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.”
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 shortor 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.
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.”
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.
It’s celebration time at the House of the Iron Qualities. No, this isn’t a delayed Christmas party – the Iron Qualities is celebrating its first birthday so I’ll be popping open a little bottle of champagne to celebrate.
Wait…no. That doesn’t sound right. Lose the champagne. I’ll be cracking open a six pack of cold malt sodas, chugging the hell out of them and crushing the cans on my forehead.
I started this blog as a way to document my thoughts on what it means to be a man in today’s world. To seek out and remember all the lessons our ancestors taught us about how to be men. And through this process I wanted to help myself and hopefully others to gain a little enlightenment and become better men.
I initially thought the ideas and life lessons that took us on the journey from boyhood to manhood had been lost and corrupted in a sea of modern-day apathy, information overload and political correctness.
But in the last year, I have learned that the concepts that make males ‘men’ are still alive and well. And by paying attention and actively looking for the life lessons that help us become the best we can be, we can find them.
There are others who feel the same way I do – I learned that too. My audience started small, and it still is thanks to my disgustingly bad marketing skills. But either through word of mouth or people stumbling across the site by pure fluke, it has gradually grown as men organically discover this site and find something that clicks with them.
In Year Two, I’m going to up the ante. I will keep pushing forward, spreading the word and sharing what I learn on my journey to become the best I can be. I had ambitions to write many more blog posts than I actually did in Year One, so there’s plenty more quality content to come. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
So thanks for checking out The Iron Qualities in Year One. If you read anything this year that made an impact, it would be great to hear from you. You can holler at me through Twitter or Facebook.
Ok. Retrospection done. I’m not going to get all gushy and sentimental. We reflect briefly, then keep moving forward. That’s the Iron Qualities way.
We keep doing and pursuing. All action, all day. Kicking ass and…..ok that’ enough. Where’s that six pack…..
Christmas is here once again and another year has almost been and gone.
And the year end is a good time to reflect on progress made, where you’re going in the future, and catch up with families and friends.
That being said, I’m going to leave you with 3 do’s and 3 don’t’s to help you get through the festive period like a man and come out smiling on the other side.
The Do Nots
Staff Christmas parties – don’t go there and get drunk off your face. Don’t be that guy who pisses on the bar (yes…ON…it happens) or threatens to kill his boss and family after he’s had a few too many Smirnoff and coke. Work parties in general suck ass. Your work colleagues are not your friends and unfortunately, it’s only when you do something wrong that this becomes apparent.
So go there if you must. Show your face, pound a few cold ones then do your best Cinderella impression and get out of there before everything gets messy. If you see someone on the dancefloor with their tie around their head dancing to ‘A Fairytale of New York’, you may have already reached the point of no return.
Buying gifts – don’t get sucked into the commercialism and advertising bullshit and feel the need to spend a shitload of money on gifts. The cost of a gift is not directly proportional to its quality or value. You don’t need to spend a lot to give a good gift that actually means something to the person who gets it.
You should already be inherently suspicious about shopping anyway – you might even have a mild phobia. As a man, this is all perfectly normal.
But if you spend a little time thinking about what someone actually likes, you can come out the other side of the Christmas shopping gauntlet without being torn a second or even third asshole paying for it all, while making someone’s day at the same time. Result.
Christmas hype – When you watch all those fluffy Christmas movies, TV shows and commercials, don’t fall into the trap of getting depressed because it all bears absolutely no resemblance to your life. None of that stuff is real. It’s not reality. Christmas is whatever you make it.
If you’re alone and have nobody to spend Christmas Day with, it’s not the end of the world. Christmas Day is just another day and unless you’re religious, it has no special meaning whatsoever.
When to stop – Keep to your regular fitness and food routine as much as you can. Tempting as it is, stay away from those mince pies, chocolates and extra servings of Heineken so you don’t turn into a disgusting fatbody and get absolutely shitfaced 7 days on the trot. Your body will not thanks you for it when you’re spending the next week crapping out all that excess food and drink.
Spread the love – It’s true, a lot of people get more depressed at this time of year but we can all do small things to make someone’s day a little brighter and help ourselves become more sociable in the process. Send a card to let someone know you’re thinking of them; get someone those little gifts that mean something; catch up for a beer with that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. The beauty is in the giving, not the gift.
What you want for Christmas – I’m not talking about what you’ll put in your letter to Santa or what you want to find in your stocking on Christmas morning. I’m talking about what you need to do next year to improve yourself. What are the next steps on your journey to becoming a better person and a better man? Think about it, then makes those thoughts reality.
Reach out to me on twitter or facebook and let me know what your plans are for making a better you in 2017.
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.
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.
You are afraid to quit your job and start your own business in case it fails
You are afraid of giving a presentation in case you screw it up and everyone laughs at you
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.
