Welcome to Grit Nation, I’m Joe Cadwell the host of the show and on today’s episode I have the pleasure of speaking with strength coach, self-defense instructor, and author, Varg Freeborn.
I first came upon Varg’s unique perspective to self-defense and violence preparedness a few years ago and became a fan of his straight shooting, no BS philosophy. So, I was especially pleased to have the opportunity to talk with him recently.
We’ll start our conversation as Varg details his childhood in the shattered remains of a postindustrial Midwestern town and how growing up in a home corroded by drugs, alcohol and violence laid the foundation for him being sent to prison at the age of 19 for aggravated, attempted murder.
Next, we’ll discuss the physical and mental attributes Varg honed and the strategies he employed to endure 5 years of incarceration and how his second book titled, Beyond OODA, will help you better understand how your past experiences and the stories you tell yourself about who you are, need to be in alignment in order to survive extreme environments and situations.
Later, we’ll dig into what it means to build a genuine, authentic persona through hard work and experience and why imposter syndrome and in-authenticity are so prevalent in society today.
And we’ll end our conversation as Varg explains the concept of woodshedding and how disconnecting from social media can help you achieve a fulfilled, meaningful life.
The Show Notes
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Varg Freeborn Welcome to Grit Nation.Varg Freeborn:
Thanks. Thanks for having me on.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, thank you so much Varg for taking your time to be on my show today, I've been a fan ever since I heard you on another podcast. And for those who don't know who Varg Freeborn is, he is a strength coach, a self defense and firearms instructor and an author. And I just found out that Varg you're also pursuing a career in the trades. And I was hoping Varg, you could tell a little bit more about your story. And we'll look into some of your books and hopes for the future with the with the trades.Varg Freeborn:
I grew up in a Midwestern, you know, burned out steel mill town. And so that was the theme of life growing up was that young from Youngstown, Ohio. And, and if you don't know the story in the late 70s, in the 80s, early 80s, the steel mills left, and they never came back. And it took what was a very, you know, prolific and successful blue collar area, and just destroyed it, de industrialized it and destroyed it. And what we grew up with in my generation was, you know, the aftermath of all the union jobs were gone, and all the factories were shut down, all the supporting factories were shut down, it was just a few left. And we had these, you know, rusted carcasses of factories everywhere, that that just literally created the landscape of where we grew up atit, you know, buildings that were just miles long, Youngstown Sheet and tube and Youngstown steel and Warren, there was just steel mills everywhere, and that that world was leaving as I was growing up. And it was very painful for you know, and there's, there's several, there's some towns in, you know, like Gary, Indiana, and some other places in the Midwest experience like Michigan, Flint, Michigan, yeah. So so this was a common story, you know, in certain parts of the country. But very blue collar, you know, I grew up in my my family were steel workers and no workers. And then when I came of age, that wasn't available for me anymore, you know, so that, that I couldn't, you know, they all had decent jobs. And that wasn't available, you know, so I grew up in a very rough environment. You know, there was a lot of a lot of drugs, a lot of violence in my family, a lot of criminal activity. So it was very, very rough. The, the younger people, my family didn't really follow. The mother was only 16 When she had me, so I wasn't that far behind my aunts and uncles, and everybody were very close generationally. So they kind of missed out the mill thing, too, for the most part. And so what happened with a lot of people at that time was, you know, the drugs and the alcohol took over when the reality of economic collapse set in, and that, you know, nothing was coming back. It wasn't coming back. And there was not much, you know, hope for people to really be able to have this great life that people have lived up to that point. And we're talking about a time when, you know, the 50s and 60s in those areas, people had seven, eight kids, and lived in two three storey houses was very common. That was your average. That was the golden age of the American dream, so to speak. Yeah, yeah. And then where I'm from, you know, it's, it's funny, because you ride up and down the streets. And you see these big old houses now they're, you know, pushing 100 years old, but back then they were only, you know, 30, 40 years old. And a lot of these houses turned the century were built, you know, at the boom of the beginning of the of the steel mills and things like that. And now they're all triplex is in quad plexes. And they're converted into, you know, shitty apartments, you know, and they're basically ghettos. And it's so amazing to think that this was the height of it the good life, and now it's the the epitome of the bottom, you know, it was just amazing. But that was, you know, that that's what I grew up with. And of course, that can tribute it to a very rough adolescence. And, of course, I was involved in a lot of violence. And you know, if you're interested, you can read my first book about this. But, you know, when I was 18, I was involved in an incident of self defense. It turned pretty, pretty tragic. And I ended up charged with attempted aggravated murder. I did five years in prison, and basically from 19 years old to 24 I was in prison.Joe Cadwell:
So and this is the book you're referring to Varg is Violence of mind.Varg Freeborn:
