The 4 Pillars of Self Improvement - This Is Trouble

The 4 Pillars of Self Improvement

Note: This is a really long post about self improvement – nearly 5,000 words. Here’s an index for reference. You can also download this in PDF format by clicking here.

  • Why men are unhappy – we are meant to build
  • What is happiness? Can we quantify it?
  • How do you quantify if you’re being the best you can be? It’s simple…ask yourself one question (below)
  • The 4 Pillars of Self Improvement: Fitness & Health, Money & Career, Experience, Relationships
  • Balance in life is necessary (read the section on female relationships for a better understanding)
  • It’s okay to fail, as long as you get up and become stronger for it.

Self improvement is a fickle subjects sometimes, because almost everybody has a different idea of what their own self worth is, as well as different ways that they want to go about it. Simply put, no two men take the same path in life.

Some folks will tell you that as long as you’re “happy”, that’s all that matters. I respectfully disagree. Us men, we are meant to build something. It is not enough to sit idly by and just hope that things “fall into place”. It doesn’t matter what you build, so long as you are moving forward on the path.

What can you build?

  • Your body
  • A business
  • Relationships
  • Passions

Among others, of course. The point is, you must constantly be moving forward.

Do you ever have those days where you just feel…down? Have you ever noticed that those days come around only when you do absolutely nothing? Even if you absolutely fail at your task or mission at hand, it doesn’t matter. That, “I’m a piece of shit,” feeling is only prevalent if you were just lazy about it. As a man, you are biologically wired to fail, pick yourself up, and then try again. It’s the reason we get rejected by women, it’s the reason we open businesses that tank (see: the first book I wrote and released on this blog), and it’s the reason we design engineering marvels that have problems.

It is better to have tried and failed miserably than to never try at all.

The fear of regret is real, and it’s awful. That is why you must always be on a constant path of self improvement.

What Is Self Improvement?

As I said, different folks will have different strokes. But since This is Trouble is a site written by a man for men, we’re going to define it in simplistic terms. Different things will give you different amounts of happiness in life, but happiness is too easy to lie about. Married men sit around at their once-a-month poker game, and lie to each other’s faces about how “happy” they are with their wives and their ever-ballooning waistlines. It’s too easy to rationalize happiness in your head.

I am of the belief that constantly improving oneself by building is the route to true happiness. Because when you lie on your death bed one day, the last thing you want is to look back at your life and think that you could have done so much more. Time is the one variable in the world that you simply cannot buy more of. When it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m barely 24 years old, and already I feel time slipping away from me, as I’ve discussed before.

So assuming now that happiness is a lie easy enough to fabricate, and figured that men derive happiness from self improvement and building ourselves, we’re left with the question – how do you define self improvement? We’re men here, logic and quantifiable analysis is what we’re good at. So how do we quantify self improvement?

If it was as simple as measuring bank accounts, body fat ratios, and notch count, it’d be easy. But it’s not.

You see millionaires taking copious amounts of drugs and married to women they clearly despise.

You see chiseled men with a Pandora’s box of self esteem issues.

And finally, you see players burning out, becoming so bitter towards women, and they simply project in a downward spiral for their remaining precious years on Earth.

Sometimes when you seemingly have everything, people are still unhappy. Men are inherently designed to be unhappy if they are not moving forward and building something that lasts. Do you think the Romans had time to sit around and be unhappy? No, they were too busy building beautiful monuments and conquering the world. They didn’t have time to sit around and mope about it, and frankly – you and I don’t either.

However, I’ve come up with a way that can measure your self improvement, and therefore (somewhat indirectly) – your happiness level.

All you have to do is be honest with yourself. It can be a daily deal, or even a weekly deal. But I wouldn’t let it go longer than a week.

Is My Self Improvement Enough?

It’s easy to test yourself, provided you can be honest with yourself. As I said, it’s easy to put on a front for other people, but there’s no sense in lying to yourself.

Every day or week, ask yourself this:

Did I push myself out of my comfort zone? Did I struggle? Did I recover?

Yes, it really is that simple.

I’ve discussed this numerous times before, but let’s use the example of trying to pick up the pretty girl at the bar. You spot her across the room and are taken aback by her. Maybe she even smiles at you and gives you an invitation. For the next thirty minutes, every thought moves through your head – the only thing that doesn’t move is your legs to go up and talk to her. But you just can’t wrack up the nerve to go over there and build something with her, even if it’s just a five minute conversation. When she finally leaves the bar and flashes you a look of disappointment, you feel lower than dirt for the rest of the night.