Challenging ourselves will absolutely lead to some pain and discomfort. We might get punched in the face. It might bleed, bring tears to our eyes, cause brain fog and wind us. But we can’t win if we don’t fight.
That fool Balboa had it right: “It’s not about how hard you hit – it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.”
The push-up is one of the oldest and probably most well-known strength exercises there is. There’s a simple reason – it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and works a lot of muscle groups.
If I tell you to work some push-ups into your daily routine you can’t throw me that “I have no time to exercise” excuse. And nor can you whine about expensive gym fees.
All you need is a space on the floor, a couple of minutes and the drive and discipline to keep going until you can go no more.
To be the best you can be, you need to work on all aspects of your lifestyle. Read. Study history. Learn how to be self-sufficient. Eat properly. And keep yourself in the best physical shape you can.
Stay hungry. Stay curious.
Everything you do in your daily life should be a step towards this better version of yourself.
The problem with all this is that it takes time. And when you factor in family, work commitments and socialising with friends, the time pressure becomes even greater.
So we have to be efficient and get the most bang from our buck.
That’s why I love the push-up. It’s simple and effective. And it can absolutely be a fundamental part of a daily routine to keep you – or get you – in solid physical shape.
There’s a reason the push-up is a staple of military fitness regimes as well as boxing and MMA classes around the world.
Maybe you want to challenge Arnold’s Mr Olympia legacy. Maybe you want to become the next Georges St Pierre. Or maybe it’s as simple as not wanting to be a ‘disgusting fat body’, to quote Full Metal Jacket’s Gunnery Sgt Hartman.
Working press-ups into your daily routine will help build a solid base-level of fitness. Regardless of your goals.
It will also bring you one step closer to looking like a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody
So you want a breakdown of why push-ups are so good right?
Ok – here it is. A lot of this information comes courtesy of Mark Sisson over at Mark’s Daily Apple. And you can read more about that here.
Push-ups can be classed as a full-body exercise in that they work multiple muscle groups in your body. An effective push-up routine will work your chest, shoulders, triceps and your entire midsection – basically your entire upper body. In fact, pretty much every muscle in your body gets involved in the push-up party. Your lower back, legs and glutes are called into action to keep your hips from sagging or rising too high.
And all you fiends for chiseled abs and 6-packs can relax – your abs along with your lats and traps will be engaged to stabilise your body when you’re pushing your body back up.
And much like many calisthenics and bodyweight exercises, push-ups teach your muscles to work in harmony with one another.
It will also help with balance, coordination and stability, giving you a solid platform to build your regular weights routine on.
How to do them
Start on your hands and toes in the ‘plank’ position – i.e. your body is aligned from head to toe
keep your back straight and lower yourself until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor
Press back up to the original position
Repeat until you can no longer do the previous step
If you can’t do the traditional version, you can also try the modified push-up where you start on your knees rather than your toes. And if you feel that you’ve mastered the push-up, there are a load of variations you can get your teeth into. All you need to do is adjust the position of your hands or feet, change the elevation or add in some equipment and you have a comprehensive exercise regime.
Variations include the incline, diamond, plyometric and one-arm push-ups. In fact, future Man of the Month Bruce Lee (spoiler alert) was famous for doing a two-finger version.
A word of warning:
Don’t get caught in the ego trap of banging out high volume / low quality press-ups. You’re better off doing 10 modified push-ups with perfect form than five full push-ups with hunched shoulders or a drooping neck or hips. Perfect form means you will be working more muscles.
Innovation and progress is a good thing. But…
We can get caught in a vicious cycle of innovation for innovation’s sake. Think about all these fitness fads – spinning classes; zumba; Insanity. The concept is the same: do some activity at a high intensity and get your sweat on. You can call it whatever you want, but underneath the name, that’s all it will be.
Sometimes the old ways are the best.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer to tell you this. Just like you don’t need anyone to create a customised lifting routine that requires lots of equipment.
No. Just lie on the floor and push your body weight until you can’t push no more. At the very least, push-ups will remind your muscles what they are supposed to be doing.
The push-up is about as pure and basic as it gets. And it works.
Many thanks to Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple for his permission to use one of the articles from his site as inspiration for this post.
Approach anxiety is the fear of approaching and talking to women. It’s a common problem amongst men and something many suffer with.
In fact, Bo was talking to Vegas Pete recently and we got onto the topic of honeys – specifically, approaching a woman and talking to her.
Vegas Pete revealed that he would rather go skydiving than approach a woman with model looks in a bar. Now let’s think about that for a second. Let’s let it sink in…he would rather jump out of a moving plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being.
Seems a little strange, right?
But I can understand where he’s coming from. This is approach anxiety. And fortunately, it’s something that can be fixed. Another fear….another development opportunity.
