Aim high in ’18: Happy New Year from The Iron Qualities

Hello friends,

Season’s greetings and a Happy New Year from The House of Iron Qualities.

2017 was a pretty crazy year – lots of changes, lots of upheavals. Some people liked it, others didn’t. But change – good and bad – is inevitable.

And that includes you and me. We’re not the same people we were 12 months ago. And at this time of year, we all tend to reflect on who and where we are in our lives; we identify what we don’t like and make promises to ourselves to fix these things. Most of the time these promises are quickly broken, but at least the intent is there.

 

Good intentions can lead to positive change

Ok, maybe you didn’t realise everything you planned or wanted to this year but if you set high targets for yourself and work towards them, you’ll be in a better place than you were yesterday. It’s like Vince Lombardi said:


“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we catch excellence.”


 

 

The recipe for success here is to always stay aware of what you want to do with your life and where you want to take it. Don’t just wait until the end of the year to assess how much progress you’ve made – do this regularly and recalibrate if needed.

I was guilty of not doing this enough in 2017. For a large part of the year, I was drifting, letting life take control of me instead of taking control of where I wanted my life to go. I lost focus on the Iron Qualities project and other things took up more of my time than they should have.

It should be the other way around – take control. Make things happen in your life. Don’t be content to simply allow things to happen to you.

Despite all that, I’ve learned new things and gained new wisdom this year. Sure, there are things I need to work on in 2018, and I’ll do that. And so should you. Have high expectations for yourself.

 

Aim high – Make big plans

There’s a tendency these days for people to be quick to hate, be negative and take offense at anything. Don’t fall into those traps. Focus on what needs focusing on to make you the best person you can be. Focus on building yourself up, not tearing others down. Use the Iron Qualities to guide you in this.

Then go out and learn through living, not just reading about it. Put yourself into the arena. Make mistakes, learn through experience. Take the positive from those experiences and use it to become the best version of yourself you can be. The more time and effort you dedicate to realising the high expectations you set for yourself, the closer you’ll get to that ideal.

But remember – the ideal doesn’t exist. Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s ok to feel that you’ve fallen short or that there is still more work to be done, because the work that needs doing is living. By at least trying to improve yourself, you’ll be a better person than you were yesterday. And the good news is that the journey towards self-improvement never stops. There will always be something new to learn and do to make you better than you were yesterday.

Happy New Year. Aim high in 2018

 

Time is money – don’t waste it

Hello friends,

You’ve probably noticed I’ve gone A.W.O.L from the blogging world for a few months. Yes, for one reason or another, I lost my way a little and didn’t / couldn’t dedicate enough time to the world of Iron Qualities.

No excuses – if you want to do something badly enough you’ll find the time and energy to do it. I allowed myself to get side-tracked and obviously didn’t want it enough. But that’s all been and gone now. I’m back, full of beans and ready to get this show on the road again.

But in getting back on track, I got to thinking about the seven months where I haven’t been creating, sharing and growing. That’s seven months I’ll never get back. I am now seven months older, seven months closer to dying and I can never go back to who and where I was seven months ago and do things differently. (not unless a flying DeLorean and some plutonium suddenly appear in my life. 1.21 Gigawatts!)

An old saying popped into my head while I was thinking about this: “Time is money.” I did a quick Google search and found out that the phrase is originally credited to Benjamin Franklin, who used it in an essay (Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748). In that essay, he wrote:

 


“Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.”

 

Time is a commodity we all get when we're born. But we only have a limited amount. How you use it can make a huge difference in what kind of person you become. Click through and spend a little of that time reading more

Makes sense. But I was thinking of this phrase a little differently

 

Look at it this way: We are all born and we all die. That’s a fact. So we have a limited number of days to live. A limited amount of time. How you choose to spend that time is up to you. And looking at time this way, it becomes a commodity that you SPEND.

Think about it – you can SPEND time learning about finance and how to save for your future. You can SPEND time in the gym making yourself healthy, strong and fit. You can SPEND time boozing with your mates and get wasted. Or you can SPEND time lying on your sofa scratching your ass and watching TV every weekend.

