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What Are We Running Towards

Josh Schmitz

I’m currently reading “Everybody Always” and came across an amazing story in Chapter 11 about a guy named Lex that I want to share:

"I have a friend named Lex. He had 10 operations before completely losing his eyesight when he was eight years old. In high school, Lex began competing in Track-and-Field events. By the time he got to college, he figured out that he could run like the wind, so he went out for the track team. My first thought was, how can a blind man run track? Then I found out Lex has a friend. His friend runs in front of Lex and call out his name. Lex just runs towards a voice he knows he can trust.

Everyone who does Track-and-Field has a favorite event. Lex likes Long Jump the best. This still makes my head spin. If you're not familiar with this event, you run as fast as you can down a three-foot-wide track from a position more than one hundred feet away. With your last step, you launch into the air as high as you can from a wooden board in the track and land as far away as you can in a sand pit. Impossible for a blind guy, right? Not for Lex. Do you know why? He’s got a friend whose voice he knows he can trust.

What Lex does is both simple and impossible at the same time. When it's his turn to compete, his friend squares Lex shoulders towards the sandpit down the track, then he goes to the edge of the sand pit and starts yelling, “Fly! Fly! Fly!” over and over. Lex runs towards the friends voice and then jumps as far as he’s able.

Get this: Lex went out for the US Paralympic team - and he made it. He can jump farther than just about anyone in the world. Here’s the reason why: people who are becoming love, try impossible things because they’re surrounded themselves with voices they can trust.

At the world championships, it was Lex’s turn, and his friend walked him out to the far end of the narrow track. He squared his shoulders and walked to the edge of the sandpit. Then like always, he started yelling “Fly! Fly! Fly!” to Lex. Because Lex is blind, and because he was surrounded by so many other voices and noise, he lost the sound of his friend and began to run off path. The louder his friend got, the more off-track he ran. He launched on his 16th step completely crooked. Everyone in the stadium gasped. Lex missed the sandpit completely and crashed and burned onto concrete. Lex was badly bruised, his uniform ripped, he was helped off the field and into medical attention.

I'm no athlete, but if I were Lex I would have been tempted to quit. I would have focused on how unfair my life was. I’d complain to myself about how id jumped far and hit hard. I’d be afraid if it happened once, it would happen again. There are voices of defeat each of us concentrates on sometimes. If we let them, these voices can take over and drown out the voices we've come to trust in our lives. Lex didn't see it this way. His faith doesn't just inform his heart; it informs his whole life.

Lex walked back onto the field to a thunderous applause. Together, Lex and his friend walked to the narrow end of the runway. There is a saying in Track: “Last one, Best one.” His friend squared Lex shoulders and feet once again, walked to the edge of the sandpit and started screaming “Fly! Fly! Fly!” as Lex sprinted down the runway. This time, when Lex hit the wooden plank on his 16th step, he leaped into the air like a Gazelle, and when he hit the sand (more than 21ft later) he won the entire competition.

Lex didn’t let fear call the shots in his life, and we shouldn't either.”

This story, as I’m sitting at my favorite breakfast nook restaurant, hit me in the gut so hard and was extremely relatable for many reasons.

1) I think have all ran blindly towards something being misguided by voices that we couldn't trust, and the result was crashing hard.

A job, a girl, a boy, an opportunity, an investment… we run fast, jumped big, missed big, and are left picking up the pieces. The difference between us and everybody else though, is that we didn't let that stop us from trying again. We chose not to let fear call the shots in our life. If you are sitting there and don't share that same bravery, what's stopping you? So what you crashed and burned on something, get up and go at it again. Fear is not your boss anymore.

2) Sometimes when we are looking for God's voice and direction, he send us friends we can trust instead.

Find friends and voices that you can trust and run towards them. Surround yourself with people you Trust. You'll know they're the right people to trust when they don't spend time giving you instructions, they just have to call your name. There is a classic saying that you are the average of the 5 closest people to you, and I think that is one of the truest truths out there.

    3) God doesn't like us more when we succeed or less when we fail. He simply delights in our attempts.

Don't waste your life trying to earn or impress God or even your friends and Family. Simply attempt to do the best you can, in all you do. And with this - remember the David Goggins Law - your mind and body will always out of survival tell you to quit at 40%. So if you're ready to quit, remember you still have 60% more effort left in you.

Questions / Comments / Concerns / Hate / Etc -

Should I be bold?

Josh Schmitz

What causes one culture to flourish while another flounders?

Why do some civilizations reach great heights only to fall mightily?

Historians have dedicated great tomes to these questions. Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West are two prime examples of this line of inquiry.

But another can be found not in a work of non-fiction, but that of historical fiction. In Tides of War, author Stephen Pressfield provides a fictionalized account of one of the greatest conflicts in history — the Peloponnesian War — fought between two of the West’s greatest civilizations: Athens and Sparta.

While Tides of War is a work of historical fiction, Pressfield went to great lengths to maintain the integrity of the actual events described, relying on primary sources from Thucydides and other Greek historians. He also worked to capture the ethos of the time, and the men who inhabited it.

Peppered in between Pressfield’s thumosinspiring depictions of battle, are penetrating deductions about the cultural forces going on behind the scenes — the differences between the warring parties’ mindsets and principles, and how these differences led to mighty, imperialistic Athens falling to modest, republican Sparta.

While the decline of a civilization is often chalked up to economics or politics, Pressfield theorizes that Athens deteriorated because one particular aspect of its individual and national character degraded, and another was substituted in its place.

Sparta and Athens: A Tale of Two City-States

Despite living in close proximity with one another (the cities were only about 150 miles apart) and sharing the same gods, the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta were more different than alike. While Sparta was more communal (some would even say fascist), Athens celebrated individual liberty and freedom. While Sparta disdained wealth and luxury (going as far as outlawing money), Athens was a commercial empire. While Sparta’s military might lay in their fierce and indomitable army, Athens ruled the seas with their navy. Sparta was content with remaining a small and independent city-state; Athens was much more imperialistic — ever seeking to expand its influence politically, economically, and culturally.

