Responsibility Is Another Word for Power: Get Stronger By Owning Everything You Do

“Place me at your center like an inexhaustible spring, as the root of your future soaring flight. Anguish will no longer forbid you from realizing yourself; impotence and laziness will no longer have any grip on your activity. Fear of poverty will no longer oppose your true work; you will be capable of building your prosperity. Emotional storms will not distract you from your work; pain and illness will not prevent you from feeling your power, nothing will be able to break your concentration.” -And If the Emperor Spoke, The Way of Tarot, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Marianne Costa

In order to change, grow, or expand something in our lives we have to have the power – the ability – to act. 

My confidence in my ability to act ultimately comes down to how much I trust myself and how much responsibility I am willing to take for my process. No matter what program I follow or how many experts I consult, I am still the final arbiter of my outcomes.

You actually have no choice but to trust yourself. You only ever have your own mind and gut’s ability to discern and decide what needs to happen.  

We can entrust certain things to our people (partners, coaches, colleagues, etc) but that still means deciding who is worthy of trust.

It always comes back to us, even if our choice is to make no choice. We must bear the outcomes of abdication, too. We are the bearer of it all.

So the good news is that while it will certainly not always feel that way, you, and only you, have the power to make yourself stronger, happier, more content, more driven, and more in love with and engaged with your life.

The good news is that no one is coming to save you, because that would mean you are powerless. You are not.

The fact that we don’t feel in charge most of the time is a reflection of the chaotic and multifaceted world around us, our own psychological baggage, our wounds, our fears, and multifactorial environments, relationships, cultural norm conditioning, and so on, but we feel in any given moment is not necessarily an objective reflection of the facts.

Afterall, it’s often in the moments we feel the most afraid that we are in fact being the most courageous.

I believe part of the antidote to this confusion is to take as much responsibility as we possibly can.

THE AUTHORITY FALLACY

When we imagine we cannot do or change things in our life, it makes us feel powerless, and there are many ways that feelings of powerlessness can permeate our mindset and make us believe we cannot pursue what we want. 

So, power, or rather, the idea of power, becomes the thing we think we need, and it can seem like it comes from an outside source. It can seem like power will only be given to you if and when you work long and hard enough, “Prove something” to “someone”, and said power will be bestowed from an authority figure at some nebulous time and place.

That authority will be regal, paternal and serious, and you might even get a shiny plaque with your name and some curly letters that say You Are Powerful. There is something to that process, but it’s not the one I’m interested in, and how much power it can actually bestow still ultimately comes back to the one seeking (us). 

Everyone says they want to be more powerful, but they aren’t claiming the power that is obvious and right of front them: Everything they can possibly take responsibility for.

If you want the power to change your life, to weave it into the infinite mandala of possibilities and wonder and excitement and joy, you simply have to take it.

To take this power, you accept and declare and claim total ownership and responsibility for everything you possibly can.

Your health. Your space. What you give you attention and emotional energy to. Your emotions, your needs for connection. Your moral compass. The well-being of your people (in so far as you and your unique skills can meet them), your value systems.

If you want to see your life explode into bloom, take responsibility for everything you imagine you can. You will find yourself expanding in power, potential and possibility. You may gain perspective and insight and become a different person – no, a more You person – on a deep level, sometimes very abruptly.

You become your own authority.

Power is right there for the taking. It’s just not what we are told it is in the Overculture. It’s not a title bestowed from some person or institution, it’s an inner quality, it’s a self-trust and command that comes from the responsibility you take for your wellbeing, ideas, actions and literally everything in your life.

Take responsibility, and you’ll realize you have always been exactly who you needed to be. 

There is no label, no job, no moniker or product that will tell you who you are. Only your actions can do that, and action demands ownership.

WHAT IS RESPONSIBILITY? 

Responsibility is a word that can provoke a lot of uncomfortable emotions. It can trigger deep fear and shame.  It can remind us of our many missteps and weak links, it can make us feel inadequate and remind us of the times we’ve faltered or were not up to task.

Like so much of what I write, this is a letter to my younger self, and her understanding of her capacity. This is not an admonishment or finger wag; this is a declaration of what I see as genuinely great news for anyone, who, like me, used to (or is currently) struggling with finding meaning, drive and support in their lives. 

I’ve decided to look at claiming responsibility in my life wherever possible as the kind of gift that will continue to enrich my strength and my life exponentially.

Taking responsibility doesn’t mean I don’t depend on others, value their input, or choose a leader to follow in certain areas of my life. It means that no matter who else I value, I recognize that I am the final authority, and the one who has to bear the psychological peaks and valleys. 


It’s scary to own our decisions and our thoughts, especially when there are elements of the modern world that make it seem like any misstep will result in punishment-driven confrontation, coercion, and harassment. 

It’s true, there will always be risk for owning your decisions, but there is even greater risk to not owning them.

