We are taught from a very young age that no man is an island, that we all live in an interdependent, integrated society where we must learn to rely on one another, help one another, be there for one another; where teamwork is paramount; where the purpose of school is first and foremost “socializing” children for “cooperation” in their adult lives.
The truth is, each man and woman is an island. Each of us is a completely separate, totally isolated entity, living our lives within ourselves, with our own thoughts, emotions, reactions and interpretations. As much help as you might receive from others, nobody can do your thinking for you. When trying to get in shape, nobody can exercise or eat your meals for you. Realistically, nobody can ever really do anything for you. Seek out whatever assistance you may, but at the end of it all, you are the only person that can live your life, for you.
Solitude is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it means isolation, estrangement, disconnect—like there is nobody there to help, nobody who understands, nobody to assist with the burden, split the work.
But at other times, solitude is the greatest gift possible—aloneness, stillness and quietude, that feeling that the world belongs to you and only you, including the good and the bad—whatever is imperfect falls upon your shoulders; but more importantly, all the success and beauty traces back to your fingertips. Those moments of quiet meditation, when it is just sky and wind and your sensation, feeling coolness, rustling branches, and breathing. “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” (Henry Rollins) Loneliness intensifies life, puts you into the present mix, allows for “in-the-moment” living.
I had become used to a swarming circus of a work environment, with constant noise, buzzing, people, to my left, to my right, to the point where I no longer noticed the cacophony until I got home at night. I would sit in my chair at night, spent, exhausted, and realize my ears were ringing. There was no differentiation to the day, no “dynamics“, just a constant lull and grind and buzz, with the nervous system always subtly firing. My new work environment is a sharp contrast—empty aisles, full 20 minute periods where I won’t see another human being. And quiet. Quiet can be scary, until you embrace it.
The greatest part about working at Colosseum is the weekends. On Saturday, the club doesn’t open until 7am. But my training partner and I will typically pull into the parking lot at 5:45am, unlock the doors, turn on the lights, and begin our workout. It’s a quiet meditation at that hour—there is no laughter, excitement, “psych-up” or “show” to put on—just pure in-the-moment being; just pure dedication, knowing you are there because nobody else is, knowing you are creating your stamp upon this planet by being alone, and continuing down your path with no one’s approval, just internal decision and will. “Like a tank rolling across the landscape. With the lights off, climb the stairs.” (Emotional Fuel: 8-6-10)
Nobody can give me those moments, nor take them away—they are completely mine, hidden away from the rest of the world. They are not to be interpreted, discussed, or analyzed, merely experienced. “I am ready for whatever’s coming. I expect nothing but to be let down or turned away. I am alone. ” (Henry Rollins) These are the moments that add up to forge a soul of steel.
The acquisition of an external goal is immensely important. The embracing of the internal state that lends itself to achieving that goal—the pride, the joy, the love, the pain, the endurance and suffering and determination and amusement and laughter—is worth more. That internal state is yours alone, as an island, an isolated entity within this world.
If the rest of the human race ceased to exist tomorrow, would your approach change? Would you do things differently? If you were the only individual left on this planet, would you still wake up at 5:45am, and still head to the gym? Would you still put on your clothes and head out the door to your job?
I like to think that I would, but with an increased beauty and an increased burn—more quiet smiles, but smiles to no one, just myself, honoring the fact that I was still here, still doing what I loved. “The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)
Mine, and mine alone.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.