I want to join Fight Club

Like any responsible and loving parent, I always look for as many opportunities as possible to get away from my children. So this past weekend, my wife Robin and I dropped Austin (5) and Sydney (almost 2) off with my mother and checked into a hotel for four days.

When we do this, we get a room with a giant hot tub and spend most of the weekend in it. And we get to do things that we’re not normally able to do, like read books without pictures in them and watch movies that aren’t animated.

When you read in a hot tub, you need a light book so that you can hold it above the water. I was working on Stephen King’s Under the Dome at home, but it’s like 1300 pages and hardback, so instead, I brought along my paperback, 200-page copy of Fight Club, which I hadn’t read in a while.

If you haven’t read Fight Club, do yourself a favor and go buy it now. (And no, having seen the movie doesn’t count.) If you like reading my stuff, you’ll like that book. It’ll put ideas in your head. Bad ideas. Rebellious ideas.

It’s about a group of guys who discover that they’ve been living very sterilized, materialistic lives. You wake up, you go to work, you come home to your IKEA furniture that you just had to have and that felt very important, and you repeat. You behave, you become soft, your emotions and reactions and behaviors dull to the predictable, and soon you realize that the things you own, they actually own you.

What the narrator does — and this is a complicated setup, so I’m simplifying — is that after months of insomnia, and after months of attending support groups for diseases that he doesn’t have just so that he can feel alive enough to sleep, he meets a guy named Tyler Durden. They’re both learning that the things in life they thought were essential, that maybe they’re not essential after all. It starts to feel like the only way to be reborn is to hit rock bottom. But society teaches you to live a safe life. A predictable and behaved life, where you do not only what you’re told, but what is expected of you.

Neither of them have ever been in a fight. So they go into the parking lot, and they take turns hitting each other as hard as they can. Who are you fighting? They ask. My father. My boss. My life.

Well, it goes on from there.

I’d read Fight Club several times before, but I found myself reading it this time and thinking, “I kind of want to join a Fight Club.”

Not literally, I mean. The fights in the book take place barefoot on a concrete floor, two guys to a fight, and the fights go on as long as they have to. Everyone ends up with knocked-out teeth, gashed lips, and broken bones. So yeah, I’m not quite antiestablishment enough to want to actually do that in its full glory, but I’m intrigued by the concept.

Now, try to see beyond what may be an initial reaction to this all as a bunch of macho bullshit, and get what’s behind it: What do we fight (no pun intended) to avoid in our day to day lives?

What is the standard of beauty and order that we’re upholding at all costs? What are we afraid of, and what would happen if we did that thing that terrifies us?

Life used to require exertion and threat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m digging the fact that I don’t have to fight daily to keep my woman and my cave, but would it really be the end of the world if I had to fight? And how would I do in a fight, anyway? What am I made of at a deep, deep, deep and primal level?

I’m not saying that fighting is a good thing. I am, however saying, that most of us are afraid to find out if we could hold our own, because of the threat of pain and discomfort. Again, don’t go thinking I’m saying that we should get in fights to find out. I’m not saying that at all. But I do find it interesting that we’re so very afraid of it.

These guys, these stockbrokers and waiters and customer service representatives in the book, they find out that they can be hit and that they can hit back and that still, life doesn’t end. They’re not as fragile as the world has caused them to believe they are. They find out that they’re different people than who they thought they were. Harder. More resilient. Confidence carries over into every other area of their lives. The petty aggravations that used to upset them can no longer faze them. They sleep well. They have explored that darker side of themselves and found out what’s in there, and it’s like they’re magnified, in person and in personality, as they go about the rest of their daily business.

And all I find myself asking is, Are we really so intent on living and dying a safe existence?

And at this point, I could easily slip into a lot of the themes I’ve been writing about lately, about doing something crazy and breaking the rules and being abnormal. I’ll let you make that connection for yourself, but… you know. There’s the whole “What are you really afraid of?” thing to consider here.

The guys in the book, they decide they don’t want to die without any scars.

I have a pretty fucking badass scar. It’s on my left forearm, and I got it doing a 205 lb. Olympic clean and jerk at my gym a few years ago when at the bottom of the clean, my elbow hit my knee, hard.

That was gross. It was also expensive, and one hell of an inconvenience. I don’t recommend it. But it is an awesome story to be able to tell, I won’t lie. I like that scar. It’s proof that I’m not living my life wrapped in protective bubble wrap.

Some of you ladies reading this are likely disgusted by the testosterone in this post.

Except Jess Commins. I’ll bet she really likes it.

(Oh, and on a side note, when Sonia Simone interviewed me for the Third Tribe, she described a certain masculinely pushy internet marketing technique as “masturbatory,” and I was like “Yeah, it’s awesome, right?” and then I realized she meant it in a negative way. Women.)

I’ve built a career out of saying what’s on my mind whether it’s stupid or out of context or embarrassing or what. And so I’m telling you, whether you think it makes me a macho jerk or not, that part of me wants to get into a fight, for once. To see what I have in me. To take a peek at some aspects of myself that I’m never allowed to let out. To explore my id. To take and overcome a trial.

So maybe I’ll join some sort of a class. Like mixed martial arts (what the Ultimate Fighters do) or Krav Maga, which is supposed to be one of the few self-defense things that actually works in real life. I’d be wearing pads and wouldn’t get the shit beat out of me, but maybe it’s close enough.

I think the essence of pretty much everything I’ve been doing lately is this, to make a point out of this whole Fight Club thing:

I ask myself, “What am I afraid of?”

And then, if I can find a version of it where I won’t die or risk major injury or other huge ruin, I do that thing.

