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.

Dead Poet’s Society: How to seize the day like a man


I was catching up with Mike Black the other day and we got talking about Dead Poet’s Society as he’d just watched it again.

“Dead Poet’s Society – the Iron Qualities are strong in that movie.” he told me

And you know what? He’s absolutely right. It’s sums up perfectly the battle we must fight to become better men and the obstacles we face in this journey.

Seize the day like a man

Oh Captain, my Captain

Robin Williams’ character John Keating IS the Iron Qualities. Keating is an English teacher at a fancy all-boys boarding school who finds out his class has been learning to rate the merits of poetry based on a points system.

Unhappy with this approach, he stirs things up with unorthodox teaching methods that the big-wigs at the school don’t approve of; teaching methods that encourage the boys in his class to realise their potential and discovering their true purpose in life – telling them to “make your lives extraordinary.”

Maybe you were lucky enough to have a Mr Keating in your life – but I’m guessing most of us didn’t. He’s the mentor we all wish we had at that age.

 

Don’t be a lemming

When he looks at the boys in his class he doesn’t see a bunch of drones to be prepped to serve their purpose in the Big Machine as doctors, lawyers and businessmen. He sees their potential, their confusion, and the fact that they are slipping slowly into the abyss of conformity, never to realise their dreams.

He encourages them to express themselves without inhibition rather than live the life of a lemming (I think he even uses that word at some point in the movie). This is best illustrated through Ethan Hawke’s character who starts the movie as a shy, spineless follower who fails to step up to several of Keating’s challenges before literally taking a stand for the man at the movie’s climax.

 

Always move forward

 

Man vs Machine

And so it is with a life of the Iron Qualities – a life where you resolve to be the best you can be and fulfil your potential in a world that is trying to make you fit another purpose. It’s not easy and it’s not comfortable. You will have setbacks and sometimes you will fall.

The setbacks don’t matter – it’s how you respond, how you learn from them and how you move forward.

You might find yourself in difficult circumstances where your principles and actions are at odds with an element of the Big Machine – just like the boys in Dead Poet’s Society. They each respond to those challenges in different ways – some right…some wrong. It had tragic consequences for some but in the end, the boys stuck to the principles Keating had instilled in them and took a stand against the powers that be.

 

Carpe Diem

The ‘Carpe Diem’ scene is one of the movie’s most well-known moments. Keating shows the boys some old photos of former pupils who are now dead and gets one of the student to read a poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying

The point he makes to the class is that when you’re young, you feel invincible and that you can do anything you want. But we are only on this earth for a short amount of time. One day you look in the mirror and see a young boy with a few pimples here and there. Tomorrow you look at that same mirror and see an old man.

Keating tells the boys to ‘seize the day’ – and this is advice we should all follow. Do what you can NOW to become your best. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t wait for conditions to be just right. Don’t wait for permission. Start the journey towards the Iron Qualities TODAY. Carpe Diem

When the time comes for that old man to look back at you in that mirror, make sure you can tell him that you did absolutely everything you could to be the best you could be so that the only reply he can give you is “I know. It’s been a great life.”

 

Become the best you can be today

 

Steps in the right direction

Don’t be put off by setbacks. Don’t be discouraged by failures. Don’t be disappointed in a lack of visible gain. Any step you take in the right direction, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction.

And how do you know what the right direction is? Reading any article written by Bo Ideal is a good start. Another positive move would be finding a John Keating of your own. The importance of mentors can’t be underestimated and identifying someone who has been there and done that and is willing to share their advice and experience is a powerful move.

And if you have a gift to share with the world, share it. Pass on the skills and  knowledge that you have learned that make you a better man. Share the Iron Qualities.

Either be a John Keating – or find one.

 

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse”
Walt Whitman

 

5 causes of approach anxiety and what you can do about it

 

Approach Anxiety vs skydiving

Approach anxiety is the fear of approaching and talking to women. It’s a common problem amongst men and something many suffer with.

In fact, Bo was talking to Vegas Pete recently and we got onto the topic of honeys – specifically, approaching a woman and talking to her.

Vegas Pete revealed that he would rather go skydiving than approach a woman with model looks in a bar. Now let’s think about that for a second. Let’s let it sink in…he would rather jump out of a moving plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being.

Seems a little strange, right?

But I can understand where he’s coming from. This is approach anxiety. And fortunately, it’s something that can be fixed. Another fear….another development opportunity.

But let’s go back to what Vegas Pete said…

He would rather jump out of a plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being

 

Approach Anxiety - The Iron Qualities

 

Why do men get this fear? There’s a number of reasons

1 – Being too nice: ‘Nice’ here means that you don’t want to bother a woman or intrude on her personal space. You don’t want to show sexual interest or attraction to her because it’s ‘wrong’ or too forward. And you see yourself as this ‘nice’ guy and compare yourself negatively to men you see in movies or read about in books who DO get women. They are nothing like you and therefore you think you will fail before you begin

2- The Halo Effect: You see a smoking hot honey. I mean, she is out of this world. Wow. She must have many other amazing qualities too – she’s probably intelligent, kind, funny, warm and witty. She’s perfect. You’ve only got one shot at this. If you approach her without being prepared, you’re going to screw it up and lose your only chance with the woman of your dreams. So why even bother?

3 – She is higher value than you: Following on from the previous point, because this woman is essentially perfect, she is better than you. I mean let’s face it – you are not attractive, not interesting, not confident and you have so many problems in your life. This woman is used to strong, successful and confident guys who have their shit together and this is not you

4 – What to say what to say….. : You’ve decided to take the plunge. You’re going to go up to this woman and talk to her. Oh wait….talk?! What are you going to say??? You need to have a repertoire of smooth lines ready to go in order to amaze this women with your wit and banter. Right now, you can’t think of one damn word to say to her. Maybe ‘hello’ …. but then what? You’ll be standing there like a dickhead, freeze and end up looking like a socially maladjusted freak. She’ll probably pepper spray you in the face just to get rid of you

5 – Pride: You’re approaching an attractive woman in a public place and potentially within earshot of numerous people. No doubt other guys in the place have been thinking the same and if you approach, all eyes are on you. Women don’t want to be annoyed. What if she rejects you and makes a big scene. She might slap you in the face or throw her drink all over you if you try to say hi. And in front of everyone. Horrible

 

These are the kind of stories many of us tell ourselves in our heads and some of the reasons for social paralysis when it comes to wooing the honeys

We have these delimiting beliefs that we are not worthy; women don’t want to be bothered; showing sexual attraction is wrong and so on. So what happens? We end up sitting on the sidelines and being passive observers. That old sickness spectatoritis popping up again.

