I’ve been actively involved in improving myself for a pretty long time now, and I’ve learned plenty of life lessons along the way. Some I learned by making mistakes, others I learned by watching others make mistakes.
The beautiful thing about these lessons is that they apply to any discipline you’re trying to improve: fitness, health, game, your mind, emotional health, business, lifestyle, ANYTHING.
If you’re smart, you’ll remember these life lessons for yourself and learn from my experience. Some of them may not make any sense for you right now, but in a year or two they’ll be the most profound things you’ve ever read.
Regardless, I hope that you get the most out of these. Here’s the top life lessons that I’ve learned on this journey.
1. People Come and Go
This is perhaps one of the hardest life lessons to learn. As you begin to grow as a human being, you may be surrounded by people who stubbornly refuse to change.
You need to accept that you cannot make others change.
The first time that I encountered this lesson was on the phone with an Aunt of mine. She was in the navy for years, and then went on to compete as a bodybuilder; she’s a very disciplined and motivated woman to say the least.
I remember, crystal clear, what she said: “Not everyone wants to change. You have to come to peace with this.”
At the time this didn’t faze me all that much—it wasn’t until later that I fully understood the wisdom behind this advice. Somebody very close to me was a solid 60 pounds overweight, and despite what my Aunt told me, I tried to change him.
I tried everything—I told him about the risks of being overweight, I tried to educate him about eating healthy, I told him that he would feel amazing once he lost weight, his life would be easier, his sex life would improve, he would be more confident, blah, blah, blah.
And you know what he did? Nothing. You can’t make people change, plain and simple.
It was agonizing at first—I was angry that he wouldn’t change. Somebody that I cared about was slowly killing himself, and I could do nothing. All of my begging, pleading, and educating did nothing.
Some people simply don’t want to change. you need to accept this and move on—it is a part of life, and it is especially relevant to those of us on the path of self-improvement.
This doesn’t just apply to losing weight, however. It applies to everything. I know somebody who is extremely pessimistic. He sees the negative in everything.
And I know that he’s just making his life more difficult, so I try to point out the positive. And do you know what he does when I do this? He laughs at it, and turns it back into a negative. Some people just don’t want to change, and you need to leave them behind.
On your journey of self-development, you will have to leave many old friends behind. As you develop higher and higher consciousness, you’ll find that you can relate to less and less people.
But the good news is that while people go, they also come. You’ll find yourself making friends in high places, almost as if you magnetically attract them. This is because you attract what you are.
As you leave more and more people behind, try to replenish them with new friends.
Realize the impermanence of all things, including friendships, and accept that as you improve yourself you will likely have to leave old friend groups behind.
I remember the first friend group that I left behind—it was when I was 12 years old. I hung out with a group that was awkward, not physically fit, and negative. So I left them. Not out of anger or spite, but simply because I wanted something better.
I’ve since left behind numerous other people. The better and better that you become, the more boundaries that you’ll have to have.
What you used to accept in others, you’ll find yourself not putting up with anymore. You’ll start to develop firm boundaries that you didn’t have before.
Not everyone will want to adhere to your boundaries. They’ll get upset, they’ll talk shit behind your back, and they’ll mock you. This is fine. Again, the key here is that “People come and go.” This is one of the most important life lessons to internalize.
You will have to leave some people behind, and you’ll end up meeting some new people—it will be scary at times, sad at times, and fun at times. Do not let these emotions faze you. They’re impermanent, just like people. People come and go.
2. Follow Principles, Not Techniques
In any given field of development, whether it be with learning game, to enhancing your body, your intellect, your emotional life, or your career, there are a certain set of “universal principles,” that govern everything.
Techniques are petty—they may or may not work, and if you only know a technique, you can’t discover new techniques by yourself.
If you know principles, the techniques will come with ease. Every single technique can be classified under a certain principle.
Let me use an example to clarify this. Say that a girl you really like won’t stop flaking on you. What do you do?
Plenty of “experts” would tell you to “wait longer in between texts,” to “spike her emotions!” or maybe to “call her out on her bullshit!”—it’s all very conflicting advice, and none of it’s really true.
The correct thing to do would be to follow the principle: “Don’t be needy.”
Forget finding a technique, FIND ANOTHER GIRL. The root problem here is that you feel like you need her, but you don’t.
To use an example in weightlifting, let’s say that you’re trying to increase your bench press, because it’s only at 135. What might others tell you?
“Oh, dude drink a gallon of milk a day,” or “take this supplement,” or “try this crazy high/low/medium intensity workout routine!”—all of these are sort of true, but at the same time they’re not.
The correct thing to do would be to follow the principles of lifting, which I discuss in-depth in Body of an Alpha.
There could be a number of things that you’re doing wrong if you’re trying to get jacked, but it all comes down to following the basic principles of lifting. The principles never lie.
