Mentors, Stress, Glory & People Change
December 18, 2022
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 89: Mentors
We can often place our mentors on a special, elevated, untouchable pedestal. After all, if the mentors we look up to or lean upon for advice happen to also be those we could continually find fault in, our trust and confidence in acting upon the advice provided by those mentors could be shaken. So, we tend to irrationally convince ourselves that our mentors are perfect physical, mental, and spiritual specimens who must have perfect families, perfect lives, and perfect personalities.
But the fact is, mentors are human too, including yours, whoever that may be. I’ve personally seen my own mentors over the years suffer from mental breakdowns, ugly divorces, depression, and other all-too-human issues. See, no matter how famous or how flawless a mentor may appear to be, they each have their own struggles, failures, temptations, and broken tendencies, hence the sage advice to “never meet your hero” – meaning that it can be unwise to seek personal acquaintance with people who you have regarded with high esteem, as they may often fail to fulfill your expectations, resulting in disappointment.
Not only that, but if your mentor is on such a high pedestal that you’re projecting them to be a far superior human being than you, you may fail to notice when your mentor themself needs help. After all, who helps the mentors when the mentors are down? Who doctors the doctor, cooks for the cook, and trains the trainer? Have you ever considered the fact that your own mentor – whether that be a pastor, a leader of your organization, a superior, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, a parent, or some other “guru” in your life – needs constant encouragement or mentorship themselves? Who’s actually helping them? Who’s mentoring the mentor? Maybe that person is supposed to be you. In many cases, I’ve lost mentors to their own temptations, sins, and shortcomings, and often wondered if that would have happened if I would have done a better job caring for that mentor, praying for them, checking in on them spiritually, encouraging them, and ensuring they too were being seen, felt, heard and loved.
When you begin to think of and see your mentor as a person who is not perfect and who may need help themself, you will gradually begin to find frequent opportunities to bless them, buttress them, support them, insulate them, help them, and – especially if they continue to be your mentor – better equip them to be that teacher, trainer, helper, armor-bearer, right flank guard, and source of wisdom you turn to in times of need. In other words, you must care for and even protect your mentor if you want them to be around to care for you.
Precept 90: Stress
Do you suppose that our ancient ancestors, when encountering stress, had access to our modern-day, fancy, new-fangled biohacking methods for managing stress, such as stellate ganglion nerve blocks, vagal nerve stimulators, ECG-sensing meditation, and neurofeedback headbands and other such devices able to easily lull them back into an unstressed parasympathetic state?
Um, no, I don’t think so.
See, we humans were beautifully designed to be able to tune up or tune down our own nervous system, gadget-free. Sure, all those stress-relieving biohacks – many of which I of course talk about or have even helped to introduce to the world – are sexy, interesting, and can add a bit of extra excitement to any given body and brain stress “management” experience, but at the end of the day, all the hacks you need, especially for your nervous system, are already built inside you as included features from the day you were born.
So let’s say you’re tight, with cross-linked muscles, adhered fibers, and general full-body tension. You don’t need to necessarily go to a physical therapist, schedule a massage, or go have a psychological session to dig into why you are storing trauma in your fascia. You definitely don’t need to shrug it off and continue to shove and harbor any feelings of bitterness, anger, discontent, or other stress-producing motions even deeper inside your sinews and organs.
Instead, consider doing what your ancestors might have done. They would have (gadget and self-quantifying wearable free) detected the tension and stress in their neuromuscular system. They then would have worked through the fascia with tools; scraping and kneading and rolling with sticks, trunks, rocks, pottery, shards, bricks, bottles, and any other tool handy for digging into muscle, including asking for a hand from a friend. They would have focused on long exhales relative to inhales to slow the heart and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, often inserting omms and hums and oohs and aahs to neuroacoustically tune the body to relieve stress. They would have smelled relaxing aromas, most notably essential oils from plants and flowers such as rose, lavender, or bergamot.