And this can produce a vicious cycle of debilitating behaviour. If you want to approach a woman and don’t, you are denying your instinct. You have failed to act when you felt you should. That’s why it feels shit. You have not acted authentically and so the next time this happens, you remember the previous failure, feel even more inferior and fail to act again. And so the cycle continues.

 

The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself

Ok, enough of that crap. We’re telling ourselves all these negative stories in our heads BEFORE we’ve even said a word to her. It’s like my good friend  Mike Black always says:

“The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself. Getting punched isn’t actually that bad.”

 

And so it is with approaching women. And the good news is now that you’re versed in the principles of The Iron Qualities, you know that talking to a honey ain’t no thing.

 

Problem vs opportunity

Let’s have a look at those reasons for approach anxiety again:

1 – Being too nice: No. Nice is not where you want to be. Nice is passive. Nice is limiting. Nice is timid. Don’t be nice. If you want something, go get it. Women want men who know what they want and know how to get it. Approaching a woman in a non-creepy and confident way is infinitely more attractive to her than staring at her longingly from a distance and cry-wanking about how sexually frustrated you are when you get home all alone.

2- The Halo Effect: Ok. Here’s a truth – there is no woman on this earth who is perfect. Chances are, this woman has none of the traits you applied to her in your mind. The more you talk to women the more you realise that they are flawed humans just like you and I. But of course there’s only one way to find out….

3 – She is higher value than you: You are a man of Iron Qualities now. You are dedicated to becoming the best you can be. That negative mindset is gone – it’s in the past. You are a positive, confident and resourceful man who has his own shit going on. An attractive honey would be a welcome addition in this fantastic life you’ve got going on, but she needs to prove to you that she is worth it.

4 – What to say what to say….. : Over-thinking things can get you in all sorts of trouble. You don’t need any special chatup lines – just go up to her and say hi and have a normal conversation. Think back – how many times have you had a random conversation with a stranger. Was it weird? Did you freeze up? No. And just by walking up and saying hi, you’re already the exception rather than the rule – 90% of the guys in the place are too afraid to even get this far

5 – Pride: Being rejected in these situations is not something you should be concerned about. This woman doesn’t know you and there are countless reasons why she is not interested – most of them outside your sphere of influence. Most people are pretty well socially adjusted so don’t fear being called out and shot down in a blaze of glory. IF IF IF you do get rejected, it will probably be politely and with a smile. If it’s not and you get a slap or a pint over the head (assuming you’ve been respectful and non-creepy), this isn’t the kind of person you want to get to know anyway.

 

Steps to victory

Now I know that all the theory and logic in the word doesn’t mean a thing when the slimy tentacles of a phobia are wrapped tightly around your throat. So now that we’ve debunked all those nasty and horrible fears, here’s some practical and easy steps you can take today to start the journey towards silver-tongued goodness

1 – Become the best version of yourself: This is always priority #1. It trumps everything. Honeys should never be the primary focus of your life. Taking the right steps to becoming a better man will make you positive, cool, fun and driven. Yes, that’s right – HIGH VALUE.

2 – Talk to more people in everyday situations: Make it a goal to enhance any functional conversation you have during a typical day by asking a few more questions.

  • Buying lunch at the canteen? Ask the cooks which meal is the best option today
  • Getting a new pair of shoes? Get an opinion on whether black or brown looks better on you
  • Walk past that same person everyday at work but never say a word? Today is the day you ask them how they’re doing

Easiest thing in the world. One extra question and you’re having a proper conversation. Rather than focussing on meeting and talking to attractive women, focus on being a more sociable person in all aspects of your day-to-day life. Doing this makes you a more positive and sociable person and will ultimately help you talk to women you find attractive.

3 – Don’t over think. Just act: You have no idea what she’s going to say when you approach. Stop imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong and pull the trigger. And when you do pull the trigger and you can’t think of anything to say, or you get a lukewarm response, try this one:

You: Hi

Honey: Hi

You: How’s your evening going?

Honey: It’s going ok…

You: Ok cool. I just thought I’d come over and say hi. What’s your name?

Honey: Honey

You: Alright Honey. I’m Bo. You have a good night and if we bump into each other again later, we’re doing shots

And there you go. Honey wasn’t interested but:

a) you had a conversation with her

b) You’ve gained experience approaching an woman

c) You now have a legitimate reason to re-engage later in the evening for those shots

Things won’t happen if you wait for them – you have to make them happen. The more you put yourself out there, the more of a roller-coaster it will be. But remember: you’re just talking to another person. That’s all it is.

 

Talking the Iron Qualities

Taking all this into consideration, let’s do a good old fashioned compare and contrast. Picture the scene – you are in a coffee shop buying a…wait for it…coffee. The barista is an attractive lady:

Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?

You: Can I have a medium vanilla spiced soya latte please

Barista: Sure. One moment please

(one moment later)

Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please

(you had over the money)

You: There you go. Have a nice day

Barista: Thanks, you too

 

Ok. Not bad. You spoke to an attractive lady, got your coffee and survived without any permanent damage. If we were ticking off a checklist, that’s a fairly successful operation.

But life isn’t about checklists. Let’s inject some Iron Qualities into the same scene and see what happens:

Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?

(looking at her name badge)

You: Hi Honey. Can I have a black coffee. No milk. No Sugar.

Barista: Sure. One moment please

You: How are you doing today?

Barista: I’m doing good thanks. How about you.

You: Yeah pretty good. I just read a really interesting article on my favourite blog –  theironqualities.com

Barista: Oh really? I haven’t heard of it. What’s it about?

You: It’s a self-improvement blog for men. It has lots of useful tips

Barista: Sounds interesting! What kind of tips?

You: Well today my goal was to flirt with a pretty lady. I guess I can tick that box now….

Barista: Tee hee!! Oh you!

(coffee arrives)

Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please

(you had over the money)

You: There you go. You have a great day

Barista: Thanks, you too Mr Iron Qualities. Maybe see you again sometime

You: No doubt

 

I think that went ok, don’t you?

