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We Become What We Do: More On Mindset

June 18, 2015

I spend a lot of time listening to people try and explain that their mindset is so bulletproof that they don’t need training. They seem convinced that they are the exception that proves the rule. They’re a special, unique snowflake that will survive August in Arizona, because they have a patent on the secret of mindset uber alles.

The problem is, if experience in both winning and losing has taught me anything, it has taught me that mindset is a skill. Like any skill, the more you practice it the better you will become at that skill. Practice enough and that skill will hardwire itself into your brain. Unfortunately, also like every other skill, mindset is a very perishable skill.

Of course, “practicing” combat mindset or “killer instinct” would seem to be rather challenging for most of us, in our daily lives. I mean, most of us, whether combat veteran or not, are simply not walking around every day, worried about getting caught in the kill zone of a well-executed near ambush. Fortunately, there’s a lot to be said for treating physical training (and, for the record, although I will use some PT examples in this article, I’m not speaking specifically about PT per se—although it certainly fits—but any training that naturally encompasses a physical expression) as mental training as well.

Training has a mental aspect that matters at least as much as the physical expression of the training. If you don’t believe that a goal is attainable—or even if you just don’t believe that the goal is attainable for you personally—then you’re not going to achieve it. It doesn’t matter if the goal is hitting a sub-one second first shot from concealment, a sub-seven second El Presidente with your pistol, a 1.5x bodyweight front squat, or surviving and winning a gunfight with eight coked-up Zetas armed with PKM machine guns and RPG-7s.

Aristotle famously wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” What you do is what you become. If you don’t do something, you’ll never get good at it. If you used to be good at it, but don’t do it anymore, relying on what you could do during your “Glory Days,” you’re fucked.

One of the most common arguments I hear concerning why people cannot train is either age or genetic related—and the aging issue really is genetic at its foundation as well. “I can’t do that. I’m too old/broke/decrepit.” “I can’t do that. I wasn’t blessed with the genes for that. I’m not some super-duper ex-Special Operations gunslinger!”

Well, here’s good news for you. Geneticists have found that DNA can be chemically altered by some regulatory proteins. In response to signals from your environment, such as external stressors affecting your brain, the genes you were born with can be switched on or off. It’s not changing your DNA, it’s changing how your DNA is expressed. Honestly though? This is kind of like my doctor (MD type) who keeps telling me “You’re not gluten intolerant. It’s actually very rare, and unless you’ve been diagnosed by a doctor, you’re just not.”

Well, okay, motherfucker. But, I had the shits for twenty years straight. Then I stopped eating shit with gluten in it, and the diarrhea went away. Now, maybe it’s not actually the gluten that my body rejects. Maybe it’s something that comes with the gluten. I don’t know. I do know though, that functionally, my happy ass is gluten intolerant. You may not be able to change your DNA, but if changing the expression of that DNA does the same thing, I might as well be able to change my DNA, right?

So, how do we change the expression of our DNA, through the manipulation of our environment. Through practice. Practice though, is not just a matter of logging hundreds or thousands of hours of uninspired hours of doing something. HOW we practice matters as much—or more—than how much we practice (everyone remembers the NCO who preached that “practice doesn’t make perfect! Perfect practice makes perfect!” right?). This is the difference between the hero of mythic legend that faces the dragon and saves his tribe, and the mewling serf in the fields, simpering about being barbecued, after spending years beating on a tree with a stick, pretending he was a warrior in training.

It takes deliberate practice, which has been defined as “considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well.” You develop expertise by pushing yourself to the limits of your comfort zone of competence…and then a bit further, to the point of failure. Then, you work at that point of failure until it is well within your comfort zone of competence, before pushing forward again…and again…and again…Deliberate practice is about walking the precipice that is the edge of your current ability without making for an unrealistic challenge. It’s going to the deep end of the pool by holding on to the edge, when you’re learning how to swim, instead of being helocast out of a Blackhawk, into the Atlantic in December ten miles off the coast, in Scout-Swimmer gear, and being told, “Sink or swim, Bitch!”

Deliberate practice is weeks, months, and years of practice gradually chipping away at the margins, building skill and expertise gradually. It’s Stoicism in practice.

The other dude might be younger. He might be gifted with better, more athletic genetics, but ultimately, it’s how he has used those genetics and youth that are going to make the difference. If this mythic athletic Adonis has exercised his abilities by eating Twinkies and watching American Idol, instead of tossing kettlebells around, or going to the range with his pistol, an ammo can of 9mm, and a shot timer, while you—the old, less gifted guy—have been religious about doing a little bit of PT every day, dry-fire daily, and getting to the range at least once or twice a month, guess what? You’ve BOTH changed the expression of your DNA, so his “better” genetics no longer count….at least not as much.

Of course, you MIGHT still lose, despite regular, religious, rigorous training. The other guy might have been training too, AND had better genetics. You might just have a really, really shitty day. You can’t control that. You can control YOU. So do so. That’s our goal: to stop worrying about what the other guy is doing, and focus on improving ourselves by thinking of training as deliberate practice instead of just another chance to fuck off at the range.

