Sunday, April 9, 2017


One of my dedicated readers remarked that, in my writing, I tend to walk a fine line between stoicism and nihilism.  With my previous work being an affirmation of nihilism, allow me to use this as a refutation of stoicism, in hopes of further tipping the balance.  Stoicism can be a noble philosophy, this is true.  It’s premised around the notion that the universe it outside of our control, but what we CAN control is our reaction to the things outside of our control.  In turn, stoicism tends to breed a mentality of quiet reservation and a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity.  And this reaction is guaranteed to keep you weaker.

Image result for The Hulk turning into bruce banner

If Bruce Banner was a stoic, no one would care about him

Nietzsche critiqued stoicism as “life-denying” philosophy; it worked against our basic nature, and engaging in it would result in the decline of humanity, not the evolution of it.  Why is this?  Why would the mastery of our emotions result in negative growth rather than positive?  Because our emotions provide us the necessary fuel to serve as a catalyst for growth.  Our emotions call us to action, and that action is what creates progress.

Discontent is what spurs us to act and seek self-improvement.  When we fail in our endeavors, we feel the disappointment, self-loathing and rage that forces us to train harder, longer and better.  When we do not meet the expectations we set for ourselves, we grow furious and we correct ourselves.  When, after following a perfect training cycle and the stars line up and everything went as well as possible and we STILL only take second place, we grow livid, go to a dark place in the corner of our mind and become something greater than we are.

Image result for second place meme

The stoics of this world are simply good losers, which is to say, bad winners.  They are satisfied with a job well done, knowing that they tried their hardest and that is all they can do.  And they never take first place.  They get beat by the narcissist, whose self-absorption holds no one else’s joy above their own.  They get beat by the misanthrope, whose outright hatred of humanity inspires him to grow to something “beyond.”  They get beat by the ascetic, who understands that life is pain and pursues hardship to become better, NOT to ignore it.  They get beat by ANYONE who has embraced any sort of philosophy that allows for disappointment, fear and rage to exist.

Stoicism becomes the philosophy of cowards; they don’t want to experience these “negative” emotions, so they decide that they’re simply not going to react in the presence of appropriate stimuli.  These are the people that refuse to engage in any activity which may result in feeling these emotions.  They will not train hard, because that might cause an injury, which would cause pain and regret.  They will not compete, because that might result in losing, which would cause disappointment and doubt.  They recant the trite mantra of “God, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”, because they have no hope of finding this strength inside of themselves.

Image result for crom laughs

You could pick a worse god

This is why I tell you: pray for weakness.  Pray for defeat.  Pray to be crushed, beaten, destroyed, humiliated and ruined.  Pray that whatever deity you pray to will give you an opportunity to feel the emotions necessary to call you to greatness.  The people praying for strength are readily admitting their weakness; the people praying for weakness are simply seeking more adversity to overcome.  It is through overcoming that we grow, adapt, and get stronger.  This was Nietzsche’s Will to Power; the will to continue seeking out greater and greater challenges to assert out power over.

Success makes us soft; failure is what drives us to overcome.  When we succeed, we find ourselves lost. Where do we go from here?  What’s the next way forward?  But when we fail?  We know exactly how and where we have failed and what we must do to overcome.  I have said before; nothing is more anabolic than second place.  Standing on the podium and basking in the glory with a gold medal gives you a sigh of relief, while standing there with silver just provides you a voracious appetite.  To be so close and still fail results in harder training and better results, because we allow ourselves to feel the regret of failure and let it drive us to do what it takes to succeed.  We don’t embrace stoicism and accept our defeat with quiet dignity; we throw a righteous tantrum, burn every bridge, salt the earth and leave nothing but destruction in our wake.

Image result for mariusz pudzianowski 2007 WSM
No joke; if you never got to watch the year that Mariusz went Super Saiyan, you missed out

Pray that you have the opportunity to experience such weakness.  Pray that you aren’t so dead on the inside that you can’t even bring yourself to be upset at your failures.  Pray that, when you experience defeat, it drives you to achieve an even greater victory.  Don’t deny your life providing instincts; embrace them!  Embrace the red hot fiery passion to be something GREATER in the face of something less.  Don’t let stoicism convince you that being ok with failure is as noble as victory; know that the feelings associated with failure are necessary to achieve the glory of victory.


  1. Interesting post. I feel like there can be a fine line between being selfish and passionate about wanting to win and being an obnoxious asshole, though.

    You're definitely on point about many people who pretend not to care, are just afraid of failure, so they never really try very hard or put themselves out there just because trying and failing is worse to them than never trying at all.

    However, I feel like I've played WAY too many team sports where some asshole was completely delusional about not only his own abilities, but also the actual weight of the game at hand. Talking a guy out of getting in a fight at a rec league 3 on 3 basketball game doesn't show me how dedicated and driven he is to be the best, it shows me he's an immature man-child with out control of his emotions.

    I'm curious at to how you look at the yin and yang of these types of people.

    1. I definitely agree with you that there is a fine line. The big thing I'm emphasizing here isn't about how one ACTS but about how one feels. Both feel the same emotion, but one does not understand how to effectively utilize these emotions to channel them into progress. In the case of the person acting obnoxiously, we witness exactly what I am arguing against; someone who doesn't WANT to feel this shame of defeat, and so they try as hard as possible to avoid it, to the point of being absurdly over competitive in a non-competitive environment.

