Hero Training 101: Follow Your Bliss (and Your Grunt)

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Prior to leaving the Big Smoke we spent quite a bit of time ‘hanging out’ with our pal Brian Johnson, Philosopher Extraordinaire and the mastermind behind Optimize, an online portal that delivers more wisdom in less time.

If you’re as lazy as me, you’ll love Brian’s minimalist approach to getting better at life.

Hero Training 101

In his Hero Training 101 seminar —which is based on Joseph Campbell’s well known book The Hero’s Journey and features the fascinating documentary Finding Joe— Brian emphasizes the importance of getting really comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Agreeing to ‘house sit’ a permaculture farm was the start of our ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable’ journey and the ride has just been getting progressively bumpier and more fun as we go.

Ed: This is the fourth post in our Hero Training 101 series. These are the others:

 Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
Settling into being unsettled
Notes from a small town (with an epiphany)

Follow Your Grunt

Joseph Campbell famously counselled people to ‘follow their bliss’. However, he later lamented that ‘follow your grunt’ would have been far better advice to offer. I’ve been thinking about this as Sporty and I follow our bliss.

Yes, we’re finally living our dream of being uncubiled and untethered, but it’s not always how it looks on Instagram. In fact, mostly it’s nowhere close to that. It turns out bliss and grunt are not mutually exclusive. They’re actually annoyingly intertwined.

Bliss v.s Grunt

So what exactly is the difference between bliss and grunt? What we’ve learned in the past three and a half months is this: your bliss is the big picture grandiose vision you have for your life and your grunt is that vision in action.

Bliss is how you imagine things will be when you’re no longer stuck in your 9-5 cubicle. You while away the time daydreaming about how amazing life will be when you’re finally living off the grid in plant-based paradise. You envisage yourself toiling happily in the garden, literally earning your supper.

Grunt pitches up when you get there. Suddenly you’re facing challenges you never anticipated. You realise that oh my fuck growing your own food is hard. As for living off the grid, it’s completely overrated.

Hello Eskom, my old friend.

But here’s the weird thing, it’s also a curiously satisfying experience and you wouldn’t change it for the world. It turns out your grunt will lead you to growth and opportunity and ultimately, self-actualisation. We’re nowhere close to the latter, but we’re certainly closer than before.

If you don’t make an effort to get out of your comfort zone and follow your grunt, you’ll find yourself stagnating in the easiness of it all. And when that happens you end up leading the life of quiet desperation that Henry David Thoreau talks about.

On Quitting Social Media

I quit social media (mostly) a couple of weeks ago. Mainly because I found it to be a massive time-suck that added nothing of real value in return. But also because science has shown that social media makes people depressed.

It’s easy to understand why, when we’re constantly measuring ourselves against everyone’s Instagram best. Most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing it, either.

The simple act of scrolling through photo after photo of idyllic holiday locales, in love couples, happy families and adventuring urban hippies, will have you subconsciously drawing comparisons.

It’s no coincidence then, that along with being more focused and productive since ditching social media, I’ve also been much happier. I’m sure at least part of the reason why is because I’m no longer making those social comparisons.

Side note: I’m not missing social media in the slightest.

The Hero’s Journey on Social Media

I’ve come to realise that there’s a connection between following your bliss and what you share on social media. It’s not that the photos we share don’t accurately depict our life, it’s just that they don’t show the whole picture.

They’re accurately depicting a moment. What happened off-camera before or after that moment is left up to the viewer’s imagination. And because you’ve got nothing else to draw on, you automatically assume it’s more of the same.

Which is silly, given that all anyone ever shares on social media is their bliss, while ensuring their grunt remains steadfastly hidden behind closed doors. Something to keep in mind the next time you find yourself scrolling enviously through someone else’s Twitter feed.



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