A counterbalance to the slug-it-out world

Arnold Siegel

Recent podcasts have addressed how important it is to balance the constant demand for Scoreboard-endorsed rivalrous performance with what I think of as a critically missing subjective freedom—a Walden Pond of the mind.

A rat race is a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth, power, position, headlines, etc. In decades past, the obvious contenders were fewer. Today, though, thanks to technology, things are different. The intense competition seems to be almost everywhere—in your face, so to speak.

We should have no problem with people competing for what they want—if their means aren't corrupt. The Scoreboard-endorsed struggle is one way to characterize the fight that life is, but it is not the good fight to which we are committed.

In this country, there continues to be an informed effort to extend civil rights and access to the prosperous life to more people, though those who continue to be marginalized can hardly appreciate the pace at which these rights are extended. But, in general, we have scarce information about how to live with the challenge that life is. How do we balance the quest for material prosperity with a voice and substance that enable us to make it matter that we lived at all?

In the absence of an obvious model for how to do this, we must make it our own personal business to acquire the set of skills needed to succeed with the challenge. A powerful substantive resource that gives heft, versatility and persuasiveness to the means and tactics. And a Walden Pond-like subjective freedom or mental strength that allows a counterbalance to the slug-it-out world we live in.

It's contentious out there. Hard-hearted. America built its prosperity upon the back of our programmed willingness to yoke ourselves into the high-pressure, Scoreboard-shaped environment and its cold-blooded principles. We comply with its demands and to one extent or another accept its blows because—well, that's how it happens—that's the world we live in.

Yet, as I said, neither culture nor our formal educations predictably teaches us how to be an autonomous contender in the competition for life and lifestyle or a worthy contender in the struggle for the soul of humanity—without breaking our spirits.

The secret to being fully human and to the successful activism and leadership that make a difference is to perfect the substance of who we are. Every single one of us needs to be, and deserves to be, prepared to take on the fight. Even the Walden Pond has to be fought for!

Of course, our effort to perfect who we are doesn't mean we'll win every round. In the ring of life, except in the movies, even if we're perfectly fit, disciplined and psyched, we can't always beat the heavy. In this country, it's often possible to be judicious about the rings we contend in. In some other countries, not so much; opportunity is just too limited.

But adversity itself is not a defeat. Nor is stumbling or reeling from the punch. Losing a round is not a defeat. Nor is a knock-down. Changing rings to find a better fit, to find a place to excel, is not a defeat. Nor is backing up for a moment for a breather. Clearly, though, our effort to perfect our performance does mean that we always get back in the ring. That we are always adding to our intelligence and our skills. That we never give up on the good fight.

In other words, we have a never-quit, tough-it-out responsibility for our condition and circumstance. We recognize, accept and respond creatively and effectively to the demands of autonomy. We're physically, mentally and morally fit to contend, to prevail—when what is at stake is how life is going to be. This is what I mean by a Walden Pond of the mind.


Taking command of your life: a retreat workshop for the body, mind and spirit. Whether you're interested in the West Coast Retreat taking place in a beautifully landscaped setting overlooking the Back Bay of Newport Beach in Southern California, or the East Coast Retreat taking place in a beautifully appointed professional setting in New England, you'll find a respite from the digital, cellular and familial press of every day. And, of course, in addition to the enjoyable comforts of the hotel, you will find rich intellectual and emotional reward in the Retreat's subject matter.

A three-day intensive retreat workshop that will change your life. Arnold Siegel teaches classes that go broad and deep into the power, strength, meaning and joy that come from taking command of your life. He offers his blog as a way for you to engage with him in a unique discourse, which offers a new perspective and vocabulary for 21st century living. However, the work that will change your life is best obtained in the classroom. Here, over three intense days with him, you'll have an opportunity to engage seriously and intentionally and immerse yourself in the speaking and listening, reading and writing.

I can tell you everything you need to know to register.

Stamford, CT
Oct. 28, 29, 30

Newport Beach, CA
June 24, 25, 26
November 11,12,13

To register for a Retreat Workshop or to learn about the other courses offered
by Arnold Siegel, please call Jean at: 1 800 818 7818


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