Conor McGregor: A Man of Iron Qualities

McGregor. He’s so hot right now. McGregor.

Back in July 2016 it was reported that the UFC had been sold to the WME-IMG Group for something in the region of $4bn. A huge sum of money – this is the biggest franchise sale in sports history.

Some journey for an organisation that was once described as ‘human cockfighting’.

And when asked about that sale and the number behind it, UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor said this:


“I think I played a nice role in that number. What was it? It was estimated at two billion at one stage before I came along. I remember when I first started here, it was a two-billion dollar franchise. I remember hearing that much. And now, since I came on, it’s four billion. And the year before it was sold is my year, numbers-wise. I played a nice role in that too, so the number motivated me.”


McGregor’s rise to the top of the UFC game has mirrored that of the organisation itself. Once scratching a living as a professional Mixed Martial Artist on the UK and Ireland circuit, he is now arguably the biggest draw in the sport – and one of the biggest in the entire sporting world.

But is he right – Is a large portion of that $4bn pie down to his contribution? Or is it all just hype?

Conor McGregor | Driven, determined, single-minded...or brash, cocky and arrogant. Conor McGregor is a man of consequence who has risen to the top of the world of MMA. But is he all style and no substance? Read on to find out

The notorious Conor McGregor

McGregor’s MMA journey began in his native Dublin when he took up kickboxing and joined a boxing club at an early age.

When he left school, he began an apprenticeship in plumbing while training part-time in MMA. And aged 20, he decided to chase his dream and became a professional Mixed Martial Artist.

By the time he signed with the UFC in 2013, he had an MMA record of 12-2. And despite tearing his ACL early in his UFC career, he went on a six-fight winning streak which earned him a Featherweight title shot against Brazilian Jose Aldo – a man who hadn’t lost a fight in the Octagon in over 10 years.

McGregor made history in that fight – becoming champion by recording the fastest knockout in UFC title fight history when he put Aldo’s lights out after just 13 seconds.

He then followed that up with another historic win at Madison Square Garden at UFC 205 when he owned UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez. Owned…no – he made Alvarez look like an amateur. In doing so, he has become the first man in UFC history to hold title belts at two different weights at the same time.


Is McGregor all style no substance?

His trash-talk and brash confidence at weigh-ins and press conferences have made him a love/hate figure. And despite his success in the octagon, some people still question his merits as a world class mixed martial artist.

I’m not going to pass judgement on his technical fighting skills. But at the very least, any man who is prepared to step into the arena of combat and take a hit deserves respect. And someone who does it repeatedly, comes out on top more often than not and makes history while at it, should not be taken lightly.

Behind McGregor’s bravado is a man filled with determination and desire to become his absolute best. He is in possession of a fire and a focus that has driven him to the top of the game. We don’t see the hours, days, weeks, months of hard work; the innovation he is prepared to embrace; the curiosity for new techniques. We only see the fancy suit, the sunglasses and the swagger.

He comes across as prickly and antagonistic in the run-up to a fight. But he has tapped into something important – he knows how to generate pay-per-view buys. In reality, he is an extremely motivated and hungry athlete who won’t let anything stand in his way.

After his Featherweight title win, he moved up in weight to fight Nate Diaz in what ultimately became a two-fight double-header and one of the most talked about UFC confrontations in a long time.

He took on Diaz to test himself at a heavier weight and use the opportunity as a stepping stone to make history. And it worked. He has made his mark on the sport and then some. he has done exactly what he set out to do.


Conor McGregor | He has an unshakable belief in himself and a determination to suceed in whatever he does. Click through to find out what other Iron Qualities Conor McGregor has


This guy is a real character

Before a fight, he becomes a character. A character who has mastered the art of getting people to buy pay-per-views and talk about him. A character who has generated a huge amount of buzz.

But there is substance behind the style. And a hell of a lot of it. His coach John Kavanagh probably sums it up best when asked about McGregor’s motivation:


“Conor is not driven by money or fame; he is driven by contest and competition.”


He is renowned for training at all hours of the day and is constantly trying new techniques in order to improve. He is curious about new ways of doing things and is not prepared to accept the status quo just because ‘that’s the way things are done here.”

No – he is a disruptor and an innovator. And if something doesn’t work, he discards it.

One example of this is how he studies and adapts animal movements into his training schedule.


“’I’m fascinated by it so I study all forms of movement, animals because they are graceful and beautiful, I just enjoy movement as a whole. But anyone who is doing anything; I will analyse a man walking down the street to see how they carry themselves. I feel you can tell a lot about someone by the way they carry themselves so I try to move cleanly and efficiently.”


Does McGregor have the Iron Qualities?

So what does this all mean. Does Conor McGregor have the Iron Qualities? Can we look at him and say ‘there is a man who has true masculine values’? Let’s compare what McGregor has said over the years with the Iron Qualities checklist.


“Nothing good ever comes from worrying or sitting there feeling sorry for yourself….keep positive and keep pushing forward and things will turn good.”



