The Man In The Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(Theodore Roosevelt)

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Alpha Male

My wife and I had a compelling conversation over eggplant parmigiana this evening:

Alpha males.

The term alpha male is a recent innovation but the idea is well-known.  Like Justice Potter Stewart’s answer when asked to describe obscenity, he answered, “I can’t tell you what obscenity is but I know it when I see it.”  You know an alpha male when you see him.

Popular culture has given us an idea of the alpha male.  Steve McQueen.  John Wayne.  Frank Sinatra.  Clint Eastwood.  More recently, Liam Neeson and Russell Crowe (pictured above).

When I asked Kath what defines an alpha male more than anything, she answered, “Confidence.  He’s comfortable with himself and owns his space.”

She really got my attention.  My game is going to another level.

An alpha male:

  • Is confident in his own abilities.  One proof is he doesn’t need to announce it.  He knows what he can and cannot do.
  • Is decisive.  He makes a decision, usually with dispatch, and then sticks with it.
  • Has stones and plenty of testosterone.
  • Doesn’t run home to mother when the going gets tough.
  • Is not given to self-pity, especially displays of it.  Corollary to that is he doesn’t shift blame and takes a beating if he’s earned it.
  • Can defend himself intellectually or physically.  This makes women feel very safe and is quite a turn-on.  Gals may pity wimps but they don’t respect them.
  • Will mask his fears even when afraid.  It’s Leadership 101.  Combat veterans understand this well.
  • Is not a poser.  Nor arrogant (an advertisement saying “I’m insecure”).
  • Walks into a room and leads.  He’s not looking for a leader.  He is one.  Frank Sinatra was king here.  It’s no wonder one of his nicknames was “Chairman of the Board.”
  • Aren’t desperately seeking people’s approval or permission to live life and forge ahead.
  • Is not metrosexual, though he dresses well and smells nice.  The idea of effeminacy makes him recoil.
  • Knows exactly what he wants and goes after it, come hell or high water.

Alright lads, let’s take it to another level.  The world is waiting.

And so is your woman.

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Lee Iacocca On Leadership

“Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don’t just stand there. Make it happen.”

Lee Iacocca.  Father of the Ford Mustang.  Brought Chrysler out of bankruptcy in the late 1970’s.  Helped bring the quality of US car making to another level entirely.

His grandmother gave this bit of sound advice [above quote] about leadership and initiative.  One really can’t improve on it.

“Apply Yourself”

Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  If you’re going to make a difference in your career, your social circles and organizations, you’ve got to have initiative.  Be a self-starter.  Remake yourself into an individual who doesn’t require external motivation and motivators—read bosses—to get into gear.  Take the ball and run with it.  Don’t wait for permission.  People will be amazed.

“Get All The Education You Can”

I’m at the mid-point of my life journey.  To get ahead to places I want to be and to do the things I want to do require me to learn more.  Go back to school.  Lots of people are going back to college or getting specialty training in all sorts of fields: IT, medicine, law, banking, social sciences.  College is not just for the young and you’ll be surprised how many older people are returning there, refusing to rust away.  My mom earned her Ph.D in her sixties.  You can do it and so can I.  Check out the possibilities.

“Do Something”

Simple physics tells us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted on by an external force and a body in motion tends to stay in motion the same way.  The law of inertia.  Get busy, get schooled and get going.  Activity and effort bring a return.  Do this and enjoy the rewards of your labor.

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Doveryai, No Proveryai

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty

I love languages.  I’ve spent most of my life learning different languages.  Some—French, for example—involved years of school.  Others I learned enough either to transact business or read text with the aid of dictionaries and grammars.   Spanish.  Greek.  Italian.  Hebrew.  Latin.

And Russian.

Nearly 22 years ago, our family took in a family of Ukrainian immigrants.  Six people in all and none of them spoke a word of English.  Settling into an entirely new country and culture must have been frightening for our Ukrainian friends.

While we knew a few people within 50 miles who spoke Russian or Ukrainian, the task of helping this family settle into American life fell largely to our family.  And because I have a love for foreign languages, I took it upon myself to learn to speak basic Russian in order to do day-to-day business.

At the time, I was managing a full-line bakery and had a very full schedule.  But I bought a Russian grammar and dictionary and dove in.  When working, I propped the grammar on my baker’s bench and taught myself to read Cyrillic script and learn Russian words and phrases while making trays full of cinnamon buns and Italian bread.  It was a great learning experience.

The Russians have a maxim that became famous during the 1987 INF Treaty signing between General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan.  Doveryai no proveryai.

“Trust, but verify.”

