Do, or Do Not. Part 2

Most of my friends are Star Wars fans. Even the ones who aren’t fans still have a passing familiarity with the original trilogy. So today I want to talk about the awesome little guy that everyone loves to quote for inspiration and motivation.



In Episode IV we met Obi-Wan Kenobi – who was a pretty cool dude. He taught Luke about The Force and had a couple of good zingers in his doomed fight against Vader.  When we watched the Empire Strikes Back and learned that Luke was going to go meet Obi-Wan’s mentor everyone got excited. And despite looking like a green overgrown Smurf the audience soon figured out that Yoda knew his shit. He taught Luke about anger and how destructive it can be. He taught Luke about overcoming fear. And most importantly he taught Luke about determination.

Determination seems to be the one lesson Yoda was trying to teach above all others. When he uttered his famous phrase “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try,” he wasn’t telling Luke not to try if he couldn’t succeed. He was telling him to approach every obstacle with 100% determination. He knew that doubt in one’s own abilities was more detrimental than fear or pain. Unfortunately a lot of us fanboys, myself included, misinterpreted this.


We took this from Yoda as carte blanche never to try anything we thought could not succeed. We thought he was telling us not to struggle against insurmountable odds, not to risk our own safety, not to put any effort if we thought we were going to fail. Do it or do not. If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t bother trying. Well, you can bet your ass that if Luke had decided not to even try raising his X-Wing from the swamp Yoda would have smacked him upside the head with his cane. Disagree? Fine look at this picture below and tell me if Yoda doesn’t look surprised.


That is his expression when Luke’s ship actually starts to rise out of the water. He is as amazed and excited as we are. He did not expect Luke to succeed. He only wanted to teach him about determination. So what does this mean for you? You fatsos that have been sitting on your couch playing video games and stuffing your face with Cheetos? Well it means you can’t fall back on the little green guy  anymore. You can’t use Yoda as an excuse to not try. Yoda wants you to give it all you’ve got. 

Or you could just remind yourself that he isn’t real. He’s just a hand puppet operated by a guy who spent his free time fisting Miss Piggy, reading lines written by a goiter-necked old goat.


Happy New Year 2013!

I know, I know.  I’ve been away.  Well, not away, but quiet.  Life has a habit of piling a lot more onto your plate than you asked for, and sometime you just need to focus all of your attention on eating – figuratively speaking of course.  I have some mixed feelings about my absence.  On the one hand I feel like I really needed to take a break lest I completely burned out and decided not to write as The Sarcastic Caveman ever again.  It’s good to set one’s hobbies aside from time to time.  When your fun starts to feel like an obligation, step back.  


Teddy approves.

On the other hand, I feel guilty that I may have left some of you high and dry.  It didn’t occur to me until about a month ago that I might have  actually succeeded in my goal of inspiring people to get healthy and fit.  I’ve come to realize that I did make a difference.  People around me are eating better and starting to exercise regularly.  A friend of mine named Natalia recently started eating Paleo and doing Crossfit.  She told me that I had been one of her inspirations.  It took me a while to process what that really meant.  Whether this blog had motivated her, or just seeing my transformation first hand, she didn’t say and I didn’t ask.  Doesn’t really matter.

For much of my life I’ve looked to other people for motivation, but it never occurred to me that I could possibly be a source of it myself.  I started this blog on the pretense that I wanted to help people by being brutally honest and sometimes downright nasty about the harsh truths of health, fitness, and life.  Truthfully, I started The Sarcastic Caveman to keep me personally motivated.  I don’t want to ever go back to being the unhealthy slob I used to be.  If that means I need to let the world watch me pep-talk myself in the mirror I’m fine with that.. 

So.  Here we are.  It’s 2013.  I’m sure many of you are making resolutions to get in shape this year.  Guess what?  Most of you are going to fail.  And most of those who do fail will do so in the first six weeks.  You’ll fail for a very simple reason.  You’ll fail because you don’t want to get fit.  You want to be fit.  You want to skip over all the hard work and sweat that will earn you the body and the life you want.  But that’s the catch.  If you don’t work for it, you won’t value it.  Yes, it will be hard.  Yes, you will suffer through sugar-detox and wake up with aches and pains the day after a heavy workout.  Yes, it will suck.  But it will be worth it.  It’s taken me a very long time to get to the point where I’m comfortable saying this.  It’s very simple.  

If you are not willing to push through the pain – if you are not willing to keep going through that personal hell – then you don’t deserve to be fit.  

And you know it.

Yoda is disappointedThat is why you fail.

I’m Back, Bitches

Well it’s been a rough two weeks.  I decided to take a week off from blogging about 15 days ago.  Hurricane Sandy decided I should take an additional week off and bitch-slapped most of the NYC area into the nineteenth century. Rest assured, I am not gone for good.  Our electricity got restored on Saturday afternoon.  I’ve had a lot of things to prioritize before this blog but now I’m just about back to it.  You’ll be hearing from me again very shortly, and I’ve got a whole mess of life lessons from the hurricane that I want to share with you.

Soon, my dearies

The Iron

Well, I’ve had a busy weekend.  I’m going to be an asshole and totally phone in this Monday’s post.  This is a copy of an article written by Henry Rollins, rocker and weight lifter.  It doesn’t talk about which muscle does which or how best to improve your squats.  It talks about how lifting weights can make you a happier person.  Give it a look.

The Iron

by Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.

I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time.

As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.

He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone.

It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

This article originally appeared in Details Magazine

Thursday Links 10-18-12

EatThisMuch – This one is pretty simple.  Tell it how much you want to eat, what you want to eat, and it will create a diet for you.

Photographic Height/Weight Chart – People send in pics of themselves along with a list of their height and weight.  It’s a nice tool to help visualize where you’re at and where you ought to be.

Calorie Calculator – This is the big one.  It’s more of a blunt tool than a sharp scalpel, but if you’re very overweight it should be one of your first stops along the way to getting healthy.

Complete Guide to Workout Nutrition – A very concise chart detailing what to eat and when, based on what sort of workout you choose.  Print it out and carry it around in your back pocket if you must.

NomNomPaleo – Lots of great recipes for the Paleo chef.

ArtofManliness – How to be a man… in case nobody ever told you how.