 

“Language was invented for one endeavour….to woo women”
Robin Williams – Dead Poet’s Society

 

Kurt Hahn: A Man of Iron Qualities

Men with the Iron Qualities are a little bit like a woman with both outstanding beauty and intelligence – they are out there and they exist, but coming across one is a rare and unexpected moment. It’s a little scary but also intriguing.

With that in mind, I want to highlight men – real or fictional – who have demonstrated some of the principles that define the Iron Qualities. Think of it like a slightly less sexy Playboy Playmate of the Month.

Kurt Hahn - The Iron Qualities

Kurt Hahn – An unexpected start

I had several men in mind to kick this off with – but there are lots of little coincidences in the world. I was thinking about this the other day, I read an excellent article about a man who ticked a lot of the Iron Qualities boxes – Kurt Hahn.

Hahn was born to Jewish parents in Germany in 1886 and suffered severe sunstroke as an 18 year old which resulted in the removal of the occipital bone at the back of his skull and required him to wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors for the rest of his life.

He worked several jobs before founding the Schule Schloss in Salem in 1920, a private boarding school where he also served as headmaster.

He became a fierce critic of the Nazi regime during Hitler’s rise to power – this was heightened by an incident where a young communist was killed by Nazi troops in front of his mother. Hahn spoke out against the murder, and then against Hitler and his regime itself.

This led to him spending several days in prison before an appeal by the British Prime Minister saw him released. He then moved to Scotland where he converted to Christianity and founded Gordonstoun – a boarding school in Scotland that shared similar principles to the school in Salem. Alumni include Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

He went on to found several other boarding schools around the world before returning to Germany, where he died in 1974.

 

Forming schools based on a philosophy

Ok, so what? A German school teacher who had an overdose of sunbathing as a child. Pretty bland. Where are the Iron Qualities??

Well much like our Autobot brothers from Cybertron, there is more than meets the eye here.

“There is more in you than you think” is an inscription found on Hahn’s family home – it became the motto of his life’s philosophy and also served as the motto for one of the educational institutions he went on to form. It sums the man up pretty well.

Hahn was all about “experiential learning” – putting kids in situations that were mentally and physically challenging. He believed children were inherently decent and had a strong moral sense but that these traits became corrupted by society as they got older.

His educational principles were designed to provide opportunities for personal leadership and for students to see the results of their own actions – the goal being to halt this corruption. And the principles were refined and crystalised into what became known as the ‘Seven Laws of Salem’ around 1930:

  1. Give the children opportunities for self-discovery
  2. Make the children meet with triumph and defeat
  3. Give the children the opportunity of self-effacement in the common cause
  4. Provide periods of silence
  5. Train the imagination
  6. Make games important but not predominant
  7. Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege

I love it. I mean, an educational philosophy with these principles at its core is much better and more practical than the learning by numbers approach we enjoy today to enable schools to meet government exam pass targets.

Hahn expanded on this and offered some more explanation on his educational principles:

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

Everything about this stinks of the Iron Qualities. These qualities should be central to a boy’s journey to becoming a man and with a huge chunk of a boy’s life spent educational institutions, weaving these principles into that routine is exactly what is needed.

 

Six Declines, four antidotes

Hahn also created a list of points that he felt summed up exactly how society fails and corrupts the young – the ‘Six Declines of Modern Youth’.

Decline of Fitness due to modern methods of locomotion (moving about)

Decline of Initiative and Enterprise due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis (a passive spectator rather than an active participant)

Decline of Memory and Imagination due to the confused restlessness of modern life

Decline of Skill and Care due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship

Decline of Self-discipline  due to the ever-present availability of stimulants and tranquilizers

Decline of Compassion due to the unseemly haste with which modern life is conducted

 

Bingo. This guy absolutely nailed it. This is why men of the Iron Qualities are so few and far between. Too many of us think:

  • It’s easier to lie on the sofa all weekend for a big sporting marathon of football, boxing, rugby and tennis rather than going to the gym and pumping some iron
  • It’s easier to watch and read about other people trying and failing something challenging (and then passing judgment on them) rather than trying ourselves
  • It’s easy to fall into the routine of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ rather than stopping to smell the roses now and then
  • It’s easier to buy disposable items and trash them rather than getting quality expensive pieces that last a lifetime
  • It’s easier to get wired on caffeine or something stronger to get you through the work week and then get wasted on a bottle of Buckfast at the weekend to forget how much you hate your job rather than having the discipline to take control of your life and take it where YOU want it to go
  • It’s easier to keep running to catch that train to get you to work rather than stopping to help that little old man who just tripped and fell over

 

Iron Qualities – old school style

It’s strange and sad that something written about boys almost 100 years ago still resonates today – and not just with boys but with men too. Hahn was industrious however and didn’t just stop with identifying these declines – he also proposed four remedies:

Fitness Training (e.g., to compete with one’s self in physical fitness; in so doing, train the discipline and determination of the mind through the body)

Expeditions (e.g., via sea or land, to engage in long, challenging endurance tasks)

Projects (e.g., involving crafts and manual skills)

Rescue Service (e.g., surf lifesaving, fire fighting, first aid)

These ‘remedies’ were built into the curriculum at Hahn’s schools and went on to form the basis of the Duke of Edinburgh Award –  designed to recognise young people’s achievements in a series of self-improvement exercises.

Old Bo here participated in the scheme when he was in high school. That particular adventure was short lived however – one of my teachers took a dislike to my expedition group and made our time in the scheme hell. On top of this, I was the only one of us who could even remotely read a map and knew what a compass a) was and b) looked like. All this meant that my Duke of Edinburgh adventure was like a fart in the wind – lingering briefly in my life before disappearing forever and becoming no more than a distant memory.

 

Start the day in the right way

At Gordonstoun, the boys rose at 06:30am for a cold shower and a run, the timetable for the day much like that in the German schools Hahn had earlier formed. At 21:15 there was a quarter of an hour of silence to enable the pupil to “glean the harvest from his manifold experiences” before lights out.

This is a tough way to start the day – but a fantastic way. There is plenty of material online and elsewhere about the many benefits of cold showers and a little 5km run in the morning does wonders. This is a routine I started trying to implement a several months ago. Waking up 45 minutes earlier than normal; do a little stretching; get some air in your lungs by banging out a 20-25 min run; then hop into a quick 2-3 minute cold shower to get the blood flowing.

