So, I have all but disappeared from social media. In this media age I suppose this looks pretty awkward, especially for someone with a public presence and following like an author or an instructor. I have received concerned emails and messages asking, “Where did you go??” and “Hope everything is OK.” I’m sure that there are even some (in the gun training industry) who think I’ve hit my short peak and now am fading off into oblivion (nevermind the fact that I repeatedly said for years prior that this would happen one day). This is why I want to talk about authenticity today.
In my second book, Beyond OODA, I talked extensively about stories and mythos. I presented the concept that everyone is basically living with a story that they tell themselves–and others–about who they are and how they fit into the world around them. The most common problem of this self-written story is dealing with authenticity. In other words, how much actual truth does your story have?
For example, if you’ve never actually been in a deadly fight, and you don’t actually train for that occurrence complete with sparring and force-on-force training, but you tell yourself and others that if some shit goes down “I’ll see red bro! It’ll be over for that dude!” then, yeah, you’re not being authentic.
Another example would be someone who maybe tack/hack welded a few pieces of metal together at some point in their life and now believes he could build a structurally sound racecar cage today. Not authentic, and I think you get the basic point here.
Authenticity could be accomplished in both instances by saying, “I’ve never actually done this thing, but I am training hard and working on myself to have the skills and experience to accomplish it to the best of my abilities when the time comes.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound as cool as convincing people that you are that person now, today.
In the last year or two I announced that I was going to build choppers and motorcycles. Now, to be fair I did build custom cars and trucks professionally and owned my own shop for a few years 20 years ago, so I do have some experience in automotive work and fabrication. Still yet, when I announced that plan I had not specifically built motorcycles yet, outside of maintenance and mild mods on my own bikes. While I can do chassis work, metal fabrication, and paint and body, I had very little experience with the drive trains of bikes internally and lacked experience with some of the older models that I wanted to work on, like shovelheads in particular.
My vision was to live in Daytona Beach, the Mecca of motorcycles, and build and ride custom bikes. So, what have I done to create authenticity to my story since then?
For starters, I actually moved to Daytona Beach, that seemed to be the first step. Once I got set up in Daytona, I bought a 40 year old shovelhead, a 1983 FLHT, and tore it down to the chassis and rebuilt it. I didn’t get into the motor or trans because it doesn’t need it, but I did rebuild or replace every bearing, race, and bushing on the bike. I rebuilt the entire suspension, lowered it, installed custom bars, rebuilt the S&S carburetor and jetted it, and lined the rubber mounted drivetrain up to run true down the road. I now know quite a bit about that era and model of Harley.
I also have been accumulating equipment and tools for doing the work and just about have my garage outfitted with a damn good start of everything I need to build bikes: welders, hand tools, specialty tools, sanders, saws, a lift, etc. I have a total of 4 bikes, 2 that run and ride and 2 for full blown chopper projects coming up next.
In addition to this, I pursued education and experience. I started out by inquiring about MMI, the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, which is an hour drive from me. They ended up roadblocking me due to my violent felony conviction 25 years ago. They invited me to “state my case” and petition them but noted that a violent felony was usually a disqualification. I thought that was some extreme bullshit so I said “fuck them” and I signed up for welding school full time in Daytona. I’ve been there going on 3 months now with about 4.5 months to go during which time hopefully I’ll accumulate some certifications in stick, mig and tig.
A vision becomes an authentic story by taking the necessary steps and doing the required work to actually become what you want to be. This is how I’ve accomplished everything I have done, from becoming an ex-con that beat recidivism and staying out of prison, to becoming a custom car builder and fabricator, a successful strength and fitness coach, a luthier for a short time, a nationally recognized gunfighting instructor, even becoming a published author and public speaker. I did the steps necessary to gain the experience to be authentic, or I employed the experience I accumulated in my life, that allowed me to present a genuine story and achieve a vision.
The unfortunate reality is that in this age of social media, it’s easy to curate your “story” as you present yourself to the world and, never seeing “behind the curtain”, people will easily believe you. You can gain some fame and recognition among the masses and it is as easy as buying the cool gear, guns, cars, equipment and mildly using it highlighting your best hits and hiding your misses and failures. Boom. People think you’re awesome. But is it real? Are you really the person you tell people you are? Are you really who you tell yourself you are?
