“IT IS THE TREMBLE OF RISK WHICH SHAKES THE SPIRIT.”
Risk is in our dna
As we head into the Fall season, we have begun exploring the relationship between risk and freedom.
It comes back to a simple truth – the human psyche was designed for risk. For most of our history, we were exposed to the elements, forced to hunt for food and flee from predators. We were pushed and tested on a daily basis.
Somewhere along the way, we began to believe comfort was the key to happiness. New inventions seek to eliminate discomfort at all costs - big houses, luxury cars, everything on demand, and yet none of these things seem to make us happy.
This is because, despite all of these technological advancements, our biology hasn’t changed. We still contain the basic instincts to fight for survival. And when we don’t find an outlet for these instincts, our lives feel dull and stagnant. It’s as if we’re hardwired for struggle; there’s something in our DNA that finds comfort in discomfort.
The benefits of flow
Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us. Our fear of failure prevents us from taking risks, exploring new things, and growing as individuals. We become so focused on avoiding failure that we fail to see the opportunities for success that are all around us.
Fear doesn’t ever really go away, nor should it. But confronting it is the way to move forward. And it’s the ability to stand in the face of fear, listen to what it has to say, and then continue towards it anyways, that many high performers say has led to their success.
Tim Ferris put it, “Fear is an indicator. Sometimes it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not it shows you exactly what you should do. And the best results that I’ve had in life, the most enjoyable times, have all been from asking a simple question: What’s the worst that can happen?”
And Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say about the value of going towards what you fear:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Message from the founder
When we think of the word “transcend” or imagine what “self-transcendence” might feel like, we often imagine ourselves at some point in the future where we will reach that singular moment of contentment.
Often we imagine a material moment in the future that will make us feel like we “made it” and we can “finally relax.” We think we will feel an everlasting feeling of accomplishment. Maybe it’s the moment we buy our dream car, purchase our first house, get to travel the world, or become famous.
I am not immune to these material illusions of fulfillment, and I have had the opportunity to experience many of these sought-after moments that I thought would bring me peace and fulfillment. But luckily it’s not that easy…
Throughout the journey of building a company, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of the original vision and become distracted by ideas of material success and external validation. The antidote to this is found in the philosophy of self-transcendence.
The paradox of self-transcendence is that it is directionally found inward, not upward or forward. Once I was able to reframe this idea, it became easy to focus all of my energy on the journey of building my dream brand.
And in the grueling trenches of building a business, I started having moments when I stopped thinking that the process was just to get to an end goal, and realized the long hours and the constant pressure was actually what I truly loved. I realized self-transcendence was not a moment or place but a perspective shift.
What I’ve come to believe is that we can find daily fulfillment in the process of exposing ourselves to harder and harder challenges, always trying to compete against our previous selves. Fulfillment is just choosing to fully engage in the process of life.
We can either see the unavoidable challenges in life as a burden, or a blessing. Because in the end, we are not affected by the challenges we face, but the attitude we take in facing them.
Taking this belief to the next level, I try to structure my life in a way that is filled with challenges, so that I continuously train this mindset. If challenge is unavoidable, I would rather seek it out and use it as my teacher so that I have more chances to change my reaction to them.
In creating our company culture, my goal is to build a team of people who are driven by passion and a desire for progress. We’re not concerned with the speed of our bottom-line growth, but the amount of personal growth we can achieve along the way.
It would be easy at any stage of the company to throw in the towel, convince myself that I’m not qualified to be doing the things I’m doing, and either hire experienced executives or just cash out and never have to work again.
But for me, I find so much value and fulfillment in the daily struggle of constantly doing things I’m quite literally “unqualified” to do. We should be unqualified at what we’re doing because that means we’re trying to learn something new. I always want to be punching above my weight class, otherwise what’s the point?
Growth is part of adapting. It’s about taking yourself to a level outside your comfort zone, stretching your abilities, and then finding a way through.
This process takes a level of honesty and humility; what’s outside your comfort zone might be easy for someone else. But if we commit ourselves to confronting that discomfort each day, the potential for our growth is truly unlimited.
- Jay B.
Message from the founder
From a very young age I became obsessed with sports and athletics. My mom loves telling this story of when I was 2 years old and got a kid set of golf clubs for Christmas. I went out into our backyard and hit golf ball after golf ball until I had broken all the cheap plastic clubs in the set. That’s when my parents realized sports might be in my future. By age 9, I was spending hours and hours hitting baseballs in the batting cages while my friends were playing video games. I still remember those days. I remember them feeling like a different reality, time seemed slow and my focus was unwavering. Once I got older, I found out this phenomenon was called “Flow State” or “The Zone” which is now recognized and studied in Neuroscience.
This feeling was something I chased my entire life through sports, and quickly realized it was only achievable if I was pushing myself just beyond where I felt comfortable, like cranking up the pitching machine to 75mph even though I played against pitchers who only threw 65mph.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I never became a pro athlete, but searching for that feeling has been a centerpiece in my life even after sports.