The Spartans valued things like poetry, music, and philosophy more than is popularly believed, but such pursuits were decidedly subsumed by an emphasis on military training. This focus created one of the most effective, disciplined, and fearless armies in the world. Athens, on the other hand, celebrated art and philosophy as the pinnacle of human flourishing, and produced aesthetic masterpieces along with many of the most influential thinkers and philosophers in Western history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Athens and Sparta differed politically as well. Sparta maintained a democratic system with a balanced constitution that divided power among three groups. A system of checks and balances prevented any one group from gaining too much power. Athenians, on the other hand, governed themselves under a radical democracy in which every male citizen was expected to participate.

While Sparta and Athens banded together for the sake of Greek freedom during the Persian War, they were reluctant allies. Each had long kept a suspicious watch on the other. Spartans were particularly wary of the Athenians’ increasing imperialism, believing it was only a matter of time before they would try to conquer their slice of the Greek peninsula. It was exactly that fear which led to the thirty-year Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Though the decades-long conflict would decimate the power and strength of both city-states, Sparta emerged the victor.

While both Sparta and Athens had their particular strengths and weaknesses, by the time of the Peloponnesian War, the latter had forgotten the apothegm attributed to their mythological law-giver Solon: “Nothing in excess.” Athenian virtues and ideals were taken to such extremes that they became vices. Love of individual liberty and expression degenerated into narcissistic, hyper-individualism; robust commercial enterprise morphed into unhinged avarice; hardiness and restraint were replaced with softness and debauchery; active and healthy democracy devolved into mob rule and demagoguery.

Even the great philosophers of Athens — Socrates and Plato — became increasingly critical of Athenian degradation, contrasting the discipline and virtue of the Spartans with the civic and moral decay of their fellow citizens. They looked on with dismay as a once thriving culture was slowly eaten by the cancer of decadence.

Spartan Bravery and the Difference Between Courage and Boldness

What was the core difference between Athens and Sparta, then? We’ve dissected external differences between the city states, but was there a deeper, foundational quality that the Spartans maintained, and Athenians lacked, that led to the latter’s decline and ultimate defeat?

In Tides of War, Pressfield uses the Spartan naval admiral Lysander to give answer to this question. In perhaps the most stirring scene in the book, Lysander stands before thousands of Spartans and their allies in the lead-up to the Battle of Notium and gives them a rousing speech. In it, he lays out the differences between Athens and Sparta and makes the case for why the Spartan way of life is superior, and why, in the end, his men will prevail.

For Lysander, the heart of what separates Spartans from Athenians is this:

“We, Spartans and Peloponnesians, possess courage.
Our enemies possess boldness.
They own thrasytes, we andreia.
Pay attention, brothers. Here is a profound and irreconcilable division.”

Andreia, or courage, was the dominating quality of the Spartans; thrasytes, or boldness, was the dominating quality of the Athenians.

For the Greeks, the word andreia meant both courage and manliness. Courage was the sine qua non of being a mature man; the two qualities were inextricably intertwined.

Thrasytes, on the other hand, was more of a boyish trait.

“The bold man is prideful, brazen, ambitious,” Lysander explained. “The brave man calm, God-fearing, steady.”

While Lysander set up a stark dichotomy between boldness and courage, acting with the former can occasionally be useful even for a grown man; sometimes impulsive, even reckless action is needed to seize a fleeting opportunity.

But where boldness exists, it must always be coupled and harnessed with courage; courage must be the prevailing quality of a man’s character.


In his speech, Lysander elucidates the difference between men who primarily act from boldness, and those who primarily act from courage, and details “what kind of man these conflicting qualities produce.”

Below I highlight Lysander’s words from Tides of War, and explore how they applied both to the Spartans, and equally well to men today:

Boldness Is Impatient and Fickle; Courage Is Steady and Enduring

“Boldness honors two things only: novelty and success. It feeds on them and without them dies.”

 “Boldness is impatient. Courage is long-suffering. Boldness cannot endure hardship or delay; it is ravenous, it must feed on victory or it dies. Boldness makes its seat upon the air; it is gossamer and phantom. Courage plants its feet upon the earth and draws its strength from God’s holy fundament.”

“The enemy’s weakness is time. Thrasytes is perishable. It is like that fruit, luscious when ripe, which stinks to heaven when it rots.”

 “Those qualities most pleasing to heaven, we believe, are courage to endure and contempt for death.”

The Athenians were masters of the sea, a type of warfare that involves bold moves, surprise attacks, and quick, decisive battles. The Spartans primarily waged war on the land, and were prepared for long marches and prolonged combat. In a sea battle, Athenians could either sail away when the conditions weren’t right to engage, or strike the enemy on their own terms; a warship, Lysander notes, “accomplishes nothing holding the line.” The Spartans, on the other hand, had to stay ever ready to fight, and be willing to engage the enemy even when it wasn’t convenient. This difference in martial strategies amounted to a difference in mindset as well: The Athenians lost heart when victories didn’t come quickly and easily, while the Spartans were prepared to slog it out — to hold the line — no matter the challenges or conditions. They possessed the courage of endurance.

Many men today often approach their own battles with an Athenian mindset. They get a great idea for a business or feel fired up about tackling a new goal. For a few weeks they feel a burning passion and excitement to do what it takes to make their new venture a reality. At first there’s lots of “sexy” stuff to do — pick a band name, choose a weight lifting plan, design their new website. They may find a little initial success, and feel as though they’re skimming through the water, the foam from the waves flying in their face. It’s exhilarating. Victory seems just around the corner.

Then setbacks arrive. Their initial success reaches a plateau. It starts taking a lot longer for things to get going than they anticipated. And there’s a lot more work than they expected. Hard work. Boring work.

Time goes on. They start working on their project less and less. Then they start ignoring it altogether. They make excuses. It feels like a slog, and shouldn’t something you’re passionate about be fun? They decide the problem isn’t their work ethic but simply that they’re pursuing the wrong thing and need to do something else. They get another burning idea; the excitement returns. For awhile. And then the cycle repeats itself.

