In Gorilla Mindset (amazon), Mike Cernovich established the necessity and benefits of cultivating the correct mindset.
He explains how, because of a loser mindset, many people fail before they even begin.
I have already witnessed how cultivating the mindset of a winner quickly leads to success. Just a few months after reading his book, I obtained a promotion along with a substantial raise at work.
But I believe that true tests of one’s strength is not in how we succeed but in how we handle failure.
And, in this vein, my first understandings of the power of mindset came from reading, about a year ago, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (amazon) by Stephen Covey:
Being Proactive instead of Reactive
Stephen Covey’s very first Habit is to be proactive. He explains how most people “live” by simply reacting to events and situations.
But there is a gulf, no matter how small, between all outside stimulus and our response. No matter what the stimulus is, we are capable of deciding how to be affected and how we wish to respond.
The gulf, that space between stimulus and our reactions, is very, very tiny in most people–so small most people aren’t even aware it exists.
But it can be widened like any muscle. The more we become aware of it, the more we use it, the more we strengthen it, the more powerful it becomes, until we become individuals that reality seems to bend and respond to (a la Matrix) instead of vice versa.
I found no example of this greater than the story of Colonel Hans Von Luck, a book I read after seeing it recommended by Vox Day:
Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans Von Luck (amazon)
Hans Von Luck led a Panzer division throughout the entirety of World War 2, form the invasion of Poland, to the fall of Eastern Germany to Russia. He ended up battling in just about every front that Germany had, including North Africa, France and Italy.
And then, right before the war ended, he was captured by Russian Forces, and shipped to a Gulag in Georgia where he spent 5 years in confinement.
10 years of his life given in the advancement of a ideology–Hitler’s national socialism–he didn’t even believe in. And yet, not once in his memoirs does he whine, complain, or cry “why me?”
Instead he consistently displays courage and strength through the power of a superior mindset.
Here are just a few examples:
A Broader Perspective:
I longed to travel to new places. I wanted to follow the advice of my old mathematics teacher, … “Travel as often as you can, and see your homeland from outside. Make contact with people of other countries. Only then can you judge your fatherland correctly.
Fear and Acting:
Suddenly a round of machine-gun fire hit Private Uhl, not far from me. He was dead at once. He was the first casualty in my company, and many of my men saw it. Now we were all afraid. Which of us would be the next?
“No. 1 and No. 2 platoons attack,” I shouted, “No. 3 platoon in reserve, the heavy platoon to give fire-cover.”
No one stirred. Everyone was afraid of being the next to die. Including me. Anyone who says he was never afraid in his first engagement is a liar.
It was up to me, the CO to set the example. “Everyone follow me,” I shouted, and rushed forward with my machine-pistol.
Paying Attention to Propaganda:
The civilian population, and most of us, thought that with the Polish campaign, the war would be over. The French and British has not attacked. …. But I had my doubts. Hitler’s hatred of France, against whom he had fought in the First World War, was too deep. The propaganda machine was again going full blast. The names Alsace and Loraine were also cropping up,…
The Horror of War:
The closer we got to the breakout point the more ghastly was the scene that met our eyes. The roads were blocked by two or three shot-up, burnt-out vehicles standing alongside each other, ammunition was exploding, tanks were burning, and horses lay struggling on their backs until they were eventually released.
It struck me how senseless the war was, and yet there was no escape from it.
Probably every soldier finds out in the course of a war that he can only bear the “having to kill” and “being killed” over long periods if he adopts the maxims of the Stoics: learn to endure all things with equanimity. He can only do this if he builds up an immune system of his own against the feelings of fear and sympathy and probably, to a certain degree, even against matters of ethics, moral, and conscience.
Responding to the Depravity of the Russians:
For all of us, a terribly depressing experience was to stay forever in our minds. In the villages we recovered, we ourselves saw for the first time how the Russians had rampaged in the past weeks. Never in my life shall I forget the sight of the maltreated, violated women who came to meet us, screaming or completely apathetic. Neither old women nor girls, who were still childless, were spared; the houses plundered, old men were shot.’
These fearful atrocities had a very depressing effect on all of us, especially on the men who came from the eastern regions. On the other hand, they reinforced our determination to fight all the more grimly now for every square yard and help the civilian population as much as possible in their flight to the west.”
At this decisive moment in my military life all that mattered to me personally was to show no fear, and hence weakness, but to maintain in this heavy hour my bearing and self-respect, a bearing which we had so often admired in the past years among allied prisoners.”
Revolting Internment Experiences:
Worst of all were the military guards, who examined us for gold crowns and when they found any, broke them off with a pair of pincers without our being able to resist, so as to sell them later and thus supplement their miserable pay. For me personally, the result was that when I returned home I had to have my lower jaw chiseled out, as it was full of pus and the roots of the teeth had rotted.”
Continuing to Grow while Imprisoned:
In the three and a half years I had gathered a good many experiences. I had learned to do work which I had known before only from hearsay. I had learned that the will to survive and training to survive were decisive in overcoming a fate such as mine. Equally important was to keep alive the hope of returning home on day. I had learned also that a clear, intelligible attitude and language impressed the Russians. They despised opportunists, let alone informers.
Powerful Concluding Thoughts:
I have often felt that in the first half of my life I was, in a double sense, a prisoner of my time: trapped on the one hand in the Prussian tradition and bound by the oath of allegiance, which made it all too easy for the Nazi regime to misuse the military leadership; then forced to pay my country’s tribute, along with so many thousand others, with five years of captivity in Russian camps.
As a professional solder I cannot escape my share of the collective guilt; but as a human being I feel none.
I hope that nowhere in the world will young people ever again allow themselves to be so misused.