By Michael LeCompte
The process by which our bodies continue to go on living every day is not one of consistency. The matter that composes your body, the stuff that makes you up, is constantly renewed. In fact, just about everything your body is made of—the trillions of cells that come together to make you a living, breathing, conscious organism—eventually die and are replaced. You change quite often.
And so it goes with the processes that incite these changes. For example, if you sit at a desk day in and day out, and the hardest thing you do during a work week is convincing your boss to let you go home early, your body doesn’t have any immediate need to keep large quantities of muscle on you.
So, slowly, you wither away until you’re a worthless pile of meat.
You do, however, lose muscle mass, strength, aerobic capacities, and essentially any other marker of biological readiness, as it costs energy to maintain these things. And right now, your body is asking, “Why keep this?”
This concept of how our bodies handle stress (or the lack thereof) is explained by Dr. Hans Selye’s theory of General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). As renowned strength coaches Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker put it, “This is so fundamental a biological concept that the ability to adapt to stress is one of the criteria for defining life” (Practical Programming for Strength Training). If you don’t use it, you lose it— and there are many things that are too costly to lose.
Among these essential qualities, I believe strength and mental agility are foremost.These attributes show themselves to be primary in their significance throughout all areas in life. If we are not admiring the athlete’s agility, it is the genius’s thoughts that hold our attention. The continual pursuit of greater, stronger bodies and deeper understanding of the world around us is not only beneficial in its outcome, but is itself valuable. We train our bodies and minds with strenuous work to strengthen them so future struggles will be easy.
How much time do you spend listening to other people tell you what the most influential pieces of art, literature, music throughout history mean? According to The New York Times, “On average, American adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day.”
That’s just over seventy-seven days each year spent doing nothing of importance. 21.11% of your time has been thrown in the garbage. Almost a quarter of your life spent watching others.
Our body will always want to do the minimal amount of work necessary to continue surviving. In lean times, this is an effective strategy because it conserves energy, and energy is important when the situation is live or die. These aren’t lean times for many people. Most have food, shelter, and water; now it becomes a case of thriving, not just surviving.
Unfortunately for you, thriving is not easy. It doesn’t feel nice when you’re working your way to a better future. Building success—personal, social, financial, otherwise—is more difficult than any other thing you can do in the moment. Improving one’s self necessitates challenge. Why else would you change?
My story follows this path. I’ve never been very interested in books. I’ve done my fair share of reading when I was younger. I read various works of fiction in magical worlds set far, far away. I’ve even managed to read a few books on the “how” of things, although usually not of my own will. I did enjoy, however, reading books about other books. I liked articles on the “points that really mattered”, and videos of influential people discussing why everything you thought about a subject was actually wrong, and here’s why we know everything. It was so much easier when someone could do the research for me.
Through all of this, I learned little about what I was, how to think about big questions, how to answer questions, and how to think critically about anything, really. I was a sheep being led by those who were willing to put the work in to develop their own opinions and speak loudly enough. Through it all, I lost the most precious resource of all —time.
Then I found Online Great Books. It is one of those rare, beautiful companies whose purpose is to introduce virtuous struggle into the lives of the people that they come in contact with. They value the hardship of improving yourself. They understand the necessity of suffering now for later. It’s a framework upon which they continue to bring people together to discuss the big questions and proposed answers.
To struggle, to wrestle with ever-increasing weights on a barbell, parse the words of authors you cannot yet understand, to take on opponents in sport, can only give you a higher understanding of the thing we call life. It is essential to the soul that we face challenges. It is vital to our very psyche that we face life, intentionally seeking the path less traveled. Through these encounters, we gain strength, compassion, wisdom, understanding. We gain an appreciation of all the terrible, wonderful things that life gives to us.
What it comes down to is whether or not you’re willing to suffer now. How much are you willing to give to get where you need to go? In this case, the price is frustration, time, and embarrassment.
This is where you come in. We can lead you to water, but will you drink it? Sign up today, and you’ll receive much more than the books carefully curated by OGB. You will gain access to a community that is passionate about improving one another through shared thought. Most importantly, you will receive the great gift of personal improvement. A method to improve your understanding of life all around you, and your time in it. You will learn how to ask greater questions and interpret the answers given to you.