It’s Not The Road Traveled But The Journey

One day a young man left his parents to find his own way. He wandered everywhere, sipping from many creeks and watching many trails. Every person he came across he asked one question.

“What is your perception of me?”

The answer always remained the same, a wanderer with no direction or idea of where to start. Then one day he came upon a stranger, asking the same question of him.

“You are seeking for a path,” was the answer. Then he elaborated on it, “In life take care of your needs, rely not on charity, just your own strength. Seek not a singular path yet, instead explore the entirety of the world and its wonders, drinking deeply of the experience and knowledge. You seek a single path up a great mountain filled with many ways to the top, enjoy the exploration of them and then you can wisely decide the path for you.”

They parted ways, the stranger on his path, and the young man striking out with a new appreciation.

S&S/ROP Hybrid Kettlebell Program; Six Week Assessment

Pavel doing one-hand swings from S&S

After this last competition, I began an Easy Strength version of the Rite of Passage. I train kettlebell swings, presses, and loaded carries. Fit into the rest periods are the correctives needed for my gaps, such as patterning, grinding, and doing the swing pattern, relearning tightness with a push-up plank. I even found room to practice the Siu Lim Tao form from Wing Chun Kung Fu, alternating it with the drills from the book Taking It to the Street. So far, I finish all this around 30 minutes. A nice change from the near hour-long training sessions I had been doing.

It was two days of Simple and Sinister by the book, then two days where the Clean & Press following the Rite of Passage’s ladder scheme replaced the Get-Ups. A great variation that succeeded in pushing strength up, except it is a focused bus bench program since the intensity is not sustainable. At my age I am Quadrant III (see Easy Strength or Intervention) so I need to ease back the intensity, staying on the park bench for a while with the new program.

Speaking of Intervention, I went through it answering the 10 questions, and then applying the five principles to construct a program. Following the advice of the book and Scott Iardella this is the first program I have ever written for myself so this will be an interesting six weeks until the next assessment. I recommend the book highly, now to see what the S&S/ROP hybrid did as far as body composition.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.12                 14.12               0

Shoulders             43.75                   43.25            -.50

Chest                      37.25            37.50                 +.25

Waist                             32.25                  32         -.25

Biceps                    12.43                 12.37             -0.06

Forearms                   10.87             11.00          +0.13

Thighs                         21.81                 21.25      -.56

Calves                          13.81                   13.75         -.06

Weight                  151.6lbs          153.4          +1.8lbs

Body Fat %                15.3%                14.8%         -.50%

Lean Body Mass    128.4lbs            130.7           +2.3lbs

Well I expected to be fatter with the excess calories I had been eating but my body put them to use apparently. Less fat, more lean body mass mostly in the chest and forearms. Strength is up, body fat is in acceptable levels and lean body mass is up. Not complaining at all.

The Wolf Mentality Revisited

In the context of the Triune Brain model, I have been rethinking the Wolf Mentality or more to the point the number of actual wolves out there. I can only think of one off the top of my head and he is a very pragmatic retired sailor. In TWIWC II Thorin wrote that to be a wolf you have to follow one rule:

Think for yourself.

It sounds easy enough, however with my observations using the Triune Brain model in ConCom that rarely happens. The neo-cortex is the rational part of our brains, the unemotional problem solver without any bias. Most of the time we are in our limbic systems, the social-emotional part where emotions and beliefs reside. When we are here, we react reflexively to feeling and perceptions. How often do you stop and think during a conversation? Small talk is a good example of us not thinking, it is a script everyone usually follows.

A study was done to see which parts of the brain lights up when discussing politics during an fMRI. It was not the rational part, it was the emotional one, and it can hijack you according to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence. When we are in this part of the brain the ‘wolf’ is dormant, in fact you could say we are sheepish since emotional people are predictable and malleable. From there we argue about how we feel about where we belong (hierarchy/group), how to do things (rules), where do others belong who are not part of the group, and label them. All based on our view on how the world should work, not what is actually happening.

I think to get started towards being a wolf you would have to loosen your emotions control over you. A person could acknowledge the emotions, set them aside so biases are minimized, and approach an issue like a math problem. Definitive. Being adaptable, they can build their own system of ethics and beliefs, while keeping in mind that the word view is intangible and not falling into the same trap as religious zealots or secular ideologues who attack any opposing opinion with rage and insults. The more emotionally invested or rigidly self-identifying with something the less rational we are, even if it is a code of our own creation.