It might sound crazy, but you feel like king of the world after this routine. Granted, it’s not always easy to motivate yourself to get up at 6am if it’s sub-zero temperatures pissing rain and darker than a black steer’s tookus. But creating a habit of positive action and doing it more often than not is a battle everyone can win.

And while you are up and about working to improve yourself and become the best you can be, 90% of the population are still in bed snoring.

 

Hahn was the man

While Hahn may not have physically resembled what we typically think an Alpha Male looks like, he dedicated his life to a philosophy that all men should pay serious attention to. The emphasis on practical physical activities rather than over-reliance on theoretical learning provided a fantastic foundation for children at his schools to go on and live a life of Iron Qualities.

The principles that he engrained in his schools showed that Hahn understood how men should live their lives and realise their potential – and he created and refined a curriculum and learning methods to facilitate this.

Ask yourself the question: Would you rather finish school with the skills to:

  • Prepare you for an exciting career in banking or
  • Become a self-reliant and driven man (who also has some quality numeracy skills as and when required)?

 

Self-reliance, compassion, discipline, drive/determination – these are the qualities Hahn wanted us to cultivate and these qualities are central to a life well-lived for men. For the majority of us, our schooldays are over, but it’s never too late to learn.

I’m glad I discovered Kurt Hahn and his philosophy on education. As I was reading about his life, a thought kept going through my head:

“It’s like this guy had an internal magnet that pointed him in the direction of the Iron Qualities”

And it’s for that reason he absolutely deserves his place as a Mon of the Month.

Remember the Hahn family motto – “There is more in you than you think”

This is true for all of us. Don’t settle for an easy auto-pilot life of mediocrity – take control and make yourself the best person your can be. You might surprise yourself.

Now…I’m off to dust off the De Lorean, travel back in time and give that Duke of Edinburgh Award another shot.

1.21 gigawatts!!

 

Rugby vs Football – what men can learn from these sports

A few weeks ago saw the conclusion of rugby’s 2016 6 Nations Championship and once again we were treated to five rounds of intense and physical confrontations over 6 weeks.

It’s one of the few times in the year when football has to take a back seat to another sport – at least this is the case in the UK. During the final weekend, I was in a bar watching the Ireland vs Scotland game with my old friend Arthur Guinness.

The bar has several screens and all of them were showing the rugby. All bar one – a smaller screen in a corner that was showing the Swansea vs Aston Villa game.

And watching these two sports side by side with the Guinness oiling the cogs in my head got me thinking. It wasn’t a question of which sport was better, but where the Iron Qualities were.

Growing up, football was a central part of my childhood. It was Magnetic North and I was a compass. I never had a choice, it would always attract me.

Football vs rugby

Little Bo used to play jumpers for goalposts late into the evening. In the summer when there was still some natural light well past 10pm, we would play first to 50 goals and go home covered in grass stains and mud.

Rugby was something that was always in my peripheral vision, never quite getting to the centre stage. A little like a recurring extra in a soap opera with a non-speaking part.

My school tried to force it on us for a period and I even made the school team. But we were beyond shit; we got smashed every time we played, I didn’t understand the rules and the whole experience was lost on me.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the merits of rugby more and more. And watching these two sports side I got thinking about the old arguments rugby folk tend to bring up when comparing their chosen sport to football

Feigning injury

Footballers falling over at the slightest nudge; writhing dramatically in apparent agony when someone goes in hard on them with a good, solid tackle; or worse – going down when nobody touches them. There is a growing sickness in football.

Laurent Blanc – a former France international – knows all too well about this sickness. He earned a suspension and missed the 1998 World Cup final after Croatia’s Slavan Bilic appeared to overreact when Blanc made contact with him

Four years later at the 2002 World Cup, Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal was sent off for kicking the ball at Rivaldo, only to see the Brazilian go down like he’d taken a shot from Rocky Balboa.

It’s cheating – pure and simple. An attempt to con the referee into thinking you have been seriously fouled.

On the flip side of this coin in the rugby world, there is the famous story of former New Zealand captain Buck Shelford. He made his debut for the All Blacks in a test series against France. In his second game, the French decided to give him a hearty bienvenue to international rugby by:

  • Knocking him out with a flying headbutt
  • Performing some emergency dental work with a swift boot to the face, removing three teeth
  • Doing the Moonwalk on his groin area while he was grounded, ripping his ballsack which then had to be stitched up

No – I haven’t been drinking that Peruvian hallucination tea, this is all true. All these things happened to one man in one game, although I’m not sure about the Moonwalk part – it might have been MC Hammer dance.

Stop….Hammer time.

Records show that Shelford continued the game. But don’t ask the man himself – his memory of the event is a little hazy.

In the history of rugby, this isn’t an isolated incident. The game doesn’t generally stop for injuries and it’s common to see physios on the field of play patching guys up. So if you go down injured, you’re hurting your team’s chances too.

It’s a much more physical game than football and this spirit of putting your body on the line and pushing through the pain barrier is entrenched in players’ psyches.

 

Fighting and confrontations

I remember seeing clips of old football games from the 70s where players would go in hard on each other, square up and have the occasional boxing match. These things happen in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we lose our composure.

Today, we get players touching heads, one player moves his head towards the other player’s who then goes down in a heap.

The physicality from bygone days has been lost and we are now left with deception, exaggerated reactions to physical contact and some truly embarrassing attempts at self-defence.

The technical term for it in the game is ‘handbags’ and it’s literally ridiculous. Literally.

Rugby players on the other hand generally put up with a high level of physicality as part of the game but when things kick off, they really do KICK OFF. There is no overreactions or ‘handbags’, just good old fashioned fist-on-skull action.

The individual vs the team

Time and time again I’ve seen football players get substituted in a game and before they’ve even left the pitch, they are throwing a hissy fit. Shaking their head in disbelief and mumbling profanities to themselves, they trudge back to the bench, sit down and start throwing stuff around and looking grumpy.

I’ve seen behaviour like this before…from children at nursery school when they had a boo-boo or one of the other kids snatched their He-Man toy off them.

In rugby, players go off…and that’s it. In fact, because of the much higher number of subs allowed in the game, you barely notice players going off or coming on and players tend not to take it as a personal slight.

