On Love & Discipline.
Love and discipline. You don’t often hear those words paired unless you’re getting reprimanded by a parent. That’s a shame, too. Because these can save your life.
In 2017, I suffered a massive panic attack that tore my world apart. Other health issues followed, and went from top athlete to an anxious, chronically fatigued shell of a man with heart palpitations. T’was a trip. And a fall. And a crash. And I burned.
Over the next 3 years, I did almost everything I could to get back to my old self. I consumed hours of podcasts on biohacking and read every chronic disease success story I could find. I learned about adrenal fatigue and psychology and trauma and the whole gamut. By 2019, I was a top writer on medium in the health category, the primary contributor to The Ready State Blog (Run by two of my heroes: Dr. Kelly Starrett and his wife Juliet.) I even got to be a part of the emerging animal based diet movement while editing for Heart and Soil Supplements by my another hero: Dr. Paul Saladino.
Can you guess what I had to show for it? Fuck all.
As 2020 came to a close, I found myself still dealing with 90% of the problems from day 1, week 1 of this horrid journey through hell.
Don’t get me wrong. Biohacking wasn’t a failure, and people really do heal all the time, but for me, it just wasn’t so. After a last ditch attempt to defeat heart palpitations, my heart began skipping beats for most of the day, and I missed yet another Christmas holiday isolated in a house I hadn’t left in over a month.
Then. I found discipline.
The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Kick Your Ass.
Most people cringe from the word discipline. I did. As someone who’d been facing unexplainable health issues, I hated the idea that my life might be a willpower problem. It’s not like I wanted any of this. I was training so hard the day my health crashed because I wanted to be a Navy Seal. But as they say, sometimes bullies are just telling you the truth in a very mean way.
And if they aren’t even bullies, but parents and friends that want the best for you, that goes double.
I remember sitting in my bed as my heart skipped beats. A week ago I’d had the best energy in years thanks to finally starting the Wim Hof method, a breathing technique combined with cold showers that has helped many overcome diseases like Lyme and even reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s. I thought I’d finally found it. Something that worked, but here I was again kicking the same old can.
But the success had lit a spark in me. An old, familiar flame I’d felt the day of my first panic attack too: a determination to figure this shit out, or die trying. Only this time, I had an instruction manual.
I put on my head phones, and for the second time in my life began listening to Can’t Hurt Me, an audiobook by David Goggins. David Goggins is most well known as a Navy Seal turned ultramarathon runner who exemplifies the meaning of mental toughness. What is less well known, is that David started out as a scared, abused kid who wet the bed nearly every night. During his childhood, David’s father regularly beat him and his mother, buckle side first, until they escaped to a rural town in Illinois.
His healing didn’t start there though. As a black family with no income living in a town where the Ku Klux Klan headquartered merely a half hour drive away, David went on to experience arguably the worst upbringing you could imagine short of intentional, systematized torture. His first real father figure was murdered on Christmas Eve shortly before his mother was to be married to him. Racists in his high school spray painted “Nigger" on his car more than once, and he’d once been held down at gunpoint by racist hicks when they happened upon him on an outskirts country road.
I’m not here to tell David’s full story. What I will tell you is that this man shouldn’t have amounted to shit. Instead, he went on to join the air force, fail to make it in air force pararescue, balloon to over 300lbs by age 24 and become a cockroach exterminator. He didn’t amount to shit. Until he got to work.
On a chance viewing of a military ad, David pulled all the stops, resolved to lose over 100lbs in 6 months to get a chance to become one of the nations elite soldiers. In his words, he was prepared to die just for a chance. Not even to become a Navy SEAL. He was willing to die… just for a chance.
As I heard those words reverberate through my skull, I listened to my heart continue to skip beats, and I resolved. That moment, I write down all the things I was afraid of and why. Then I picked the scariest one and I went and did it.
Workouts freaked me out ever since my health crash, and I always feared that’s where my heart would finally give out. I went outside and did 3 rounds of a strength session I normally only did once a week.
Next, heart skipping beats, I got in my car and drove to a local college. Thanks to a few panic attacks on the road, I had only driven while having heart palpitations a few times. Today I spent hours out in the city, refusing to come home until it was on my terms.
Over the next weeks, I adopted a mentality that I’d love as if I were healthy, and that I’d rather have a real heart emergency and risk it than continue my sorry existence. I went to the ER twice with my heart rhythm. Once they found me dehydrated, and hooked me up to an IV. This would be the needle that didn’t make me black out in over 3 years. I also started running, daily, and my mileage went from 1, to 3, to 7 miles and more for the first time ever.
Over the next year, I became more and more functional. Sure, I slipped up. I spent a month straight playing video games on one occasion, and later down the road, my heart rhythm came back and skipped every third beat for a week straight. The docs cleared it though, and I made sure to run every damn morning the whole time.