Regardless of the discipline, there are a large number of universal principles that apply to every single area of life. Here’s just a few:
- Don’t be needy
- Progressive overload
- Cover all of your bases
- Be the cause, not the effect
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
- Adapt to new situations
- Expect uncertainty
- Accept reality
- Take time to rejuvenate yourself
Now, if you’ll notice, some of the principles are paradoxical—they seem to be contradicting one another. Be proud, yet humble, be yourself, but strive to improve…it can all be very confusing at times.
For instance, “accept reality,” but “be the cause, not the effect,” may seem paradoxical. Doesn’t accepting reality for what it is mean that you’re at the effect, not the cause?
No, accepting reality for what it is means that you can better be a causal agent, because you know what you’re up against.
What about “take time to rejuvenate yourself,” and “progressive overload”? Isn’t that a contradiction?
No, you must rest enough so that you can go harder the next time around. Instead of thinking “I must get better every workout!” think “I must get better over the course of a year.”
There are a lot of paradoxical frames in self-development, such as having childlike optimism, but also seeing reality for what it is. Learning to balance these paradoxical frames is what separates the beginner from the master (if there is such a thing).
3. There Are Peaks and Troughs
In any discipline, whether it be game or business, there will be highs and lows. They may occur on a long scale, and they may occur on a short scale. I discuss this in depth, in my post on clawing your way to success (cycles of self-development).
You may have a “peak,” for just one day, or maybe for a month. And then, when you least expect it, maybe you’ll get stuck in a trough for half a year.
It’s all a part of the process—when these things happen, they happen for a reason.
Let me give an example to clarify: a while ago I was plateauing with game. I could get girls really attracted to me, but for some reason they just wouldn’t go home with me—it wasn’t because of their friends cock-blocking me, though. I couldn’t figure out why.
I was extremely frustrated—why was this happening? Why was I plateauing?
They were very attracted to me, as made clear by their IOIs (indicators of interest), but for some reason they just wouldn’t go home with me. Do you know why?
I didn’t know this at the time, but it was because I was very good at arousing their “primal” side, by being confident, assertive, and cocky, but I wasn’t paying enough attention to their “socially conditioned” side.
They were very attracted to me, but they couldn’t “justify” going home with me, because they barely knew who I was. I didn’t realize it, but I needed to completely shift my approach to meeting women.
So what did I do? I focused more on actually connecting with them—I talked to them about my passions and interests. I showed them who I really was, and do you know what happened?
I sky rocketed through the fucking plateau. All of a sudden I had more girls interested in me than I knew what to do with.
If I hadn’t ever plateaued, I would have never had to work on my emotional communication—in the short run, it sucked, but in the long run, it’s made me a better person.
The major lesson here is that plateaus happen for a reason. If you’re stuck, it’s your own damn fault.
When you plateau you’re often neglecting some sort of crucial aspect to whatever you doing—whether it be business, lifestyle design, fitness, or whatever.
But the thing to remember is that when you’re plateauing, more often than not you’re extremely close to breaking through it and far surpassing your former self.
You typically go through a “peak” after a long, difficult plateau. Once you learn the life lessons required to break through the plateau, you shoot to all-time highs.
When I realized that I had to show my “human” side to women more, I grew as a person. I became more in touch with my emotions, and was able to have many more relationships.
I was on a massive peak; a different girl every week. And then do you know what happened? Out of nowhere, I hit a trough. Suddenly, girls weren’t willing to come home with me. They’d blow me off and ignore me.
What the fuck? What happened? I went into a massive trough and had a huge dry spell—it wasn’t until later that I realized why.
I’d been showing them too much of my human side, and it came off as needy. I wasn’t paying enough attention to their “primal” side. Once I realized this, I came full circle, back to focusing a lot on making them attracted to me in a “primal” way, but not too much.
You’ll often see this “Hegelian Dialectic” type of thing in all areas of self-development.
It’s about finding a balance, and a lot of the time you have to go to each opposite end of the spectrum until you find the sweet spot.
The important thing to do is to realize that it is all fleeting—when you’re in a peak, enjoy it. When you’re in a plateau or trough, learn from it. The cycle will go on and on, and the sooner you learn how it works and come to accept it, the sooner you will evolve as a human being.
4. Immersion vs. Maintenance
Immersion is the concept of completely engaging in a certain activity for the sake of improving yourself. This is beneficial, because it allows you to focus all of your resources onto improving a single skill set.
Maintenance is the concept of doing just enough to “maintain” your current level of proficiency. This is beneficial, because it allows you to achieve a more balanced life and accomplish more than just one thing.
In order to be successful you need to do both. You must learn to oscillate between periods of balance and imbalance—periods of maintenance, and of immersion.
Take business, for instance. In order to become successful at business, you have to hustle day and night. This is the immersion phase.
Maybe you’re trying to start a blog (like me)—I chose to sacrifice other aspects of my life so that I could “immerse” myself in getting this blog up and running.
Immersion is crucial to get anywhere with anything, and without missing out on sleep and the gym, I wouldn’t have ever turned Masculine Development into a successful blog.
In fact, I’m still in an “immersion” period, albeit a less intense one—I’m grinding very hard, putting together an eBook, guest posting, and working on coding/designing my blog.
