The fastest way to get your power back and realign yourself
In CrossFit, your core determines everything. All movements stem from it. It’s where you find energy and balance. Kettle bells. Rowing. Thrusters. Wall balls. Sit ups. Pull ups. Push ups. All the Olympic Lifting movements. Without a strong core, you become a leaf. There is no power. It’s impossible to be good at CrossFit without a strong stance. Your center is the center of everything. Instead of swimming through the workout, it will drown you. This is true for all sports. Surfing. Skating. Wrestling. Football. Baseball. Martial arts… And on and on. It’s also the same for life. Your stance will determine whether you live grayed out or at your potential. Your stance will either protect you or destroy you. Your stance will either out you in an attracting state or chasing state. Your stance will determine who you are.
Who Are You?
This was the question he screamed at me as I stared straight ahead, focusing on a clock as if I could make it go faster with my stare. My hands were gripping my seams and my mind was spinning for an answer. There was none. It was a question they knew we couldn’t answer which is why they asked it. I stated my name and what my parents did for a living. I didn’t know what else to say. The House laughed as the Pledge Master stepped back in front of my face like he was going to spit. Instead he whispered We don’t care what your fucking dad does. He’s not rushing our house. We want to know who you are. That’s when I let him have it. I replied I’m a student.
None of the pledges could answer that question. But the truth was that the brothers couldn’t either. Not many people can. It was a trick question in a sense. Most of us define ourselves by what we do. Five years ago, if you asked me that question, I would have said I am a screenwriter. Today, if you asked me the same question, I would not say I am a therapist. That is what I do but that is not who I am. My answer is different now because back then I did not have a Stance. Today I do. Who you are involves an exploration of your character. Character is formed from your stance.
STANCE — The framework made of non-negotiables that houses your true self.
When I was nineteen, there wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to negotiate. I would allow you to yell in my face, assassinate my character, and make me eat live goldfish. I would stand on the beach in the middle of the night for five hours, dig ditches in triple digit heat, and live in the garage eating nothing but hotdog wieners and peanuts for two weeks, in exchange for membership into the club. Of course, I have no interest in joining a fraternity today. But I also have non-negotiables.
Non-negotiables — Things that you are no longer willing to negotiate about yourself because that shit didn’t work.
I believe we negotiate too much. This is how we lose our power. We negotiate in our jobs, our relationships, our boundaries, our time, our passions, our health, and our happiness. It happens gradually. We don’t wake up one day and decide to compromise our lives. We do it a little here, a little there. Life forces us to bend. We want to be kind. We want others to like us. We think this is what love looks like. Until one day we wake up and realize there’s nothing left compromise. We’ve negotiated everything. Then we wonder why we’re not happy. Without non-negotiables, you are powerless. You walk through life flimsy. You do not know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, how will you know where you are going? You become drift wood. Aimless, lost and stagnant. This is when you get into abusive relationships. Fall into depression. Cope in unhealthy ways. And begin to believe you are worthless. Once you believe you have no value, everything will be a compromise. Your container is cracked and your growth will be stunted. Only in a safe container will growth blossom. And in order to have a safe container, you must have non-negotiables.
What exactly are non-negotiables?
First, I want to make the distinction between a non-negotiable and a preference. Say you will only date men who are six feet tall with baby blue eyes and a six figure income. Those aren’t non-negotiables. Those are preferences. And you’re being narrow, in my opinion. Non-negotiables are not things you prefer. They are current iron clad standards you hold with two hands because where you’re at in your life are consequences from letting go of them. Having non-negotiables means drawing new lines with Sharpie. Not chalk. But non-negotiables are not boundaries. Boundaries imply you’re protecting yourself which to me means you’re afraid of something. Non-negotiables stem from a place of worth. We don’t negotiable when we believe we have value. Non-negotiables protect our value, allowing it to grow. They are the bricks used to build your new container. The more you hold to them, the stronger your container. The stronger your container, the safer the space. The safer the space, the faster you grow.
So how do you form non-negotiables? Well, look back at your life. Think about all the things that went wrong because you negotiated something. Follow that string down and you will see that it’s tied to your worth which is tied to your truth. You negotiated because you separated the two. Bad or unhealthy events always chase compromised truth. Okay, forget about the past. No need to dwell. Let’s talk about today. What are you negotiating in your life right now? In your career, relationships, with friends, family. Are you negotiating your health? Passions? Being heard? How you want to be treated? What you really want to do with your life? Question two. How does negotiating these things affecting your state, well being, your day to day, and of course your life? Think about it. Play it out. Finally, if you didn’t negotiate these things, how would your life look different? Would you still be at your job? In your relationship? Would they still be your friends or would you have new ones? Would you look the same? Feel the same? Would your relationship with your family be different? With your kids? With your self?
