Building Your Resiliency: Part III – Taking Control of Your Life

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 16, 2010 · 55 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

This is the third part in a series designed to help you boost your resiliency. For the previous entries, see Part I and Part II.
I know Part III is a little long, but there is so much great information on this subject that I really wanted to share with you. So go ahead and read it all-I promise its chock full of worthwhile information. And what better way to build your resiliency!

“We lost 13 pilots in six months. And in nearly every case, the worst pilots died by their own stupidity.”-Chuck Yeager


Among test pilots, Chuck Yeager’s attitude towards pilots who “augered in” was universal. In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe relates how test pilots loved to talk about flying at every chance, and how the discussion would inevitably turn to why the latest pilot to have perished in an accident had done himself in. It was always the pilot’s fault. Even if a piece of equipment had malfunctioned, the consensus was that the pilot should have double-checked it before taking off. Nearly every death was caused by pilot error, plain and simple.

To the average joe, this might seem like a callous attitude, but when you’re going to a funeral every other week, burying a guy who’s doing the same job as you, you have to believe that you’re in control of your life, 100%. Otherwise, you’re never going to get into that cockpit again.

These men had the “right stuff.” Their unshakable belief in their ability to control their destiny set them apart from other men. You may not be flying planes, but you too can stop being a victim, strap into the cockpit, and take control of your life.

Feeling in Control: The Foundation of Your Resiliency

In the last part of our series, we discussed an experiment in which dogs who had been given electric shocks and no recourse to stop the pain “learned helplessness.”

It was the experience of not being in control that left them depressed and defeated and sapped their resiliency.

The need to feel in control in our lives cannot be overstated. In Stumbling on Happiness, Dr. Daniel Gilbert argues:

“Being effective-changing things, influencing things, making things happen-is one of the fundamental needs with which the human brain seem to be naturally endowed, and much of our behavior from infancy onward is simply an expression of this penchant for control…The fact is that human beings come into the world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control things at any point between their entrance and exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless, and depressed. And occasionally dead.”

The dead part refers to a pair of studies done to test the link between feelings of control and health.

In the first study, the elderly residents of a nursing home were each given a houseplant and divided into two groups-the high control group and the low control group. The high control group was told that the plant’s care was in their hands while the plants in the low control group were taken care of by a staff member. The results at the end of the study were startling-30% of the members of the low control group had died, compared to only 15% of the members of the high control group.

A follow-up study garnered similar results. College students were paired with residents at another nursing home. One group of the elderly residents (the low control group) could not control when the students would come; the student would set the appointment date. The high control group was able to dictate when the students would visit. “After two months, the residents in the high control group were happier, healthier, more active, and taking fewer medications than those in the low control group.”

If feeling in control of a houseplant can prolong your life, imagine the effect that feeling in control of even bigger things can have on your happiness, confidence, and resiliency.

Having an Internal vs. External Locus of Control

In the 1950′s, psychologist Julian Rotter theorized that much of human behavior can be explained by whether a person has an internal or external locus of control. Locus means “place” in Latin, so these categories denote whether a person is controlled by external or internal factors. Those with an external locus of control believe that their behavior is guided by fate, luck, and other external factors. Those with an internal locus of control believe that their behavior is guided by their own actions and decisions. People don’t fit into one extreme or the other, rather the two categories represent the opposite ends of a continuum.

Having an external or internal locus of control has a profound influence on behavior:

Those with an internal locus of control:

  • Are confident that they can be successful.
  • Tend to be leaders (leading those with an external locus of control).
  • Exhibit greater control over their behavior.
  • Seek to learn as much as they can.
  • Take personal responsibility for their actions.
  • Deal with challenge and stress better.
  • Use challenges to come out stronger than before.
  • Thrive in the midst of change.
  • Are less likely to submit to authority.

Those with an external locus of control:

  • Feel like they’re a victim.
  • Are quick to blame everyone but themselves.
  • Want to be led by others.
  • Avoid responsibility.
  • Are more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression

Those with an internal locus of control are achievement-oriented and more likely to find academic and professional success. Because they believe they’re in control of their destiny, they’re eager to tackle challenges, while those with an external locus of control are apt to say “Why bother? It doesn’t matter what I do anyway.”