Violence of Mind. Yeah, that would be the first one that would that would detail that. And so, you know, and then after that I decided that I didn't want to go back to that life because, you know, I grew up with a lot of my family and a lot of the people we associate with were one percenters. one percenter motorcycle clubs. I grew up in a lot of that environment. And I was around a lot of that, before I went to prison. And that type of that type of violent lifestyle was was, you know, something I didn't want to go back to. So I made a decision to move immediately out of prison and did what a lot of people don't do. And I went somewhere where I didn't know anyone. And I lived in a guy that I was in prison with, set me up with his mother owned a very old apartment building from the 1800s. And one of the apartments had been shut down for several years. And it didn't have any electricity. But she said, I could rent this apartment for $150 a month. And that she would get electricity fixed, you know. So I came out and I went straight to the apartment and it didn't have the it didn't have a bathtub functioning bathtub, and it didn't have electricity. You know, so I got like a bathtub rigged up and ran an extension cord, and ran off of an extension cord while I signed up for trade school and I went to auto body school. I finished a two year Auto Body program and 18 months in that apartment with no electricity. And at the same time, I did about 20 hours semester, per semester. So I was doing 20 hour weeks with the school. And then I was doing 40 hour weeks as an apprentice at Body Shop, I actually was lucky to get an old school apprenticeship with a body shop that had been around since 49. So it was it was a very good experience there. And so I started out in trades immediately as soon as I got out of prison. And worked in that for quite a while. About a dozen years. And and I ended up owning my own body shop mound, custom car shop, I built custom cars and trucks for a while. And then also owned a custom guitar shop and did woodworking and built custom guitars, from hand hand carved, you know, the next and everything just straight from wall, everything was raw wood. And I hand selected the wood and built everything right in the basement. That was that was fun to just like generally like to build things, create things and fabricate things. But then I worked as a violence instructor, because the trades, you know, there for a while got pretty tough, especially the ones I picked, especially the autobody world. They, you know, there were some things that happened with the insurance companies there. Some years within the last 20 years where the insurance companies basically took over the collision business, the auto body business and insurance companies, dictate to the body shops, what they're going to do, what they're going to pay their guys and everything. So the insurance companies basically run the body shops now. And the adjusters who come in who have zero idea have never gotten their hands dirty at all. And I know every trade has these people, these people that come in, and they've never gotten their hands dirty, and they're telling you how you're going to do things and how much you're gonna get paid to do it. And so that they're the guys that run the show in that. So that got pretty disheartening. And so I took a break from all that for a while, started businesses violence educator and training andI was actually able to go back and get my rights restored, I fought the state. And I didn't get my conviction overturned or anything like that. But they did offer me a restoration of rights. And I was allowed to vote, sit on a jury hold public office, or possess firearms. So all of that was given back to me.Joe Cadwell:
And this was in the state of Ohio bar.Varg Freeborn:
Yes, that was Ohio. Yes. Okay. And so once I got that, I went back and began training civilians and law enforcement and the use of weapons and lethal force encounters, since that was something I had so much experience with, you know, weapon based violence. I've been on both ends of that and receiving and giving multiple times. And so that was something I had to offer. And that's been that's been good. But I recently took a break from that with COVID kind of shut down to traveling and I guess never fired a backup yet. And now I'm back in transitioning back into trades, because I really miss it. And I really miss building stuff. So I came to Daytona Beach because I love motorcycles and I want to build custom motorcycles down here. And so now I'm down here, actually right now putting together my shop and you know getting my welding certs back and getting everything lined up so I can start doing things I want to do.Joe Cadwell:
That's fantastic. So finding an outlet to be able to channel those creative energies that you have. I mean, obviously, carving guitars working with metal writing books, to some extent recreating who you were after, sort of, from my understanding, a very rough upbringing, and then having spent time from the ages of 19 to 24, you set in federal penitentiary state, state penitentiary, okay, so state penitentiary. And, again, I think if I remember correctly, Varg that was the particular period of time that you were in was a very violent era for the state and federal penitentiaries. And not to dwell too long on that. But that would definitely take someone who was 19 years old, and really present a lot of challenges for them to overcome. And I was hoping you might be able to talk about what you did to overcome some of the physical and mental psychological challenges that you were faced with on a day to day and how you persevered and what brought you through that that dark patch.Varg Freeborn:
You know, I'm going to tell you that my life has been extremely hard. In starting out, you know, being born to a single 16 year old teenage mother, in a drug house, I grew up in a drug house, lots of violence, didn't know who I could trust or when I could trust them when they were going to be high drunk and become violent, you know. And so by the time I got to prison, I was already primed pretty well, it wasn't like I was a baby and landed in there, you know, that there were guys like that. There were kids like that, and I seen them get their souls shattered, like glass. And it was, it was pretty tragic to watch happen. But that, you know, I wasn't one of those people. I should, I mean, I stabbed somebody 23 times to get there. You know, so I was it wasn't like, I was walking in the door, like, you know, a sheep in a wolf den. Right. So, but it was, it wasn't easy, either, you know, so, overcoming the adversities, you know, I'm going to tell you how I did it. And I did it systematically. And I did it through just the will to achieve something. And a lot of times that something just ended up being, I'm not gonna let these people fucking win, you know, anybody, nothing is gonna beat me, nothing's gonna crush me, nothing's gonna break me, I'm not gonna let it happen. And I don't care what they throw at me, they can lock me in prison, they can put me in the most violent place they can take my freedom away, you know, treat me like an animal that nothing is going to break me. Right. And that was the will to just survive