But do you know what’s going to happen in 4-6 months? Due to my long bout of hard work, I’m going to be able to “maintain” the blog and coast off of my success.
Maybe I’ll write 1-2 articles a week, or maybe I’ll just write 1 high quality post every week. And then when I’m in a maintenance phase, I can immerse myself in something else—say lifestyle development, meditation, or fitness.
Learning to balance these two phases is one of the most valuable life lessons out there; it will allow you to ascend to new heights, and conquer your dreams.
5. Different Areas of Your Life Are Complementary
Once you start developing yourself in all areas of your life, you’ll find that they all support one another. For instance, focusing on shredding fat and developing a lean physique will help improve your sex life. Girls love a man who is physically fit.
Working on your sex life will improve your emotional health—having intimate relationships with women will get you in touch with your emotional side, a side that most men are lacking in.
Improving your emotional life will improve your business life. As you find yourself perpetually relaxed and receptive to others’ feelings, you’ll find that communicating with potential business partners becomes easier and easier.
Every area of self development influences every other area. Your life is not separate—every decision you make in one area will slowly bleed into the others.
Being successful at business means that you have more money to spend on supplements and healthy food, which will improve your health. Your health, conversely, will give you the energy needed to hustle and get your business off the ground.
All areas of self-development are related. Do not neglect any of them. This is definitely one of the most crucial life lessons that I have ever learned. In fact, realizing this lesson is the start of an upward spiral to success.
Let’s use an example—say that you improve your health and fitness. This will give you the following benefits:
- Higher energy levels
- Stronger vitality
- Better testosterone levels
- More aggression and assertiveness
- Greater sex appeal
These improvements will then leak into the other areas of your life. You’ll have more women, because you’ll be more confident and attractive. You’ll have more financial success, because you have the physical vitality that you can apply to your business or your job.
You’ll have more emotional success, because your success in these other areas will boost your state. You’ll have more money, from your business success, which you can then put towards buying better food and attaining greater health.
You can afford to upgrade your fashion, maybe buying some cool jackets and some stylish watches, which will improve your sex life (women love a man with fashion). Do you see the point though?
As you become more and more successful in one area, it will bleed into other areas. This will create what is known as an upward spiral of success in self-development. This is the ultimate goal.
6. Let Go of Your Ego
The second that you view yourself as an infallible expert in any field, you’ve already lost. In fact, most of the guys that are actually experts don’t ever call themselves that (unless they’re just trying to communicate the fact that they’re knowledgeable about a certain area).
Have you ever heard Arnold Schwarzenegger brag about how he’s more knowledgeable about lifting than anyone else? Of course not. Even though he actually is, he only got there due to HUMILITY.
This is because the better that you get at something, the more you realize you have to learn. The more that you come to know, the more you realize that you don’t know.
Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago I was in the gym squatting 275lbs—I thought that I was hot shit. I had my form down, I’d been hitting the gym hard for a while, and I was reaping the rewards.
Then, the universe smacked me in the fucking face. I very quickly realized that I was not hot shit, and I that had a lot to learn.
I saw somebody else, let’s call him Nathan, squatting 675 lbs for 8 reps. He squatted twice the weight for twice the reps that I did. But you know what? It wasn’t even that that blew me away.
What blew me away was our conversation afterwards.
I complemented him on his form, and told him that he was pretty strong, and do you know what he did? He didn’t brag, he didn’t get all arrogant, he didn’t even say “thank you.”
He looked me dead in the eye and said “It’s not good enough. Arnold squatted 750 for 10 reps.”
I was completely blown away. Even this man, with all of his strength, was humble enough to admit that others were greater than him.
Ever since then I’ve never thought of myself as hot shit—in ANY area of my life. When you become attached to the idea of “I’m the shit,” it prevents you from seeing things clearly. Your ego holds you back, in ways that you can’t even imagine.
You ignore valuable input that others contribute, because you view yourself as better than them. You stop yourself from growing and learning as a human being, all because you’re too damn stubborn to admit that you’re wrong.
It’s not a coincidence that some of the cockiest people in the world are actually incredibly unsuccessful. One of the most arrogant people that I’ve ever met was a lawyer pulling home a very nice salary, but do you know what?
His own son hated him, his wife divorced him, he was extremely overweight, and behind his “I’m a successful lawyer,” facade, you could see in his eyes that he was absolutely miserable. But, he was too arrogant to accept his wrongdoings, so he kept down the path of despair.
Don’t do this. It’s petty, it’s childish, and it’s fucking foolish. Accept the fact that you can always improve yourself, no matter how good you get.
Out of all the life lessons in this article, learning to be humble is perhaps the most important one of them all. Without it, you won’t get very far, take my word for it.
I hope that you take these life lessons to heart—I know that if I did a decade ago, I would be much farther than I am now. It’s important to always gleam knowledge from men who have been where you want to be.
So learn from my mistakes. Learn from this article, learn from other people, learn from great books, and learn from yourself—draw water from all sources, my friends.
I hope you guys enjoyed the article. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave them below in the comments section. I’ll see you next time; this is Jon signing out.