Updated: Nov 15
The Savage Unleashed
I was at a low point in my life. Over-burdened with anxiety, depression, and a lack of purpose. It didn’t make sense to me at the time because I was doing quite well for myself. By most measures, I was living a quite “successful life.” I had a reliable, well-paying, yet rather stress-free job. I enjoyed a small circle of very close and supportive friends, along with a wide network of associates. I traveled extensively around the world, and enjoyed relative freedom to live however, whenever, and wherever I pleased.
Despite this, something seemed off to me. Why did I feel unfulfilled? Why did I feel like the conventional markers of success were somehow making me less healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually? This question led me down a rabbit hole of investigating the main drivers of my own happiness, and what I discovered completely turned my world right-side-up.
I’ll spare you the deep philosophical talk, but what I found was that chasing happiness was a fool’s errand that’ll most certainly lead to disappointment. I learned instead that “fulfillment” is the north-star that we should be striving for. And that fulfillment is driven by three major levers that we have a high degree of control over: 1) strong social connections, 2) excellent health, and 3) achievement through struggle.
While the first of these three levers, strong social connections, did uncover some interesting concepts, it was the second two, excellent health and achievement through struggle, which really caught me off guard.
Neither of these levers are independent of one another, meaning that making changes to one aspect will generally have a positively correlated impact on the other. However, I do want to break down the “excellent health” and “achievement through struggle” levers individually so that I can provide more context.
As I dove deeper into the root causes of common health problems, I noticed that mainstream western medicine seems to have a myopic focus on what is happening inside the body and forcing changes upon the body through artificial medicines, surgeries, and the like. However, there is little consideration for a holistic view on health and wellness which considers the full evolutionary history of our species, and how the prevailing illnesses of the modern age are primarily driven by our rapid shift into modern civilization, which has misaligned us with our evolutionary nature.
To put things in perspective, the modern homo sapiens have roamed this earth for about 200,000 years eating a well-rounded hunter-gatherer diet. It was only in the last 10,000 years or so that we began our foray into “civilization” with the dawn of agriculture. In the timeline of human history, only about 5% of that time has been spent living as “civilized” humans, and in the last 200 years the shift into the modern society has accelerated at an exponential rate. The post-industrial age that we know today represents only 0.001% of the human timeline.
What we consider to be “normal” in today’s digital and post-industrial age, is in fact an abnormality. A mere blip on the chart of human history.
We continue to carry ancient hardware that has not yet been updated to thrive during this period of abnormality. And like an outdated computer, the environments and applications that we are now required to operate in are overloading our system. As a result, our minds and bodies are responding with side effects and illnesses appropriately referred to as evolutionary mismatch diseases.
A small sampling of health ailments caused by evolutionary mismatches include:
Nearsightedness – Excessive time spent indoors causing us to lose our ability to focus on distant objects.
Metabolic Disease – Highly processed vegetable and seed oils in almost every consumable food available in stores contributing to hypertension, heart diseases, cancers, etc.
Back and Knee Pain – Modern shoes distorting the shapes of our feet and altering our posture and body mechanics.
Low Testosterone – Cosmetic products, air pollution, and food packaging loaded to the gills with artificial chemicals that negatively affect our hormones contributing to a precipitous drop in testosterone levels.
Infection – Over-emphasis on sterilizing our environments and food supply with antibiotics leading us to become less resilient to germs and bacteria.
Famine – Agriculture-based diets with heavy reliance on grains (even our meat is fattened with cheap grains) leading to imbalanced nutrient profiles and increased susceptibility single crop failure.
I could go on….
Achievement Through Struggle
Through my research, one theme that stood out to me was that “fulfillment” is not a state of being. It can only happen through the act of doing. It comes when one is seemingly transitioning from a lesser state, to a better state; but only during the period of movement. Any human who feels like he is standing still and not progressing, no matter the level of comfort or convenience, is likely to feel unfulfilled. This is why even the wealthiest people in the world have a hard time throwing in the towel and retiring to spend the rest of their days sun bathing on a beach.
For most of our existence, struggle was a prerequisite for survival. We had to willingly endure pain, suffering, and discomfort in order to attain the resources and security that we needed to stay alive. Because of this, our bodies and minds have developed rather elaborate survival mechanisms and reward systems that not only make us feel very, very good on the other side of struggle, but also strengthen our mental fortitude in preparation for future challenges that we will inevitably face. Our minds and bodies cannot conceive of a world in which great struggle is not a necessity. Without it there are no rewards.
In other words, to not struggle is to not fully realize the pleasures that life has to offer. To not struggle is to forego the benefits of our built-in reward system that naturally makes us feel fulfilled. The more difficult the struggle the greater the reward for progressing through it.
However, throughout the course of civilization man has created a world that is almost completely devoid of the kinds of intense struggles that we faced in the past. Thanks to our creativity and ingenuity, we have invented tools and systems that have replaced much of the struggle in our lives with modern comforts and conveniences instead.