Authenticity is good for your soul. I believe that true authenticity is a requirement to achieve real peace in yourself, to reach a place in life where you feel successful (as you define it). To truly go after it and do the hard work and the long drawn out processes that are often not enjoyable but will get you the results you seek, that is the formula to making a vision a reality. That is how you reach a point where your story has truth behind it, and you become authentic.
So what does this have to do with disappearing from social media? In my first book, Violence of Mind, I presented the concept of woodshedding. It’s an old musician term that stems from the idea that a musician would take their instrument and go hide in private to practice repeatedly, in isolation, until they mastered what they were trying to play. I believe it’s the basis behind the crossroads stories, where a musician who isn’t very good disappears for awhile and returns one day with wild capabilities and skills, fostering the myths of making deals with the devil at a crossroads.
There is a power in leaving to work in isolation and coming back with great skills and capabilities, especially in today’s world which is largely driven by the likes and follows of social media. To go off by yourself and work hard to accomplish something just for you, without the dopamine hit of social media likes and comments, takes authentic drive. You are truly doing this for you, at least in the short term. There’s no question that if there were no social media–no constant reward for lifting weights today, or welding a bike frame, or shooting a gun well–that you would still be doing it, you would still be putting in the work. If a tree falls where noone can hear it, it definitely still makes a noise.
Emerging with a new skill doesn’t always have to be the sole motivation, either. Sometimes, we grow weary of the world around us. We become depressed with our life the way it is, or realize that we are incredibly unhappy with who we are and where we are at in life. Woodshedding is a way to deal with that, as well. It’s OK to be unhappy with yourself, your relationships, your surroundings. It’s even OK to feel some depression about it. As long as you get up and do something every single day to move towards changing whatever you are unhappy with. You have to do at least one thing every day to work towards creating that vision with authenticity that will begin to heal your sick soul. Self-development is the greatest tool to fix what we don’t like about ourselves and our lives.
Woodshedding is hard and lonely. It can be incredibly isolating and will often result in alienating you from those around you, or people who follow you. But there is extreme power to be gained from doing what is difficult in life. If you are not happy with the people around you, and going to work on your self-development or recreation of your own story alienates them from you, that’s your sign it is working. You’re committing the first step in changing that aspect of your life, shedding what you are not happy with.
When you emerge with your new vision and capabilities, you will attract what you do like. It will come. You just have to trust the process and do the hard work. Those who truly support you, who truly support people who put in the work, they will stay with you. Those who don’t will fall away. Let them go. Better relationships will replace them, as long as you are living with authenticity.
There’s a lot of reasons why I left social media. I was tired of the gun training community and the curated, fake personalities of social media. I grew incredibly tired of the unending flow of opinions from people who have no experience or capabilities to be judging others, yet make it their job to do so on this platform they have been given that they did not earn. It doesn’t matter if you talk about motorcycles, cars, physical training, guns, self-defense…the experts are always there and are as full of shit as ever.
Another reason is that social media has become the greatest tool of propagandist corporations and governments that control and use the platform to surveill the population and distort public opinion about important issues to the point where we can’t even have rational discussions anymore. The country has been turned in on itself and now everyone opposes everyone else: left vs right, white vs black, women vs men and on and on. It’s sad and makes me miss the simplicity of the 80’s that I grew up in. At times like this it’s more important than ever to fold back into ourselves and our communities locally and begin to work to improve both ourselves and our immediate surroundings. That is all we have control over.
I haven’t faded away, and anyone who thinks that doesn’t matter. Their uninformed opinions don’t matter, at all. The reality is I am accomplishing more than I ever have, going to school, putting my shop together, writing my next book, and making some of the biggest moves I’ve ever made. Don’t ever let that what people think about you stop you from changing your direction, pursuing new goals or re-writing your whole damn story. It’s yours, not theirs.
So put in that work. Put down the surveillance and data collection devices and go to work. Become a pro at something. Develop yourself. Fulfill your visions and make them real. Forget about what people think. You can choose to share your journey as I will do here and there on this blog, my Patreon and YouTube (minimally for now). Or you can ghost everyone completely and come back so awesome people will say you sold your soul to the devil. In reality, you healed your soul with hard work and created authenticity in yourself and your life.