 

Abusing the officials

Picture the scene…Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Luis Suarez charges through on goal, gets into the penalty area, gets chopped down.

The ref blows his whistle, awards a penalty and gets surrounded by a bunch of hot and angry Madrid players getting right in his face telling him what a moron he is.

We say and do things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. But this kind of institutionalised abuse towards authority figures is bullying. Getting up close and personal and putting the ref under pressure to make decisions that are favourable towards your team.

And the ref – well he’s just a man, watching a game going at 100 miles per hour and having to make a decision in a split second.

Rugby has video replays to help officials with key decisions. The football powers that be have dragged their heels on video technology that would greatly help refs for years; and they will continue to do so for years to come.

In rugby – and indeed most other major sports, video technology promotes a level of trust and respect between players and officials. It’s accepted that the right decisions will be made and ref abuse is kept to a minimum.

Saying that, before video replays were introduced to rugby, any player who gave shit to a referee was either sent to the sin bin or sent off. No arguments. No hesitation. That level of ref respect is engrained in the sport and hasn’t been eroded…yet. It’s also not uncommon to hear “yes sir” when players speak to the ref. Respect, not bullying

 

Rugby & football on the Iron Qualities scale

Those are just a few of the things I was thinking about that day. And the question that kept coming back to my mind wasn’t “which sport is ‘better’?” – no, it was “where are the Iron Qualities in all this?”

And if we put the sports of rugby and football on the Iron Qualities scale, it looks like it would tip overwhelmingly in favour of the egg-chasers. If you took any of the behaviour so often seen on a football pitch these days and transferred it to real life, you would be in trouble.

 

  • Someone slaps you in the face and you go down claiming whiplash and suing. Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror at night knowing you had acted authentically?
  • You’re in a crowded bar and making your way back from the toilets, you bump into someone who accuses you of spilling their beer. He gets right in your face and diplomacy isn’t going to work. If you fight like a footballer, guess what….you’re getting knocked out
  • You get passed over for a promotion or replaced on a piece of work. You can either a) cry about it; b) accept it; c) figure out WHY it happened to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Which option demonstrates the Iron Qualities??????

But here’s the thing – I have grown up surrounded by football. It is sown into the fabric of our society. It’s the simplest thing: I kicked a £2 plastic ball against a wall when I was 9 years old and fell in love. Unconditionally. A ball and a wall – that’s all it takes.

 

Football at its best is art

The ability of teams to string quick accurate cutting passes together is a manifestation of sporting harmony – the combination of players on the same wavelength producing a pleasing effect.

Football and rugby both produce this effect but football tends to be more free-flowing.

Rugby is often dominated by team strategy and tactics. The coaching staff create blueprints for how they want their team to play and this is then drilled and practiced ad nauseum. Tackling in the sport brings momentum to a halt and allows both teams to get set for the next phase, which they will have drilled over and over again in training.

It is very much a team sport – with the strength of the pack being much more important than any one individual.

But football, more so than rugby, provides a canvas for the solo artist. One player can make – or break – a team. Or even the entire club.

One player has the potential at any time to completely turn a game on its head with a moment of genius or a massive cock-up.

One player playing at his peak and profoundly effecting a game is like an artist possessed and in the zone slashing his paintbrush across the canvas as he creates a masterpiece.

Growing up, I remember them all: Ronaldo, Scholes, Zidane, Laudrup, Pirlo, Bergkamp

I went to Milan once – a cathedral of football where you can still occasionally hear echoes of past greats like Meazza, Mazzola, Ronaldo, Maldini, Gullit and Van Basten.

Amongst its cobbled paths and alleyways it holds two marvels of human creation – The Duomo Cathedral and Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’.

If rugby is the team of men who built the Duomo, then football is The Last Supper.

The Duomo is a triumph of architectural design and construction teamwork – it has been rebuilt, reconstructed and enhanced many times over the years. Much like a rugby team on offence, progress is halted, attack is redirected in phases and as a team, there is eventual success.

The Last Supper is a fragile, multi-layered, fading symbol of one man transcending the limits of human imagination. On first appearance, it might appear underwhelming. The fact that is was painted on a thin wall and exposed to the elements of nature, it has deteriorated badly and very little of the original is left.

But the more you look, the more you see. This is one of the most beautiful creations in human history and shows what one man can do given the right motivation and conditions.

 

So…the Iron Qualities??

As a man, you keep trying to move forward and progress like a juggernaut. You will get tackled and taken down. Often, you will have to take a few steps back to make long-term gains. But when you get tackled, when you suffer an affront or when you get called out for doing something wrong, you take it – authentically and like a man. Move on. And keep moving forward.

And just like those footballing geniuses who shone for their teams, you nurture your ability to do something special, something different. You can be the difference-maker because you have the Iron Qualities.

And while you have the ability to shine yourself, you take responsibility for surrounding yourself with other men of the Iron Qualities and working together with them as a team to drive forward in that search for self-improvement and success as a man.

Neither football nor rugby are better than the other. They are both sports with their own individual merits. The secret in all this is to take the best qualities of both sports and apply them to your everyday life. Then you’re in Iron Qualities country.

 

 

 

Spectatoritis – Why men should do and not just watch

I have a friend who, let’s say, enjoys extravagance. He prefers style over substance. I’m not saying that in a negative way – that’s just how he does things.

He regularly goes to Vegas – probably averaging out 2-3 visits per year where he visits friends, goes to pool parties and indulges in a little gambling. Let’s call him Vegas Pete.

So Vegas Pete invites Bo Ideal to one of London’s finest casinos and Bo agrees to go. But…confession time: I am a terrible gambler. Recreational at best. I don’t have the time nor inclination to learn all the tricks and tactics and so for me, the old saying is true: The house always wins.

I am what they would call an ‘investor’ in Vegas.

spectatoritis

To offset this disability, Vegas Pete offers to play for both of us at the casino and we each pony up half the stake money for chips. He’s a little rash and impulsive, but generally knows the textbook decisions to make in most scenarios. So I agree and we head to the blackjack table.

To cut a long story short – after a roller-coaster start, Vegas Pete eventually starts bleeding chips steadily. I observe all this standing behind him while he is in his element.