The Impact of Stress: Becoming Anti-Fragile

Legendary researcher Hans Selye argued that stress—whether physical or mental/emotional—comes in two distinct flavors. Distress is one. This is what we normally think of when we’re stressed out. It’s both a psychological and a physiological impact on our bodies. This is what the SEAL candidate is experiencing during Hell Week, the Ranger candidate gets during Ranger School, and the SF candidate gets during SFAS.

Some of our training NEEDS to be this. It still won’t come particularly close to the stress of actual combat but your brain—and your body—needs the experience of extreme distress, and the anti-fragility (to borrow Nasim Taleb’s term) that comes with surviving and rebounding from it. Ideally, we want to experience it under controllable conditions, so that the stress levels can be ratcheted up or down, depending on the tolerances of the individual trainee(s) and the principles of progressive training.

If one of your guys shows up with a potential member candidate, let’s say it’s Fred from marketing, and you dump his ass off, blindfolded, in the dark, with a 75# ruck, a map and a compass, fifty miles from civilization, and tell him he’s got 24 hours to be at the parking area for the rendezvous, if he wants in, that’s probably taking it an extreme.

On the other hand, if your core group of guys have been training together once or twice a month, for a year, this could be a completely reasonable “crucible event” for building frith and esprit de corps through “mutual exclusivity.” Give it a cool name like the “Survival March” or “Hike from Hell,” or something, and it’s a team-building exercise, even if it’s done solo.

Selye also identified another type of stress though, which he termed eustress (I’m sure there’s some Latin or Greek meaning to it, but I don’t know what it is). This is a low-level of stress that actually has a positive long-term effect on the homeostasis of our physiological and psychological systems. We thrive on it, in an evolutionary sense, because it’s the type of stress that actually drives evolution. We push out of the comfort zone a little bit, and our body adjusts to overcome the stress. Then, we repeat it, and our body repeats its recuperation and recovery process. It’s not a massive effort. We’re not even overloading the body or mind, really. It still has a beneficial effect in the long-term however.

An example in PT would be the difference between adding one pound to the barbell, versus jumping up ten pounds on the bar. In shooting, it would be the difference between improving your shot time by a tenth of a second, versus a whole second. Either of the two extremes might be possible, in the short term, but it’s going to kick your ass in the process. The less stressful progressions might take longer, but you’ll see a two-fold benefit in return. One, it won’t fuck your week up by piling too much stress on at once, and two, you’ll be able to continue progressing longer, before you have to back off and recover a little bit.

For most of us, no longer professional soldiers, who have the obligations of families to support and jobs to go to, most of our training SHOULD be of the eustress type of stress. We have to go to work on Monday, so doing a mini-Selection every weekend that leaves us broken, battered, bruised, and blistered, is just not an option. Fortunately, it’s just not necessary. Sure, our crucible event COULD happen tomorrow on the way to work, and we’ll be fucked, but….probably not. We can get by with the incremental improvements in the margins, because we’re PROBABLY not going to war tomorrow, or even next week.

If we do, and we haven’t done enough? Well, that’s one of those things outside of our control, isn’t it?

If I can only hit something with my pistol by taking three seconds to draw, find a sight picture, and squeeze the trigger, but tomorrow I need to be able to do it in 1.5 seconds, or I’m going to die, then yeah, I’m fucked. If I’ve got until fall though, or until next spring, and I can shave one tenth of a second off each week, I’m golden. Which is a more realistic approach?

Sure, I could spend eight hours a day practicing my drawstroke, and I might drop a second and a half in a week…MAYBE. Probably not, but it COULD happen, especially if I went to a coach who was that much better than me, and could point out the errors in my current methods. Of course, if I spend eight hours a day practicing with my pistol, then I’m not going to work, not spending time with my wife and kids, and will end up having to pawn the pistol to pay for a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine when I’m a homeless, unemployed bum whose wife left me…and rightfully so. Plus, since I won’t have the pistol anymore, to maintain my practice, in two weeks, I’ll be back at a three second drawstroke anyway.

It would be far better for the durability of my skill set—and my life in general—to take the time to make the incremental improvements along the margins, and really master the skill. We become what we do.

If I need to hit a 300# front squat (1.5x my bodyweight, roughly, depending on what I’ve been eating that week), to meet the physical standards of my training group, and I can only hit 135# today, I’m probably not going to get there by adding ten pound per week. I’ll plateau way too soon (the caveat I’ve experienced myself? If you were previously able to hit that, and your strength dropped quickly, due to injury or illness, and you started lifting again as soon as you were able to, you MIGHT get close to the old level at 10# per week).

