There is virtue in living an arduous life.
Entrepreneurship has always been about solving problems. Inconveniences are the enemy of the entrepreneur, and none are safe from the collective imagination of humanity. But how far are we willing to go? At what point does the trend of entrepreneurship go too far, and is there a way to reverse it? Brett McKay, founder and head editor of the world’s largest online men’s periodical The Art of Manliness, may have found a way to do just that. His new venture, The Strenuous Life, is almost totally antithetical to the “goal” of entrepreneurship. The Strenuous Life seeks to make your life harder.
What is The Strenuous Life? TSL is a subscription based website — geared primarily towards men, but not totally exclusive — that encourages one to introduce some inconvenience into their life. TSL makes your life hard for at least twelve weeks as you receive your weekly “Agon.” Agon [Ay-gone] is a Greek term that stood for “a struggle or contest that would test a man’s bodily or mental toughness and prowess in athletics, art, music, debate, and more.” (McKay, 11) Every weekend for twelve weeks, McKay will send you an Agon for the week. You never know what it is going to be, or how it will throw your week for a loop — but you must do your best to complete it.
On top of the system of Agons, another vital component to The Strenuous Life is the badge system. With over 50 badges to earn and various tasks being associated with each, it is hard to imagine ever being bored while taking part in TSL. Badges include topics like archery, entrepreneurship, fire-making, cooking, sharp-shooting, letter writing, and many more. Each will come with its own unique set of requirements and guidelines, focused on getting you active and engaged.
At this point it is reasonable to ask yourself where the motivation to do any of this comes from. Why wouldn’t you just check all of the boxes and act like you did it all, without having actually done any of it? There are two answers to that question. First, The Strenuous Life revolves around the Honor System. If you didn’t do it, don’t lie about it. But perhaps the most important component of TSL is the class.
All new members are split into groups of 150 men and women of all different walks of life. Upper-Middle aged Canadian accountants, 18 year old Australians, Scandinavian Naval Officers, 20 year old business students from Dayton (that’s me) can all be found in just one class, making the class an incredible resource for encouragement and accountability throughout the initial 12-week process of TSL. Men can be seen discussing literature, career development, and motivation to succeed all in one place, taking and offering advice to one another, as all are there looking to improve themselves by living a more difficult life.
“A more strenuous life is a more fulfilling life.”
So why make your life more difficult? And what may be an even better question; Why PAY to have someone make your life more difficult? Valid questions, for sure. Seeing as most of my audience are college aged young adults and my Mother’s Facebook friends, I will tailor a response to both demographics.
College Aged Young Adults: Ask almost anyone you meet our age what they like to do in their free time, and chances are you will receive one of two answers. Watch Netflix or check social media. While both of these things are amazing inventions and spectacles of human innovation, they lack substance and fulfillment. After a night of binging The Office for the fifth time this semester, does one really feel a sense of accomplishment? Or more importantly, does one feel as if they have made a positive impact on their own life or the lives of others?
As a young adult who has found myself in the exact scenario I just described, I can honestly say that times like those mean nothing to me, that I end them feeling just as lazy, complacent, and purposeless as when I started them. The challenge to make my life more difficult provides excitement and uncertainty every step of the way. Instead of tweeting pictures of beautiful mountain scenes and using #travelgoals, the Mountain Ranger badge tells me to go stand in it. A more strenuous life is a more fulfilling life.
Mom’s friends: I now imagine I am speaking to those of you age 30 and up. Probably working 9-5 jobs that you more than likely despise. You spend your day wishing it was 5 o’clock, and your weeks wishing it was Friday. But life doesn’t have to be as boring and dreary as it may seem to be now. Adding adversity and goals outside of the workplace will spice up your life, and encourage you to live your best life — to be the best version of yourself. Whenever I find myself faced with challenges and goals, I become excited to prove myself and overcome them, and The Strenuous Life will not only encourage you to life a more challenging life, but to become a better you. A better citizen, a better friend, spouse and individual. Accepting the challenge of strenuousness will have a profound impact on your life and relationships.
The Strenuous Life is remarkably counter cultural. In a society obsessed with removing any and all forms of inconvenience and strain, TSL encourages them. Brett McKay has created something wonderful in The Strenuous Life, a call to action for a world weary with mundane and exhausted of nothing. I took the pledge to live the Strenuous Life, will you?
For more information on The Strenuous Life, visit strenuouslife.co
(1) McKay, Brett. The Strenuous Life Handbook. Semper Virilis Publishing.
Follow this author on Twitter: @ThomasZimmCR
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