If you had just walked over to her, even if she rejected you in the most horrifying way possible – guess what, you would feel accomplished. Sure, you might feel a little humiliated or down at first, but after a few minutes you would pick yourself up and be in the best spirit possible. You did everything in your power – congrats, you can die in peace.

You’re building.

You’re moving forward. Talking to a girl who intimidated you. This is not easy stuff. You pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. You struggled. But…you recovered.

If you want to truly be on the right track with self improvement, struggle is inevitable.

Of course, you can always choose to simply lie around and be a part of the herd, but now we know that those men who claim to be happy are simply lying.

Many men want to undergo an amazing self improvement transformation. I know I did, and I’d say I’ve had quite the transformation. It’s just never done. What would I be if I wasn’t striving towards a goal? Just a shell of a man, that’s what. The problem is that there’s too much information out there.

Men don’t even know where to start on their self improvement journey. They’re lied to by everyone from their mother to their boss. Notice the top banner of this website.

“Self Improvement Without The Lies”

And yeah, it’s really fucking tough. I’m not going to lie. The amount of misinformation out there is staggering. Young men have almost no chance these days to have a good mentor who understands true masculinity and can point them in the right direction. Instead, they’re forced to…

To take advice from their mother about girls. = “Oh Johnny, just be nice. Be yourself. Maybe bring her flowers on the first date.”

To take advice from morons about education. = “Yes, you should go to college and study something that’s completely unmarketable. Take out all the loans you need to.”

Then, after you finish said college education and can’t find employment, you’re told, “Go to grad school. Take out another $50k in loans. That’ll do the trick.”

To take advice about fitness from fatties. = “Don’t eat meat! It’s bad for you and makes you fat!”

To take advice from everyone to be safe. = “Stay in your soul sucking job for the rest of your life! Bend over and graciously accept that 3% raise every year. And hope there’s enough Social Security left over when you retire at the “new retirement” age of 75.”

Why Listen To Me About Self Improvement?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m a guru about everything. Far from it. I fuck up all the time. I fall down and pick myself up again. I would be the first to tell you that trusting me blind off the bat would be foolish.

But…I’ve been lied to about all the things I mentioned above. I was fortunate to catch the majority of it at a relatively young age.

I still had that all important variable – time – in abundance.

I’ve written about my struggles…

I recognize that there is an overwhelming amount of self improvement knowledge on the Internet, and I’m going to go out and say this – most of it is absolutely false.

Think about where you are in life. Think about where you want to be in one year. Five years. Ten. Think about all the advice that has been given to you thus far in your life. And finally, really think about where that advice has come from, and if it has paid off. If you have a harem of beautiful women, seven figures in the bank, and the physique of one of those previously mentioned Roman warriors – awesome.

But…what the hell are you doing reading my site? Serious question.

More than likely, you’re here because you’re looking for something you haven’t found. With that being said, I’ve developed some foundations of masculine self improvement. It’s my belief that if every man follows the paths in the following points, he can look back on his life and say that it was a life worth living. But don’t just take my word for it. Below are my own words of wisdom and advice, as well as other bloggers that give great advice, too. You’ll notice a common theme among them: they are all successful and well spoken men.

With that being said…

The 4 Pillars of Male Self Improvement

The below are broad categories. Different categories could be beneath all of these, but I think it’s a fair assessment to say that these four pillars of male self improvement can encompass the majority of the subcategories.

  • Fitness & Health
  • Money & Career
  • Experiences
  • Relationships

These are also in order of what you can reasonably accomplish right off the bat; i.e. you can step outside and take a walk right now. That is self improvement in regards to fitness. Before you argue with me and tell me that relationships are easiest (just go approach a girl) – bear with me until the end of this post. Please.

Self Improvement Pillar #1: Fitness & Health


If you’re older than 18 years old (some would say even younger, but I’m no doctor) and you’re not lifting weights, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Endorphin’s are a happy drug that will never come easier than from a killer workout. It’s basically free.

For Beginners

Now, if you’re grossly overweight – I’ve been there. It’s hard to get started. It’s shameful to go to the gym and run on the treadmill. But that’s still no excuse. You have to start somewhere. Start simple – cut out one meal a day with intermittent fasting and go for a half hour walk every day. If you’re so inclined, buy a treadmill and stick it in your home. That one less caloric bomb of a meal will make a world of difference.