Additionally, Dr. Siebert, author of the Resiliency Advantage, argues that “both sets of beliefs are self-validating and self-fulfilling. People who believe that their fate is under the control of outside forces act in ways that confirm their beliefs. People who know they can do things to make their life better act in ways to confirm their beliefs.”

There are online tests you can take (here and here) to get an idea of whether you have a more internal or external locus of control.

Stop Being a Victim and Take Control of Your Life

Men are more likely to have an internal locus of control than women, which perhaps explains why rhetoric about being the captains of our destiny has always deeply resonated with us. And I would personally argue that much of our current crisis in manhood can be traced to men shifting from that natural mode of behavior to handing control of their lives over to external forces. Everything today is not our fault but is rather the result of a disease, addiction, or chemical imbalance.

The good news is that while your upbringing shapes your locus of control, it is possible to change it and become more internal than external.

Rotter grounded his ideas about locus of control in something called “expectancy-value theory,” which says that a person’s likelihood of taking an action is dependent on how much the person values a particular outcome and how much the person believes that taking the action will produce that outcome.

To put it in simple terms, and I hope this will be seared in every man’s mind: We blame others and play the victim when we don’t believe that we can solve a problem ourselves.

Non-resilient men play the “if only” game. These are the guys who claim that they would be the men they want to be…. “If only I had more time to exercise.” If only my wife didn’t nag me so much.” “If only my boss would stop being such an a-hole.” Their happiness is put on hold as they wait for circumstances and people to change.

The truth is this: people aren’t going to change. And if your happiness is contingent on them doing so, you’ve just handed control of your life over to them. If you let your co-workers/friends/girlfriend “make” you feel a certain way, you’ve stopped being an active agent in your life, and become a victim.

The resilient man understands that the only thing he can control is himself. Only he can change his circumstances and only he can control how he reacts to adversity. Circumstances don’t dictate your life-you dictate your life. The resilient man waits for no one to solve his problems; he is always actively trying to solve them himself.

Taking Control of Your Life By Strengthening Your Problem-Solving Abilities

So the key to taking control of your life is to strengthen your problem solving skills. As you do so, you will gain the confidence and the belief that you can tackle whatever challenges come your way.

To do this, Dr. Siebert suggests using and strengthening 3 different problem solving methods.

Analytical Problem Solving

We as men should excel at this kind of problem solving. It involves using logic, analysis, and reason to come up with solutions. To apply these tools, Dr. Siebert recommends taking the following steps when faced with a problem:

  1. Get an accurate understanding of the problem. Ask questions, research, observe. Get as much info about what’s happening as you can.
  2. Ask yourself, “What do I want?” What is your desired outcome?
  3. Come up with two or more potential solutions to the problem. Weigh the pros and cons of each.
  4. Take action. Pick a solution and  throw yourself into carrying it out.
  5. Take stock of the effects of your action. What’s working? What isn’t?
  6. Learn from the feedback you get. Fine tune your approach to be more effective.
  7. Modify your efforts.

Analytical problem solving is good to employ with a problem like getting your finances under control. If you feel like you’re drowning,  sit down, figure out what debt reduction plan you want to use, crunch some numbers, come up with a budget, etc.

Practical Problem Solving

There are people who are book smart and people who are street smart. Ideally, you want to be both. Practical problem solvers don’t get emotional when faced with a challenge. They don’t get angry and focus on “Why me?” Research done on the survivors of extreme difficulties show that instead of fighting and arguing against the new reality, and trying to stop the change, they fully embraced what was happening. You can shout, “This shouldn’t be happening!” all you want. But it is happening. And you have to deal with it.

Practical problem solvers immediately get to work on positive solutions. They choose action over words and feelings. And they plan for future challenges, understanding that if they’re prepared, they have nothing to fear.

