New Year’s Resolutions – Iron Qualities style

So 2017 is here. A new year means a new start. Making New Year’s resolutions has become part of our fabric. Many people use the New Year to reflect on the shitter parts of their lives where bad habits are dug in like ticks.

They tell themselves ‘enough is enough’ and make a vow to change for the better. Gym memberships will soar, alcohol sales will crash. And the world keeps on turning.

Nothing changes.

Creating New Year's resolutions has become part of our fabric. Many people use the new year to reflect on the parts of their lives where bad habits are dug in like ticks and make a vow to change for the better. The sentiment is nice - but at least 80% of the time, execution is lacking. Click through to read about how to face the new year like a man

Let’s look at a classic: “I’m going to get fit and lose 10kg.” So you sign up for the gym, pay your 2 years subscription up front and sign up for every spinning and circuit training class going. All good.

But after the first week, it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus. You can barely get out of bed in the morning because you muscles are so stiff and sore.

It’s no surprise. You’ve tried to go from zero to 100mph straight away. It doesn’t work that way. Your muscles will be doing things they haven’t done in a loooooong time and the new routine will feel like a vicious slap in the face.

So you take a few days off and make a promise to yourself to get back on the wagon next week when you’ve recovered. Instead, you end up going out on Saturday night for a few quiet ones and spend the next two days in bed in the depth of the Horrors.

Before you know it, that week off turns into a month. Then a year. And you’ve blown that 2 years of gym membership fees for two weeks of actually going.

 

Let’s cut right to it: New Year’s resolutions don’t work

It’s this illusion that the new year offers a blank slate and you can make some wishes and they will become reality.

The REALITY is that without a plan and some drive and determination, you won’t change and you’ll be in exactly the same position 12 months from now.

Nothing will happen overnight. There is no magic potion that will make all your dreams come true. Anything worth doing and anywhere worth going will take time, dedication and effort.

If you want to do something that requires new habits and a lifestyle overhaul, that’s a HUGE change. Most of us can see our weaknesses and might even have an idea of what our ideal self looks like. But we also choose the easy life most of the time – the path of least resistance. Maybe you don’t see the gains from your efforts straight away so you think you’re a failure, give up and fall back into that comfortable old routine.

 

Here’s the truth – it’s only when you give up that you have actually failed

Any step you take forward, any progress you make – no matter how small – is exactly that. A step forward. Progress.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Anyway, there is no reason why you should wait until the end of the year to start making positive change. 31st December 2016 is just another day. As is 1st January 2017.

When you live like a man, every day is a new year. Every day offers you a blank slate to start from. And your goal every day is to improve some aspect of your life. Every day. No matter how small that improvement is.

Don’t make resolutions. Instead, focus on creating the right habits in your daily life that make those big long-term goals achievable. Those habits are not resolutions. They are not short-term steps you put in place to achieve a temporary goal. Rather, they become a permanent part of who you are.

 

Five steps to positive change…starting today

But since I have written this post at the end of the year and this is when most of you will read it, here’s 5 tips on how to start making those positive changes today.

  1. Identify what you need to work on to become a better man. Read the right books. Listen to the right role models. Surround yourself with the right people and resources to make the change happen. The Iron Qualities is a great place to start
  2. Create daily routines around the areas that you want to improve on. Focus on the process. Not the end goal. Create a daily routine and a lifestyle built around who and what you really want to be
  3. Stay present. Take one thing at a time. Keep doing – but don’t try to do everything at once
  4. Do more. Read less. It’s easy to get sucked into a cycle of studying and reading about all the cool things you want to do and the methods to achieve this. Just start doing. It’s the best learn to learn and improve
  5. While doing is good, some kind of plan of WHAT to do is also good. Spend some time at the start of the day to plan some activities that will specifically build towards your goal. Then review progress at the end of the day. Boom. Done

So when it comes to assessing where you are in your own personal development, remember – create positive habits…not resolutions. The journey is never complete, but we should always keep moving forward.

 

Merry Christmas from the Iron Qualities

Ho Ho Ho from Big Daddy Bo

Christmas is here once again and another year has almost been and gone.

