Henry Rollins did an interview with Pharrell earlier this month. The whole thing is worth watching but the part where he talks about his introduction to weight lifting in high school has stuck with me:
“I did all the lifts that Mr. Peppermint instructed me to do. And it was the first substantive change I had made to myself. When you change your sheer physicality. When your body shape changes… that sense of accomplishment is probably one of the most propellant forces in my life today. And the muscles… who cares about the muscles? It’s applying yourself. It’s the discipline. It’s the great journey. And to this day, that keeps the stress down to a minimum. So I’m not going to medicate with heroin or alcohol or marijuana. This is not where I’m coming from.”
That was me the first time I pulled a 180. It wasn’t much. It was a lot less than my friends could do. But I had changed myself. A few minutes prior, I was a kid who couldn’t 180. Now I was a kid who could. My entire life people had been telling me that I could do anything I wanted to, but it wasn’t until I discovered BMX that I started to believe them.
That first thing you learn sets the stage for everything else. The clouds open up. If I can 180, why can’t I 180 down something bigger? If I can 180 why can’t I 360? If I can do a 360, why can’t I sell drugs? If I can sell drugs, why can’t I start a real business? If I can make 1000 dollars why can’t I make 100,000 dollars?
It doesn’t hit you all at once. When I learned to 180 I felt a little more confident but I had no idea that that tiny seed of inspiration would set me off on a life long pursuit of knowledge and self improvement.
I still have moments. All the time. I’ll be sitting there lost in thought. Then the power goes out. Everything else in my brain turns off and there’s a flash of light. There it is in front of me, a realization about life, something that I should have learned years ago but that never quite clicked until now.
Just so you know what I’m talking about here, here are two of those moments have taken place in just the last year:
Last Summer in Spain I took a look down at my feet and I realized that I wasn’t scared anymore. I was still holding on to those feelings of inferiority from when I was a teenager. I worried what people thoughts of me. I worried what would happen if my business failed. I doubted myself. I took a deep breathe and realized that I no longer had any reason to be afraid. No person’s opinion can affect me. I know who I am, I know what I’m here to do and I know where I’m going. My scorecard is internal.
Everything has felt different since then.
Over Christmas break, I realized I was smart. I had spent my entire life assuming that there were things I couldn’t learn. I barely graduated high school. But there was a moment over that break where I realized that I could learn anything I wanted to. I had no reason to be afraid. There is no penalty for failure, but there’s also no excuse for failure. Is there anything so challenging that I would want to learn that my brain is physically incapable of comprehending? If so, I’d like to find that out for myself.
Now I force myself to learn about things I find intimidating all the time.
These aren’t bullshit little realizations either. I still think about them daily and I could probably identify dozens of them from the past 10 years. There’s something really memorable about the moment when you change your feelings about yourself. I feel liberated whenever I am reminded that my soul is still malleable.
As a teenager, you shouldn’t be expected to know what you’re doing with your life. The only thing you know for sure is that you must change. You can’t be 13 forever. You’re going to have to turn into a man. But you’re too young to know what to do. What course of action will best help you figure out who you are?
Don’t worry about how you’re going to end up, just start changing. Learn something new. Try a new sport. Read a book. Pick up a camera and document something. Turn your fucking phone off and think long and hard about who you are, where you want to end up and what you want to do with your life. When you find it, you’ll know.