in and conquer those types of adversities coming at you. Because I seen it breaking people I seen people just break in ways that were unacceptable to me. Beginning in my adolescence, in my early life, watching, you know, my family members fall to drugs and alcohol and allowing that to just destroy them. And then watching in prison, either the system break people because it is designed to break people, it's not designed to help anybody. It's designed to break and punish. And that's why you get such incredibly hard men that come out of there because it's a factory for hardness. It's not it's not a rehabilitation center, it's it's creates harder, more hateful, angry people. But if you don't come out that way, you get broken and I've seen so many people, you know, especially young kids that tell stories about it in my books, too, you know, about you know, young kids that come in there and they never really experienced anything rough in life. They made like one bad choice and got in with a bad crew and ended up doing you know, a b&e or something that got a time in prison and then they ended up getting raped or you know, just terrible things happen in their in they break in ways that's a repairableJoe Cadwell:
so psychologically, oh, I'm sorry, Varg but psychologically it sounds like you set yourself up that failure was not going to be an option that no one would take advantage of you. I understand that physically you went in a different person than then you came out and I in regards to your body size, or strength levels, the amount of muscle mass that you had to put on and the weight pile of the of that state penitentiary, was that part of your recipe to exit this successfully?Varg Freeborn:
Absolutely. And you know, I'm still a strength coach to this day. So I went into prison in 1994 and that was when that was my first exposure to the weight pile and back then this is all gone now. Prisons are not the same as they were. I came in at the very end of when prisons were still like the wild west there was still tobacco. There were still drugs. There was still way piles like it was it was old school prison. And as I understand that they've cut all that out now, but strength is and was, you know, the the key component, physical strength and mental strength are inextricably tied together, the stronger you are physically, the stronger you're going to be mentally. It because it takes a lot of it takes a certain amount of mental anguish, it to get to a very strong physical position. And you have to willfully put yourself through uncomfortable things. And most human brains are wired to seek comfort, rather than, you know, discomfort. And so when you push yourself willfully into discomfort, and uncomfortable, painful things, make yourself do it, then that makes you stronger. And I picked up on that very early age. And that's one of the reasons why. You know, I accepted my favorite prison and actually kind of looked forward to because I knew I was gonna get tempered. Now, looking back, I wish, you know, very deeply that someone had pulled me aside and talk to me about finding better ways to get that temperament. But I didn't have that. So that's the route I took. But when you when you think about physical strength, it, it presents the opportunity for growth in a way that is going to benefit you mentally, as well. And there's just no, there's just no two ways about it. So I pushed physical strength and everything when I when I taught gunfighting when I taught self defense, you know, when I teach people about dealing with adversity, labor, you know, dealing with being good at labor, you know, if you're a laborer you want to you work in trades. You know, I've seen so many guys tearing their bodies up, because they're not, they're just not taking care of themselves, and they're not strong. And then that's why you have all these torn shoulders and blown out backs and ruptured discs, because the muscles supporting those joints have become weak, and it becomes a weak link. And boom, one day, it just goes, it breaks, you know, and that's preventable. And the sad thing is that it's largely preventable in most people, if they just put a little bit of time into thickening those connective tissues up, and being stronger, you know, physically stronger. So I put strength in everything that I do, like every single thing that I don't care what you do, I'm telling you that strength can be a key component making you better. At that day,Joe Cadwell:
you had mentioned the phrase a better way to find the Temperance. I believe that is part of the second book that you may have written beyond OODA. And for the folks that don't know what it is, could you please just give a brief synopsis bargain on whatever it is?Varg Freeborn:
Yeah, so ODA, largely known as OODA, was actually developed by a man named Lieutenant Colonel John Boyd from the Air Force. And some years ago, he developed this concept of observe, orient decide act being the decision making loop. That happens when a person is presented with a situation where they need to respond to something to stimulus quickly. And definitively. It was primarily initially geared towards fighter pilots, which is arguably the fastest moving decision making task you might have to face as a human beingJoe Cadwell:
right dog fighting in the air, yeah,Varg Freeborn:
600 mile an hour dogfighting. So. You know, so that was that was the beginning of the concept. But later on, Boyd, what a lot of people don't realize is that Boyd, spent his time really honing in on orientation as being the center point of everything. And that OODA wasn't a loop but a series of loops with also some built in bypasses, right. Implicit guidance being one of those bypasses, right, where implicit guidance for decision making that automatically out automatically plugs a decision in when a stimulus is recognized, rather than going through the whole orient decision part. It's just stimulus, implicit guidance, right? So he talks about a lot of different things over the course of 30 years since he developed that, you know, before his death in the 2000s. And basically, what I did was really focused on the orientation part because I think that that is really where the answers are. And orientation to me is, it's what makes you who you are and what it's what drives every decision you make. It's your cultural background, your call Cultural influences your genetic makeup, your experiences, your confidence, or lack of confidence, like all of these things that go into you making the decisions you make, you put two people, you know, in the same airplane, one is