And the year end is a good time to reflect on progress made, where you’re going in the future, and catch up with families and friends.

That being said, I’m going to leave you with 3 do’s and 3 don’t’s to help you get through the festive period like a man and come out smiling on the other side.

 

Merry Christmas from the Iron Qualities. Click on to read about some tips to successfully navigate the festive period like a man

 

The Do Nots

Staff Christmas parties – don’t go there and get drunk off your face. Don’t be that guy who pisses on the bar (yes…ON…it happens) or threatens to kill his boss and family after he’s had a few too many Smirnoff and coke. Work parties in general suck ass. Your work colleagues are not your friends and unfortunately, it’s only when you do something wrong that this becomes apparent.

So go there if you must. Show your face, pound a few cold ones then do your best Cinderella impression and get out of there before everything gets messy. If you see someone on the dancefloor with their tie around their head dancing to ‘A Fairytale of New York’, you may have already reached the point of no return.

Buying gifts – don’t get sucked into the commercialism and advertising bullshit and feel the need to spend a shitload of money on gifts. The cost of a gift is not directly proportional to its quality or value. You don’t need to spend a lot to give a good gift that actually means something to the person who gets it.

You should already be inherently suspicious about shopping anyway – you might even have a mild phobia. As a man, this is all perfectly normal.

But if you spend a little time thinking about what someone actually likes, you can come out the other side of the Christmas shopping gauntlet without being torn a second or even third asshole paying for it all, while making someone’s day at the same time. Result.

Christmas hype – When you watch all those fluffy Christmas movies, TV shows and commercials, don’t fall into the trap of getting depressed because it all bears absolutely no resemblance to your life. None of that stuff is real. It’s not reality. Christmas is whatever you make it.

If you’re alone and have nobody to spend Christmas Day with, it’s not the end of the world. Christmas Day is just another day and unless you’re religious, it has no special meaning whatsoever.

 

The Dos

When to stop – Keep to your regular fitness and food routine as much as you can. Tempting as it is, stay away from those mince pies, chocolates and extra servings of Heineken so you don’t turn into a disgusting fatbody and get absolutely shitfaced 7 days on the trot. Your body will not thanks you for it when you’re spending the next week crapping out all that excess food and drink.

Spread the love – It’s true, a lot of people get more depressed at this time of year but we can all do small things to make someone’s day a little brighter and help ourselves become more sociable in the process. Send a card to let someone know you’re thinking of them; get someone those little gifts that mean something; catch up for a beer with that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. The beauty is in the giving, not the gift.

What you want for Christmas – I’m not talking about what you’ll put in your letter to Santa or what you want to find in your stocking on Christmas morning. I’m talking about what you need to do next year to improve yourself. What are the next steps on your journey to becoming a better person and a better man? Think about it, then makes those thoughts reality.

Reach out to me on twitter or facebook and let me know what your plans are for making a better you in 2017.

Have an Iron Qualities Christmas

The importance of keeping your composure and 6 ways to keep it

Composure. A fundamental Iron Quality and a key component of living like a boss.

But what exactly is it?

Composure is the feeling of being calm and in control of yourself and your emotions.

But here’s the thing – much like the G-Spot, composure can be elusive and slippery. Keeping your composure in a world that does its best to make you lose it can be the one of the hardest fights you face.

Getting emotional is ok – there’s a time and a place for emotion. Going through life acting like a robot isn’t healthy. But we are men – and we’re always striving to think clearly and objectively. We can’t let our behaviour and actions get hijacked by emotion.

Image: Bo Ideal

Everyone is judging you…

People read verbal and non-verbal cues from you and make judgements. That’s what we all do.

Personally, I don’t give a shit about how people judge me and neither should you. But if people know there are buttons they can press that will rile you up and force you to lose your composure, it becomes something they can leverage. A weakness they can exploit.

But if you can remain cool, calm and collected in all situations…that’s a powerful tool. Composure shows self-confidence. You are sure of yourself and your reality is dictated by YOU. External factors don’t shake that.

 

Never let emotions cloud your judgement

When you control your emotions, you communicate better and with more confidence. You lead a more productive and purposeful life and get more done.