Some of those activities are a good way to spend time and you will see a return on your investment. The other activities…not so much

So for the past seven months, I wasn’t investing my time how I should have been. I let my job consume too much of my time and energy. Yes friends, Bo has a day-job. I need a means to pay the bills until The Iron Qualities becomes the global phenomenon we all know it is destined to be.

 

I’m not the only person in the world who has had this problem

 

It all started with industrialisation and now, economic and technological progress has led to higher wages and a generally higher standard of living in First World Countries. But we often work long hours and have less free time. Maybe you have a job that pays good overtime rates. So you work longer hours to make more money. But remember – you are working for someone else – producing things for the company’s benefit, not your own. At the same time, you are LOSING TIME to do the things you really want to do or should be doing.

And maybe you find yourself rising through the ranks in your company. As your progress in your career, you get more responsibility. And more stress. And you find yourself thinking about work, even when you’re not there. Your free-time investment and value have degenerated.

And it can be degenerated even further by the sheer amount of information that we have access to these days. Granted – technology has done a lot for us over the years to make life easier and more convenient. You can now control your finances; keep in touch with friends and family; go shopping using a fraction of the time and effort it would have taken before.

 

Time is money, yes. But time is also consumption. Time is change. And it’s measured by tracking the progress of change

Access to information is so abundant these days that there is a danger of spending our time getting drowned in it

 

How many times have you seen or heard about someone spending hours on Facebook stalking the lives of others; or watching one video clip after another of cute furry animals on Instagram? Or maybe you’ve found yourself getting lost in the rabbit hole of another Youtube marathon…watching a video of a random Japanese guy wearing a horse mask hunting for truffles to the sound of Kraftwerk…when all you wanted to do was find out the best way to slice onions.

It is so easy to get swept along by the all these things and let them run your life. You can easily end up on autopilot and before you know it…yes…seven months have passed and those ambitions you set out to achieve are as far away as ever.

The need to understand the most efficient way to spend your time and focus on your goals to improve yourself is greater than ever before. We have a great opportunity – we live in a time where we truly can do anything we put our mind to. And we can make technology work for us to help us realise these ambitions.

 

But remember the importance of time in all this

 

Time is money, yes. But time is also consumption. Time is change. And it’s measured by tracking the progress of change. The world turns and the sun moves across the sky. When the sun returns to the same place, a day has passed. Enough days pass, it becomes a month. Then a year. And so on.

It’s the same with you and me. Look at yourself and assess if and how you have changed over a period. If you’ve changed in a positive way, that’s a good time. If you haven’t changed at all or changed in a negative way…well, that’s bad time.

But don’t dwell on it – the time is spent and it’s gone. We always move forward. You’ve lost that part of your time allocation. Good news is – you’ve still got some time currency left to use as best you can.

Me? The last seven months haven’t been as productive as I would have liked. But I’ve still grown. I’ve still learned new things. And I will take all this forward with me and do my best with it to maximise my time investment.

And so it is with you – in terms of experience and skills (and money), you can be as rich as you want. It all comes down to how you chose to invest your time. The great thing is, you have a choice. Use it.

Samuel: An Inspirational Man of Iron Qualities

It’s been a while since we’ve highlighted a Man of Iron Qualities on here. The last one was Conor McGregor back in December 2016.

McGregor is unrelenting in his determination to succeed and consistently demonstrates a positive spirit and drive that has taken him to the very top of the UFC.

But the guy I want to talk about today takes these traits to a whole new level.

Samuel is a Year 8 student at the Manchester Creative and Media Academy and he suffers from Cerebral Palsy. He’s also a big football fan and his favourite team is Manchester United.

He recently got a chance to visit the club’s training ground thanks to the Manchester United Foundation – a charity that uses football to engage and inspire young people to build a better life for themselves and unite the communities in which they live. And it was through a promotional video of his visit that I came across Samuel and his inspirational outlook on life.

 

In the video, we see 11 year-old Samuel meeting several Man Utd players during the day – which he describes as “the best day of my life.”

