How to Persist When Others Give Up
A short guide to overcoming boredom.
The year was 2017.
I was 20, unemployed and uneducated, living with my parents, and my friends at the time thought I was insane. The closest thing I had to a job at the time was doing DoorDash one night a week, and the closest thing I had to an accomplishment was a few medals from some Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.
I was very insecure about my place in the world.
I was in the midst of taking time off of school to “get my mind right”, although considering that I was living in a state of constant derealization (a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies), I wasn’t particularly optimistic about that happening.
And yet, now, when I say any of that stuff above, I have a sense of imposter syndrome. I’m embarrassed to tell you this.
Now, I get told several times per week that people “want my life”. I don’t know know what to do with that information.
Either way, here’s how I went from planning to jump off a bridge to building an existence that other people want to steal.
The hard truth about building a “dream life”.
The biggest lie about American society is that we do things “alone”.
We as Americans are obsessed with individualism. We’re obsessed with appearing as impressive as possible, and we tend to think it’s more impressive when you do things alone.
As an athlete in an individual sport, I catch myself falling into this trap all the time. My ego desperately wants to believe that everything I’ve created, built, and achieved came from nowhere except inside the four walls of my noggin and the muscles on my body. I was brainwashed to believe that things I achieve alone are better and carry more weight than things I achieve with help.
This, frankly, is bullshit.
Not to kill my underdog story, but I probably wouldn’t have pulled myself out of my depression if I didn’t have access to antidepressants and therapy when I needed them. If I didn’t have that, I’d probably just be dead.
I definitely wouldn’t have become a high-level grappler if I didn’t pull myself out of that depression. I definitely wouldn’t be a writer if I was as unstable and depressed as I was.
It took a small village to get my little neurodivergent self to do anything with his life, so for me to sit on a soapbox and tell you “I’m a self-made success story” would be a lie. I won’t do that.
Instead, I want to give you some frameworks that will help you think about the world better than the way I used to think about it.
These frameworks have been the catalyst for all of my personal growth in the last several years.
Everything gets boring.
“Everything in life asymptotes toward feeling like a job.”
Sahil Bloom said on Danny Miranda’s podcast a few months back, and it stuck with me.
As a martial artist and writer who is supposed to be “living the dream”, this really hit home for me. The truth is that a lot of the time, I don’t feel like I’m living the dream. I feel like I’m slaving away at my own special coal mine, and that other people wish they had my coal mine and I wish I had theirs.
In my hyper-competitive world, everyone around me is always chasing things and envying others.
You’re probably always chasing things. I’m definitely always chasing things.
Over time, the chase becomes dull. You get bored. If you don’t get bored, you’re probably not really chasing it that hard.
Being a writer is like being a Jiu-Jitsu athlete, and becoming a Jiu-Jitsu athlete is kind of like falling in love.
At first, the pursuit is electrifying and full of adrenaline, but eventually, the honeymoon phase ends, and you feel like it’s kind of a job. The things that once excited you (whether it’s buying flowers for your girlfriend or heading off to your third training session of the day) start to feel like another item on your miles-long to-do list.
Eventually, it gets easier to not do these difficult things.
However, in order to build a highly customizable and fulfilling life, you must persist through this boredom.
But how do we do that?
The first solution is to zoom out.
First, let’s change the way we think about jobs.
Are jobs really a bad thing?
Consider the alternatives:
I’m not married, but if I was I’m sure I wouldn't want my wife to leave me because I was a careless husband.
In Jiu-Jitsu, I’d much rather train 3 times per day and be exhausted than not be able to make it to the gym at all.
Writing 2–3000 words per day is exhausting and feels like a job, but I’m glad I don’t have to write sales copy for trucking businesses anymore.
When you consider the alternatives, you start to realize just how good the present is. You start to develop the perspective to develop gratitude, and gratitude is the true source of meaning/mindfulness.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”― Epicurus
There are good and bad in everything in life, and this duality will never go away, no matter how far you run from it.
I had to fly myself all the way across the world to figure that out.
The only solution to the drudgery of life is to zoom out and develop a perspective of gratitude.
Then, you must zoom all the way back in.
Zoom in to the microscopic level of your day-to-day.
Long-term goals require mindful attention paid to small, daily activities.
I’m currently reading Island, by Aldous Huxley, and one of the key aspects of the island where the novel takes place is that there are birds flying around constantly saying “attention” and “here and now, boys” — things that most people in the world forget to remember.
Zooming out to look at your life and zooming in to live in each moment are closely related to each other. Zooming out makes you realize the importance of zooming in.
The real danger — and the place where existential dread comes in — is that “in-between zone” where too many of us live our lives. We’re half mindful of the world around us, and half stuck in some far-off future. This in-between zone is not entirely anything, and therefore it lacks the mindfulness of a zoomed-in life and also the perspective of a zoomed-out one.
The result is treacherous pain and suffering.
You must not only learn to zoom out and develop the perspective to develop gratitude, but you must also zoom in to fully appreciate your morning coffee or your hard workout as well.
If you’re anxious, zoom out. If you’re sad, zoom in.
I’m currently in the early weeks of one of the most challenging parts of my year.
This 8-week stretch has 3 Jiu-Jitsu competitions, 5 seminars, 3 training trips, and now a writing cohort that I’ll be doing in April. I call this intense work period “sprinting”, and I try and do it twice a year.
It would be easy for me to just put my head down and try to “get through it”, however, this is not what I want to do.
I want to feel all the pain of the training and the weight cuts. I want to feel the thrill of competition and the anxiety of publishing writing that might make me look weak or less than perfect. I don’t want to miss a second.
I want to challenge myself to be mindful throughout the entirety of this stressful period of my life because I missed an entire year of my life living in a terrifying dream world. I’d rather live scared than die safe.
Whatever you’re doing, don’t just “get through it”. Do it.
You still improve when you go through the motions, but you miss the most important part of the experience.
Be mindful — painfully so. There’s a lot more to life than improving.
Other things I did this week:
A Twitter thread analyzing my last 6 years of lifting:
I’ve also been actively posting videos on Patreon for the last few weeks now.
My next video comes out Monday!
Thanks for reading another issue of The Grappler’s Diary. If you enjoyed this post, share it with friends!