There’s a time for rest and a time to act. When it’s time to act, we need to do it courageously. The warrior is an archetype for rallying our courage when we need to act. It’s the role we act through to meet stressful challenges. Warriors are impeccable hunters of personal power. They know power only manifests itself when we act. To be an impeccable hunter of personal power, to be courageous, requires us to understand how the mind interferes with our search for power.
I served in the Army in the late 1970s, with my first duty station in Korea. I was a newly commissioned officer, a Second Lieutenant, assigned to lead a platoon to defend the American Sector of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), which splits North and South Korea. The American Sector includes Panmunjom, where negotiations take place between the countries.
Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current North Korean leader (Kim Jong-un), began making serious threats to invade South Korea. The situation was intense during negotiations at Panmunjom and in the American Sector we patrolled. To say that I was concerned would be an understatement. I was fearful and expressed my fears to my platoon sergeant, Sergeant Rosario. His response to my fears was unexpected.
Sergeant Rosario said: “Let them come. If they do, I’ll be able to put a star on my CIB (Combat Infantryman’s Badge).” Sergeant Rosario had earned his first CIB in Vietnam, and he’d earn another one, which is awarded by adding a star to his first one, if North Korea attacked. His response demonstrates what it means to apply ourselves to challenges through the vehicle we’ve chosen. Soldiers, that embody the warrior archetype, desire to apply their skills. They want to be tested and they know they’ll only be tested by applying their skills in war. War allows them to hunt power and become powerful.
Life is not about staying in our comfort zones; it’s about engaging challenges so we can become powerful. Not powerful in the sense of having more power than others. Rather, personal power; power that gives us the ability to act. It’s through action that we are courageous.
The main thing we need to do to be courageous is not label stress as bad. Labeling stress as bad expresses the mind’s desire for comfort. We can seek comfort when it’s time to rest. But, when it’s time to act we need to welcome stress. Labeling stress as bad also labels challenges as bad, which sabotages our ability to act and learn. Without stress we don’t learn, grow, or become powerful.
The first thing we need to do is to make a conscious choice, choosing the vehicle we’ll use to seek power. This vehicle needs to be one that resonates with us. We choose it not because someone else has also chosen it; we choose it because it personally “speaks” to us. In other words, we feel intrinsically motivated to choose that particular vehicle.
Making a conscious choice means we understand it’ll be stressful and we welcome that stress. If we choose to be soldiers, then we welcome the stress of fighting, killing and being killed. Yes, we also welcome being killed. Being killed is the consequence of being a soldier. Accepting the full impact of the consequence sharpens how we use our attention. Death forces us to focus our attention on fighting well, not on saving our lives. If we choose to be climbers, then we welcome the stress of exerting effort and the consequence of falling. We don’t avoid falling; we embrace it. Learning how to fall helps us understand the consequences, diminishes fear, and helps us focus our attention on climbing. Whether soldiers or climbers, we embrace the stress and the consequence.
The second thing we need to do is to train, to develop our skills in the vehicle we’ve chosen. If we choose to be soldiers, we go through all the training the military provides. For example, we don’t just do the basic training required to become an infantryman. We take advanced training, such as Airborne School (paratrooper training), Ranger School, etc. If we choose to be climbers we don’t just learn the basics, like belaying, movement, and safety. We learn all the skills required to meet challenging climbing. We take advanced training from experts for improving our physical and mental skills.
The third thing we need to do is to apply our skills. Training and applying are different. Training doesn’t include the seriousness of the consequence; applying does. If we choose to be soldiers, then we seek out combat opportunities to apply our training. Combat includes the consequence of death. Facing death cuts through weaknesses and reveals subtle defects in our physical and mental training, and provides opportunities to become master soldiers.
If we choose to be climbers, then we seek “combat” in climbing: climbing challenges to apply our skills. These challenges might be tall mountains, big walls, or short boulder problems. Challenges need to push us to the edge of our abilities and beyond, so the consequence of falling manifests itself. Facing the consequence of falling reveals subtle weaknesses in our physical and mental training, and provides opportunities to become master climbers.
I wasn’t conscious of what I needed to accept when I chose be become a soldier: to fight, kill and be killed. My mind expressed its lack of consciousness by thinking that having a battle with North Korea was bad. It desired the comfort of peace. Sergeant Rosario helped me become conscious by responding in a different way than I expected. That different way of responding hit me hard at the time, creating a memory I’ve never forgotten. However, it’s taken time to understand what he meant. It’s taken working with The Warrior’s Way material to put his response into a helpful context.
We can embody the warrior archetype to act courageously whether our chosen vehicle is soldiers fighting or climbers climbing. Remember, life requires us to engage challenges so we can become powerful. Warriors hunt for power by embracing challenges. By consciously choosing our vehicle, developing our skills, and applying ourselves, we embody a courageous approach to challenges. If we do this, then we’ll live the life we’ve chosen…consciously.
Practice Tip: Process for Seeking Power
Is climbing your vehicle of choice for engaging challenges and becoming powerful? If so, you need to embrace the stress that climbing offers. Don’t approach climbing unconsciously. Be conscious of your mind’s resistance to stress. This usually manifests itself as resistance to exerting effort and fear of falling.
Identify physical and mental training skills you need to learn: physical skills such as movement, resting and falling; mental skills such as thinking and decision-making. Taking instruction courses from experts can help.
Then, find appropriate challenges to apply your training. By “appropriate” I mean challenges that have consequences that you have some experience with. If it’s a yes-fall zone, then you have some experience with similar falls. If it’s a no-fall zone, then you have some experience climbing that difficulty grade without falling. Engage these challenges and pay particular attention to how you perform under stress. Doing this will reveal subtle weaknesses in your physical and mental abilities and provide opportunities to learn.