These guys have thrastyes but not andreia; they have the boldness to start things but not the courage to finish them. When the hot sun of hardship and doubt rises over their project, their motivation evaporates. They have not developed the patience to stick with something when the initial excitement fades — the grit to push through difficult plateaus. They ravenously feed on newness and instant success, but have not learned how to sustain themselves on the sustenance of incremental progress — to switch from the fuel of beginning to that of building.

Swift and clever tactical maneuvers can certainly be keys to winning a battle; Lysander, in fact, was responsible for creating a strong navy for the traditionally infantry focused Spartans, and this fleet would help turn the tide of the Peloponnesian War. Yet victory, regardless of chosen tactics, ultimately depends on having a grunt mindset — the willingness to not only make bold moves, but to hold the line when such moves are met with resistance.

“Boldness is a mighty engine,” Lysander tells the Spartans, “but there is a limit to its reach and a rock upon which it founders. We are that rock…Our rock is courage, brothers, upon which their boldness breaks and recedes. Thrastyes fails. Andreia endures. Imbibe this truth and never forget it.”

Boldness is Impulsive and Reckless; Courage is Prudent and Prepared

“Men say I fear to face [Athenian general] Alcibiades; they taunt me for want of intrepidity. I do fear him, brothers. This is not cowardice but prudence. Nor would it constitute bravery to confront him ship for ship, but recklessness. For I reckon our enemy’s skill and observe that ours is yet unequal. The sagacious commander honors his enemy’s might. His skill is to strike not at the foe’s strength, but at his weakness, not where and when he is ready, but where he is lax and when he least expects it.”

“Courage is born of obedience. It is the issue of selflessness, brotherhood, and love of freedom…This is why we train, men. Not to sweat for sweat’s sake or row for rowing’s sake, but by this practice of cohesion to inculcate andreia, to lade the reservoirs of our hearts with confidence in ourselves, our shipmates, and our commanders.”

Before the Battle of Notium, Alcibiades, commander-in-chief of the Athenian forces, blockaded the Spartans, and tried to lure their nascent fleet out to battle. The Spartan warriors took the bait and chomped at the bit to have a go at their enemy. Their morale was high, their discipline and confidence were strong, and they felt ready to take on their foe. But Lysander initially held back, leaving his men feeling frustrated and restless.

Lysander explained to them that the patience engendered by courage was needed not only to endure the setbacks that arrived once a battle was already underway, but also to wait to strike in the first place until the right time. Lysander could see than the Athenian forces were yet stronger than those of the Spartans, and that further ship-building and training was needed to ensure that when they went to battle, they would emerge victorious. He was as restless to get things going as his men were, but he knew the moment called for the courage of control.

Lysander’s approach was in line with that of the philosopher Aristotle, who believed that courage represented the mean between recklessness and cowardice.

The cowardly man overestimates the risk of an endeavor and either won’t even attempt it, or endlessly delays it. He’s always got to do just a little more research on the competition, read a few more books on the subject, get in a little more practice before he gets started.

The reckless man underestimates the challenges he’ll have to face, and blindly and impulsively rushes into things. As a result of this impulsivity, his idea isn’t ready and flops, he doesn’t have the skill and confidence needed to find success, or he outright quits after realizing the kind of sacrifice victory will demand.

The courageous man avoids those extremes. He knows there’s a time for boldness, and a time for restraint. His hones the skills and confidence he’ll need for the fight ahead, but also realizes that sometimes you simply have to take action and learn as you go. He actively trains and prepares himself for the arrival of the right opening, but also knows there’s no such thing as the perfect opportunity. He neither dithers nor hastily surges; he uses practical wisdom to decide when the time is right to strike.

Spartan warriors thought it dishonorable to fight with rage or berserker-y, as such frenzied emotions are usually an emotional crutch, a cover for fear and deficiency of skill; instead, they went into battle with calm determination, full of the confidence of preparation, and the courage of control.

Boldness Is Covetous; Courage Is Content

“The bold man covets; he sues his neighbor in law court, he intrigues, he dissembles. The brave man is content with his lot; he respects that portion the gods have granted and husbands it, comporting himself with humility as heaven’s stewards.”

The greatness of the Athenians required them to constantly expand the reach of their empire. To fund lavish public works projects and maintain their impressive navy, the Athenians needed to bring as many city-states under their rule as possible. These subject peoples were required to send yearly tributes back to Athens, or were quickly and severely punished.

The Athenians’ lust for power, influence, and empire put them in quandary. Much like a cancer, survival of an empire requires constant growth. But we all know the typical end result of cancer.

It kills its host.

The Spartans, meanwhile, were content with being a small, rustic city-state. Their lifestyle was simple, minimalistic, and frugal. They had no taste for luxury or designs for empire, so they didn’t have to constantly find new sources of treasure to fund their civilization. They had the courage of contentment — the ability to say “enough!” Many historians credit this Spartan contentment to the durability of their democratic republican government, which lasted at least 580 years — making it the longest-lasting government with a democratic component in human history.

We’ll all face moments in our life when we’ll be tempted to go for more. More money, more prestige, more status. But it’s a hunger that can never be satisfied, and only grows the more you feed it. The siren call of power and wealth wafts with the promise of greater freedom, but ends up shackling your liberty. The more you crave status, the more likely you are to compromise your principles to get it. The more you buy stuff you can’t afford, the more you get into debt, and the fewer choices you can make in regards to your career and lifestyle. The more you take other people’s money, the more they own you.

Being content with little gives you the courage to say no to marketing propaganda, to ignore the Joneses, to keep your personal principles, to act when you wish and not from compulsion. In living, well, Spartanly, you gain true power, independence, and freedom.

Boldness Is Prideful; Courage Is Humble

“Athenians do not fear God; they seek to be God. They believe that heaven reigns not by might, but by glory. The gods rule by acclaim, they say, by that supremacy which strikes mortals with awe and compels emulation. Believing this, Athenians seek to please heaven by making clay gods of themselves. Athenians reject modesty and self-effacement as unworthy of man made in the image of the gods.”

“Our deficiencies may be overcome by practice and self-discipline.”

