‘Take rest, a field that is rested gives bountiful crop.’ Ovid
In the first year or so of my practice, I went through an interesting cycle. I’d go out and socialise, improve and learn. At times, it was really frustrating. On occasions I’d bang my head against sticking points I couldn’t identify, have good nights and bad nights and not know why, get fed up and tired. At times I’d doubt if attraction could ‘work’ for me. I’d think, ‘Ah, I’m just not cut out to be a sexy guy who girls want to be with.’
I’m not talking about regular, ‘didn’t get laid tonight’ frustration. I had that too but underneath it there was still a drive and enthusiasm to go out and improve. I’d shrug, smile and go have another adventure the next night. No, I’m talking about a kind of run-down dullness that made me want to quit.
In Amsterdam I met a guy who had clearly reached this point. He came to me and said, ‘Keys, I’m at a point where I don’t think this is going to work for me. I’m practicing and studying but I’m hitting a brick wall.’
Now this guy was a cool, sincere guy with decent fashion and nothing wrong with him. There was no reason why he shouldn’t be enjoying excellent success. But he was at the end of his rope and close to quitting.
What did I tell him?
‘Take a bootcamp!’ – No.
‘Have a 1-1 with me!’ - No.
‘Um…just go and practice more!’ - No.
I said, ‘Give up.’
‘Power, in any case, is closely allied with relaxation. Just as a tense muscle loses in strength, so a rigid, tense, and overbearing attitude eventually fails.’ George Leonard
Okay, okay, before I get fired here I’d better explain myself!
When I reached that point of burnout I did something interesting. I gave up. I’d love to backwards rationalise and say I was ‘taking a break’ but it just isn’t true! I genuinely gave up at least three or four times. I thought, ‘sod this, I quit!’
I’d take two-three weeks with no reading, no ‘sarging’ and no pickup. I’d just go and socialise with friends, break the rules and forget about pulling.
Guess what happened?
I got laid like a f***ing rockstar.
(It was actually in one of these breaks that I had my infamous fortnight of wonderfully debauched SNL glory.)
‘How?! What?! Who?! Impossible!?’ I hear you cry. Is it? On closer inspection, perhaps marked improvement as a result of rest is not too odd an idea.
With all the wealth of information out there on improving socials skills, it’s very easy to get swamped. We want to get good, we’re excited about improving so we eat up everything we can get our minds on.
It doesn’t help that so much information is accompanied by marketing: ‘Buy this product, consume this information, and you will get laid!’ It’s easy to get confused when our teachers are also marketers. Understand that professional advice-givers will be both, and that’s okay. Just do your best to be wise and discerning. The naive mistake marketing for advice, the cynics mistake advice for marketing.
As enthusiastic students we read, listen and watch as much as we can. ‘Information overload’ can result. This is when you have so much information in your head that it actually ties your mind in knots and hinders you from acting. You’re stuck in your head. Getting tied up in the minutia of the process. Missing the forest for the trees.
It pays to take a step back, put all that mental angst to the side and have a rest. Chances are, if you’ve genuinely reached a burnout point, then you’ve been studying and practicing really hard. You will have absorbed a ton of social calibration and attractive mindsets/behaviours in this time. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of loosening up for these to start bubbling up to the surface.
There’s a key point here: I came back. Yes, I gave up. But after a time my mind would settle down, the lessons I’d learned would sink in and I’d be ready to learn some more. Inspired, I’d dive right back in and start learning again! I went through this work/rest cycle unconsciously. I really did intend to give up! But, when I was rested, I naturally flowed back into learning again. With this insight, we can choose to initiate the process consciously.
Take A Break
‘The best of medicine is resting and fasting.’ Benjamin Franklin
Consider this. Have you been plugging away for some months and feel you’ve reached a ‘plateau’? Are you tired out emotionally and feeling fed up of the fight? Try taking a two week break. No reading, no sarging, no forums. Just relax, have fun, go out and be social with friends, break the rules, go travelling. Enjoy yourself! It’ll do you good and, when you’re ready, you’ll come back fresher than ever.
If you’re just facing some sticking points and experiencing frustration, this advice is not for you. I do recommend getting in touch with a great teacher who can spot where you’re stumbling and give you that all important outside perspective (observing ego) to move you forward.
Note, when I talk about burnout I’m talking about that emotionally drained, zombie feeling that comes about after a long period of hard practice with little improvement – if you’re there, take a break.
Be smart. If you need some training, go get it from the best. But if you know it’s time for a break, hang up the feather-boa for a couple of weeks and take it easy. You’ll be back when you’re ready.