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Tempered Steel

Ever witnessed how steel is tempered? I really doubt that, because this is usually happening at very high temperatures, under very specific conditions, in places where a regular guy can’t enter without special clearance. I had a chance, when I was younger, to witness such a process. Although it was a very intense experience at the senses level, it didn’t trigger any major understandings. Until recently.

How Do You Temper Steel?

From a metallurgic perspective, steel tempering is made by overheating certain alloys or specific compounds. Upon reaching a certain heating point, something changes in the structure of those alloys. And I mean it, something changes deep down, their atoms are actually rearranging. The molecular structure of the alloy is modified, resulting in a much more tougher and ductile material.

If you interrupt this process, if the alloy is not taking the necessary heat for the exact period of time, the process fails. The alloy will be even weaker than in its initial stage. It’s like its atoms are stopped right in the middle of rearranging in a new, much stronger structure. They didn’t reach the new model and they don’t remember the older one.

I think many of us know the theoretical principles of this process and, to some extent, the expected result: a much tougher and resilient material.

But if you take the time to really look at this technique, you will find it extremely unusual. I mean, you put some pressure on something, (it’s about heating, not pressure, but you got my point) with the precise intent of making that something tougher. You deform, you push, you force, you stretch that material and in the end, instead of a wretched piece of trash, you get a shiny piece of powerful and flexible metal. Now that’s strange, don’t you think?

How Do You Handle Pressure?

I know what you think: “I thought this is a self-improvement blog. What’s this metallurgy thing? Where’s the connection?” Well, there is a very strong connection between steel tempering and life challenges.

In fact, life challenges are from the same family as steel tempering. They’re close relatives, so to speak. Only we don’t really accept that. We’re used to think at them in terms of misfortune, or catastrophe or something along those lines. It makes as feel better, feeding our self-victimizing attitudes. It’s easier to see them as accidents, when in fact, life challenges are just some pressure, pushing our limits way beyond our concepts of “normal” or “bearable”, with the exact intent of making us stronger.

Whenever you experience some huge pressure, up to the point you don’t know who you are anymore, chances are that you are undergoing a life tempering process. Especially if the pressure is so high that you can’t even remember who you are, like if your universe is slowly collapsing. And, to some extent, this is exactly what’s happening: your atoms are re-arranging, the old model of reality will be lost.

If you stop this process, if you try to avoid the challenge, you will sabotage the tempering. Your atoms, already shuffled by the first stages of the process, won’t know how they are supposed to arrange themselves anymore and you will stop in the middle, becoming even weaker than before. Of course, you may reach some temporary comfort and think you avoided some catastrophe, but fact is at the next big challenge you will collapse.

How To Handle A Life Tempering Process

I’ve been through some pretty big challenges myself. And I’m sure you’ve been too. In fact, if we would believe that thing called the “law of attraction”, the reason for you reading this article right here, right now, may be some life challenge you’re experiencing as we speak.

I remember that my first tempering sessions were awful. I really felt like I was caught in a tornado and had no way to control where I’m going to. Just thrown away, with all my familiar universe trashed in million pieces, no visibility whatsoever and a lot of pain. After the storm has settle in, I was a completely different person. More powerful, more balanced. But the process was absolutely horrific. As I grew up, from one tempering session to another, I kinda become better at spotting them. If there were some series of events which constantly started to push pressure on my life (being it on the career level, on the emotional level, on the relationship level) I knew that something strong has to start. At least I was somehow prepared.

But just being prepared was not enough. I kinda missed the whole point. I was prepared to get a punch in the face but I was still thinking I was “innocent” and that “shouldn’t happen to me”. A fatalistic approach.

It took several decades to realize that those processes are in fact natural. That, at some very deep level, right in the middle of the things, there is a need for renewal. For new forces, new beginnings, new perspectives. And for these to be born, the old ones had to die. In order to become more powerful, bigger forces were necessary to re-arrange my atoms in a new, more flexible and stronger model.

And I also realized that avoiding that process, as painful as it may be, just won’t work. If I would do that I would become friable as a biscuit. The only option is to take the heat and move on.

What follows is a very short guide on how to handle a life tempering process.

Don’t Cling On To The Past

If you try to attach yourself to familiar circumstances you may sabotage the whole process. Your atoms are already shuffled for the next model, so there’s no need to confuse them with old patterns. It will make the task far more difficult for them if you keep clinging on to the past.

