Tough Guy Rules

6135b-toughguyBoy … talk about a response!

The last post I put up on Hug Therapy seemed to resound with a lot of people. The nice thing is that I expected way more “HTFU” comments than I got; 99% were either supportive or knew where I was coming from. Let me be clear here, though, that I did not mean for it to come across as that I wanted hugs per se, but rather I was asking if there was something about me or the perception of me that made people think I was not open to it. As I said, a one on one opportunity is separate. I get that clearly. What I was wondering about was when you’re in a group and everyone is hugging goodbye until they get to you and they put out a hand for a shake.

In any case, the groups came through as they always do … supportive … understanding … and with great insight as to why this happens. Apparently, as a few pointed out, I give off this “no bs” vibe, and more interestingly, a “tough guy” vibe.

A “Tough Guy” vibe?? Now this made me think a bit.

I don’t see myself as a tough guy. I definitely have a low tolerance for bullshit, and I know that comes out in my writing. I have no problem calling out someone who posts something hurtful, or elitist, and will continue to do so (much to the chagrin of some of me associates). I have my hot buttons, which I am sure relate to some issue in my past if we want to delve into that, and I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate and keep my mouth shut when I encounter certain things the older I get, but I am not sure that makes me a tough guy.

So I started pondering what a tough guy actually looks like. As children and teenagers we see tough as different things; we see (or saw) movies with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Norris and tagged them as tough guys … but they are actors … are they really that tough?

Then we look at sports stars … hockey players are tough … football players … rugby players … rough and tumble guys for sure, but does playing those sports make you tough?? Pete Rose in baseball was always considered tough, because of his demeanor and aggressive play … but was he tougher than Cal Ripkin who played for YEARS without missing a game? How about Barry Sanders or Walter Payton? Smaller guys that were very quiet in demeanor but would run you over like a mack truck … are they not tougher than “talkers” like Deon Sanders, or more recently Richard Sherman? I would say “yes” they are … because in my mind if I have to tell you how tough I am, than I am not tough.

As we get older our views on this change. Being able to win all the time doesn’t make you a tough guy, and we start to recognize that eventually. Is a pro triathlete finishing an Ironman in 9 hours automatically tougher than an age grouper finishing in 16 hours? I would argue that they are not. They are faster, leaner (usually), better supported, and more fit for sure, but toughness comes when you know you are not going to win, you know you are going to hurt, and you grind it out hour after hour until you hit that finish line. It’s when you work 12 hour days as a doctor, then 3-4 more hours finishing notes and follow-ups, and still find the time to train and finish these races. THAT is what tough is …

To nerd out on you for a moment I like to use the analogy of super heroes. We all know the “Big Two”; Superman and Batman (yes I know there are many others but these two usually are recognized at the top for popularity). Amongst fan boys there is always the argument about who is better. As a Batman fan (I even have a tattoo) I always have sided with him, and this is why …

Batman is the ultimate tough guy …

Batman, unlike Superman, is a man. Just a man. Yes, as Jack Nicholson so aptly put it, he has “those wonderful toys”, but when it comes down to it he bleeds and can lose just like any of us. He has no super power to rely on. How “tough” is it to head into a fray knowing that you are invulnerable, like Superman? Is that tough? It takes a mindset to head into a fray with someone you know is stronger than you (a la Bane) and still do it. It’s much like an Ironman … don’t you feel that the person who toes that line with fear in his heart and does it anyway is a bit tougher than the one toeing the line knowing he has a good chance of winning?

This is not to say there is no toughness in them. I know someone is going to infer that from this post, so let me state now that it is NOT the case. I am only saying that it takes some intestinal fortitude to venture into the water when you are scared of drowning. Doing something when you have no fear of it is not hard. The act itself may be hard, and demanding, but facing a fear head on and pushing through it takes gumption.

Are there “tough guy rules”?

And by the way, I use the term “guy” but this goes for both genders. I am impressed when a pro finishes a race before I even get started, but I am 100 times more impressed by the overweight mother of 4 running and walking at the back of the pack after water stops have been broken down and all the bikes have been picked up except hers. Yet she still moves forward, head down, step after step, hurting, sweating, breathing hard, until she crosses that line.

That, my friends, is tough … and tear inducing.

That, my friends, is an Ironman.

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