So you want to be a Master? The One-Dimensional Dilemma

“Don’t try to compete with a zealot. They are one-dimensional, and you’ll never win.”

This is the advice a good friend recently gave to me, and I’ve thought a lot about it in the past month or so. I’m going to say that, at least in the context through which I see it, it’s definitely true. The one-dimensional person in the marketplace of a given industry will be forever stuck on that one topic. He will seek relevance in that field non-stop. In that arena, he can be a people’s champion, and he will gather all the attention he ever wanted.

But he will be denied the ability to show other sides of himself, if they even exist. The people don’t love him for that. They love him for the fast shooting, the tough talking, the whatever-it-is-that-he-does thing that brought their attention to him. That one, single, thing.

Sure, they’ll tolerate a bit of “showing your human side” as they call it. It’s good for business! They love to see the wife and the cute dog here and there. But he better make sure he’s right back in uniform doing the dance rather quickly, coming up with “new” ways to dole out old information before the audience of social media moves on to the next shiny thing, making him obsolete.

This seems to be the way of the world these days. But, I came up in a different world. Imagine this: I grew up, rode mini bikes, got in fights, built fast cars, went to prison, lifted weights, opened a couple of businesses including a custom car shop and a personal training business, rode motorcycles, and traveled the country…all before the invention of social media!

That’s right, there was no incentive to be immediately gratified by posting a picture on the internet so the world could see how cool I was. Shit, there weren’t even cell phone cameras around back then. If you wanted pictures, you had to use a camera and take the film to a little shop to get developed and pick them up later. No immediate gratification. 

And guess what? I still excelled at all of those things. In my teens I built cool cars out of junk. Camaro’s, Monte Carlo’s, Mustang’s, etc. For sometimes months at a time the cars would sit in my garage while they were getting finished, and no one would be able to see it. You would work on it everyday for months on end with no social gratification. I had to finish it and drive it just to be seen with it, and that was only locally. But we still did it. And it was still rewarding as hell to mash the gas and fry some half bald-assed tires when you were done. 

Varg 1990, 15 years old with first car, 1976 Camaro

The most interesting part, is that we didn’t have the record of accomplishments available on a device in our pockets to show the world all we had done. In fact, it flat out sucks that some of the coolest shit I ever did was never photographed at all, and it now only lives in my memories (like the badass Buick LaSabre Sport Coupe I dropped an Olds 455 big block into and jacked it up on some used Cragar’s…). But we kept doing it anyway. 

Same thing is true when I started bodybuilding and powerlifting in the early 1990’s. Shit, I have zero pictures of that since most of that was in prison in the beginning. I was 185 squatting 385 for sets and topping out at 405, but there’s no record of that. In today’s world, it may as well never have happened (except for the fact that as a coach I get people phenomenal results because I know what the fuck I’m talking about when it comes to strength training). 

But even after that, I went on to have a great career as a full-time personal trainer spanning several years and a few states. What do I have to show for that? One trainer picture from 2006. Did it happen? Yes, and the experience I gained is a part of what drives my success with my clients in my remote coaching business today. But there’s no cool pictures to show you, so it’s just a story you have to read about. Boring, huh?

Or how about the time I started a custom car shop on a serious shoestring budget and operated for 3 years, going on to win some pretty big shows including second place Ford at the NOPI Nationals in ’03 ( or maybe ’04? Damn, I can’t even remember now).

Fucking MySpace didn’t even exist when I ran that shop. But I was there fabricating and building crazy bagged trucks, frame draggers, cars with hydraulics and hot rods, and getting business from as far as the next state away. 

How’d we even do it back then? We just did it. We didn’t need something we didn’t have, and we don’t need it today. But the zealot, the one-dimensional and their followers can’t see that. They’ve either grown up in this social media world, or they have become so acclimated to it that they just can’t see any other way. And if you try to go head-to-head with them, you’re not just pitting skill against skill. Oh no. You’re battling it out with followers and social influence, and he who has the most money for the coolest gear and equipment, is the flashiest or most controversial, or has the coolest credentials will win that game all other things equal

Now you have this new level of rejection to deal with, so many people who openly like people who do the things you do, which you are good at, but you’re not as cool as that other guy so they don’t pay attention to you. Literally some dude half your age with way less experience in the actual skill set, but way more money, time and social media skills will eclipse you and leave you feeling like no one even sees you. 

Man, fuck all that noise. What are you people even doing? There were many of us who were out there doing awesome things way before cell phone cameras, smartphones and social media. And believe this, you had to be REAL back then, because you couldn’t fake your way into an income very easily, not one that would last anyway. The good news was you could also be a real person. You didn’t have to be a one-dimensional dancing monkey for an audience that will leave you the minute you feel stale. 

I have spent ten years watching that exact thing happen in the social media realm of the tactical training industry (yet another career I excelled at). Guys who were once the literal heroes to the training world, and who held legitimate credentials, have went from being the authority on the subject to being made fun of and laughed at, and even called fat and other derogatory shit.

The one-dimensional champion has one shot at the plate, and that’s all you get. Make it last as long as you can, because when they’re done with you it’s over. 

(If you’re still reading this, kudos to you. I love long-form blogging and I love the people who enjoy reading it.)

I often write about the different jobs I did, or the businesses I’ve owned. Some people may get tired of the repetitiveness. That’s OK. I personally get tired of the repetitiveness of the unending one-dimensional personalities we are all encouraged to follow now. I prefer to be the sum of my total experiences, and to live my life pursuing even more skills, hobbies, knowledge and experience. You can excel in multiple disciplines. It just takes a lifetime, but you never run out of cool things to do, and they never get old. 

Be free. Free to not look just like others, or think just like others. Be free to explore new things. Go deep into all of them, spend ten years a piece on them. In the end, you’ll have lived a full life. And don’t worry about what someone on social media is doing, or how many followers they have, or how full of shit they are. Post a few pics and walk away, be busy doing cool stuff in the tangible world. It’s a lot more fulfilling out there. 

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3 Comments

  1. You’re so right. I’m ten years older than you and remember the world before computers. It was great! It was REAL. Jeff Cooper said, “Specialization is for insects.” Get out there and do many different things, just for yourself, not to impress others.

  2. Man I was just like you Cars mini bikes guns in jail long before social media did a lot of crazy things used our imagination hung out in the park. A lot of crazy things there too and the thing of it is we had so much fun lots of times it was dangerous and somebody’s really could have got hurt bad we didn’t even think of that stuff we were just having fun all I can say is it’s a shame kids today don’t play in the street don’t do any of those things that we did Growing Up bicycle riding home I got I was on a bicycle all the time you couldn’t get me off a bicycle building them in my garage spray painting them working on the cars in my driveway actually it’s too much to list and I probably can’t even remember half of it but anyway we did have a lot of fun

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