On Will and The Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken

book

The picture above is the cover of the Textbook I’ve been living in for the last seven months. It contains almost 1500 pages of single-spaced, tiny type and weighs more than an oxygen tank. It is almost thicker than a clenched fist. I am certain it could stop a large knife and possibly a small-caliber bullet.

I would gladly burn the book in effigy or sell it if I were not sure that I will be referring back to it with frequency in the future. Even if I didn’t need the book as a reference, I would probably keep it as a reminder of an accomplishment I view as a minor miracle: that I passed my EMT Certification Course.

I have no interest in nor any exceptional talent for Medicine of any kind, but to fulfill my dream of becoming a Firefighter, I have to be EMT Certified. So, I’ve spent the past seven months grinding my way through this wretched book. The last leg of the course involved these insane 12-hour class days (Thanks, #Snowpocalypse!) in which I had to sit there for hours on end and feel my body disintegrate while my head continually threatened to explode.

On the day of my Final, I contracted what has come to be known as the “Goddamn Bear Flu” from my roommate. I am part-Navajo, and thanks to 170 years of white people sneezing on my people, I almost never get sick. Ordinarily, I go years between colds or sinus headaches. But my roommate was exposed to some freak who picked up this obnoxiously-virulent strain from a bear, which he regrettably passed onto me at the worst possible time.

As I took my practical final, I was seeing double and doing that awkward shivering/sweating thing people do when they are extremely-feverish. I had already thrown up everything I had eaten in the past week. I wish I could attribute some of that to nerves, but in reality I wasn’t nervous at all, except about possibly passing out from hypovolemic shock in the middle of my Scope of Practice. February 28th, 2014 will go down as one of the 10 Most Miserable Days of My Life, unless I move to Canada or Philadelphia for some inexplicable reason.

My Practical Final was what I would call a “Game 7 Overtime” victory. To continue with the Hockey analogy: I got an early lead in the series, then fell behind. At the last possible moment – cold-sweating and shivering thanks to the Goddamn Bear Flu – I managed to eke through with a Passing grade. I have seldom been so relieved as when I saw the words “Adequate” on my Review Sheet.

(“Adequate?” Bet you can’t wait until you see me coming at you with a hypodermic needle and a grin, can you?)

I don’t even remember my Written Final. I literally blacked-out, again thanks to The Goddamn Bear Flu. Apparently, I got a 94, so, uh, good on me.

Afterwards, I was too exhausted, both mentally and physically, to even celebrate. My big celebration involved me forcing myself to stay conscious while I drove home, glaring at my stricken, strung-out-on-NyQuil roommate for passing along the GBF to me on the day of my Final, then crawling into bed and going into a 15-hour coma.

EMT is the Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken, for reasons I’ve explained and reasons I’ll touch upon below. It’s basically taken my body a full week to recover from the chronic stress of the course, and for me to gather myself enough to write a post about it. The Textbook is my $170 Trophy, reminding me of what I accomplished and how hard I worked to get through. Plus, in the event of a home-invasion, the book can double as body armor.

On Jack the Student

I am the definition of a Professional Student. Following a leisurely, Van Wilder-esque five-and-a-half year tour at my beloved Duquesne University, I almost immediately rolled into a nine-month Personal Training Certification course. After working as a Trainer for a few months, I went to a school I completely despise for about 18 months to get an additional Undergrad in Sport Physiology.

I worked full-time as a Strength Coach/Personal Trainer for another year or so before I grew dissatisfied. I had an honest conversation with myself, and decided I was wasting time not actively pursuing my dream of becoming a Firefighter. I abruptly quit my job as a Strength Coach (though my employer will tell you I was fired – it was one of those, “You can’t quit! You’re Fired!” deals) to start over again.

I couldn’t get someone to pay for my training, so I paid for my own. I decided to put myself through an EMT Certification course, one of the necessary Certifications to being a Firefighter, at significant cost to my own bottom-line, health, and sanity.

As I wrote above, I finally got through the EMT Certification course about a week ago. I have taken almost 250 College Credits and on-going Continuing Education since I was eighteen, and I can say again with no hesitation: EMT is the Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken.

This seems to be a fairly-common view. I’ve spoken with a number of successful Paramedics or even Doctors who have told me that EMT is the most-difficult course they’ve gone through. Here is my quick overview on why I believe that is:

To be an EMT, you have to know a good chunk of what a Physician has to know. You do not have to be able to practice all of it, but you need to know much of the Anatomy/Physiology, effects of Medications, Medical Conditions, and so forth. The catch is that you have to learn all of this information in a relatively-short amount of time. In my case, EMT – AKA, “How to be a Street Doctor” – was crammed into a Semester + Four Weeks of Hell in February. The volume of information is just staggering, especially if you are not used to such an informational overload.

Beyond that, most EMT students are getting this tsunami of information with little or no background in Medicine. I’ve worked extensively in Preventative Medicine as a Strength Coach/Trainer, and I have an excellent understanding of the Human Body and Orthopedics. I was still drowning at times due to the sheer volume of facts I had to be able to recall and apply at a moment’s notice.

But I got through. By the skin of my teeth and with a number of good people pulling along, but I got through. It may not be a giant accomplishment for some people, but it took every ounce of my effort and Willpower to force myself  through it. It’s been an extremely-rough seven months, but it’s finally over, and I am one step closer to my dream of pulling people out of  burning buildings.

On Hockey, Golf, and What My Family Doesn’t Know About EMT

happy

I love Hockey. Breaking News, I know.

One of the reasons I love Hockey is that there is a direct correlation between Effort and Results. If you work harder, the vast majority of the time you will get a better outcome. Usually, you can compensate for a lack of talent with determination and guts.

I am the type of person who will punch through a brick wall, if I want something on the other side of it badly enough. My Willpower – my ability to drive myself through duress – is probably my greatest character strength.

Meanwhile, one of my greatest weaknesses is my complete inability to think like other people. One of the people I recently took the EMT course with noted that I could read the same paragraph as ten other people and take something entirely different away from it.

This is what gives me such a talent as a scoring forward and a purveyor of girls with low self-esteem: I have an uncanny knack for seeing the flaws or holes in something – the negative space, if you will. I can look at a Goaltender and see the 1/100th of the net he or she doesn’t have covered. I can look at a neatly-stacked defense and see how they are slightly misaligned. Many of my gifts lie in Creative Problem Solving and taking an unconventional approach.

And really, that’s Hockey. Unlike Football, in which a Coach draws up a designated play and the Players execute it to the letter, Hockey is best-played when it is free-flowing and unscripted. Hockey involves chemistry and constant reaction, but it’s very difficult for anyone to compel a Hockey game to unfold in a step-by-step fashion. Hockey lacks the predictability of Baseball, Football, or Golf, and in my view, that’s one of the things that makes the game so great.

The other way Hockey differs from those other sports, and Golf in-particular, is again that there is direct correlation between Effort and Results. Golf is a game of notorious frustration, one that requires a consistent and methodical approach. You cannot play Golf harder, only better.

I liken EMS to Golf. It doesn’t matter how hard you try – it only matters if you can do a given procedure or if you know the appropriate solution to a given problem. Like Golf, EMS requires an individual to take an extremely-systematic approach, and like Golf, EMS involves a dedication to perfection. You can treat a patient properly in 99/100 ways, but if you mistreat them in even the slightest – for example, if you forget to ask if the patient has taken Sildenafil before you administer Nitroglycerin for his chest pain – you could kill someone. This stress – the knowledge that one wrong move could kill someone – is chronic and constant.

You all know me pretty well – I am not great at following orders. I excel when I am allowed to think creatively and unconventionally, and I struggle mightily when I have to follow protocol. Someone smart wrote this about me:

“…Your overly-relaxed nature can make it difficult for you to focus on projects that require organized sequences of steps or stages. Thus, your ability to accomplish may be inconsistent. Indeed, it’s possible that you might be criticized periodically for being unreliable or unable to “stay within the lines…”

Guess what? To be an EMT, you have to do exactly that. EMS is predicated on following protocols and sequences to the letter. To use the Golf analogy, you can hit the ball as hard as you want, but it doesn’t matter if you send it slicing into the woods or line-drive it into the water. In Golf and in EMS, you have stay on the course, avoid a litany of traps, and do so with very limited margin-for-error. The difference with EMS is that you must do all of this while a patient is gushing blood and people are screaming at you.

There are people who are simply wired for the error-free, systematic approach. These people often gravitate toward Medicine or Mechanical Engineering at a relatively-young age. These are the people who have the discipline to ensure that parts of our society run like a metronome, and have the ability to completely block out external factors and stress while doing so.

Meanwhile, there’s me, Mister “Artistic Temperament,” who needed the support of an A-Team of confidants and friends as well as a minor Act of God to get through a course that some incredibly-dense people have no problem with.