I was still tired. Had tons of brain fog and I did not feel healthy, but my life was my own again. My stressors weren’t fatigue or heart palpitations, but a toxic relationship (on my part as well as hers) and a barely scraping by income as a writer.
Discipline gave me my life back. Then I found love.
Grace Is Not Earned. It is Accepted.
Whatever your religion might be, I challenge you to find a more beautiful concept than the Christian idea of Grace. Despite the oft hypocritical treatment of others by fundamentalists, the biblical idea of Grace is that God’s love for you is infinite. That you could do nothing in this life to separate yourself from it. And that grace is something you choose, not something you earn.
By July of 2022, I had left my old city to take a lucrative sales job with my childhood best friend. I had my own place for the first time, more money than I knew what to do with (spent it all anyway) and had returned to competitive mixed martial arts for the first time in over 7 years.
And I noticed something. I didn’t like myself. Hell, often I hated myself. If anything, though more happiness and peace much of the time, I was so experiencing more instability and anxiety than I did when I was struggling. Like Goggin’s Can’t Hurt Me, I remembered an audiobook I’d downloaded over a year ago after listening to the author on a podcast.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It (Subtitle: Because it Does) by Kamal Ravikant.
In the interviews I’d heard, Kamal described a life of intense striving, self masochism and shame. A hard charging soldier at one time, Kamal went on to silicon valley along with his brother, the famous angel investor Naval Ravikant, to seek fortune. Despite success (and failure,) Kamal never found what he was really searching for- self esteem. To hold oneself in high regard.
As his most recent company failed and he fell into health problems, Kamal sat at his desk, gun in hand, and decided on one last ditch effort. Before he quit for good, Kamal vowed to love himself, truly and deeply, for the first time in his life. Only, he didn’t have a fucking clue how.
Kamala ignorance in this arena became his genius. He did the only thing he knew, and turned self love into a disciplined practice. Every day, he’d wake up and listen to a music track with no words on it while repeating “I love myself" over and over in his head. During the day, any time his thoughts would drift, he brought it back. “I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.”
I decided to give it the ole' college try. And the results were immediate.
Per instruction from Kamal’s book, I drove out to a salt lake here in south Texas, journal in hand. Crouched under shrub brush and carefully avoiding cactus plants, I stared through static in my vision (a condition called visual snow for which there’s no known cure or cause) and wrote down everything I hated about myself. Then, I forgave myself. Over and over, on paper and out loud, until I felt a shift. From here, I fished out my Fat Buddha Lighter and set the paper to flame.
Next, the big part. In big, chunky letters, I scrawled this vow:
“I vow to love myself, truly and deeply, from this day onward. I vow to love myself independent of deed or circumstance, and to experience self love as my default mode of reality, not as a fleeting moment of circumstance. I vow to love myself. I vow to love myself. I love myself. I LOVE MYSELF.
Over the next month, I experienced more healing than any time since 2017. My energy improved, and I broke off a relationship that I never should have initiated. I finally stuck to an animal based diet for 30 days straight, the bags around my eyes reduced, and I often felt peace.
Even now, months later and only meditating on it once a day, if you ask me if I love myself, my answer is a no-hesitation: Yes.
In reading this article, you might have thought my point is that love trumps discipline, and I’ll admit, if you had to choose, choose love.
But love does not trump discipline because they are not at odds. With self love as my foundation, I have experienced things closer to my panic attacks of old more recently than any time in the past 5 years. But here’s the kicker. I approached them on purpose.
At the time of this writing, I quit the sales job a month ago. I made a wild bet on a coaching program designed to teach me how to run a successful one on one consulting business. And I am moving to Utah in a month as barter payment from my first client. On the outside, my life looks a lot more like it did a year ago, when I was scratching by on a living, barely making bills and loaded with debt.
But this time, I feel happier than I have ever felt. And the tools right now are discipline.
Goggins came out with the sequel to Can’t Hurt Me: aptly named, Never Finished. And she’s a doozy.
I work well over 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at least, despite my biggest complaint at my last job being the 40 hour workweek. I do 100 pullups every morning, Wim Hof and a cold shower, and spend an hour per day cleaning my apartment as well as all of Sundays.
This is the best I’ve felt in my life, and I know that, because while walking one night I was struck by the simple, honest thought: I like myself more than who I was before my health crashed. I would rather be me, with this life, than him, with that one.
Love And Discipline.
Self love is not about abandoning responsibility or work ethic. It’s about loving yourself first, as your foundation, and then doing what you are here to do. Simultaneously, discipline is not about destroying yourself to kill the things you don’t like, but about holding yourself to your standard, in order to be who you know you are meant to be.
Whatever your struggles. Whatever your journey. You are both worthy of love, as well as capable of so much more.
So with that, I invite you to take up the call. Meet the challenge. And listen to that loud, quiet voice inside that says “Be.” And be that person.
Blessings upon you all. That is all.