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I’m Winning And I’m Proud Of It… Finally

Charlie Sheen Winning

It’s 12:34am.

I can’t sleep.

I’m so full of energy and excitement that I feel like I could pull an all-nighter and then run a half marathon tomorrow.

Twenty badass men from all over the world joined us for the inaugural class of The School For Men. We have men from Austria, Australia, the Czech Republic, France, and all over the United States. And many of them are already far along their journey of growth and development.

I’m winning.

And I’m not ashamed to admit that. For once.

Let me tell you a little about my tumultuous relationship with winning.

I used to win a lot.

But winning when I was younger came with a lot of obligation, need for validation, and judgment from others.

So even though I was winning it was incredibly uncomfortable and at times brought more problems than benefits.

I’m extremely lucky. My streak of winning started by winning the genetic lottery by being born to two parents who loved me and spent time with me when I was growing up.

My mathematics-loving Japanese mother made me study my multiplication tables up to 12×12 before I got to kindergarten. I also started reading from an early age being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which included learning how to read names like Jehoshaphat and Mahershalalhashbaz. I haven’t touched a Bible in over a decade and it’s funny that I can still remember those names.

Since I got a better education than most of the other kids coming into kindergarten I tested into the G.A.T.E. program (Gifted And Talented Education). Looking back it totally makes sense.

I believed that I was smart. So I was smart.

I always cringe and think what would have happened if I was one of those kids who’s parents called them stupid all the time. Well, my mother did call me that sometimes when I became a teenager, but I sort of brought that on myself. But by the time I got to first grade I was already believing the story of “I am smart.” So I was.

I’ve coached people into believing that they are smart.

Most of the time it’s going back to the first time that they were called stupid and reversing the story. Then reading comprehension increases, text anxiety goes away, and they have this uncanny ability to learn all of a sudden.

Try it.

Do you consider yourself smart or stupid?

You are what you think you are.

But let’s get back to winning.

School was easy for me. I believed I was smart. So I was.

I was high school valedictorian. National Merit Scholar. I tested perfect on the math section of the SATs and PSATs. I had full rides to undergrad and grad school. In fact, I got paid to go to both. I got paid $500 a month to go to undergrad and $1200 a month for grad school.

Now if you’ve read this far, thank you. Because I bet that at least a couple people already stopped reading this blog post and/or unsubscribed from my email list after reading the first half of what I wrote.

Maybe they thought, “Eww, gross. He’s just bragging about how smart he is.”

Or maybe they thought, “What an arrogant prick.”

Their loss.

Because here’s where I went wrong (many times) and where you might still be in your relationship with winning.

When I was in middle school I was in a program called Mathcounts. It’s a nationwide mathematics competition held across middle schools all over the United States.

This is where I first learned that winning wasn’t cool.

I can still remember the scene clear as day.

We were all in a classroom somewhere and all of the cool kids were hanging out shooting dice. Yes, that was a thing when I went to middle school.

Anyway, I remember that a group of them started singing a made up rap song about all of the kids in Mathcounts. I forgot the exact lyrics but it has lyrics about “calculators” and “not getting girls.”

I’ll admit it. I was a huge nerd when I was in middle school. I had a name badge that said “Mathlete.”

Well, actually I’m still a huge nerd. Nerds rule the world, but that’s a whole different blog post.

Anyway, it’s been twenty years since those kids made fun of me and my math loving friends and I still remember that. It’s funny the incidents that change the course of our lives.

So i that moment I decided I wasn’t going to let other people know I was smart anymore. It became this secret. Something to be ashamed of.

Four years later when I was giving my valedictorian speech a handful of friends said the same exact phrase to me the night of graduation.

“I had no idea you were smart.”

Then they would say something like, “You’re the craziest motherfucker I know. How are you smart? You tried to drive your car through the fence to ditch school and you once drank a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew for a dollar.”

You see, I learned that being smart wasn’t something that the cool kids valued. But doing “bad things” was.

