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Cycles of Self-Development (Clawing Your Way to Success)


masculine development success

Today is my birthday. As I look back on the past five years of self-development, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

I’ve crawled my way out of the dirt. I’ve begged, borrowed, and stolen—I’ve clawed my way to success, and every single ounce of effort that I’ve exerted has been nothing, but worth it.

I would like to share some advice with the men who are currently where I was several years ago. I know that it can be very difficult to get some momentum, when you don’t have the knowledge or lifestyle that you need, so here’s my attempt at helping you out.

Sometimes just sucking it up and taking action is what’s needed, but a lot of people don’t realize that even just getting out of bed can be hard for some people. When you’re broke, alone, and miserable, it can be hard to just find the energy to improve your life.


Go Easy On Yourself

One of the things that I had going for me was that I never browbeat myself. Sure, there were times that I got angry at myself; there were plenty of times where I felt sorry for myself, where I talked down to myself, and where I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

But do you know what? This is pointless. Talk to yourself like you’re your most cherished friend, because you are.

It doesn’t do any good to give yourself shit. Maybe you’ve been trying to work on your sex-life recently, and you went on a date that was super awkward. You had no idea what to say, how to act, or what to do.  Okay, so what? At least you’re trying to improve your life, dude!

Or maybe you’re really skinny, and you’re trying really hard to put on some muscle, but it’s taking forever. Okay? So what? You made a decision to improve your body and become a better version of yourself, which automatically puts you in the top 5% of men.

Realize that it’s the DECISION, not the RESULTS that put you in the top 5% of men.

Just the fact that you’ve made the decision to improve is already leaps and bounds ahead of most men. Do you know how many men just sit around all day, living mediocre lives, doing nothing? So many! And do you know how many of them stubbornly refuse to change? Almost all of them.

Don’t be upset because you aren’t where you want to be yet. Just decide where you’re going to be, and you’ll get there. It just takes time, my friend. It doesn’t matter if it takes a month, a year, or a decade—you’ll get there, just don’t give up.


Persistence is Key

If I gave up after a major failure or major embarrassment, I’d have given up years ago. When you decide to embark on the journey of self-development, you will make mistakes. Mark my words, you will make mistakes.

You’ll get smacked in the face by girls at the club because you made a joke that she thought was offensive. You’ll have friends that think you’re weird for trying to learn game and improve your sex life. You’ll have cheaters and liars try to take advantage of your newfound wealth.

Sometimes, you’ll experience setbacks. Sometimes you’ll get stuck in a rut. Hell, just recently I was stuck in a rut—for at least a week, I sat around and did nothing but do inner work. I did nothing but let go of negative emotions for a whole week straight (that’s why the last few posts have been about letting go of fear and negativity).

Was I angry? Fuck yes! Masculine Development has been taking off, getting thousands of views a day, and I was too emotionally crippled to write new posts or focus on improving the blog. I was extremely angry!

But once I accepted my anger, fear, and guilt, I realized that this setback happened for a reason. Paradoxically, by taking time off and focusing on your inner life, you come back stronger, and your outer life flourishes.

Every single setback has happened for a reason. Whether it be with your relationships, your health, your business, or your emotions, every single setback happens for a reason.


Cycles Within Self-Development

As you go down this path of self-improvement, you’ll find that you go through various cycles. This isn’t just me speaking, either—a lot of really successful guys have noticed the same. Life tends to happen in waves; there’s the peak, and the trough.

When you’re in a peak, you’re there for a reason—and when you’re in a trough, you’re there for a reason. These peaks and troughs are applicable to every single aspect of self-development, not just business.

Often times, you reach a peak, because you’ve shattered your last paradigm. You’ve learned to look at the world in a whole new way and function on an entirely different level. Then, other times, you get stuck in troughs.

When you get stuck in troughs, the thing to remember is this: you’re here for a reason. You’re stuck in a trough, because there’s some critical lesson that you haven’t learned. Again, whether it be a trough in finances, health, relationships, or spirituality, when you experience a trough, you’re there for a reason!


Cycles in Fitness

Right now, I’m going through a trough in fitness. For a long time, I was on a peak. I’d found the perfect routine, I’d mastered my diet, and I was shredded as hell. In fact, I was even preparing for a photoshoot to launch my newest eBook (Body of an Alpha).

But right before the photoshoot, I started to notice something—chronic muscular pains I thought I’d gotten rid of kept creeping up. My body kept getting more sore than usual, and I couldn’t figure out why.

A month before the photoshoot, my erector spinae (a muscle in your back) and IT band (a muscle in your leg) were so sore that I could barely sleep. I ignored the pain and plowed through it, because I wanted to be jacked for my photoshoot.

I was very jacked, but the pain was killing me—now, a few months later, I’ve barely been able to lift. This was the transition from a peak to a trough. For a while, I was angry as fuck. I saw my muscles slowly deflate, and it was agonizing.

