We live in a disposable world. So much of what we use today is designed for short-term temporary use. Gadgets have become more and more specialised to do particular jobs and we end up hoarding a big steaming pile of useless shit.
Men who are interested in becoming the best they can be take a minimalist approach. Strip away what is useless and keep only what is useful. What is essential.
That’s right. Despite what that fox says in ‘The Little Prince’, what is essential is not always invisible to the eye. There are real, physical things that every man should have at his disposal in order to blaze a trail through this big old world.
A man of Iron Qualities is ready to face what life has to throw at him. And he does it with the help of these Iron Qualities Essentials – things that civilisation has invented and refined over the years that help us to do what needs to be done. Efficiently and without fuss.
Here’s the thing: You don’t need every damn gadget under the sun
But there are definitely some select items that will help you conquer life. Go out and get what is useful, look after it, and get rid of the rest.
Be the man who says “Don’t worry – I got this.”
And Big Daddy Bo here has a real life example for you.
A while back, I bought a new sofa. A sweet three-seater sofa bed in charcoal grey that…..blah blah blah whatever.
Anyway, I live on the second floor of an apartment block. So my job that day was to get the new sofa into my flat and remove the old one. I got it done, but not without the help of some Iron Qualities essentials.
The first thing we had to do was measure to make sure this bad boy would fit within the dimensions of my building. So I pulled out essential item #1…
The Tape Measure
Five metres of measurement goodness that fits in your pocket?? Yes. This thing can be used for all kinds of measuring needs. The skill is matching those measurements with reality…
I took some measurements and jotted down the dimensions of my doorways and elevator and apartment.
The tape measure never lies. Unfortunately, my desire to get my new sofa into my flat blinded me from the cold, hard truth of numbers and geometry. I would find that out soon enough but for now, the challenge was set.
When the delivery guys arrived with the sofa, we soon realised it’s girth was too much for the elevator to receive. So we had to take the scenic route up two flights of stairs.
It took four men and a lot of sweat and grunting to get this thing up to the second floor. And when we got there, it wouldn’t fit through the doorway to my hall. Geometry had bested us again.
To progress further, we needed to remove the wooden-framed glass panel beside the door in order to create some pivot space. Thus began the side-quest.
We needed a couple of essentials to get this panel removed, the first one being a….
Really Bo?? A putty knife is an essential tool for a man?? Yes my friend, and here’s why: It’s versatile as hell. You can use it to spot-fix chips and holes in a wall; re-glaze a window or scrape off paint or wallpaper. And on the day of the sofa, it became a wood chisel. I worked it into the joints of the wood panels and began separating them. But of course, a chisel is no good unless you have a…
Because beating things with a heavy object. A decent-sized claw hammer will have enough weight behind it to knock nails into walls and build furniture. And the claw is used to pry out stubborn nails and re-shape bent ones. I used my hammer that day to first take apart that panel and then build it back up again.
But things are never as simple as all that. And there were parts of that wooden frame that were proven a little stubborn and refusing to cooperate with the putty knife / claw hammer combo. Not even a problem to a man equipped with determination and a…
Less intimidating (and expensive) than a power saw and not as long and cumbersome as a traditional saw. A decent hacksaw will serve you well for almost all of your household sawing needs. It can cut through cable, steel, hard plastics…and wooden panels and frames. Yes, even those.
And that was pretty much it. We manoeuvred the sofa into place in my living room with a little effort and when it was all done and in place, all that was left was cutting the string that we used to hold the bed part of the sofa in place while we lifted it up the stairs. It felt like a ceremonial ribbon cutting – an way of saying bye to the old sofa and welcoming this new piece into my life. And for this job, only one tool would do…
Swiss Army Knife
This badboy is the very definition of a refined multi-tasking gadget. Seriously, I have used it for so many things over the years. It has screwdrivers, a corkscrew, scissors, tweezers and knives. Classic multi-tasking. And on sofa delivery day, I used it for two purposes:
1 – Cutting that string from the sofa
2 – To crack open a well-earned icy cold Bohemian-style beer
Job done. Sofa in living room and Bo lying on it, beer in hand. And all with the help of five essential items.
If you’re starting from scratch, it will take some time and money to build up your collection of essentials
But don’t be tempted into taking shortcuts and buying cheaper alternatives. Go for the best quality you can afford. Often, these things are often not as expensive as you think – the five items in this article probably cost less than £50 all in. And that’s for decent quality.
I’ve only talked about five such items in this article. There are more. Hopefully you have at least a couple of these things. If not, don’t worry. Have patience – build and refine your collection over time. The journey to becoming the best you can be never ends.
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.
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
Start on your hands and toes in the ‘plank’ position – i.e. your body is aligned from head to toe
keep your back straight and lower yourself until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor
Press back up to the original position
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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….
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….
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.
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
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