While acknowledging that I would not have gotten through this course were it not for some exceptional support, I am very proud of myself for sticking with it. EMT was not easy for me, at all. I couldn’t apply my strength, my Willpower, to internalizing the material itself, but I could apply it in how relentlessly I fought through the frustration and stress of the course. I succeeded, which is going to do nothing to rein in my ego.

Now, as for what My Family Doesn’t Know About EMS:

I have always been academically-gifted. One of my favorite jokes is that the first time I took the SAT (back when it was a 1600-point test), I was sober and well-rested and only got a 1250. The second time, I came in hungover and sweating Black Velvet, and I got a 1390. One of my minor claims-to-fame.

As such, the expectation of me has always been that I will pass any course or test thrown my way with flying colors. One of the reasons I took so long to finally commit to Firefighting was that my family insisted it was not a proper use of my intellectual gifts. From a very young age, I was told, no joke, that I could be a Doctor or a Lawyer.

So when I would occasionally talk to my mother about the course and she would hear that I was struggling, she was stunned. She would ask me questions like “Did you get hit in the head again?” and “Are you drunk or retarded?”

There are some people who can barely spell their own name who are very successful EMT/Paramedics, and there are some academic geniuses who cannot get through the course. It’s a fine line between knowing a tidal wave of material, and being able to recall/apply that knowledge instantly and under duress.

Also, one has to take my personal biases into account. As I wrote above, I am probably the last person in the world who should be an EMT. I am a mistake-making, risk-taking free-thinker (WOO!) if ever one existed. It’s hard for people like myself to remember Step #34 in a 100-Step process when we are busy dreaming of Manhattans and ways to seduce the Madame of the Office.

But the bottom-line? EMT is Hard. I would double-underline that if I could. If I could convey one point to my family, it would be that my Hockey-related concussion issues aside, I did not suddenly go from being an academic all-star to being a dolt. Again speaking from the position of a Professional Student, it’s hard to envision a more-demanding course.

So, in Conclusion:

Ask anyone who has completed it: EMT Certification is rough. No matter what happens from here, I can say that I got through it. As someone who lacks the natural attributes that most successful EMTs possess, I can say as a proud Hockey Player that my well-refined Will was what allowed me to get through.

On to the Next,

Dr. Sexy

Gender Psychology: So, You Want to Be a Bad Boy II: Reins and Rumors

banshee1

A while back, I wrote an article on Gender Psychology called “So, You Want to Be a Bad Boy?” in which I broadly outlined some of the characteristics and traits of a Bad Boy. The article seems to be somewhat popular or useful, as about 150 people per week click on it, according to WordPress.

I am constantly getting new material on the subject. I had a rather-absurd Fall and early Winter, and my condition as a Bad Boy contributed greatly to the Highs and Lows being so pronounced. I will save those stories for a later date, other than to say that that I am on the ground-level as a Bad Boy authority. Short of being involved in an international drug cartel as a meth cook, I cannot envision a more-tumultuous lifestyle.

My lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the lifestyles of my old friends, most of whom I have less in-common with by the day. Most of my friends from High School and College have now been married for a number of years, and most of them are working on their second child. While marriage-and-family is not the path I’ve chosen, I have great respect for those who have chosen to start families. The commitment it takes to build a family, and the transformation I’ve seen many of my friends undergo as they take on spouses and have children, is extraordinary.

My best friend from high school is my primary example. You never think the guy you used to get into childish slap-fights and drink ghetto malt-liquors with before hockey games would develop into a tremendous father and husband, but he has. Almost all of my childhood friends have taken this route, to varying degrees of success.

Then, there’s me. Like Lon Chaney as the Moon grows more Full, I seem to get “Badder” and Wilder by the week.

I’ve written before that my Bad Boy career started in College, when I was the antithesis of the guy you took home to meet the parents. But I was still a college kid with a large support network and an undefined role in the world. I think the expectation from most was that I would eventually evolve and take the more-traditional route of Marriage and Children.

I suppose I still can go that way. But for the moment, I have clearly gone the other way. Like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, I’ve played the Bad Boy role for so long that it has become difficult to separate the actor from the character.

The real change started several years ago, when the first of my friends began to announce their Engagements. There was an unspoken-but-sharp change in the status quo. The normal process of getting blind-drunk, dating strippers, and starting fistfights at dance clubs was suddenly immature and passe. There was an epic shift in both conduct and priorities as most of my peers sought to settle down and wife-up.

For a few years, from ages 24 to 26 or so, I was something of an outcast. Everyone in my peer group was focused on finding a committed, “mature” relationship. Like most people in their mid-20s, I probably attended 10 or 12 weddings in a two-year period. I attended most of them by myself and left many of them with only a well-vodka hangover.

Because I was seemingly not marriage-material, Women of marrying age wanted nothing to do with me. This was a drastic departure from college, when I was in constant high-demand. Interestingly, I continued to appeal to many older women, but both my friends and the girls we went to school with were both highly-invested in their long-term relationships. I was mostly an afterthought.

More recently, since about age 27 or so, there has been another shift. Like all trends, I have come back around. While almost everyone I associated with from ages 15-25 has committed to a spouse or had children (or both) and spent the last several years making the requisite personal sacrifices, I’ve been on my own. I have had time to work on myself and to learn a lot of things about the world. At the least, I’ve had a relatively-unique journey.

My married friends and all of the Women who had blown me off to start their families are suddenly very interested in what I am up to. The three or four or five years that they had spent building families, I had spent developing myself in different ways. My decision to do something different with my Life is apparently interesting to people who began families shortly after College.

Which brings us to today. My entire thought process and approach to Life is so unconventional that Women of all makes and models are attracted to me. I walk through a store and get extended eye-contact from wives, grandmothers, high-school girls, and especially the Women from my peer group who have now been married for a few years. I’ve become a Cardinal in a forest full of Blue Jays, and for better or worse it has made my Life Experience very interesting.

Because for the moment I have chosen to forgo the comforts of family life, I have had a lot of negative experiences, and I have have had a lot of positive ones. My experiences have been pointed, bordering on extreme. Rather than playing the role of a Bad Boy, I have officially become one. There is value in what I have learned, and will likely continue to learn, which I share for the benefit of other would-be Bad Boys and interested observers.

Here are more situations you can expect to encounter if you continue to walk the Bad Boy path:

The Rumor Mill

gossip

The girl I’ve been running around with informed me of a rumor floating around that I had been taking my “Girlfriend” to public skate at the local hockey rink, apparently showing off my gorgeous Bret Hedican-style skating and re-enacting The Cutting Edge.

While my “Mistress” acknowledged that I would have to be unusually-stupid to take my “Girlfriend” to the hockey rink of all places (where my “Mistress” and I met and spend much of our free time), she knows me well enough to know that I’m brazen enough to pull something like that. She also knows that even though I’m crazy and slutty, I’m just not that disrespectful or stupid.

My Mistress pointed out that I am frequently involved in trailer park-dramas and rumors such as this on a regular basis. To cite a few examples, there were widely-circulating rumors that I shortly after moving into town that I was having sex with a pair of 21-year old girls who hated each other (which was traced to the source), that I’m a drug dealer (untraced), that I’m a stripper (partly true – I’m not currently stripping anywhere), and I’ve been linked to a number of women who are known to be unhappily married or recently separated.

trouble

Most recently – even since I started the first draft of this article a few days ago – much has been made of the fact I have a Plenty of Fish account. People, grown men and women no less, are so eager to discredit me that they have been running in droves to my Mistress, basically tattling on me and hoping to drive a wedge between us.

My Mistress of course knows about my POF account, because while I am many things, I am neither a Coward nor a Liar. The Women you tend to see on Internet Dating Sites, especially free ones, are like the options on a cheap buffet: you can have as much as you want, but none of it is very good. I am on POF mainly for entertainment value. The idea of finding quality Women on a free dating website seems remote, at best, and honestly I don’t really need help meeting Women. But I digress.

I could care less about rumors involving me. I’ve always been of the “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about” disposition. As my friends say, I crave attention, and any kind will do. However, I do get irritated when rumors that might be potentially disrespectful to my Mistress (who’s a peach) start spreading around.

My Mistress heard this latest rumor about “Endless Love in the Dark” from her roommate, who heard it from her 60-year old grandfather, who I have never really spoken with. I did not realize Gramps knew my name, let alone my personal affairs. Round and round the Rumor Mill churns.

My Mistress acknowledged that while I am frequently involved in rumors such as this, she does not fully understand why my name comes up so frequently. I tried to explain to my Mistress, a sweetheart if one ever existed, why a person like me is so often involved in the Rumor Mill. In my view, it boils down to these reasons, all of which tie into my Bad Boy presentation:

1) I look like the sort of guy who would have sex with someone’s wife or girlfriend. I wear a leather jacket and have bags under my usually-bloodshot eyes. I almost comically resemble Charlie Sheen in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. This makes it convenient for me to be a bit actor in the self-serving dramas of manipulative, petty people.

