This is part 4 of a look at the Iron Qualities. That means Apollo Creed has just died, we have a freaky looking robot doing the chores around the house and we’re packing our bags to go to Russia and take on Ivan Drago in his own back yard. Training montage at the ready.
So far, we have seen what Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Iron Qualities’ quote can teach us in terms of living like a true man through:
And this time, I want to focus on the next part of the quote – ‘…to do without shrinking the rough work…’
This isn’t ‘shrinking’ like your weiner might do on a cold sharp winter’s day. And to avoid any doubt, I’m going to utilise that tried, tested and tired method of going back to the dictionary definition.
Shrink (verb): To draw back, as in retreat or avoidance
Reading that, you can probably tell where I’m going with this. But I like nothing better than rambling and being predictable, so I’m just going to keep writing ad nauseam.
Let’s face it – life has its moments where things go tits up. Shit does indeed happen. At points in your life, you will have to do some things that would definitely not make the list of ‘perfect day activities’. Examples include:
- Getting your dog put down when cure is not an option
- Having to let someone go if you ever find yourself in a managerial position
- Breaking up with someone when you know it isn’t going to work out
- Going through a career change – quitting your job and starting again from scratch
We call these things ‘necessary evils’ – things that we normally wouldn’t do because they go against our principles or dent our pride. These are the things Teddy labels ‘the rough work’. And sometimes, it can’t be avoided.
And when the rough work can’t be avoided, we need to face it head on, kick it in the balls without hesitation and dominate it.
Rip the plaster, don’t caress it
Remember when you were a little boy and you cut your knee and you put a plaster on it while it healed?
You know it has to come off…and you know it’s going to hurt. Poking at it and making half-assed attempts to remove it just isn’t going to cut it. Time is precious and you don’t want to spend an hour trying to convince that plaster to come off by itself
Grab that brute nice and firm and pull back with all your might. Pain…less than a second and mild at most. Plaster, now in the bin where it belongs. The rest of the day….all yours to continue putting into practice a life of the Iron Qualities.
These things have to be done. You know they do. Trying to avoid the issue won’t work – there is no amount of magic in the world that will make these things go away by themselves.
The coffee can wait
It’s the same in a working environment. You’ve got a list of things you need to get done today and one of them is not going to be nice at all. Shit is probably going to hit the fan.
So what do you do?? ‘Meh…I’ll do it after lunch’.
And lunch comes….and goes. ’I’ll just grab my 3pm coffee and sort it out after that.’
Before you know it, they day is over and you haven’t done anything.
No – you need to grab the bull by the horns, prepare yourself for the shitstorm and face it head on.
There are a few ways to handle these situations and I’m sure you’ve seen them all
There’s the guy who weasels out of doing anything at all – these men ‘delegate’ or apportion blame, saying things like “hey…it’s not my problem. Jim needs to sort this out.” These guys love nothing better than passing the buck and avoiding responsibility. They have a magical quality of being able to wriggle out of the rough work like a fish.
Then there is a procrastinator. He will keep putting the thing off and putting it off and will eventually do a half-assed job just to get it off his radar for a while. But he hasn’t actually sorted anything out. And sure enough – the half-assed job he did comes back to bite him and he is then left with an even bigger problem to face.
Or there is the man who says “Right…this isn’t going to be nice and I’m not looking forward to it. But it needs to be done and I am the man to do it. So let’s go.”
Which of these men has the Iron Qualities?? Man #3 wins every time. This is the man who realises the rough work must be done and does not shrink from it.
Sometimes, they have to stay as they lay
Taking action in these situations, sometimes we get accused of being cold and heartless or lacking in compassion. One scene in particular from Michael Mann’s ‘Last of the Mohicans’ sticks in my mind when I think of this.
While on the run from enemies, Hawkeye, his father and brother go to their friend’s cabin for aid along with Madeleine Stowe’s character and her sister. The find the cabin burnt however, and all their friends – including their children -murdered and charred. Despite this, they leave everything undisturbed, including the bodies, which they refuse to bury.
Madeleine is disgusted and when she protests at their indifference, we get that great line from Daniel Day Lewis:
“They were not strangers, Miss Monroe. And they stay as they lay.”
We later learn the exact reason why they did what they did (or didn’t do what they didn’t do) – if they had moved/touched/buried anything, their enemies would know they had been there and been able to track them much more easily
So Hawkeye and his family are prepared to to a horrible thing – and it had to be done. Something that pained them to do. Was it easy for them?? No. But this is the point – it’s rough work. And it’s necessary at times.
Maybe you will need to explain why you had to do what you did. And that’s fine. If you have the Iron Qualities, your actions will be driven from the proper virtues and principles. And you will not shrink from taking them.