If I add 1# per day though, I’d be there in six months or so (and before some would-be physiology expert starts chiming in with “overtraining” and “linear versus wave progressions” and “you can’t lift every day,” just…don’t. If you feel you must, go do a Google search for Bob Peoples and his records—as well as his training program logs—before you bother. Please?). There will a reduced chance that I will injure myself in the process, as well, leading to increased durability and consequent anti-fragility. I’d bet a silver dollar that NOBODY would argue that if their 5RM was 135#, that tomorrow they couldn’t do 5 reps with 136#, would they?

Of course, you don’t always see your best improvements by just aiming small and settling for mediocrity. Once in a while at least, you need to go big and push yourself into the distress side of the spectrum. Whether it’s PT, shooting drills, SUT, or just a challenge like, “Hey, I’m going to do a linear traverse of the Wind River Range!” lots of small doses and the occasional extreme will generally serve you better than sticking to the mediocrity of using the gradual, incremental process. Even Milo didn’t JUST carry the calf until it was a bull. He also got in the ring and wrestled his way to Olympic fame. That’s why he’s a legend we still talk about, centuries later.

Making It Mental

Success and failure are up to you. This is not some New Age, feel good, self-esteem building horse shit. Beliefs DO matter. Success isn’t just about who you are, it’s also about who you THINK you are. Optimism—practical, realistic optimism—is a necessary precursor to the production of success. You’re simply more likely to continue pushing, meeting those daily challenges—or even facing the setback of abject failure—if you legitimately believe you can succeed.

Again, this is NOT some libtard, progressive, Little Engine, “I think I can, I think I can,” bullshit. I’m not saying you can wish yourself white to black, or male to female. What I’m saying is, sure genetics matter, but not as much as determination and will. Given two people, let’s say they’re hypothetically identical twins—the results of their training programs are going to vastly different, based on their outlooks. Yes, genetics matter, but claiming that environment doesn’t impact genetics is as stupid as pretending that genetics don’t matter at all.

The problem with Americans today is that our minds are as weak and soft as our bodies. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to bask in the luxury of middle-age comfort, but still be a bad ass. People want to believe that running a two hour obstacle race makes them a “Warrior” or a “Spartan.” Others want to believe that wearing a bunch of cool-guy kit and a homo Hoplite velcro patch will make them one of Leonidas’ 300. Well, tough shit…It doesn’t work that way.

Sure, going to a shitty job, five or six days a week, for 40-60 hours, is a form of self-discipline. Unfortunately, it’s really a form of eustress that is very specific to…well, surviving a career in a shitty job, and not much else. It’s really only hard in the beginning, and then your body and mind adapt to it. Sure, it still sucks, but it’s not a challenge anymore. It’s just…work.

The cool part is, we can leverage that into training, and improve both our physical and mental performance. If we focus on the little bites, the eustress form of training, it becomes not so much something to fear and dread, but just….work.

It’s really easy to get distracted from preparedness training, because it’s always WHEN the shit hits the fan. We really are the frog in the pot, not recognizing that the water is already at a very high simmer. So, we let ourselves get distracted. We need to construct our training, goals, and reward/consequences in shorter, more immediate blocks. Doing that however, requires the discipline of planning, and then the self-discipline of sticking to the planned program, including reward and punishment.

In the interest of always attributing brilliant ideas to the people who came up with them (because really, let’s face it, I’m just not that fucking smart), one of the best writers in the strength training industry today is undoubtedly Dan John. In his book Mass Made Simple, he describes a weight loss program he attributes to Tony Robbins (Yes, THAT Tony Robbins), called the Alpo Diet. Now, I’ve never been to a Robbins Seminar, but if Dan says that’s where it came from, I’ll take his word for it. According to Dan,

“ goes like this: Invite a dozen friends over to your house. Tell them that by the end of the month you’re going to lose 10 pounds. Tell them if you don’t, you’ll eat the can of Alpo in front of them. For the next week, every time you feel the urge to take a piece of chocolate from the cubicle next to you, reread the contents of the Alpo can. If someone offers you something smothered in goo, open the Alpo can and take a good deep sniff. The Robbins approach is based on the principle that most people would rather avoid pain than embrace joy or pleasure.”

The problem with goals and goal-setting, whether in PT or preparedness in general, is that it is really, really hard to get someone to buy into the promise of future benefit, to overcome momentary pain. So, there’s two ways to approach this.

One, we utilize the eustress principle of training. Instead of making it super challenging, so it hurts to do, and we’re sore and broken afterwards, we just do a little bit. Pretend it’s a doctor’s visit when you were a kid, “this won’t hurt at all.” Chances are, it actually won’t, if you keep your aim small. Think marksmanship: “aim small, miss small.” If you aim for a 50# jump in your squat, you’re probably going to fail spectacularly. If you aim to add 1# a day though? That’s cake! If you try to jump in and score Master on the IDPA Classifier, the second time you pick up a gun, after your CCW class, you’re probably going to fail dismally. But, taking a pistol class, then working on your drawstroke, then working on the fundamentals of marksmanship, then working on transitions, then working on improving each aspect, on the margins, pretty soon (relatively speaking), you’ll be shooting Master and wondering why the fuck people are whining about how challenging it is!

