This is a post that I have been meaning to write for quite a long time now. I’ve just never found the occasion to do so. With all the confusion in the comments over ideas vs. action, it seems the appropriate time to share this aspect of my thought, as it has been a transformative influence on my political views.
Since January 22, I have been engaged in a rigorous physical fitness routine, which has allowed me to shed almost 60 pounds. From May 2008 to January 2010, I completely let myself go physically, and packed on an enormous amount of weight. At my lowest point in August 2009, I had ballooned to an incredible 224 pounds. I was miserable, depressed, and lethargic.
Something had to change. I was ruining my health.
The causes of my physical decline were easy to diagnose: spending too much time writing on the internet, sitting idly in a computer chair, reading and thinking about abstract ideas too much, soda, drinking too much, eating high calorie meals late at night, fast food, poor eating habits, and not getting enough exercise.
I knew all of this on the abstract level. I always had a vision of what I would prefer to look like. I knew exactly how to shed the weight, the major muscle groups, what exercises to use to stress and flex them. I had known these things for years.
Yet none of this was of much use to me.
There was a large gap between the abstract knowledge, my desire to lose weight, and my behavior. Until I learned how to close that gap, I didn’t make any progress toward reaching my fitness goals.
Exercise has since become a centerpiece of my life.
I work out with free weights and machines six days a week. I also run an hour every day. Through sheer determination and hard work, I have radically changed my character and almost completely eliminated the excess weight. I’ve also managed to buff up like never before.
Looking back, I can trace this physical change to a change in mentality, which allowed me to gradually eliminate bad habits while creating good new effective ones.
1.) Realism – I became realistic. Instead of fantasizing about losing all the weight at once, I accepted the fact that I was 224 pounds, and focused on the realistic goal of losing 5 pounds a month. Then another 5 pounds the next month, and so on.
This is “moving the goal posts” at its best. With this incremental approach, I lost 20 pounds in Spring 2010, then 40 pounds by Summer 2010, and now I am closing in on 60 pounds in Fall 2010, which will bring me down to my ideal weight by Winter 2010.
2.) Bad Habits – Human behavior is habitual. I broke my bad habits by setting realistic, tractable goals. Instead of running an hour a day, I started out by walking 20 minutes. Instead of heavy lifting an hour a day, I started out with relatively light free weights.
Gradually, I increased the distance and speed I was walking until I was running, and then running faster and longer. I did the same thing with the amount of weight, reps, and sets that I was lifting. Then I started specializing my routine after exercise had become a habit.
3.) Writing Things Down – I write down my weight every day. I also write down whether I have done my free weights, running, and strength training. After creating a new habit, I gradually started to keep better records. Now I keep track of everything I consume on a daily basis so I can monitor my calorie deficit. I know everything I have eaten since late August.
4.) Confidence – As I progressed toward my fitness goal, I gradually became more confident. After losing five pounds, I was eager to lose the next five. Then the next twenty pounds. Now I am so close to my goal and so confident of my ability to lose the weight and build muscle that quitting or slacking off has become unthinkable.
5.) Working The Margins – I’ve learned the importance of winning at the margins. I steadily added new columns to my records to keep track of other things like whether I eat late at night, whether I eat fried foods, how much beer I drink a week. I completely eliminated soda (through diet soda to water) and fast food months ago. I also stopped eating those powdered donuts!
I go over these records once a week to look for ways to improve. The late night snack is one such area. Eating almonds, bananas, and strawberries has all but eliminated that extra late night meal. I avoid the big carb meals and try to eat more meat, especially good meat, like lean fish and turkey. Your body only needs so much protein a day.
6.) Idleness – I’ve cut most of the idleness out of my life. I have come to learn how to use time effectively. Instead of sitting and thinking, I now prefer to think while taking a brisk walk, which burns more calories and increases endurance.
I will be using these last few months of 2010 to strip away most of the remaining body fat. I’m excited about “getting ripped” and seeing more definition in the muscles that I have worked so hard to build. Last month, I took up boxing in Alabama. While I was in Virginia, I enjoyed hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 2011, it will be time to shift gears: from a largely fat burning routine (cardio and high rep strength training) to a new one (low rep, high weight strength training) with greater recovery periods designed to pack on lots of hard, lean muscle mass.