Creative Problem Solving

When it comes to resiliency, perhaps the most important problem-solving strength is the ability to be creative. Creative problem solvers can think outside the box, come up with solutions on the fly, and generate novel ideas that haven’t been tried before.

Creative problem-solving is so vital because so much of resiliency comes down to one’s ability to deal positively with change. And goodness know there are a lot of changes going on in the world. Resilient people plunge head first into new things, while non-resilient people have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

Non-resilient people base their happiness on stability-they set up a routine and never voluntarily leave their comfort zone. When they’re forced to deal with a new reality, their world falls apart, and they find it extremely difficult to bounce back. They try to wedge their old ways of doing things into a new situation. It’s like putting a round peg in a square hole, and yet still they miserably persist.

They can’t grasp the new reality because they don’t want to. They shut their eyes and it doesn’t matter what new information they’re presented with, they refuse to change their mind. “My kid is not taking drugs.” “My girlfriend is not cheating on me.” “My job is not going to be downsized.” These people are always the last to know. They refuse to believe the truth right in front of them, and when they’re finally faced with the indisputable facts, they absolutely go to pieces.

You look at companies today and there are those that have grasped what the changing technological landscape means for doing business, and there are those that keep trying to do business the way they did 30 years ago. They’re not going to survive. You can be like the people who 60 years ago said that TV wasn’t going to hurt radio, or you can be the person that grasps the new reality and uses their creativity to remain relevant.

How do you become a creative problem-solver? The first key is curiosity.

Creative people maintain the same curiosity they had as children. You remember being a boy…exploring creeks, asking a ton of questions, tearing through book after book. Adults who retain this child-like curiosity are still fascinated with how things work and are always taking in new information about the world. They read. They ask questions. “What’s going on?” “How are things shifting?” “How are other people feeling?” “What are they thinking about?”

Creative people are open-minded and constantly absorbing information. They let information flow into their brains and observe things without labeling and judging them as good or bad. They don’t think things like, “That’s a stupid idea.” “Those people are crazy.” “That’s not how you should do things.” “That culture is backwards.”

This doesn’t mean a creative person doesn’t have opinions and believe certain things are right or wrong. It just means that they want to know how things work just for the sake of knowing; that all knowledge is good whether you agree with it or not. They file everything away in the belief that you never know when a fact is going to come in handy and something is going to give you an amazing insight.

When you saturate your mind with information and experiences, and let this knowledge swirl around in your cranium, things will just pop out of your unconscious. You’ll be brushing your teeth and a new business idea will come to you.

Creative people understand that you never know where you’re going to find inspiration, ideas, and solutions to your problems. But they do know those things won’t be generated if you’re forever stuck in the same routine, and your mind isn’t being fed and nourished. You have to look at things in new ways-perhaps even stand on you desk:

Watch new movies, travel, listen to music, read all sorts of books, visit museums, get out in nature, meet new people. You’ll be looking at some strange piece of art and all of a sudden the reason you’ve been fighting with your girlfriend will suddenly become clear.

Applying These Principles to Your Life

Do you feel like you’re waiting for your ship to come in? Do you feel like you are a helpless cog in a machine? Are you waiting for other people to change so that you can be happy? Do you check your email 100 times a day hoping that an email will show up that will change your life?

Stop placing your fate in someone else’s hands.

It’s time to take control of your life. Instead of being the ship, be the captain that controls the ship.

Having a bunch of loose ends in your life is heavy psychological baggage. It’s like an orchestra where everyone’s playing a different piece. The music would be terrible. You have to step in as the conductor and get each instrument on the same page, all working together to create something beautiful.

Start by making a list of the things in your life that you’re not happy with. Pick one of the problems and come up with a concrete plan of action on how you’re going to tackle it. This simply means sitting down with a notebook and not getting back up again until you’ve figured out a solution, a few concrete steps you can take to solve the problem. And then you follow-through with your plan with absolutely no excuses. If there’s really nothing you can do to change the situation, come up with a way that you can change your reaction to what’s happening. Don’t let other people dictate how you feel. Controlling your emotions and deciding how to feel on your own terms is one of the manliest and most satisfying accomplishments in life.