enthusiastic to jump out and have a great time and another one is scared to death, and you might have a heart attack, right. And it's the orientation towards the, the task or towards the situation, the circumstances that causes that to happen. The experiences, the lack of experience, the confidence, lack of confidence, the genetic makeup, you know, all of these things come into play and make you, you know, who you are and make the decisions that you make. And orientation can be changed to a large extent, but it's not an easy process, and is something that I experienced myself through five years of prison, I came out as you said earlier, a very different person than when I went in my complete orientation had changed. And my decision making had changed dramatically. Whereas times that I would have been reactionary, before, I was not reactionary anymore, in times that I would not have been reactionary, I was not very reactionary, you know, these, these are very big swaps. These are not, you know, it's not easy for someone to change something that they're, they're automatically reactionary, to, that's innately, you know, grounded into us very deeply through our culture and our experiences and what we, you know, our, our value system, what we believe is right and wrong, and, you know, the priority of life, you know, those things are very deep inside of our psyche, and it's not something you can just extract and just decide to change. And it takes extreme circumstances. And this can happen with, say, a very sudden violent shift, which often leads to PTSD, because it's such a violent shift in paradigm that the person can't deal with it. And there's often a moral consequence, which is what you see, in a lot of law enforcement officers and military, who, you know, may had a pretty good life, you know, follow the rules did well, well rounded people and then get thrown into like a human carnage situation, and can't fucking make sense of it in their head. And then all of a sudden, there's this moral injury that happens. And that, that that massive, sudden, violent shift inside of themselves of how they see the world and who they are in it, is too much for the psyche to take. So it can happen that way. Or it can happen over long periods of time. Which is one of the things that the military also tries to do is to change that orientation throughout the time of your training so that you don't have that violent shift at the end. But they can't always accomplish that. Prison doesn't always accomplish that either. My case it did, but in the cases that I brought up earlier of kids who get there and get raped or something that's a sudden violent shift in their world, and it just in there's there's physical injury and moral injury, beyond what we could comprehend, if you haven't experienced that, right. And so that, that orientation is the key is the point of it. So figuring out where where your orientation is, and what drives it, and breaking down the components of it, and then beginning to work on those things. So that if you want to make better decisions, you don't just practice making decisions, you start to cultivate and change the very criteria that you base your decisions on. And that's how your decision to become more reliably solid, in in a changed form. Does that make sense? Yeah, absolutely.Joe Cadwell:
And again, it goes beyond OODA is the name of the book that John Boyd that the military strategist, the warrior philosopher that, put that out, you've taken it to the next level and really focusing in again on that orient who you are, as a person will decide which actions you are going to take when presented with something that may put you in opposition against someone that is a completely different set of orientated skills. However, they were brought into play. Now, having listened to your podcast numerous times now Varg I think one of the things that I really took away with is you know, you cannot assume that because you are working in the in the in what you believe are the best interests or you classify or qualify yourself as the good guy that that you are going to be perceived as the good guy, by a court of law when when things finally shake out or that your actions will have a higher moral ground that will somehow bring you through this unscathed against someone that truly does is a skilled operator. And can you speak a little bit more to that that the importance of knowing who you are and real like understanding the limitations that you bring in to any situation based on your upbringing and your orientation.Varg Freeborn:
So, in beyond it, I do talk about this concept called, the stories that we tell ourselves, right. And everyone is telling themselves a story about who they are. Now, some of this is very apparent. And you can see people become caricatures of this, of this cartoon that ellipses in their head. That is quite, it's not really realistic, and you can see it right. So there's, there's, there's visible ways to tell that this happens. But in most people, most people are very good about concealing it. And they even conceal it from themselves. So first understanding that you're living, you're living a story that you're telling yourself of who you are, and how you fit into the world around you. And a lot of people are telling themselves, stories that are not factually true. Right. So they, you know, there's a saying that men, you know, think they're born knowing how to work on cars, lift weights, and fight. And they typically are very good at any of those things. So, so there's a, there's that, that there's truth to that, right, there's a stereotype there, but the stereotype is there for a reason, because there's a typical story that guys tell themselves that they're good at things like, and if you tell yourself like, you're a manly guy, you're good at these manly things, right? And so these narratives that we come up with in our head, and, you know, they guide, they largely guide our, our, our decision making, and they're based on our orientation, they're either reactionary, or, you know, stemming from that, you know, systemically and what we what we can do is, to first determine are the stories that we're telling ourselves in our head actually true, right? You know, you're you're going to, like you meet someone, and they say, I'm gonna build a race car. Yeah. Can you build a race hurt? Yeah, I can build a race car for sure. Have you ever built race car now? Do you know how to weld a little bit? Right, you know? Yeah. So so we start breaking down, like the components of building a race car, and you find out that, you know, you