The Greeks primarily thought of courage in terms of martial valor — as a battlefield virtue. But it was also the quality that kept a man ready for war during times of peace — the virtue that drove a man to give his best during training, to constantly drill, and to maintain an austere, disciplined lifestyle that produced a strong body and an iron will, along with the hardihood to face any enemy.

Thus, while the Spartans were rightly renowned for their bravery on the battlefield, their courage was perhaps even more keenly demonstrated at home. Beginning at age seven, Spartan boys entered military training that centered on inuring them to hardship. They wore only a tunic in both summer and winter, subsisted on scanty rations, and constantly drilled in the martial arts. As Plutarch observes, Spartan warriors “were the only men in the world with whom war brought a respite in the training for war.”

The Spartans understood that victory is won not in the heat of battle, but in all the small tasks and practices that lead up to it — that what is needed is not only courage for special times of crisis, but the everyday courage of discipline.

Aristotle argued that courage “holds fast to the orders of reason about what he ought or ought not to fear in spite of pleasure and pain.” As another philosopher put it, courage is “the power to face a disagreeable present in the interest of desirable permanent ends.” Courage then is not only the will to keep going during big moments of threat, but also the ability to delay gratification, to put off short-term pleasures for long-term gains, to do hard and boring work in pursuit of the personal and greater good.

This kind of courage, the courage of discipline and self-mastery, requires humility.

Men who lead with audacity, rather than courage, who think they are special and entitled, who believe success comes more from inherent talent than effort, want to do fame-garnering and heroic deeds right off the bat. They feel they were born ready for glorious exploits. Grunt work is beneath them. Practice is unnecessary. They want success without sacrifice. They want to hack their way to the top.

They see the spectacle of the stage, without grasping the behind-the-scenes work it takes to put on the show.

They want to experience the satisfaction of fullness, without the pangs of hunger.

They are gods, and why should a deity bother getting down in the lowly muck of mastering fundamentals? Why should a god have to take an entry-level job? Why should attaining wealth require any more than four hours a week? Why should someone as special as themselves take things step-by-step instead of jumping right upon the throne?

In the rush to crown themselves, the bold stumble over their hubris, and forget that courage in the quiet and dullness of doing our “everyday duty” is the prerequisite to ascending to the clouds.

Boldness Seeks Glory; Courage Seeks Honor

“The bold man seeks to divide; he wants his own and will shoulder his brother aside to loot it. The brave man unites. He succors his fellow, knowing that what belongs to the commonwealth belongs to him as well.”

“In troubled times the bold man flails about in effeminate anguish, seeking to draw his neighbors into his misfortune, for he has no strength of character to fall back upon other than to drag others down to his own state of wickedness.”

At the age of 20, after over a decade of training, a Spartan citizen became eligible for military service. At this point, he joined a syssitia — a mess group of 15 other men. Each day a warrior was solemnly obligated to meet around the table and share a meal with these comrades, for the express purpose of building camaraderie. In fact, before the 5th century BC, the syssitia was simply known as andreia — which in this context meant “belonging to men.” As the men broke bread together, they learned to rely on each other and formed a bond of support that would enrich their days in times of peace, and contribute to military success in times of war.

Membership in a syssitia was thus mandatory for belonging to the homoioi — Sparta’s full-fledged citizens and soldiers. Homoioi meant “equals” and referred to the fact that Spartan men shared the same disciplined lifestyle, the same meals, the same dangers and risks, and the same code of conduct. The homoioi in other words was an honor group — a tribe of men pledged to check personal interest in support of their brothers.

Developing this courage of honor was of acute importance on the battlefield, as each Spartan warrior fought as part of a phalanx formation. Members of a phalanx marched forward as a single entity, and met the enemy together. Each warrior stood side-by-side with his brother, locking shields to form a wall of protection; each warrior depended on the courage of the man to left and right of him for success and survival. The phalanx was thus only as strong as its weakest link, and relied upon each member working together for the greater good. A man who acted dishonorably, who broke off because of personal fear, or personal ambition, put the whole phalanx at risk.

In seeking to honor, support, and protect their brothers, the Spartans lived for a purpose higher than self. In contrast, they felt their enemies lived only for their own interests. Boldness, Lysander argues, is marked by personal ambition — the desire to gain wealth and do deeds that will redound to one’s own glory.

Many modern men center their lives on this kind of personal ambition, and care nothing for how their exploits and foibles affect other people, and their country. They do whatever they want — whatever is best for themselves, gratifies their desires, and flatters their flaws. If cheating will get them to their goal, they cheat even if it hurts innocent bystanders. If the standards and ideals of manliness are too difficult for them to reach, they disparage them, or move the yardsticks in order to include themselves. If they feel like collapsing in self-indulgent pity when their friends and loved ones need them, they indulge this urge, bringing others down with them.

Such men have boldness, in the sense they “audaciously” do whatever they feel like doing. But they lack the courage of honor — the commitment to strengthen and uplift their fellows, celebrate a code of ideals, and respect others enough to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Especially when it’s hard.

Boldness is Blasphemous; Courage is Reverent

“In my father’s house I was taught that heaven reigns, and to fear and honor her mandates. This is the Spartan, Dorian, and Peloponnesian way. Our race does not presume to dictate to God, but seeks to discover His will and adhere to it. Our ideal man is pious, modest, self-effacing.”

“Boldness…is spawned of defiance and disrespect; it is the bastard brat of irreverence and outlawry.”

Thrasytes presumes to command heaven; it forces God’s hand and calls this virtue. Andreia reveres the immortals; it seeks heaven’s guidance and acts only to enforce God’s will.”

For the ancient Greeks, hubris — outrageous pride that defied the gods — was the greatest sin. Killing men or raping women who had fled to the temple for protection from the gods was a common act of hubris during times of war. Destroying sacred property was another.

Hubris was knowing the will of the gods, but spitting on it out of spite.