So I stole things from department stores with my friends, lit stuff on fire, vandalized property, and began an extremely unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Because all the other cool kids did too. They seemed soooo cool. They didn’t give a fuck! They just did whatever they wanted. It seemed like such a unique way of living life, being raised in an oppressive religious cult.

Looking back, it makes sense why so many young men join gangs.

They just want to desperately fit in.

And all I wanted was to be liked. So I just did what everyone else was doing around me.

In high school I started reading books on personal development. In college I devoured them.

By the time I made it to my mid-twenties I had much better self esteem.

Until I went to Ohio for my MBA.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Midwest. I purposely chose Ohio State over the other eight schools I applied to because of how nice the people were.

But I almost didn’t go because I got word back from a friend that the admissions office thought I was a little too arrogant for their program and that I would be a bad fit.

In my application I made a collage of all of the important things in my life and mailed it to them instead of writing one of the application essays. I included a picture of me doing a handstand without a shirt off.

Hey, that was important to me. Right next to my family, my girlfriend, and all of my friends (Psst… your body is important too!).

Damn it, I was “too much” again. Too “arrogant.” Too “confident.” Too “cocky.” Too much “winning.”

So I had to turn it down again.

Looking back, this pattern went on for most of my life.

“Win! Yes! This is amazing!”

“Oh no! No one likes me! I better turn it down.”

Here’s where’s things get really interesting though.

After my mom passed away, I gave up on achievement completely.

After tasting death for the first time I told myself, “I need to just do stuff that makes me happy. There is so much more to life than money.”

And there was.

I spent all of 2012 driving across the country with David doing volunteer work and doing hundreds of hours of pro-bono coaching. It was amazing!

I will never forget some of the kids who we worked with in youth shelters, the houses that we helped build, or the non-profits that we spent serving at.

Then I did my life coaching certification with Martha Beck. The I did some work with David Deida. Then I did some work with Laura Hames Franklin.

Then I went deep down the rabbit hole of deepening my spiritual practice.

Meditating, letting go, observing my thoughts, reading spiritual texts, questioning my beliefs, and talking about God and death constantly.

And lots of being. Lots and lots of being.

My whole life was doing. Achieving, striving, working hard, trying to please Mommy, wanting to be the best or else it wasn’t good enough, needing to be perfect.

But then I got to North County San Diego and the beingness kicked in overdrive.

Which means I pretty much stopped working for the first several months here.

Different cities have different temperaments and different energies. New York City has a lot of yang energy. It’s a constant hamster wheel of more, more, more, more, hustle, more, hustle, hustle.

Carlsbad and the neighboring city of Encinitas has a lot of yin energy. Meaning it’s really easy to do absolutely nothing and still feel totally content about life. There are people here that are totally blissed out by just being alive. I see them every Sunday at Dance Church. Not a bad way to live life come to think of it.

But just as bad as living a life fueled solely by achievement is, I went off the deep end and gave up on winning completely.

And things started to go downhill.

My energy fell.

My erections were weak.

I stopped making money.

And I just didn’t really care anymore.

I got sucked into the trap of oneness and beingness and all the other ness’s that are thrown around here on a regular basis.

Then something clicked over the past couple of weeks.

And it’s a big enough realization that I’m up at this hour writing a blog about it.

I realized that I’m allowed to win again.

For some of you, this statement seems silly and common sense.

But hang out with a bunch of hippies for a couple of months and we’ll see where your drive and work ethic goes.

So this is my declaration…

You can choose to join me (even secretly if you’re a little shy).

I hereby declare that I reclaim winning.

I am a winner.

In fact, we are all winners.

Just by being born, we have all won the game of life.

To be a human being with internet access and reading these words in the year 2015… You. Are. Winning! Straight up Charlie Sheen style.

You are a winner.

What one man can do, any man can do.

Like everything in life, most people tend to explore the extremes before landing somewhere on the middle path.

When I was younger, I needed to win from a place of insecurity, scarcity, and wanting people to like me.

Then I wanted to hide my winning to fit in and so people would like me. Damn, I really needed people to like me didn’t I?

Then I wanted to win again, but got knocked back down to size with some good old Midwest values.