If you let others just push you along their rhythms, you’ll drift, constantly feeling put upon by the capricious fortune. You may feel powerless, and powerlessness can too easily foment resentment, fear, hate, and misery. 

Sometimes, inaction is wisdom, but a habit of inaction makes us disintegrate.

Our thought power, our will power, our heart power – the necessarily hard to define but incredible drives we experience as aspects of our Self – are strengthened and grown by decision, speech, and most of all, action. The more of those actions we claim mentally and emotionally as Ours, the more we gain momentum and confidence from them, and all the lessons and experiences that come with them.

So in taking responsibility for myself as much as I can stand, I participate in a spiritual rite that calls forth my power and better enables me to give myself to life more. Taking responsibility enables me to DO, and the more I do, the more I can potentially expand and create for myself a multifaceted, rewarding life experience. 

Wielding the actions of responsibility is an act that can make us stronger, tougher, and wiser.

SAUCE AND MIRRORS


We project power onto those who seem like they have the Sauce that we wish we had (I define “the sauce” here as that intangible magical ingredient that makes things compelling).  We look into the mirror of others, not knowing they are mirrors. We see their power, their joie de vivre, their color, and wish we had it, and ask them to show us how they do “it”, when the fact is we only see it in others because it already inherently exists within us.

You got the sauce, baby, you just need to clean out your cupboard and you’ll find it. 

If you can see and appreciate greatness in others, it means there is a similar spark within you that recognizes its kind and is being encouraged to show itself. 

You cannot recognize that which is totally unfamiliar to you. I cannot see certain colors on the infrared spectrum. But when I see green, it is because something in the inherent human design relates deeply to the color green. Green is a shared experience. 

So is greatness.

Max keg over bar at a Train Strongman competition in April, 2017

There is an endless kaleidoscope of distraction that makes it seem like power – autonomy, control, influence, ability, creativity – are always things someone else has, that we have to beg, bargain for, or buy. 

And you can do that, but ultimately if you are not taking responsibility for who you outsource to, you are weakening yourself and probably making an incomplete effort at whatever the task or goal is. This abdication of ownership can lead to frustration, stagnation and disappointment (these are emotional currents we have to be careful with, because they can so easily become self fulfilling prophecy-feedback loops).  

Similar to how we endow perceived authority figures with more intelligence and capability than us based on sometimes no more than how others perceive them (but hopefully sometimes on actual leadership capacity), we perceive aspects of what we find naturally compelling in the world and people around us. 

It is good to value and honor the greatness of those around us, that can uplift us. But when we over-invest (idolize) in those people and treat their good qualities like alien forces, we deny the potential within ourselves to reach similar heights.

But it’s not just people that are mirrors, everything  can be. Any activity that you find yourself frustrated by may be something that you are not taking total responsibility for. Key word being “may.” There is of course an depth and related discussion of dealing with the obstacles and adversaries that life will inevitably present that are beyond your control. Overly simplistic perspectives that place all blame and responsibility on you for everything that happens in your life, any harm done to you, and so on, are not helpful as far as I am concerned.

It does seem to me that it is an often fear motivated default to assume things are beyond my control; so I’m interested in exploring what I can affect, and it’s been my experience that what I can affect is a lot more than meets the eye. While what I can affect is limited to me, that’s still a helluva lot.

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Let’s get specific and bring all this lofty shit back to the immediate and physical:

Let’s say you hire a coach to help you with your squat, because you believe you’re bad at squats and need an outside eye to fix it. That coach may give you some good adjustments and feedback, but if you stay fixated on the belief that there is something inherently incompatible between you and the act of squatting, or something wrong with you, I’d bet you won’t improve very much.

You have created a narrative that removes responsibility from yourself, and places the cause and effect on some intangible quality you believe you don’t have.

If you don’t take total responsibility for the experience of your actions and how you execute them, it doesn’t matter if Jenn Thompson herself is coaching your bench, you’re still going to have a bad time. You can go from coach to coach and still not improve, because it’s not about the coach. 

It’s about you and what you’re willing to own, and how you let that action or activity reflect aspects of your own personal blindspots. 

You can give away power to others, you can load up on distractions and the opinions of Authorities and randoms because you believe the solution is somewhere “out there…”

Or, you can own your power and expand your own personal strength and authority exponentially by deciding you have everything you need right now, to do as much as you need to do, right now.

THE COLLABORATION OF OWNERSHIP

This doesn’t mean we do everything alone, far from it. Claiming responsibility means being scorchingly honest with ourselves and being humble enough to ask for help. 

As per the example of the squat, to understand and use our talents best takes a decent amount of experimentation and error, and there will often be areas where we need help (and if you’re pushing yourself and doing something genuinely challenging, that’s doubly true).

This is no small thing, but for now, the takeaway is that at some point we need to decide what we can and cannot reasonably do, and move forward. 