But let’s go back to what Vegas Pete said…
He would rather jump out of a plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being
Why do men get this fear? There’s a number of reasons
1 – Being too nice: ‘Nice’ here means that you don’t want to bother a woman or intrude on her personal space. You don’t want to show sexual interest or attraction to her because it’s ‘wrong’ or too forward. And you see yourself as this ‘nice’ guy and compare yourself negatively to men you see in movies or read about in books who DO get women. They are nothing like you and therefore you think you will fail before you begin
2- The Halo Effect: You see a smoking hot honey. I mean, she is out of this world. Wow. She must have many other amazing qualities too – she’s probably intelligent, kind, funny, warm and witty. She’s perfect. You’ve only got one shot at this. If you approach her without being prepared, you’re going to screw it up and lose your only chance with the woman of your dreams. So why even bother?
3 – She is higher value than you: Following on from the previous point, because this woman is essentially perfect, she is better than you. I mean let’s face it – you are not attractive, not interesting, not confident and you have so many problems in your life. This woman is used to strong, successful and confident guys who have their shit together and this is not you
4 – What to say what to say….. : You’ve decided to take the plunge. You’re going to go up to this woman and talk to her. Oh wait….talk?! What are you going to say??? You need to have a repertoire of smooth lines ready to go in order to amaze this women with your wit and banter. Right now, you can’t think of one damn word to say to her. Maybe ‘hello’ …. but then what? You’ll be standing there like a dickhead, freeze and end up looking like a socially maladjusted freak. She’ll probably pepper spray you in the face just to get rid of you
5 – Pride: You’re approaching an attractive woman in a public place and potentially within earshot of numerous people. No doubt other guys in the place have been thinking the same and if you approach, all eyes are on you. Women don’t want to be annoyed. What if she rejects you and makes a big scene. She might slap you in the face or throw her drink all over you if you try to say hi. And in front of everyone. Horrible
These are the kind of stories many of us tell ourselves in our heads and some of the reasons for social paralysis when it comes to wooing the honeys
We have these delimiting beliefs that we are not worthy; women don’t want to be bothered; showing sexual attraction is wrong and so on. So what happens? We end up sitting on the sidelines and being passive observers. That old sickness spectatoritis popping up again.
And this can produce a vicious cycle of debilitating behaviour. If you want to approach a woman and don’t, you are denying your instinct. You have failed to act when you felt you should. That’s why it feels shit. You have not acted authentically and so the next time this happens, you remember the previous failure, feel even more inferior and fail to act again. And so the cycle continues.
The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself
Ok, enough of that crap. We’re telling ourselves all these negative stories in our heads BEFORE we’ve even said a word to her. It’s like my good friend Mike Black always says:
“The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself. Getting punched isn’t actually that bad.”
And so it is with approaching women. And the good news is now that you’re versed in the principles of The Iron Qualities, you know that talking to a honey ain’t no thing.
Let’s have a look at those reasons for approach anxiety again:
1 – Being too nice: No. Nice is not where you want to be. Nice is passive. Nice is limiting. Nice is timid. Don’t be nice. If you want something, go get it. Women want men who know what they want and know how to get it. Approaching a woman in a non-creepy and confident way is infinitely more attractive to her than staring at her longingly from a distance and cry-wanking about how sexually frustrated you are when you get home all alone.
2- The Halo Effect: Ok. Here’s a truth – there is no woman on this earth who is perfect. Chances are, this woman has none of the traits you applied to her in your mind. The more you talk to women the more you realise that they are flawed humans just like you and I. But of course there’s only one way to find out….
3 – She is higher value than you: You are a man of Iron Qualities now. You are dedicated to becoming the best you can be. That negative mindset is gone – it’s in the past. You are a positive, confident and resourceful man who has his own shit going on. An attractive honey would be a welcome addition in this fantastic life you’ve got going on, but she needs to prove to you that she is worth it.
4 – What to say what to say….. : Over-thinking things can get you in all sorts of trouble. You don’t need any special chatup lines – just go up to her and say hi and have a normal conversation. Think back – how many times have you had a random conversation with a stranger. Was it weird? Did you freeze up? No. And just by walking up and saying hi, you’re already the exception rather than the rule – 90% of the guys in the place are too afraid to even get this far
5 – Pride: Being rejected in these situations is not something you should be concerned about. This woman doesn’t know you and there are countless reasons why she is not interested – most of them outside your sphere of influence. Most people are pretty well socially adjusted so don’t fear being called out and shot down in a blaze of glory. IF IF IF you do get rejected, it will probably be politely and with a smile. If it’s not and you get a slap or a pint over the head (assuming you’ve been respectful and non-creepy), this isn’t the kind of person you want to get to know anyway.
Steps to victory
Now I know that all the theory and logic in the word doesn’t mean a thing when the slimy tentacles of a phobia are wrapped tightly around your throat. So now that we’ve debunked all those nasty and horrible fears, here’s some practical and easy steps you can take today to start the journey towards silver-tongued goodness
1 – Become the best version of yourself: This is always priority #1. It trumps everything. Honeys should never be the primary focus of your life. Taking the right steps to becoming a better man will make you positive, cool, fun and driven. Yes, that’s right – HIGH VALUE.