And while it’s nice to see the Manchester United Foundation help make a young kid’s day and the players give something back to the community, what stands out when you watch this video is Samuel.

We see a boy who possesses an amazingly positive outlook on life. He has a passion for football and nothing is going to stop him from actively enjoying this passion. Not even Cerebral Palsy.

 


“Having Cerebral Palsy is very hard to get with, but I don’t really take that as a big issue. I just get on with it.”

 

 

Samuel is an 11 year-old with Cerebral Palsy. But he doesn't let that stop him from going out and achieving his dreams and ambitions. Read on to find out about this inspirational young man

In fact, he does more than get on with it

After receiving support from the Foundation’s coaches, he now turns out for his school team, playing as a goalkeeper:

 


“When we’re in a match or in training, I use my knees to move around and jump…Having a Manchester United Foundation coach is amazing. I thought I couldn’t enter the football team, then my coach gave me a chance…and from there I got better.”

 

A positive attitude and steely determination are great assets that every man should strive towards. But in order to become the best we can be, we need a strong network of like-minded people. And Samuel is no different.

He has been able to play football for his school team and become a better goalkeeper because his friend helps him with his frame and plays football with him, while his football coach helped him develop and improve his football skills.

Samuel has friends and mentors who help him become a better player. And you and I are no different. Find mentors. Be a mentor. Support your friends when they need you. Reach out for support from your friends when you need it.

This is how we help others become better men. And how we can become better men ourselves.

 

This story is not about sport, football or Manchester United

It’s about the power of positivity and the determination to do your best and keep going – no matter the circumstances. It’s about the lessons Samuel can teach us all about how to live our lives every day.

Samuel has made the choice to enjoy life – and football – as much as he can. And it’s not easy or always comfortable for Samuel to play football. But that doesn’t stop him:

 


“Playing football is a bit difficult to be honest. I can’t really get around because when it’s cold my body just gets stiff. But I still try.”

 

 

And here’s the thing. We will all struggle from time to time

Most of us don’t have the luxury of being dealt a pair of Aces at this big poker game called life.

But you’re still at the table. Playing. So play – and play the hand you’ve been dealt. Don’t waste time thinking about how you would have played another hand. That’s the secret to living a fulfilling life – doing your best with what you have.

And what are you going to do if you haven’t been given every skill or opportunity or circumstance that you want? Are you going to piss and moan about it and give up on your dreams and ambitions?

It’s the easiest thing in the world to make excuses and give up. It’s never going to be easy. There will always be obstacles in the way that roadblock your progress. But what separates true men from the rest is how we react to these circumstances.

So many men give up and resign themselves to a life of being miserable and talking about what they could have done. Don’t be that man.

 

Be the man who keeps going despite circumstances, not because of them

The life well-lived is one where you do something to improve yourself every day – whether that be by learning something new, practising a skill or learning a new one. You keep taking steps forward – no matter how small those steps are.

So you improvise, adapt and overcome. Just like Samuel. And when you’re feeling like giving up, take inspiration from him just as he took inspiration from his heroes who play for Manchester United:

 


“(the players) show good emotions to keep going no matter what…when they are doing it I am saying to myself ‘never, never, never give up’. I mean, I’m in a wheelchair and I never give up. I don’t even care about having a wheelchair. Just try. Try your hardest.

 

 

A true inspiration

I’m so glad I saw this video and got the chance to experience Samuel’s amazing attitude to life. He has inspired me to keep going with my efforts to be the best I can be. And judging by the general reaction to this video, he has also inspired many others around the world.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t – or aren’t – making as much progress as you would like. You keep going. There is no end of the journey.

Keep going. Keep trying. Keep moving forward. Never give up.

Just like Samuel.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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

 

Spectatoritis – Why men should do and not just watch

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

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

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

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

spectatoritis

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

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

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

Men don’t watch. Men do

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

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

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

Roosevelt quote on spectatoritis

 

WWMOTIQD?

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Get out of the stands and into the arena

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

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

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

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

 

Online dating – a symptom of spectatoritis

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

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

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

Spectatoritis - don't watch, just do

There is a cure….

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

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

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

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

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

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