When you think about what you are willing and not willing to negotiate, it forces you to think about your worth. It gives you a voice. It gives you protection. It gives you growth. So let’s start thinking about your new non-negotiables.
Here are a few of mine.
I will do my best to be a good father.
My father is an alcoholic. This means at some point in his life his addiction stunted his emotional growth. He did an excellent job at providing the basic needs for his family like food, water, shelter, and designer clothes. But he did not provide much of an ear, empathy, or most importantly, presence. One day I asked him if I could buy a model plane from the next door neighbor, a pudgy man selling toys out of his garage. His “hobby shop” was stocked with three hundred dollar remote control cars and airplane models that required hundreds of intricate balsa wood pieces and a degree from M.I.T. But for an eleven year old with an obsession for Legos, it was just another play session and hopefully an excuse to spend some quality time with pops. He gave me the cash. I bought the plane. He glanced at it and laughed. He said there was no way I could build that thing. He went back to clipping his toenails and reading the “Korean Times”. I started building. Three hours later, my dad was snoring and I was sitting in front of what looked like a pile of popsicle sticks glued together. My dad woke up before I had time to hide my failure. He shook his head and said, I told you. WE REMEMBER MOMENTS LIKE THESE. They form our beliefs. They are why I have the non-negotiable above.
I will not associate with anyone who assassinates my character.
John Gottman, is a professor emeritus in psychology known for his work on marital on stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations, predicted divorce at a 94 percent accuracy rate. He wasn’t concerned with how many times a couple fought but rather how they fought. Assassinating one’s character was a sure sign the relationship was doomed.
If you assassinate one’s character, you are not fighting fair. You are using a gun instead of gloves. Simply put, you are being a bully. Bullies react from fear. They are operating from a false self, one driven by ego and approval. This means they will not have the tools to support / encourage / promote your growth. Instead, they will ride your coat tails and bring you down so they can feel better about themselves. I have enough weight to carry. I do not need more dead weight.
I will do my best to make my partner feel beautiful.
In CrossFit, RX means prescribed. It’s the recommended weight / standard for the workout. This is not raising the bar, it’s the minimum requirement. Many do not RX because they are not physically able. That’s understandable. But if you don’t do it because you don’t want to push yourself, that’s called lazy. Everyone that CrossFits knows this. The coaches remind us daily.
In relationships, the RX I have set for myself is to do my best to make my partner feel beautiful. I have not done this in the past. It requires time and effort. I was lazy. Lazy is not acceptable to me anymore in whatever I do, including relationships. Being faithful and remembering birthdays is not enough. I don’t just want to be great at work or in the box, I want to be a great boyfriend / husband. Making my girlfriend / wife feel beautiful is non-negotiable because it is my new RX.
I will walk with mirrors (not literally).
I believe that men walk with mirrors and boys do not. To walk with mirrors means to be aware of your defects and be willing to change them. Think about all the men you have experienced. Not only romantically. All men. Fathers. Brothers. Grandfathers. Teachers. Uncles. How many of them were exceptional men? How many of them lead by example? How many had the ability to create safe spaces? How many admitted when they were wrong and shut up when they were right? How many changed your life? If I was to ask myself how many real men I have experienced in the forty two years that I have been on this planet, I would have trouble coming up with names. That’s because we live in a fatherless nation. Dad is absent, either physically or emotionally. This leaves boys growing up confused and without a role model. Like me. Then as adults, we have unhealthy relationships and cause a lot of emotional destruction.
I refuse to be a boy. I’ve been one for most of my life. Also, one cannot be transparent without self examination. Without transparency, growth is impossible and growth is not something I am willing to negotiate.
Father is someone who works hard, who isn’t around much, who criticizes more than he compliments, who doesn’t show affection or any other emotion except anger — no longer applies.
- John M. Gottman
I will have a cause.
I believe everyone should have something they are fighting for. It doesn’t have to be solving world hunger. It simply means having direction and a driving passion behind a cause you believe in with every fiber of your being. Without direction, there’s no journey. No mission. You’re a lake, not an ocean. The ocean is where you find life.