2 – Talk to more people in everyday situations: Make it a goal to enhance any functional conversation you have during a typical day by asking a few more questions.
Buying lunch at the canteen? Ask the cooks which meal is the best option today
Getting a new pair of shoes? Get an opinion on whether black or brown looks better on you
Walk past that same person everyday at work but never say a word? Today is the day you ask them how they’re doing
Easiest thing in the world. One extra question and you’re having a proper conversation. Rather than focussing on meeting and talking to attractive women, focus on being a more sociable person in all aspects of your day-to-day life. Doing this makes you a more positive and sociable person and will ultimately help you talk to women you find attractive.
3 – Don’t over think. Just act: You have no idea what she’s going to say when you approach. Stop imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong and pull the trigger. And when you do pull the trigger and you can’t think of anything to say, or you get a lukewarm response, try this one:
You: How’s your evening going?
Honey: It’s going ok…
You: Ok cool. I just thought I’d come over and say hi. What’s your name?
You: Alright Honey. I’m Bo. You have a good night and if we bump into each other again later, we’re doing shots
And there you go. Honey wasn’t interested but:
a) you had a conversation with her
b) You’ve gained experience approaching an woman
c) You now have a legitimate reason to re-engage later in the evening for those shots
Things won’t happen if you wait for them – you have to make them happen. The more you put yourself out there, the more of a roller-coaster it will be. But remember: you’re just talking to another person. That’s all it is.
Talking the Iron Qualities
Taking all this into consideration, let’s do a good old fashioned compare and contrast. Picture the scene – you are in a coffee shop buying a…wait for it…coffee. The barista is an attractive lady:
Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?
You: Can I have a medium vanilla spiced soya latte please
Barista: Sure. One moment please
(one moment later)
Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please
(you had over the money)
You: There you go. Have a nice day
Barista: Thanks, you too
Ok. Not bad. You spoke to an attractive lady, got your coffee and survived without any permanent damage. If we were ticking off a checklist, that’s a fairly successful operation.
But life isn’t about checklists. Let’s inject some Iron Qualities into the same scene and see what happens:
Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?
(looking at her name badge)
You: Hi Honey. Can I have a black coffee. No milk. No Sugar.
Barista: Sure. One moment please
You: How are you doing today?
Barista: I’m doing good thanks. How about you.
You: Yeah pretty good. I just read a really interesting article on my favourite blog – theironqualities.com
Barista: Oh really? I haven’t heard of it. What’s it about?
You: It’s a self-improvement blog for men. It has lots of useful tips
Barista: Sounds interesting! What kind of tips?
You: Well today my goal was to flirt with a pretty lady. I guess I can tick that box now….
Barista: Tee hee!! Oh you!
Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please
(you had over the money)
You: There you go. You have a great day
Barista: Thanks, you too Mr Iron Qualities. Maybe see you again sometime
You: No doubt
I think that went ok, don’t you?
“Language was invented for one endeavour….to woo women”
Men with the Iron Qualities are a little bit like a woman with both outstanding beauty and intelligence – they are out there and they exist, but coming across one is a rare and unexpected moment. It’s a little scary but also intriguing.
With that in mind, I want to highlight men – real or fictional – who have demonstrated some of the principles that define the Iron Qualities. Think of it like a slightly less sexy Playboy Playmate of the Month.
Kurt Hahn – An unexpected start
I had several men in mind to kick this off with – but there are lots of little coincidences in the world. I was thinking about this the other day, I read an excellent article about a man who ticked a lot of the Iron Qualities boxes – Kurt Hahn.
Hahn was born to Jewish parents in Germany in 1886 and suffered severe sunstroke as an 18 year old which resulted in the removal of the occipital bone at the back of his skull and required him to wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors for the rest of his life.
He worked several jobs before founding the Schule Schloss in Salem in 1920, a private boarding school where he also served as headmaster.
He became a fierce critic of the Nazi regime during Hitler’s rise to power – this was heightened by an incident where a young communist was killed by Nazi troops in front of his mother. Hahn spoke out against the murder, and then against Hitler and his regime itself.
This led to him spending several days in prison before an appeal by the British Prime Minister saw him released. He then moved to Scotland where he converted to Christianity and founded Gordonstoun – a boarding school in Scotland that shared similar principles to the school in Salem. Alumni include Prince Philip and Prince Charles.
He went on to found several other boarding schools around the world before returning to Germany, where he died in 1974.
Forming schools based on a philosophy
Ok, so what? A German school teacher who had an overdose of sunbathing as a child. Pretty bland. Where are the Iron Qualities??
Well much like our Autobot brothers from Cybertron, there is more than meets the eye here.
