 30 from a heart attack or something related to my size. So, working through the pain of exercize (a lost concept on me at this point) I have busted my ass since 2010 and have lost 65lbs and am now 300lbs/28% BMI. Not great, but if you look at the journey and what it takes for an obese person to drop 65lbs in a year, I’m satisfied with the progress. But I’m not finished. My goal weight (I was there once upon a time) is 240lbs/>20% BMI and I WILL NOT STOP until I get there. The positive influences in my life as of recent, (Chris from Center Mass Group’s “Ask a SEAL” helped me by responding to questions I had about training, my roommate who was/is also overweight and my girlfriend) have pushed me in the right direction and have given me a sort of BUD/S mentality of “you can do it-we’ll be right here with you” support from all angles. This article has been right on as to the mentality of lazy individuals and how the easy way IS just that-easy. If that’s what you want, then you blow up to 365lbs and get winded just walking from your door to the car. That’s not what I want anymore. I want the challenge. The pain and as Lombardi said, to “…lie on the field of battle – victorious.” A success to me now is only one that demands me to work for it. Anything else is just “perks.” Keep moving forward, fight through the pain and at the thing you were trying so hard to accomplish at the end of the day – is YOURS.

    • Ken


      Good job on your transformation and good luck on your continued success! Been there, done that.

      I love my new me. I love that I can get around a lot easier. Do things easier. Looking better. Finally not having a gut. The little green monster popping in the wife thinking some young hottie might steal me away. I love it all.

      Once I accomplished my goals of losing the weight and getting off the health related medications I found out my self worth is not in a number on a bathroom scale. It’s how fast I can do a 5k, how well I place in an adventure race, seeing my training figures show I’m getting faster and stronger.

      This continuing training stuff is hard work. Longer. Faster. Harder. Always. The pay off is a lot more than a number.

      I think what it boils down to for me is a single goal is not good enough for me. It’s seeing one goal and going for the next. Even if it’s a small one like setting a PR. Maybe, this week I want to shave 30 seconds off my normal run. Whatever, it is it has to be something to focus on. Once that’s knocked down it’s immediately on to the next.

      Someone asked me once if I could eat an elephant. Of course not, I replied. “Sure,” he said, “just take one bite at a time.” Climbing a mountain might be your ultimate goal, but you might get to the point in your climb that you can only concentrate on one step. Then the next. Eventually, you get to the top. Then you climb down and find the next mountain.

      Always moving forward. Always.

      Maybe, this is exactly what this article is about.

  • FredS

    AoM is a great site but I missed this article…

    The paragraph that jumped out at me…

    The hard way may be scoffed at as old-fashioned, but it produces integrity and strength far more meaningful and concrete than any gold star along the way. This method of living produces men who remain faithful to their wives and children, decade after decade. Men who refuse to sacrifice their integrity for short-term results or gain. Men who at the end of the day are fulfilled with the fruit of their labor. Men who finish a marathon rather than simply starting a million sprints.

    I was home with my sick son yesterday and had time to read through a lot of the ITS Tactical. I learned many things. Thank you for putting this site together.


  • Grant

    Loved this post. It hit me and sank deep. I needed this post, a life changer. I can’t say how thankful I am for your work in putting this together for us all. Thanks man!

  • spenceman

    Great article, it is very encouraging to see a growing return to true manliness, our country is facing some tough times ahead, and REAL men will be absolutely essential to turning things around. I’m glad to see the manliness they espouse are more then the artificial “manliness” you see in various fitness and fashion magazines. It’s more than looking good/successful/rich to impress women, it’s about true virtues like character, hard work, perseverance, honesty, integrity, and faithfulness.
    Hopefully we see a multitude of articles/book/websites/etc like this, because there are an awful lot of broken or incomplete guys out there, and even more boys that will grow up to be broken and incomplete if they aren’t taught these things. If anyone else is looking for more manly guidance I recommend a book called Wild at Heart. Also, for those of you don’t shriek or snarl at the mention of Glenn Beck, check out the Being George Washington website as well, it has some resources that are great for mentoring and teaching boys about character.

    • FredS

      I didn’t know about the website. The book is a great history book and a call to personal character, honor and integrity.

  • Steve H

    This, combined with their 30 Days to Manliness Article (I found through this site, I have no clue how I’ve never seen The Art of Manliness before…) has proven to be just the right nudge I needed to get over the winter blues (and get over this multi-week illness that has finally started to retreat).

    Time to hit the Gym starting next week.

  • I’ve often thought that AoM and ITS had a lot in common, I also thought that some sort of cross advertising between the two would be good. Seems I wasn’t the only one.

  • Squad47

    Just when I was feeling weak and wanted a cigarette(Been a couple weeks), this article reminded me of the life changes I am and have been making. It’s not easy, but they are worth it!!

  • colt

    The realization that achievement is the only thing that can give meaning to a life, and that achievement is inextricably involved with adversity, was the most meaningful thought in my life. I rethink it constantly to remind myself that if I want to die satisfied, I must embrace adversity. To some this is a daunting thought. But, those that have embraced the hard way are insiders looking out, unable to explain the most fulfilling behavior to the outsiders that simply watch on. such is part of the human condition.
    great article. I hope it woke a few people up.

  • LongHaul

    This article is awesome. It’s full of truth and very inspirational. I feel the need to go do something hard right now!

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