Be like water

A man should be like water

No – I haven’t joined a hippy commune and gone all New Age on you. But…a man should be like water? Bear with me….

Once when I was in Milan, me and the boys went to a restaurant in the Navigli District. The Naviglio Grande canal runs through the area and there is also a large pool of stagnant water.

Stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other nasties and without exaggeration, I was almost literally eaten alive. Literally. On the plus side, the food was great and I washed it down with several beers which numbed the pain. But when I woke in the morning, I looked like I was wearing the ‘King of the Mountains’ Tour de France jersey.

Because stagnant water doesn’t move anywhere, it can become an environmental hazard, harbouring malaria and harmful bacteria. It’s also often contaminated with animal and human faeces.

I live in London. The River Thames runs through it. And there are no mosquitoes. I can’t guarantee there’s no bacteria, dead bodies or pieces of shit in there, but cases of malaria in London are few and far between.

Be like water

Bear with my brothers, this is going somewhere…..

Humans are made up of about 60% water. That means we are predominantly H2O. So a good old water analogy on how to be a man seems like a good way to spend some time.

Bruce Lee once famously advised us to ‘be like water’, saying:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

Water can do all these things. It fills any container – man-made or natural. Yes it can drip and it can crash. But it can also remain in one place and become stagnant.

For us men intent on becoming the best we can be what does this mean? It means we have to think of ourselves as rivers and carry out our lives with the same kind of purpose.

A river can cut through rock: Think of the Grand Canyon – it’s only there today because of the Colorado River. Over millions of years, it has sliced right through the American landscape and left us with one of the most amazing natural phenomenon in the world. Given enough time and persistence, a river can leave a huge impression on the world. And so can you – but you have to keep moving…and keep moving forward

A river always moves forward: By the laws of nature, a river can never run backwards. It flows downhill and never passes the same point twice. Water that flows in that river can never return to its source. So it should be with you – we can’t go back in time and change things. Dwelling on the past and wishing it back is not the way. We move forward. There are times when the flow of the river slows right down and we have the chance to reflect on things and smell the roses. We reflect, but we are still moving forward…with a purpose.

A river has purpose: A river begins life as a trickle of water high up in a mountain somewhere. Pure and fresh. It becomes a stream before becoming a full-on river. It goes through many twists and turns; flows violently and fast; flows gently and slow – and eventually makes its way to the ocean where it joins all other rivers. That is its purpose. Live your life with purpose too. Identify what’s important to you and always move towards it. There will be blockages and diversions on the way but just like a river, you keep going. And you WILL get to where you need to be. Stagnant water can’t do this because it doesn’t go anywhere. Water in canals can’t do this because it has been harnessed and told where to go and when

A canal is not a river: Because Milan has no natural rivers running through it, city officials have been building canals there for almost 1000 years to serve the purposes of the city – irrigation and transportation of goods. The water in those canals is controlled to serve the purposes of those in power. Don’t live your life like water in a canal being told which direction to flow and when to flow and why. Move towards your own purpose and always strive to move towards new experiences that serve your purposes.

Be like water my friend, but….

…don’t be a canal serving a purpose that is not yours

…don’t end up a stagnant pool of water going nowhere and filled full of shit, bacteria and sickness

Be a river – find your purpose and move your life towards that purpose. If there are any obstacles in the way you find a way through or around them

A man is a river

Be like water, live like a river

In nature, rivers inevitably flow to the sea and their purpose. Living a life of Iron Qualities isn’t as straightforward or inevitable. First you need to find your goal – what do YOU want to get out of life. And when you figure it out, live a life of intention with everything flowing towards that end goal.

It’s not easy – there are distractions and many things that will throw you off track. It’s a world of convenience, fast food, deadlines, long working hours, corporate mass media telling you what to think/feel/do. Using the water analogy – if you’re not careful you can end up becoming a stagnant pool (without purpose) or a canal (serving someone else’s purpose).

 

Procrastination and distraction are common traps to fall into. Take control.

Live with intention. Live with discipline. Live with purpose. Live with focus. Live with patience. Be like water, live like a river.

 

How about a kick-ass song about a river to end? Ok then, Bo will oblige.

Mr Miyagi: A Man of Iron Qualities

Miyagi. The name that strikes fear into the hearts of Cobra Kai everywhere

Mr Miyagi

Before I go any further – if you haven’t seen any of the original Karate Kid movies

a) shame on you

b) spoiler alert

The Karate Kid movie franchise is awesome. Well, the first movie anyway. Looking back with hindsight – Karate Kid 2 & 3 are actually pretty ass. And ‘The Next Karate Kid’ with Hilary Swank…..no.

The basic premise is the old tale of the outsider / underdog rising up to beat the odds. Very feel good…all very nice. But what elevated the original movie from good to awesome and made the sequels passable was the character of Mr Miyagi.

 

Mr Miyagi is – in all senses of the word – the man

If you are of a certain vintage, you probably grew up with his lessons on life and karate. He is wise, funny, self-reliant and indestructible in pretty much any hand-to-hand combat situation.

