Sixteen years on and Fight Club still resonates for me. Here’s why.
Yes, sixteen years on and Fight Club still holds an incredible fascination for me. I picked it up originally, intrigued by the title, and I found it reflected my own experience albeit in a much less dramatic form. To this day, Fight Club for me stands as an accurate snapshot of what is is to be a man, particularly in the west, struggling to find ways that reflect and honor our place in the world. Men who live in a world of plenty that ironically leaves them feeling empty. It is how we choose to fill that void that ultimately defines us. If there is a Fight, it is with own ourselves. If there is a Club, we are all in it together.
“On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero.”
We need to get this one out of the way first. The longer you stick around, the shorter the odds, so you might as well get in shape for the trip, however long (or short) it might be. My friend Wolfgang introduced me to the “glide ratio.” If you can get enough altitude, when the engines cut out, you can glide back to Earth. Without that elevation it’s going to be an “assume the brace position.”
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
Yup, one minute at a time. This leads on from the last quote. Remember, your next excuse might be your last. We get better, improve, one second at a time. So what is it going to be? What are you more interested in? TV or your T-Levels? It is about Every Day Activity, we put in the effort so we can live with ease. Do it, you’ll thank me later.
“If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”
Today you will have numerous opportunities to deliver. You have these every day but time and time again we’d rather not take the risk. We are so scared of looking stupid, making fools of ourselves. If you want things to be different, do things differently. Fail often, fail fast. We are all so scared of falling. Do it often enough and you develop the ability to get back up in a heart beat. It’s called resiliency and it’s the key to staying the course.
“One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort.”
What you put in is what you get out. The sublime effort to get it right, to flirt at the outer reaches of your ability. Just now and again, just often enough to experience that fleeting moment of perfection. Then it’s back to the plateau. Did we mention the plateau? That is where the work gets done, that is where the habits are formed, that is where the joy resides.
“If you don’t know what you want,” the doorman said, “you end up with a lot you don’t.”
Every time you train, every time you practice, you are on a journey. If you have a ton of experience under your belt then you can freestyle for sure. But if you are like the vast majority of us, far from your potential, you need to think about where your training is taking you. As my friend and coach Martin Rooney says: “We don’t do something for nothing.” Get a plan, stick with it long enough to see the difference it can make. Training is not a leisure activity. Make it count.
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect.”
And then you need to realize that it’s a life’s work. There is always something to improve on. Something to do. And that is what makes it, at the very least, interesting and at its best, exhilarating. And the effort you put in? It is worth twice its weight. The time it takes you to build up a level of strength and endurance, it takes twice as long to lose it. That’s not a license to take a month off but it is a reminder that once you build up that glide ratio, you can take a little comfort in that sense of your own capability.
“I just don’t want to die without a few scars.”
This really doesn’t need much explanation…does it? The following tells you why…
“After a night in fight club, everything in the real world gets the volume turned down.”
You can escape into that last set. You know the one. It would be easier to pack up and go home. But if you hang in there, when the mind wants to walk but the body is still capable, you will be better person for it. Stressed? Go lift. Can’t sleep? Drop and do fifty. Had enough? Crank out those pull ups. A little intensity goes a long way. And should you choose to “glove up” and put a gum shield in, you have my respect, because it’s a profoundly personal act, not about beating anyone, it’s all about looking at yourself and answering your deepest questions. And even if you tell yourself you will just try that just once, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll do it twice. Second time around you’ll experience things on an entirely different level. It’s not something I can readily explain. Once is not enough for most guys, twice is just perfect. First time the fear is overwhelming, second time round the fear is the fuel.
“The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says.”
It’s perhaps ironic that the film spawned a generation of men who wanted to look like Brad Pitt, weighing in at around 160lbs at six feet. Work with what you’ve got. Don’t worry about the guys training next to you, work with who you are. In an age of picture-perfect bodies, modified through chemistry, Photoshop and our own insecure lens, we need to feel and move and breathe. Everything else is just eye candy.
“At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.”
For a generation for whom luxuries have become necessities and everything exists in abundance, we’ve lost sight of the value of really living. Can you ditch it all and get back to basics? No t-shirt, running shoe or hot new gadget will make you train any harder. Which is another way of saying…
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything,” Tyler says, “that you’re free to do anything.”
Pick three moves, a push, a pull and a squat. Work them back to back til you know you’re done. No pen and paper required. Simple. If you can’t train anywhere, kit-free, gymless, then chances are you can’t really train.
“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else.”
The upside is we are all in the same boat. Everyone starts somewhere. The trick is to start. You’ll meet plenty of people along the way who want to share at least part of the journey. Like it or not, to friends, family, colleagues, sons and daughters, we are role models.
“You’re not your job. You’re not your family, and you’re not who you tell yourself…. You’re not your name…. You’re not your problems…. You’re not your age…”
In the current climate it’s easy to feel the odds are stacked. Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds on 30 seconds off for 10 minutes are a great leveler. Want to switch off the monkey mind for a while? Who says meditation can’t involve sweat…Go swing. Running? Forget the miles, the time, the terrain, just head out, one step after another…
“The best way to waste your life… is by taking notes. The easiest way to avoid living is to just watch. Look for the details. Report. Don’t participate.”
Humble thanks to Chuck Palahniuk. If you have not read the book do so. It’s not about fighting, it about being alive.