“You need to appreciate your surroundings and be grateful for it, and that’s when good things happen. To have that bitterness and negativity, that’s when things go bad. I think the fact that I appreciate everything and that I’m grateful for the things around me, that’s why it’s going so good for me.”


Of Resolution, of Courage, of Indomitable Will

“There’s only one thing that’s impossible to beat…a man that doesn’t give up.”


To do without shrinking, the rough work

(on losing to Nate Diaz) “I’ll handle this loss like a champion. I will not shy away from it. I will not make excuses for it. I lost in there. There was errors. But errors can be fixed if you face them head on.”


…that must always be done

(fighting is) “in my head 24/7. I don’t think about nothing else. I’m curiously fascinated with it. Everything in my life is related to this.”



What’s the price of success?

Ok – he talks the talk. He has the Iron Qualities and the results of his actions are there for all to see. But the question remains – is Conor McGregor responsible for the UFC being valued at $4bn? Is he worth that much?

I say no.

McGregor is a study in what it takes to succeed. We can all learn something from his positive attitude and approach to life.

  • He has an insatiable hunger and determination to succeed
  • He doesn’t back down from a challenge or make excuses
  • He has a curiosity that drives him to innovate and improve
  • He is driven towards his goal with a single-minded focus

$4bn? He has the Iron Qualities. And that is priceless.

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.”

Nathanial Poe: A Man of Iron Qualities

Michael Mann’s 1992 film ‘The Last of the Mohicans’  is a special piece of cinema. In fact it is so special it has earned one of the highest accolades in film and television in being named in Bo Ideal’s top 5 favourite movies ever. Ace.

One of Bo’s honeys once told him that a truly great movie needed two things –  pretty people and explosions. I guess she hadn’t seen any of Michael Bay’s filmmaking attempts but The Last of the Mohicans has plenty of both.

But what sets it apart from the likes of Bad Boys 2, Pearl Harbour and Transformers? One of the main reasons is the character of Nathaniel Poe – the adopted white son of Chingachgook, last chief of the Mohican tribe and played by the acting juggernaut himself – Daniel Day-Lewis.

This is a character who can teach us all a thing or two about being a man. Anyone who has seen the movie will understand what I mean. And if you are one of the unlucky few who hasn’t – well…get on it. This is a mandatory piece of the Iron Qualities curriculum.

Hawkeye aka Nathaniel Poe

Beholden to none – not living by another’s leave

The character of Poe and his adopted Mohican father and brother live off the land in Frontier lands in Young America during the mid 1700s. They make a living trading furs and hunting what food they need.

They are living in the middle of the French and Indian War and they become entangled in it when they rescue the daughter (played by Madeleine Stowe) of a high-ranking British Officer from a group of Huron Indians.

Poe and his family escort Stowe’s character and her daughter to the British Fort where her father is based. Following a seige and heavy artillary bombardment by the French, the Fort is eventually surrendered by the British who are allowed to leave the Fort and head back to Albany in peace.

They are ambushed on the way by those pesky Huron Indians again and Poe, Stowe’s character and the rest of his family go on the run, which eventually leads to one of the great climaxes in movie history.


Nathaniel Poe – kicking the shit out of adversity since 1755

So the character of Poe gets caught up in some serious adversity in the movie. And like I always say – men of Iron Qualities face adversity head-on and kick the shit out of it. Poe is no different.

From the very first scene of the film, the Iron Qualities of Poe and his adopted father and brother assault our eyes and ears. We find them on the hunt in the woods where they snag themselves a pretty impressive looking stag. Not for game – but for food. Out of necessity.

Poe and his boys are able to comfortably live off the land – demonstrating some top notch tracking and hunting skills. In the modern world of convenience where we have GPS and supermarkets, these skills are less and less in demand. But men of Iron Qualities seek to be self-sufficient and I’ll tell you what – if there was ever a Zombie Apocalypse, I would absolutely want Nathaniel Poe at my side.

Poe and Bo vs the Zombies…the dream team. It’s like when Hulk Hogan teamed with the Ultimate Warrior to fight the Triangle of Terror at Summerslam ’91.


Poe is looking at you, Miss

And as this is Hollywood, there is a love interest. In this case, Madeleine Stowe. Poe sets his eyes on her pretty quickly but doesn’t turn into a pathetic swooning mess in the process. He maintains focus on what needs to be done and a honey will always fail the test when it come to breaking this resolve.

When he does focus his attention on her however, he does it directly and with a single-minded purpose. After escorting Stowe’s character and her sister back to the British fort where their father is based, he finds her in the infirmary.

Needless to say, about 5 minutes after this they are smooching behind the bike sheds like a pair of horny teenagers. There’s not a woman alive could resist the Poe stare-down. There was no approach anxiety here…no pickup artist games. Just a self-confidence bordering on cocky. The way it should be.


You say dilemma, I say meh

Remember that adversity I talked about earlier and how Poe leaves it bloody and broken on the floor? Let’s talk a little more about that.

Numerous times in the movie, Poe is faced with difficult dilemmas. And each time, he shows that he is not afraid to take decisive action.

