3 Minute Monday – Inner Citadel, Discomfort & K-pop

3 Minute Monday

Hi friend,

Today we’re thinking about Retreating To The Inner Citadel.

My good buddy and past Modern Wisdom guest Rob Henderson taught me about it this week.

And I now can’t stop seeing it everywhere.

So you’re swallowing this red pill along with me.

Isaiah Berlin says:

“When the natural road towards human fulfilment is blocked, human beings retreat into themselves, become involved in themselves, and try to create inwardly that world which some evil fate has denied them externally.

If you cannot obtain from the world that which you really desire, you must teach yourself not to want it.

If you cannot get what you want, you must teach yourself to want what you can get.

This is a very frequent form of spiritual retreat in depth, into a kind of Inner Citadel, in which you try to lock yourself up against all the fearful ills of the world.”

Rob explained it in a simpler way:

“If your leg is wounded, you can try to treat the leg.

If you cannot, then you cut off the leg.

And announce that the desire for legs is misguided and must be subdued.”

Basically – if you can’t win at a game, you stop playing, say that you never cared about that game and create your own game with rules which you can more easily win at.

This is something I’ve been trying to put into words for years.

I see it everywhere.

How many people have chosen not to compete by exiting the game completely and just making their own?

Can’t get a relationship to work?

Declare that all monogamous relationships are archaic and restricting and just turn polyamorous.

Can’t gain status in a meritocracy?

Announce that the system is rigged in a way that keeps people down and now gain status by being a critic of status-structures.

Struggle to be popular or well liked?

Convince yourself that you’re a high functioning introvert and are better off in isolation anyway.

Find losing weight difficult?

Proclaim that losing weight has no bearing on health anyway, that any encouragement to lose weight is in fact an attack on your identity and now demand that the world’s preferences change to fit around your shape.

Have trouble staying out of jail?

Claim that real jobs are for suckers anyway and turn to a life of crime.

Retreating To The Inner Citadel is everywhere I tell ye.

How about this one…

I’ve argued for a long time that the modern move toward asceticism and modern spirituality is done by people who simply don’t want to play the game of material acquisition.

This way, they never risk failing at achieving their material goals.

A prudish, meek existence seems purposefully humble from the outside.

But can more easily be motivated by a fear of failure, rather than a desire for austerity.

In short, we don’t like failing at things.

We even less like failing at things which we genuinely want.

It feels like an existential threat to our ego.

“If I can’t do X then what else can’t I do?”

So… Where are you retreating to your Inner Citadel?


I do a podcast which has had 13 million+ downloads. You should subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

This week’s upcoming episodes:

Victor Wooten – probably the greatest bass player of all time joins me to talk music, spirituality, creativity and confidence.

Steven Kotler – the world expert on flow gives me the complete recipe for peak performance. Jaw dropping episode. Don’t miss this one.

Thomas Moynihan – how long have humans been considering the capacity we have to destroy ourselves? Learn the history of Existential Risk.


“Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is usually a BS statement.

That’s a phrase thrown around a lot by people in 2021.

But electing the intensity, timing & type of discomfort you endure is not real adversity.

Ending yourself in a long workout or a marathon is hard for sure.

But it’s easy to give it big licks about leaning into discomfort when the only challenges you deal with are ones you OPT to engage in.

True challenges are endured, not elected.

How many people who harp on about resilience to adversity also threw their toys out of the pram when gyms were shut and they were put on furlough?

Only being resilient within a self-chosen domain is not true resilience.

The Inner Citadel rears its head again.

You need to see what happens when these lessons are forged in the genuine fear & discomfort of reality.

It’s not enough to learn a lesson, you must live it.

Someone’s outer appearance does not reflect their inner experience.

I responded to “models have life easy”.

By one estimate, the K-pop group BTS adds more than $3.5 billion annually to South Korea’s economy.


Plan tomorrow, today.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made this year is planning my next day’s work before I go to bed on the night before.

Your planning mode and your execution mode are different.

1 minute of planning will save 10 minutes of work the next day.

Plus many of us are at our most productive first thing in the morning.

So by planning the night before, you capitalise on getting work done during this deeper focus period.

The 6 Minute Success Journal is what I’m using, but any journal or diary will do.

Big love,
Chris x

Listen to me on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
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Jordan Peterson’s MW episode has been moved back to next Monday. #bde


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