To be a leader amongst men – that’s what we’re talking about here.

  • Can you take a verbal roasting without letting it rile you up or get you down?
  • Can you handle a rejection without getting discouraged?
  • Can you remain cool when things don’t go according to plan?
  • Can you speak in public without getting nervous and breaking down?
  • Can you laugh with others when the joke is on you?

 

We’ve all lost our composure at some point

Somewhere that’s rife with the pathetic stench of composure loss is the world of dating. We’ve all seen it and most of us have experienced it first hand.

It’s that feeling you get when you’re trying to seduce a honey and you’re way more into it than she is. You know this, but you keep calling her anyway. Texting her.

  • Sometimes she answers.
  • Sometimes she doesn’t.
  • Sometimes she replies with brief disinterested comments.
  • Sometimes you find yourself double or triple texting before you get a reply.

You try to arrange a few cocktails.

“It’ll be fun” you say.

“I’m busy” she says.

“Ah. Ok, no problem. Maybe next time.”

So instead of cocktails, you sit at home on Friday night watching some shit TV, trying to distract yourself from contacting her. But the temptation is too much.

“I’ll maybe just text a ‘hi’ “- no harm in that right?

Ugh.

I know what you’re thinking: “This guy needs to grow a pair, cut contact and more on”. But when emotion clouds our judgement, we make weak decisions and bad things usually follow.

 

When I was a child, I thought like a child…but when I became a man, I put away childish things

When we lose composure, we let that excess emotion affect our behaviour and actions. Just like a child does.

You’ve all seen the tiny tears when kids don’t get their way. Or maybe you had a childhood friend who used to huff and cry when he didn’t win at Super Mario Kart. Hell, maybe that was you.

When we’re young, we have an idea of ‘normality’ and we don’t know how to properly deal with things that upset our understanding of the world.

And that’s fine. We learn.

The skill then is becoming experienced in dealing with these things. Feeling the frustration, the anger, the joy – and learning how to react without letting it mess with the logical part of our brains.

The Iron Qualities | Composure and Emotion

It’s a little bit like getting drunk…

Remember when you stole that bottle of whisky from your dad’s special hiding place when you were 16?

  • Hiding out at the back of the local supermarket car park. Taking turns swigging from the bottle with your mates. And getting that warm fuzzy glow inside.
  • Telling all your boys how much you loved them and how awesome everything was.
  • Barfing in the bushes and trying to sneak back home without your parents busting you.

You lost your composure my friend. But the more experience you get in drinking alcohol and its effects, the more composure you can maintain while under the influence.

(until you reach the point of no return and then it’s almost literally ‘anything goes’)

 

So how the hell do you keep your composure?!

The good news is that there are ways and means to help you find and keep your composure. And here’s six tips to help you out.

1 – Think before you act

When you’re emotional, impulse isn’t always the best way. Take some time – even just a few seconds – to reflect on things before you make a decision. Which leads on to….

2 – Break the routine

If someone or something has riled you up, go for a walk. Go outside. Get some fresh air or just change the scenery. Try to look at things from a different perspective. A quiet moment to yourself gives you the chance to fully analyse things and make better decisions

3 – Reflect and learn

When you do lose your composure and act like an ass, learn from it. Identify what took your composure and ask yourself what you can do to stop it from happening again. Having a reaction plan can be very powerful and help you keep that precious commodity – composure

4 – Don’t take things personally

Everyone has a perspective. Everyone has a job to do. Most of the time, someone’s perspective will not align with yours. Sometimes, that job that someone is doing will piss you off. And that’s fine. Different opinions are what make the world so diverse. And that job is putting food on someone’s table. Look for solutions, not reasons to be pissed off

5 – You have choice

You are the centre of your world. You are the core. You are the anchor. External factors will wash against you and you will remain strong. Bad things will happen. Your composure will be tested many times. But you have the ability to choose how to react. You have the ability to define yourself on your own terms. And that’s a beautiful thing

6 – Breathe

When you get nervous or angry or excited, your breathing tends to become faster and more shallow. Recognise this and consciously try to breathe more slowly and from your belly. Get that heart rate down big boy

 

So the next time you feel yourself getting all hot and bothered, or your bottom lip starts quivering when things don’t go your way, think back on this. Composure is a beautiful but fragile thing. Keep it, cherish it – and you’ll be a man, my son.

