How To Give Your Soul An Italian Tune-Up

Woke up feeling like shit yesterday.

After drinking my morning coffee, I proceeded to stare at the wall for the next hour and a half in a slack-jawed, sponge-eyed fog.

Whatever the cause, whether business setbacks or something I ate or having stumbled upon Laird Hamilton’s Instagram account and suddenly wondering why the hell we moved to Texas instead of Hawaii… I was in a bad place.

Everything was wrong, everything was broken, everything was unfixable.

Finally, as the doves sang the sun up, I had the wherewithal to grasp at self-correction:

Bryan, you bastard, what can you do right now to make it better?

And that’s when it became clear.

That’s when I knew it was time for an Italian tune-up.

Years ago, my friend’s beloved Volvo was running rough, so he took it to his mechanic, a first-generation Italian immigrant.

The mechanic checked the usual suspects: plugs, filters, oxygen sensors. Everything seemed to be in order.

Finally, the mechanic got into the car and told my friend he’d be back in half an hour.

Thirty minutes later, the man returned, handed my friend the keys, and told him it was fixed.

Sure enough, on the drive back home, the car purred like a kitten.

Intrigued, my friend stopped by the shop the next day to ask the mechanic how he’d fixed it.

The man smiled and proceeded to tell my friend about the “Italian tune-up.”

An Italian tune-up is when you drive the car at full-load for a brief period of time to get the engine hot enough to burn out carbon buildup.

It originated with Ferrari: most owners only operated their vehicles at low speeds, which resulted in buildup of carbon deposits in the system… deposits that only full-load heat could remove.

If my mind-body-soul was a car yesterday morning, then I was in need of an Italian tune-up.

So that’s what I did.

I pulled out all stops and assaulted my system with copious amounts of sweat, sunshine, and sensation:

I fired up the griddle and cooked (bunless) grassfed burgers for breakfast.

I lit a fire in the chiminea and bathed myself in ash and woodsmoke.

I put on my five finger shoes, threw the boys in the truck, and hit the park, stripping off my shirt to play frisbee, climb oaks, jump picnic tables parkour-style with my 11-year-old, and chase frogs in the muddy shallows with my toddler.

On the way home, we bought bags of ice from CVS and capped off the adventure with an ice bath in the master bath tub, me and my boys, all four of us whooping and hollering at the stabbing cold.

In other words, I beat myself alive. Redlined my system back to sensation. Burned out the numbness before it could take hold.

You may see no way forward.

You may feel wholly unfit to lead your family, your team, your own self.

You may feel uniquely, irreparably broken.

Get over it.

We all feel those things.

When you feel yourself going numb to the wonder, your job is not to suffer it all in silence. Your job is to rise. To man the bellows. To find a way to burn that shit out of your system.

Your inspiration, your joy, your connection to the world, to nature, to your own body, to your wife, your children, your mission… it’s no luxury.

It’s essential.

If you feel it fading, your only call is to rage that shit clean… to burn hot enough to torch that creeping buildup off your walls.

For you, for them… for your tribe, your crew, your audience… for all of us who are fed by your creations…

…find your way home.

Whatever mayhem it takes.


Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper


  1. Tobias t horn says

    Can’t believe I found this article in my email. Totally what I needed to read!!! This weekend- an Italian tune up!!!

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