Moto Book of the Month – August

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

This book is difficult for me to describe succinctly. It’s had a tremendous impact on my life and I honestly no longer remember the number of times I’ve read it. Especially the first book (it is subdivided into twelve parts, or books).

These are quite literally, the meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He writes his own private thoughts about duty and the meaning of life, reminds himself to stay true to his values, to be a good man, to be humble, to give thanks to everyone and everything that formed him. He writes as a man, as a Roman and as an emperor who has doubts, questions and who struggles with his existence and attempts to remain stoic in the face of that internal dissonance – both on a philosophical level, and on a simpler human level.

While there is some discussion of his life, this is far from a biography and I have found his writing and perspective to be extremely enlightening and comforting during difficult times.

If I could read only one book for the rest of my life, it might very well be this one.

You can find an online copy here, courtesy of MIT (there is also a link to a text only version).

Amazon also has several different editions available, some of them for very little (I bought this one recently for a couple bucks).

Being Disciplined = Manly

Take a moment and guess what word this dictionary entry corresponds to:

“showing a controlled form of behavior or way of working.”

If you guessed “disciplined”, you nailed it. Taken at face value that definition isn’t very motivating. The word “controlled” doesn’t inspire images of Thermopylae or John Wayne type manliness. It conjures images of calmness, of measured reactions to crisis and well thought out actions, and that is all in direct opposition to the imagery that men are bombarded with in the US today. Today the emphasis is on being connected rather than aloof, on listening to your feelings instead of ignoring them, on emotion instead of control.

There are really two sides to this coin of emotion. On the one hand you’ve got bitchmode. Case in point, men are told that it’s okay to cry. “It’s natural. It’s healing. Let it out sweetheart, it’s good to vent.” All of that crap, I know you’ve heard it. On the flipside you’ve got beastmode. “I’m going to be a fucking animal in the gym today. You only live once. Go ham motherfucker. I wrecked that shit.” Most men live on one side of the coin, albeit not all the time. And both sides suck equally.

No man is a fucking rock. Everybody’s gonna get sad. That’s not a license to cry like a little girl mind you, but being sad isn’t unmanly. That shit is distinctly human. And every man occasionally gets his T up and wants to go “ham” on the world (what is “ham”? does anyone know why that shit is a thing now? this is the only ham I care about). But emotions are a fickle thing. They can come and go, and by and large we can’t easily control which one we’re feeling at any particular point in time. That’s why disciplined = manly, because it keeps you in a controlled steady state. Disciplined = manly because it keeps the fire at a controlled roar – hot enough to drive you forward but not so hot that you’ll burn out in a flash of fury. Use your emotions as fuel, but  stay in control of the fire.

This is the central flaw with the current emphasis on “feeling things”, and
“embracing the way you feel
”. You can control your actions much easier than you can control your emotions, and if you allow the former to be dictated by the latter you’re ceding control of your own life. Don’t. Stuff that shit back down inside of you and ignore it. Want to cry? Suck it up. Want to scream like an animal and punch a hole in a wall? Be a grown ass man and calm yourself down. It’s time to take control of your behavior, to reestablish your self-discipline. Men aren’t little weak bitches but we aren’t animals or beast either. We’re men, and that shit is different. It’s about being as committed as you humanly can be to “showing a controlled form of behavior or way of working.”

In short, being disciplined = manly. It’s manly as all hell. Over the next few weeks we’re going to take aim at your nasty feelings in an attempt to control them, use them, and let you take control over your life.

Profile in manhood – James Harrison

 James Harrison is an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he is our profile in manhood for the week. Harrison was widely dismissed as being too small and too weak to play linebacker in the NFL and went undrafted in 2002. He spent the next two years being repeatedly cut by both the Steelers and the Ravens practice squads, and was forced to play for a time in NFL Europe. After years of struggling to get picked up by an NFL team, Harrison began to take snaps on field for the Steelers and slowly earned his place with the black and gold.

In 2007, after five years of uncertainty and average play, Harrison’s refusal to quit earned him a starting spot and he had a breakout season. Since then he’s been a five time pro bowler, an NFL defensive player of the year, won two Super Bowl rings and had arguably the most impressive play in Super Bowl history when he intercepted Kurt Warner in the red zone, dodging Cardinals as he ran the ball back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Being cut by multiple teams, Harrison almost quit several times to become a veterinarian – but if he did that he wouldn’t be our profile in manhood for the week. In the end he persevered and proved everyone who had doubted his size and strength wrong. But his professional accomplishments aren’t why he’s worthy of our time all these years later.

In 2013 Harrison was released by the Pittsburgh after he couldn’t agree on a new contract and he spent a year playing for the Cincinnati Bengals before being unceremoniously cut by them. He could possibly have found another team after the 2013 season, but his sons wanted their father to be close to home. Rather than chase more money and continue playing, he announced his plans to retire and signed a one day contract so that he could officially retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Now, a man of his accomplishments would be well justified in feeling ill used by the management of both teams. Football can be a cold business, even to players like Harrison who spend most of ten years with the same organization. But Harrison is an outstanding individual. Just a few months after he officially retired, the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a tough spot. Their once vaunted linebackers were a joke and they had lost several starters to injuries.

Old buddies from the Steelers called him at 4:00am knowing the now retired football player would be wide awake and in the gym. Even during retirement his work ethic put most men to shame. The Steelers needed help, and after asking his family, Harrison would answer the call for near the minimum salary. While no longer able to match his pro-bowl performances of years past, Harrison provided leadership and a spark that had been sorely missing in the Pittsburgh defense for the past several years.

Today, Harrison is creeping up on 40 years of age and is still ready to don his uniform for one more season with his brothers.

His willingness to come to his old team’s aid at a massive discount is worthy of respect, but not why we’re profiling him. The reason we feel he’s worthy of our admiration this week is that after all his contributions the Steelers are paying him far less than what he commanded in the past and he plays anyway. They may cut him this offseason or in camp, but you’ll find him posting workout video after workout video nonetheless. The man will not quit- he knows what he wants and he’s going to take it.

The man is no saint, and there are plenty of people who can attest to his many flaws, his savage hits, his angry and checkered past. But James Harrison is our man of the week because of his legendary work ethic, and his devotion to things that are bigger than himself – his family, and his team. He’s well worthy of being a profile in manhood.


Moto Book of the Month – February

Total Recall – My Unbelievably True Life Story

This is the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Say what you will about his politics and his personal life – nobody on earth can argue the fact that he was one driven motherfucker. Immigrating to the US a relatively unknown man, he built up his body and his fortune through relentless hard work. Behind the steroids and the endless hours in the gym, Arnold studied the science behind bodybuilding fanatically and engaged in numerous successful business ventures outside of his acting and bodybuilding careers. He is the definition of a self-made man and his book is incredibly motivating for anyone who wants to look better, be a successful business man, or find the same kind of constant inner hunger that propelled him to greatness from very humble beginnings.