I think being a mature wolf is an ideal, impossible to reach 100% of the time, like the Stoic Sage or Zen Masters. At best, most of us are cubs and juvenile wolves who are working to grow up one day. Remember that it is a process.

Third Competition after the ROP/S&S Blended Program

Since I started these competitions I’ve liked checking my strength and conditioning benchmarks; when I began I found I was weaker and utilizing the 40 Day Workout I got my strength back to previous levels. This time I went from an easy strength program to a press specialization program by plugging in press ladders for half the workouts with the goal to climb higher. I did overcome a plateau that I was stuck at for two years. I reached 3 ladders of 1-2-3-4 and 2 ladders of 1-2-3. I can keep going but it’s time to back off to a park bench training program. More on that later, so am I stronger?

photoYes. I weighed in at 152.4lbs and pressed the 53.2lb kettlebell 6 times both sides. I was proud to hit 41% of my bodyweight over head at a 62lb max. While my raw strength went up I had to check my conditioning levels with the Snatch Test, 100 reps in 5 minutes with the 53lb ‘bell. My numbers had been consistently dropping all year in it. This time wasn’t any different with a paltry 29 reps. Best ever was 46, falling to 38, to this which begs the question, why? In the 50th episode of Scott Iardella’s podcast Dan John said it’s a lungs or guns problem and I’ll see which before the next competition. With that behind me I asked Scott on his latest podcast about another way to hit the 1/2 bodyweight press without the high rep ladders that are a bit taxing at my age, especially training with 90-95% of your max a lot of the time. He suggested Easy Strength format and heavy Get-Ups.

I was reading Intervention at the time going through the questions and seeing what I need to do now. I wanted to keep the press groove fresh, that is the goal. So I came up with this program to toy with from reading that and taking what Scott said:

Warm-Up: Original Strength Resets for a minute apiece, the hinge wall drill for 5 and a Get-Up with a shoe balanced on my fist each side. 

Strength & Conditioning: 60 Swings in sets of 10 with 53lb kettlebell, time it every two weeks. Under five minutes and I add a set. 

Week One: Monday & Tuesday 2×5/ Wednesday 5-3-2 / Friday and Saturday 2×5

Week Two: Monday 2×5/ Tuesday 6×1/ Wednesday 1×10/ Friday 2×5/ Saturday 5-3-2 

Cycling every two weeks between military and floor presses.

Suitcase Carry with that day’s Press weight to finish. I’ll change the load per Dan’s instructions in the book. Every day during the rest periods between swings and presses I’ll put in my correctives of Push Up Planks and Bulgarian Goat Bag Swings which sounds weirder than it is. This should cut down on my daily training time though a day is added from the current four and see what the next 7 weeks look like. Next week is the assessment to see where my body metrics are so I’m guessing there will be an improvement in my shoulders. We’ll see. 


A couple of weeks ago I took a step I doubt I would have if my life had not gone a bit off the rails. I was baptized again; the first time was when I was a kid in the river back home. The reason why I did it was something I noticed while writing the book, despite the circumstances being bad they worked out some way. It was not because of any plan I had, I had tried it on my own, and it was not working. I am not sure if it was luck, serendipity, God, or spirits, I am not inside all the players heads to see why. Most people come up with a story to explain things; I will go with God and stay on the path I have been traveling.

It is partly as a rebirth, shedding the past so to speak, and partly because my wife has wanted to do this together for years. We have had many bumps in the road and through it; all we had First Assembly with us. Their various counseling services, food, reaching out to our extended families in other times of loss, putting us in touch with people who can help, and interpreting for my wife during her therapy sessions; it was time to give back.

The night of the baptism, I wore a Batman shirt because when I came out of the water it will be ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Corny, but I thought it was funny.

Every person that is dunked was given a bible and a vial of baptism tank water (before we started) as a keepsake. Our pastor wrote notes in ours, and the part that struck me was where she had written that I ‘had a servant’s heart’. My head swirled as I thought of my pen name Ronin (master less samurai) and samurai meaning ‘to serve’.

I found altruism to be a good coping mechanism, one I enjoy a lot now. In front of the crowd, she noted the change over me during the past year I teared up a little. I was happy when she said that, I worked hard to change myself into someone I would like. When your own inner critic and those that refuse to let go of the past try to bring you back down it is nice to know someone is noticing the good.