“There is more in you than you think” is an inscription found on Hahn’s family home – it became the motto of his life’s philosophy and also served as the motto for one of the educational institutions he went on to form. It sums the man up pretty well.
Hahn was all about “experiential learning” – putting kids in situations that were mentally and physically challenging. He believed children were inherently decent and had a strong moral sense but that these traits became corrupted by society as they got older.
His educational principles were designed to provide opportunities for personal leadership and for students to see the results of their own actions – the goal being to halt this corruption. And the principles were refined and crystalised into what became known as the ‘Seven Laws of Salem’ around 1930:
Give the children opportunities for self-discovery
Make the children meet with triumph and defeat
Give the children the opportunity of self-effacement in the common cause
Provide periods of silence
Train the imagination
Make games important but not predominant
Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege
I love it. I mean, an educational philosophy with these principles at its core is much better and more practical than the learning by numbers approach we enjoy today to enable schools to meet government exam pass targets.
Hahn expanded on this and offered some more explanation on his educational principles:
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”
Everything about this stinks of the Iron Qualities. These qualities should be central to a boy’s journey to becoming a man and with a huge chunk of a boy’s life spent educational institutions, weaving these principles into that routine is exactly what is needed.
Six Declines, four antidotes
Hahn also created a list of points that he felt summed up exactly how society fails and corrupts the young – the ‘Six Declines of Modern Youth’.
Decline of Fitness due to modern methods of locomotion (moving about)
Decline of Initiative and Enterprise due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis (a passive spectator rather than an active participant)
Decline of Memory and Imagination due to the confused restlessness of modern life
Decline of Skill and Care due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship
Decline of Self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of stimulants and tranquilizers
Decline of Compassion due to the unseemly haste with which modern life is conducted
Bingo. This guy absolutely nailed it. This is why men of the Iron Qualities are so few and far between. Too many of us think:
It’s easier to lie on the sofa all weekend for a big sporting marathon of football, boxing, rugby and tennis rather than going to the gym and pumping some iron
It’s easier to watch and read about other people trying and failing something challenging (and then passing judgment on them) rather than trying ourselves
It’s easy to fall into the routine of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ rather than stopping to smell the roses now and then
It’s easier to buy disposable items and trash them rather than getting quality expensive pieces that last a lifetime
It’s easier to get wired on caffeine or something stronger to get you through the work week and then get wasted on a bottle of Buckfast at the weekend to forget how much you hate your job rather than having the discipline to take control of your life and take it where YOU want it to go
It’s easier to keep running to catch that train to get you to work rather than stopping to help that little old man who just tripped and fell over
Iron Qualities – old school style
It’s strange and sad that something written about boys almost 100 years ago still resonates today – and not just with boys but with men too. Hahn was industrious however and didn’t just stop with identifying these declines – he also proposed four remedies:
Fitness Training (e.g., to compete with one’s self in physical fitness; in so doing, train the discipline and determination of the mind through the body)
Expeditions (e.g., via sea or land, to engage in long, challenging endurance tasks)
Projects (e.g., involving crafts and manual skills)
Rescue Service (e.g., surf lifesaving, fire fighting, first aid)
These ‘remedies’ were built into the curriculum at Hahn’s schools and went on to form the basis of the Duke of Edinburgh Award – designed to recognise young people’s achievements in a series of self-improvement exercises.
Old Bo here participated in the scheme when he was in high school. That particular adventure was short lived however – one of my teachers took a dislike to my expedition group and made our time in the scheme hell. On top of this, I was the only one of us who could even remotely read a map and knew what a compass a) was and b) looked like. All this meant that my Duke of Edinburgh adventure was like a fart in the wind – lingering briefly in my life before disappearing forever and becoming no more than a distant memory.
Start the day in the right way
At Gordonstoun, the boys rose at 06:30am for a cold shower and a run, the timetable for the day much like that in the German schools Hahn had earlier formed. At 21:15 there was a quarter of an hour of silence to enable the pupil to “glean the harvest from his manifold experiences” before lights out.
This is a tough way to start the day – but a fantastic way. There is plenty of material online and elsewhere about the many benefits of cold showers and a little 5km run in the morning does wonders. This is a routine I started trying to implement a several months ago. Waking up 45 minutes earlier than normal; do a little stretching; get some air in your lungs by banging out a 20-25 min run; then hop into a quick 2-3 minute cold shower to get the blood flowing.
It might sound crazy, but you feel like king of the world after this routine. Granted, it’s not always easy to motivate yourself to get up at 6am if it’s sub-zero temperatures pissing rain and darker than a black steer’s tookus. But creating a habit of positive action and doing it more often than not is a battle everyone can win.
And while you are up and about working to improve yourself and become the best you can be, 90% of the population are still in bed snoring.
