On July 7, 1978, exercise fanatic Dave Kekich was working out in the gym like any other day. While training, he suffered a freak spinal cord injury. At the age of 35, it left him paralyzed from the chest down.
His injury cost him everything.
He couldn’t engage in his favorite physical activities anymore. He lost a thriving business. He suffered from major depression.
Dave spent the next two decades searching for a cure to be able to walk again, to no avail. He eventually devoted his life to supporting anti-aging research and technologies.
Dave lived 78 years, 43 of which he spent in a wheelchair.
In his obituary, Delicia Dona Folk wrote:
That never stopped him from working out every day (did you see those upper arms?), from sending out his weekly longevity newsletter, from connecting people and doing something every day to help further longevity research and age reversal technologies and the longevity movement overall and from ALWAYS having a positive attitude even on days when he had pain or other issues stemming from the paraplegia.
Despite the adverse circumstances he battled through his life, Dave remained resilient.
Joe Polish from the Genius Network once asked Dave to compile his life lessons. The resulting document, titled Kekich’s Credo, offers 100 “success secrets” that guided Dave’s life.
For a long time, these rules were my fuel on the path of cultivating voluntary discomfort. It was only fitting to begin this newsletter by covering Dave’s Credo.
In today’s letter, we’ll discuss five of the rules that talk about the power of discomfort and the perils of security.
Do the Opposite of What You Feel Like Doing
1. People will do almost anything to stay in their comfort zones. If you want to accomplish anything, get out of your comfort zone. Strive to increase order and discipline in your life. Discipline usually means doing the opposite of what you feel like doing. The easy roads to discipline are 1) setting deadlines, 2) discovering and doing what you do best and what’s important and enjoyable to you and 3) focusing on habits by replacing your bad habits and thought patterns, one-by-one, over time, with good habits and thought patterns.
If we want to excel as men, we need to learn how to override our default wiring that makes us seek comfort. There’s very little achievement to be had if we never venture outside what’s safe and certain.
Doing the opposite of what you feel like doing gives you control over your life.
Barring unexpected events we don’t control, the only guarantee that your life will change can be found outside your comfort zone.
When you keep doing squats instead of stopping because it’s hard, you’re no longer a slave to your lazy nature.
When you keep your cool instead of reacting with anger, you’re no longer a slave to your emotional impulses.
When you keep studying instead of deciding something is impossible to learn, you’re no longer a slave to impatience.
In all these examples, you rewire how you act in the face of discomfort. And that’s how you become a better man, husband, father, friend, and leader.
Life’s Easy When You Live It the Hard Way
4. Real regrets only come from not doing your best. All else is out of your control. You’re measured by results only. Trade excuses and “trying” for results, and expect half-hearted results from half-hearted efforts. Do more than is expected of you. Life’s easy when you live it the hard way… and hard if you try to live it the easy way.
Out of all the rules, this one—and particularly the last sentence—speaks to me the most.
As strange as it may sound, I like to live my life hard. I know that when I explore my limits, I grow and feel fulfilled.
Conversely, each time I made my life easier, it got harder.
I remember a period of time when I decided to take it easy.
No more waking up early. No more cold showers. No more learning new, challenging things.
I paid for it with worse mood, weakened self-discipline, and in the end, MORE stress. My easy life turned out to be way harder than deliberately cultivating a hard one.
Don’t make my mistake.
Discomfort is a key element of a fulfilling life without regrets.
A Key Choice That Determines Your Character
27. The choice to exert integrated effort or to default to camouflaged laziness is the key choice that determines your character, competence and future. That critical choice must be made continually—throughout life. The most meaningful thing to live for is reaching your full potential.
Expanding your comfort zone is a task that never stops. Because of entropy (the natural tendency of things to lose order) we are never done with our work. Whatever we build will eventually crumble.
But we keep going anyway because it’s our job and one of the key choices that we make to pursue personal excellence.
There’s no moment when you can rest on your laurels and never again pursue discomfort. There’s no end game: we make the choice every day for the rest of our lives.
As we exert effort in our lives, we get continuous rewards. We get to enjoy the benefits of pushing our limits every single time we pursue challenges.
Each choice you make (or don’t make) is an act of fighting against entropy or subjecting yourself to it. Where do your choices lead you?
Grow Intellectually, Too
28. Keep an active mind, and continue to grow intellectually. You either grow or regress. Nothing stands still.
Discomfort isn’t only about pushing yourself at the gym. A man who pursues personal excellence grows in all areas of his life. This includes intellectual growth, too.
An active mind is a growing mind. A growing mind is a fulfilled mind.
Learn difficult skills. Stay patient when studying complex subjects. Keep your mind open to new technologies and trends.
As the world changes, if we as men hope to contribute to it, we can’t let ourselves stop learning. Sometimes it’s easy to discount new trends as silly things teenagers do. Yet, some of these changes end up impacting the world. If we don’t want to stay behind, it’s our job to understand them and use them to our advantage.
Security Is the Lowest Form of Happiness
62. If your purpose of life is security, you will be a failure. Security is the lowest form of happiness.
Discomfort and security are polar opposites. One leads to true fulfillment and personal excellence. The other leads to gradual decay.
Security may be comfortable but we rarely feel happiest when we lie on a sofa and stare at a TV screen.
For many men, security is no form of happiness at all but a way to slowly die.
Some of my happiest moments in life come from conquering difficult skills. I feel happier and more fulfilled when I explore my limits.
I was ecstatic when I finally figured out the proper way to equalize my ears while freediving in the Canary Islands. I was deeply content on a road trip through Kyrgyzstan. I felt alive when surfing big (for me) waves in Madeira.
I see the same things when I spend time with my male friends. Each time we did something extraordinary and challenging, it ended up being much more memorable than simply “hanging out.”
Questions to Ponder
1. Out of the five quoted principles, which one appeals to you the most and why?
2. Do you grow both physically as well as intellectually?
3. Do you seek security and complacency or growth and fulfillment?
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