As just discussed, thanks to their run of success, the Athenians began to think of themselves as gods, and thus had little use for the worship of greater deities. Thrasytes wrongly convinced them that they were entirely in charge of their own destinies. And so they began defying the gods. The night before the Sicilian expedition — a battle during the Peloponnesian War — all the heads of the Hermes statues in Athens were chopped off. Many suspected riotous Alcibiades was involved. Some would call this a silly prank, but for the Athenians about to embark on a major war expedition, it was a sign they thought themselves greater than the gods, and had no need for divine assistance.

The Spartans, on the other hand, maintained piousness. They understood that while they could prepare as much as possible or fight with all their might, oftentimes the results were out of their hands. The gods or fate doled out success or failure how they wished.

If they failed, they didn’t pout or sulk. They accepted it, often with laconic wit.

If they succeeded, they didn’t puff themselves up with pride. They understood that as the gods giveth, the gods taketh away. The most they could do was to be disciplined in virtue and arête — to be excellent men, and strong in andreia — and then to let the chips fall as they would.

Even in our age of secularism, respect for forces greater than ourselves is needed. The courage of reverence humbly recognizes that while we can strive all we want for a specific goal, sometimes the fates or the gods have another outcome in mind.

There’s a courage in striving to be your best, but also a courage in letting go of the false reality of total control. There’s a bravery in fighting to shape your destiny, and also in learning to as Nietzsche put it, amor fati — to not just accept your fate, but to love it.

Conclusion: Courage Is the Firewall Against Personal and National Decadence

Two-thousand years after the decline of Greek civilization, America’s Founding Fathers would mine the lessons of the divergent paths of Sparta and Athens. The Founders were astute students of classical history and looked to the two city-states for inspiration on how best to govern their nascent republic. While they rightfully abhorred many of the social practices of ancient Sparta (including infanticide, murdering-as-rite-of-passage, and state sanctioned adultery), they, like Athens’ famous philosophers, admired the Spartans’ stable, balanced constitution, and unbending discipline and principle. And while they praised the Athenian protection of individual freedom and revered their art and philosophy, they also saw Athens as an example of the societal rot that sets in when the love of personal liberty, luxury, commercial success, and democracy are not tempered with a devotion to duty, frugality, virtue, and honor.

They saw the danger of a becoming a people who primarily choose boldness, over courage.

For the republic to be a success, the Founders believed, individual men had to cultivate not only martial bravery, but the courage of endurance, control, contentment, discipline, reverence, and honor — courage that not only manifested itself on the battlefield but was exhibited in everyday life.

Courage is deciding to stay home and work on your side business when your friends are going out; courage is eating a chicken breast and broccoli when you really want a Big Mac; courage is keeping your junky car instead of getting an upgrade, and using the money saved to pay down your debt and become financially independent.

Courage is digging deeper into pat media narratives instead of coasting with the masses to form a political opinion; courage is taking on small ways to serve in your community instead of deciding that if you can’t make a big difference, it isn’t worth trying at all; courage is choosing sincerity and earnestness over cynicism and apathy.

Courage is deciding to live virtuously in your day-to-day life, even when those who lack integrity seem to be the ones getting ahead.

Courage is a man’s bulwark against physical cowardice and weakness.

Courage is a country’s firewall against civic and moral decadence.

“Boldness produces hubris. Hubris calls forth nemesis. And nemesis brings boldness low.

We are nemesis brothers…and no force between sea and sky may prevail against us.”

75 Tips On How To Be A Man, 2017

Josh Schmitz

(TRIGGER WARNING) In our semi-annual 75 tips on how to be a man, I'm not going to hold back on a new list of items which I've learned this year as to what a real man looks like, talks like, and acts like.

You see, the majority of Men today in their 20’s and 30’s are lost. There is a distinct cognitive dissonance, (ie: the tension in your brain) about the boy you are, and the man you want to become. Most 18-34 year old guys feel like lost little boys who are trapped inside a Mans body. Feeling completely confused, unprepared, and typically refusing to think about things like, family, career, moral / fiscal / and civic responsibilities.

Spending their time drown out, somewhere between trying to get pictures from girls on Snapchat, lying to yourself, (about yourself) on Tinder, or pretending you made a million dollars off of bitcoin (which we know you are lying about) the men of today float around from rental to rental, spending more money on festival tickets than they do their girlfriends Christmas present. This is the man of today. And the saddest part – its almost completely acceptable.

Harsh? Maybe.

True? Absolutely.

Granted - no matter what I say, there will always be those people who look at these articles as sexist, some as flattering, some as nonsense, and some as inspiring. The American Culture is, I believe, robbed of its manliness. “Masculinity” has become a dirty word, and sadly, we live in a culture where your AGE determines if you are a man - not your ACTIONS.

So where do we turn?

The movies tell us that the Men in which women desire the most, are sparkling glittery vampires, abusive sex addict billionaires, or worse - we've become normalized by the amount of memes produced involving the term "fuckboi" which is now somehow common place and widely relateable.

The magazines tell us that Men have no body hair, and are all chiseled Greek Gods.

Tumblr (still) tells us that real Men have beards, and if you shave, well then - you are just a pussy.

But the real world, the world I live in, in which we actually live and breath and exist - as far as I can see, unfortunately, it tells us Men are simply… Missing.

My great friend JR Galardi says you become a man once your own father passes away, and I actually think its a truer statement than most, only because in comparison, that requires some action, some stepping up to the plate.

So below is my attempt to help give some tips, tricks, and advice, in what the last 31 years of life has taught me what a real Man is.