Maybe this is all too macho for you. Maybe a safe life is just fine, in fact. But just for the hell of it, ask yourself what you’re most afraid of, and ask why it scares you.

You try one thing that seemed impossible or terrifying and suddenly, it’s like you’re a new person. You’re bigger and better and stronger and bolder than you thought you were.

All I really want to know is who I truly am.


  1. Kajanova says:

    I didn’t even know there was a fight club book. I’m gonna check that out. Nice post though, It does make me wonder what I’ve been holding back on out of fear. I think I’ve been living too comfortably in my metaphorical protectant bubble. I’m going to try and work up the courage to get in some metaphorical fights. I love metaphors.

  2. Johnny says:

    Dude… you MUST read the book. then come back and let me know how much you thought it kicked ass.

  3. Sami Paju says:

    Crazy how they turn movies into books. For example, The Lord of the Rings had barely hit the theaters when I saw it already in the local bookstore!


  4. Alright Johnny – great post. And while your whole jibe is aimed at business and rocking out your career life, what if your question of “What am I afraid of?” was applied to relationships? Not in the sense of doing something stupid outside of the relationship but how much monotony comes to marriage simply because we wind up afraid of our spouse on some level?

    What about a marriage fight club? Just a thought.

  5. Johnny says:

    Ooh, that sounds a bit too dangerous for me, Corey.

  6. Amy says:

    If women think the testosterone in this post is disgusting, it’s only because they don’t understand that the violence doesn’t have to be real.

    I had a very, very bad 6 mos, many moons ago. My boyfriend kicked me out. I had no way of supporting myself. The roommate I lined up to share a rented house wimped out on me the day before we signed the lease, and I had no idea if I was going to be able to even pay the rent. I was ok for a few months. Then I got offered a job, which I took, and worked my ass off, 80-hour weeks for 2 mos, only to learn the boss was a conman. I’d had the contract checked out, fuck yeah, I wasn’t stupid. And his story checked out. But I didn’t check bank records.

    So I worked myself sick. And I didn’t get paid. I didn’t have any money.

    My ex-boyfriend stole my car. (In a legal way, I couldn’t reclaim it.)

    Then I got mono.

    I could barely sit up and brush my hair without passing out, and I was constantly on worthless antibiotics because the doctors misdiagnosed me.

    I couldn’t work for months, so my last remaining freelancing client threatened to sue me.

    I came within a hairs’ breadth of being evicted.

    My mother angrily told me that loaning me a couple grand would be “draining her dry,” after spending $10s of thousands on my lazy, good-for-nothing brother for things he didn’t need, and buying a car for his wife who didn’t even know how to drive. So that’s when I realized my own mother wasn’t on my side.

    I only got to keep a roof over my head because a casual online friend decided to up and give me $1000.

    Yeah, that was the worst 6 fucking months of my life.

    And you know what?

    I cried. I screamed. I pounded the bed. I sulked.

    Then I scrimped, I sacrified, I took a shit job, and I clawed my way back.

    And it turned me from a scared little middle class girl who was constantly terrified of unnamed MINOR failures, to a battle-scarred warrior princess who knew she could take ANYTHING.

    I’ve never read Fight Club; I only saw the movie. But now, of course, I have to read it, because it sounds like my story, too.

    I admit, Johnny, I’ve always thought you were flippant. But maybe that’s because I only read you when you were being flippant. (Don’t get me wrong – I like your brand of flippant.)

    But this story — cuz I’m self absorbed — moved me.

    Just wanted to let you know.

  7. Johnny says:

    Okay, first: YES, read the book. The movie is good, but it can’t capture Chuck’s voice.

    Second, I totally hear you. After you’ve gone through the mill, it’s like you get this “fuck you” attitude because you’re no longer untested. It’s interesting what real adversity will do to your perception of small adversities.

    Oh, and let me add that I’m not claiming to have faced real adversity. Even my biggest terrors are nothing compared to tons and tons and tons of people. But I did face some hairy stuff that made the little things feel like nothing.

  8. After seeing that movie i also wanna join the fight club. I can find my own shadow in from the role.I go to work everyday and can not sleep well.I watch TV and keep the coffee in my fridge.I also fed up with my job.That’s the life that describe me. All i can do is just face it .
    This is one kind of shit in life.All i want is a pure free life.You should understand , friend.I do not like the rule in this city .Sometime i also wanna break the so called high tech in the closet .Maybe these thought is all crazy But it do really happen in my head.I also wanna join the Fight Club .The pure men’s world without considering about other’s sight and just fight .Maybe it sounds dangerous but it do really happen in my head.Though i watched this movie very late.But i find something that influenced my life. I like this article and i also copied it with back link .Thanks for your post

  9. Johnny says:

    If you liked the movie, you’ve gotta read the book. It’s soooo much better.

    • cody says:

      I love every concept of fight club! Think about the confidence boost you would get from the fight experience. Of course I mean if you know you have fought. X amount of time and there’s a confrontation with a butter cup at work or school when it came down to it you might not have to fight.

  10. Scarface says:

    Let’s create a Fight Club!

    It would be a place where you can loosen yourself up, a place where others will aways be here to support you, and where we will always watch each others back!

    Just ask yourself, how many true friends you’ve got, friends you can always rely on? Not much, right?

    This fight club wouldn’t be just about physical meeting, after all, we all live in different areas. We could chat online, and organise groups all over the world. What will be done in that gropus will be discussed inside the groups, but all groups will be connected, like brothers..

    So, who wants in?

  11. Johnny says:

    If you want to do it and invite me from time to time, do it, dude! I’m training for a marathon right now, though, so my time is going to be divided. I’ll bet Thor would be into it. He’s a berserker!


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