Hahn was the man
While Hahn may not have physically resembled what we typically think an Alpha Male looks like, he dedicated his life to a philosophy that all men should pay serious attention to. The emphasis on practical physical activities rather than over-reliance on theoretical learning provided a fantastic foundation for children at his schools to go on and live a life of Iron Qualities.
The principles that he engrained in his schools showed that Hahn understood how men should live their lives and realise their potential – and he created and refined a curriculum and learning methods to facilitate this.
Ask yourself the question: Would you rather finish school with the skills to:
Prepare you for an exciting career in banking or
Become a self-reliant and driven man (who also has some quality numeracy skills as and when required)?
Self-reliance, compassion, discipline, drive/determination – these are the qualities Hahn wanted us to cultivate and these qualities are central to a life well-lived for men. For the majority of us, our schooldays are over, but it’s never too late to learn.
I’m glad I discovered Kurt Hahn and his philosophy on education. As I was reading about his life, a thought kept going through my head:
“It’s like this guy had an internal magnet that pointed him in the direction of the Iron Qualities”
And it’s for that reason he absolutely deserves his place as a Mon of the Month.
Remember the Hahn family motto – “There is more in you than you think”
This is true for all of us. Don’t settle for an easy auto-pilot life of mediocrity – take control and make yourself the best person your can be. You might surprise yourself.
Now…I’m off to dust off the De Lorean, travel back in time and give that Duke of Edinburgh Award another shot.
A few weeks ago saw the conclusion of rugby’s 2016 6 Nations Championship and once again we were treated to five rounds of intense and physical confrontations over 6 weeks.
It’s one of the few times in the year when football has to take a back seat to another sport – at least this is the case in the UK. During the final weekend, I was in a bar watching the Ireland vs Scotland game with my old friend Arthur Guinness.
The bar has several screens and all of them were showing the rugby. All bar one – a smaller screen in a corner that was showing the Swansea vs Aston Villa game.
And watching these two sports side by side with the Guinness oiling the cogs in my head got me thinking. It wasn’t a question of which sport was better, but where the Iron Qualities were.
Growing up, football was a central part of my childhood. It was Magnetic North and I was a compass. I never had a choice, it would always attract me.
Little Bo used to play jumpers for goalposts late into the evening. In the summer when there was still some natural light well past 10pm, we would play first to 50 goals and go home covered in grass stains and mud.
Rugby was something that was always in my peripheral vision, never quite getting to the centre stage. A little like a recurring extra in a soap opera with a non-speaking part.
My school tried to force it on us for a period and I even made the school team. But we were beyond shit; we got smashed every time we played, I didn’t understand the rules and the whole experience was lost on me.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the merits of rugby more and more. And watching these two sports side I got thinking about the old arguments rugby folk tend to bring up when comparing their chosen sport to football
Footballers falling over at the slightest nudge; writhing dramatically in apparent agony when someone goes in hard on them with a good, solid tackle; or worse – going down when nobody touches them. There is a growing sickness in football.
Laurent Blanc – a former France international – knows all too well about this sickness. He earned a suspension and missed the 1998 World Cup final after Croatia’s Slavan Bilic appeared to overreact when Blanc made contact with him
Four years later at the 2002 World Cup, Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal was sent off for kicking the ball at Rivaldo, only to see the Brazilian go down like he’d taken a shot from Rocky Balboa.
It’s cheating – pure and simple. An attempt to con the referee into thinking you have been seriously fouled.
On the flip side of this coin in the rugby world, there is the famous story of former New Zealand captain Buck Shelford. He made his debut for the All Blacks in a test series against France. In his second game, the French decided to give him a hearty bienvenue to international rugby by:
Knocking him out with a flying headbutt
Performing some emergency dental work with a swift boot to the face, removing three teeth
Doing the Moonwalk on his groin area while he was grounded, ripping his ballsack which then had to be stitched up
No – I haven’t been drinking that Peruvian hallucination tea, this is all true. All these things happened to one man in one game, although I’m not sure about the Moonwalk part – it might have been MC Hammer dance.
Records show that Shelford continued the game. But don’t ask the man himself – his memory of the event is a little hazy.
In the history of rugby, this isn’t an isolated incident. The game doesn’t generally stop for injuries and it’s common to see physios on the field of play patching guys up. So if you go down injured, you’re hurting your team’s chances too.
It’s a much more physical game than football and this spirit of putting your body on the line and pushing through the pain barrier is entrenched in players’ psyches.
Fighting and confrontations
I remember seeing clips of old football games from the 70s where players would go in hard on each other, square up and have the occasional boxing match. These things happen in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we lose our composure.
Today, we get players touching heads, one player moves his head towards the other player’s who then goes down in a heap.
The physicality from bygone days has been lost and we are now left with deception, exaggerated reactions to physical contact and some truly embarrassing attempts at self-defence.
The technical term for it in the game is ‘handbags’ and it’s literally ridiculous. Literally.