Training has been (and will likely continue to be) the grand allegory for all the deep-dive psychological healing and spiritual development exploration stuff I’m so in love with, so this works both as metaphor and as literal applicable strategy for getting stronger, healthier, faster, more powerful, and alive.

Yes, I love incredible strength, but it’s not my primary drive. If it was, I’d be more “ALl In” on strongwoman as the True North of all my physical behavior.  I’ve accepted my own relationship to training is, for the time being, about surprising myself with cool new skills, staying highly generally capable, and feeling and looking the way I want. I like to hit strength PRs and I have a strong competitive streak, but progress within sport specific parameters doesn’t get me going right now (although it likely will again, I tend to go through phases with competition). 

I love feeling up to any given physical task within reason at any moment. I spent a great deal of my life feeling inhibited and scared, so it feels fucking awesome to not be remotely intimidated by most physical tasks.  This is a big way that physical freedom and power enriches my life. And while there were many subtle forces over the course of my life that all seemed to direct me to the iron path, me becoming a Casual Very Swole type hinged on me deciding and acting as if my body’s fate was entirely in my hands.  

This was something I took to heart very early in training (although have certainly lost sight of that at times): I am the reason for my failure and my success. Ultimately that demands the practice of being honest with myself (another task we often need help with) and staying curious and humble in our approach to learning.  

We may hire a coach to fill in our blind spots and take advantage of specialized knowledge. 

But just because we entrust this area to the coach does not mean we are no longer responsible. We are even more responsible for our half of the bargain, which is to help them be successful in their craft by trusting them, doing our work wholeheartedly, and being in a conscious and respectful dialogue about our progress.

Outsourcing still demands total responsibility, and the more responsibility you take, outsourced or not, the more expansion you will ultimately experience.

If you have the benefit of others’ support, vision, and energy (whether it’s a coach, team, or training partners, and friends) when you trust them to hold you accountable to your responsibilities, you are actually asking them to hold you accountable to your own power.

It’s not about the right program, the popular coach, or the popular style of training. It’s about how much you are willing to pay attention to what your process is doing for you, and how present you are within it. If you are paying attention, and treating it like it is within your ability to affect, then you will get something out of it.

RESPONSIBILITY BEYOND STRUCTURE

Maybe you’re doing your own thing in training. You’re like me in the relationship I have to training right now, which is a vehicle of self exploration, enjoyment and play. 

I follow a very rough structure based on the movements I want to get stronger at and the qualities I want to develop, but there isn’t a set program, and I don’t have a coach right now (I have worked with some very, very good ones who have taught me a lot). I know a heck of a lot of strong people I can ask for feedback from when I want it.

Bob Peoples rippin’ bars with farmboy strength

I’ve spent about the last 8 years immersed in training, and have a ton of curiosity and love for it; those two things enable me to stay strong and consistently progress in different areas even when I’m exploring training more creatively.

Structure is an incredible tool, because it’s a tool that encourages responsibility – you commit to a program, you commit to a schedule; you create these foundations for getting you to do certain things automatically. Structure, programs, coaches — they are all powerful aids, but they are not the Sauce itself: you are.

I’m circling dead horse territory like a starving buzzard, but to color this final point, I’d like to point out an approach that has faded a bit from our cultural consciousness around training.

There have been exceptionally strong people who didn’t follow programs, made it up as they went, and still did things that are impressive by today’s standards (Bob Peoples and Bill Seno both come to mind). 

They knew what they could do, and what they wanted to do more of, because they were paying close attention and taking responsibility for their progress. Maybe some of them would have wanted the level of coaching and programming of today had it been available, but they made it work anyway.

This subjective, ephemeral methodology flies counter to today’s common knowledge around strength programming, and yet, that very approach has produced some exceptionally brutally strong people.

 Why? Because they were fully and completely invested in their progress and for them, it made the most sense with the resources they had (and the personalities they had) to listen to their own innate intelligence about what their body needed on any given day. They committed to and accepted total responsibility for any shortcoming or lack of progress.

This approach usually doesn’t work for people who don’t love training, because training is something they see as a utility, and they can only own it insofar as hiring a coach and showing up (which makes sense, there’s a lotta wisdom in knowing where to invest your mental energy).

Whatever your process,whatever your approach, however many coaches, nutritionists, psychotherapists, acupuncturists, life gurus, or online motivational speakers you are looking to for stimulus and input and guidance, remember; if you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain and taking ownership and responsibility for your process and progress, they will never be enough.

You can fill yourself to the brim with others Input, but if you don’t know how to sit down in silence with yourself and really ask “what could I be doing more or less of?” and then DO something, there is no one in the world who can give you power. 

Earlier I wrote that responsibility is power. Really, action elevated by responsibility is power.

You have what you need to be powerful, so take responsibility for it, and do it.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this essay, you can support my writing on Patreon.

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