A cause creates life.
I will not let my work determine my worth.
We make a living at the expense of having a life. From early on, we’ve been programed by peers, parents, teachers, society, and media to be successful. We plan everything around that success. We study our asses off to get into top schools. We sacrifice time, sleep, and relationships to climb the corporate ladder. Through the journey of our chase, our definition of successful becomes more and more narrow until we forgot that part of success is quality of life. When we finally reach the mountain top, our heads are in clouds. There is no view. Only less air.
I used to determine my value by what I’ve accomplished. Success was directly tied to my worth. My value came in the form of a sale. At one point the value was selling scripts, then drinks (when I ran the family business). By defining my worth by what I sold, I sold myself. I became powerless. I was not human. I was a robot. It contributed to my unhappiness as well as the expiration of my marriage. I will never let that happen again.
I will take care of myself first.
I will not be able to help others if I cannot take care of myself. If I want to continue my cause — coaching others — I cannot negotiate my self care.
I will always have non-negotiables.
My non-negotiables are what make me who I am today. These are the things that define my character. They are what I’m not willing to negotiate about myself. They give me value, a spine, a shape to pour my transparency into.
Model in a Bottle Dot Com
People thought I was a pimp once. Literally. When I was in my late 20s, I had this idea to create an internet reality show about models. Nothing with nudity, just real working models in Los Angeles. Streaming video was just introduced to the world and there were no modeling shows on television at the time. This was pre Tyra Bank’s “America’s Top Model”. But Modelinabottle failed miserably. It failed because I was negotiable. I had an investor who believed in me. He gave me $100K to launch it. I rented a million dollar penthouse on The Sunset Strip and gave six models free rent in exchange for the ability to document their lives, castings, photo shoots, daily routines at the penthouse, etc. They ended up walking all over me. Or more accurately, I allowed them to because I had no stance. The penthouse became a frat house. The models brought in their boyfriends and had parties. They ditched the camera and were never home to chat with fans. Eventually, the owner of the penthouse terminated the lease. She thought I was running a high class escort service.
Here’s what I negotiated:
• My friendship. My investor was also a friend. He trusted me with his money and I negotiated it for approval from others.
• My relationships. I pressured my girlfriend at the time to ask her agency (she was also modeling at the time) to connect me with talent. By doing this, I was willing to negotiate her reputation and career, as well as our relationship.
• My character. Allowing the talent to not follow the rules and act inappropriately gave off the impression that the person behind this project — me — was filming an episode of “Girls Gone Wild.” I was portrayed as a soft-core porn producer and I was willing to negotiate that for a chance to jump on the internet gold rush at the time.
• My gifts. Let’s face it. I didn’t go to film school to produce a modeling show. I did not have a genuine passion for the modeling business. I negotiated my talents for an image of success. In a nutshell, I sold out.
Would Modelinabottle.com have been a successful business if I had non-negotiables? I don’t know. Ok, probably not. But I do know that I wasn’t ready for success. I had no Stance. And part of having a strong stance is having non-negotiables. Success in that world would have only encouraged me to be more negotiable, which means getting further away from knowing who I am. With that kind of success and power, everything would be negotiable to me, including my friends, my family, and myself. I believe this happens to many lottery winners who do not have a Stance. When one doesn’t have a Stance, they make decisions based on their pseudo self, not their solid self.
Having a stance strengthens your spine, which will protect you. Many fall into abusive relationships because they don’t have non-negotiables. They allow themselves emotional and/or physical harm in the name of love.
Relationships mean compromise, not compromising self.
By having non-negotiables, you are creating a shield. You are protecting yourself as well as your character. You are creating a safe container. In addiction, making an effort to not fall back into the cycle is called relapse prevention. In Stance, it’s called relapse protection. Having a Stance means having strong non-negotiables.
Make a list of all the things you have negotiated about yourself that has led to poor and unhealthy decisions. Then write down the consequences of those actions.
Now a new list. From all your learnings, what new non-negotiables do you want to create? What are you negotiating in your life right now? With your relationships, parents, friends, boyfriend, yourself? What about at work? Do you even have any non-negotiables?
Write down your new non-negotiables?
Then why have decided these are things you are no longer willing to negotiate?
What you have in front of you is a map. Hold onto these non-negotiables and you will start to get your power back. You will start to realign with who you are and where you’re meant to go. You will start living again.