  • A man listens to what he likes to listen to, regardless of the crowd or whats popular. Whether that's podcasts, sad boy jams, Celine Dion, or the spice girls - His taste in music is unwavering and unapologetic.
  • A man pulls the chair out for his woman on dates, whether it’s their first date or their 100th.
  • A man drinks black coffee. No milk. No sugar.
  • A man walks first and opens the door for his woman. Not because she cant open it for herself, but because she deserves to enter every room first.
  • A man isn't afraid to fake using chopsticks (even though he knows they are irrational in a modern world)
  • A man does not bitch about his feelings on Facebook. Some of the happiest and most fulfilled men I know are the least active on social media.
  • Men don’t need a pansy or fancy cup to drink beer out of. Drinking it straight from the can will not kill you.
  • Men wake up before 7am.
  • Men keep a journal daily.
  • A real man takes responsibility for themselves and for others. I have never met a man I respected who didn't take responsibility for what he had, did, or said.
  • Real men give up the comparison game. You will never live your story if you are too busy trying to live someone elses.
  • Men do not fight their kids’ battles for them. A man lets his kids scrape their knees, lets them get stitches.
  • Men do not email their kids teachers when they fail a test; they ground their children and teach them the importance of studying harder.
  • A Man has seen the movies Tombstone, Dead Poets Society, and 300, and quotes all of them frequently.
  • A Man understands that life is NOT fair, and understands that winners and losers are necessary in the game of life. A man throws away all PARTICIPATION awards and ribbons. There is no prize for just showing up.
  • A Man understands that you will never get a job based off your resume alone, you must forget about what your pedigree says. At the end of the day, its just words on paper – what matters is how to present and sell themselves well in real life.
  • One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.
  • A man takes care of the people who take care of him. Treat everyone with the utmost respect, from taxi drivers to parking attendants to the bartender.
  • If you can’t afford to tip – stay home.
  • A man knows how to tie a necktie AND a bowtie.
  • A man own Pets they aren't ashamed of.


  • A man never-ever dates an ex of your friend. And, if you have a friend that dates your ex – he was never really your friend.
  • A man has had enough drinks in his life that when the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink. And if you dont drink, a real man isnt afraid to order a Shirley Temple in a crowded bar.
  • When in doubt, a Man ALWAYS kisses the girl.
  • A real man knows how to build a campfire. Even when the wood is damp.
  • Men do not dream. They plan.
  • A Man takes time to appreciate nice things, and is responsible enough to not to lose them.
  • A Man takes at least one cold shower a week. It teaches you self-discipline, and helps remind yourself that are not a pussy.
  • Real men should enjoy a good Sunday brunch with friends at least once a month.


  • Men do not get cheap haircuts. Spend the extra money and get a proper shave at least 3 times a year. And go to a real barbershop where they bust your balls. Bring your kids there as well, allow your kids to get their balls busted too.
  • A man knows how to gut a fish. With a knife.
  • Its honorable to aspire to become successful and wealthy, but at the same time, a Man always understands that he is still better off than most who have ever lived and is generous with all he has.
  •  A man knows that anything worth having is worth working hard for. Shortcuts and free rides have no place in a mans world. You only get what you give, and rightly so.
  • Becoming “RICH” is a moving target that you can never achieve. Do not base your decisions around financial gain, but instead around the quality of your life and the relationships involved.
  • All the money in the world doesn’t compare to having a beautiful girl on your arm. Focus more on her – and less on the money.


  • Never split a check with a woman. Not because she can’t pay on her own, but because she is valuable, and you want to take care of her.
  • A man is open-minded but firm in his beliefs. Principles are always held onto and respected, whether they’re his own or others’.
  • Men know how to disagree without disrespecting. Whether its faith, religion, politics, education, or anything else - A real man should know how to converse and disagree without making you feel lesser than.
  • Real men don't hit, abuse, or take advantage of women or children. Ever. EVER.
  • When a bartender buys you a round, always tip double.
  • A man should carry enough self respect to mean what he says, and say what he means. Men do not subtweet, doublespeak, or make people read between the lines – a man is open about his thoughts, feelings, and expectations all the time.
  • A man apologizes when he is wrong.
  • A Man understands that Piercings are major liabilities in fights. So are untied shoes and drop-crotch pants.
  • Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.
  • Throw parties. Then actually be a host – Men recognize that the party is never really about you, its about building bridges and community within the safety of your walls.  
  • Measure yourself only against your previous self. The mirror is what should ALWAYS provide you with your biggest competition.
  • Take more pictures.  With a real camera, and a woman on your arm.  Save Them. Never take selfies.
  • When you have kids - make sure they know how to protect themselves. A good 1-2 combo goes a long way as a kid.


  • When you truly admire the work of artists, writers, and musicians - tell them. And then spend money to acquire their work.
  • Staying angry is a waste of energy.
  • “Please forgive me, I was wrong” is how a Man apologizes. NOT “I’m sorry”.
  • Always bring a bottle of something to the party; Preferably whiskey.
  • Avoid that “last” whiskey. You’ve probably had enough.
  • Date women outside your social set. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works. Actually, if you believe in ANYTHING, you should know how it works.
  • Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is now settling with you.
  • A man enjoys being alone, driving alone or even movies alone are some of the most needed and relaxing times. Learn to enjoy yourself when alone.
  • Never ever stop going on dates with your wife.
  • Ignore the boos when they come from someone in a lower tax bracket. Pay attention to them when coming from someone in a higher tax bracket.
  • Don’t gamble if losing $100 is going to piss you off.
  • Never Ever Play the victim.
  • Know the rules of chess and bocci. Play both frequently, while at the same time not losing your edge if someone challenges you in Mortal Combat.
  • Do something once a day that scares you. No one was ever remembered for being comfortable.
  • Honesty, really is the best policy.
  • When choosing what cologne to buy – always let the girl pick, and stick with it.
  • Have a mentor in your life that you can really trust to call you out on your bullshit.
  • Go to Church.
  • Make your own decisions and then have the courage to own up to them if they don’t pan out.
  • Be a broken record when communicating what is important to you. In business – Life, Relationships, Children, etc.
  • Break a sweat at least 5 times a week.
  • What you say really does matter. Choose your words wisely, especially when talking to a female or child
  • Surround yourself with friends that are smarter than you are.
  • As the Man Tyler Durden says – “You are not your fucking khakis”. Where you work, and what you wear, have nothing to do with “who you are”.
  • Know how to tie a good knot.
  • Know how to swim.
  • Know how to drive a stick-shift.
  • Travel. Not for the instagram picture, but so you can learn and expand your knowledge of culture and experience life from someone else’s perspective.
  • Know how to wear jewelry properly.
  • Whenever you can, support small business: from auto repair shops, to tailors, to grocery stores.
  • Drinking tap water will not kill you.
  • A man is comfortable with the uncomfortable. Rise up and step out of the comfort zone.
  • Do something nice for a stranger at least once a week.
  • Learn the names of your immediate neighbors. Get together with them at least once a summer.
  • Own a good leather jacket, maybe even two.
  • Learn how to tell a good story. Your children and your grandchildren will appreciate it.
  • Holidays are more about giving than receiving. Look to serve your community on large holidays when the need is at its highest.
  • Always make sure your daughter knows how beautiful, smart, and worthy she is.
  • Travel as far as you can, for as long as you can, as often as you can. Not to learn more about the world, but to learn more about yourself.
  • Know how to ride a motorcycle.
  • Read at least a book a month. Avoid the self-help section. That section is for women.