The second aspect of approaching this is to devise a way to punish yourself if you don’t achieve your training goals. Think back to the discipline of going to the shitty job. Why, when you first started, and realized, “Holy FUCK! This job SUCKS! My boss is an asshole!” why did you keep going? Because it beat the shit out of the alternative of being unemployed and broke on pay day, right? So, you overcame the momentary discomfort by focusing on avoiding the unpleasant.

The same works for training. I can’t tell you what negative consequence to devise for yourself to convince you to go to training. Maybe it’ll be the Alpo Diet? For some people, it’s all about the ego. “I don’t want to look like a pussy in front of my friends, so I better get to the gym.” “Geez, I don’t want the hottie at Crossfit to think I’m lazy. I better get my rainbow compression socks on and go!”

For others, it might require a trade. “Hey Honey, if I don’t do my fifteen minute dry-fire routine every night before bed, I’ll take you to that damned French restaurant that costs $50 a plate, that you like so much.” “If I don’t do my squats this week, I’m going to have my wife drop me off twenty miles from the house and I’ll have to walk home.”

So, true story about motivation? I took a month off from PT, about three months ago. I did it on purpose, for a project I’ve been working on, in order to run a trial test. At the end of the month, I found myself doing five classes in six weeks, back-to-back, with moving my family halfway across the country in the process. That one month quickly stretched into two months. Then, we spent a couple weeks looking for a house to move into and starting a new job. That one month became two and a half months. So, suddenly, my habit of doing PT had become a habit of NOT doing PT. Now, I had to get back into doing PT, but I’d developed a habit. It was comfortable to sit on my ass and focus on other things like writing Book #3, or playing with the kid, or running 30 minutes to town to go to the grocery store.

Besides, it’s a lot hotter and muggier here than it was in Idaho, and who wants to do PT in the heat when they’re not acclimated, right? That really sucks. It’s a lot more comfortable to sit in the air-conditioned house and read a book. I mean really, even when I was teaching the classes, I could still outperform the students physically, so I’m probably good, right?

Of course not, so I started thinking about doing PT again. I set up my squat rack and power cage. I got all the barbells, plates, kettlebells, and sandbags out of the storage unit. I got out my interval timer and my weight vest…and I went in the air conditioned house. Holy shit, it’s hotter than three feet up the Devil’s ass out there! And muggier than Harry Potter’s aunt!

Then I started thinking. I feel better when I do PT. My aches and pains from old injuries; my arthritis doesn’t act up so much when I’m doing PT. I need to be physically stronger and more conditioned than the bad guys, in order to protect my family. Those are all really good reasons to get back to doing PT, right? So, I sat down and dialed in a little more of the PT program project…in the air conditioned house.
My wife decides, “Hey, I need to join a gym. I’m going to do Crossfit. I’ve talked about for over two years. I’ve been pregnant for two years, so now, I’m going to do it.” Great. Awesome! I took her to the local Crossfit box and enrolled her. Then I sat and watched a class. And felt like shit, because I wasn’t doing PT. That was a Thursday, probably two weeks ago. On Monday, she was supposed to go back for her next WOD. I went with her, and signed up myself, and the older kid (Crossfit Kids. Not the adult program. I’m not THAT much of a dick…). Then, I did a WOD. It wasn’t bad. Not a lot of weight. I did squat cleans for reps and a lousy 165# (normally, my working weight on squat cleans is around 225#). On day two, I did front squats at 225# (my normal working weight three weeks ago would have been around 275-280 for reps). So, I sucked, bad. By day three, there was no way I was going back, without a rest day. Even the wife needed a rest day. No one would have thought less of me…No one would have known…if I had just taken that day off and been lazy after work.

I knew however, that skipping, even that one day, would set me up to skip the next day as well. “Oh, I’ll just go on Friday. That’ll get me a good one in before the weekend, and I’ll be ready to go hard next week.” That was the mind trying to mindfuck me with the pleasure cure. Instead, I went out in the yard, and did a kettlebell workout. Nothing super intense. Nothing super long. Just a quick, easy kettlebell session, but it got me moving, despite being sore. It also helped me get back into the HABIT of doing PT.

That’s the goal of the eustress approach. Even when you just don’t feel like training—regardless of the type of training—do SOMETHING. My negative consequences were four-fold.

1) If my wife is doing Crossfit and I’m being a lazy piece-of-shit, pretty soon, her conditioning level is going to surpass mine, and it would be really embarassing if I had to have her demonstrate shit in classes, because I was too fat and lazy.

2) Once I committed to doing Crossfit, by signing up and then showing up, I was committed to not looking like a pussy in front of the hipsters at Crossfit. I mean, if a scrawny ass feminist studies major can show up and do Crossfit, I damned well better, right?

3) As a teacher, I am obligated to teach by example. If I show up to a class and am obviously not in shape to perform, who the fuck would take me seriously, regardless of my background, and why the Hell should they?