Once you successfully tackle one problem, your confidence in your problem-solving abilities will increase, your sense of being in control of your life will increase, your resiliency will be continually strengthened, and your confidence will be further enhanced. And the cycle will continue.

Your life is not fixed. It is malleable and it can be whatever you want it to be.

I know this is the part where people hope for an easy fix, but there’s no solution outside of simply being proactive. Doing instead of waiting. So go and do my friends. Go and do.

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.


Stumbling on Happiness by Dr. Daniel Gilbert

Resiliency Advantage by Dr. Al Siebert

What Is Locus of Control by James Neill
Building Your Resiliency: Part I – An Introduction
Building Your Resiliency: Part II – Avoiding Learned Helplessness and Changing Your Explanatory Style
Building Your Resiliency: Part III – Taking Control of Your Life
Building Your Resiliency: Part IV – Iceberg Ahead!
Building Your Resiliency: Part V – Recognizing and Utilizing Your Signature Strengths
Building Your Resiliency: Part VI – Quit Catastrophizing
Building Your Resiliency: Part VII – Building Your Children’s Resiliency

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nate @ Practical Manliness February 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Excellent article!

Taking responsibility for one’s own actions is quite possibly the most important step to success.

Thank you!

2 Mark February 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Funny thing happened when I took the test: when I went to get my score, it came back with a 405 error. But I get the gist of the test and identified a couple of areas where I still see myself as a victim rather than in control.

3 Big Papi Ish February 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Great article Brett and Kate, this article sums up the key traits of successful people quite remarkably. There is no great man in history that did not live by these traits – and there will be no great men if a man does not stand up and take responsibility.

I have an idea for a new article Brett, and that involves the tantalizing objects of desire and consumerism in our culture, and how people are blinded by these temporary pleasures while not taking the reins of their own life. I feel there is a connection with these objects and the whole resilience issue in today’s society.

4 Nate @ Practical Manliness February 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm

@ Mark

I had the same problem. :(

To bad; I was excited to see the results. Still, like you said, simply answering the questions is still helpful.

5 Owen February 16, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Fantastic work my good man, I love the website and you rock for doing this great service to your fellow man. And I concur with the other comment made here, taking responsibility for you actions is key. Cheers.

6 Brett McKay February 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm


Sorry that the test didn’t work. I’ve replaced it with a couple of different ones:

You can also tally the results of the old test by hand here:

Big Papi Ish-
I’ve actually got an article along those lines in the works-arguing that modern maturity is marked by creating, not consuming. It’s one of those I like to mull over awhile, but I’ll publish it in a month or two.

7 Joe D. February 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I keep coming back to the articles on this site time after time, as the quality of the content relating to the lives of men is without compare.

AoM is arguably the best blog going. Keep up the great work.

8 Drew February 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Great article – as always!

Though I disagree with the statement that men are more likely to have a more internal locus of control than women – there are plenty of women (mostly unheard of) that have a perfect internal locus and have no problem beating men at their own game.

Other than that, great article – certainly a subject that should be addressed more in the currently state of society that we are in.

9 Nate @ Practical Manliness February 16, 2010 at 11:48 pm

@ Brett

Thanks for the quick response! Those tests are pretty neat!

10 Brett McKay February 16, 2010 at 11:49 pm


“Though I disagree with the statement that men are more likely to have a more internal locus of control than women.”

It wasn’t a statement of personal opinion; studies have shown that men more often have an internal locus of control than women do. This doesn’t mean that some women don’t have a strong internal locus of control or that some men don’t have an external locus of control. Just that men are more likely than women to have a internal locus control.

11 Tanner February 17, 2010 at 12:09 am

Thank you thank you thank you. If there’s anything I’m sick of in our generation, it’s the perpetual victims too many of us are.

