One More Round
Seven years ago I embarked on a weight loss journey through exercise and nutrition that enabled me to lose over one hundred pounds. One of the unintended consequences of this journey was a new career as a certified personal trainer.
During the start of the pandemic I was forced to change my routines and started boxing for fitness in my garage. Hitting the heavy bag, jumping rope, and shadowboxing opened a whole new world of fitness and maintained my sanity during those early days of the lockdown.
What does this have to do with my Stoic journey? Everything. Boxing is the perfect metaphor for life and Stoic practice. A fighter has no control over anything except his focus and preparation. He must practice for hours to hone his skills for his deadly profession. Fear becomes an ally instead of an enemy. As the old saying goes, one does not “play” boxing. We admire those who are knocked down yet get back up for one more round.
The practicing Stoic does not see adversity as his opponent but as his trainer. Every hardship and difficulty is a means toward the goal of becoming a better, stronger human. Epictetus painted a similar picture:
It is difficulties that reveal what men amount to; and so, whenever you’re struck by a difficulty, remember that God, like a trainer in the gymnasium, has matched you against a tough young opponent. ‘For what purpose?’, someone asks. So that you may become an Olympic victor; and that is something that can’t be achieved without sweat. It seems to me that no one has had a difficulty that gives a better opportunity than the one you now have, if only you’re willing to tackle it as an athlete tackles his young adversary.
I moved to New Orleans nearly eight years ago on one path and am leaving on a new one. The obstacle, as Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, was my way. Were it not for the pressures I have battled during this time, I would not have finally taken control of my physical and mental health and my future. While I still get knocked down, Stoicism has helped me focus on my real opponent: myself. Life is my trainer helping me to go just one more round.
Epictetus. Discourses, Fragments, Handbook (Oxford World’s Classics) . OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.