  • Learn to act like the most confident man in the room, while understanding you are no better than anyone else.
  • Be Humble.
  • Always treat the woman you are with like she is the most beautiful girl in the room.
  • Under Promise – Over Deliver.
  • Don’t be afraid of confrontation, it’s is the only way we grow.
  • A man knows how to cook a killer breakfast.
  • A man knows how to rebuild things. If he doesn’t, he has the resilience to learn. Ie - engines, fortunes, relationships.
  • A Man becomes brave not by thinking and studying bravery, but by acting it out daily.
  • A man admittedly doesn’t know everything and understands the world is not black and white. If you have someone in your life that is a know-it-all, be very cautious when taking his or her advice.
  • A man never stops going on adventures, and also teaches his kids to appreciate the wonder and excitement of a good Adventure.
  • A man never makes a decision based on fear.
  • A Man understands there really are no maps in life, and if someone hands you one – it is NOT yours.
  • A Man can argue without raising his voice. He can take a stand without raising a fist. (A Man also knows when it becomes time to raise a fist, he often throws the first punch.)
  • A man interrupts trouble. He stands up for what is right even when it does not concern him directly.
  • Style — a man has that. He does not try to fit trends or stay young. He is established in his own right and has nothing to prove.
  • A man understands that life happens fast, and that waiting for tomorrow is the worst thing you could do.

Questions / Comments / Hate / Etc -


Josh Schmitz

On Wednesday, November 22d, Denver based apparel company RUCKUS, is hosting a food bank and full Thanksgiving Day meal delivery service to serve the people of Metro Denver. Bellwether, the flagship store for RUCKUS will be serving hot meals to those who have been without, offering meals to families to take home to cook on Thanksgiving as well as free haircuts and manicures to those in need. Bellwether is welcoming the community to get involved and give back to their fellow community members. From barbers to musicians to photographers to someone who would like to donate their time to pass out food, Bellwether welcomes everyone!


Not your shitty leftover green beans, we need the good stuff, the stuff you want to be eating. The homeless and those in hard spots do NOT deserve scraps, they need the same things we do.

We need help setting up, tearing down, clearing meals, serving meals, and Driving meals! We are doing a hot SERVED meal during the day. This is our time to give back!

Do you have a gift of barbering or beauty?! Come put that gift to work with us and give back! We need hands, supplies, and all the smiles you can bring, so we can fully help anyone who comes in!

I wanna have some love in the air! Are you a singer / songwriter? Come sing and play some music to people who haven't been able to afford the beauty and gift of live music in a while.

Have a flower shop? A soap company? Do you do balloon animals? Do you have a connection with families that are in need of food? Come by and join with us hand-in-hand as we give back and express love in a way that this city so desperately needs.

Bring your kids by here to help serve alongside a loving community in a real and tangible way.

Maybe you yourself are in need of some food, or a haircut - or maybe you know a friend of family member that would love to get an amazing thanksgiving day meal delivered to their home! Simply come by Bellwether, or fill out the ANONYMOUS form below and we will deliver your food straight to you!

Name of person being delivered to *
Name of person being delivered to
Address food needs delivered to *
Address food needs delivered to

Love you Guys. Love this City. Lets give back as a community. It'll be the best part of your thanksgiving, we promise!!


Josh Schmitz

How does one live a meaningful life? This is the question that author Emily Esfahani Smith has obsessed over for years and has thoughtfully written about in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Atlantic and TIME. “I used to think the whole purpose of life was the pursuit of happiness,” she opens her massively popular TED Talk, before going on to explain why she’s come to believe that there is something much more important. This is also a theme in her wonderful book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. Certainly, a purposeful life was of the highest priority to the Stoics—and they spoke clearly about the emptiness of pursuing mere happiness and pleasure. We reached out to Emily after her fantastic article in the New York Times this month, which was a warning to young people today on the perils of chasing fame, to ask her a number of questions that she was kind enough to answer. Below you’ll find daily exercises to help cultivate meaning in one’s life, book recommendations, and much more. And if you want to learn more about her work, her website is and you can also follow her on Twitter. Enjoy!


We first connected after your wonderful New York Times piece warning millennials against chasing fame—saying essentially that there is all sorts of important, meaningful work to be done and not all of it is going to be exciting and glamorous. Obviously Marcus Aurelius talked a lot about fame—call it worthless clacking of tongues and pointing out how few people remembered even the emperors who preceded him. Talk to us a little bit about the allure of bigness and world-changingness with people these days and why you believe that might be the wrong thing to chase.

I think people have always yearned for greatness and recognition. We all want to know our lives matter and are significant in the grand scheme of things, after all. But today, this idea that a meaningful life must be an epic life is being inflamed, I think, by social media. On the internet, extraordinary lives look like the norm, and so we aspire for such lives ourselves. And yet, most of us will lead ordinary lives. Many of us won’t live out our dreams or accomplish all of our major life goals. But that doesn’t mean we can’t lead profoundly meaningful lives.

The 20th-century psychologist Erik Erikson said that in order to lead a flourishing life, we must master a particular developmental task at each stage of life. When we’re young, we’re supposed to figure out who we are and what our purpose is. As we get older, we’re supposed to shift the focus from ourselves to others and be “generative.” That is, we’re supposed to give back, especially to younger generations, by doing things like raising children, mentoring colleagues, creating things of value for our community or society at large, volunteering, etc. We each have the power to be generative. Fame and glamour are about the self—aggrandizing yourself. But generativity is about connecting and contributing to something bigger, which is the very definition of leading a meaningful life.

