Building Inner Strength: a Lesson from Tyler Durden

This article was submitted by Jason. If you never watched the movie Fight Club, this article has spoilers.

Some people just don’t get it.

I’m sure you’ve encountered them throughout your life. They are the people who go through the motions of every-day life without much of an effort, never trying and never hoping for something better than mediocrity.

For these people, rationalization becomes their source of security; justification is their natural defense.

They rationalize their lives by making excuses about why they can’t achieve great things. And when people around them do achieve greatness, they must justify that success by explaining why it can’t happen to them.

You may have heard it before:

  • Constantly eating healthy food proves that you are just a health freak.
  • You only want to look better or become stronger because you are so self-absorbed.
  • The fact that you see results from your hard work only shows that you’re just lucky to have the genetics you have.
  • The success people have in the workplace is only good luck, or having a good upbringing.

In their minds, nothing is internal. Their lives are shaped by all of the external forces which they believe are beyond their control.

Here is a favorite excerpt of mine taken from the movie Fight Club:

Jack and Tyler Durden step onto a bus at night time. They hold onto the hand grips as the bus travels. Jack looks up at an advertisement; a Calvin Klein ad featuring a tan, bare-chested muscle stud.

Jack: I felt sorry for guys who packed into gyms, trying to look like how Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger said they should. Is that what a man looks like?

Tyler Durden: Oh, self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction…

A man in a suit knocks Tyler’s shoulder as he passes. The Man takes a handle, close by. Jack is angry, staring at the man, who stares back.

Jack: You could take him.

Tyler Durden: The trick is not to care

This short scene from Fight Club is deeply profound, and it represents so many people in the world we live in. Jack says that he felt sorry for all the superficial people that pack into the gyms or go weight lifting to look better.

Of course, Jack’s closest friend, Tyler Durden, is played by the ultra-ripped Brad Pitt. Ironically, Brad undoubtedly had to spend countless hours sweating away in the gym to look that way.

We discover at the end of the movie that Jack’s friend, Tyler Durden, is not a real person at all, but instead is Jack’s imagined alter-ego. Tyler Durden is nothing more than a reflection of everything that Jack wishes he could be. At the deepest level of his sub-conscious self, Jack wants to become Tyler Durden.

Tyler Durden speaks Jack’s inner thoughts, but he outwardly represents everything Jack wants to be.

The trick is not to care
Let your drive go deeper than the people around you. Within the sub-conscious of each of us, we all desire to look good, become admired, build strength, or have the praise of others.

But I believe that the best measure of who we are is not how we look, how high we rise in the workplace, or what we get out of our exercises. It’s what we put into it that matters the most.

The truest measure of strength goes much deeper than the muscles we have on our body, the weight we can lift, or the speed at which we can run. True strength swells within us and drives us to create something great. Building an outstanding physique and powerful body is only an outward display of this inner strength.

When we go to the gym, it is the most difficult set of squats, the last mile we run, and resisting certain foods that separates us from others. If there were no challenges in life, no human would ever be able to rise higher than another.

So the next time someone implies that your desire to look better, become stronger, or achieve success in life is superficial, just remember Jack and Tyler Durden. People only say these things because you are a reflection of the strength they wish they had within themselves.

In the words of Tyler Durden, the trick is not to care.

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