I have just been reading one the best sports biographies I have read for ages. Michael Phelps- No Limits- a thoroughly inspiring tale of the man with size 15 feet who munches on 12000 calories a day. Except he doesn't. Most of the freak stuff was just slightly exaggerated. In fact his feet are size 14 and the aussie gold medalist swimmer Ian Thorpe had size 17 feet...I digress. The book is an excellent view of how, by remaining transparent-ish, one can achieve immense goals. By this I mean, all the tantrums and ego of most sports heroes are laid aside in pursuit of goals and doing what others can't and won't do. That lack of self pity, that willingness to take responsibility for what he does, that rare willingness to let actions always speak rather than words- all that is an element of transparency, of reducing baggage, to a minimum. Everyone has baggage- Phelps parents divorced when he was seven and he had slight behavioural problems at school- the ritalin they put him - the drugs - he weans himself off through a decision of his own- no one elses. He has superb mentors in the figures of his mother and his coach- but it's Phelps in the pool, not them. As his coach puts it- "I can get you in ballpark- that's all." What I love about the way he goes about things is the utterly stripped down simplicity of it: you want X, Ok- to achieve it you will need to do Y by this time and Z by that time. In the world of Olympic swimming 1/100 of a second divides the winners from the losers. It's almost absurd. What isn't, is the way setting seemingly absurd goals, if you attack them with a no-baggage, utterly realistic and disciplined approach can allow you to achieve them. No one will be the worse off for reading this book.
What's your next adventure?...
I was down at my local bookstore, which is called Volume One, when I realised, as if a diamond bullet had struck me between the eyes, ie. I had an idea, that the modern world is too yin and most men need to indulge in Big Yang Therapy.
Yin and Yang – the ancient Chinese dichotomy of energies in the universe. Yin is quiet, inward looking, nest building, reflective, passive. Yang is outward looking, loud, action oriented. As a person who spends most of his day in front of some kind of screen - like many people- I am way over in the Yin end of the spectrum. Time to change!
Big Yang Therapy is all about indulging in extreme masculine pastimes in order to switch the yin/yang balance. Why? Because I firmly believe, no, I know, that when men get too yin they get sick- mentally maybe, physically, certainly. Throw the Big Yang switch now!
OK. Back home with my very yin purchases- a book and a newspaper in French…I return to my theme. Yang up everything you do:
Yang food:- cook on an open fire in the backyard, preferably not a barbecue. Use wood you have split yourself with an axe you have sharpened yourself. More info on axe work elsewhere on this site.
Yang hobbies:- take up pistol shooting with live ammo at a range. In these troubled times gun ownership is probably rightly seen as abberent- so no need to bring the gun home or even own it. The essence of Yang therapy is in action not possession of goods. Bang bang bang then back home feeling…good!
Yang exercise:- forget the gym- build a climbing wall in your home- a traverse wall- and never let your feet touch the ground. Extreme!
Yang working:- Decide instantly. Do it now. Stop chewing things over and just get moving! Take responsibility. Other things being equal, when faced with a yin and a yang option, always take the yang, man.
Push the Yang lever to the max and leave the Big yinnies way behind…
People are often convinced, for a while, by strong opinions; or at least a little scared by them which leads to respect, of a kind.
You could spend time honing your opinions, making them increasingly impressive and deadly when deployed in conversation...
or you could spend time getting rid of permanent opinions and look instead at what is really going on.
Of course, since being opinionated is still fun you could at parties still voice the strongest of opinions, maybe about things you have an opposite view about.
Victor Lustig, the arch conman who sold the Eiffel tower for scrap, not once but twice, had a list of ten commandments for would-be conmen- they are rather interesting, very similar in fact to the kind of thing salesmen are taught today to employ with customers...
1. Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con man his coups).
3. Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
4. Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
5. Hint at sex talk, but don't follow it up unless the other person shows a strong interest.
6. Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
7. Never pry into a person's personal circumstances (they'll tell you all eventually).
8. Never boast - just let your importance be quietly obvious.
9. Never be untidy.
10. Never get drunk.
Most people are crap with axes, including myself until I undertook a diligent study of the art. It takes time and patience to learn. You need a sharp axe. Most of all you need to know that less often equals more when it comes to the use of an axe. First splitting. This is the only use of an axe that is widely practised these days. A saw is sensibly used to reduce a tree trunk into logs and then an axe is used to split that into usable chunks. A fat bodied spitting axe works best but almost any axe will do even a blunt one. But you need a sharp axe to chop trees down or to chop logs into two like a real lumberjack. Sharpen your axe with a metal file until all the dings are gone and the blade can shave wood like a knife. Remember, most of the work is done by the axe not your shoulders. Indigenous people leave a lot of wood chopping to women and if you watch them at work you can learn a lot. Almost lazily they raise their machete or axe and then let it fall using its own weight only slightly accelerated. You can chop for hours like this. With a long felling axe only lift it high enough to still feel in control (this will get higher as you get better) and just let it fall- when it moves past you add your own force to the downward momentum but don’t strain yourself. Chop at a manageable rhythm. To aim for a spot just look at it and the axe will follow a bit like teeing off in golf. Here is the big axe secret: when people chop logs in two they start by cutting a small ‘V’ and then they realise to make it deeper they have to expand it wider and wider, so a lot of their chopping effort goes into widening the hole not deepening it- which is wasted effort. To cut a log a foot in diameter you need to make a cut a foot wide to start with by making one axe chop on one side and another at a slight angle a foot away. Then lever the axe sideways and split out the intervening wood – or sometimes it just flies out as a big chunk. By magic, instead of shaving away constantly at both sides, you just took out a whole hunk of word. Just keep repeating this double action as you go down through the log and each chop will naturally get closer and closer to the other. Getting into a steady rhythm and you will beat any muscled Tyro who thinks it’s all about chopping like a mad axe murderer.
To take down a tree with an axe use the same principles but sideways on. First however chop out a section in the back of the tree lower down than you intend to cut at the front. This lower cut will be the direction the tree should fall in assuming it’s not leaning. It only needs to be about quarter of the way through the tree. Then go around to the front and if the tree is 2 feet wide start chopping out sections about 18 inches apart. Split out each chunk as before. When the tree starts to move you can give it a push in the right direction. Remember to shout timber!!!