2) Equally-relevant is the Bad Boy tendency to run off with the local Princess, which I have a striking tendency to do. Whether it’s Ryan Atwood winning the heart of Marissa Cooper or the street-rat Aladdin catching the eye of Princess Jasmine, there is a long-standing tradition of the guy from “the Wrong Side of the Tracks” ending up with particularly-treasured Women.

My Mistress is no different. She is indisputably the local Princess. As such, there are a large number of people who care about her and perhaps cross the line from Protective to Meddlesome. Rather than tell the Princess not to run around with the Bad Boy (which will only encourage her), the Meddlers go the opposite route and try to discredit the Bad Boy. This has been a subplot in so many Disney Movies, Teen Soaps, Vampire novels, and Shakespearean tragedies that I don’t need to list examples.

3) Misery Loves Company. There are countless people in unhappy marriages or relationships who do not want to see other people experiencing something exciting. The appeal of running around with a Bad Boy is that there is a time-limit on the relationship, due to the Bad Boy’s self-destructive nature. This makes every moment together richer and more cherished.

People who have slogged through fundamentally-flawed relationships for years see two people (or in my case three people – make sure you count my “Mistress”  and my “girlfriend”) happy, and immediately try to tear them apart. Again, this concept has appeared all across the land of Fiction for so long that I don’t need to cite specific examples.

As a Bad Boy, people are going to be extremely-reluctant to engage you directly. Aggression, hostility, and unpredictability are all cornerstone attributes of the standard Bad Boy, and many people are cowardly and passive-aggressive. While most people at least know better than to cross a Bad Boy directly, quite a few will plot-and-scheme for months or years in efforts to discredit and undermine the Bad Boy.

Bad Boys are prepared for this. As I wrote in Article I, Bad Boys are extremely-distrustful of people, for many of the reasons described above. My distrust of other people borders on paranoia. But like all Bad Boys, my lack of trust in other people is often warranted, as my Life Experience as a Bad Boy has involved backstabbing and deception rather than support and warmth.

As a Bad Boy, your name will continuously circulate in the Rumor Mill. If you are a legitimate Bad Boy, you will have much larger and more-pressing concerns than the opinions of the narrow-minded. If you are merely pretending to be a Bad Boy, you may have a problem having your reputation constantly run-down. In either case, be prepared.

Becoming Mean

“…I’m already rough
I’m already lean
I’m already wanting to be obscene
I’m already cursed
I’m already dry
I’m already wonderin’ what am I
I’ve already learned a bit of sin
Enough already, let me in…”

- Silversun Pickups, Dots and Dashes

Do you ever watch a movie or TV show and think, ‘I can’t believe he just did that,’ after some anti-hero double-crosses someone or acts in some self-serving way that screws over a lot of other people?

I used to as well. I used to watch Bad Boy archetypes and then imitate them in order to project a Bad Boy image. I did this because it’s really attractive to college girls.

But as I touched upon in the first Bad Boy article, this was a mask that came on and off. As my college roommate once remarked, I ‘took my hat off’ at the end of the day. At one point, it was accurate to say that I was genuinely good-natured.

That seems to have shifted somewhat. While I still Do the Right Thing most of the time, my sensitivity and thought process has changed dramatically.

Most current example: I sold a pair of skates on eBay. The buyer, a whiny malcontent if ever one existed, drove down the price obnoxiously, haggling with me over $5-$10 while claiming that he “absolutely could not pay a dollar more” after I gave him a $50 discount. I gave him a steal on a pair of nearly-new skates because he “just wanted to teach his son how to play hockey”, even though his user name looked like a sporting goods store. But I digress.

Predictably, upon receipt the guy e-mailed me and wanted to return the skates, citing a minor flaw and forgetting that he was shopping at the Internet Flea Market and not Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Also predictably, I sent him a scathing response. I not only belittled him, but I also used the details of the eBay Buyer Agreement to deflate his delusional demand for a return. I had no reason to do this, other than my refusal to accommodate an entitled pussy. It was not enough for me to just Win the argument; I had to impart a good deal of shame on some faceless eBay buyer because he tried to make me dote upon him.

Berating some guy on eBay doesn’t make me (or anyone) a Bad Boy. But the mindset, meaning both an unwillingness to acquiesce to a needy person and the need to extract a Pound of Flesh for being bothered, is a decidedly Bad Boy mentality.

There was a time when I would have talked myself into giving this buyer the benefit of the doubt returned the guy’s money, albeit angrily. But that time has seemingly come-and-gone.

Becoming Mean is not a recommended way to live, nor is it necessarily a means to an end. It is a consequence of having good-nature exploited too many times.

There have always been people who cut other people in-line at the grocery store or dangerously pull out in front of other cars in traffic. Both nice and not-so nice people repeatedly allow this to happen, to differing levels of acceptance. But Bad Boys not only have zero tolerance for inconsiderate or selfish behavior, they actively seek retribution. Not surprisingly, this calloused attitude gets a Bad Boy into a lot of disputes.

Again, being mean does not correspond with getting results. There are plenty of people who agree that you catch more bees with honey. But a mean streak is an inherent Bad Boy trait, and one that distinguishes the Bad Boy from more well-adjusted types.

High Self-Confidence/Low Self-Control

donbobbie

For reasons I won’t get into here, I’ve recently taken a number of personality/psychological assessments. Don’t worry, they aren’t shipping me off to the loony bin, at least not yet. These tests were more of a formality for work and school opportunities.

I took three separate tests, all of which were different and administered for different reasons. Surprisingly, the feedback was consistent, useful, and in my view accurate.

On all three tests, I tested high for Intelligence, Leadership, and Self-Confidence (huge surprise). All three tests also described me as “easy-going”, but they were obviously not administered while I was playing Hockey or putting my foot in someone’s ass. Meanwhile, I consistently tested low for Openness (VAGUE) and Self-Control, again not a major surprise.

What’s interesting is that despite consistently testing low for Self-Control, I have traditionally been referred to a “Control Freak”, which is true in a sense. I will try to explain how this ties into Being a Bad Boy:

I think a common Bad Boy problem is Low Self-Control. To survive in modern society, people like me have had to learn to restrain ourselves to a great degree. I touched upon this in my article on The Wild Side. Because Bad Boys have such a difficult time controlling ourselves, perhaps many of us fixate on controlling as many external factors as possible.

To cite one example, Christian Troy of Nip/Tuck fame is an obvious Control Freak. In addition to being a textbook Sadist, Christian has an obsession with money, power, and status – all things that allow him to maintain control over his environment and the people around him. Don Draper of Mad Men has similar predilections.

As mentioned in The Wild Side, I focus on routines as a way of controlling myself. For example, developing my body, which involves commitment and discipline to both diet and exercise regimens, is a passion of mine. But I’m Lon Chaney, living a simple life of Reps, Sets, and boring meals only to careen off-course and embrace hedonism with growing regularity.

Here is a direct quote from one of my evaluations:

“…As someone who exerts little control over your actions, you may find that you commit social blunders that might offend other people and get yourself in trouble. For example, if you’re given responsibility to work on a project that requires close attention to detail, you may be likely to overlook important details because you have difficulty staying focused. Consequently, you might feel more comfortable delegating such tasks to other people who are more detail-oriented. Being able to recognize such characteristics in yourself and having more detail-oriented people do such tasks could be an effective way to manage your own stress level.

Low self-control may diminish your effectiveness at work. Acting too relaxed can make it difficult for you to focus on projects that require organized sequences of steps or stages. Thus, your ability to accomplish may be inconsistent. Indeed, it’s possible that you might be criticized periodically for being unreliable or unable to “stay within the lines.” Nonetheless, you may still experience many short-lived pleasures and never be thought of as boring.

You may or may not know me personally, but that sounds exactly like two people I know: Don Draper and myself. To illustrate my point, you can check out this clip of Don attempting to work.

I am the same. Many Bad Boys are the same. The inability of a Bad Boy to completely control himself is both infuriating and extremely attractive to the fairer sex.

One of the reasons I so enjoy writing is that there are no lines to stay within. I can write about whatever I want. Rather than be chastised for my inability to think like other people, I am rewarded for it.

The downsides of Low-Self Control are obvious. As noted above, I have extremely-mixed results completing step-by-step tasks. Getting along with others in a professional environment is a chore, to say the least. A Bad Boy is easily provoked, both physically and sexually, and this leads to an almost-unending parade of interpersonal conflicts and disputes with authority figures.

I try to work on my self-control, but it’s like a Hockey Player trying to become a Golfer. The Good News for me is that I am naturally-intelligent and at least cognizant of the Bad Boy condition, and this helps me head off a good number of potential problems. Still, even if I catch 90% of these problems in-advance and map-out responsible courses of action, it still seems like I am frequently pulled into fights and romantic entanglements, which I will talk about more below in “The Drama Elixir”.