4) I am responsible for the safety and security of my family. There is a major gang problem where we now live. If I’m not in shape and conditioned for the fight, how the fuck am I going to fulfill that obligation? They’re going to die. I actually like my wife and kids, so I don’t want them to die.


Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who we were. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past. We become what we do. If we sit around and let ourselves get old, fat, and decrepit, guess what? We become old, fat, and decrepit. It doesn’t matter if we were a bad ass in our younger, Glory Days.

It doesn’t matter if you were a feminist studies major in college (okay, yes, it does actually, but I’m not judging….much). If you’re showing up and doing man shit, every day, you’re going to become a fucking man. Lift heavy shit, you become strong. Shoot fast and accurate, you’ll become a fast and accurate shooter.

I read a couple things recently, that had lines that stuck out to me, and embedded themselves in my memory. One of them was from Christopher McDougal, the guy who wrote Born to Run, about the barefoot Indian runners in Mexico, and is largely credited with revitalizing the barefoot running movement. In his latest book, Natural Born Heroes, he talks about the ancestral health practices on the island of Crete, and the role that he hypothesizes they played in the Resistance there, during World War Two (for those that don’t know about that particular theater during the War, it’s a good introduction to that as well). In it, he discusses the idea (and I’m paraphrasing this here, so….) that the heroes of the myths and legends weren’t accidents. They weren’t born that way. It wasn’t an accident. The art of the hero was passed down, father to son and teacher to student. The art of the hero wasn’t about being brave. It was about being so competent that bravery was never an issue.

If we are “preppers,” or “survivalists,” who want to help America—The Idea, survive, then we need to strive for heroism. We need to be willing to place ourselves between the threats to our families, traditions, and values; between our way of life, and those that threaten it. It’s not about bravery. That’s the “I’m going to die on my hill” mindset that doesn’t do anybody a bit of good. Then, you’re just a dead guy. We need to focus on the type of mythic heroism that McDougal was talking about.

Somewhere amongst my readers, I am convinced, are the Achilles, the Hectors, the Egil Skallgrimssons, and the Ragnar Lothbroks (I’d throw some Asian and African legendary heroes in there too, but, well….I don’t really know those legends…) of a new era. Someone out there is the Arminius of our time. That guy is not the one bitching about John Mosby telling him to do more training. He’s the guy who is already out there training, and when I start blathering about doing more training, he’s laughing at me, because I took two and half months off from PT. He will become the hero of future myth, because he’s doing the work of the hero. The Art of the Hero is training, and somewhere, the Arminius of our time is training.

As McDougal pointed out (and again, I’m paraphrasing), “just because no one YOU know is living up to the heroes of the myths, doesn’t mean no one ever has, or ever will again.” I can toss example after example of guys in Afghanistan and Iraq that have done things that would have made Achilles look like a fucking charlatan, and would have sent Hector running, screaming, to hide behind Andromache’s skirts. I’ve heard of—and seen—men do things in our own time, that would have made Ragnar shit those hairy breeches he was famous for.

Don’t assume that just because you haven’t, means you can’t. You become what you do. What will you do?

Post Script:

The other thing I read that jumped out to me was a writer’s preface in one of the dozen or so books I’m currently reading. Paraphrasing again, it was basically that author’s write as much for themselves as they do for their readers. In that author’s case—and definitely in my own—the process of writing becomes a way of working things out, sorting through certain dilemmas.

In my case specifically, a large part of the motivation for writing this blog has always been working through the problem of tying what I learned as a SOF soldier into my life now, experiencing the decline of the Empire, as I try to protect my wife and children, and raise those children in a world that is completely different, in so many ways, from the one I knew as a younger man.

One of the realizations I have made, and I’ve discussed this in detail in Volume Two of The Reluctant Partisan, is that the traditional prepper/survivalist fantasy of roaming the woods as a light infantry force is largely just that…a fantasy. Sure, it might happen, for some people. For most of us though, the focus HAS to be on what doctrinally, we would call the Underground or the Auxiliary. We have to keep our day jobs, and keep functioning in a rapidly decaying society, simply because at this stage, the alternative is just not an option.

I firmly believe, in the depths of my being, several things that have been influencing this blog for quite a while now, and will continue to do so into the future:

1) the fundamentals are still the fundamentals, and mastering those concepts will allow you to adapt them to different situations and environments. As Emerson wrote, “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

In both this blog, and my classes, I will continue to use “methods” or “techniques” to illustrate the underlying concepts, but as I’ve always told students in classes, I leave it to the student to ultimately decide how he or she chooses to express those concepts technically.

2) The basic areas that we need to master include the obvious of shoot, move, and communicate, but even more important are more broad domains include tribe-building through the development of frith, good decision-making skills which are predicated on sound, logical thinking skills, and physical health and fitness, which allow us to exercise all of the others.

Honestly, if all we taught our kids was logical thinking, to live fit and healthy, and to protect themselves from physical and emotional harm, I’d say we’d done a damned fine job of raising them. If all I can offer you are lessons on those subjects, with my personal experiences as the vessels for explaining and teaching them, I’ll be content with my public service.

