This is Your Training Ground

“There’s a fine line between reading a book to gain a new perspective on a problem and reading a book to simply avoid the problem by intellectualizing it.”

Mark Manson


Randy Blythe sits in his cell, sheltered by the leaky roof of the run-down, centuries-old Pankrác Prison in Prague, Czech Republic. About a year and a half ago, he was deep in the throes of his alcoholism — a vice that he had struggled with for most of his life up to that point.

Abusing alcohol was “his way to quiet the voices in my head that I hadn’t learned how to cope with, and a lot of anger at the way the world is.” He sought professional help from a therapist, as he had reached the point where he didn’t care if he lived or died.

But now in prison, he actually wants to go on living. He is imprisoned after being accused for the death of a fan, Daniel Nosek, at a live show of his band, Lamb of God, in Prague two years ago.

Eyewitness ascertained that Nosek climbed onto the small stage of the venue, and was shoved by Randy, before he landed on the ground on his head, suffering a coma, and eventually dying.

Randy’s memories of the show are murky at best. Having played hundreds of rowdy shows, how could his memories not be, especially of a particular show from two years ago? Is he truly responsible for his fan’s death? Even he couldn’t be sure.

But whatever happens, he is ready to accept his role in it.

As he seeks to make the best out of the situation, he remembers what he had learned during his time in therapy. It was also during this time when he was introduced to the Stoic philosopher Epictetus’s writings by his therapist. Especially now, the lessons are starting to really make sense to him, in their most practical forms.

As much as it’s essential for every one of us to have a reading habit, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading just for the sake of finishing a book, without thinking hard on how the knowledge can be immediately applied or practiced in our lives. It goes the same way for any form of gaining knowledge or self-improvement, whether that means attending a seminar or going for therapy.

We tend to let self-help become shelf-help. We put away our books, as though reaching the back cover of a book means that we’re totally done with what the book has to offer. We may even think that we’ve solved our problems simply by reading about them or “intellectualizing” them.

Knowledge is meant to help us build an inner life that we could draw wisdom from. But in order for that to happen, knowledge has to be revisited from time to time, and put into action. The present moment continuously beckons us to act on what we know.

For Randy, he fought fear and uncertainty by viewing his imprisonment, whether rightful or not, as his training ground to practice the lessons he learned in sobriety, such as staying present, and practicing gratitude.

Randy trained himself to be present, so much that he even came to value the moments of stillness he had in prison. While the phrase “one day at a time” may be a cliché among recovering addicts, it proved to be invaluable for Randy in prison — though sometimes, it meant taking in one minute at a time. 

He remarked, “If I have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, I’m pissing on the present.” From what he observed, the lack of presence made other prisoners so miserable, as they were either too fixated on what went wrong, or on the freedom they could enjoy after being released. 

With that, his imprisonment was also an opportunity for him to practice gratitude. While he acknowledged how scary and bad his situation was, he also had the awareness to realize that his situation could have been far worse — his treatment in prison could have been harsher (fellow prisoners never messed with him, knowing his case was mostly affected by corruption), or he could have gotten a death penalty. 

He was even grateful in that his imprisonment was better than his struggles with alcoholism, saying that he could likely survive imprisonment, but not another bout of drinking heavily again. 

And most importantly, this was an opportunity for him to practice being an honorable person. Given that he couldn’t remember the details of the tragedy, he could have chosen to manipulate the situation. Instead, he chose to be as honest as possible, even preparing to take responsibility if he were found guilty of manslaughter.

As he said, “I decided that if I’m going to face myself in the mirror and call myself a good man — an accountable man — I’m going to do my best to provide these people with these answers.”

Randy was eventually released from prison on bail (after the amount was unreasonably and suddenly doubled), and he promised to return to Prague to sit for his trial. In that time, he toured with Lamb of God to pay for other legal fees.

The thing is though, it was possible for him to liberate himself from the whole ordeal by never setting foot in the Czech Republic again. Yet, he stayed true to his promise, and sat for trial after the tour, despite his lawyers advising otherwise.

As he gave his testimony, he explained that he is near-sighted. Often performing without his glasses, he couldn’t clearly see anyone else onstage. And due to the lack of security, and the stage being very small, fans were easily trespassing onstage and interrupting Randy’s singing. 

One fan in particular, kept rushing onto the stage despite being repeatedly pushed away, eventually getting to a point where Randy became very annoyed. Thinking that Nosek was that same fan, Randy firmly shoved him offstage when Nosek rushed towards him.

While the band would make sure that no one in the crowd was hurt, they had no knowledge of Nosek’s coma and death until the band returned to Prague two years later to play another show. That was when they were surrounded in the airport by police officers with machine guns, singling out and handcuffing Randy in particular. 

Ultimately, Randy was ruled not guilty. While the court believed that Randy was to be held morally responsible for the fan’s death, the blame was mostly on the venue’s weak security measures. 

Not a day has passed without Randy thinking about the entire tragedy. And he has since become a strong advocate for safer shows. In Randy’s view, the tragedy was bound to happen, if not in his show, then elsewhere. 

Plus, it’s hardly the first time that a tragedy such as this happened in a show. Just a few years prior, another well-known musician, Dimebag Darrell, was murdered onstage by a deranged fan. In Randy’s case, he is fortunate to be in an able position to share his story.

Of course, you don’t have to be dealing with as serious of a situation as accidentally murdering another person and doing time in prison for you to practice the knowledge that you have.

Even in the smallest moments, there is the chance to put into action whatever nugget of knowledge and wisdom that you see fit.  

Knowledge is power, after all — but only if you make something out of it. 

This is your training ground. 


  1. What a lovely piece.

    This is the issue with self-help, I feel—or even the internet in general. I’ve noticed this myself. I like to hoard information. It’s as if that next article on ‘how to increase writing output’ will benefit me somehow. The thing is, the smallest tips put into practice are much better than the top-secret-magic-formulas that I’ll never use.

    Thanks for teaching me something new too, especially about Randy’s story!


    1. Izzat Zailan says:

      Yep, I second that! I often find that it’s the simple things put into practice, that make a huge difference. I guess it ultimately boils down to ourselves, in how proactive we are in actually practicing the things we learn.

      Thanks for dropping by, Stuart! 🙂


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