The Hot Seat

“A judgment I have of you, is you don’t want it.”


The words stung; the criticism was painful—cutting through the comforting story of who I told myself I was, and injecting the truth of how others saw me.

* * *

It’s a room of six men. A small but a strong group. Our chairs were a harsh plastic, with tough backs that leave the desire for comfort. Outside was cold, not yet the freezing touch of winter, but far past the warmth of summer. It was an environment that lacked solace. Perfect for what was taking place inside it. 

It was the day of the hot seat.

An exercise where one man faces the others and receives their judgments, criticisms, challenges—their fire—based upon what they observe about him. The man in the hot seat can’t react, ask questions, justify, explain. They must sit silently and listen.

It’s my first time submitting to this. I’m scared the flaws I’m most keenly aware of will be exposed. I don’t realize how much these men actually see.

I begin with a brief life share. My failures, triumphs, and patterns are all on display. When the feedback comes, a consistent pattern emerges. 

“A judgment I have of you is, you don’t want it.”

“A criticism I have of you is, that you’re holding back.”

“A judgment I have of you is, you haven’t been waiting for things to bloom.”


Goals in my life have not been met. Complacency is commonplace. My traits include being lazy, impatient, secretive—shadowy parts of my character I’ve acknowledged only fleetingly and stuffed down again. 

The words sting. The criticism is painful as it cuts through the comforting story of who I tell myself I am and injects the truth of how these men see me.

My impulse is to defend and rationalize. 

They don’t know how hard I’ve worked, for years.

I wake up early to achieve my goals.

I just moved to a new city, and life got hard


All excuses I want to use to avoid confronting my flaws.

* * *

People often believe they know all the problems they face, and what must be done to fix them. 

This has been my own mindset for a long time. 

For years, journaling has convinced me I am forthright and honest with myself—writing about my mistakes, my patterns, the good and the bad. Through such self-reflection, I’ve acknowledged my judgmental, prideful, isolated, and agreeable nature. 

This lens, however, is narrow. Isolated self-reflection can only take a man so far. The mirror that others hold up, reflecting the parts I don’t want to see, is what turbo-charges growth. 

The hot seat revealed how much I’ve fallen short in multiple areas of my life. I must change if I was to become the man I truly want to be, the man I know I’m capable of being.

Prior to joining Arka, criticism came in forms easy for me to brush aside. 

Passive-aggressive comments or light jabs from friends that avoided saying the truth—ineffective and lacking the directness required to inspire change. 

Or harsh, immature words that kill my desire to hear what the person has to say—the teacher who yells at me but never rationally explains why; the snarky critiques of a partner; or parents who draw up expectations without first teaching why such expectations exist.

My weed addiction is a strong example of how my squad has helped me. Using weed has been a way to escape a reality that I was deeply unhappy with. I managed to regulate it—only smoking on weekends, watching an endless cycle of YouTube videos regarding how to quit weed—but it was making commitments and being held accountable by my squad that supported me in quitting entirely.

* * *

Following my time in the hot seat: 

  • To battle my isolation, I committed to making concrete social plans;
  • To unravel my secretive nature, I began to share in squad the things I desperately wanted to hide without being prodded;
  • To achieve my goals, I began to plan my days, months, and weeks. 

None of this would have happened without receiving honest, direct feedback from men who know and care deeply about me.

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