If you are a Bad Boy wrestling with self-control issues, or if you know one, weigh the points made in this article and consider adopting some sort of productive lifestyle routine. Body Development, Sports, and Writing have all helped me to a large degree, but Low Self-Control requires constant vigilance and a good deal of foresight.

Married Women and Bad Boys

donguido

Confession: a Wedding Ring has never served as a stop-sign for me.

This isn’t to say that I go around trying to bewitch wives or wreck homes. But if an attractive Married Woman makes me an aggressive offer, I will usually at least consider it.

There are many exceptions to this: I will not consider Military Wives or the wives of Firefighters. I will not consider the wives of my friends or, God forbid, family. I’m not Marty Brodeur.

But as I wrote above, for me a Wedding Ring has always been more of a blinking Yellow Light rather than a stop-sign. The presence of a Ring just makes me consider the situation differently. I think this mentality is unique to the Bad Boy breed.

Daniel Craig as James Bond probably said it best:

Bond: You’re not my type.

Vesper: Smart?

Bond: Single.

My view is not that Bad Boys run around trying to steal involved Women. But the willingness to physically-engage an involved Woman is a very common Bad Boy trait.

When it comes down to it, Bad Boys are animals. Bad Boys take the traditional rules of society with a grain of salt, or at least do not consider them as strongly as more-socialized types. This is both extremely-vexing to society-at-large and extremely-attractive to most Women.

Again, it’s not as though I go around trying to drive a wedge between happily-married couples, or for that matter, people in happy relationships. But as one Woman told me when I was 19, “I’m going to (cheat) with someone, and it might as well be you.”

Take a cursory run through Books, Movies, and Television, and you will see a consistent trend of Bad Boys and involved Women gravitating toward each other. As I have written before, the only guide in situations such as this are the Bad Boy’s conscience, however large or small.

Taking the Reins

ricknebraska

Maybe to my own detriment, I have never really lusted for power. In fact, my idea of happiness is being left alone. A book, a comfortable place to sleep, something to exercise with, and something to write with is really all I need to be perfectly content. The brief company of a low-drama lady would be the cherry on the sundae.

My point is that I am not a power-hungry beta nor would-be cult leader. But ironically, I frequently find myself Taking the Reins in almost every situation I’m involved in. Here is how that ties into Being a Bad Boy:

As I wrote above, I test high for Leadership qualities. This is the direct quote from one of my evaluations:

Perhaps the defining feature that sets you apart from most people is the exceptionally high standards that you set for yourself. Your competence in social gatherings as well as at work should provide ample evidence for this. With these characteristics, it’s very likely that people come to you for advice and generally think of you as someone with leader-like qualities.

This is all true. I don’t want to be in-charge, but I do expect those in-charge to govern fairly, judiciously, and professionally. Typically, I am disappointed because the decision-makers in most cases are crooked and self-serving. Rather than do the French thing and consent to oppression, I do the American thing and fight for Equality and Justice.

Bad Boys are hard-wired like this. While I think Bad Boys are generally loners by-nature, most of us are forced into extended social interaction. I don’t believe most Bad Boys think they are the best and smartest guys for a given job, but I do believe that most Bad Boys think they are better and smarter than the clown in-charge most of the time.

Bad Boys Take the Reins because there is often not a viable alternative. It’s not that a Bad Boy aspires to command, but liars and schemers are frequently those who ascend to authority positions, and most Bad Boys – no matter how rough around the edges – often threaten to trample a House of Cards that a beta social manipulator has carefully constructed.

When combined with a typical Bad Boy’s hair-trigger temper, politicking from a corrupt leadership figure often leads to a conflict. As the politician exposes her or himself as a disingenuous liar, more and more people look to the Bad Boy for guidance and resolve. Bad Boys often take leadership roles if only because they cannot stand the current leader, not because they crave power.

The Drama Elixir

vampire diaries season finale

I had an opening written for this section, but this trumps what I was going to write:

A woman just sat down directly across from me. She caught a glimpse of me from across the restaurant I am writing this article in, and walked across the restaurant to sit directly next to me even though there is plenty of seating available elsewhere. I am experienced enough to pick up on her coy looks and suggestive posture. She wants me to approach and engage her.

I glance over at her. She smiles coyly, and lingers with eye contact. After a moment, she looks down, then looks back at me. She pulls at her sweater a bit and rubs her neck. My expression does not change, but I hold eye contact. There is no verbal exchange, just looks and non-verbal cues. I know this is not the typical for everyone , but it’s typical for me.

In fact, this happens to me often. I do not meet Women because they start casual, normal conversations with me, or by the conventional means that most of my friends have described to me. I probably wouldn’t know an appropriate, normal interaction with a Woman if it hit me across the face. I meet Women because they either bait me with sexual suggestion (to varying degrees of subtlety), or assign me a personality they crave and desperately throw themselves at me. I do not believe as an adult I have ever dated a Woman who started as a friend or via the traditional dinner-dating route.

You might be thinking, “Here he comes again talking about how Hilarious and Sexy he is, Yawn”. I won’t dispute this, but I am also trying to illustrate a point and stay within the scope of the article:

As a Bad Boy, I have a high Potential for Drama, due in large part to the Low Self-Control issues I described above. Many Women, particularly those in the 16-35 age demographic, readily pick up on this using some kind of advanced formula available only to Women. Leather Jacket + Bruises/Cuts on Neck + Contemptuous Look on Face + Muscles + Plain Black T-Shirt + Standoffish Attitude = Drama Reservoir.

I believe what makes a Bad Boy attractive is not necessarily how he looks physically. At the least, I do not believe Looks play the biggest part in the Female-to-Male attraction process as a Woman assesses a Bad Boy. The smaller cues – the hungry & lean look, the scars, the five-o’clock shadow, the distant look in the eyes – are what attract certain Women to Bad Boys.

Younger Women especially are drawn to this Drama Elixir. For reasons Men will never fully understand, younger Women feel this tremendous need to inject Drama into their lives, and a Bad Boy – with his lack of impulse control, unwillingness to commit, and short temper – is sure to inject Drama into her life in one way or another. I have never been able to explain or qualify it properly, but it’s almost as though many Women are not living unless they are experiencing the Dramatic range of emotions – angst, elation, excitement, jealousy,  joy, and so forth.

For many Women, a high Potential for Drama is like a seductive bombshell for Men. While the mind may protest otherwise, the base instincts want what they want.

As I wrote in the first article, a frequent occurrence is that a Woman will be borderline-rude to me for no reason whatsoever. Again, these are not Women I am trying to pick-up in bars or clubs, but Women in Retail who were hired to be pleasant to customers.  I will stand in line and watch a Woman be overwhelmingly-friendly with other customers, but become defensive and short with me before I even speak to her. I would ask these Women why they act this way for informative purposes, but I do not believe I would get a forthright answer out of most of them.

This also frequently happens between me and Women who are in longer-term relationships or marriages. As I alluded to above, I do not interfere with happy or successful relationships. But a consequence of my Bad Boy presentation is that happily-involved Women almost refuse to be civil to me. I suspect this happens to most Bad Boys.

A common occurrence is that an involved Woman will be a raging bitch to me for no identifiable reason, then get sexually-aggressive the moment after her boyfriend or fiance or husband leaves the room. As a Bad Boy, you are expected to take the heat in the event an angry husband or boyfriend catches you with his Woman. However, too little derision is placed upon the Women who shamelessly flirt or gleefully cheat with Men other than their own.

To tie a bow on the story from the beginning of this section, the Woman who sat next to me while I was writing this article continued to throw a variety of suggestive gestures and glances my way for 15 or 20 minutes, until her boyfriend/husband showed up. At that point, her entire presentation changed, as she switched from flirtatious and sexually-suggestive to bubbly, naive, and sweet. She walked out of the restaurant without so much as a second look in my direction, holding her boyfriend/fiance/husband’s hand.

This has been my continued experience as an adult. When I was a 22-year old bartender and Women treated me this way, I always assumed that it was situational and temporary. But years later Women continue to play this game, still throwing provocative looks behind the backs of their boyfriends and finances and husbands. As I’ve grown and learned more about myself and the world, I realize that I am just a certain type – or at the least, Women assume I am a certain type.

What does the Drama Elixir mean for a Bad Boy?

As I wrote previously, Bad Boys are usually not consciously-manipulating Women. Bad Boys are either distracted by more-pressing matters (like going to jail or having guns shoved in their face), or like me wish to be left alone. But as anyone who owns a cat will tell you: the more you push the cat away, the more the cat will keep trying to climb onto you. The indifference or even contempt a Bad Boy shows toward a Woman will usually only serve to make her more attracted to him, via one mechanism or another.