He is also one of the most patient characters in cinema history. Put yourself in his shoes. Would you have the patience to deal with that whiny turd Daniel LaRusso? Me neither. Think about it:

  • Miyagi was enjoying a quiet life as a building maintenance man. Daniel and his mum move in and the first thing he does is break the water faucet in the apartment before barging into Miyagi’s office area with a bad attitude and a demand to fix the leak
  • He then gets Miyagi involved in his playground war with the Cobra Kai lads. Miyagi skilfully negotiates a truce for Daniel and tries to teach him some karate, only to be met with more attitude. Despite this, Daniel somehow manages to win the All-Valley Karate Championship and Miyagi thinks it’s job done. He can go back to his maintenance man ways and get on with his life in peace.
  • But no. Daniel reappears a few months later, angry and whiny having broken the car Miyagi gave him as a gift, broken up with his girlfriend and complaining that he has to move to Fresno where his mother got a job.
  • Miyagi, being a man of action, quickly fixes the car, calms the boy down and provides him accommodation for the summer
  • But when he gets word that his father is dying back in Japan he makes plans to spend a few final quality moments with Miyagi Sr. before he takes The Long Journey. And like a bad smell that just won’t go away, Daniel San turns up at the airport, uninvited, and tags along.
  • During what is an emotionally difficult time for Miyagi, Daniel causes untold chaos in Okinawa. Chaos that Miyagi once again has to set right – all the while mourning his recently deceased father, trying to woo his former honey and make amends with his childhood friend.
  • And finally – when the pair return to America, Miyagi decides it’s time to realise his dream and open his own bonsai store. Once again, Daniel’s meddling ways almost destroy this dream when he antagonises Mike Barnes and his cronies who then smash the store up multiple times. So when Daniel once again gets in way over his head with Barnes, Terry Silver and John Kreese, Miyagi finally has enough and takes matters into his own hands once again by beating the bejesus out of the trio before training Daniel once again to win the All-Valley Karate Tournament

 

And it all started with a leaky faucet…..

Miyagi was in the right place at the right time to help Daniel. Help him in every aspect of his life. He is the father figure that is missing from Daniel’s life and acts as a perfect counterpoint to his mother – offering help and advice on life in a non-judgemental way, fulfiling a crucial role of passing on the most important life lessons to the boy.

Granted – at the climax of ‘Karate Kid 3’ Daniel is still a rash and moany snot, but I can’t help feeling his life would have been in a much worse place had he never met the man from Okinawa.

Miyagi is the perfect mentor figure – he has all the characteristics of a man who lives a life of the Iron Qualities and demonstrates composure, self-reliance and how to live life by a code.

And he introduced the world to the crane kick – which has since proven effective in real life, with UFC fighter Lyoto Machida using it to dispatch UFC legend Randy Couture, proving Miyagi right: “When done right, no can defense.”

 

So Miyagi has earned his spot as a Man of the Month. But what is it exactly that means he is a man of the Iron Qualities? Check it:

“Never put passion in front of principle, even if you win, you’ll lose”

Miyagi has a clearly defined set of rules that govern how he lives his life. And he sticks to these. Through his teachings to Daniel, we understand what it is that drives Miyagi and what is important to him.

What he’s also saying here is that letting emotions get in the way of your principles is not a good thing. Just look at any one of Daniel’s many emotional outbursts throughout the series to see this in action. Having a temper tantrum like a child is not the Iron Qualities way.

 

“Here are the 2 Rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule Number 1: ‘Karate for defence only.’ Rule Number 2: ‘First learn rule number 1.’”

Following on from the previous point – Miyagi is telling Daniel that there are rules to using karate like a true man. The rules have evolved over time through the experiences of many men throughout history.

He is also telling Daniel that picking fights and bullying people because you know the crane kick or the drum technique is not the way. But if someone starts some shit with you, that’s when you neutralise the enemy – much like Miyagi does in every fight scene in which he’s involved. I mean…the man beat the shit out of Cobra Kai badass John Kreese without even touching him. Damn.

 

“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” ” [makes squish gesture]

Be decisive. When the time comes to take action, take action. Don’t hesitate.

Have an opinion. Take a stand. And be prepared to defend that position.

 

“It’s ok to lose to opponent. It’s never okay to lose to fear”

Sometimes in life, you find yourself in a pickle. How you react in that situation is what makes you a man. Acting in the right way despite being afraid is what separates the men from the boys.

Miyagi is faced with several daunting prospects throughout the movies. Each time, he shows composure and takes decisive action. Like a boss.

 

“Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better”

Miyagi essentially teaches Daniel how to be a man through the medium of martial arts. Here he is telling him that a man should focus on all aspects of his life and seek improvement in each of those areas. It’s no good being an Olympic karate champion if you have no friends, can’t talk to a honey and have no knowledge of great literature and art.