To voice and share their feelings of unease, they would have spoken to the others with whom they had loving relationships; they would have screamed a primal, guttural release to the heavens; they would have shaken, would have trembled, would have vibrated, would have lifted logs and rocks, and would have engaged in other forms of physical and cathartic activity to shake off that stress, just like a zebra or antelope or any other wild prey that has been pursued by a predator and escaped; they would have listened to a drum circle, or primal fiddle, or flute or birdsong or some other form of musical, sound therapy.
They would have tuned themselves in all these ways and many others.
And look, I know I’m stereotyping just a bit. Trust me, I don’t long for some nostalgic day of being clad in a cheetah-print unitard while waiting to jump out from behind a tree and spear a wooly mammoth for dinner. But I do sometimes think we should be more tuned into our bodies (without the need for gadgets) and better mentally equipped to understand the wide variety of built-in tactics that allow us to be able to take care of our own stressful sh*t, so to speak.
So think about that. You don’t have to have some fancy biohacking too to zap your stress away. Neither do you need to shove that stress down inside you and pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead, you just need to learn how to release tight fascia, breath, shake, tremble, and dance your stress away. You possess your own natural, stress-relieving first-aid kit, so learn it and use it!
Precept 91: Glory
For the next few moments, please think back to my previous recent writings on control.
Here’s something that causes many of us – especially former athletes, current athletes, and fitness or health enthusiasts – to cling so tightly to control: glory.
The glory of our younger years. See, by controlling as many elements of our lives as possible – particularly those related to diet, exercise, daily routines, and the like – we can maintain physical elements such as athleticism and aesthetics and mental elements such as sharpness and sleep, unfortunately long after we probably should have accepted the fact that we just happen to be getting older and moving on to another chapter in life, and we may not operate like a pro athlete or look like a supermodel for infinity.
Do you think that the recently “busted” Liver King “Brian Johnson” – who it turns out has been on so much gear and steroids to maintain his Adonis-like figure that he’s paying the equivalent of a small car’s worth of cash each month for it – would have gone through all that trouble if he weren’t frantically attempting to hold on to the beauty and strength of his youth, his former glory?
Do you think that the world-famous biohacker injecting stem cells, receiving young blood infusions, transplanting hair follicles, and getting electro shockwave therapy to their genitals would be going through all that trouble to discover the elusive Fountain of Youth if they weren’t trying very hard to control the fact that they’re getting old, they’re getting wrinkled, they’re getting ugly, they’re getting weak, and their glory is fading?
Do you think the 50-year-old control freak standing in front of you at the grocery store with her Botoxed face, fake boobs, waxed legs, and spray-on tan would be worrying all that much about being a Betty Boop grandma if she weren’t also trying to control her way into maintaining the way her body looked back when she was a glorious eighteen-year-old teenage girl?
See, a big part of our struggle with control is that we fear the humiliating potential for embarrassment that could accompany the loss of our former glory. We humans can do a very good job tying our current identity – including all the confidence, self-worth, and predictability of that identity – with the dopaminergic, feel-good nature of whatever past identity was associated with our most glorious state, which is often when we were our highest performing, most fit, most confident selves. Thus we immerse ourselves in fanatic control of our physical and mental existence, such as frequent gym visits, a very strict diet, idealized bedtimes, and a very expensive nutrition supplementation program, so that we can keep on grasping at those fading shreds of glory.
But what if you and I were to embrace the new? What if we were to experience the taste of flow and freedom that occurs when we realize we are no longer and no longer expected to be the star of the high school basketball team, the darling of the cheerleader squad, or the biggest guy or the leanest gal at the gym? No timers, no stopwatches, no must-dos, no have-to-dos. Just want-to-dos and can-dos. Skip the gym to go play pickleball instead? Guess what: nobody cares, except perhaps your friends who you hit with! Splurge on your diet and take your kids to ice cream? The only person checking out how lean you are at the gym the next day is probably just you. Stay out late past your bedtime to go to a movie with your lover, and feel a bit worn down the next day and nervous you’ll get sick? Guess what: maybe you will get sick and maybe you will “miss a training day” because of it and maybe that doesn’t matter anymore!