You will know that you are a Bad Boy when you start pining for a calmer or steadier lifestyle. While a Woman who exaggerates the circumstances of her life for attention is a Drama Queen, a Man who downplays or tries to minimize a litany of legitimate problems is likely a Bad Boy.

My last word of advice for the would-be Bad Boy is to be leery of a sexually-suggestive or aggressive Woman. As I pointed out above, the Woman who sat next to me and tried to bait me with an arsenal of slutty gestures and glances left the restaurant with her boyfriend/husband. Provoking a Bad Boy is a no-lose proposition for most Women, because they can always feign innocence to their devoted partner.

After all, who is an angry boyfriend/husband going to believe most of the time: the Love of his Life, or some shady-looking guy who is seemingly scamming on her?

Many Women come to know that a Bad Boy is not intimidated by approaching her, so Women are often much more forward in their actions toward him. But the Trap is that the Women who are beckoning the Bad Boy, as in the example above, are often in committed relationships. While these Women tend to justify these seductive invitations as “innocent flirting”, they are less likely to consider – or at least take responsibility for -the consequences of these actions.

Hell, some Women may want to see her boyfriend/husband fight for her, and may attempt to draw a Bad Boy into a self-constructed Drama just to reaffirm his commitment to her. Some Women may aim to turn a Bad Boy into a pawn in a kind of emotional game. I can personally attest to this, as it has happened to me numerable – repeat, numerable – times in recent memory.

A Bad Boy concocts the Drama Elixir the same way certain Women have blonde hair and big breasts: by nature, not by choice. Just be cognizant of the fact that as a Bad Boy, you consciously or unconsciously produce the drug of choice for many Women. While it will serve to make you more-attractive, it will also serve to cause you continual headaches and inconveniences.

Closing

These Bad Boy articles will likely be ongoing. As I wrote above, I am constantly getting new material on the topic. I would hope that as an astute reader, you are noticing all the caution flags I am throwing up for younger or would-be Bad Boys. Inexperienced Men will read this and cherry-pick for ways to sleep with more Women, but savvy readers and fellow Bad Boys will know that the Bad Boy lifestyle is pretty aggravating.

Above all, I suggest younger or less-experienced readers continue to learn from my mistakes. There will undoubtedly be more to follow.

Jack

On Getting Robbed, II

“C’mon God, do I seem Bullet-Proof?”

- The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fortune Faded

(Forgot how much I like that song)

I’m not in the mood to put up a bunch of cute pictures and Family Guy clips, so this is just going to be the written word for once.

You, my fortunate readers, get the rare privilege of back-t0-back Friday night articles. I swear all of this happened as I’ve written it. Let me start at the beginning of the evening, for the purpose of creating a narrative:

I went to dinner with my bro Chuck and my girl A-Man because Chuck has been desperate to go to Blue Asia, a restaurant in a strip mall that boldly advertises ALL YOU CAN EAT SUSHI. Chuck is making outrageous claims like “I am going to eat until I feel shame”, and he backs this up by undoing the buckle of his pants at the table after his third plate. He’s sprawled out in the booth like it’s his living room on Thanksgiving Day, alternately moaning and sweating because he ate a disturbing amount of uncooked seafood.

We linger at Blue Asia because our server is in-lust with Chuck, probably for about 25 minutes after we finish eating. A-Man and I make conversation about God-knows-what while we both watch the 21-year old server try to Holla at Chuck. For whatever reason, Chuck is not having it, probably because he is uncomfortably-full of ahi tuna and wasabi.

As our server gropes Chuck, the Penguins are playing the Predators, but for some reason I am not going into Anaphylactic Shock over the prospect of missing the game. Ordinarily, I would be watching the game at Randy’s house or Drew’s house or stealing it off the internet. At the very least, I would be listening to Penguins Radio either on my Fuckphone 4 or on my laptop. I guess because I am entertained, or because the Preds are not a marquee match-up, my need to monitor the game isn’t as strong as usual.

The party at Blue Asia probably breaks up around 8:00 PM. I check my e-mail on my Fuckphone, and I have an infuriating e-mail from the membership counselor at my gym. The short version of the e-mail is that the gym plans to fuck me out of $60 because I signed a contract saying that they could. As expected, this puts me in a foul mood.

I get home, and my roommate is hosting the same party she hosts every weekend, “Drunken Underage Orgy with Marines”. It gets old by the 10th or 15th time you’ve seen it. I like people in my house about as much as Tigers like people on their boat, and having sloppy-drunk, obnoxious Marines spilling beer on my carpet pushes me to the brink of violence. I promptly leave, because after the e-mail from the gym bitch, I am ready to punch someone.

Rather than go to the bar and drink angrily, I decide to go to Barnes and Noble to study. I suppose on a different night I might have gone to the gym, but it was already about 9:00 PM by this point. I decided I could go to the gym in the morning.

At the bookstore, I have the Pens game on Penguins Radio. They are pecker-slapping the Preds. This lessens my need to go start a bar brawl. I stay at Barnes and Noble until 10:50 or so. I get caught up on studying a little bit. I could have left 15 minutes before or five minutes after, but for whatever reasons I closed up shop at about ten-til-eleven.

I drive home, deciding to go the long way for some reason. For Wilmington residents: rather than go straight down Oleander toward my apartment, I went the long way, across Eastwood and then down Market. No real logic as to why I did this.

I could have stopped at Harris Teeter and gotten a Steak. Most nights I stop at the grocery, because I cook almost all of my own meals and most everything I eat is fresh and perishable. I ate earlier, so I’m not hungry.

I could have decided I wanted a Vanilla Milk Shake. Sometimes if I burn off a ton of extra calories at the gym, I want a Milk Shake. I skipped the gym tonight, so I didn’t want a Milk Shake.

I text A-Man to see if she maybe went out to the bar. I don’t feel like dealing with the Underage-Orgy bullshit, but I am not in an overly-social mood. The Penguins smacking around the Predators has calmed me somewhat. Hanging with A-Man sounds alright, but she doesn’t respond by the time I turn into Avalon around 11:15 PM, so I decide to just call it a night.

For once, there’s a parking spot in front of my building. I guess that’s the upside of getting in at 11:15. I have my wallet in my jeans (rather than in the secret compartment in my car) because I considered getting a coffee at Barnes and Noble while I was studying, but decided I didn’t want to be up until 4AM. As usual, I am looking at something on my Fuckphone as I get out of my car – maybe checking to see if A-Man responded (since I no longer text-and-drive), or maybe checking the time. My phone was in my left hand, that much I’m sure of: Fuckphone in my left hand, laptop bag and keys in my right.

I am barely out of my car, not more than four or five steps, when a guy in a hooded sweatshirt steps right in my path. I’m about to shove him.

Then the guy puts a gun in my face. This one:

glock

On Getting Robbed, II

This is really happening.

It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to react. I thought some dumb-ass drunk kid was going to ask to use my phone or something. One blink later, and the muzzle of the gun is an inch from my forehead.

The guy with the gun is early-20s, black, about 5’8, 160-170 lbs., navy hooded sweatshirt, stubble or light beard. The guy in my peripheral vision, who I don’t turn to look at because I have a gun in my face, seems to be about the same build, roughly the same age, black, dreadlocks, yellow hoody.

This is the second time I have had a gun pulled on me, and I reacted almost identically: frighteningly-calm. I believe the thief’s direct quote was: “Gimme all you got or I’m gonna fuckin’ pop you.” I glared at him like I was going to rip his head off. Props to me for taking my pinch like a Man.

The Fuckphone was in my left hand. I turned that over. I handed the laptop bag over, but for whatever reason the thieves didn’t want it. The kid with the gun tossed it down. His partner – who I didn’t immediately see because I had a gun in my face – came up behind me and pulled my wallet out of my back pocket. I had about $30 in cash on me to go along with a bunch of maxed-out or nearly maxed-out credit cards, plus a few gift-cards to Macy’s and Pure Hockey from last Christmas. A real haul for those two.

The guy with the gun backed away, telling me he was going to shoot me in the face if I moved. So I didn’t. Of all the places to die, I decided the sidewalk outside of my overpriced unit at Avalon Apartments in Wilmington, North Carolina was low on my list. The guy who took my wallet walked around behind me and met the guy with the gun. As you might expect, the thieves walked away arrogantly, though they did walk right in front of the security cameras on Bors Run. World’s Smartest Criminals.

Once they are out of eye-sight, I don’t even know how to react. I am so accustomed to stress that the incident did not register as it should have. It’s the main reason why I am going to be a quality fire-fighter: I don’t panic like other people. Maybe it’s all the hits to the head, but I basically didn’t react like I was just held up at gun-point. It was like watching the incident on a video-screen, underwater.

I calmly went into my apartment, opened up my laptop, and sent a Facebook message to A-Man: I just got robbed at gun point – message me when you get this.

