top of page

Creative Lessons from Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Yolanda Quiroz Soto, JD



According to Fight Club, we have been programmed by advertising to chase cars and clothes working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. “…We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t. And, we are learning that fact. And, we are pissed off.” We live a life of despair and paralysis at the expense of our spiritual awareness and happiness. We have achieved false enlightenment. 


How do we free ourselves from this materialist society and attain real enlightenment? It may require becoming another person. We must tap into our inner Tyler Durdens to kill our inner Jacks. 


Tyler Durden’s Creative Process: 


1. Free yourself from that which owns you. 


According to Durden, it’s the programming to buy shit we don’t need that drives us to work jobs we hate. Releasing yourself from this is the first step to freedom. “No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”


Another way to look at this is neutrality. Neutrality is not a middle path whereby you do not feel anything or are detached completely. Neutrality is being able to have both ends of any given dichotomy, i.e., being able to have failure as much as we have success. In this case, Durden is referring to being neutral to material things. Being okay with having them and being okay with not having them. The problem is not material things per se. The problem is allowing material things to control us because we cannot live without them. We are okay with them but not okay without them. That’s why we must let them go. We must let them go to free up the higher parts of ourselves. He states, “I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.” Durden is talking about destruction of the ego, the part of ourselves that strives for instant self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. The part that lives in false enlightenment. 


The trick, he says, is not to care. If you are open to all possibilities, you have access to the full spectrum of creativity. 


2. Free yourself from that which owns you. (In Fight Club – rule 1 and 2 are the same)


3. Live in the moment. 


To be in the moment, we must be in the physical body. It’s the only way to be present fully. As spirit or consciousness, we are not limited by time or space. We can be anywhere. We call this spacing out or being out of the body. The physical body, is limited by time and space. It only can be in one place at one time. It exists in the present. To create as spirit, we need to be in present time, i.e., we need to be in the body. It’s from this space that we can experience life to the fullest – including our pain. 


Durden forces this lesson on Jack by pouring acid on his hand and pushing him to face the pain rather than escape it by focusing somewhere else. He says, “Come back to the pain, don’t shut this out. Don’t deal with this the way dead people do. Deal with it the way a living person does.” “This is the greatest moment of your life and you’re off somewhere missing it.” 


Initially, this is why they fight and form fight club. Fighting becomes the way through which they come back to themselves. Fight club is the place where they feel the most alive. It’s the only place in their otherwise ordinary lives in which they do not feel numb and emasculated. There, they are completely present in their pain and therefore able to release it. It also the place where they are stripped of their societal signifiers and are just themselves. It’s where they have completely rejected “the basic assumptions of civilization, including material possessions.” Fight Club is their sanctuary or place of enlightenment. 


4. Own the fact that you are going to die. 


Like Steve Jobs, Tyler Durden uses his mortality as a motivational tool. Not only does the fact that you are going to die put things in perspective in terms of what is important, it also instills a sense of urgency. We don’t have all the time in the world to get things done. We are going to die someday. As Steve Jobs quoted in his Stanford Commencement Speech, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right. Durden points, “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” This is echoed by Jobs’ statement, ”So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”


Knowing that you will die soon, makes everything less daunting. According to Jobs, “…almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” So, consider the following: 


“If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?”


5. Sticking feathers up your butt doesn’t make you a chicken.


In other words, you cannot fake it. You have to be real and authentic. You can present yourself as the real thing with all the accoutrements, but in the end you are a poser. "You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the shoes you wear. You are not the contents of your wallet.” 


bottom of page