have the willingness to build a racecar, and you have the willingness to, to hopefully learn how to do the things that needed to be done to build a race car. But at this moment in time, you don't have the credentials of a race car builder. Now, that is something you need to earn to fix your story, so that you can live your story. And now your story is real. So the guy goes, he takes some classes and welding, he, you know, learns how to bend some tubing, he learns about a little bit about metallurgy. And you know, which metals need to be where and how to build a car to be up to the, you know, the specs for the tracks. Boom, he builds a car. Now, when he says, I'm a race car builder, he's a race car builder, he built one, right? So there's truth to his story now. But there's a lot of people out there saying there race car builders that have never built one. And there's not truth to that story. And it's very important. While it doesn't seem like it's a big deal, it is. And when we're talking about violence, which is where I developed these concepts from the person that you run across the violent individual that may attack you or your family someday, you know, is telling himself a story too. And that can be very dangerous for you, because you could be the thing that makes his story come true. If he's a killer, you know, you might be the thing that, you know, helps him realize that, that he actually is a killer,Joe Cadwell:
killer. Killer, I guess. Yeah, yeah. Well,Varg Freeborn:
if he kills you, then he is a killer. Right? So. So that's, that's the problem that you have to understand is, what is the story when you're dealing in negotiations, or in potential conflict of violence with people understanding what is the story that they're telling themselves about who they are, and how you fit into that story, trying to ascertain that as early as possible is going to help you immensely because then you can, you can make the choice to play into that story, or utilize that story in some way or another to help your personal goals in that situation. Right. And that's a, you know, that's something that we did in prison a lot when you have, say, you know, a potential conflict between races or something like that. And instead of having this go down at a very low level, what you have is you've got like, guys that are in leadership roles, and you go and you say, hey, I've got this problem with one of your guys, I don't want to, you know, I don't want this to turn into a thing. So I'm talking to you to see what you want to do about it. Right? So there's a political diplomatic way to handle things, right.Joe Cadwell:
Even in prison. It sounds like there'sVarg Freeborn:
most definitely in prison. Yes, it's very structure, it's, it's way more structured than then out here, for sure. And it operates much better in many ways, but so the hierarchy is developed in, you know, out west, they call these cars and keyholders. Right, so, the car is the group of people that would be like a race or a gang or a group of people. And basically, the keyholder is the leader of that group, right? So you would talk to the guy holds the keys and say, hey, you know, I got this issue with you guys. Or we got this or your, your key guy goes talk to his key guy, like, however it goes down, right? But this is all based on stories of, of whose people are, who they're telling themselves they are, and who they're making other people think they are? And are these things actually real or not, right. And so, in those types of situations, those those positions are usually pretty well vetted out. And people who are operating at that level have proven themselves, not only to themselves, but to the outside world, that they will do what's necessary, they'd have done what's necessary to get to that level. And so when you're dealing with certain people, there's no question that you know, that this person has done the things that they tell themselves in their head that they're, you know, they walk around, like they're a killer, or they're, there's someone that's gonna, you know, put a hit on somebody, or can be raised somebody or, you know, cause somebody to, you know, ask him out of strife. They've already done these things. And you know, this is true, it's not a story that's untested. It's a story that's proven. And the thing I try to get across to like, average, people that are not living, super violent lives in prison and things like that, is that you're also telling yourself a story about who you are. And in order to be a happier, more complete person, and more successful, more productive, more industrious, you know, creating as much truth to that story as possible, is the key, right? That is the, because if we, if we, if we're living a lie, and only we know about it, but we've convinced the people around us, you know, that these lies are true that we're really this other person. You're never, you're never happy, you're always afraid of looking over your shoulder, you're going to be find out, you know, you have impostor syndrome, you are not genuine, you're not authentic, you're not living an authentic life. And you're always having to do things to kind of uphold the lies, you know, so having a more authentic story is the basis of like a strong life. It's the, it's the, it's the, the mental, you know, biceps and pecks of, of your game on a mental level, right? It's how to build your strength at a mental level is having that ot this authenticity behind you. And it's, whether you're in trades, or whether you're in violence, or no, it doesn't matter what you're doing, it applies there, because everybody's telling themselves a story about who they are. But are you really that person? And, you know, if you're not, it's okay. If you start to fix that today, and become that person, you know, so don't just talk about doing things, you know, go take the classes, or get the certifications or get the experience and actually do the things, have some failures, you know, put some failures under your belt and learn some things, right? Because we know in the trades, that the difference between a pro and everyone else is a pro knows what to do when she goes wrong. Absolutely any anybody else like you, you can train people to lay paint when everything lays down, right? You can trade you can train people that the welds deal together when everything goes forth. But when things start to go wrong, that's when the pros come out and say, Okay, this is what we got to do to fix this, because they got that experience. They've, they've been there and they know how to do this, right? So become that person, become that person have authenticity in your story. And that's going to give you that that solid starting point and begin to change your orientation. If you don't change your story first and make it authentic, you will never successfully change your orientation and your decision making subsequently will never be improved.Joe Cadwell:
So So leaving the violent past behind barg and moving into changing your position writing your first book, what was the inspiration for you to write violence of mind? How did that come about? How did you have a team was this something that you came up with on your own, but where did the concept come from?Varg Freeborn:
So I had what I had went through my second divorce. Unfortunately, I've had two divorces. And, you know, the second one was was pretty painful process. And I basically made a decision that I was going to change my life. And a lot of things that contribute to adversity are often products of our own doing, which are often products of our upbringing or in our environment. Right. So there is there's a paper trail there, that goes back. And recognizing that is a big problem, right? So what a lot of people and I've noticed this very much so in the blue collar, you know, class of life, right? A lot of people wonder why I'm doing the right things. I have the right intentions, getting up every day, I'm going to work, why am I not succeeding? Why do I keep losing? Why did things keep falling apart? I'm, I'm pursuing certifications, I'm getting better at my trade, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. But I can't, you know, hold a home life together, I can't do this. And a lot of it is, you know, the choices we make for associations, right? And who we associate our self with. And sometimes we seek out these patterns that we had when we were growing up. And unfortunately, you know, we find those those patterns of familiarity and other relationships, and we continue those patterns into our own life and don't understand why it doesn't work out. And so I made a choice at around 2016 To cut associations pretty much with everyone. Because I can see patterns in my life. Even though I had the right intentions. I went to school, I've done the things I got the certification of multiple certifications, multiple things I've done, and I just couldn't succeed.Joe Cadwell:
Right. I think the saying Vargas, you know, you're a compilation of the five people you hang around most with in life, and you were finding that those people weren't adding value to your life.Varg Freeborn:
Exactly, exactly. And it's, you know, you and it's not to say that there's, you know, something inherently wrong with those people. Sometimes there is, you know, if you, if you're sitting back and asking yourself, Why do I keep failing, but your wife is a heroin addict, like, okay, so you married. That's part of your problem, right? So sometimes it's obvious, but sometimes it's not obvious, and you can't understand it. But I made that decision. And so in 2016, I was working for Raven concealment systems, defense manufacturer in the Gun, gun industry, and it was my first big Good job before that. I was like working, you know, low end jobs and couldn't really couldn't really get it together. In terms of making any decent money, though, I tried. So Raven, I was working Raven, and they bumped me up to over 50 grand a year, which was to me it was a big deal back then. Right. And I made a decision to quit that job because it turned toxic and the the owner turned toxic. And a lot of the relationships that were involved with that in turn toxic, it just was not a good was not a good thing for me anymore. And the marriage was not a good thing for me anymore. And a lot of the family connections were not a good thing. So I cut everything off, I quit my job, I cut everything off. I went and got an apartment in the beginning of 2017 for $430 a month and this little town called Brookfield Ohio. And I went to work, I quit my job. And I went to work doing like side work, SEO work and stuff on the internet. I was making baby maybe 1000 to 2000 books a month, you know, and I gave myself one year and I said, Okay, I'm going to I'm going to sign this lease for one year. And at the end of this 12 months, I'm going to have a book, you know, and that's it. And I'm going to live on just as low and frugally as I can, and you know, $430 Mokume believe I paid that like, I look back now and I'm like my god for 30 a month is a two bedroom apartment. It was a good neighborhood. You know, and I would sometimes like man, I wish I could go back to that. But yeah, so I lived very minimally, very minimally and I had I didn't even have a couch I never even had a couch the whole time. I didn't need one. I just worked on my book and I worked out you know I would go to the gym and then I would there was a cigar shop across the street that had this really cool cigar lounge. It Cobots cigars in Brookfield Ohio and that's where violence on mine was written in that lounge. I spent most of my days in lunch and I would go in there and I would buy a cigar I'd sit down with a big thermos of coffee. And I would sit in this really cool lounge. And I was usually the only person there. And I would just write my book. And I gave myself 12 months of that. And in the 11th month, I published my book and send it out. And it's funny because I had printed my own copies to begin with, because I wanted to release the initial copies the initial printing myself and have them signed and do something special, And I had a stack of envelopes and a black magic marker that's right? So I had, like 300 books printed. gonna fill out these addresses in Cindy's books. All right. So I put the books up on the, on the internet. And it's like, by that night, it was like, I was at like, 750 sold, and I was like, oh, man, I'm this black marker and stack envelopes isn't gonna cut it. So. So I went in, you know, got ShipStation and got printing capa bilities. And I started like becoming a legitimate distribution operation there for a couple of months, and I shipped out 1000 books. At at $29, a book, I should have signed to that first printing, all hand signed, well, every one, every one of them, I picked them up from the printer package, the each one signed each one and labeled each one and mailed it myself, like, and so that was a and so obviously, boom. When my lease was up the next month, I was like, Shit, I actually, I was thinking I was gonna move to like a better place. And I'm like, Man, I'm actually going to move to Florida. This was, this was so, so successful, that I actually have the