I go outside and survey the neighborhood, just to see if any of my 50 or so neighbors happened to see the incident. On the second story of one of the buildings, a drunk dude and two drunk girls are on their porch. They apparently just came outside. I explain what happened, and the guy called 911 from his cell phone. One of the drunk girls tells me I’m hot.

A-Man arrives quickly, because she’s Awesome. She looks terrible. I probably tell an awful joke to make her feel better, because that’s what I do in bad situations. I am about to use her phone to call my mother and get jump-start on cancelling credit cards when the first cop-car pulls up.

The cops arrive – five cars in all, including a K-9 unit. Side track for a laugh: A-Man tries to pet/snuggle the police dog German Sheppard. The cop warns her: “You probably shouldn’t put your face so close to the dog.” This is my first positive experience – ever - with cops. I can no longer complain that I have never had a positive experience with cops, as they arrived within three minutes of the initial call to 911.

A polite younger cop, about my age, takes my information. A veteran older cop, holding a blackjack, looks like he’s ready to go kick in every door along Metting Road. Metting is a known trouble spot, Section 8 housing. He and I bullshit and get along well. I take him over to where the gun was pulled on me, and he sighs and reaffirms that there wasn’t much I could have done. We bullshit some more. He tells me I’m lucky that I am moving out on November 30th. It’s like the opening and closing scene from Se7en: “‘The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”

The cop party eventually breaks up. A-Man and I go inside. She watches Vampire Diaries on Netflix while I call my mother. She likes Ian Somerhalder, who plays “Damon”. While I am on the phone with my mother, I pull up a YouTube clip of Ian Somerhalder acting brazenly homosexual. This makes her give me a sour face, but it eventually breaks into a smile. Mission Accomplished.

The Lesson

This is the second time in recent memory that I’ve been Robbed. The last time was when a group of thieves raided my apartment while my roommates and I were at the bar. This time was distinctly different. There is really nothing like having a gun pointed at you.

There are two things I can’t stop thinking about:

1) If I had done anything – anything - differently tonight, I would not have been held up. It reinforces my Belief in Fate. If I had left dinner ten minutes earlier or later, punched one of the 19-year old Marines in my apartment, had a beer with one of the 19-year old Marines in my apartment, gone to the gym, left Barnes and Noble a bit earlier or later, gone home the normal way down Oleander, had a Milk Shake, bought a Steak, gone drinking with A-Man, or parked anywhere else, this wouldn’t have happened. The amount of events that had to occur for me to end up with a gun in my face is mind-boggling.

2) This really reinforces the “Live Before You Die” concept. I’ve been reminding myself of this frequently, as my EMT course has been taking up so much of my energy and time that I tend to lose sight of why I enrolled in the first place: to fulfill my dream of becoming a fire-fighter and give myself the continued financial freedom to Bang Chicks and Play Hockey.

Maybe the guy who took my Fuckphone and wallet robbed me with an unloaded gun. Or, maybe I was a twitch or a wrong move away from getting shot in the face. It’s hard to say, and it really doesn’t bother me as much as it should.

Being the Optimist that I am, I naturally focus on all the things I still have the opportunity to do: Bang Chicks, Play Hockey, drink, read, Play Hockey, Bang Chicks, write novels, Play Hockey, see the Penguins win a few more Stanley Cups, open a Hockey school, Bang Chicks, Play Hockey, Play Hockey, go to Vegas, and Play Hockey. I’m grateful. Really.

Did I enjoy being robbed at gun-point, and did I need it at this particular point in my life? My past month reads on paper like a hilarious season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm“. Part of me says “Fuck no, of course I didn’t deserve it, especially not right now”, and the other part of me says “God has a wacky fucking plan, and this is part of it.”

Again, consider all of the little events described above that had to happen for me to pull up directly in front of an armed gunman in the middle of a well-lit portion of my sprawling housing development. If you think all of the little things I did or didn’t do leading up to Being Robbed all happened by chance, you’re either a hopeless nihilist or a crazy fucker.

And really, as inconvenient as it is to be robbed at gun-point – another annoyance in an all-time annoying month, still with two weeks to play! – let’s look at what the thieves got:

* My wallet, which was a nice leather wallet, but the pockets were ripping – $30

* Cash – $30

* My Fuckphone, which you all know I despise – $160 $33 and another two years with the corporate fascists at Verizon. Getting all those phone numbers again is going to be a major pain in the ass (or a clean slate, depending on how I want to look at it)

(UPDATE 11/16/2013 – 2:00 PM: Just replaced my Fuckphone 4 with another Fuckphone 4. Turns out I had a “free” upgrade at Verizon. The girl at Verizon patiently and sympathetically listened while I explained that I had been robbed at gunpoint and needed to replace my phone…then she spent 20 minutes trying to talk me into upgrading to a Fuckphone 5-whatever for only $200 more. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the amorality of people in sales.)

* An obnoxious collection of maxed-out/nearly maxed-out credit cards and a few gift cards to stores I don’t frequent

* A few ID cards, including my Driver’s License, which admittedly will be a pain in the ass to replace – we all hate going to the DMV

On the whole, not a bad price to pay to avoid being gunned down outside an apartment complex I hate in a town I have ever-growing contempt for. Can you imagine if I got shot and then had to spend eternity haunting Avalon? Talk about never-ending agony.

I really don’t know what the Moral of the Story is. Maybe it’s to give me some perspective, making my forthcoming EMT Scope of Practice and the living situation nonsense I’ve been stressing over seem trivial by comparison. Maybe the Moral is that I need to take my time to appreciate the positive things I have in Life. Maybe the Moral is to go out and drink on a Friday night, rather than try to live a pious life of conservatism and studying. I have no idea.

My advice to you, if you’re in a similar situation: Give Up the Goods. As annoying as it’s going to be for me to replace everything and have my budget stretched even-further, it’s less annoying than having a bullet go through you. It’s just stuff, and in my case, it wasn’t tremendously-valuable stuff. As much as I want to say I went Batman on those fuckers, I Did the Right Thing and went Thomas Wayne. I will live to write another day.

So here’s the Lesson: Getting Robbed sucks, but it sucks less than Getting Shot. If you’ve read Jack’s Rules, then you know that I focus on the Good News and that I Face Forward. The Good News is that my chiseled good looks are in-tact and that I don’t have another hole in my head. Facing Forward, I just have a few more tasks to complete before I crush my Scope of Practice on December 12th, then proceed with the celebratory holiday drinking.

Assuming NC DOT gets me a new Driver’s License by then.

Jack

How to Optimize Your Hockey Skates

skates

I was never a kid who got to pick out new $800 skates each year, nor have I yet landed in that position as an adult. Even if I had the means to spend the kind of money currently being asked for the high-end models, I’m not sure I would be one of those guys who buys a brand-new pair every season. To this day, I remain one of those sentimental types that will re-stitch his 15-year old baseball glove, or continually replace eyelets and runners on eight-year old skates.

Despite never having $800 skates, I’ve done alright for myself as a Hockey player. My background is Pond and Inline Hockey and hand-me-down equipment. Despite this informal background, I played college hockey, and I played most of my college games in CCM 1052 Tacks, which weren’t exactly bank-breakers or high-end technology in 2006.

A few years ago, I posted an article called Choosing an Ideal Hockey Stick. This article is currently the Top Search on Google, and about 200 people per week click on the link. The positive feedback I’ve gotten had led me to believe I have something to contribute to the Hockey Community, and that there are quite a few people like myself interested in maximizing the effectiveness of their Hockey Equipment.

At this point, I have enough experience to have seen overhauls in Hockey Equipment and the trends in how people utilize it. One such generational change is how the game has evolved since the 2005 NHL Lockout:

Since the 2005 Lockout, the sport has undergone a stylistic change in which an absolute premium has been placed on Skating and Speed. While the NHL from 1995-2004 was more of a three-zone game, in which slower players could compensate for lack of foot speed with grit and strength, the modern game is a track meet. If you can’t flat-out fly, you stand a good chance of being replaced on your respective team.

Thus, it behooves any player, regardless of league or skill level, to maximize his or her skating ability. Optimizing Your Hockey Skates will help improve your skating ability, and help you get the most out of any off-ice training you elect to do.

Ready to Commit?

I am kind of a slut when it comes to Sticks and Gloves, but when it comes to Skates, I’m ready for a lengthy commitment. I am not a great shooter by any means – like I said, I’m a Pond/Inline Hockey guy – but when I am healthy, I can skate. While I have rarely been able to put myself into a top-end boot, my ability to skate has led me to be very particular about how my skates are customized.

A good pair of Skates becomes a natural extension of the player. Ideally, Skates should cause the player no pain or discomfort, and the player should be able to move around the ice effortlessly and thoughtlessly. A good pair of Skates should be a part of you, rather than just a flashy-looking piece of equipment.