But, eventually I realized, I’m experiencing this trough for a reason: I hadn’t spent enough time stretching and doing myofascial release on my muscles.

In other words, I reached the peak for a reason: I got my workout routine and diet down pat. But I couldn’t sustain it, because I hadn’t fully grasped the rules of recovery. This led me down into a trough.

Now, I have to focus a lot of time on stretching, getting massages, and doing physical therapy, because I neglected the recovery aspect of bodybuilding before. But, do you know what? Once I blast through this trough, my peak will be even higher next time around.

This is how peaks and troughs work: they get progressively higher as you remember and integrate the lessons that the previous ones taught you.


Cycles in Game

There’s a reason why I’m so passionate about game: it trains you to blast through peaks and troughs faster than literally any other hobby or activity that you could do. Game is literally self-development at its finest.

Why? Because you get IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK. If you’re fucking something up, you will know. A woman will look at you weird, she’ll walk away from you, she’ll ignore you, or she’ll use you. And if you’re doing something right, she’ll fuck you and want to be in a relationship with you.

It’s really that simple. Due to women giving you immediate feedback, game forces you to accept reality very quickly.

That’s why so many guys hate it. They live in this delusion of “I’m the shit and women love me,” and going out to a club proves otherwise. They literally can’t take the rejection, because it’s such an immediate piece of feedback that they’re delusional. But, if you stick with it? Holy shit, it will change you into a better man. Let me give you an example.

For a long time, I was getting pretty good results with women. It was all casual sex, none of it was being in a relationship, but the results were pretty good. Then, as I started to write more about game on Masculine Development, I started to develop an ego.

“I’m the pickup guy,” I thought. I started to develop an inflated sense of self. “I can get like any girl I want, easy,” I thought. My ego was fueled by my success, and I hit a peak; but it didn’t last long. Suddenly, I noticed that my game went to shit.

Even the slightest rejection offended me. Some girl would ignore me or give me a shit test, and I would get pissed off that she would even do such a thing. “Do you even know who I am?” I’d think. Being so emotionally linked to a woman’s opinion of me was horrible.

It was horrible, because my identity got caught up with my results in game. I had hit the trough.

It sucked. I wasn’t getting any girls, no matter how hard I tried, and the rejection felt worse and worse. I’d go out and get rejected for five hours straight, for WEEKS! Until I finally realized what was going on.

“I care way too much about my image.” I realized that I cared way too much about being “that guy,” or “the pickup guy.” Then, I proceeded to let go. I realized that it didn’t really matter if I got rejected or not, because I’m confident in myself.

It doesn’t matter if a woman hates me or loves me, because I’m cool as I am. I don’t need anyone else’s validation.

And like that, I broke through the trough I was in. I started experiencing a whole new level of success with women, because I stopped giving a fuck about my success (paradoxically enough).


Cycles in Business

A lot of guys experience cycles in their financial lives, and it typically looks something like this:

They start off in a trough, as their business first gets off the ground. Maybe the first few months are tough, maybe they don’t have many customers at first. Eventually, things start to pick up.

They start to move out of the trough and into a peak. Things are going great! They’re making a bunch of money, they have new clients contacting them every day, and their business is thriving. Then, however, something happens.

They start to realize that they need to change their infrastructure; things that worked for a smaller business, and even things that worked quite well, aren’t very practical on a large scale business. They have to go back and change EVERYTHING.

Think of it like this. Say that we have a jet, and there’s a bunch of holes in it. They’re not very big; some of them are the size of quarters, some the size of dimes, and some the size of a needle tip.

As the plane starts to get going, the holes don’t matter. The plane is cruising along at 100mph, and doesn’t notice anything. But then, as the plane starts reaching speeds of 500mph, the holes start to cause problems.

In other words, as the business starts to grow and thrive more, small issues that didn’t matter before now become very apparent and have to be repaired. So, we repair some of the holes on our jet. We take some time to re-think the infrastructure of our business. This is the trough.

Then, we blast through to a new peak! Our business becomes moderately successful netting us $1.5 million a year. Our jet starts taking off at 3,000mph! It’s blazing through the sky, and for a while, things go really well.

But, again, some of those smaller holes start to cause problems—they didn’t before, but now that we’re operating at such a high level, they cause issues.

So, we have to make some changes to the business AGAIN. We have to find a private server to support high levels of traffic, maybe we have to find and integrate a call center, or change our supply chain. We have to repair the dime-sized holes in our plane. This is the trough.

Then, after we learn the lessons and make the changes that we needed to, we can blast through to a radically different peak. The business is earning $35 million a year! Our jet is going supersonic, at the speed of Mach 5.

But again, the needle sized holes that weren’t an issue before now become an issue. Do you see the point?

As your business becomes more and more successful, whether it be a blog, a franchise, or a drop-shipping company, you need to periodically readjust in order to take on new challenges and conquer new heights.


