What does it mean to be a Fierce Warrior?
It means single-pointed attention, focus, and deep Presence, of course. But there are at least two other elements involved.
One is your emotional immune system. The other is your emotional armor.
This is a very cold world; a very wounded world.
As a result, most of us have built up lots of layers of emotional armor. These are the barriers we put between us and the harsh, cold world to prevent ourselves from being hurt.
I did an excellent job of this. I built a suit of superiority to wear around, and then put on top of that a jacket of judgment, and then caked on a nice thick layer of aloofness, and then finished it off with a thick carapace of arrogance.
Oh, and I also wore a snug undershirt of biting sarcasm. That stuff was better than Bilbo’s Mithril shirt.
(Okay, outed myself as a LOTR geek there….moving on.)
I had numerous layers of defense from the harsh world, from anybody’s judgment.
The only problem was I was not OPEN. All those layers prevented women (and anyone else) from seeing or stepping into my heart. They sensed my distance. As a result, all my relationships were with similarly-armored women, and my connections with men were superficial.
One of the universal principles I’ve noticed in action is that we tend to draw to us people like us on all levels — emotional maturity, intelligence, and level of armor.
So the first thing we need to do is learn to take off our emotional armor, and stand undefended against the world. This is where true Power and true Authority start. We can take anything the world throws at us, and transform it into joyous Love and Celebration, no matter how bitter it is. We are alchemists. We are the lotus blossom.
This is why we say in the Manifesto:
The Fierce Gentleman understands that defensiveness invites attack, so he knows that true safety lies in standing naked and undefended against the world.
He cultivates a peaceful virility that allows him to take all the drama that the world makes, and transmutes it into fearless laughter, ecstatic joy and equanimous play.
It’s easy to write these words, it’s hard to live this life. How do we do that? How do we begin taking off our emotional armor?
One plate at a time. One layer at a time. Go slow and get help.
Knights in the era of chivalry — or the shogun of Tokugawa-era Japan — had to have help to both put on and take off their armor. It was not convenient or comfortable.
It’s the same with our emotional armor. We had help putting it on, we’ll need help taking it off. The help can be a friend, a support group, a community, a therapist, a coach, a mentor. But we do need help.
There’s another thing that will help us take off our emotional armor — that is our sense of safety.
If we can convince ourselves that we have the resiliency to handle whatever the world throws at us, it will be much easier to lower our defenses.
(On the other hand, if we are convinced we are still bleeding and wounded and vulnerable, it will be very hard.)
This is where building up your emotional immune system comes into play.
It’s important to build our resilience on an emotional level. What does this mean? Resilience is our ability to bounce back after we’re hit. It’s our fortitude, our scrappiness.
We all start at different places. Some people have been beaten down repeatedly in life. They’ve been exposed to poverty, rape, hate crime, oppression, violence, every wicked thing. They understand that life doesn’t guarantee them anything, and they understand that nobody cares about their success. (Well, except for me. I care about everybody’s success ;-0)
In my experience, these people are the most resilient and the most happy. They’ve had to be. They would have been eaten up if they hadn’t build that emotional immune system. It’s these people that you often see soaring to high heights in the world, and they form the bedrock of the “rags-to-riches” story in America. It’s partly because of their emotional immune system.
Being successful — really successful — and choosing yourself to do it, rather than just climbing up a slippery corporate ladder, requires you to repeatedly bounce back from setbacks, failures, and every kind of disappointment. Your emotional immune system is what allows you to do that.
In contrast, take a young man who was born, silver spoon in mouth, and kept sheltered his whole life. He was assured of his eventual success and told that he could accomplish “whatever he set his mind to.” He was coddled and never really exposed to hard things. He was given exemptions and exceptions at every turn. He was given special treatment and preferential handling. When something was too hard, he wasn’t made to do it. He was given a pass.
How strong is his emotional immune system? Puny. He’s likely to be knocked over by the most featherweight disappointment. What’s more, he’s likely to not even try anything truly difficult, like having a love affair or starting a business or climbing a mountain, because he’s petrified of failure. On some level, he knows that by the weakness of his emotional immune system, he won’t be able to tolerate failure well.
So he stays out of the game. He sits on the sidelines of life. Maybe he uses his knack for preferential treatment to get occasional transfusions of resources so he can then go sit on the sidelines and do nothing, risk nothing, fail at nothing, and feel positive emotions again. Maybe his life alternates between suffering while getting resources in menial ways, and comfort while sitting on the sidelines. But he’s always under the cloud of anxiety that he’s not really doing anything worthwhile with his life.
It’s a waste. And the opportunity to live a human life is a precious opportunity. It’s not to be wasted. It’s to be used to the fullest.
Luckily, even those with a puny emotional immune system — through no fault of their own — have another chance. Emotional resiliency can be built. It is possible to develop it later in life. It’s never too late.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR EMOTIONAL IMMUNE SYSTEM
How do we develop it? The same way we develop anything else: practice.
Repeated, deliberate practice, over a span of years. Exposing ourselves to small failures that feel just below the threshold of our anxiety. Increasing our exposure. Pushing slightly past our comfort zone, then retreating to recover. Pushing past it again, then retreating. Continuing to do this.
Eventually getting a BIG failure. Recovering. Risking it all, then risking it all again. No matter what happens.
You see this with uber-successful people like Elon Musk. There’s hardly a better example than Elon. You can see that, time and time again, he’s willing to bet everything, down to his last dollar, on his vision. There was a point in the history of Tesla & SpaceX where Elon put all his own money into the company, to make one week’s payroll. No money left to pay the mortgage on his mansion. (I know, boo-hoo).
On that same week, there was a successful SpaceX launch, and Elon was able to parlay that success into more funding, and re-fill the company’s coffers. But both companies were mere inches away from failure.
A man with a weaker emotional immune system would have cracked under that pressure. (In fact, a man with a weaker emotional immune system wouldn’t have even built a rocket company to begin with — he would have said, “Rockets are too risky.”) But Elon is not that man, and so SpaceX has a billion dollar contract with the U.S. government.
You can teach yourself to take bigger and bigger risks. You can teach yourself to bounce back. As you gain experience, you’ll gain confidence. As you gain confidence, the realm of what’s possible for you will expand as well. You’ll try things you’ve never tried before. You’ll give a bigger gift. Suddenly you’ll find yourself playing a bigger game.
This is how success happens: you improve your emotional immune system, you turn down your sensitivity to failure and criticism, and that gives you the courage to drop layer after layer of emotional armor that is no longer serving you. As you become more open and trustable, new opportunities, new resources, new mentors are magnetized to you.
Eventually, you drop all the armor and stand naked and undefended against the world. And now you have enough experience with pain, hurt, and people throwing spears at you to take what comes, and with fearless laughter, transform it into the fuel that drives your service to everyone.
This is the path the to fulfillment; the is the Way of the Fierce Warrior.
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Also published on Medium.