This is an article on the the different ways in which you can Optimize Your Hockey Skates.This article assumes that you have a make and model that you like, or are committed to a particular pair of skates. This is not an article on Choosing a Pair of Skates, though this article may help you develop some preferences going forward.

This is also not an article for players who frequently change Skates. If you are one of those guys who can afford to go out and buy brand-new Easton Makos or CCM RBZs every year, more power to you – but you aren’t who I am gearing this article toward. This is an article for the Player who doubles as a part-time Economist, carefully analyzing a broad number of Equipment Reviews before making a purchase. This article is also written for Players who plan on investing at least a few years in a pair of Skates, replacing insoles, rivets, and skate tongues as-needed rather than just laying down $500 for another new pair.

Here are the different ways in which you might Optimize Your Hockey Skates:

1) Boot Stiffness

All the rage today is about Boot Stiffness and how light Skates can get, which in theory promotes high-end speed. To cite one example,  CCM, which I used exclusively from 1993-2012, has based their RBZ campaign around Boot Stiffness and Weight:

rbz

The last few generations of Skates have gotten oppressively-stiff, in my opinion. This article by Skating Coach Laura Stamm, written in the early-2000s, hits many of the same notes I touch upon throughout this article:

Skates: How Stiff, How Tight? by Laura Stamm

Because I grew up playing in hand-me-down Super Tacks, I strongly prefer an extremely-soft boot, much like you might see on someone like Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey. If you watch the above clips of Orr or Coffey – by all accounts two of the strongest skaters in the history of the game – they get extremely-deep into the ice and angle the blades of their Skates severely, with the sides of their boots almost scraping the ice as they bob-and-weave.

Both Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey have absolutely-tremendous Lateral Mobility, and tend to skate with more Continuous Motion (non-stop, like an Inline Player almost) rather than stop-and-start. Both could certainly change directions on a dime, but what impresses me most about both skaters is how they effortlessly transition from front-to-back and side-to-side. Neither player did this on $800 boots made with NASA Technology.

I feel that the last few generations of Skates – since 2010 or so – have gotten so stiff that they make proper Edge Work and Forward Foot Flexion a major chore, ultimately impeding agility and speed. In the interest of elevating top-end speed to superhuman levels (as well as reducing injuries from shots), Skate Companies have used ultra-rigid composite materials to prevent what many perceive to be Energy Leaks. I will get into Energy Leaks a bit more below, but first, an aside:

When my 2008 CCM U+Pros – in my view, basically the same skate CCM has made since I started playing in the early 1990s – finally gave up the ghost in January 2013, I bought a pair of CCM U+10s, assuming that I was more-or-less getting the same boot. But even after repeatedly baking and making concerted efforts to soften the boot, it refused to conform to the anatomy of my foot. It felt like skating on stilts, as the U+10s are so stiff compared to the U+Pros that they forced me into an uncomfortably-upright position. Not only did I ache the entire time I was playing, but my skating was noticeably ineffective.

Again, it’s worth repeating: I am not a novice skater. I have played continuously since the early 1990s, and Skating is ordinarily a major strength in my game. At the very least, I am able to diagnose when something is wrong, and no amount of softening work was able to get the 2012 U+10s into a condition I considered usable. I ultimately bought a pair of Graf Supra G535s, which were a modest improvement.

This brings me back to Energy Leaks, and how Skate Stiffness in-theory prevents them:

An Energy Leak is a term appropriated from Exercise Science, commonly attributed to a Trainer named Gray Cook. To use mechanical terms, it basically means a part of your body is “misfiring”. For example, if you have a knee injury, your injury is causing an Energy Leak in that the knee is limiting the power your hips and ankles can produce. Injuries and Muscular Imbalances, which you can read about elsewhere, are commonly attributed to Energy Leaks.

Skate Companies seemingly identified a broken-down, soft Skate Boot as a major Energy Leak. This again makes sense in-theory, as professional-level skaters were losing Power Production due to broken-down boots. The Force the players were generating with their professional-athlete leg power was not optimally propelling them around the ice. This led to the creation of the contemporary Ultra-Stiff Skate Boot.

My degree is in Exercise Science, and I have worked most of the last five years as an Athletic Trainer/Personal Trainer/Strength Coach. You’re going to have to take me at my word that I know what I am talking about in regards to Force Production and exercise physics.

While I agree in-theory that an Ultra-Stiff boot leads to Optimal Force Production by limiting Energy Leaks, the player in-question needs to be able to generate the necessary Force to repeatedly drive the boot into the ice, particularly at the Edging angles described above in the Orr/Coffey example. For most Adult League players, who are not nearly at the same Strength/Conditioning levels as Steven Stamkos or Marty St. Louis, an Ultra-Stiff boot is going to be more of an impediment than an ally.

Once more, just to completely murder your self-confidence, here’s what professional athlete Marty St. Louis looks like. He can also Squat 500+ pounds:

marty

Ultra-Stiff CCM RBZs or Bauer APX2s were made for Marty St. Louis, who can produce enough Force to propel himself all over the ice for 24 minutes per night at the NHL level. They were not made for the average Adult Leaguer who hasn’t been to the gym since 1998.

Additionally, professional-level players play as many as 100+ games per season, in addition to near-daily practices and Training Camps. The average Adult League Player, or even the average Youth Travel Player, does not participate in anything approximating this kind of a schedule. Ultra-Stiff Skates were made for professional players to prevent the need to repeatedly change Skates mid-season. This is not a concern for the average Rec or Travel League Player, be it Adult or Youth.

In short, if you are having difficulty skating, it may be time to re-evaluate how effective an Ultra-Stiff Skate is for you. Your $750 skates may feel like a slipper while you wear them around your living room, but in the end it’s all about how effectively you get up-and-down the ice. It may require an ego check, but a lower-end model or a softer boot might be one way in which you can Optimize Your Hockey Skates.

2) Boot Weight

Because I’m used to boots comprised of heavier materials, as well as Inline Skates, reducing Skate Weight by a few grams is not a huge personal priority. Much like Stick Companies annually compete with each other to lower Kick-Points and shave grams off their $260 Composite Sticks, Skate Companies in a competitive market have used Skate Weight as a marketing tool and barometer for Skate Effectiveness.

To cite one example, prior to the RBZ line, CCM’s high-end skate was called the U+ Crazy Light. To someone who hasn’t played in 15 years, the leap in technology and decrease in heft from a pair of Super Tacks to a pair of 2012 Crazy Lights is extraordinary. It’s easy for a Player to logically conclude that a lighter skate automatically equals a faster player.

But again going back to my tirade on Force Production, a player moves based upon the Force he or she exerts into the ice, and that in turn propels him or her away from the ice more powerfully. As Newton wrote, “Any action causes an equal and opposite re-action”, and skating is no different.

An Ultra-Light Skate will likely aid the player if the Player is already a dynamic skater, but putting a pair of feather-light RBZs on an inexperienced player is not going to “strap a rocket to your skates”, despite what CCM’s marketing department would have you believe.

(Note: This isn’t meant to go on a witch hunt against CCM/RBK. As I wrote above, I used CCM Skates exclusively for 19 years. The Hockey Equipment Market has gotten so competitive that designers and marketing executives feel the need to Reinvent the Wheel every year, and frankly attempts to make leaps in technology sometimes leads an inferior product. I could make similar points about Easton, Bauer, Warrior, or any of the other large Equipment Providers.)

Skating exceptionally well in a pair of “heavy” $150 skates is much better than being hindered by a vise-like pair of $750 skates. Boot Weight should not be a primary, or even secondary, consideration unless you are already an elite-level skater. If your skates are “heavy”, do not let this become an excuse: the likes of Orr, Coffey, Lafleur, and Gretzky skated remarkably well in boots much heavier than the models you are likely using.

Oilers v Kings

3) Flop vs. Tongue-In

sidoviThe two current standard-bearers of the NHL, Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, demonstrate Tuck vs. Flop. Sid “Tucks” the Tongue of his Skates under his shin-pads, while Ovi lets the Tongue “Flop” outside the shin-pads.

While Flop vs. Tuck is considered by some to be a merely-stylistic choice, my opinion is that it can have a strong bearing on your skating.

Until very, very recently (just before this article was published), I was a lifelong Tucker. In fact, I took the Tucking to it’s ultimate conclusion, not only Tucking the Tongue in under the shin-pads but also binding both the Tongue and the Tendon Guard (the flap on the back of the boot) tight to my ankle.

I had been doing the ankle lace-wrap thing since college. Prior to college, I had actually been a very mediocre skater, getting by with my hands and Hockey IQ. However, my college coach minced no words, telling me that I would not make the team unless my skating underwent a drastic improvement.

At Age 18, I could not conceive not playing, so I spent the next three weeks living in the gym and snorting Protein Powder. I may have been the last man on the roster, but I made the team as a 4th-Liner, thanks to very rapid and sudden improvements in my Skating and Athleticism.