It is my hope that you still find yourself getting something of value from this blog. I assume you do, or you’d not bother reading it any longer (and because the number of subscribers keeps inching its way up. We’re now past 1600!). If so, do me a favor (and this will be my once annual commercial), and go buy a copy of The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One and Volume Two, so I can convince my wife to let me spend time working on book three instead of doing silly shit like mowing the lawn. If you’ve already bought a copy, do what a reader in Oregon just did, and buy five more copies of each to give as gifts!




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  1. Mike Clare permalink

    John, Straight talk as always. Spent an Army career doing the hard things. Got out, felt sorry for myself, got fat and lazy…I awoke from this BS and started training, little at a time, in the big 3 (weights, walking and 3 gun)…much happier, stronger and 50 lbs lighter. If I had a regret, it’d be sittin’ on that fuckin couch until now…keep yer powder dry, mike

  2. Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® 6.

  3. Defensive Training Group permalink

    Reblogged this on The Defensive Training Group and commented:
    Best piece in awhile. Thanks!

  4. Centurion_Cornelius permalink

    Good read.

    du bist was du ist?

    naw, you is what you do!

  5. RobRoySimmons permalink

    TRP Vol. 2 especially helpful

  6. Swamp Fox permalink


    People have to remember there are no gender or age categories during disasters, natural or man made.

    I got this from an SF brother and he has tested it on students to confirm that it works in negotiations. I wonder if it will work with physical skills. I have tried it once before a WOD and I hammered it.

    Try the High Power Pose before PT, shooting or some other skill. Try the Low Power Pose too to see if it works with a physical skills.

    The next thing is you need a log to keep track of your deliberate practice. A simple one is a dry erase board with a month calendar in day blocks on it. Use bright red for days missed. I have mine in the garage gym/dojo right next to the door to the house. It stares you in the face.

    • Swamp Fox permalink

      A must read paper.

      One of the best papers that puts it all together.

      For the ones who want to fight from the head up not the head down!‎

      Yes, search for the books he recommends and you can find PDF versions to add to your reading lists.

      Jacques Ellul Propaganda is another must read. It is in a PDF form too.

  7. Wes permalink

    Damn dude, nice one. Has motivation written all through the damn thing. I was going to skip a 5 miler today but no, fucking John Mosby’s got to go and make me feel all guilty and shit. Guess I’m running. I don’t know where you moved but I can tell you, I’ve lived in north central Texas my whole life, and every year when it heats up I have to reacclimate to the heat we get about a month or less of nice weather then high 90’s up to 115 some years. Along with the humidity takes me a few weeks to get back to my winter/spring conditioning.

  8. everlastingphelps permalink

    Heh, you’re in MY wheelhouse now.

    Here’s the key thing to remember. The only difference between distress and eustress is acclimation. All of the stresses that don’t kill us foster acclimation. Acclimating to mental stress is the same as acclimating to physical stress by growing stronger muscles or acclimating to heat or cold. I would disagree that BUDS training is about inflicting distress — distress is, by definition, stress that is harmful. What BUDS training does is cause so much acclimation (particularly the production of neuropeptide Y) that you shift to where nearly all stress is eustress and nothing short of being physcially injured is distress.

    Here’s a good example. One of the Discovery type channels was doing a “Science of Warriors” thing. They wanted to show the effects of hypothermia on the body, so they got a SEAL and had him run a confidence course making a shoot/no-shoot decision at the end, and timed him. Then, they wanted to induce hypothermia, so they put him in a water tank with 50# of ice for 15 minutes. The doctor assured them that this would drop his core temp 2-3 degrees, and they could do the test again.

    After 15 minutes, his core temp had gone UP. He told them that this wasn’t as bad a BUDS training, because there was no sand in his buttcrack. That’s how acclimated to cold he was. So, they dump ANOTHER 50# of ice in, and wait another 15 minutes. Now he’s shivering, and his core temp… was back to normal. At that point, the doctor on site pulled the plug, and they had him run the confidence course again.

    He ran it in LESS time than before. Why? Because now he was under eustress. His adrenaline was going. He was focused. When you are heavily acclimated, you really do need to be under fire to actually shine. THAT is the goal of training — to acclimate to stresses overall, but also to particular stresses. Since he trained in cold water, he was particularly acclimated to cold, but he was overall acclimated to stress in general.

    (This has been measured over and over, BTW. “Calm” people don’t do as well as a nervous but acclimated person, because eustress is a performance enhancer.)

    • This is beautiful. Can I post it as a stand alone?

      • everlastingphelps permalink

        Sure. A link back to my blog would be appreciated, but it’s your blog so it’s your property.