The fear of getting punched and five things you can do about it

My good friend Mike Black once said something that stuck with me: “The fear of getting punched in the face is worse than the punch itself.”

I’ve thought about that from time to time since he said it. And you know what – he’s absolutely right.

 

The fear of getting punched | The Iron Qualities

 

And why are we afraid of getting punched?

It’s the thought of the physical pain. The thought of someone throwing their fist at you and busting your face wide open. And the pain that goes along with that.

But here’s the thing – in the heat of the moment, a punch doesn’t hurt half as much as all that. You’re high on adrenaline – it’s fight or flight, nothing else. You get tunnel vision and if you get hit, the pain doesn’t register. That comes later like a hangover after pounding several six-packs of Bronsons.

It’s natural to try to avoid a slap in the face. It’s unpleasant and annoying. But the pain – when it arrives – is temporary and will not totally put you out of commission most of the time.

And if it does, chances are you’ve been knocked the fuck out and you won’t remember a thing about it anyway.

So if you ever find yourself in a barroom brawl – go with it. Live in the moment. Take the punches and keep swinging. Here’s a textbook example – Clint Eastwood & Conan the Barbarian’s father in a 2 vs 45 man handicap match (cut to 00:35 if you’re not a fan of Country music and Spoiler Alert: Eastwood and Conan Senior kick ass and take names)

 

 

 

Be at peace with the truth: In a fight, you will get punched and bleed. And so will the other guy

Live in the moment. Like when you were a boy. Climbing trees, seeing how fast you could go on your bike, staging a mini Wrestlemania in your back yard.

There were no thoughts about how much it would hurt if we fell from that tree, crashed our bikes or couldn’t escape that figure-four leglock.

When you live in the moment, the fear disappears. We are single-minded. Trying to achieve only one thing. And doing it one millisecond at a time. There is no future beyond that.

 

Negative thinking leads to inaction

These negative thoughts stop us from taking action. And not just when we’re in a physical confrontation.

Far better to unleash that inner child and go for it. And if it doesn’t work out…so what? It’s not a failure – just an opportunity to learn. Take the learning from it and move on.

But I digress. Let’s get back to getting punched. And the fear.

So what can we do to get rid of that fear? Here’s five quick tips:

1 – Get punched in a controlled environment

Sounds a bit counter-intuitive…but join a boxing, kickboxing or MMA club. Not only will you get as fit as two fit things, you will also get used to physical conflict and getting punched. But in a safe and controlled space

2 – Always keep your eyes open

You need to observe what the hell is going on if things ever do get aggressive. Closing your eyes in anticipation of a punch is a bad idea. Keep those peepers open. Observe. And exploit any observed openings

3 – Never turn your back

If someone gets behind you, that means you can’t see them. That in turn means you don’t know what is going to happen. Just like the previous point, all observed information is knowledge. So keep facing forward. Keep moving forward

4 – Don’t flinch

A tough one to do. But if someone fakes a punch and you flinch you will probably have closed your eyes too. Which is bad (see point #2). So flinching is bad. But you can fix this by following the advice in point #1

5 – Keep moving

A moving target is harder to hit. You might not have the skill to float like a butterfly, but even dancing like a chicken is better than standing in one place waiting to get smacked.

 

When someone punches you in the face it causes pain, shock and surprise

It makes us feel belittled, controlled, bested and it has the intention of scaring, exploiting, hurting and dominating us. It causes both emotional and physical pain.

Most of us are risk averse. It’s a self-preservation thing. Getting punched causes damage and so it’s a risk of fighting.

But we need to take risks to become the best we can be and learn new things. We need to step into the arena and be prepared to take a hit.

Challenging ourselves will absolutely lead to some pain and discomfort. We might get punched in the face. It might bleed, bring tears to our eyes, cause brain fog and wind us. But we can’t win if we don’t fight.

That fool Balboa had it right: “It’s not about how hard you hit – it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.”

