The Invention of Self

Who ARE you, really?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about searching for meaning or any other Viktor Frankl-type stuff.

It’s human nature to be dissatisfied with yourself. That’s why we’re talking about it.

Arsenal is built for exercise, but the Arsenal way is really the pursuit of joy. The path includes physical exercise, service to others…but also the willingness to look WITHIN and ask, “Anybody home?”

We’re all dysmorphic – we see our bodies differently than others do. We see our behaviors differently, because we understand our intent and no one else does. Unfortunately, we also beat ourselves up when we think we’re unloved, misunderstood or just plain ugly.

The path to joy doesn’t start with the motivation to improve. It STARTS with finding tiny little “wins”. Success comes before motivation; it has to. So our gym focuses on achievement, not reps. We celebrate bright spots instead of keeping a giant scorecard. In the never-ending process of reinvention, physical activity can be the catalyst and a lifetime measuring stick.

Creating yourself–finding joy and health and service–doesn’t end with exercise, but it’s a great place to start. If you’re dissatisfied with your life, don’t buy a sports car, quit your job or have an affair–learn to squat. Start with something solid: a tiny thing that changes your course by one degree.

Was I good at exercising on that first day? That’s funny. I was self-conscious and terrified. But I got some positive feedback and showed up again on the second day. And THAT is why I started Arsenal: to get you to the second day, or the second step, or the NEXT you.

There’s no such thing as “reinventing” yourself, because the process of self-creation is never over. You’re never a finished product, no matter how much hairspray you use. Everything changes, including you, and if you think it’s “too late” to change yourself–well, you’re the only one who does.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk, is supposed to have said, “The bad news is that we’re in a free fall. The good news is that there’s no bottom.”

I prefer to think that I’m constantly climbing, but there’s no TOP. I take satisfaction from looking back and seeing all the tiny steps, and then find joy in the knowledge that I’ll never bonk my head on anything. Self-invention is constant; it’s not an endpoint.

To quote another famous philosopher (Miley Cyrus): “It’s the climb.”

Your homework: Take a half hour today to write a letter to your former self. What advice would you give to yourself as a teenager? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? What would you do differently…and, most importantly, what would you do exactly the same?