  9. RangerRick permalink

    As always, good talk. Sorry to see you left Idaho, but I know my home state is now safer.
    I did reboot my training program thanks to your message last year, to an old fat fucker who jumped from a wonderful C-141 with two bad chutes. The spine surgery was called off, I stopped taking all those damn drugs VA gave me and I am now able to hump the hills a little farther and push iron a little more.
    Thank you my friend for your encouragement and calling me out, I damn near gave up.
    Be Prepared – Be Prayerful – Be Thankful – You are an American
    North Idaho

  10. Confederate preacher permalink

    I just found your blog about a month ago. It has really been good for me. I have no military background but have a few friends who were Rangers, so much of what you say is at least familiar. I just recently relocated myself and left a great group of patriots. I am now in an unfriendly state and trying to get my head off the swivel. In your opinion, do I start to look for like minded people or just focus on personal training or maybe even both.

    Ever diligent

  11. First off, I think this is one of the best essays you’ve written or that I’ve read. Very inspiring.

    It reminds me of when I once restored a car. My advisor told me to do just one thing a day no matter what, even if it was simply wire brushing a handful of bolts. Because, he warned, if I stopped, the car would never get finished. Too many people have half restored cars in their garages right now. Mine was show room quality in six months. Your approach to PT reminds me of this and is encouraging. Even 15 minutes of dry firing in the morning is better than none at all.

  12. Reblogged this on Head Space.

  13. tfA-t permalink

    Purchasing Vol 2 right now. Good read.

  14. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.

  15. watcher permalink

    John, Just want to make sure your old blog site has not been “taken” by miscreants.
    I had never deleted your old blog site and noticed that nous defions had a new post!
    Are you rejuvenating it?

  16. osmo permalink

    good article, good timing.

    what part of the country did you move to? from the west and am living back east for work.

    the sheer amount of private property in the eastern usa is terrible. basically it is just a bunch of personal junk yards (big and small). there are definitely some nice spreads and areas, however for a regular person who likes freedom, it is like a prison with all the private property and other. what little public land is here is typically still infested with humans (who love to litter) and other bs.

    the eastern usa lost a true essence of america, free and natural country. hope the western usa never gets this bad.

    americans need to learn and utilize logic, minimize reason and belief. american people need to up their standards of what is acceptable and eventually gain the will to stand to with the audacity let others know what is unacceptable. first people must lead by example and be consistent doing so.

  17. Doc permalink

    This is and outstanding work of art, it reinforces what my wife says, yeah my wife who gets up at 05:00 and goes to the gym and does her body pump followed by 45 mins on the stair thingy and every Sat morning pushes out a 10k.., me former mil, nothing fancy a dick with several radio’s strapped on and a med bag, 2 tours of the sand box (04-05/08-09)
    Now I work overseas 6 weeks on 6 weeks off, the work as you rightly says sucks, its 12 hour days, 7 days a week for the duration of the rotation… tedious, soul destroying bureaucratic bullshit with huge shit dose of PC-ness.
    For some unknown reason on my return from the last trip I sat on my ass, ignored my home made gym, ignored my morning humps, Its raining or some other limp-dicked excuse drank way too much Vino De Woga Woga and just stared at the fucking googly box (Tv) came back on the job and haven’t bothered to do squat since I got here (Week three with three to go) for fucks sake… I happened on your site through a link on GuerillaAmerica and was basically being a lazy fuck, trolling the net and telling myself ‘tomorrow’ ‘tomorrow’ thinking I still got it all badass and shit, talking the talk but not walking walk never fucking mind swimming the swim…
    Thanks Brother for a reality check.

  18. Stryker4570 permalink

    Joined a Crossfit gym 10 weeks ago. Have gone every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since joining. Have not missed a workout. Am adding planks and a 2 mile run/jog Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. At 52yo it is hard to start up again, but I am disgusted at how far I have let myself go. Thanks for your encouragement and for telling the truth.

  19. Adam Roberts permalink

    Dear Mr Mosby
    You’ve been an inspiration to me to do the hard stuff now so when it doesn’t matter so I can do it later when it does.

    • RangerRick permalink

      Has nothing to do with the subject matter or Adam.
      I was visiting with OUR friends in Spokane, I read the note in the front of your first book he bought. Your Gonna break both his trigger fingers for a NEGLIGENT DISCHARGED ROUND.
      I wish I was there, U-TUBE fame, for the ASS chewing of a life time.
      I am still laughing my ass off.
      You always make my day brother. Hugs to the family, RangerRick

      • Oh, between our friend’s pater familias, and myself, rest assured, he was thoroughly chastised.

      • RangerRick permalink

        Still wishing I was there, Be safe, hugs to the family, Ranger

  20. Roseman permalink

    Took a tactical shotgun class a while back and was disappointed in the instructors lack of emphasis re: physical fitness. There were two guys there that got winded just getting to the shooting area as it is about 100 yds from the parking area on a medium upward grade. They handled their guns skillfully and I guess that’s better that some who just look at their guns and don’t shoot at all.
    But in the end, one must be able to negotiate physical obstacles and distances and still be able to function efficiently. I’m 68 yrs old and I could run circles around those guys, and yes, I still exercise ever other day.