And while I’m standing there drinking my beer, I look around me at all the people absorbed in their activities at each of the tables. And I have an epiphany:

Men don’t watch. Men do

It hit me suddenly. the words silently passed my lips and left a taste in my mouth. While Vegas Pete was in the throes of gambling death at the table, I was going through my own private hell, standing like a mannequin behind him – and this feeling of chosen passiveness hurt just as much as the new hole in my bank balance.

We soon lost all our money. Shit listen to me! “We…”. It wasn’t ‘we’ – it was Vegas Pete. He was the one who was playing. I just sat back like an anaesthetized patient waiting for the surgical removal of his balls to begin.

Yes, he lost. But at least he played. Ok, I had some financial skin in the game – but let’s put it another way – how is this situation any different to placing a bet on your favourite sports team?

Roosevelt quote on spectatoritis

 

WWMOTIQD?

Why did this feel wrong? When I instinctively feel something is not quite right, I think about what true men of Iron Qualities would do. Would they have given their friend money, depending on his skill and luck while they sat back and watched the scene unfold? Would they have actively chosen to put their fate in the hands of another when they were equally capable of taking action themselves?

No.

I mean think about it. Why go to a casino to just stand there watching someone else gamble??

So while Vegas Pete was mentally recovering from the hammering the house just gave him, I was sucking on my beer trying to put my feelings into words. I couldn’t quite do it just then but some time later I came across a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that summed it all up perfectly. And who better than the daddy of the Iron Qualities to distil this feeling. In 1910, during a speech in Paris, he said this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

“but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The actions of Vegas Pete lost me my money, but could I be angry or upset with him? No way. He was man enough to step into the arena and take the hits. He failed this time, but I have seen him win before and I am sure I will see him win again.

 

Get out of the stands and into the arena

Those ‘cold and timid souls’ who choose not to compete in life’s big arena have a sickness – and it’s the same one that came over me that evening: SPECTATORITIS.

SPECTATORITIS (n):  “Excessive indulgence in forms of amusement in which one is a passive spectator rather than an active participant”

It is so easy to be a spectator of life in the modern world. To watch rather than do. To be passive. To live vicariously. To be dependent on others for results. The numbers of ‘men in the arena’ are becoming fewer and fewer.

Rather than being creative, active or productive, the modern man gorges on pre-packaged pieces of passive amusement – box sets; back-to-back football matches live on TV; gigs; social media; and the list goes on.

 

Online dating – a symptom of spectatoritis

Think about online dating. It has its benefits but essentially, it involves you lying on your sofa with your face glued to your smartphone screen while the world is happening outside. Browsing a library of honeys and maybe even typing “hey what’s up?” now and again isn’t the same as physically walking up to a girl, saying “hey girl” and taking a shot.

Ok – she might shoot you down…maybe even completely blank you or laugh in your face. Or she might smile and say ‘hi’ back. A man armed with the Iron Qualities should be fine either way.

Point is, you could waste your life endlessly browsing online dating profiles and getting nowhere. You might even read one of these “create the perfect online dating profile” or “10 opening messages guaranteed to get a response” articles and still get nowhere. There is still something to be said for face to face communication.

Spectatoritis - don't watch, just do

There is a cure….

In this pre-packaged world, most things have been made convenient for us. As a result, you might find yourself with free time that our ancestors might net necessarily have had. It’s easy to be lazy and passive and end up catching a bad dose of spectatoritis rather than spending this time to hone and explore the skills required for a life of the Iron Qualities.

Be active. Be assertive. Be self-reliant. Be multi-faceted. Just…be. And DO!

I chose to put my faith in Vegas Pete and live that casino experience vicariously through him maybe because I wasn’t confident in my blackjack skills. But you know what – we need to step out of our comfort zones TO GROW. It can be uncomfortable and scary to try something, but you have to try.

The world is the arena that Roosevelt talks about. So go out there and get your face covered in dust, sweat and blood rather than reading an article on your smartphone about someone else doing it or watching a documentary about it on Netflix.

Don’t be the pale skinny kid who wastes his childhood sitting indoors playing Mario Kart and watching anime. Be the kid who climbs trees, plays football with his mates and teases girls – the kid who comes home with grass stains on his jeans and dirt all over his face.

Now, I need to go outside and take my medicine for this horrible disease….

 

The Iron Qualities Part 5: The work of the Iron Qualities must always be done

“We need the iron qualities that go with true manhood. We need the positive virtues of resolution, of courage, of indomitable will, of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done.”

 

This is the final part of the series of posts looking at the quote by Teddy Roosevelt where he talks about ‘The Iron Qualities’.

Once this post is finished, the journey to explore what the Iron Qualities are will be over, right?

 

The journey doesn’t end here

No – the journey towards true manhood never stops. Everything we do every day of our lives should be done with the goal of making ourselves better men – and with the principles of the Iron Qualities always in the back of our minds.

The work of the Iron Qualities MUST ALWAYS BE DONE

The Iron Qualities Must Always Be Done

It is not enough to read about the principles and be familiar with them

It’s not enough to say “ok – I am going to live a life filled with Iron Qualities”

It’s not enough to say “it’s too hard to be that kind of man. I am just an average guy and there’s nothing I can do to change that”

Nobody is born the finished product. Nobody is born as “Man: defined”. You might talk about men you have come across who are ‘naturals’ – everything they do seems so effortless.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘natural’. The difference with these guys is the stories they tell themselves in their heads and the actions they undertake every day.

  • They are positive – The stories they tell themselves are filled with positivity and affirmative messages
  • They are authentic – They have defined a code of virtues and their actions are governed by this code
  • They have resolve – These men do. Or do not. There is no try
  • They have courage – Doing (or not doing) will often be difficult, dangerous or painful. These men accept this fact and continue
  • They have an undefeatable spirit – They will not be beaten or subdued

That’s right – these men have the Iron Qualities and they are not half-assed about it. This is the secret to success – to be a man of Iron Qualities, there are things that MUST ALWAYS BE DONE. Every day of your life. There are no compromises, no shortcuts and the journey never ends.

  • It’s not optional
  • It’s not part-time
  • It’s not only words

It’s all day, every day action.