If You’re Hinted, Go For It

If there are some signs that are “talking” to you during a major crisis, follow them. These are not just hunches, these are your atoms telling you: “this is the path you should take, that’s the model I should arrange into”. You may call this intuition, I call it the “atom intelligence”.

It’s Supposed To Be Difficult, So Stop Whining

This is how it works, this tempering thing. It’s difficult. It heats you up to the point of destruction, that’s true. But in the end you’ll emerge much more powerful and balanced. So stop whining, doesn’t help. It won’t make the heat colder, if you know what I mean.

There Will Be Some Clutter

Any steel tempering process generates some trash. In the process of transforming the whole, some parts will be lost. It’s natural. It’s more than natural, it’s necessary. In your new structure you won’t need those parts anymore. So, be prepared for a major clean up after the storm will end.

Enjoy The View

One of the most beautiful things in life is to witness a major life tempering. There are huge forces involved, there is an enormous amount of unleashed power trying to find a form to stabilize into, there is a massive game of light, sound and movement. I remember this from my first steel tempering experience. Now, all those powerful sensations, all that heat, that huge light, the intense sound, everything is combining into a unique life show.

The heated metal is screaming and is desperately trying to attach to its old structure, but the heat will go deep down to its structure and rebuild it in something incredibly powerful.

So, next time you’re whining about losing your job, not having enough money or being thrown away by uncontrollable circumstance, just look deep down and try to recognize the signs of a new life tempering process.

Enjoy it. You’ll be a completely different person after that.


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This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Hello, there. I was studying thru Hebrews 4 in the bible when I came across the word mixed. Looking at it in the Greek it also means to ” temper together”. I googled to find a picture of steel being tempered and I found yours!
    I wanted to share with you that in Hebrews 4:2 it tells us that if we don’t “temper together” what the word of God says with faith then it profits nothing. Just like tempering steel to an inappropriate temperature. Your writings are very true, just that when you mention “atom intelligence”. Your on the right path but its not your atoms it’s The Lord talking to you, the Holy Spirit! You see the bible says that the Holy Spirit plays 3 roles. It comes “along side”, “comes in”, and finally “comes upon” a person. The first one along side, happens before one accepts Christ. He is in a way wooing you to Christ. God is a gentleman in that he will never push himself on anyone. That atom intelligence is the Holy Spirit wooing you to him. Sometimes we make the wrong decisions and as it says here in Hebrews if we don’t “temper together” the good news of what Christ did for us with faith then it profits nothing.
    Ill leave you with this, I used to try and figure God out until I heard someone say “if I could figure God out then He is too small a God for me”. How true that is. It requires faith. One can have questions that are unexplainable about Christ. I like that, I want a God that requires me to simply temper together what I’ve heard with faith, making it then that strong steel that will endure to the end.
    Thank you for the insight on metal tempering!
    Hector

  2. Absolutely awesome!
    Thank You 4 Ur insight- this helpedme to clearly comprehend my current state of “being” .
    Your beneficence is appreciated,
    Gratefully,
    Being “found”

  3. Hi Dragos,
    This is a cool analogy on an interesting topic – handling pressure.

    I’ve just had a shot at a generalised formula for success, which aims to be a broad way of breaking success down. I hadn’t thought of adding ways of dealing with pressure (and setbacks) to the model, so thanks for the idea! I invite you to read my formula as it is so far, and I’d very much like to hear your comments! http://personaldevelopmentscience.com/a-general-formula-for-success/

  4. Dragos, This is a beautiful analogy. It reminds me of what happens when the taskmaster planet Saturn enters our life. It’s an opportunity to see if we are on track and, if not, reorient in the right direction. The more off track we are, the more tough our experience of Saturn might be – but it’s all for a better purpose. Thanks for reminding us.

  5. Dragos, we must be on the same wavelength. I put out a similar (although different) post this morning. I think what we’re saying in common is that in order to really grow, you have to go through the tempering process, or in my analogy, stare the dragon in the eye or bite the skull. In today’s world we are so often told to move away from pain, take a pill, distract ourselves with other things. Real growth sometimes comes from walking through the fire.

    1. Real growth always come from walking through fire. Avoiding the challenge will simply postpone the lesson. You may continue to live the same way you’re used to, but you”ll remain the same level. Until the challenge will come back. Again and again. You cannot grow unless you re-arrange your atoms from time to time.

  6. Wow Dragos, this was a fantastic post. I love the image of steel tempering (did you know that the best tempered steel has an almost crystalline structure of iron and carbon atoms?) as a model for our own behaviour.

    Cheers,

    Ruben

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