When it comes to physical fitness, I have learned how to successfully combine abstract knowledge with a winning strategy and effective action in the real world. I no longer have any doubts about my ability to achieve my desired fitness goals.
It seems rather incredible in hindsight. A year ago, I never could imagined being at where I am at today, much less the physical direction in which I am now headed.
With exercise becoming such a huge part of my life, at times a near dominant obsession, it was only natural that the lessons I had learned from that sphere of activity would begin to segue over into my political views.
I’m more physically active today than I have been at any point in the past ten years. This restlessness and desire to constantly be “on the move” played a major role in coming out from behind the computer screen and getting involved in real world activism. I can’t stand staying put for any extended period of time.
There are similarities and differences between hitting the gym and political activism. Here are a few that come to mind:
1.) You’re the sovereign absolute dictator of your own body. The muscles in your body are at your command. This is easily the biggest and most important difference. When it comes to interacting with other people, the most you can hope for is being successful at nudging them in the right direction.
2.) The most important similarity is having a realistic attitude. You are not going to lose 15 pounds or double the size of your delts in a week. You are not going to get people to radically change their political and moral views overnight.
What you can do is set realistic, tractable short term goals, map out a strategy (a road map to victory), and select tactics (what you can do with what you got) appropriate to achieving those goals. As time goes by, every small step forward adds up and before you know it you will be closing in on your goal, whether it be a fitness objective or a political destination.
In both cases, you have to start where you are today or where other people are today, not where you would like to be or what could of society you would like to live in.
3.) The basics are the same: abstract knowledge, strategy and tactics, effective action in the real world. Each plays a vital role. Each is useless in isolation. The ratio of the physical to the intellectual is 80:20 to 90:10. Your mind points you in the right direction, but it is up to your body to do most of the work and haul the load.
4.) Confidence plays a big role. Most people stay out of shape, not because they don’t know how to lose weight, but because they lack confidence in their own abilities. Similarly, a defeated and cowed people won’t even contemplate change, as they lack confidence in their own ability to resist.
That’s why it is so crucially important to set realistic short term goals. They build confidence. If I can do this, why can’t I push forward? If we can organize and defeat the ruling class on this small issue, why can’t we take on larger issues? Alone these small goals aren’t enough but they provide a catalyst for bolder action later down the road.
5.) Effectiveness is the measuring stick of strategy and tactics. If an exercise isn’t producing the results you desire, you should try another one. If your calorie deficit has shrunk too far, you might need to change or fine tune your strategy, run a little more or eat less a day.
Likewise, if a political strategy or a political tactic isn’t changing political behavior, then you need to try something else. It is important to remain flexible and pragmatic in trying to realize your political vision.
6.) The easiest way to make a difference is to hack away at the margins. Instead of sitting and thinking, you can think while taking a brisk walk. Instead of chowing down on a late night meal, you can consume lots of, say, low calorie strawberries to kill your appetite. You can drink Diet Coke instead of Coke.
In the political sphere, you can nudge people a notch or two to their right on any number of issues, if you expose them to the right provocative situations. Most people learn from their own experiences, not from absorbing raw abstract ideas like manna from heaven.
7.) Writing things down helps you keep track of your progress and make adjustments when necessary.
8.) In both cases, virtue, character, and good habits ultimately determine when you are fit or fat, strong or weak, confident or cowardly, powerful or helpless – not abstract ideas – which alone don’t amount to much. Ideas don’t translate immediately into good behavior or political power.
Physical fitness and political activism are based upon some of the same common principles. What works at the gym has applications elsewhere. Imagining yourself fit and lean is sort of like imagining your ideal political community. Exercises are analogous to tactics. A weight loss plan has parallels to political strategies.
In both cases, it is not enough to fantasize about the future you desire, or to know what must be done to get there. You have to successfully mold character and physical behavior around accomplishing the set objective. That is what ultimately determines success or failure.
I have found my own experiences in hitting the gym a useful metaphor for analyzing the White Nationalist movement, identifying its errors, and determining the necessary course corrections. Seen in this light, the patient is still capable of recovering, should he summon the will power to do so.Follow Hunter Wallace on Gab, VK, Facebook and Twitter.