Rugby players on the other hand generally put up with a high level of physicality as part of the game but when things kick off, they really do KICK OFF. There is no overreactions or ‘handbags’, just good old fashioned fist-on-skull action.
The individual vs the team
Time and time again I’ve seen football players get substituted in a game and before they’ve even left the pitch, they are throwing a hissy fit. Shaking their head in disbelief and mumbling profanities to themselves, they trudge back to the bench, sit down and start throwing stuff around and looking grumpy.
I’ve seen behaviour like this before…from children at nursery school when they had a boo-boo or one of the other kids snatched their He-Man toy off them.
In rugby, players go off…and that’s it. In fact, because of the much higher number of subs allowed in the game, you barely notice players going off or coming on and players tend not to take it as a personal slight.
Abusing the officials
Picture the scene…Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Luis Suarez charges through on goal, gets into the penalty area, gets chopped down.
The ref blows his whistle, awards a penalty and gets surrounded by a bunch of hot and angry Madrid players getting right in his face telling him what a moron he is.
We say and do things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. But this kind of institutionalised abuse towards authority figures is bullying. Getting up close and personal and putting the ref under pressure to make decisions that are favourable towards your team.
And the ref – well he’s just a man, watching a game going at 100 miles per hour and having to make a decision in a split second.
Rugby has video replays to help officials with key decisions. The football powers that be have dragged their heels on video technology that would greatly help refs for years; and they will continue to do so for years to come.
In rugby – and indeed most other major sports, video technology promotes a level of trust and respect between players and officials. It’s accepted that the right decisions will be made and ref abuse is kept to a minimum.
Saying that, before video replays were introduced to rugby, any player who gave shit to a referee was either sent to the sin bin or sent off. No arguments. No hesitation. That level of ref respect is engrained in the sport and hasn’t been eroded…yet. It’s also not uncommon to hear “yes sir” when players speak to the ref. Respect, not bullying
Rugby & football on the Iron Qualities scale
Those are just a few of the things I was thinking about that day. And the question that kept coming back to my mind wasn’t “which sport is ‘better’?” – no, it was “where are the Iron Qualities in all this?”
And if we put the sports of rugby and football on the Iron Qualities scale, it looks like it would tip overwhelmingly in favour of the egg-chasers. If you took any of the behaviour so often seen on a football pitch these days and transferred it to real life, you would be in trouble.
Someone slaps you in the face and you go down claiming whiplash and suing. Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror at night knowing you had acted authentically?
You’re in a crowded bar and making your way back from the toilets, you bump into someone who accuses you of spilling their beer. He gets right in your face and diplomacy isn’t going to work. If you fight like a footballer, guess what….you’re getting knocked out
You get passed over for a promotion or replaced on a piece of work. You can either a) cry about it; b) accept it; c) figure out WHY it happened to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Which option demonstrates the Iron Qualities??????
But here’s the thing – I have grown up surrounded by football. It is sown into the fabric of our society. It’s the simplest thing: I kicked a £2 plastic ball against a wall when I was 9 years old and fell in love. Unconditionally. A ball and a wall – that’s all it takes.
Football at its best is art
The ability of teams to string quick accurate cutting passes together is a manifestation of sporting harmony – the combination of players on the same wavelength producing a pleasing effect.
Football and rugby both produce this effect but football tends to be more free-flowing.
Rugby is often dominated by team strategy and tactics. The coaching staff create blueprints for how they want their team to play and this is then drilled and practiced ad nauseum. Tackling in the sport brings momentum to a halt and allows both teams to get set for the next phase, which they will have drilled over and over again in training.
It is very much a team sport – with the strength of the pack being much more important than any one individual.
But football, more so than rugby, provides a canvas for the solo artist. One player can make – or break – a team. Or even the entire club.
One player has the potential at any time to completely turn a game on its head with a moment of genius or a massive cock-up.
One player playing at his peak and profoundly effecting a game is like an artist possessed and in the zone slashing his paintbrush across the canvas as he creates a masterpiece.
Growing up, I remember them all: Ronaldo, Scholes, Zidane, Laudrup, Pirlo, Bergkamp
I went to Milan once – a cathedral of football where you can still occasionally hear echoes of past greats like Meazza, Mazzola, Ronaldo, Maldini, Gullit and Van Basten.
Amongst its cobbled paths and alleyways it holds two marvels of human creation – The Duomo Cathedral and Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’.
If rugby is the team of men who built the Duomo, then football is The Last Supper.
The Duomo is a triumph of architectural design and construction teamwork – it has been rebuilt, reconstructed and enhanced many times over the years. Much like a rugby team on offence, progress is halted, attack is redirected in phases and as a team, there is eventual success.
The Last Supper is a fragile, multi-layered, fading symbol of one man transcending the limits of human imagination. On first appearance, it might appear underwhelming. The fact that is was painted on a thin wall and exposed to the elements of nature, it has deteriorated badly and very little of the original is left.