The proof is here:


In that picture on the left, I’m about 210+ (at least, I suspect 220) pounds. I lost 85 pounds in eight months and dropped down to 135 pounds. Fortunately I discovered weight lifting and put some good weight on, but you can see how drastic of a transformation it was.

The best part?

All I did was cut out a meal a day and exercised regularly – roughly an hour of basketball a day.

Now, I’ll preface this by saying I was 15. My metabolism was youthful. That certainly didn’t hurt. But if a 15 year old kid with a massive World of Warcraft addiction has the willpower to put down the Doritos and Mountain Dew, you can too.

For Intermediate Levels

Here’s a workout I’ve been doing lately which has been a good kick in the butt. I have to give props to Masculine Profiles for getting me started on this. I’ve found it far more rewarding than your typical 6 exercises for 3 reps each cookie cutter routine.

Day 1

  • 8 sets x 10 reps Bench Press
  • 8×10 Tricep Pulldowns (ropes or straight bar, doesn’t matter)
  • 8×10 Incline/Decline Press (rotate every other time)
  • 5x Pushups
  • 2x 1 minute planks
  • 1x other ab exercise of your choice

Day 2

  • 8 sets x 10 reps Shoulder Press
  • 8×10 Squats
  • 8×10 of various lower back exercises
  • 12x Pull-ups to burnout – i.e. 12 pull-ups for your first set, 11 for your second…all the way down to 1 set of 1

Rinse and repeat. Do five to six days a week. If your body is telling you that it needs rest, take it. Yes, it is that simple. Compound exercises are powerful forces of nature. You are not a girl trying to tone her arms by doing 100×5 barbell curls with 3 pound weights. There may be a time and place for that for the advanced lifters, but that’s too much for me to think about. This routine is simple.

My last piece of advice is this: if you have days you don’t want to go to the gym, that’s okay. It’s normal. But promise me that you will go anyway and do one set. That’s it, one measly set. If it sucks and you want to go home, you can. One set.

Self Improvement Fitness Resources

My entire archive of fitness posts is here.

Many of these are my own posts, but I’ve also shared other bloggers who I’ve learned from. These aren’t in any particular order.

Self Improvement Pillar #2: Money & Career

This topic will be brief because I’m still rather young and I don’t have a million dollars in my bank account – I’m not qualified to give in depth advice about it.

But I will say this: I’ve been in the career grind for three years now and never been more miserable. I also see no way whatsoever that I could be happy with it. Hence why I showed my face and have some big plans for 2016. As for what finally prompted it, it was a conversation I had with a friend and now retired blogger You So Would, whom I met in London last year. In short, his career path was pretty similar to mine, except he was making 3x what I do. But he walked away from it all and only regrets not doing it sooner. That strikes a chord.

I came to the realization that labor is damn cheap, and working for someone else is pretty fruitless.

I’ve looked at my best case scenario if I continued down my current career path – which is enterprise data storage and networking engineer. It’s not a hugely demanded skill set, but can still be outsourced to India at any moment if it was deemed appropriate. Regardless, best case scenario is that in ten years I’m making maybe $130,000 annually.

My dad is a senior engineer who is wildly more talented than I am, and that’s what he makes as a manager. And he’s past his 50th birthday. To top it all off, he hates it.

Again, that’s the best case scenario. What even happens after that? I move up to be a manager and still get insulted with 2% annual raises, except now I have to deal with a lazy staff underneath me? Yeah, no thanks. This isn’t even accounting for the fact that American based jobs will continue to go overseas. Security today does not equal security in five years.

Another realization: that kind of money is not “Buy Ferrari with cash and live in Monaco,” type of money. Which I’d love to get to someday. But if that’s not obtainable, I’d much rather make a little less, have a lower cost of living, and be happy not in an office. I will never be able to buy a Ferrari and live in Monaco while working as an engineer.

Your mileage may, and will, vary. Everybody has different passions, comforts, and levels of tolerance. It’s up to you to figure out what it is you want.

I sat down and wrote up some basic rules of finance I’d tell my 18 year old self:

  1. A fancy car isn’t worth it at all.
  2. Paying extra to live in a neighborhood you like it is worth it; within reason.
  3. Never take a loan on anything: car, house, engagement ring – nothing.
  4. Take advantage of offers and travel for free.
  5. Fighting off the peer pressure to just consume, consume, consume is hard but must be done.
  6. Eating out all the time is incredibly expensive. Learn to cook.
  7. It sucks spending $30 bucks on a date a girl who you get nowhere with. Screen carefully and start small. Walk away if you don’t feel it.
  8. Most careers are designed to keep you “comfortably middle class”.
  9. Buying experiences is worth it. Buying material items is not.
  10. Think long and hard about whether college is worth it. Think extra hard before you consider going back for a Masters or PhD degree.