 

“Daniel San… you too much by self… not good. To make honey, young bee need young flower… not old prune”

Miyagi is specifically talking about Daniel spending time with his woman – but he is also saying that if you want to become a better man, you need to put yourself in the best environment to make that possible. And that includes surrounding yourself with the right people.

I do find this one kind of ironic as Miyagi appears to have no other friends in America apart from Daniel…

 

“First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule Daniel San, not mine”

Everything in its own time. Patience and composure. The journey to being a man of Iron Qualities is just that – a journey. And it never ends. Enjoy taking the next step in that journey today, and don’t worry about the steps to come until that time comes.

 

“Always look eye”

I’ll end with this one. And I’ll let the video do all the talking. This is the big reveal from the first movie, where we find out what “wax on, wax off” really means.

As usual, Daniel is being a whiny brat. But where Daniel sees a problem, Miyagi sees an opportunity.

And count how many times Miyagi refers to eye contact. Always look eye, men.

 

 

 

 

Walk slower, talk slower

Composure – one of the key ingredients of a life well lived. What does a man of composure look like? He walks slower. What does a man of composure sound like? He talks slower. Walk slower, talk slower.

Modern life moves fast. You’ve got to take control of that bad boy with purpose. Like a river current, it will sweep you away if you let it and smash you against the rocks and it’s over and out.

Consciously taking steps to keep your composure in a world that finds ever more creative ways to steal it away is crucial in the journey to becoming a man of Iron Qualities.

And yes – two small little tiny wee things you can do to aid this process: walk slower, talk slower

 

Walk slower talk slower

 

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But let’s think about it – a man of Iron Qualities is cool, calm and collected in all circumstances. Never flustered, never awkward. He takes things in his stride, knowing what he can control and what he can’t. He understands the futility of hurrying through life and lives life at HIS pace.

You can hear a man of Iron Qualities coming; he has a deliberate, steady, confident step.

Think about history’s great men. Do you think they power-walked and rushed their way through life? Doubtful.

Taking the edge off your walking pace and slowing it down a little gives you extra reaction time and lets you adjust to external circumstance in a much more controlled way.

Don’t be that guy who is always walking with an impatient hurry – almost bumping into people and doing that awkward, silent dance we do with strangers we are about to walk into on the street. Dancing this way and that as we try to avoid each other.

When you’re late – how much faster will power-walking like a maniac get you there?? A minute…maybe two. And when you do arrive at your destination, you’ll be a hot sweaty mess.

 

A Confident step

 

You cannot conquer time

A man with Iron Qualities will take the steps necessary to make sure he is on time. And if the fates conspire against him, so be it. Walking a little faster won’t change that.

Here’s something to try: Take an inch of your step – slow it down a little. Make a conscious effort to go around 80% of your normal walking speed. It makes a difference.

It’s like my man Lao Tzu always used to say – “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

And I know this for a fact – when Lao Tzu said these words thousands of years ago, he said them in a slow and unhurried manner.

That’s right – Lao Lzu had the Iron Qualities.

Speaking too fast is a sign of nervousness and lack of confidence. It’s like you want to say what you need to say as quickly as possible because you don’t want to take up any more of the listeners’ time than is absolutely necessary.

Because you’re nice and harmless. Too nice

Speaking too fast and in a way that lacks confidence also has an effect on how you speak. A lack of pauses means that you are not taking in enough air and your speaking volume and clarity suffer as a result.

And when you rush through your words, your mouth can struggle to keep up with your mind and you end up dropping letters here and there and saying a lot of “umms” and “ahhs” to buy thinking time.

All of these issues become more highlighted if you are in a job that requires you to speak in front of a large audience or group of people

Speaking like this…it’s like a vicious cycle. You speak fast because you lack confidence. The people you are speaking to pick up on this and you can see and feel their lack of interest/boredom when you’re talking to them. So you become even less confident. And so the cycle continues.

But remember – you are a man of Iron Qualities. Everything you say is important and your time is just as valuable as that of your audience.

Just like walking, you should also aim to speak in a cool, calm and collected way

There IS no rush. Just like walking fast will get you to your destination maybe 30 seconds faster, so talking fast will deliver your message a few seconds quicker.

It’s only a matter of seconds. And taking those extra seconds to speak can make all the difference.

If this is something you’ve struggled with previously it can be tricky to fix, but there are some tips that can aid the process:

Consciously think about annunciating every part of every word when you speak. Doing this will slow down your rate of speech probably at least 10%

Check out some actors who are great speakers. Two great examples are Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones.

Jones has one of the most recognisable voices in cinematic history and actually had a bad stutter as a child. And that stuttering chid went on to become Darth Vader.

I’m also a big fan of Daniel Day Lewis. And listening to him in interviews – indeed all these guys – they are not afraid of pauses and silence when they are telling their stories – and they very rarely use those filler words like “umm”.

So next time you feel an “umm” coming on when you speak, pause instead. And because you’ll be annunciating and consciously slowing down your speaking rate, you’ll have plenty more time to feel an “umm” coming on and so you’ll easily be able to swat it away.

Composure is the key.