Introduction: The Warrior Within
Two of the most overused words in our modern vernacular might be the words, war and warrior. Why is it that we are attached to these words? What is it about these words that cause us to engage in a way that either inspires or elicits so much emotional energy?
In today’s world, why would anyone want to Unleash the Warrior Within?
Here is a fact: Our collective human history is permeated with the context of war.
It would be easy to point at some location on a world map and say that is the reason war is on our brains. But that is not the truth. The truth is that we have been using the word war so much and for so long that its meaning is so much deeper. It is because we are so familiar with the word that we rarely, if ever, explore its meaning or how often it is used to talk about persevering through unthinkable odds.
When we talk about the war on drugs, what are we really talking about? We’re talking about our wish to end the dangers of illegal drugs. When we talk about the war on poverty, we’re talking about our desire to end poverty. When we talk about the war on AIDS, we’re talking about controlling and ending the deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.
Now what about the war on war? We want to end war. But to end war we must understand war. And the starting point for all war comes from within each of us.
True warriors understand this; this is why we need more warriors. Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting. It’s about the ability, courage, and commitment to end the war within oneself and not quit until the job is done. Whether it’s ending war within your home, your relationships, your neighborhood, your business, your country, or your world, warriors understand that they have to start from within themselves and build outward. They know that by mastering the war within themselves, they can make the greatest difference in their world.
What is this war within? It is the battle that takes place within our own minds. Just like in real war, we have conflicting ideas that fight against one another. This conflict is internal and begins when that tiny voice within us tells us we’re not capable—that we shouldn’t bother striving to overcome the challenges placed before us. We may call them dreams, goals, or objectives, but in the end it is the accomplishment of that which we desire. With every desire we have we must come face to face with our core beliefs about whether or not the desire can be made a reality.
On one level, we believe we’re capable of great things. We see ourselves as heroic figures. But at the first sign of stress, fatigue, and fear that diminishing voice creeps in. Our mind begins to work against us. That tiny voice grows in intensity and volume. We hesitate. We begin to doubt our abilities. Now that internal voice is so loud that we can barely make any sense of it. We second-guess ourselves. We believe there is an inherent scarcity with regards to what might be possible. It is in that moment that the inner war is raging.
The internal conversation suggests that somehow there is something intrinsically wrong with us and that we’re just not enough. Struggling against this voice feels, in a relative sense, like we’re going through an epic battle every time we face a challenge that may seem too great for us to overcome.
This is the critical moment that you must Unleash the Warrior Within.
Why? Because, in a relative sense, conflict is combat, and no one is more prepared to handle that dynamic than the warrior.
Combat is an incredibly intense microcosm of life. In the space of a few minutes you can run the entire gamut of emotions—from fear to hate, from loss to triumph. It is an extremely powerful metaphor. Combat requires the ability to focus like nothing else. In combat, action has to be simple and it has to stay simple. Under the life-or-death pressure of an attack, even the slightest complexity will lead to confusion, and confusion can get you killed. Success in combat is about thinking and acting decisively, cutting through fear and achieving clarity in rapidly changing circumstances. These are the core elements of warriorship; this book brings them into the arena of life.
If you wish to adopt a warrior’s path, you must work to win that war within yourself. It is in fact the one single area you can completely control. It is the one place where you can make the biggest difference in your life. This work is an ongoing practice that will require persistent awareness and effort. But it is one of the most worthwhile tasks you will ever undertake.
The warrior is a concept that speaks to us deeply. Look at all of the references around us in today’s culture. Great athletes are called warriors. Successful business people are called warriors. Even great philanthropists are called warriors. Whether we’re talking about medicine, education, or those tireless individuals working for the benefit of humankind, we hear the word warrior used to describe women and men who show up, give their very best, and refuse to quit until the goal is reached. These people work past fatigue, pain, and injury to accomplish things that everyone, perhaps even they, considered impossible.
We love the warrior. Secretly we all aspire to be the warrior. We all want to be the one who will show up when the odds are against us. We love that indomitable spirit. We love the individual who musters the courage to step boldly into and beyond fear, for that is the person we all want to be. But being a warrior doesn’t happen by accident. You must choose that path, have courage, and commit completely…this is way of the warrior.
Warriors are not bystanders. Warriors have options. Warriors can create favorable conditions for themselves. They can act responsibly in their own best interests and in the interests of others. They can protect themselves and their loved ones. They can show up when it matters most. Most importantly, they know that they exist purely to serve. In serving others, they get their greatest rewards.