Self Improvement Money & Career Resources

Self Improvement Pillar #3: Experience

self improvement travel

This one is a little tougher because you can’t just necessarily walk out the door and be more experienced. The catch side is if you stay inside and don’t walk out the door…you’re stagnant. Remember what I said about moving forward?  You can walk out the door at any point and go to the gym, hustle for money or go and talk to a pretty girl. But you can’t step outside and call yourself a sophisticated, more experienced man.

You need…patience.

Patience is something I struggle with. I want things instantly. I’m a millennial with the, “I need it now, instant gratification NOWWWW” attitude. I can’t help it.

How Travel Shapes Your Self Improvement Path

For one reason or another though, travel has definitely given me a serene “calmness” to my life that I never had before. Perhaps because I was confused my whole life – about girls, college, and the whole American society.

Something seemed “off”.

Why did I always feel like I could never be the man I was supposed to be? Why are women so obsessed with ‘gurrrllllll power’? Why is every piece of advice I’ve been given not help my life at all? Why have I done everything “right” in my life but yet feel unfulfilled and unhappy? Also, why do I want to drink so much all the damn time?

I got lucky and figured parts of it out it was all a lie before I ever traveled (I took my first trip abroad in April 2014) – but then once I took that trip, it all made sense. America, frankly, is a fucked up society. The women don’t care about finding a man, and are basically pre-conditioned to hate men. It sucks. I’d much rather live in nice warm Southern California and raise children with a beautiful, feminine wife than doing the same in a different country. But I see very little choice in the manner without taking a huge risk. I could probably find a great girl in a small, rural town somewhere in a state like Idaho. But I don’t want to live in Idaho. I can live in a big city overseas and have my choice of beautiful women who genuinely want a man.

The pint I’m trying to illustrate is that if something simply feels “off” to you by living somewhere, that’s because it probably is. The ability to feel that, pinpoint it, and then make a plan of action takes experience though. I would have been incredibly ill-equipped to handle what I’m aiming to do in 2016 when I was 21 years old. And truth be told, I really only obtained this experience on my recent trip to Colombia. My girlfriend for the week was an eye-opening experience of what a masculine and feminine relationship should be.

I really cannot encourage every young man out there to travel and see how the rest of the world works. It is an eye opening experience.

With Age Comes Wisdom

Young guys are gonna hate hearing this. I hate typing it. But it’s simply the truth. I look back at who I was 2, 5, 10 years ago and I just…chuckle. I was foolish. I was irrational. I was stubborn. I still am some of these things, but I am wiser for it now. If you can’t look back at yourself even a year and see major change – guess what that means? It means you’re not improving. You’re stagnant. This whole post is about moving forward and building yourself to be the best you can be.

Self Improvement Experience (& Travel) Resources

Self Improvement Pillar #4: Relationships

self improvement

Relationships With Women

Most of you are probably wondering why this is last.

Yes, it is true that if you aren’t good with women, you need to get out and approach a lot. You’ll fail, but eventually get better. All of this is true. You will eventually need to put yourself out there. But there’s a dirty little secret that a lot of “PUAs” (I don’t consider myself one, at all) don’t want you to know. That’s because they want to send you into deeper consumerism (remember what I said in the money section?) and sell you a $5,000 bootcamp, where they’ll teach you how to peacock and use cheesy lines.

That secret is…

If you have Pillars 1, 2 & 3 under control, then number four is EASY MODE. 

If you are a man who is in good shape, has a good job with his finances together, and has some experience with travel, hardships, and general “coming of age” things…getting women gets surprisingly easier. Much easier than being a man who is out of shape, broke and living at home, and hasn’t ever had any cool experience in his life that he can share.

Even women who are a couple years older than me are impressed by what I’ve done in my life. I’m in excellent shape, I have a good job (most people in LA are starving artists), and I’ve had some cool experiences in life. I’ve traveled. I’ve written three books. I’ve gone through hardships. All of these things show through in my confidence. They smell it on me. They sense I’m not intimidated by their beauty or simply by the fact that they have a vagina.

I realize that sex is something that a man needs. There is no denying that. What I am saying though is that you should be working on all aspects of your life. You are better off doing 10 approaches a week, working out six days a week, and starting a side business than you are doing 100 approaches a week. Doing the 100 approaches just puts you in a position where you are relying on women for your self gratification. Remember, we’re talking in terms of pillars here. Pillars lay the foundation of something much larger.