When I dropped out of school at 20 and started my first business, I remember the stress and anxiety and the level of risk crippling me to the point of selling my first business shortly after launching it. I thought I just didn’t have what it took to be an entrepreneur even though I had dreamed of having a brand ever since I started a graphic tee shirt company when I was 12.
I ended up moving home for a while to rethink my next stage of life. After my first business, which I deemed a failure and due to my lack of direction in life, I became extremely depressed and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder called dissociative disorder which then caused extreme panic attacks and a vasovagal syncope condition where I would pass out unexpectedly. One time I passed out in the bathroom and landed with my neck over the side of the bathtub obstructing my airway while the bathroom door was locked. Luckily my family heard me fall and came to help me, but I ended up in the emergency room and realized I really needed to do something to address my mental health.
The first thing I did was start exercising again. I wasn’t very active after I stopped playing sports and I was dealing with an injuring so I couldn’t skateboard anymore. I very quickly went from exercising as a routine to falling in love with weightlifting and trail running. Weightlifting specifically started to give me that “Flow” feeling I had experienced playing sports. It was a beautifully similar version of adding more pressure/weight/resistance in relation to where you currently felt comfortable. You could quite literally add as much or as little resistance you wanted to. I started to get deep into lifting as my sport and began studying the mental side of training. I became very intrigued with the fact that my brain would tell me that I couldn’t do another rep, even though physically I could. I started to “train to failure” as often as could to see where my mind would tell me to stop vs. where my muscles actually needed to stop. I was astonished that I usually has 20% more reps in me physically after my brain triggered me to want to stop.
This practice changed my entire life.
I began trying to apply this 20% philosophy to everything I did. If I felt too tired to read more of a business book I would force myself to read even more. If I was too afraid to apply to a college, I would apply to 2 other colleges that I was even more afraid of applying to (I actually ended up getting into a school that I had deemed way outside of realistic just by using this strategy). I started to be hyper aware of when my mind would “tell me to stop” doing something, and then I would use that moment to push even further.
The psychology of this is actually well studied, just give “Lizard Brain” a quick Google search. Basically, there is a part of the brain that is constantly trying to keep us “safe”, but the problem is it is very primitive and very overactive. So, what keeps most people from going after their dreams is an internal misguided safety mechanism trying to keep us safe when there is no real danger. It sees any risk as life threatening and tries to keep us safe by making up reasons we shouldn’t do that thing, even as basic as not applying to your top school because of the “what if you get rejected…” thought it sees as a life and death situation.
ASRV was the Phoenix out of the Fire after all these events in my life.
I was about to resign my life to going back to school because I was too afraid to start another business just in case it “failed” but I had this idea to start an apparel company focused on connecting the physical benefits of training to the mental benefits that training could create.
Creating ASRV has been risk and risk after risk, but the difference is my perspective. I see the stress and anxiety of running a business as just bumping up against my mental “max” every day. The stress and anxiety aren’t stress and anxiety, rather just going past failure day after day after day. Every day I want to do more, create more, tell a better story, design a better product, hire more people, expand into retail etc. Of course, every day is filled with “risk” and my Lizard Brain tells me I’m in a life-or-death situation and that I need to stop and “stay safe”- just like when my brain would tell me I didn’t have more reps left in me and I would push out 20% more.
When the pressure and risk feel like it is crushing me, I just remember THAT is exactly what it takes to grow. By applying this philosophy it allows me to tap into the “Flow State” that I experienced playing sports at a high level. It’s exactly the same thing but I’m trying to play life at a high level, and the sport I have chosen is building a meaningful brand with innovative products. And if our brand and products help just one person continue past that mental point of failure, then I’m fulfilling my purpose.
- Jay B.
NEUROSCIENCE - RISK AND PERFORMANCE
The idea that we are hardwired for risk is supported in the relationship between risk and performance.
According to behavioral scientist Amy Bucher, “Just as there seems to be an optimal level of stress for growth and learning, a certain amount of fear can lead to high performance. Fear signals there’s something of consequence on the line, a reason to exert effort.”
This is a phenomenon we have all experienced in high stakes sports competitions, but it is the same in non-athletic pursuits as well. Intellectual, emotional, and creative risks are all triggers that drive our focus into the present moment and facilitate high performance states. In other words, risk heightens focus, and focus leads to flow.
The fear of the unknown is a powerful force that constrains our lives in ways we rarely acknowledge. We may rationalize our avoidance of difficulty by telling ourselves that we’re too busy or that we need more time to prepare, but the truth is that we’re often afraid to venture into unknown territory.
We will leave you with this quote from Marcel France:
“The secret of life is this: When you hear the sound of the cannons, walk toward them.”
© ASRV 2022