These ideas may seem lofty for a book that is about helping you achieve what you want most out of life. But, here is a fact: someday you will die. What will you do with this incredible gift that is your life? Do you want to get to the end of the road and wish you had strived more, accomplished more, and loved more? To do these things you will have to take chances, demonstrate courage, and commit in a way that allows you to be flexible but never allows you to quit on yourself.
Our existence is a wonderful thing. Anything we wish to accomplish is available to us. All we have to do is focus on the moments we place ourselves in, bring our very best to those moments, and not quit until we make them a reality. While it may sound simple, it is definitely not easy. There are all kinds of distractions, naysayers, and statistical odds that seem to work against us at all times.
I know personally what it is like to be told that you are too scrawny, too stupid, too young, too old, too unrealistic, and too unreasonable. I even understand what it is like to buy into these useless, diminishing beliefs or internal conversations. More importantly, I have put them aside to accomplish whatever I want. I don’t say this to brag in any way. I say this because if a guy like me—who was kicked out of a public elementary school system for being too unruly, sent to a place where the state sends juvenile delinquents, was assigned a special education classification when I later returned to the public school system, had a teacher tell one of my parents I would never amount to anything—can put aside all the mental baggage that comes with that kind of a journey, then so can you.
But, it is not easy. In fact it is very challenging and often feels as if I am at war with myself. I must combat and hold off the doubts, the stress, and the fear that creeps in whenever I stretch to accomplish a task beyond my comfort level.
This is reality: Rarely, if ever, will you be attacked, and, most likely, you will never see combat in the literal sense, but the principles that make for effectiveness in battle are just as relevant in the daily challenges you face. Unleash the Warrior Within is going to give you weapons that will allow you to think and act decisively.
Think of Unleash the Warrior Within as your own personal armory of weapons. Some of the weapons in it may be useful all the time, some may only be useful for specific situations, and some may be of no use to you at all, but they are there for others to use as they like. In the end, these weapons exist only to help you focus on the most important things at the most important times.
What is focus? My humble attempt at a definition of the word focus is this: when clarity, concentration, and action converge to create a specific result in the present.
Whatever you want out of life comes down to your ability to focus. No one really ever teaches us how to focus other than just to say “focus.” We are supposed to understand exactly what that means and, maybe for the most part, we get the gist of what is means. But, the challenge is that focus is like a laser beam: move a little to the left or right or add a little fog or some distance, and the laser either misses the target completely or diffuses to such an extent that it acts like a poor flashlight.
If focus is where our mind, body, and spirit converge to create specific action in the present, then doubt, second-guessing, hesitation, the unknown, stress, pain, and fear are the obstacles that diminish the quality of our laser-like focus.
During the stress of combat, nothing is ever close to perfect. Combat demands a mix of incredible flexibility, focused intensity, and a clearly defined purpose. Unleash the Warrior Within is designed to help you perform in this environment. It is through this extreme metaphor of combat, when lives are literally on the line, that we will explore the dynamics of fear, doubt, hesitation, and the numerous other obstacles that diminish who you are and who you are capable of being.
What will you get from this book? You will get the challenges and the opportunities only a warrior would take on. You are capable of more than you ever thought. You have within you the power to alter your universe, not in a mystical, hokey sense, but in the concrete application of proven principles that will unleash within you a warrior who cannot be stopped. This book is part psychology, part strategy and tactics, part drive, but most importantly, it’s about having heart. Unleash the Warrior Within is a gateway to the noble virtues of wisdom, courage, determination, generosity, honor, and wellbeing.
This is what a true warrior stands for and it is what you are capable of being, if you so choose. This philosophy of performance is a proven path for accomplishment. I have used it to accomplish everything I have done. It has now been published in four languages and has served tens of thousands in accomplishing what they want. Based on the many responses I’ve had from readers through letters and email, I’ve received further confirmation that it works. It will serve you. In this new edition, besides this new preface, I’ve added a small amount of additional material to nearly every chapter. My intention: To add just a handful of new ingredients, very sparingly, to help make my principles and message even clearer and even more effective.
I extend to you an invitation to meet your true self within these pages and explore the adventure that is your life. There are challenges within these pages, but for the warrior, they are opportunities to see how far you can go and what you are absolutely capable of being.
Excerpted from Unleash the Warrior Within by Richard “Mack” Machowicz, by arrangement with Da Capo Press. Copyright © 2002. Buy it here.