The perfect example of this is the recent push on childhood obesity being an epidemic. An epidemic means it’s out of your control and not due to a lack of responsibility on the effort of the child or parents. We try so hard to lay the blame on anyone but ourselves and then wonder why we’re a nation of overindulged adolescents. I will definitely be sharing this series with friends.

12 Prometheus February 17, 2010 at 2:36 am

This is exactly what Crowley talks about when he talks about Magick. Transforming your Will to reality. We can all be “sorcerers”. I believe Robert Anton Wilson wrote a lot about this too,Grant Morrison as well. Lets all focus and bring on the Future.

13 Michael February 17, 2010 at 3:10 am

This was another excellent article by AoM. It reminds me of a Scottish proverb I once read. It went like this: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Simple but powerful. Thank you for providing such a great web site.

14 Rahul February 17, 2010 at 4:57 am

Wonderful article. I really wonder how you can churn out such well put together/thought out articles in such quick succession.

One thing that I believe helps a lot is really embracing the fact that life is tough and full of challenges and there is no law saying that you should have a simple and/or easy life. Once we see problems/challenges as a normal and expected part of life, it’s easier not to believe oneself to be ‘specially unfortunate’ or somehow unlucky and take charge and try to better one’s life.

And I’d love to see an article on the idea suggested by Big Papi Ish. I have often thought about this phenomena (which I also believe has been legitimized or promoted by glamorous images in the media and movies) of people keeping themselves constantly busy and occupied by consuming different short-term pleasures so as to avoid having to think about, confront and correct underlying problems in their life and relationships. It upsets me because I see it in some people I love.


15 How to Build Confidence February 17, 2010 at 6:06 am

Responsibility and scheduling time for work is the best way of building confidence…
Good Subject…

16 Graham Hutson February 17, 2010 at 6:28 am

According to the test I have an internal locus of control, which came as something of a surprise to me. I obviously don’t know my own powers!
Another great read. Very inspiring. It says a lot that I got to the end of it without clicking away – I don’t usually put up with blogs that long.

17 Sarah Joy Albrecht February 17, 2010 at 7:44 am

My favorite part of the article was describing how the pilots evaluated why their fellow airmen had died, understanding that not making the same mistake would help to preserve their own life.

Many times, in this world of political correctness, we purposefully ignore mistakes so that we are not passing judgment or look for ways to blame entities (like teachers blaming students instead of studying, or people blaming governments instead of voting and writing to politicians) instead of individuals.

Instead of looking away, we need to face reality, understand it, learn from it, and adapt to it .. lest we keep trying the same thing over and over and expect different results.

A difficult position to be in is one of subordination. Even this case, we have an obligation to note our disagreement just as board members who are in the minority. The motion may still carry, but the minutes reflect the disagreement. This is important evidence if the board makes the wrong decision and leads a company in an ill-advised direction.

Incidentally, both tests worked for me: 95 on the first, 1 on the second.

18 Ken February 17, 2010 at 7:57 am

I sat down with interest to read this article but failed at line one. Can someone explain to me what the word ‘resiliency’ means?. In English we simply say ‘resilience’, as in ‘Building Your Resilience’. Speka-da-english? Thank you.

19 DJ Wetzel February 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

I’m only 24 years old and I know that my very limited life experiences cannot compare with many of you, but I do know how much this article resonates in my own life. I work at a college in the advising department. Even though I am still young, I get constantly frustrated with students I meet with you constantly put off all of their problems onto someone else. They blame their problems on a bad family life, or poverty, or medical issues, and while all of these are legitimate circumstances that are not trivial, I realize that none of these students will ever move past these hindrances and get on to make something of their lives.

Everyone has problems. Life is hard. It is how we deal with those problems that truly defines us.

Great article.

20 Hans Hageman February 17, 2010 at 8:07 am

The internal locus of control is damaged in many schools where behavioral controls and incentives are used to boost “performance.”

21 Alex February 17, 2010 at 8:52 am

great article.

even if you are not lacking in this department of manliness, reading about it on a regular basis reaffirms the necessity to be resilient.

Invictus – such a great poem. I can’t think of a better exclamation point to end the article!