Your widely popular TED talk, articles and book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters argue for the pursuit of meaning over happiness. What’s the difference? Why should we pursue the former over the latter?

Happiness is a positive mental and emotional state—the presence of positive emotions and the absence of negative ones. Meaning is bigger—it lies in connecting and contributing to something beyond the self. When people say their lives are meaningful, according to psychologists, it’s because they believe three things about their lives: They believe their lives have worth and value; they believe their lives are driven by a sense of purpose; and they believe their lives are coherent.

I don’t have any problems with happiness, of course. I like being happy and I want the people I love and care about to be happy, too. But I think the unending pursuit of happiness has led us astray. The real goal shouldn’t be maximizing our own happiness, but leading a meaningful life. Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said that happiness cannot be pursued—that it ensues from leading a meaningful life. I think that’s right—and certainly modern psychology research bears him out. When people devote themselves to doing meaningful things, like caring for a sick relative or studying hard for a test, they may not be as happy in the moment, but they experience a deeper kind of well-being down the road.

You’ve recommended looking up at the night sky to feel awe and transcendence. It reminds us of a line from Marcus Aurelius, “Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” What are other exercises and ideas would you recommend our readers implement in their day-to-day to help them find meaning?

I’d recommend creating habits of meaning in your daily life. In my book, I talk about 4 pillars of meaning—belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. So find ways to build these pillars in your life. For example, after writing my book, I realized that storytelling—crafting a narrative about my life and life in general—was an important source of meaning for me, so I started keeping a journal where I process different experiences I’m having. For transcendence, I make sure to regularly spend time in places that inspire awe in me, like in nature or at the art museum. I’ve found that technology can be a real barrier to both transcendence and belonging, so I’m trying to get some control over my addiction to it. Instead of checking social media or the headlines before I go to bed, I try to read a poem or listen to some music as I meditate. I don’t always succeed, but no one said trying to live a meaningful life is easy!

You’ve mentioned the worrying trend of increasing suicide rates in the U.S.; more and more people feel like their lives simply don’t matter. What would be the one or two things you’d tell someone who is apathetic and feels that their life is devoid of any meaning?

I went to a conference a few years ago where high school students presented meaningful projects they were working on. One group of girls was putting together a book called “Dear Billy.” Their friend Billy had recently committed suicide and so, to honor him, they had different people in his life write him letters as if he were still alive. The girls wanted this book to be a resource for despairing individuals to see that there are people who love and admire them—that they matter to their community. So I’d encourage an apathetic and hopeless person to remember their community—their friends, family, teachers, and neighbors. Think about the letters those people would write to you if they had the chance. Think about the letter you’d write to others if you had the chance. Well, come to think of it, why not write that letter this week and give it to them? In positive psychology, there’s an exercise known as the “gratitude letter.” You write a heartfelt letter of gratitude to someone and then present it to that person. It’s a really powerful activity that lifts both people up and brings them closer together. Suicide and depression are often problems of alienation and isolation. So anything that strengthens those critical bonds of belonging will, I hope, remind people that their lives matter.

I’d also say this: I had a professor in graduate school who said the best cure for depression is volunteering. So much of meaning comes from knowing you have a role to play, that you’re needed and valued by others. So engage with the world. Try on different roles. Adopt the one that fits you best. And remember what Erikson said about generativity. Doing good in the world, even if on a small scale, can ripple out and make a difference.

At one point Epictetus makes an appearance in your book—you mention how Albert Camus was reading him bedridden and trying to find solace. Have you read the Stoics? Can you tell us the story of your introducing to them if so? Any favorites?

Yes I’ve read the Stoics. The first one I heard of was Marcus Aurelius. In high school, a thoughtful friend told me he was reading Meditations. This is embarrassing, but I’d never heard of Aurelius or his book so I looked it up, found out that Aurelius was a Roman emperor, and thought “Huh, I wonder what my friend likes about that book.” I filed the book away in my head, but didn’t come back to it until years later researching my own book, The Power of Meaning. The next stop was college, where I majored in philosophy. I also studied positive psychology in graduate school, so I encountered Stoic ideas in my studies. In classes, though, they were usually presented as an afterthought to Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. But I remember being more intrigued by their ideas than those of the other philosophers we were learning about. I liked that they emphasized living a life of virtue over hedonism, and I also admired the idea that your mindset creates your reality. It was so prescient—so much modern research has borne out their wisdom. Plus, Stoicism seemed to acknowledge that life can be hard and messy, but still worthwhile, and that also appealed to me. I think part of my attraction to the Stoics was temperamental, too. Some people burn hot—they have passionate, fiery personalities. I’m not like that. I’m more, well, stoic!

We’ve strongly recommended Viktor Frankl’s very Stoic Man’s Search for Meaning, which of course you’ve studied and written about in The Atlantic. Most of our readers have read and loved Frankl’s book, so what are some other books they should follow up with? You’re clearly extremely well-read and we always love to ask for book recommendations.

There are so many to choose from! Where to begin. George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch is long and at times dense, but so worth the time and effort. It’s about (among other things) a group of young people who are searching for meaning. They think they need to do something grand, but the lesson of the book is something we discussed earlier: Ordinary lives are full of meaning in the goodness they put into the world. Tolstoy is another author to read. The question of meaning is at the center of many of his works. I’d recommend his novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which is about a shallow man who, on his deathbed, realizes his life was meaningless. That sounds depressing, but there’s a ray of hope at the end of the story. Before Ilyich dies, he learns what truly makes life meaningful. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is also a beautiful commentary on meaning. In the novel, something horrible happens—and the question is: How does Pi make sense of it? What narrative does he craft? Our lives aren’t just the way they are, as Pi points out. We make meaning out of them from the stories we tell. I also recently read a biography of Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons, which was wonderful. Cohen was a real spiritual seeker, a man who cared about meaning. That comes across in the biography and, of course, in his music.

*this post originally appeared on THE DAILY STOIC