opportunity to, you know, do something I really want to do. And you know, so I moved to Florida, and I moved on to four acres in the country in Florida and bought a couple horses from my daughter's and and for four years, I lived out there and lived a pretty good life, and worked on beyond Duda and got beyond hooter done and raved about it. For years, I published beyond Duda. And, and that was the boost that got me over to Daytona Beach where I wanted to be and now I'm over here, doing nothing but that there was no team, there was no, there was nobody. That was pure, 100% isolation, and I'd shut myself off from everything. I wasn't even reading any other people's information, I just purely wanted to get my thoughts onto paper. In a pure form, I didn't want any contamination coming in from any other people. So I had, I did not have a girlfriend, I did not have friends. I did not I think I was complete isolation for that 12 months. And I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. And I did you know, by the time my lease was up, I did what I what I said I was going to do, and guess what, you know, the power that I felt when my story became real. When I said, I'm a writer, I'm a guy who's gonna write this book, and then I wrote the book and successful bunch of people bought it. Now, I felt like I pulled power away from the sun. You know? Like, it's amazing how much better you feel when your story becomes real. So but that's how I did it, to answer your question.Joe Cadwell:
That's fantastic. And before we started recording this episode, Varga, you would use the term that I wasn't familiar with. And it was sort of talking about your attitude towards social media right now and use the term woodshedding. And I was hoping for the audience. And for me, you could elaborate a little bit more on the concept of woodshedding and how it plays into who you are and what you're doing now.Varg Freeborn:
So woodshedding is something I talked about in violence of mine in the first book in it's it's a very, very important concept to me, and I think it is to other people, too. I think it should be at least, basically woodshedding is it? For me, it's an old musician term where you you go in the woodshed and practice and you come out and you're this amazing player and people think you sold your soul to the devil because overnight you became amazing, right? But it didn't happen overnight. You went into the woodshed and you put hours and hours and hours and hours of practicing. And then you came out but two people one day they see you and you suck and the next time they see you You're amazing. So obviously think there's like this magical transformation to happen. So that's like the mystical aspect of the woodshed right. So you disappear and you come back transformed. It's the I think it's the true essence of the you know, the Crossroads story, where you go and beat the devil and you sell your soul Right? Like I think that you know, selling your soul part happens over many Many, many hours in practice, right? It's not a magical contract, it's actually you go in and you do the work. But doing it away from people's view, doing it by yourself, I think there's a very important, I think there's several very important components to that, especially psychologically, maybe even spiritually. And what that means is that, if you know exactly what I'm doing right now, I've shut my social media down almost completely. And I'm very, super low signal and social media. And you know, and people may think, in this day and age today, they may think, wow, he's not doing anything, and he's just done, when really, I'm doing more than I've done in a long time. And this last six months, I've remodeled an entire house, you know, I've built fences, I've, I've rebuilt an entire motorcycle. You know, I took a 1983 show will hit Harley and tore it all the way down and built it all the way back up. I, you know, have enrolled in welding school, I'm full time in welding school right now. And right now I'm working on stick welding, which was new to me, I was already a MIG welder before and I've been trying to learn take for the past year, because I want to do bike frames. But now I'm doing stick for structural and, you know, in the point is, is that a doing more than I've done in months and months and months, maybe years in my life, right? But I'm not posting about it, I'm not showing people everyday, like look at my wealth, or look what I'm learning, I look what I'm doing, I look what I accomplished, I look what I built. And I think that there's a value in that, that it makes it real, it makes it real in the sense that I'm doing this for me, I'm not doing this for recognition from the world. Or maybe it's delayed recognition later, which is fine. But I'm not, I don't need your approval or your recognition today to get up every day and go after it and keep doing what I'm doing. Because it's authentic. It's genuine. You know, it's it's not something that I'm doing for the for the upholding of some story that I'm telling myself that I'm curating. I'm curating this, this image on social media, that now I want to, you know, I get caught up in living in this image. And now I want to just keep doing things that make people think I'm cool. And it's very easy to fake that on social media, it's very easy to fake a cool life on social media. And I think that's honestly what most people do is fake a cool life. And it's very unfortunate, because people struggle and people are hurt. And people have immense questions, deep, deep level questions about life, and you know, how they can get through certain things. And then they see people on social media that are just perfect. It could perfect, impeccable lives. And they're like, and they fill it get because they're like, wow, like, why can't I be like that, because he's not like that. It's not real. The stories we tell ourselves again, it's exactly this guy's telling you a story that he's probably telling himself too. And it's it, the whole thing is, he's got an alcohol problem, or he's got an anger problem, or he's screaming at his wife, or he's got, you know, some other kind of issues, or he's got financial problems. And he's not telling you about that, you know, because he wants you to think he's got his impeccable life. And a lot of these guys are making money as instructors and stuff like that. And I'm telling you behind the scenes, that it's, it's, you know, and so woodshedding woodshedding not only accomplishes you going in, you know, going away from public view and getting really good at something and giving you that mystical aspect