  • On the way to the British Fort with Stowe’s character, he stops at the cabin of a friend. They find the cabin burnt out and the charred bodies of his friend and young family laid out everywhere. Poe touches nothing and refuses to bury the bodies, as doing so would have been a sign for the Huron that someone had been there
  • While at the British Fort, Poe speaks about the cabin scene and the implications of what he saw (guerilla warfare by the Huron on the Frontier). He facilitates escape for the local militia so they can defend their homes while he himself stays – an act seen as sedition by the British Officers, which he is improsioned for
  • While on the run from the Huron, Poe and the group are discovered. Rather than fight superior numbers and probably die, he runs away and leaves Stowe and her sister to be taken prisoners; the plan being a rescue attempt later with better odds of survival


The Last of the Mohicans

In the final scene of the movie, Poe’s adopted father rightly refers to himself as ‘the last of the Mohicans’. Mohicans here stands for something more than the dying Indian tribe. It’s a way of life that is being eroded and ultimately lost. A way of life that is making way for the modern ways of the Europeans who are fighting all around them.

Poe and his father live outside this world. On the Frontier, “beholden to none, not living by another’s leave.”

In a debate with the Chief of another tribe, Poe comments on the many problems that the French and English bring with them in a cutting piece of foresight:

“Would the Huron make his Algonquin brothers foolish with brandy and steal his lands to sell them for gold to the white man? Would the Huron have greed for more land than a man can use?…Would Huron kill tribes with disease? Would the Huron fool Seneca into taking all the animals in the forest for beads & brandy? Those are the ways of Yengeese and Les Francais masters.”


Greed, deceit and desire for trivial things. Traits that Poe as an adopted Mohican rejects. Traits that any man worth his salt knows don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.




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.

The Fallen at the Somme

There have been many men is history who had Iron Qualities – those characteristics that make real men. And sometimes, they die too soon before they can really make their mark on the world. I’m taking an opportunity to stop, reflect and remember a generation lost before they could really become men in their own right. The fallen at the Battle of the Somme .


The fallen at the Somme


1st July 2016 marked the centenary of the start of World War One’s more bloody battles. In the days before, the Allied forces had bombarded the German defensive line with heavy artillery near the banks of the River Somme in north-east France.

The bombardment was supposed to cut through enemy barbed wire and demoralise the German army so that when the Allies went over the top, it would be more a procession than an actual battle.

And so on 1st July 1916 at 7.28am, the Allied British and French forces left their trenches and went over the top expecting little resistance from the German side.

But on that morning, it quickly became clear that the bombing campaign hadn’t really worked as planned. The Allies marched into No Man’s Land shoulder to shoulder and were quickly gunned down by the Germans in a hail of machine-gun fire.


The Battle of the Somme began

Instead of achieving a decisive victory that would hasten the end of the War, it turned into one of the bloodiest battles in history. Countless thousands would be killed, go missing in action, or suffer life-changing physical and mental injuries.

The Battle continued until November 1916 and by its end, over 1.3 million were lost or wounded – the majority of those being killed.

1,300,000 lives either ended or changed forever. And all because a young Serbian nationalist killed an Austrian Prince two years earlier.

That assassination in Sarajevo sparked a series of events that eventually led to the events of The Somme. Along a stretch of land near the France-Belgium border, thousands of men lay in trenches opposite each other in conditions that assaulted all five senses.

They coexisted with rats in the thousands and fought their way through mud so deep it could swallow a man whole. Their clothes were heavily infested with lice that made them itch like hell. Disease was everywhere, as was the sound of constant shell bombardment.

‘Our hands are earth, our bodies mud and our eyes puddles of rain’ (Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front)

And that was the last thing those men knew about this world as they went over the top on the blow of a whistle that day in 1916. A world that was ended in an explosion of blood, noise and metal.

Those two words – ‘The Somme’ – now symbolise an entire generation of men lost to the futility of industrialised trench warfare.

There have been countless tributes and memorials to all who died in that Battle. For now, it’s enough to say that on 1st July 1916 some 35,000 men died following orders. And we remember.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow….


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?


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.

Mr Miyagi: A Man of Iron Qualities

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

Mr Miyagi

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

a) shame on you

b) spoiler alert

The Karate Kid movie franchise is awesome. Well, the first movie anyway. Looking back with hindsight – Karate Kid 2 & 3 are actually pretty ass. And ‘The Next Karate Kid’ with Hilary Swank…

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


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

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

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

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


And it all started with a leaky faucet…..

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


“Always look eye”

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

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

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





Walk slower, talk slower

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

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

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

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


Walk slower talk slower


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

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

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

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

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

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


A Confident step


You cannot conquer time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because you’re nice and harmless. Too nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Composure is the key.

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

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

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

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

Seize the day like a man

Oh Captain, my Captain

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

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

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


Don’t be a lemming

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

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


Always move forward


Man vs Machine

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

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

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


Carpe Diem

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

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

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

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

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


Become the best you can be today


Steps in the right direction

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

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

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

Either be a John Keating – or find one.


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