So let’s explore these final words a little more – “must always be done”

MUST – Of course…there is always a choice. The choice here is between being a man of Iron Qualities and being an average Joe. By definition most men will chose to be average and just coast along. How about you? Are you ready to be a the extreme right hand side of that bell curve?? If you are, there is only one way to get there…you MUST follow the path of Iron Qualities

Map to the Iron Qualities

You’re at the edge of the map lad…here there be Men

ALWAYS – The Iron Qualities is not a part-time thing. It’s not a fad diet and it’s not a New Years resolution that was made in a moment of crazed drunkeness at the staff Christmas party that dies before January’s end. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle that provides the fuel and the platform for us to reach and fulfil our potential and get the absolute maximum out of every second of every day. And the journey towards perfecting this lifestyle never stops. It goes on and on and on. Always

BE DONE – The Iron Qualities is about action. Getting shit done. Understanding what a man should do in life and how he should act and then doing those things and acting that way. There is no “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “I can’t do it” and “why should I do it?”. You should do it because you’re a man. Because you can do it. And you need to do it now. Action. Because there are too many hollow words in the world

 

In Conclusion….

So that’s it. The Iron Qualities in something a little larger than a nutshell.

When I first read this quote a while back, I thought it was interesting and it stuck with me. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that it captures and highlights most of the core aspects of what a modern man should aim towards.

It’s theoretical and abstract, yes. But the message is clear:

The Iron Qualities mindset drives action and fuels decision-making

And the message is as clear today as it was when Roosevelt first uttered the words – we NEED the Iron Qualities. Men who embody these qualities are becoming fewer and further between as the definition of what it means to be a man gets lost and corrupted.

But all is not lost – the fightback goes on. And in highlighting lifestyle choices and mindsets and everyday observations that I come across, I hope this site plays a part in that fightback.

But Bo Ideal is just one cog in a much larger machine. We all need the Iron Qualities – and the rough work that goes with this lifestyle must always be done.

So this is the part of the story where the group of kids find a treasure map and set off looking for that precious material, knowing they are going to get their asses handed to them on a plate by their parents when they don’t make it back for dinner.

Let’s get doing

 

The Iron Qualities Part 4: Why it is important for a man to face challenges head on

This is part 4 of a look at the Iron Qualities. That means Apollo Creed has just died, we have a freaky looking robot doing the chores around the house and we’re packing our bags to go to Russia and take on Ivan Drago in his own back yard. Training montage at the ready.

So far, we have seen what Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Iron Qualities’ quote can teach us in terms of living like a true man through:

And this time, I want to focus on the next part of the quote – ‘…to do without shrinking the rough work…’

This isn’t ‘shrinking’ like your weiner might do on a cold sharp winter’s day. And to avoid any doubt, I’m going to utilise that tried, tested and tired method of going back to the dictionary definition.

Shrink (verb): To draw back, as in retreat or avoidance

Reading that, you can probably tell where I’m going with this. But I like nothing better than rambling and being predictable, so I’m just going to keep writing ad nauseam.

Face challenges head on

Let’s face it – life has its moments where things go tits up. Shit does indeed happen. At points in your life, you will have to do some things that would definitely not make the list of ‘perfect day activities’. Examples include:

  • Getting your dog put down when cure is not an option
  • Having to let someone go if you ever find yourself in a managerial position
  • Breaking up with someone when you know it isn’t going to work out
  • Going through a career change – quitting your job and starting again from scratch

 

 

We call these things ‘necessary evils’ – things that we normally wouldn’t do because they go against our principles or dent our pride. These are the things Teddy labels ‘the rough work’. And sometimes, it can’t be avoided.

And when the rough work can’t be avoided, we need to face it head on, kick it in the balls without hesitation and dominate it.

 

Rip the plaster, don’t caress it

Remember when you were a little boy and you cut your knee and you put a plaster on it while it healed?

You know it has to come off…and you know it’s going to hurt. Poking at it and making half-assed attempts to remove it just isn’t going to cut it. Time is precious and you don’t want to spend an hour trying to convince that plaster to come off by itself

Grab that brute nice and firm and pull back with all your might. Pain…less than a second and mild at most. Plaster, now in the bin where it belongs. The rest of the day….all yours to continue putting into practice a life of the Iron Qualities.

These things have to be done. You know they do. Trying to avoid the issue won’t work – there is no amount of magic in the world that will make these things go away by themselves.

 

The coffee can wait

It’s the same in a working environment. You’ve got a list of things you need to get done today and one of them is not going to be nice at all. Shit is probably going to hit the fan.

So what do you do?? ‘Meh…I’ll do it after lunch’.

And lunch comes….and goes. ’I’ll just grab my 3pm coffee and sort it out after that.’

Before you know it, they day is over and you haven’t done anything.

No – you need to grab the bull by the horns, prepare yourself for the shitstorm and face it head on.

There are a few ways to handle these situations and I’m sure you’ve seen them all

There’s the guy who weasels out of doing anything at all – these men ‘delegate’ or apportion blame, saying things like “hey…it’s not my problem. Jim needs to sort this out.” These guys love nothing better than passing the buck and avoiding responsibility. They have a magical quality of being able to wriggle out of the rough work like a fish.

Then there is a procrastinator. He will keep putting the thing off and putting it off and will eventually do a half-assed job just to get it off his radar for a while. But he hasn’t actually sorted anything out. And sure enough – the half-assed job he did comes back to bite him and he is then left with an even bigger problem to face.

Or there is the man who says “Right…this isn’t going to be nice and I’m not looking forward to it. But it needs to be done and I am the man to do it. So let’s go.”

Which of these men has the Iron Qualities?? Man #3 wins every time. This is the man who realises the rough work must be done and does not shrink from it.

The rough work must always be done

Sometimes, they have to stay as they lay

Taking action in these situations, sometimes we get accused of being cold and heartless or lacking in compassion. One scene in particular from Michael Mann’s ‘Last of the Mohicans’ sticks in my mind when I think of this.

While on the run from enemies, Hawkeye, his father and brother go to their friend’s cabin for aid along with Madeleine Stowe’s character and her sister. The find the cabin burnt however, and all their friends – including their children -murdered and charred. Despite this, they leave everything undisturbed, including the bodies, which they refuse to bury.

Madeleine is disgusted and when she protests at their indifference, we get that great line from Daniel Day Lewis:

“They were not strangers, Miss Monroe. And they stay as they lay.”