The power of the push-up

The push-up is one of the oldest and probably most well-known strength exercises there is. There’s a simple reason – it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and works a lot of muscle groups.

If I tell you to work some push-ups into your daily routine you can’t throw me that “I have no time to exercise” excuse. And nor can you whine about expensive gym fees.

All you need is a space on the floor, a couple of minutes and the drive and discipline to keep going until you can go no more.

To be the best you can be, you need to work on all aspects of your lifestyle. Read. Study history. Learn how to be self-sufficient. Eat properly. And keep yourself in the best physical shape you can.

 

The power of push-ups | The Iron Qualities

 

Stay hungry. Stay curious.

Everything you do in your daily life should be a step towards this better version of yourself.

The problem with all this is that it takes time. And when you factor in family, work commitments and socialising with friends, the time pressure becomes even greater.

So we have to be efficient and get the most bang from our buck.

That’s why I love the push-up. It’s simple and effective. And it can absolutely be a fundamental part of a daily routine to keep you – or get you – in solid physical shape.

 

There’s a reason the push-up is a staple of military fitness regimes as well as boxing and MMA classes around the world.

Maybe you want to challenge Arnold’s Mr Olympia legacy. Maybe you want to become the next Georges St Pierre. Or maybe it’s as simple as not wanting to be  a ‘disgusting fat body’, to quote Full Metal Jacket’s Gunnery Sgt Hartman.

Working press-ups into your daily routine will help build a solid base-level of fitness. Regardless of your goals.

It will also bring you one step closer to looking like a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody

 

So you want a breakdown of why push-ups are so good right?

Ok – here it is. A lot of this information comes courtesy of Mark Sisson over at Mark’s Daily Apple. And you can read more about that here.

Push-ups can be classed as a full-body exercise in that they work multiple muscle groups in your body. An effective push-up routine will work your chest, shoulders, triceps and your entire midsection – basically your entire upper body. In fact, pretty much every muscle in your body gets involved in the push-up party. Your lower back, legs and glutes are called into action to keep your hips from sagging or rising too high.

And all you fiends for chiseled abs and 6-packs can relax – your abs along with your lats and traps will be engaged to stabilise your body when you’re pushing your body back up.

And much like many calisthenics and bodyweight exercises, push-ups teach your muscles to work in harmony with one another.

It will also help with balance, coordination and stability, giving you a solid platform to build your regular weights routine on.

 

How to do them

  1. Start on your hands and toes in the ‘plank’ position – i.e. your body is aligned from head to toe
  2. keep your back straight and lower yourself until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor
  3. Press back up to the original position
  4. Repeat until you can no longer do the previous step

If you can’t do the traditional version, you can also try the modified push-up where you start on your knees rather than your toes. And if you feel that you’ve mastered the push-up, there are a load of variations you can get your teeth into. All you need to do is adjust the position of your hands or feet, change the elevation or add in some equipment and you have a comprehensive exercise regime.

Variations include the incline, diamond, plyometric and one-arm push-ups. In fact, future Man of the Month Bruce Lee (spoiler alert) was famous for doing a two-finger version.

 

A word of warning:

Don’t get caught in the ego trap of banging out high volume / low quality press-ups. You’re better off doing 10 modified push-ups with perfect form than five full push-ups with hunched shoulders or a drooping neck or hips. Perfect form means you will be working more muscles.

 

Innovation and progress is a good thing. But…

We can get caught in a vicious cycle of innovation for innovation’s sake. Think about all these fitness fads – spinning classes; zumba; Insanity. The concept is the same: do some activity at a high intensity and get your sweat on. You can call it whatever you want, but underneath the name, that’s all it will be.

Sometimes the old ways are the best.

You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer to tell you this. Just like you don’t need anyone to create a customised lifting routine that requires lots of equipment.

No. Just lie on the floor and push your body weight until you can’t push no more. At the very least, push-ups will remind your muscles what they are supposed to be doing.

The push-up is about as pure and basic as it gets. And it works.

Many thanks to Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple for his permission to use one of the articles from his site as inspiration for this post.

