90 days ago I committed to the Exodus apostolate with two Christian friends:

  • no alcohol
  • heavy lifting and exercise throughout the week (I do Stronglifts 5×5 and Jiu Jitsu)
  • daily Rosary
  • daily prayer with family
  • no social media, internet, etc. (except for work/research/writing)
  • no TV or movies
  • no sugar or sweets
  • cold showers only
  • regular confession
  • Bible reading (focused on book of Exodus)
  • no meat on Wednesdays and Fridays

This experience is an exercise in saying “no” to myself throughout the day: “You want that? Sorry. No. Now go do something else.” I now see how important it is for a man to deny himself repeatedly. A powerful transformation erupts from within the soul.

As of writing this I’m on day 92 and I already miss it. I still haven’t had alcohol and during my hot shower this morning, I said, “Forget this,” and turned it to full cold. The 90 days have changed my preferences and the way I think. Here are 9 things I learned about myself:

  1. Previously, I sabotaged my life with distraction. Before Exodus, I felt stress and turned to crutches. A scotch. Check Facebook for validation. Check stock market for validation. Check Twitter for validation. On Exodus, you are forced more frequently to deal with your problems and difficult tasks. I like the less-distracted version of Taylor Marshall.
  2. I now value my physical body more than ever. By eating clean, sleeping deeply, not drinking alcohol, and lifting weights and doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu regularly, I have become a new man. My wife likes the new look. Less stomach. My body fat percentage went down by 4% without desserts and alcohol. More chest and shoulders. For the first time in my life, I can bench press 300 pounds. My posture is better. Less soreness and less mystery pains. Less Advil. Better sleep. As I get close to 40, this path of health and strength is the one that I want to walk down.
  3. I care less because I’ve become more Stoic. I mean this in a good way. By being divorced from TV, radio, and media, I lost attachment to politics, the World Series (and I love baseball), and films. About 60 days into Exodus 90 something happened in my psyche where I realized that I do not require a big house, a 401K, or another trip to Europe. Who I am and what makes me happy is internal to the core. Life is short and I want to live it well. It’s an internal discovery.
  4. Silence is good. I love silence. I like being alone with my thoughts. I don’t want to hear a lot of music and opinions about what’s going on. I’m not as afraid of memories or fears about the future. My thoughts within silence can be managed.
  5. Other people can’t make me happy. Trump/Hillary can’t make you happy. The Pope can’t make you happy. We shouldn’t even rely on our parents, family, spouse, or children for our happiness. Happiness is a decision. Saint Paul talks about this. The Stoics understood it. If you think that other people can/will/ought to make you happy, then you will resent them and grow bitter toward them. God can make you happy, but without the beatific vision in heaven, this is difficult to experience. So instead, make happiness an act of the will, with the help of God’s grace. Don’t tie your happiness to another person.
  6. Do things for the sake of doing things right or correctly. Do things right because you are a man that does things right. Write out a list, and make it neat. Clean up your mess, because you’re not messy. Laugh and smile because you are a happy person. Don’t look for a reward from someone else. Don’t say, “Honey, look I loaded the dishwasher.” Just do it for the sake of being a man that does things well. You don’t need anyone to validate your actions in order to make them count for something. Earlier in life, I wanted my parents, my friends, my wife, et al. to happily comment on what I did before I accepted it as good. During Exodus, something clicked. I don’t want to look for external validation anymore.
  7. Outcome independence. So much anxiety is based on my anticipation of an outcome. Will my second novel be a best-seller like the first one? Will all my kids grow up to be Christians? What if my portfolio tanks? What if I die young? Part of being a man, is just pushing away these fearful questions because the exact answer cannot be known. But an even more powerful strategy is to say, “Yeah, so if that happens, I’ll deal with it by God’s grace” and then hang up the receiver. This goes back to “being more Stoic.” I’ll do everything I can to make the book a best-seller. If it’s not, that’s fine. I published the book to communicate a story and a vision and that’s that. I find validation from God and from within my own soul.
  8. Getting stuff done takes away depression and temptation. I’ve always been a go-getter entrepreneurial man. I think new ideas. I make giant bullet point lists and then start checking them off. If you’re tempted to be depressed or self-loathing, just start slaying stuff that needs to be done. Check off 10 to-do items at work. Go lift weights at the gym. Mow the lawn. Get after it. Don’t live in a fantasy. Invest in reality.
  9. Discipline is Freedom. Jocko Willink says this and Cameron Hanes says something similar. If you feel like a slave, it’s because you need more asceticism. Do you feel like a slave at work? at home? under your spouse? to your kids? Get disciplined:
    1. Read that Bible
    2. Lift those weights
    3. Show up at class or martial arts consistently
    4. Write that book
    5. Start that business
    6. End or Begin that relationship
    7. Correct your finances
    8. Pray daily
    9. Stop doing stupid things to pacify your pain or fear

You don’t have to go through Exodus 90 to experience these things. I think great men over the ages have experienced these epiphanies in a number of ways. If you want to get in touch with these ideas, pick one and practice it. Even better, go through Exodus 90 with some close friends.

Here’s the link to Exodus 90 so that you can get started: Exodus 90.

Comments: Where do you struggle and what life-events have been eye-opening epiphanies for making you into the man that you are. I look forward to engaging your comments.