We later learn the exact reason why they did what they did (or didn’t do what they didn’t do) – if they had moved/touched/buried anything, their enemies would know they had been there and been able to track them much more easily

So Hawkeye and his family are prepared to to a horrible thing – and it had to be done. Something that pained them to do. Was it easy for them?? No. But this is the point – it’s rough work. And it’s necessary at times.

Maybe you will need to explain why you had to do what you did. And that’s fine. If you have the Iron Qualities, your actions will be driven from the proper virtues and principles. And you will not shrink from taking them.

The Difference between a man and a boy – A tale from France

Laurent Blanc has been slapped in the face by football more than once in his life.

When France won the World Cup in 1998, the man affectionately known as Larry White during his later playing days in England formed one half of an impressive centre-half partnership for the French alongside Marcel Desailly.

But he was missing from the final itself, having played an integral part in getting his team there during the tournament.

In the semi-final against Croatia, during the build-up to a French offensive free-kick, Blanc was in the opposing penalty area waiting for the delivery when he had a sudden realisation. He had invited his old Aunt Marie up to Paris to be his special guest of honour for the game.

She had travelled all the way from the south of France especially to watch her little nephew Larry play in the semi-final; which in itself was a miracle as she hated the capital with all its rude Parisians rushing around and cursing each other all the time.

So to sweeten the deal and make her day a little more special, Blanc had promised to wave to her during the game.

And he really had to deliver…Aunt Marie had told him that if he didn’t, she would give him a good clip around the back of the head. Sweet irony….

 

The difference between a man and a boy

 

Laurent Blanc has a brush with a rock god

With all this suddenly going through his mind and with the free-kick about to be delivered he turned around to find her in the crowd, arm outstretched in a pre-emptive wave. And just at that exact moment, opposing Croatian centre-half and part-time rock god Slaven Bilic wandered across the path of that arm and took a vicious looking (but totally accidental) thumb to the eye.

He went down apparently crying in a heap. The ref smelled foul play, whipping out the red card for poor Larry who was sent for an early bath before facing the wrath of Aunt Marie, who never did get that wave. Here’s footage of the incident along with some bland responses and reaction

Anyway, France went on to win that game and the World Cup itself a few days later. But Blanc learned a valuable lesson that day – the fates of the football world are cruel and fickle.

Fast forward to the present day where he recently got a reminder of the fact.

 

When your social media footprint comes back to haunt you

Now quite a successful manager with French giants Paris St Germain and gearing up for a big European Cup game against Chelsea, his team’s preparations went down the pan when footage from an internet Q&A emerged showing one of his players – Ivory Coast international Serge Aurier – apparently saying some pretty nasty stuff about his team-mates including Angel Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

And even Blanc himself wasn’t immune from the abuse, with Aurier appearing to suggest that his manager preferred the company of men.

You can read all about the incident here

 

Larry takes it very badly – but like a man

Now these nasty little incidents happen from time to time – but just as important as what life throws at us is how we react. And how did Larry White react?

Very badly,” he said in a press conference. “Very badly because we can think whatever we think, this is a democracy and we are free to think, and thankfully we can have our own opinions in our country and that’s good.

“But I think that guy, that boy… really two years ago I committed myself to making him come to Paris and seeing what I saw yesterday that’s all the thanks I got and I think that’s really pitiful.”

Blanc generally handled himself pretty well in that press conference and spoke with eloquence and as a man of substance. But here he made the mistake of thinking that he is owed something by the world (personified in this case by Aurier).

It’s a dog-eat-dog world and Aurier is only important to Blanc and the team as long as he is performing and contributing positively. And that’s what they make him a multi-millionaire for.

“It is penalising for him but what I do not accept either is that it is also bad for the club – it is penalising the club.”

Sure, Aurier has now been suspended by the club and he’ll probably get a two-week fine. Worst-case scenario – possibly sacked. Who knows. Either way, he’ll be fine in the long-term.

If he gets sacked, he’ll be public enemy #1 for a while but once the dust settles, some other club will eventually pick him up and sign him to a multi-year contract and furnish his bank account with a few more million. So is it really penalising for him? Short term, slightly. Long term…probably not that much.

 

Never take sides against the family

Blanc’s grip here is that HE fought to get this player signed for the club. The club is his sporting family. The players are his adopted sons. Here is one he personally wanted to adopt who has now betrayed his father’s confidence by apparently talking trash about him on social media.

Why he said what he said or what his motivation was, I have no idea. But Blanc was still angry as he continued his press conference. And he hit on an important point:

“The player is a big boy, he can do what he wants and he will handle the consequences. There are many, many people in that generation that spend their time feeling sorry and excusing themselves but I think before excusing you need to think about what you do.”

When I first read this, I was impressed. It appears Blanc is familiar with The Iron Qualities and must be one of the dozens who regularly visit the site. Bienvenue Laurent.

His point here is that a man – and even ‘a big boy’ – should take responsibility for his actions and ownership of the consequences of those actions.

It’s the easiest thing to do something wrong and then apologise for it. The thing is…apologies are weak and should be avoided as much as possible. Aurier apparently thought it was a good idea to publicly insult his footballing brothers and father on social media and then had a change of heart when there was a backlash.

“He’s a boy that should be preparing today for a last-16 game of the Champions League. That would’ve been better instead of staying at home not knowing what to do.”

Well, one suggestion I can make to Aurier is that he checks out theironqualities.com where he can pick up a wealth of material on how to move from “boy” to man and avoid any of this unpleasantness in the future.

 

It’s strictly business – but let’s at least deal with things as men

Spending time thinking negatively about people and talking trash is really time wasted. But don’t get me wrong – the problem isn’t what he said. It’s that he’s saying this about his adopted family. If you want to talk trash about them, do it to their face or wait until another family adopts you.

It’s an overly romantic idea suggesting that a football club is one big surrogate family. Maybe once upon a time things were like that. But increasingly it’s become strictly business. Big business.

  • Do players care about team mates and see them as brothers?
  • Do managers see their players as sons?
  • Is there a tribal bond between club, players and supporters?

The answer to all those questions is increasingly ‘no’. But that’s a thought for another day.

For now, it’s enough to know that Larry White handled this situation like a man and if you ever feel the urge to talk trash about those close to you – do it to their face instead of plastering it all over social media.

I’ll leave the last word on this to Mr White himself:

“If he’s got a problem with me, I won’t use you journalists to handle the problem. That’s for sure.”

That’s how Aunt Marie brought him up