Then my mom died, and I gave up on winning and achieving because “life is short.”

Then I moved to California, and I totally gave up on winning because “we are all one” and it’s more fun to dance, meditate, and go to cuddle parties than work.

And today…

I choose winning.

Yes, being humble is a virtue, life is short, and we are all one.

And I welcome all of these beliefs into my revitalized relationship with winning.

Like the brilliant Ken Wilbur says, “Transcend and Include.”

I am all of those versions of myself above.

The needing to please Mommy straight A student, the painfully shy math nerd, the man dimming his light to fit in, the vagabond nomad adventurer, and the meditating and pleasure loving bliss junkie.

And I welcome all of them into my heart and let go of any bad feelings that I have around them to usher in a new era of…


And I’d love it if you join me.

There’s nothing wrong with winning. Unless you believe there is. [Click To Tweet]

So lets rack up some W’s together, shall we?


PS – Celebrate your wins! Share this blog post on Facebook with the headline, “I am winning because…”

PPS – C’mon. I dare you to be awesome out loud. Isn’t it wild how scary this is?

PPPS – These guys give you full permission to be awesome. And so do I. So just let yourself win already.

[Photo Credit]

  • Pablo

    Amen! Reading your post I have identified myself in many passages. I am currently in the hippy phase and I literally go to cuddle parties (once a month) and ecstatic dance (5 rythms) every sunday. I feel I am starting to get out of it but I think it will last a little longer 🙂

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Nice! I go to Dance Church every Sunday. Being healthy and happy is pretty fun, so I’ll never let go of some of the practices, community events, and mindsets from the “hippie world.” But lately I’ve noticed that leaning back into my masculine and getting things done feels just as good as laying around in a park all day hula hooping and slacklining. 🙂

  • Kevin Diamond

    Amazing brother. I was in the first grade when I was forced to sit out of “around the world” math game for winning twice in a row. It started back then, then it second grade when I didn’t skip a grade as to not “lose out on my friends” and in the fifth grade when the cool kids were brought to our “higher” math level, and made a joke out of it, and I wanted to fit in with them instead of going balls out trying to solve the extremely hard ass math problems.

    I remember conciously stunting my growth in high school when I landed a 90 on my first history test and my two best friends were laughing about their 60’s. i wanted to laugh about 60’s and so I did. It takes a while getting back on track, and helps to have others along side ya 😉 mucho love my man. Carlsbad doesn’t sound so bad ;)) Can’t wait to cross paths Soon. Glad you stayed up late night and posted this one. Hella good stuff amigo

    “All I do is WIn Win WIn WIn No matta What”

    <3 😉 ~~~~

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Dude! I loved the around the world math game. I used to crush that game. 9 x 8 = 72. Boom!

      Yeah, this was a big blog post for me to get out there. Somehow I feel uncomfortable claiming and owning winning and greatness.

      So naturally I wrote about it on the Internet because that’s one of the most effective ways to handle shit that I’m uncomfortable with. 🙂

  • Joshua Barad

    Thanks for this @hrostoski:disqus. I started reading this, then stopped when these delightful Balinese woman brought me the most delicious looking plate of food, I smiled at her and then started crying. Life is fucking beautiful isn’t it?

    And now I’m thinking about the time when you said “I think most people thing I’m some big fat emotional asian” and realizing that’s how I feel (minus the asian part) and it’s awesome. Life is amazing and we are winning.

    • Charlie King

      Josh, awesome… Love the “fat emotional” piece as well. It’s like you guys got a special invitation to my psyche! Winning!

  • James Mondry

    Thanks Mike – this is an awesome reminder that we get to choose our reality today, regardless of what we were raised to believe. As C.S. Lewis said, [a paraphrase here] “those that choose to believe in miracles will find them” – those that choose winning, will find themselves experiencing it.
    Here’s to more W’s in a full state of being!

  • Leonard McGill

    I would imagine that winning is an inner state as well, because if we just go through life collecting “merit badges when we achieve something, in the end we haven’t experienced a lot of growth…thanks to mentors like you we can make the inner journey of winning, too.