Back to the basics in nature

Big Daddy Bo took some time out recently for a road trip into nature with some of his boys. I shook up my regular routine and came back with some fresh perspective on shit.

Yes, I went up to the Scottish Highlands for a few glasses of top quality whisky and a browse at some of the scenery. I shut down the engines for a while and took a look at things from a different angle. And what it did was reaffirm for me the importance of breaking routine and smelling the roses – it’s something we should all do a lot more of.

Get in touch with nature

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

I have grown up living life to a series of deadlines. And I’m not alone in that. We rush from one panic to another; one project to another; one deadline to another.

It’s travelling from A to B via the quickest route. And we make big sacrifices to get there. We try to cut corners and we get tunnel vision – we don’t see the bigger picture.

How many times have you wished your life away so you can get through things? Saying things like:

“I wish this week was over”

“Roll on 5pm so I can get out of here”

“I can’t wait until next year”

In those few days in the Scottish wilderness it hit me: Nature doesn’t panic. Nature doesn’t rush. There are no projects or deadlines. Nature just is.

Nature is present just as I should be.

Everything in nature happens in its own time and while I was reflecting on this in Scotland, the importance of yesterday and tomorrow shrank. There was only now and I appreciated that fact a lot more than I normally do when I’m entrenched in my regular routine.

 

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life in the Highlands is very different to that in London or any other city. It’s a slower pace. More simple – and I don’t mean that negatively. The unnecessary complications of urban living are not there. And it feels more real – more authentic.

Everything in its own time – the natural world has composure and patience.

But it’s a way of life that has been lost or forgotten by most of us. Rediscovering what living like this feels like reawakens our instinctive masculine core and cuts away all the bullshit that’s shoved down our throats every day.

 

“The earth has music for those who listen.” – George Santayana

We have over-complicated things and the truly essential skills and knowledge that we need as men has been buried under this pile of bullshit.

Think of the Signal to Noise ratio (SNR). It’s a measure used to compare the level of desired signal to the level of unwanted background noise. Modern lifestyles are mostly noise – things that don’t REALLY matter. Not really.

Does it really matter that you used inconsistent fonts in your powerpoint presentation to the CEO?

Does it really matter that a potential honey flaked on you at the last minute?

Does it really matter that you missed out on tickets to the big Champions League game?

No.

All these things, essentially, are noise. And there is so much of it in our lives that we have to listen REALLY hard to hear the signal.

While there, we rented a place beside Loch Sunart that had a wooden balcony overlooking the water. I sat out there one night with a large glass of whisky. There was no traffic, no people and no noise. And as the stars wheeled in the sky the only sounds were from the occasional bird or fish splashing in the water. Everything felt like signal and it was much easier to hear.

There’s something to be said about a tall glass of whisky, time and silence.

 

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. – John Lubbock

When I was 11 I received a great piece of advice that I never forgot – “Enjoy life, but don’t be afraid to smell the roses once in a while.”

The older I get, the more that advice rings true. But just like a river, the skill is to continually move forward. Smelling the roses is like when that river slows down in a large pool. It slows down…but it does not stop.

Reflect on the past, but don’t live there. Slow down…but don’t stop. Remember and learn…then move on. Don’t get sentimental or nostalgic. The river can only flow one way.

 

“We must constantly look at things in a different way.” John Keating – Dead Poets’ Society

Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society passed on some fierce wisdom to his students. He encourages the boys in his class to constantly look at things in a different way, demonstrating this by standing on his desk in order to see the classroom from a different angle.

That’s what I did – except that before I stood on my desk, I took it into the Scottish wilderness and set it in between some Highland cows and a shitload of nature.

 

“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so fuckin’ heroic.” – George Carlin

So that’s it. I went on a short break, broke my regular routine for a while and got a different perspective. And looking at things from a different angle helped me see and understand the importance of the Iron Qualities even more clearly.

You are alive. Smell the roses. Constantly question yourself, where you are and where you’re going.

Don’t just live to work. Don’t just serve. Don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe the empty promises. You are not a cog. You are not a machine. You are a person. You are alive. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t just serve. Go out and live. Live deep and suck the marrow out of life.

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.

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