of one day coming back and all of a sudden you're magical, right? But it actually, it cultivates an authenticity in you, and in why you do things. You're not just doing it for attention. You're not just doing it for other people, you're doing it for you, you're doing it because you want you want to accomplish a goal. You have a vision, you know, like me, I want to you know, I mentioned before I had a custom car shop in Knoxville, Tennessee in the early 2000s. And, you know, I went to auto body school as soon as I got out of prison and 99 graduated and I went to high performance mechanic school for a little while. And then I traveled to Los Angeles and I worked for Scott gildner and Scott's rotten customs worked on chops and choppers out there in LA. And then I worked for Bobby all the way in Tennessee like I traveled all over because that was my passion. I wanted to learn I want to get good at these things. And then I opened my own shop. Well, my associations, threw me off track and destroyed the things I was trying to work on. And it wasn't until later on in my life that I cut associations out that I started to take off like a rocket and under Stand, okay, if I create authenticity in my story and actually go and do the things that I need to do, and I don't have these associations that drag me down or keep me, it's the type of drama that drains my energy away from accomplishing these things. Now, here's the magic formula for this to happen properly, right. And so, when you get to that point, and you're actually ready to do this, and then you woodshed, you know, it's super powerful. It's like one of the most powerful things you can do in your life. Because you're, you're proving to yourself the authenticity of your vision, the authenticity of your story, you know, the genuine motivation and intentions behind the things that you want to do. When you take away that, that instant gratification of being rewarded every day by people's likes and comments, right with this damaging toxic social media thing, because I just believe it's just, it's destroying the world. When you take those things away, you take yourself back to a time when you had to do things, because you really were driven to do them inside of your heart, because you really wanted to do it, not because you thought that, you know, it was going to get you and we grew up in a world where, you know, when I started, when I even when I opened my first shop, this was 20 to 21 years ago, there was like Facebook was still just a baby thing for college kids. Like it wasn't that social media didn't exist, you know, so fairly new construct. Yeah, and so you so the point is, is if you wanted to get famous back then or you wanted to get known and get that reward those likes and those comments, you had to do that get on a big scale, to get the kind of recognition that where you landed a magazine, that was the only way you got to, if you could get yourself like a build a car that gotten a magazine, that was the only way you were getting noticed on big scale. And so you had to have those intentions in those drives to get to that point back then. But nowadays, you know, anybody with money and knows how to bolt on parts, can literally buy a factory hot rod for 6070, grand, you know, 800 power 800 horsepower car, or, you know, bolt some parts on. And they're like, you know, it's like Bob speed shop now, you know, and it's like, because they can put up some photos of them, you know, smoking some tires, or you know, running, you know, nine second quarter miles, and all of a sudden, they're amazing, but the the thing is this, the, the authenticity behind it is what really, it's what really matters to your soul. And you can be it the world around you as much as you want to, and you can get away with it and think it's great, but you are never going to feel good in your soul. Because you can't get your own soul. You know, and so that's where woodshedding comes in, is that you cut out the, in your you're alone with yourself, and the things you're trying to accomplish. And you just do them and there's no instant gratification involved. It's a long, hard process, and you have to do it.Joe Cadwell:
There's no shortcuts, no shortcuts. In pursuit of a valued life, I pick that off of one of the small signatures you do have left on the internet, and it comes off of a website, what is what is your definition Varg of a pursuit of a valued life? Where does that mean to youVarg Freeborn:
living with with authenticity, and accomplishing vision. And leaving your mark on the world in some kind of a positive way, you know, helping other people in some kind of positive way. You know, this is something that the book I'm working on right now that I'm working on to a smaller booklet, but the actual book I'm working on has to do with this, you know, I'm going to deal with just the adversity and you know how to be basically how to be good at being poor. Because if you suck at being poor, you're going to be poor your whole life. And if you suck at being poor, bad enough, your kids will be poor too. And so when you get good at the board, then you can work your way out of it. And that's kind of a concept that I'm you know, that I'm toying with right now. But just leaving a mark on other people's lives that's positive or helping them become, you know, better, more successful, more happy people in some way or another. I think that's a very important part of living a valued life. But authenticity and your own vision have to be the first components to that, because selflessness is the path to destruction, without the right amount of selfishness to build that strong foundation first.Joe Cadwell:
Fantastic. Well, Varg freeborn this has been an awesome conversation. I really appreciate you taking your time to be on the show today. Where can people Go if they are interested in finding out more about Mark freeborn and what you're up to,Varg Freeborn:
well, like I said, right now my signal is low, but I will be firing some stuff up pretty soon. I've got some plans and visions. I want to I've got some, you know, some self defense, things coming. I've got some books coming. I've got some motorcycle and custom fabrication things coming. So if you watch my website for frequent.com, eventually, you're gonna see something pop up there. I don't know when. Because I'm pretty busy right now. And like I said, woodshedding. I don't. It's not in public view. But I have a lot going on and it's going to come up eventually so you can check it out there.Joe Cadwell:
All right. Thanks again, Mark. It's been a great conversation.Varg Freeborn: