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    Primal Roots Blog

September 11, 2018

The Strenuous Life

It is my firm belief that people crave adversity, challenges, and obstacles in their lives.

I believe it is programmed in us to want to overcome, achieve and revel in success once we have risen to the challenge. It all boils down to our biological make up and our hormonal responses.

Long before drive-through Fast Food windows, pizza delivery,  and Uber Eats, we had to hunt and gather for our food.  Our hormones were programmed to make us want to get up and move.  We were driven to output an effort to keep ourselves alive.

Lakota Bison Hunt

Depiction of a Lakota hunter chasing their main dietary staple, the great American Bison.

In my opinion, our innovations are outpacing our genetics and that’s the reason we see record highs in depression, suicide, mass shootings, prescription abuse, and/or any other modern societal plague.

women on their phones

All too common activity for modern humans to be lost in their devices rather than connecting.

We have replaced age-old hormonal patterns with modern conveniences, thus bypassing our natural tendencies.

The number of people that register for marathons, triathlons, obstacle races, and so on further proves my point that people are compelled to struggle and overcome and they will pay big money to do it.


People competing a a grueling 26.2 mile race for fun!

Every year, Americans spend almost $40million to register for marathons and hundreds of millions more on race equipment.  Although this sounds like a huge majority must compete in strenuous athletic events, it is actually a small minority of the population that choose to push themselves to their limits.

In Sebastian Junger’s book, “Tribe“, he discusses how communities bond together in the face of adversity.  For example, New York City and even the greater United States had a real sense of Patriotism and community following the 9/11 tragedy.

In smaller examples when communities are faced with disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and others, they tend to overlook socioeconomic status, race, and other modern labels in order to band together.

Another voluntary example of strenuous activity creating this strong semblance of togetherness would be marathons, triathlons, obstacle races, and other physically grueling events that people subject themselves to for that feeling of accomplishment.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a firm believer in what he called “the strenuous life”.  He sought out the harshest of circumstances to build his character like moving from a privileged life in New York to the untamed Dakota’s of the late 1800s.  He was ridiculed for being a short, eye-glass-wearing New Yorker and targeted for physical altercations. Teddy answered by knocking out such a pest at a saloon after unrelenting harassment.

He was also target of a robbery by two outlaws that met their match when he managed to tie them up and march them 40 miles to the nearest sheriff; a trek that took him multiple days and nights without sleep.  He stayed awake by reading Thoreau and reminding himself that his mental toughness is what would keep him alive.

Teddy Military

Teddy in his military garb during his stint in the military. He put a group of cowboys, roughnecks, and frontiersmen to for the infamous “Rough Riders” to go to Cuba to fight the Spanish in the battle of San Juan Hill.

Upon return from the Dakota’s, Teddy was a legend and a popular political candidate. He was elected Governor of New York and cracked down on corruption. He was well despised by a bipartisan group of corrupt politicians but was unrelenting in his work to clean up the state.

While he was Governor, Roosevelt had the billiard tables in the Governor’s mansion removed and replaced with wrestling mats and boxing rings.  He sparred with many of his political visitors and later went blind in one eye after sparring in the White House.

When elected President, Teddy went on a camping adventure with conservationist John Muir.  He had no security detail or anyone to carry his belongings during the trip.  He slept under the stars and even in some snowfall while exploring one of the country’s most precious resources.  He was the first to fight for the protection of the natural landscape that makes up much of the country. He established the first National Parks and protected them from being looted of their natural resources.

Theodore Roosevelt Deerskin

Teddy during his frontiersman days.

Later, Roosevelt relinquished his place as President and gave way for William Taft who turned out to be a spineless industrialist and started to unravel the steps that Roosevelt had taken to protect our lands. This did not sit well with Theodore after he helped Taft to win the Presidency.

In a true move of bravado, Theodore announced that he would run in the next election to ensure that his work would stand the test of time.  When he was sabotaged by his own party’s leadership in the Primaries, he decided to run as an independent and formed the progressive party a.k.a. The Bull Moose Party.  He campaigned ferociously and railed against the two major parties.

One day in Milwaukee, a man shot Roosevelt in the chest while he was en route to a speech.  The bullet hit his eye glass case and note pad before it lodged within millimeters of his heart. The presidential candidate was tended to by a doctor in the crowd where he was advised to go to the hospital.  Roosevelt coughed into his hand to check for bleeding in his lungs and when he saw none, he felt fit to deliver his speech.

He spoke for 90 minutes with a slug lodged in his pectoral muscle and even showed the crowd while stating it would take a lot more than a bullet to stop him. Ultimately, he lost to Woodrow Wilson but garnered the largest third party vote ever recorded.

President Roosevelt’s spirit of seeking out struggle is an anomaly but some trace of his tenacity lives in us all.

To feel fulfilled, we must pit ourselves against our greatest fears and push ourselves to overcome them.  Without this, we are piles of dissatisfied cells that allow each day to slowly pass while we stagnate in the pool of mediocrity. 

Let’s all stop taking short cuts and allow ourselves to struggle, seek out failure over comfortability.

Leave your car keys on the hook and walk to town, strap on your Big Boy Pants and break a sweat to get what you want.

Theodore Roosevelt Laughing

Seek out adversity and enjoy it like my hero, Teddy did.