      My hope is not for a person who so resents the feeling of failure that they do everything they can IN THAT MOMENT to avoid it, but instead one who, when the experience the sensation of failure, uses it to compel them to do the things to never feel that feeling ever again. Someone that drives themselves hard to the point of becoming something greater in totality, rather than simply the victor of that day.

      Hopefully that clarifies my position. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Will here, first post of yours that I entirely disagree with and I'm down for some hearty argument if you are.

    First, there are a TON of success stories in mainstream sports by self-proclaimed stoics. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have more or less single-handedly popularized the approach to professional sports.

    Note that I identified them as "self-proclaimed." I think there is plenty of room for disagreement about what stoicism is and how pure its 21st century version is to its roots, and at what point something becomes so modernized that it actually becomes something else. That will be a down in the weeds "Zen & Motorcycle Maintenance" quality kind of discussion. There have been some interesting recent pieces written on it, though this again could be the difference in OG stoicism vs. 21st century stoicism.

    Then there's obviously the question of what qualifies as results and how mainstream sport does or does not apply to strength sports. Is one gold medal when your narcissism stars align better than 10 silvers by the stoic? What IS the value of performing in amateur strongman?

    I think your conclusions of how stoicism would prevent one from training or competing are completely unsupported by the philosophy. I'd be curious to knw what you've read or seen that would give you the idea that stoics would ignore or avoid pain or hardship--that, to me, runs 100% counter to the entire philosophy. It's not about avoiding events, it's about minimizing "unproductive emotions." You yourself exhibited this in your injury rehab. Stoicism would take the same "control what you can control" answer for injuries, losing, or any other potentially negative event, and that would absolutely not include avoidance of adverse events to avoid provoking negative emotions. Part of stoicism IS actually meditating on profoundly negative hypothetical events to inure oneself to the emotional effect, ultimately labeling uncontrollable events as "preferred or dispreferred indifferents."

    Section 3 here:

    If you're interested, I have an academic research article in PDF that I could email you, "The Ideal of the Stoic Sportsman" by Stephens and Feezell, that evaluates many misconceptions of stoicism and how they do/do not apply to the sporting context.

    1. Hey man, sorry for the delay. Life has been busy.

      I think the fundamental crux of our disagreement here comes from perspective. You've proposed your statements from the perspective of how to be an effective stoic athlete, and I'm certain that is true (you've provided more than enough evidence of that), but my writing is rarely about being a superior athlete. As you've witnessed in my training and performance, I tend to not do the things that would be best for being the best athlete (I have no coach, my technique is poor, I don't have any stones, and essentially don't do what it takes to become the best strongman I can be). My writings, here and otherwise, are simply about getting bigger and stronger in totality. I like athletics because it gives me a way to get bigger and stronger (striving to meet the challenges of other competitors), but rarely is what I do vectored towards being the best athlete IN my sport.

      Regarding the source of my critique on stoicism; it stems primarily from Nietzsche's critique presented in "Beyond Good and Evil" and "The Will to Power", specifically on it's premise of an "anti-life philosophy." Stoicism is a noble philosophy, but it will have it's flaws like every philosophy, and it is subject to abuse. In general, I shy away from the notion of adopting A philosophy, as it tends to be limiting, and it's why I felt the need to refute something that I'm a big fan of; in order to understand it's own limitations.

      I believe I misrepresented myself in my writing though. I am not saying a stoic would avoid pain or hardship; quite the opposite in fact. A stoic would be inclined to seek out these experiences often, in order to better improve upon their stoicism. My critique is that stoics seek to avoid the FEELINGS that come with these experiences. They seek self mastery as a means of self defense against pain, hardship and toil. They learn to master their emotions and choose how to feel in regards to a situation, which is admirable but life denying. It precludes one from experiencing being "Human, all too human".

      It's actually interesting you felt that I exhibited stoicism in my rehab, as I honestly felt the opposite. Through out my recovery, I experienced a considerable amount of rage. It was overflowing and spilling out into my life, despite my best efforts to control it. From what I could tell, I simply didn't have the outlet necessary for these emotions that I once had in lifting. After a while, instead of fighting it, I just chose to embrace it.

      I have a lot of respect for stoicism as a philosophy, and I think a lot more people should stand to exercise some stoicism in their lives. However, a life of purely stoicism is one that is missing out, and that's what I hoped to convey here.

      Hope that clears things up. Thanks for the post dude!

    2. Good stuff. I'll admit I have not read much Nietzshce.

      I think I misunderstood some of your writing around your injury. It seemed you often wrote about controlling what you could control, but now I'm realizing that was more from a physical perspective--eg. training around it--and less from a mental perspective.

      This all makes sense looking at it from a refutation of stoicism as THE only way to be. That I get--only a sith deals in absolutes and all that. It's less fun to fight about though :(

    3. Thanks dude. Nietzsche is nice to pick up and read, since he uses primarily aphorisms.

      Regarding the injury; it was a mixed thing really. I controlled what I could physically, and I made peace with the fact I was injured, but I would still go through all sorts of emotions through out. I figured out it was basically a result of not being able to train deadlifts, or anything where I could really strain and just kind of leave all those emotions out there. Once I could do the heavy seated good mornings, my emotions got back under control.

      And moderation is totally lame to fight about, haha. But yeah, glad we could discuss. I'll inevitably end up refuting nihilism too at some point, although I've already dabbled somewhat discussing the difference between positive and negative nihilism. Extreme moderation at work.