Remember, as I wrote here, what you should really be considering when it comes to how you are structuring or controlling your daily routine is what you will be remembered for. Did I love? Was I loved? Do I have any of the five regrets of the dying? Was all the biohacking, the exercising, the controlled eating, the supplements, the injections, the pills, the powders, and the potions day after day after day eventually just a long string of controlled days that became your entire life?
You won’t be Adonis forever.
You won’t be Venus forever.
You don’t have to work out two or three times a day. That was high school basketball glory, not your highest calling as a mature adult. You don’t have to turn heads when you walk down the beach in your swimsuit unless it’s your job to be a model. Leave that to the twenty-year-olds who have stepped into the glory prints you left in the sand long ago. You don’t have to be the one person at the table who doesn’t order a cocktail because you’re trying to live to be 150 years old. Your friends there at the restaurant with you don’t care how old you’re going to be – they care how much you laughed with them and began to tell hilarious stories halfway through your gin and tonic.
Who do you think will be remembered more fondly after they have left this planet: the man who dedicated himself so strictly to Ironman triathlons that he even did one when he was 90, the bearded Primal enthusiast who looks like he was 30 years old until he was at least 55 years old, the hot mama who maintained her swimsuit figure for a shockingly long period of time…
…or the Grandpa who made his grandchildren milkshakes and told them jokes and the Grandma who sat and painted with her grandchildren in the kitchen for hours on end?
When you look at old photos of retired athletes, do you wish you could have been them? Or is there so much more out there that you could invent, create, experience, achieve and share if you were to let your old glory fade away and embrace the new creation God has called you to become, which, ironically, is all the more glorious in the end?
So take off the athlete mask. The glory mask. The old you mask. You don’t have to watch a football game and wish you were still a gladiator on the field while envying the chiseled bodies of the athletes. You can instead watch the football game while eating a chocolate chip cookie and snuggling with your kids. That’s the new you. It’s a different chapter of life. And that’s OK.
Precept 92: People Change
People change. Get used to it.
No, seriously: I don’t mean to be harsh, but I sometimes get the sense that we spend the entirety of our human existence expecting our mother, father, brother, sister, and best friend from youth to be the same characters we remembered them as from back in the fun and innocent days, then we become disappointed, dismayed, shocked or let down when we discover they are an alcoholic, or have switched sexual preferences, or converted from Christianity to shamanism, or got super unhealthy, or became a wealth, distant a**hole, or any other [insert how someone you know changed that rubbed you the wrong way] here.
Part of this process of us not wanting it or liking it when people we have depended upon in the past or have associated with certain character tendencies change is because we love the nostalgia of our youth. That’s normal and expected. We’re a bit pre-programmed to crave the safety of our youth, the innocence of our childhood, and the ease of our elementary school relationships. When we realize that our parents aren’t perfect, our spouse seems like a different person, our siblings aren’t the same anymore or our friends don’t seem relatable anymore, there is a common temptation to get bothered by this, or let down, or disappointed.
But that’s silly, isn’t it? After all, isn’t part of the magic of being a human being that we change, evolve, grow, shrink, adapt, lose our way, find our way, and become new creations each day? After all, are you – for better or worse – the same person you were when you were ten? Twenty? Thirty? Forty? So why would you expect others to be?
Sometimes this changing and evolving isn’t all good. People will get weird. People will break – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, or all of the above. People will let you down. People will disappoint you. People will not be the same as you, live up to your expectations, or fulfill everything you expected them to be capable of.
It’s not your role to alienate that person or to fix that person.
It’s not your role to push them away because they’re not like you anymore or to take on the burden of trying to save them from what is or what you perceive to be the errors of their ways.
It’s your role to love, and to love fully and unconditionally.
It’s your role to love, and not to fix.
You don’t have to fix, you just have to love.
I’ll say it again: you don’t have to fix, you just have to love.
It’s not your burden to carry. It’s not your burden to fix. Instead, it’s simply your joy to love unconditionally.
1 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
1 Peter 4:8: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Luke 6:37: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
That’s it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!