22 Conor February 17, 2010 at 10:34 am

Great article, really hit the nail on the head.

It’s sometimes frustrating watching people resign their lives to “fate” and “chance”. Preparation, hard work and persistence have always been pillars of achieving goals for me.

Perseverance combined with adequate preparation can overcome most obstacles, real and imaginary, internal and external.


23 Brucifer February 17, 2010 at 11:15 am

If a most grievous error of judgment occurred and I was ordained King of America, I would make it MANDATORY for this series to be read by the very un-resilient generation that today’s “helicopter parents” have produced. Harrumph, perhaps the parents themselves should undertake the first read, eh? In his comment above, Prometheus makes an interesting connection to Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson pretty much just talked about it (I’ve met him) but Crowley seems to have actually lived it. Anyway, well done Brett!

24 Jason Yohman February 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Great series! I find myself looking forward to the new additions each week. Hopefully this series gets turned into an e-book when it’s finished, Brett.

25 ephraim February 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

okay, so i’ve read this and the previous posts in this series with great interest. i definitely tend towards external locus of control and towards learned helplessness in some areas of my life, but i’m pretty consciously aware of it when it happens. the thing is that, while i’m totally sure that feeling and really believing that i am in control of my own destiny is a very beneficial trait that helps people be happier and better adjusted, intellectually i know that it’s a big world out there and that there are many, many things that i can’t control or even anticipate. and i’m not sure how to reconcile the two. i can tell myself to be optimistic and that i can make the necessary changes to get what i want in life (assuming i can figure out what i want…and that’s still up in the air), but in the end i know i’m lying to myself, that the reality is more complicated and that every day many smart, competent, hard-working people don’t get what they want or need. i wish there was a way to “suspend disbelief” and get all the benefits of believing one has control without succumbing to an unrealistic, overly-individualized view of social and economic structures.

26 Adam Sell February 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I really like this article, but find that believing one to be the captain of their own soul can lead to some problems as well. Namely it leads to a lack of compassion for those who might not actually be able to take control and lead “whatever life they deem worthy” because of their lot in life. Look at our history. Would you preach “I am the master of my fate,” to slaves or those in wretched poverty? I’m not critiquing but rather asking you guys out there….what do we say to those who, despite good intentions and effort, can’t right themselves up from a position they are in. Not everyone has a rags-to riches despite Herculean effort. How does that play into fate/control?
One thing I’d like to say on a positive note is that l love the part on emotional resiliency and the fact that we are responsible for our reactions to events/people. Wish I had learned this earlier in life, but you are right, nothing feels more manly that taking your emotions under your control.

27 peter February 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Interesting post. One point that resonated with me was how sometimes we make our happiness contingent on others. I was watching The Peaceful Warrior the other night and that happened to be one of the messages that the movie was trying to bring across.

28 John February 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

This site is great, just what men today need to hear and be reminded of. This post is no exception. One thing that came to mind in reading this article was the OODA Loop. It’s a procedure created by USAF Col. John Boyd, a fighter pilot who helped design the F-15 and F-16, OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The process is used by fighter pilots and other military personnel to make quick combat decisions. By going through these four steps mentally in training and in combat, the combatant is able to stay steps ahead of his enemy or the situation at hand because decision making has become standardized. I think it’s fair to say this can apply to everyday life too. Using the process more and more makes decision-making easier and faster in the future. It can also help you understand why things are happening. Anyway great post, keep it up.

29 Mike February 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm


The reconciliation is the understanding that the world we control is our own. I can’t go up to my boss and force him to give me a raise, nor can I go back in time and fix some unfortunate event that lead up to a major travesty in my life. What I can do is learn from my past mistakes so that I can make my future better and work harder to earn a raise. Right at the bottom of that poem, it says “I am the Captain of MY soul.” I can influence the minds of the people around me, but I can’t force them to do anything. However, you said are “lying to myself, that the reality is more complicated and that every day many smart, competent, hard-working people don’t get what they want or need.” Really? Name 5. If you really work hard, and you are really competent and you are really smart, then the odds are on your side. Obviously there’s the chance of that freak accident like a drunk driver or maniac with a gun, but it’s also a known fact that people who believe they are in control have a higher survival rate from near-death situations then the people who don’t, they’re typically called ‘fighters’.