But the more you look, the more you see. This is one of the most beautiful creations in human history and shows what one man can do given the right motivation and conditions.
So…the Iron Qualities??
As a man, you keep trying to move forward and progress like a juggernaut. You will get tackled and taken down. Often, you will have to take a few steps back to make long-term gains. But when you get tackled, when you suffer an affront or when you get called out for doing something wrong, you take it – authentically and like a man. Move on. And keep moving forward.
And just like those footballing geniuses who shone for their teams, you nurture your ability to do something special, something different. You can be the difference-maker because you have the Iron Qualities.
And while you have the ability to shine yourself, you take responsibility for surrounding yourself with other men of the Iron Qualities and working together with them as a team to drive forward in that search for self-improvement and success as a man.
Neither football nor rugby are better than the other. They are both sports with their own individual merits. The secret in all this is to take the best qualities of both sports and apply them to your everyday life. Then you’re in Iron Qualities country.
“We need the iron qualities that go with true manhood. We need the positive virtues of resolution, of courage, of indomitable will, of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done.”
This is the final part of the series of posts looking at the quote by Teddy Roosevelt where he talks about ‘The Iron Qualities’.
Once this post is finished, the journey to explore what the Iron Qualities are will be over, right?
The journey doesn’t end here
No – the journey towards true manhood never stops. Everything we do every day of our lives should be done with the goal of making ourselves better men – and with the principles of the Iron Qualities always in the back of our minds.
The work of the Iron Qualities MUST ALWAYS BE DONE
It is not enough to read about the principles and be familiar with them
It’s not enough to say “ok – I am going to live a life filled with Iron Qualities”
It’s not enough to say “it’s too hard to be that kind of man. I am just an average guy and there’s nothing I can do to change that”
Nobody is born the finished product. Nobody is born as “Man: defined”. You might talk about men you have come across who are ‘naturals’ – everything they do seems so effortless.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘natural’. The difference with these guys is the stories they tell themselves in their heads and the actions they undertake every day.
They are positive – The stories they tell themselves are filled with positivity and affirmative messages
They are authentic – They have defined a code of virtues and their actions are governed by this code
They have resolve – These men do. Or do not. There is no try
They have courage – Doing (or not doing) will often be difficult, dangerous or painful. These men accept this fact and continue
They have an undefeatable spirit – They will not be beaten or subdued
That’s right – these men have the Iron Qualities and they are not half-assed about it. This is the secret to success – to be a man of Iron Qualities, there are things that MUST ALWAYS BE DONE. Every day of your life. There are no compromises, no shortcuts and the journey never ends.
It’s not optional
It’s not part-time
It’s not only words
It’s all day, every day action.
So let’s explore these final words a little more – “must always be done”
MUST – Of course…there is always a choice. The choice here is between being a man of Iron Qualities and being an average Joe. By definition most men will chose to be average and just coast along. How about you? Are you ready to be a the extreme right hand side of that bell curve?? If you are, there is only one way to get there…you MUST follow the path of Iron Qualities
You’re at the edge of the map lad…here there be Men
ALWAYS – The Iron Qualities is not a part-time thing. It’s not a fad diet and it’s not a New Years resolution that was made in a moment of crazed drunkeness at the staff Christmas party that dies before January’s end. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle that provides the fuel and the platform for us to reach and fulfil our potential and get the absolute maximum out of every second of every day. And the journey towards perfecting this lifestyle never stops. It goes on and on and on. Always
BE DONE – The Iron Qualities is about action. Getting shit done. Understanding what a man should do in life and how he should act and then doing those things and acting that way. There is no “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “I can’t do it” and “why should I do it?”. You should do it because you’re a man. Because you can do it. And you need to do it now. Action. Because there are too many hollow words in the world
So that’s it. The Iron Qualities in something a little larger than a nutshell.
When I first read this quote a while back, I thought it was interesting and it stuck with me. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that it captures and highlights most of the core aspects of what a modern man should aim towards.
It’s theoretical and abstract, yes. But the message is clear:
The Iron Qualities mindset drives action and fuels decision-making
And the message is as clear today as it was when Roosevelt first uttered the words – we NEED the Iron Qualities. Men who embody these qualities are becoming fewer and further between as the definition of what it means to be a man gets lost and corrupted.
But all is not lost – the fightback goes on. And in highlighting lifestyle choices and mindsets and everyday observations that I come across, I hope this site plays a part in that fightback.
But Bo Ideal is just one cog in a much larger machine. We all need the Iron Qualities – and the rough work that goes with this lifestyle must always be done.
So this is the part of the story where the group of kids find a treasure map and set off looking for that precious material, knowing they are going to get their asses handed to them on a plate by their parents when they don’t make it back for dinner.
Let’s get doing
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