I am not a self-driven man.  I do not have it in me to keep going with something just because it is good or good for me.  I must see some results or some reward.  If there is nothing in it for me I have a hard time staying committed to anything for any length of time.  This is a shortcoming for sure, a measure of my falleness.  But over time I’ve learned to sidestep this shortcoming to gain advantage for my own benefit as well as for those people around me.

This week marks 1 year from the time I started The Strenuous Life https://strenuouslife.co   For years I had longed to be apart of a brotherhood/fraternity of sorts.  I had previously been a part of at least 4 local, cultural, and spiritual movements that impacted my life in significant ways which helped form my worldview.  As cultural and religious institutions steadily slide into over-civilization—seeking acclaim via gentrification—the result has left many men disenfranchised, empty, and wandering without any purpose except live to work, work to live for a mechanized and darwinistic lifestyle whose highest aim is to achieve comfort and ease, i.e. to get out of work.  And in so doing, the great joke on mankind is that after-hours the gyms are full of people straining and sweating because they realize the physicality is lacking in their life

My first hint that there was a different approach was when I read one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches.

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.

It’s no secret that the older you get the harder it is to make new friends, and even keep in touch with old ones, especially if you are a guy.  It seems that women are light years ahead of men when it comes to community and friendship. In an effort to help they encourage us to have heart to heart talks, share how we feel about things, go to social events, be a nice guy, and say nice encouraging things to people (it’s interesting to note that the word nice is evolved from the french word for idiot).  They mean well, but its not really how most guys connect.  And the few that do connect that way flock to the many of those social institutions that operate that way.  But what about the rest of us?  

There is no church that emphasizes health/fitness as much as prayer, or work as much as worship, or recognizing hunters as the ones leading the wilderness conservation movement in creation care.  And yet work, health, and caring for creation are essential for the Christian.  The few times I viewed demographic questionnaires, not one question had to do with male attendance, but plenty about minorities.  

When I joined TSL I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had tried to start a Brotherhood of Manliness at least twice, but to no avail.  But here I found a group of likeminded guys wanting to connect with other men striving together to find and fulfill their masculinity in everyday modern life.  

It’s mostly and online platform, but we have a Louisiana chapter and I’ve gathered with several guys on three occasions.  Being like-minded we immediately had lots to discuss as we rucked around parks carrying loaded backpacks.  We made plans to work on the Fighters badge, the Sharpshooter, the Orator, the Microadventure, Gentleman Scholar, and Roughrider.

On my own, I worked on the Lumberjack, where I had to restore an heirloom felling axe.  I also tried to work on Pater Familias, but I got bogged down trying to arrange 8 consecutive weekly family meetings—its like pulling teeth to do that.  I learned how to tell time using the Big Dipper and the North Star, break out of zip-ties, and pick a deadbolt lock using paperclips.

More significantly, this has enabled me to establish a morning and evening routine.  For years I’ve been plagued with staying up too late, and getting up only 5 min before I have to leave the house for work.  Now, I rise about 90 min before I have to leave, then I have scriptural journaling, and prayer.  And I tail-end my day with an activity/gratefulness journal.  I can’t tell you how mush this has impacted my life.  When you begin and end your day on point it makes all the difference in the world.  

Along with that, I’ve started getting regular physical exercise.  Currently I’m on a 160+ day streak.  This has become even more motivation since discovering Bang Muay Thai at Performance Evolution.  I found that focusing my energies on a daily regimen of physical exercise has had other unintended positive attributes.  I find that I struggle a lot less with my thought life and finding overall motivation.  I find that after exercising my mind feels fresh and clear.  This is increasingly important in an age of increasingly hostile business partners who only look out for their own interest, and don’t seem to be happy unless you get the short end of the stick.  

The overarching theme of The Strenuous Life is choosing action over abstraction, embracing the idea that hard things are a necessary and beneficial part of life, not to be shunned, and in some cases to be desired and sought out.  The fulfillment of work is to be found in the act of work itself.

The greater joy is that it’s not just for you, but for those around you–as you become more involved and active you’ll find the black dog of depression absent a lot more.  You’ll find laziness a lot less often.  You’ll strive to be proactive rather than reactive as you make plans and go for them.  You’ll find that you have more time than you need when you cut out the soul sapping distractions and pointless/mindless pursuits of media and entertainment, vegging out, Netflix binging, the endless scroll of Facebook and Twitter.

You’ll become a better father, husband, friend, neighbor, son, or uncle with being more involved and proactive in the world.  If you’re like me, you need some inspiration, some reward, some consequence, a kick in the pants to encourage you, to get you moving.  Some structure or plan to follow, even if you adapt it to your own style.  That’s the only way I know how to get it done

My goals are to keep living the strenuous life and to find and encourage other likeminded men.  Any gospel that doesn’t embrace this idea is a different gospel than that of the New Testament as taught by Jesus and the Disciples—and that may be why Church membership is less only 30% male on national average.  TSL offers one way for men to seek this out.  It’s not intended to supplant any other relationship or institution, but to supplement them.  If you find yourself struggling in any of the areas I’ve mentioned or something related then this may be for you.