After my morning run, I filled the bathtub with the coldest water I could and I laid down in it for about 20 minutes. The initial dip into the water was the worst, but at no time was I very comfortable. In order to keep my mind off the heat draining from my appendages, I tried to be productive. I worked through some lessons on Duolingo and read a little bit, and when that no longer distracted me I sent out a Snapchat of my icy feet to a bunch of friends. The response was what you’d expect, a series of texts that either encouraged me (from fellow extreme wackos) or people asking me “why in the hell would you do that?”
Why would I take an ice bath? Or train to run a 100-mile off-road race? Or cycle across the country with little more than an empty bank account and a bike from Target? Or fast weekly?
I don’t have a good answer, but I think it all comes back to two points: I don’t like being comfortable and I think we humans are capable of some amazing things.
Comfort, to me, isn’t a positive feeling, it is a lack of feeling. When I’m comfortable I don’t write daily, I only do the work that is necessary to return me to comfort, I don’t exercise, and I don’t eat well. We live in the most comfortable time in human history (something that I would never change), but the ability to sit in an air-conditioned home with easy calories and minimal expenses is the death of our bodies and souls. We need the struggle to become stronger, we need discomfort to find out what we are made of and reach our potential. So, I put myself into situations where my body and mind are not comfortable.
When we break out of our comfort zones we can accomplish unbelievable things. That is why I get so inspired when I read books like “What Doesn’t Kill Us” and “Born to Run”. They are about common people doing extraordinary things because we evolved to be capable of those things. There is nothing genetically special about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without a shirt on or running 100-miles through the forest, we all have the capability to accomplish those things by tapping into our past. We descend from tribes of people who traveled basically barefoot across continents. That capability is still inside of us, and I want to let out that capability. When I read about the benefits and possibilities of pushing the human body to the limits (limits that were commonly approached in the past) I can’t help but be inspired.
Maybe this type of mindset is why some people excel at entrepreneurship or are motivated to play sports. I don’t seem to be as interested in competition or making money, but I am interested in seeing what I’m capable of and experiencing all sensations (including the negative ones). Some of my greatest memories from my two cross-country bike rides are the trials we endured, the climbs over the Rocky Mountains and camping in the torrential downpours in the Gulf region and the 100+ degree rides through the eastern Washington desert. Yes, those experiences sucked ass, but they also came with a sense of accomplishment. The view from the top of the mountain is more satisfying when you are drenched in sweat and breathing heavily than if I saw it through the windshield of an air conditioned car. Drinking an ice cold corona on the side of a desert lake after nearly succumbing to heat stroke is more satisfying than any craft beer that I purchased after a quick drive to the local brewery.
The greatest highs come from overcoming the greatest lows, and in some ways I want to see how low I can go. What torture can I endure? What obstacles can I overcome? What camaraderie I can feel with those who went through the same struggles, not as a competitor but as a colleague. Now that I think about it, I wonder if this mindset is what attracted me to the Army in the first place, or maybe what draws me to blockchain investments and anarchism and nootropics. Hell, maybe this desire for new experiences and complications is part of why I embrace my non-monogamy and sexual fluidity (or maybe not, I’m just spitballing here).
It is a pursuit of my own potential through unconventional means that drives me to embrace my evolutionary roots. It is looking at the well-tread path of successful people in the modern world and thinking “nah, that looks boring”. I prefer a life of Tough Mudder, mountain climbing, cross ocean sailing, and all the scars, misery, and injuries that comes with it.