In the case of the INF Treaty, it meant that the United States and the then Soviet Union would give one another the benefit of the doubt, within reason, that they were abiding by the terms of the treaty, which was designed to throttle back the nuclear arms race between the superpowers by eliminating Intermediate and Shorter-Range missiles.  The treaty included the allowance of inspectors within the Soviet Union and the United States to validate that both countries were abiding by their agreement.

The operative phrase here is within reason.

It is good to be able to give the leading voices in our world—political, economic, media and religion—the benefit of the doubt when they declaim on this or that matter of importance.  But such benefit has limits.

Trust, but verify.  This means, among other things, getting second opinions.  Hearing the other side of any given story.  Checking out references and sources.  Authenticating claims.  Challenging generalizations with penetrating questions, even if it makes the one questioned squirm.

Nobody—and I mean nobody—gets a free pass in this life.  Do your homework.  Check information out.  If you’re a Democrat, read what a Republican says, not what MSNBC says a Republican stands for.  If you’re a Republican and want to know what a Democrat stands for, go to the horse’s mouth—not Fox News.  The best sources are original sources.  I’d rather watch the movie myself  than read the critics.  I bet you do too.

The same holds true in religious matters, economic forecasts and medical diagnoses.  You are not helpless and at the mercy of experts.  Check things out for yourself.  Trust…but verify.

You’ll be glad you did.

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Labor and Leisure

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn is one of my favorite self-development teachers.  I’ve been mentored by him over the past year through his writings and recorded seminars.  I have never met him.  He died in 2009 after a full life.

Today, I heard him dispense this nugget, worthy of wrapping one’s head around:

“Make rest a necessity, not an objective.”

Now that’s a new and powerful way of highlighting the importance of working hard.

Rest is something we earn.  This sounds foreign to American ears.  We are used to the “standard” of a 40 hour work week.  But the 40 hour work week is distinctly Western and of recent vintage.

I’ve heard it said that if you’re only working 40 hours a week, it’s not likely you’re going to get ahead.  Certainly not as far ahead as your dreams, goals and ambitions.

Even God worked 6 days out of 7 when He created the cosmos.  He wasn’t done on Friday afternoon at 5:00.

I have family members who are doctors, attorneys, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, Federal officials and much more.  They’ve all gotten where they’re at the old-fashioned way:  They worked their tails off.  Nobody handed any of them anything.

Here are just a few benefits that will return to you with greater effort and longer hours, as you create a life:

  • You will certainly grow in your chosen fields of vocation and avocation.
  • Your sense of accomplishment will increase as you tackle and master more skills and meet goals.
  • You will run far ahead of the pack simply because many, if not most, are content to put their expected time in, satisfied with “working their 40 hours.”
  • Your earning potential will undoubtedly increase, especially if the extra effort is focused and you strive for greater levels of excellence at all to which you put your hands to.

This isn’t a paean of praise to workaholism.  Far from it.  But in a culture that lives for the weekend, for partying, for good times and leisure, one tends to get an unrealistic picture of what it takes to win at life and rise to the top of your potential.  It’s simply a matter of adjusting your perspective to accord with reality.

So my advice is this:  See work and labor not as a curse, but as a blessing.  Look for lots of increases in many different ways as you work harder toward fulfilling your destiny.

And, when you have striven and exerted and are tired, then rest.

You’ve earned it.

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A Super Bowl Champ On Life

“Blame no one. Expect Nothing. Do Something.” (Bill Parcells)

I snagged this quote this morning as I visited one of my favorite blogs.  It sums up an awful lot.  And, as someone remarked quoting it, the Coach is not saying, “Ah, suck it up.  Don’t be a wuss.”  He’s pointing the way to excellence.   He’s won a couple of Super Bowl rings. Obviously he has gotten results from such a perspective.  You will too.

“Blame No One”

Take responsibility—all of it—for your life.  Don’t buy into the lie that you can’t do something meaningful and profitable because…your family was a mess…the economy is bad…you’re too old…you’re too young…someone beat you to it.  Our choices have brought us to where we are at present.  Our choices will earn us a Hall-of-Fame life.  But it is our choice.  Take charge of your life and don’t wait around for someone to give you permission to do so.  The fact you are breathing is permission enough.

“Expect Nothing”

Don’t let entitlement thinking cloud your judgment and stick to you like snowflakes.  I’m sure Parcells did not mean by this, “Don’t get your hopes up.”  It’s wrong to expect others and God to do for you that which you are able to do for yourself.

“Do Something”

Take action.  This is a call for initiative.  For forward momentum.  Make a decision and see it through.  If it doesn’t turn out quite right, make the mid-course correction but by all means don’t stop.  God and the universe reward effort.  If you exert, you will see a return on investment!

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