Your Life Sucks For a Reason

Now, if we apply the same principles to your LIFE, we’ll find that whether you’re in a peak or a trough, it’s for a reason. If you’re trying to climb your way out of the dirt, you’re in the dirt for a reason.

You’re there, because either you, or the people who came before you, didn’t learn the lessons that they needed to learn. Maybe they hadn’t overcome emotional obstacles and personal problems, so they weren’t able to raise you in the right way. Maybe you made some dumb financial decisions and now you’re stuck with nothing.

Either way, it’s up to you to learn the lessons that your life is trying to teach you, and to move on. Take this as an opportunity.

If you told me five years ago, that I’d be thankful for all of the shit I had to go through, I would’ve thought that you were crazy. Now, not so much. As crazy as this may sound, I’m actually thankful for my horrible childhood, because it forced me to grow in ways that others don’t.

If I had never experienced the pain and suffering that I did as a child, I would have never developed the will and force of personality that I have today. Think about it like this: every time you reach a new peak, you do so, because you learned lessons from a trough.

In other words, every world-paradigm that you leave behind teaches you something. So, in a way, I know a lot more than someone who was simply born into success, because I’ve had to go through the process of growing and learning to get it.

This is your gift. You’ve been given an opportunity to prove yourself. You’ve been given an opportunity to transcend your previous limits. In the worlds of the immortal Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Pain is your privilege.”

Pain is an opportunity to learn the lessons that you need to learn and reach a new peak. Pain is a chance for you to realize what went wrong, and to learn and grow from. it. Pain is what makes you into who you are.

Have you ever met someone who’s never experienced a lot of hardship in their life? I know that I have, and without a doubt, they’re always boring as fuck. They have no substance, no real soul or character. They were never forced to develop it.

You’re different. If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re not where you want to be. Make the choice to accept your reality, learn from it, and transcend it. I’ve shown you the way, now it’s up to you to head down the path.



As I’ve been going through a lot of inner-work over the past month or two, I’ve been writing way more on this type of stuff. If you guys like it, let me know so that I can write more.

All in all, every way of viewing the world is valuable; whether you view your situation as hopeless or pointless, when you gain the courage to move beyond this worldview, you’ll bring the lessons that you learned from it with you.

Success is a fairly simple, repeatable, and learnable formula. It really comes down to this:

  1. Accept where you are.
  2. Understand why you’re there.
  3. Learn the lessons that you need to learn.
  4. Move on.

I hope that you guys enjoyed this article. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, be sure to leave a comment below…and as always, I’ll see you next time.

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Jesse Rodriguez
3 years ago

Hi Jon, been ready your blog for several weeks now. Question: should u focus to monetize a skill/passion? For me, i want to be a pro fighter

6 years ago

i really like this article and i understand what you mean by an ego death, sometimes your ego gets ahead of you…

Ray Kingsman
7 years ago

Yo Jon, Great post dude.

You are 100% right. At the end of the day, it is on you to change and improve your situation whether it is to get laid, make money, lose weight, put on muscle. Whatever….

And it goes inn cycles. I am experiencing a productivity cycle right now. I feel like I am crushing but I am bound to run into problems along the way. You deal with them, get knocked down a couple times and keep moving forward.

Very insightful thought in this post.



7 years ago

Jon, I forget how I found your site a few months ago, but everytime I come back you have something that I find insightful. This article is no exception and is deeply relevant to my current state of masculine development and life overall.

Keep writing about what interests you. I realized the only way I can claw myself out of where I am is taking a “reverse-salami slicing approach” so your varied range of topics is not only useful, but very welcome.


7 years ago

Great post, the self development cycle graph really struck me since I’ve being in a trough recently and I lost hope for a while, I’m slowly rebuilding positive habits and focusing solemnly on self improvement. I hope to reach a higher peak this time, I was convinced before that I would never reach the peak I had before in Jan 2016, now I’m convinced I can surpass that. I’m convinced it’s impossible to go back to living a mediocre life once you have lived the self improvement lifestyle and benefited from its results.

7 years ago

This post is only what I need before the university resumes tomorrow. Thank you for this Jon, I am following you since I saw you contributing to Return of Kings. I have been through a lot of neuroses and shit but I really like what you said about ego, that you shouldn’t let your ego define yourself. Keep this kind of posts and always wishing you the best.

7 years ago

Great read Jon! It’s true about the journey that many of us have no patience. We just want results. Right now I’m trying to save up and it’s really hard because of constant temptations but I hope that articles like these help me preserve and get me where I want.

Keep on doing this, you’re such an inspiration to many( I don’t know if you know that Hehe)

7 years ago

Great article. In my opinion, and my own life experience (and I suspect I’m older than you) you are right on target. Too few males these days seem to want to go through the “pain” and risk of self-development…or even recognize that they have to. Keep up the good work Jon. We need this.


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After dropping out of college to pursue my dreams, I started this blog as a way to help other men do the same.

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