Would you want women to be all four of your pillars?

Knowing how fickle of creatures they can sometimes be, your answer should be a resounding no.

Relationships With Family

They will doubt you every step of the way. As I prepare to leave the corporate world, I know what will be coming from my parents. They’ll be worried that I’ll end up on the streets. In the end, it’s important to remember that it is your life. I have done things they didn’t agree with before, but we still love each other. Your parents should be respectful of your decisions, but it’s also their job to think of the “safest” route for you. It’s their natural inclination to protect their offspring.

But if needed…be prepared to cut the chord. Family members like these will only tear you down. Do not hesitate to remove them from your life if it’s needed.

Relationships With Friends

I’m going to keep this short and sweet with another list. My experience tells me that…

  1. Don’t bother with female friends, there’s always drama.
  2. If you have a couple, it’s not a problem. But it shouldn’t be constant time together. Hang out once a month? Okay. Three nights a week? You’re wasting your time with a girl who has no intentions of satisfying you as a man.
  3. Bros before hoes, always. One good, real male friend is worth giving up every notch in the world.
  4. In conjunction with #3…always follow wingman rules.
  5. You don’t need dozens of friends to be “cool”. Two really good friends are superior to ten acquaintances.
  6. There shouldn’t be any drama with male friends.
  7. Business and friendship do not always go hand in hand. In fact, they usually don’t.
  8. People you went to high school and college with will be stuck in the past. Do not bother to stay in touch. Take that time on Facebook to invest in yourself.

Self Improvement Game & Relationship Resources

These are all just blog links instead of specific posts. These blogs have so much game knowledge that I don’t even know where to start. That’s actually true about almost every link in this post, actually.

Self Improvement Bottom Line

This got really long, so I’ll just say thanks for sticking it out this far. Let’s just wrap this up with a brief summary:

  • It’s impossible to quantify happiness directly. Ignore people who claim to be happy but clearly aren’t.
  • It’s even harder to quantify self improvement. Instead, ask yourself every day if you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
  • Generally, you can classify self improvement under 4 categories for men: Fitness & Health, Money & Career, Experience, and Relationships.
  • A strong balance between the four will likely keep you the most sane.

This post on self improvement was pretty draining to write, but honestly – it was well worth it. While I realize I don’t have all the answers, and don’t want to claim to be an authority on anything – this is written from a point of experience. As I’ve said, it’s taken me at least a few years to come to this point and put it all together. Looking back now, it seems that a balance between these four pillars has made me the happiest I’ve ever been – which is, of course…impossible to quantify.

The satisfaction of knowing how far I’ve come since I first started this blog…it’s far more than any cubicle job could ever give me. I look back at myself and hardly recognize myself at times. This means I’ve failed, picked myself up, and become stronger for it.

Can you say the same? As always, comments are welcome. Let’s discuss.


Kyle Trouble

I'm Kyle "Trouble". I'm a former computer engineer who left the 9-5 in LA at 24 years old and moved to Eastern Europe. I blog about dating, life abroad, and building successful and scalable streams of income.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 13 comments
The 4 Pillars of Self Improvement | - December 22, 2015

[…] The 4 Pillars of Self Improvement […]

Axel Page (Shameless Pride) - December 22, 2015

Great post man, an abundance of great tidbits and resources. I can tell this took a while to craft given the quality and organization. #5 under friends is on point – if the quality is there, less is more. Good stuff.

    Kyle | This Is Trouble - December 23, 2015

    Thanks man I really appreciate that. You are right it was the result of quite a few Sunday hours.

    Anything you think I should add?

Oliver Maerk - December 23, 2015

Thank you –
that was very helpful.

Neil M White - December 29, 2015

Good post. I’m in agreement on fitness being one of the pillars. Once you start training your body, you notice other men who do the same. And the ones who don’t.

I like your observations on friends and particularly Facebook. I rarely use FB now as I unfollowed or unfriended dozens of people I no longer had anything in common with. I’ve got maybe 2 or 3 male friends who get me and I have a lot in common with. Those are key. But I also believe in having a wider network of people (Dads in my case) who can advise, help you out, connect you or learn from. Mmmm that’s given me an idea for a post…

Keep up the good work.

    Kyle | This Is Trouble - December 29, 2015


    Thanks, and totally agree about the network thing. I have several older “mentors” I look to often. And frankly, this blog has been a great networking tool itself.

    Happy New Year!

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