The reality is that if you believe you can succeed, you probably can.

@Adam Sell

We all have free will, and even the slaves have the full capability to turn around and strike at their oppressors. I believe everyone is free to make whatever choice they make, but every choice has consequences. Some bad are bad and some are good. But the article really wasn’t titled “Freedom Part III: How to break free from your oppressors without perishing!” It was aimed at North American culture, and chances are anyone who has an active internet connection and able to read it will have the ability to be make use of this article. Besides, as North Americans, we are some of the richest people in the world, if I ever had to have that discussion with a slave I’d probably shell out my college fund and buy the poor fellows freedom.

30 cliff February 18, 2010 at 3:12 am

wow, that was uplifting!

31 CB February 18, 2010 at 7:50 am

It’s not so much that through hard work or force of will you can make sure that bad things never happen. Your reaction to those things, however, is your choice. To a slave, once you have been enslaved, you cannot change the fact that that happened and no matter how hard you try to by saying “I’m not a slave, I will not let this happen to me” that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. Sometimes life throw situations your way that are impossible to avoid. However, you are responsible for your actions in those circumstances. You are responsible for your reactions to those circumstances. Take for example Frederick Douglas who was born a slave but did not let that force him onto the sidelines. It was not his fault that he was born into slavery, but he did not let that deter him from learning at every opportunity and advancing himself.
The world is huge and, I believe, controled by a loving and just God. But even though the world is controled by God, that does not mean that there is not evil in the world. (There’s more theology there that could be delved into but this isn’t the appropriate forum.) There is evil that you and I cannot control. But we can control our response to it. For example, the now infamous study of a rape in a city where people in nearby apartments and passersby ignored or even stood and watched without Intervening or offering assistance to the victim. You have no control over whether or not that man decided to rape that particular woman. You control how you react to the situation when confronted with it.
I’m reminded of a passage from the end of the book of Joshua. Near the end of Joshua’s life, I believe he’s appointing his successor to lead the Isrealites. He essentially says to them, do what you want but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:8 I think or there abouts.) Basically, I cannot control what you do but I can control what I do and I will do what I believe to be right no matter what you do.

32 Finnian February 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

@ Ken-


resilient |riˈzilyənt|
(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed. See note at flexible .
• (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions : the fish are resilient to most infections.
resilience |rəˈzɪliəns| |rəˈzɪljəns| noun
resiliency |rəˈzɪliənsi| |rəˈzɪljənsi| noun
resiliently |rəˈzɪliəntli| |rəˈzɪljəntli| adverb

(Copied from the New Oxford American Dictionary)

33 JP February 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm

“Take control of your life.” It’s such a simple message but it makes so much difference!

34 Mato Tope February 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Excellent article. Really gets to the nub of our politically-correct, victim-culture society.
Had an accident in the last three years? Be more bloody careful in future. Stop blaming others all the time.
As Epictetus said; “What it is in my power to do, it is in my power not to do.” Also, to his tormentors, he said; “You do what you have to. My business to live and die like a man.” Or something on those lines.
Seize the day boys!

35 kafkaBro February 19, 2010 at 9:51 am

Thank you for this post,

This is an inspiring post, I’m glad to see something like this being available for free. I really enjoyed the concluding poem, absolutely fantastic. I think I’m going to pick up AOM soon cause I feel very grateful for this service you have done for me and I am glad that you are making this so accessible to everyone. Good luck and thank you!

36 DKROV February 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Tiger Woods apologizes. Anyone who has ever made a big mistake knows how hard it is, how desperate one can be to be right with the world again, to have it back to normal…;photovideo
It was certainly worth 14 minutes of my time.
It makes me think that a man is not great by what he accomplishes but by what he overcomes.

