Finding Balance

Recently, a friend of mine was talking with me. He told me he’d been reading stuff here and he was concerned.

I asked him why, and he responded, “Because the stuff you’re talking about, it can build up in someone. Over time, they can become too aggressive and you’re not talking about ways to ramp that down.”

It’s a fair point. I haven’t been.

So, I need to step back and fix this. After all, I can tell you all day long that despite being Barbarians, you still have to play by society’s rules, but if you don’t know how to ramp things back (and most of you actually do), then you’re screwed.

You need to have a way to find balance between the naked aggression many of us feel in our very souls and the need to step back and let things either unfold as they must or just fizzle out.

As I’ve noted before, I’m getting back into woodworking. I’m doing it because I think it’ll teach me patience, but also because it’s kind of cool to make things. I need things to do with my hands more, and woodworking is probably a good way to go for me.

But as I thought about it, these crafts that I think everyone should do for these life lessons are also great as ways to dial back aggression. However, it only works if it meets a couple of key criteria.

First, the hobby/craft/pastime needs to be something takes a period of time to really learn. You can complete projects or whatever as you go, obviously, but there needs to be a kind of progression. Think progressive overload from weight training. It starts small and progresses.

For example, blacksmithing. You get a forge setup (and you can do this on the cheap. An old friend of mine did a video where he forged a “prison shank” using a fire, a leaf blower, a hammer, and a ground fire. Oh, he’s now one of the hosts on Master of Arms on Nat Geo) and then get to work. But you’re not going to churn out swords or whatever. 

Instead, you start with some simple things, then learn new skills and incorporate them into your skillset. You take on new projects that may use that skill and you learn new skills.

While you might become pretty good pretty quickly, you’ll know it wasn’t easy. Even if you were overflowing with talent, you’d still know you had to work to learn the specifics and get a feel for just how to do the skills required.

As a counter example, a lot of people enjoy adult coloring. I’m not going to judge. My wife loves to do it too. She even finished second place in a national-level contest for it, so she’s pretty good at it.

But guess what? While there is skill involved, it’s not a set of progressive skills one can develop. It’s basically the same skill you learned in elementary school, simply refined through experience.

The second criteria such a pastime would have to meet is that it must generally be devoid of instant gratification. By that, I mean that it must take time and effort to produce the project. It shouldn’t be a same-day kind of thing, by and large.

Now, that phrase, “by and large” is important. Almost every hobby or activity has short projects one can do and complete in a day. Those are fine from time to time, especially when you’re first starting out. 

Despite that, the hobby really needs to be something that may take hours and hours to complete a given project. As a result, I can’t really put cooking into this category despite enjoying the activity on a personal level. The thing is, I know I get to eat what I cook that very day, and that makes it so I don’t really have to be nearly as patient as I need to be for other things.

By contrast, sewing may allow you to crank a few things out in a day or so, but the more you learn, the more complicated patterns can get. I have a friend who is a professional costumer. She makes costumes for plays and ballets and all sorts of other things. She does it all day for a living, and guess what? She can’t crank some of this stuff out in a day.

And she uses every mechanical advantage she can, which brings me to my next point…

While doing these activities, it’s beneficial to try and do as much as possible without too much mechanical aid. Now, tedious tasks that will drive you to drink before you ever really get into the heart of the project itself, sure. Use a power hammer to turn those chunks of steel into Damascus. After all, I’m going to be using a power saw to rip boards because if not, I’m going to rip my own throat out.

But try to do it sometimes without that, and do the rest without mechanical assistance.

Try hand stitching clothing, especially when you’re first starting out. Forge with a forge, an anvil of some kind, and a few hand tools. Put together a few hand tools and get to working wood. Get an old car, some tools, and start fixing up and old junker.

The key thing, though, is to remember that while the project is nice, the path to a completed project is equally as important, if not more so.

Do that, and you’ll find the balance. You’ll find the ability to restrain yourself and not become a walking, talking rage-monster that some will fear you’re becoming.

Be a Barbarian, not a barbarian.

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