avatarTim Denning


You Need “Beautiful Tortures” to Be Successful in Life — And Escape the Hell of Normalcy

“If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way”

Photo by Tudose Madalin on Unsplash

Torture doesn’t sound like the good life.

We associate torture with pain and darkness. We think it’s a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs.

Torture can be beautiful, though.

The birthplace of beautiful torture

I’m no gym bro. I don’t fist bump.

But when I discovered the sanctuary of the gym more than a decade ago, it changed me in unexpected ways.

I got my skinny ass to the gym on day one and met my personal trainer David. I expected to learn some exercises and do a few warm-ups. Once we got going things changed.

I’d lie down at the bench press and get ready to push 4 pounds of plates into the air. I’d tell him not to put on too much weight. I’d do a few reps then feel a bit tired and stop.

He screamed at me.

This pattern repeated. I believed you went to the gym to move your body and stay within your comfort zone.

He told me that unless the gym felt like torture, nothing would happen.

I wouldn’t get stronger, my muscles wouldn’t grow, and my time would be wasted. It was the first time I came in contact with torture. Every workout he showed me how to push beyond my comfort level.

Each exercise would increase my pain threshold. Soon I began to crave pain. If my muscles weren’t burning then I was upset. Why? Because muscles don’t grow unless they are pushed beyond failure.

Weird. So why would we think we could grow in life without pain, torture, discomfort, and hard work?

The gym rewires your brain. It’s a great source of free pain.

If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way — Jerry Seinfeld

The start is meant to be hard

Nothing pains me more than seeing someone start a new habit or career and complaining it’s hard.

New projects are supposed to be hard.

When you start something hard you’re simultaneously choosing to change as a person. And change is what most people spend their entire lives avoiding, because change requires a certain threshold of effort before you start to get momentum.

And when people can’t see immediate results, they often give up and experience the brutal torture of regrets and a wasted life.

What we should be terrified of is a boring routine, a life of no change. What a dull way to live. What an easy way to speed up your perception of time and have a lifetime feel like a year.

Once you discover the power of hard, life begins again.

Everything must be hard before it can be easy.

— Asian Proverb

Easy has a dangerous hidden cost

Trying to make life easy makes it harder.

Cheat codes, shortcuts, hacks…often only make us chase an imaginary rainbow that leads to hell. Whether we choose hard mode or easy mode in life is actually a paradox.

  • Going to the gym is hard, but not going there is harder because you get weaker, put on weight as you get older, become frailer, and have less energy.
  • Writing online is hard, but not writing online is harder because nobody knows you exist (you’re a ghost), so you have to ask for permission and apply for jobs, then wait to be chosen.
  • Facing a breakup is hard, but spending the rest of your life with the wrong person is excruciating and the split will be 10x harder when it eventually happens.
  • Success is hard. Mastery is hard. It all looks like productivity p*rn spread by fake gurus. But being average, normal, or mediocre is harder. You get paid less than you’re worth, you rely on handouts and kindness, you follow the sheep off the cliff, and suppress who you really are.

See what I mean? Easy is a big freaking bear trap that’ll slice your leg off.

The hardest thing about hard things

You might think beautiful tortures suck because of the energy and effort needed. That’s not actually the hardest part.

Productivity expert and author James Clear says the hardest part is psychological.

You must:

  • Think long-term
  • Overcome fear
  • Remove limiting beliefs
  • Choose optimism over pessimism
  • Avoid status and permission-seeking
  • Trust that small daily effort will lead to success

All of these things are a mental battle. They wage a war in your head that can leave you brain dead. None of it sounds like fun so we run.

A hidden superpower to get to the next level

If the gym taught me one thing, it’s this: what you do on the days when you don’t feel like it determines whether you get fit and healthy.

Anyone can show up when they feel good and are high on energy. But I had to learn to show up on 107.6°F days after vomiting several times from eating too much chicken.

I even showed up on the day I walked away from a business I loved. And when the love of my life broke up with me. These are the torturous moments that define you.

The decision to choose hard when tragedy strikes makes the rest of your life easier.

This message of torture is out of fashion (opportunity)

This is the worst time in history for me to write about torture.

As a society we’ve gotten soft. We’ve let every victim label go mainstream, and we’ve created record numbers of entitled people.

Alex Hormozi nailed it:

Life is hard. Believing it should be easy makes it harder.

  • I don’t want handouts.
  • I don’t want the government to save me if I screw up financially.
  • I don’t want an employer to provide me with support, love, kindness, and a family-like environment.

These things are the easy way out.

We don’t learn anything useful when life is easy. It’s the beautiful tortures that teach us the lessons we’ll never forget — and they lead to wisdom.

Wisdom, after all, is the source of all eventual success and even financial freedom.

But to reach this point of life you have to drown out mainstream media, politics, and most marketing that wants you to believe in the fake dream of easy (that can be gotten with their miracle product for just $4.99 a month with a buy now, pay later option).

Easy is a nightmare. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Three beautiful torture to save your life

Let’s finish with an actionable approach. How do we discover our personal form of torture? Well…

You need these three horsemen:

  1. Fear
  2. Rejection
  3. Failure

I bet you’re sick of seeing these three things. That’s because their marketing campaigns are terrible. When I stopped avoiding them and started chasing them down, everything changed.

I found my hidden potential. And I experienced new lows and brand new pain, which made me realize I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s at that point you become unstoppable. No obstacle or person can stand in your way.

Fear is false evidence appearing real.

Rejection is redirection.

Failure is real learning not taught in university.


Hard should be your enemy. Hard is the devil.

Wanting your life to be easier is only making it harder. Torture is beautiful because it’s how we grow physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Find your version of torture and increase the number of reps. That’s how you stay the hell away from normalcy, which is crowded and feels worse than a hangover and ten punches to the face from Mike Tyson.

Join my email list with 177K+ smart people on a quest for personal freedom and get my free eBook that’ll help you do exactly that.

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