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Bro Kaizen

The young man’s growth mindset

On Gumption and Character

Gumption is the gasoline of man’s life. It is the get-up-and-go, the stick-to-it-iveness, and the knocked-down-twice, stand-up-thrice fire inside you. If you run out of it, things will head south very quickly. You must cultivate this gumption, nurture it, and encourage it to grow. Every man possesses by nature a certain rate of gumption replenishment, which rate may be modified by nurture. As you nurture your rate of gumption replenishment, you will also tend to develop in parallel the ability to store more of it. I know of at least two ways to develop gumption:

  • Acclimatizing oneself to doing things that are hard (I am blatantly stealing this from Mark Rippetoe’s book Starting Strength, in the chapter on deadlifts)
  • Experiencing deprivation or scarcity

I. Population Distribution of Gumption

There exists a gumption spectrum, upon which we can plot the positions of any given person. For rhetorical purposes, let’s bookend the spectrum with Navy SEALS (the ultra-elite amphibious stormtroopers of the American war machine) on one end, and the decadent, privileged children of the American upper-middle class on the other. (Oddly enough, the real aristocrats have often gone to great lengths to develop their children’s character, even in the most decadent of societies. For this reason there exist scathingly difficult elite boarding schools, summers spent as ranch hands, and dangerous or physics-based hobbies such as Polo and sailboat racing. Witness Teddy Roosevelt, a blue blood through and through, and of a character to go toe-to-toe with the best of them. So the social class with the weakest character ends up being the upper-middle.)

Privileged Western white girls/JAP girls are usually typical examples of the no-gumption population, because they have been coddled their whole lives. Their parents have paid for their expensive apartments, unlimited mobile phone plans, vehicles/fuel/insurance, unbelievable quantities of international travel, etc. And if they are hot privileged girls, clueless men have been buying them things/fawning over them/treating them like princesses for many years in a (guaranteed fruitless) attempt to get in their pants. They have experienced neither deprivation nor training in doing hard things, and these missing experiences have eroded/inhibited their character to an alarming degree. (To avoid accusations of hasty generalization, it is worth noting that this is certainly not an accurate description of all privileged Western girls, merely some/many).

II. Metrology

Obviously there is no such thing as a gumption meter, and it is difficult to measure directly. However, acceptable proxy metrics are available. Resistance to decision fatigue is a reliable predictor of gumption. If you hang out with some rich girls from your school for an afternoon, you’ll quickly realize that some of them can make a median of 2 decisions before becoming pissy and whiny—even trivial choices about which shoes to wear or restaurant/bar to visit wear them out. Conversely, imagine an afternoon spent with a Navy SEAL. He has spent his adult life making literal life-or-death decisions about which grade of armor piercing munitions to load in his helicopter, what rate to expel air from his lungs while submerged in icy saltwater, etc. You could require him to choose restaurants and find his way around a strange city for literally weeks on end (tasks which would incite many tantrums from someone on the other end of the spectrum), and he would not show the slightest sign of feeling pressured.

III. On Weak Men

Naturally, women are not to be found alone on the no-gumption end of the spectrum—there are plenty of weak, insipid men cowering there too, particularly in locales that have insulated the citizenry from deprivation, real work, and difficult tasks. And of course there are women on the SEAL end of the spectrum, as well. The Israelis have done a very impressive job of developing a gender-integrated military, complete with female commandos who demonstrate gumption with the best of them (undoubtedly far more gumption than I will ever possess).

So the point is that gumption is another skill-based-upon-an-aptitude. Each of us is born with a natural level of gumption, but that level can be modified by intentional or unintentional nurture. Your job, as a man, even one in a “soft” society, is to take concious steps to regenerate and store more gumption.