  21. Kurt permalink

    Hey there Thanks for the great article You’re 100% correct I teach nutrition and exercise and motivation and a few other things in my practice and even though I said a little different than you do 😳 you’re hundred percent on target Of course you know that already so you don’t need me to tell you but I did want to throw in a comment about the gluten thing that people have no clue on. Medical doctors have no nutritional training whatsoever in the pharmaceutical companies definitely don’t want them to know anything about keeping people healthy without drugs Unless medical doctor goes out and learns outside of medical school in real nutrition classes they are definItaly not the person to give you advice or anyone else on nutrition Not trying to take anything away from them because many of them are amazing when it comes to crisis care What America doesn’t realize is how much genetic modification goes on your food and has been for so many years that it’s not even the same food that we had 20 years ago and definitely not the same food we had 50 years ago to grandma and grandpa grew up on the farm with So gluten is a problem for everyone now and nobody understands that Just because we don’t have any special test to say that you have gluten intolerance doesn’t mean that you’re not having a problem with some version of it as you said And people don’t realize it gluten is in so many things that we eat now even if it’s not labeled it still comes in our foods all day long that traditional Americans eat Actually anything it’s packaged or preserved And people don’t realize it but after mindset and exercise habits nutrition is extremely important to keep your body functioning properly and to heal when you’re under stress from daily activities, work, physical training or when you’re trying to fight off disease processes that were probably created by the government or large corporations Here’s an article from a great guy that talks about the other things other than gluten that are becoming even more of an issue and most people have no idea what it is or have even heard of it And definitely don’t get me started on the fact that our cows and are pigs and our chickens eat chemical pellets for them to fatten them up with the stuff and worse and it and we think we have a burger without a bun we’re doing OK So I have no ties to this guy and I get nothing by posting this site. I just met him and know him personally and it’s a good article to explain further things that most people don’t have any idea about I pulled off his Facebook website to make it easy but it’s probably on his main website to Hope it helps a little and if it helps one person then great if that person can help some other people we start a movement and next thing you know we start taking back our health that Big companies out there don’t want us to have because then we’re not dependent on them for drugs every month Keep up The great articles and thanks for your time and concern for your fellow Americans And thank you for your service

    Again I’m not promoting this guy in any way. Just some info for those that might want some extra knowledge

    • Kurt permalink

      Oh and by the way I dictated that last comment so if it has any spelling errors or grammar issues I’ll blame it on spellcheck or auto correct 🙂

  22. John Stark permalink

    Well said Brother! The information you put out is very valuable. Will you be doing any podcasts on F.O. magazine? RLTW

  23. Sergeant McNott permalink

    A few key points I took away:

    “If you used to be good at it, but don’t do it anymore, relying on what you could do during your “Glory Days,” you’re fucked.” JM

    This was echoed by another well respected trainer albeit edited for a podcast:

    “We always base our current performance, or how we think we’d do in a fight (or) altercation, on the best us that we know. And the best us that we know, may not be who we are right now.” – Craig Douglas

    While I may feel that I can jump Taylor’s Creek and walk 30 miles any given night of the week without any adverse effect the next day the truth is I am not there anymore but am working my way back (without the jump).

    Big believer in the mini-selection/pushing yourself:

    “You develop expertise by pushing yourself to the limits of your comfort zone of competence…and then a bit further, to the point of failure….Distress…Some of our training NEEDS to be this….We have to go to work on Monday, so doing a mini-Selection every weekend that leaves us broken, battered, bruised, and blistered, is just not an option.”

    I am a big believer in pushing my limits especially now that I am beyond the 40 mark.

    While I am not the best me I have known I do rely on what I could do at times to find the motivation to complete the task in the here and now.

    Should I have tried to hike Mt Olympus, UT one day after work while on a TDY from a near sea level home station? Probably not but the fact that I knew I could once do it easily and decided I needed to suck it up and do it.

    Hiking the Fiery Gizzard alone in the late fall. Back in the day I wouldn’t have even overnighted it; had to last time but it will be an easy day hike next time.

    Occupying a small island in the middle of a backwater river and starting a fire using a survival kit issued magnesium block? Again harder than I remembered but suck it up and make it happen.

    Forty is coming up? Good chance to hit 4 plates (405) on Squat and Dead-Lift. (stole the idea from a co-worker who hit 555 on DL for his 55th birthday).

    What am I saying? I feel that the mindset developed on Cole Range and other training events carries over into toady. Is it enough to just rely on what I could do, obviously not but if I run a little further and lift a little heavier every day and use my previously acquired mindset to push through instead of quitting then just maybe the Gray Ghost will let me ride again.

  24. Ken permalink

    Hi John,
    Thank you for your blog. I’m one of those guys that let myself get old, fat, and out of shape. Posts like this one encourage me that maybe it’s not too late for even me to get my shit together. I just ordered Vol 1 of your book and also got a copy of “Convict Conditioning” that you recommended in one of your posts. I’m starting to work through that now, and can’t wait to start working on the drills in your book once it gets here.

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