37 Sir Lancelot February 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

You’re joking, right? It’s his wife he needs to apologize to, not his sponsors. And, no offense meant, but I doubt she will be as easy to fool as you.

What a weasel of a man…

38 David Barton February 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I notice that these series on resiliency are very similar to the first habit (being proactive) of Sean Covey’s book “The 7 habits of Highly Effective Teens.”

I myself think that taking control of ourselves and and facing challenges as shown in this series is one of the most important parts of being a man. Keep up the good articles!

Hey Nate.

39 Tyler Logan February 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

Taking control and responsibly is a powerful thing and I love living by it, as well as inviting others to try it out. Nice post.

40 Chompa February 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm

An excellent article. I tend to have a strong internal locus it seems, but on reading this I see the root cause of some of my frustration with co-workers. They are people with an external locus of control. You see it in their reluctances to accept change, to complaining about why things happened and their inability to move ahead.

It is also very enlightening to read about the different loci of control – I see some areas where I need to improve myself. Great job AoM!

41 Bob G February 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Due to circumstances
beyond my control,
I am master of my fate
And captain of my soul.

42 John doe February 22, 2010 at 10:38 pm

thank you for this 3 part series

43 Tayo February 24, 2010 at 6:55 am

Wow, i just read all 3 articles. I am highly impressed and moved by it. I pray to God that he blesses u with more knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Your wealth of knowledge is better than giving a penny to poor man. I am always coming to your site to read more articles and gain knowledge and understand. I cannot say but to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

44 Derek D. February 24, 2010 at 7:40 am

Thanks, Brett, for continuing this great work. I love this poem and the movie that re-popularized it is fantastic. Everyone should see it.

45 Jesse February 26, 2010 at 1:06 am

Nice. Thanks for this one.

46 Todd Kashdan March 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm

This has been a great exchange to read. Of note, there is plenty of research to show that there is a paradox in attempting to be in control. All of that effort trying to control our emotions, our thoughts, our actions eats up our limited supply of attention and energy such that there is less left over to simply do what matters. The ability to be aware, open, and flexible appears to be more valuable than any particular skill or personality trait. Can you adapt to the changing demands from one situation to the next?

As a professor of psychology, this is a topic that I have researched and written about for years. You can download the science:

and read a book on the topic:

thanks for a great exchange. your blog has been bookmarked.


47 Good Dave Hunting April 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

Awesome article! I’m at a crossroads in my life right now and at times find myself following the path of person with an external locus of control. This article has definitely given me a new outlook on my future. Thanks so much.

48 Rick S. May 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I have, in the past, taken control of my life and have subsequently let that control go. At different times in one’s life one takes control and then lets that control slip. The thing is, you can’t let that happen. I was most happy when I, finally, took control and did something I wanted to do for a very long time. I attended college. Since then, 9-11 has happened, I’ve lost a job, I took a step backwards, found another job, lost my mother, moved 1500 miles for another job, got married, found another job, GWII happened, retired from the Air Force Reserves, moved departments, had a child (and step children), bought a house and bought cars. During this time I’ve lost or let go of control over many important aspects of my life. Most of the time controlling or not controlling is not an all or nothing deal, we let go total control over some aspects and maintain total control over others. This is natural especially with a wife and children. What is most important is the realization that you are relinquishing control over an aspect to another person. If the aspect is important to you then don’t relinquish control. If you’ve lost control over an important aspect, then take back control over it, don’t apologize just do it.

Now it’s time to take back control of the important aspects in my life… again.

49 Rob June 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I’m really enjoying these articles on resilience – they certainly resonate with me. I am reminded of one of my favourite quotations:

“Circumstances? Hell I make circumstances!” – Bruce Lee

50 João Garcia July 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Superb article and that last poem was just the killing shot!

After some thinking my most recent phrase is

“I make my enlightenment.”


51 Luiz Ferzam February 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

It’s like a message from some god or God you’ve sent me now! Time and place in life, that’s exactly what I needed to hear!

Thank you!

52 Ben Leeson November 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

This article resonates with the very core of my being. I got chills.

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