While these things bring us gratification in the moment, they have funneled us into a life in which our reward mechanisms are incongruent with our requirements for living a life of fulfillment. We have manufactured artificial externalities that have taken the place of the rewards earned from pushing through genuine discomfort. We are running at full speed on the “hedonic treadmill” which essentially recalibrates our reward systems to baseline being in constant comfort as “normal.” This baselining has not only made us less capable of enduring true struggle, but also required us to seek out increasingly more stimulating forms of gratification to prevent ourselves from falling into chronic and sustained depression.
In other words, things that brought us happiness and satisfaction in the past no longer make us happy. They are now requirements (necessities almost) to prevent us from feeling miserable (ex. modern air conditioning, abundant and palatable foods, etc.). So, the continuous bombardment of gratification with very little struggle has established a new baseline from which fulfillment becomes more difficult to achieve.
This revelation led me to explore more deeply how the everyday, seemingly benign, aspects of modern living may in actuality be the source of our overall dissatisfactions.
A small sampling of the consequences of instant gratification and the corresponding lack of struggle that is prevalent in modern living include:
Chronic depression – Abundance of entertainment, foods, and lifestyle conveniences that continuously spike dopamine, thus progressively raising the baseline for feeling content.
Chronic anxiety – Noise pollution, social media, and focus on climbing the corporate ladder robbing us of the necessary downtime that we need to focus on our mental health and remain hormonally balanced.
Entitlement and lack of gratitude – Unrealistic expectations that our lives should be free of pain, discomfort, and misfortune leading our lives and decisions to be driven by fear and avoidance rather than opportunities and acceptance.
Sleep deprivation – Artificial lighting along with phones and television disrupting the body’s ability to relax, natural circadian cues, and melatonin production.
Cognitive decline – Increasing reliance on technology to simplify cognitively demanding tasks, resulting in deterioration of brain grey matter (ex. Google maps instead of manual navigating)
Sensitivity to extreme temperatures – Heavy coats and persistent climate-controlled environments resulting in the lost ability to thermoregulate, and increased susceptibility to the elements.
UnleashingSavage – The Origin Story
As I connected with various friends, colleagues, family members, and strangers, it became evident to me that we have settled into the realm of mediocrity after a lifetime of social conditioning that has tamed our inner savage. We settle into cushy jobs that are “good enough” while sacrificing our precious time and health in the process; we accept sub-optimal physical prowess and aesthetics instead of being the highly capable beasts that we once were; we bask in comfort and convenience rather than stepping outside of our comfort zones for growth and self-improvement; we rationalize our way out of doing what's truly exciting to us.
We relegate ourselves to a monotonous, pain-free, comfortable, steady-state life in which we are rarely incentivized to utilize our built-in toolset that we once relied on for survival.
In other words… We become civilized.
The measures of success of a civilized man are misaligned with the innate things that bring us true fulfillment; wealth instead of health, horsepower instead of physical strength, technology and gadgets instead of knowledge and self-sufficiency, predictability and consistency instead of challenging the mind and body to overcome great difficulties.
UnleashingSavage is a rebellion against the status quo of modern civilized lifestyles in an effort to reclaim our inner beast.
Core tenants of UnleashingSavage are:
Achieving peak physical health through consuming a diet more aligned with our hunter-gatherer origins and practicing bodyweight fitness to build the strength necessary to overcome any physical obstacle that the world throws at us.
Achieving optimal mental acuity through high cognitive demand activities that require the discipline, self-control, and creativity that were regularly leveraged by our prehistoric ancestors for survival.
Achieving fulfillment through self-induced struggle to enhance our well-being and to recalibrate our primitive reward mechanisms.
While these core tenants may seem simple to live by, I came to the sobering reality that our transition into civilization has become so thorough, that attempting to incorporate elements of pre-civilization is an exceedingly impossible task.
The difficulty arises from two places; the first being that our built environment has virtually eradicated all elements of pre-civilized living. For example, I estimate that about 95% of the food offerings in the grocery store are processed; a far cry from the natural foods our ancestors ate. Additionally, it is virtually impossible to do anything without being exposed to plastics, noise pollution from cars and planes, etc. The second difficulty being that challenging the conventional norms of civilization creates social friction. For example, avoiding processed foods and voluntarily plunging into a bath of cold water just “because it’s uncomfortable” will inevitably cause some to cast harsh judgements on you. This makes having strong convictions in your beliefs and a burning passion to improve yourself mandatory prerequisites to unleashing your inner savage.
The specific aims of UnleashingSavage are to inspire people to:
Embrace their human nature and leverage it to their advantage
Achieve optimal physical, mental, and emotional health
Employ practices of stoicism to overcome adversity, hardship, and insecurity
Become a more knowledgeable and well-rounded human
I have created UnleashingSavage to provide a pragmatic and practical approach to thrive in the modern world by embracing our prehistoric nature. I am sharing my journey in the hopes that it will resonate with some of you and put you on your own trajectory toward leveling up, becoming a physical beast, an emotional foundation, and a pillar of inspiration for those around you.
If any of this resonates with you then join me in my journey and let’s get to work.