Somewhere along the way, I started wrapping my laces around the Tongue and Tendon Guard of my Skates – “Anchoring the Boot”, which is something players from prior generations used to do with regularity. Here’s a good pic of Bobby Orr doing the same basic thing I used to do, i.e. using a half-roll of tape on each of his ankles and Anchoring the Boot:

orr

Like Bobby, I likely needed the additional Ankle Support because I was skating on an unusually-soft boot and producing unusually-high Force at an unusually-high frequency. Also like Bobby, the limited Ankle Flexion did not prevent me from eventually being one of the fastest guys on my team, if not the league. This was an amazing departure from my high school days, when I might as well have been wearing Baseball Spikes on the ice.

However, like Bobby Orr, I later developed a variety of knee problems, likely caused by forcing the knee/quadriceps to do too much of the work. These started cropping up shortly after my 25th birthday, and I suspect they would have shown up sooner had I not been an 18-25 year old guy in outstanding physical shape.

I will get into Athleticism a bit more below, but for the moment just understand that I took Boot Anchoring to its ultimate conclusion, which is Tongue-Tucked/Tendon Guard Anchored.

This method basically turns your legs into pistons, with your ankles largely immobilized and the majority of the rapid action occurring at your knee joint. If you are exceptionally strong and well-conditioned, this can make you a very powerful skater, but over time it will wreak havoc on your knees, your hips, or both.

What is most commonly seen in today’s NHL is Tongue-Tucked without the Tendon Guard Anchor. My opinion is that this promotes greater control at the expense of some explosiveness, because it puts more of your body’s Slow-Twitch (Type I) Muscle Fibers to work.

Peter Forsberg used this style as prominently as anyone:

forsbergIn 2013, this is the “standard” way to wear your Skates. It looks cooler and provides better protection for shot-blocking than Flopping. The modern composite boots provide built-in Ankle Support that was not present in Skates made throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s.

As noted above, Skates have gotten so stiff that the additional Ankle Support that Tendon Guard Anchoring or Ankle-Taping provides is not only unnecessary, but often detrimental. My personal experience was that Anchoring a modern composite boot, in this case my 2012 CCM U+10s, did not allow for adequate Ankle Flexion and Forward Foot Flexion. This severely compromised my skating.

After doing some reading, I began experimenting, first by leaving the top eyelet undone without Anchoring. This made me feel incredibly “wobbly” and out-of-control, which was not the answer. I was used to pin-point control, which this method seemingly did not provide.

Sid Crosby uses a similar approach, leaving the top second eyelet from the top open in the interest of greater Forward Foot Flexion. Here is another article spot-lighting Sid’s obsessive-compulsive disuse of the second eyelet. You may have to zoom to see it, but it’s very noticeable on the back skate:

sidcrosby

I then progressed to leaving the top or second eyelet undone while Anchoring the Tendon Guard. While this was an improvement, this still did not feel natural to me. I did not feel like I was “sinking in” properly, and still had that wobbly-on-stilts feel even after switching to Graf Supra 535s.

(Note: I ultimately sold the 535s and moved onto Graf 709s, for reasons I will touch upon later in the article.)

Finally, after further reading and frustration, I looked to my three Patron Saints: St. Mario, St. Sergei, and St. Kovy:

marioflop

fedorov

kovy

My three favorite players of all-time, all of whom are among the most-prolific scorers and talents in recent NHL history, Flop. I started to think that if it was good enough for Mario, maybe Flopping was something I should consider.

I will say that Flopping is definitely an adjustment. However, for the first time in months I felt like Flopping produced tangible improvement rather than just tire-spinning.

I felt comfortable and “low” in my skates. The knee discomfort was minimal, and afterward the back of my legs were on fire. There is an immediate trade-off in Stamina, as you use many more Fast-Twitch (Type IIB) Muscle Fibers. I have traditionally had outstanding Stamina on Skates, but my first few sessions Flopping left me sucking wind. Feel free to insert jokes here: ____________.

You use more of your leg Flopping – especially the glutes and high into the back of the hamstring – because you get greater Ankle Flexion. Laura Stamm continues on this line of thought here: http://www.laurastamm.net/Lacing-The-Skates.aspx.

Flopping certainly works your legs in a different fashion than Tucking, but again Sergei Fedorov – one of the most-dynamic skaters in the history of the sport – wore his skates this way to great success. If you scroll back up to the picture of Oilers-era Wayne Gretzky, you will notice that the Great One “Flops” as well.

The method Sergei Fedorov and Alex Kovalev use – Flop with Tendon Guard Taping – is commonly seen with older Soviet players. In addition to Sergei Fedorov and Kovy, Sergei Gonchar uses this style:

sarge

(And yes, they’re all wearing their Penguins sweaters because I love the Penguins. I almost photo-shopped Fedorov into a late-90s Pens pigeon jersey.)

From what I’ve read, Kovy and Sarge leave the top eyelet undone while taping the Tendon-Guard. This seems contradictory, but might be worth experimenting with.

My one sentence analysis on Flopping vs. Tucking is that Flopping potentially gives you better burst and power while Tucking promotes better control and protection. If you are getting mediocre results trying one of the two styles, perhaps you can further Optimize Your Skating by going in the opposite direction.

Before moving on, a caveat on Limiting Ankle Flexion by Binding or Excessive Taping:

As I wrote above, until very recently I’ve spent the last ten years Anchoring the Boot, keeping both the Tongue and Tendon Guard taut against my ankle. While I was able to flat-out fly when I was both on a softer boot and at college-athlete conditioning levels, this style eventually led to chronic knee problems. I have already used Bobby Orr as an example above, but here’s another photo of Bobby’s skates:

orr2Next, here’s a photo of the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure, who you may recall was forced to retire due to chronic knee problems:

bure

Notice that Rocket, like Bobby Orr, was both an absurdly-great skater and forced into early retirement because of chronic knee issues. Note that both players also excessively bound their ankles, creating the “piston” effect I brought up earlier.

Lastly, here is Rocket’s modern contemporary Marian Gaborik:

gaborik

Notice that Marian, like Rocket and Bobby Orr, keeps his ankles wrapped up like Christmas presents. Yes, Marian is one of the League’s fastest players, but like Orr and Rocket has battled chronic leg injuries. Marian’s injuries have tended to be more hip/groin rather than knee, but my point is that excessive Ankle Taping would seem to lead to long-term Joint Problems in the legs. Allowing the ankles and posterior chain to do more of the skating work would seem to spare a player from chronic injury in the long run.

My theory is that the excessive Ankle Taping and chronic knee/leg injuries feed off each other. While Flopping has been a major adjustment for me, who like Bure and Gaborik has used the “piston” method to generate great speed, I believe the additional usage of the ankles/posterior chain may save my knees and hips. If you bind your ankles, the short-term adjustment to a different method may be worth it, if only to save yourself from future chronic injury.

4) Improving Your Athleticism

In short, being a better athlete can mask a lot of deficiencies in both your equipment and your technique.

Again, the mindset I have always been exposed to is, “Play Better in the Equipment you have”, not replace your equipment and expect improvement. While I have enough experience to appreciate higher-end equipment and to acknowledge when lower-end equipment is limiting me, you should assess and Optimize Your Athleticism before you invest $800 in new skates.

You can improve your Athleticism in a surprisingly short amount of time. To repeat the story told above, I managed to take myself from the least-athletic to the most-athletic guy on my college team in a single season by committing myself to off-ice conditioning. Freshman year, my family came to see me play in a mid-season game, and my brother thought someone else was wearing my jersey, as my skating had changed so dramatically. I attribute this entirely to an intense dedication to Strength and Conditioning, which I had not really done in High School.

I have written an article that I am very proud of called Optimal Strength and Conditioning for Hockey Players. Before you try to improve your skating by throwing money at the problem, consider making a concerted effort to improving your Strength and Conditioning. A more athletic body will improve your on-ice ability much more than the latest offering from the Skate Companies.

5) Contouring and Radius of Hollow (ROH)

This article, complete with Guidelines, does a better job explaining Contouring and Radius of Hollow than I could ever hope to:

http://www.weatherimagery.com/blog/hockey-skate-contouring/

Just to accentuate my laziness, here is another great article on Contouring that I did not write:

http://noicingsports.com/skate_radius_profiling.html

Here are my general notes on Contouring and ROH:

* In general, Contour Radius or Profile runs from 6′ to 13′, with 13′ being closer to a speed-skate. As you get closer to 6′, Agility and Maneuverability will improve at the expense of Acceleration, Stability, and Speed.

* Most Skates come from the Manufacturer at a Radius of 9′-11′, but I have read that there is great inconsistency in Skate Contours coming right out of the box. My understanding is that Bauer Skates generally use a 9′ Radius, while CCMs and Grafs generally use an 11′ Radius. This informational blurb from Bauer seems to indicate that most companies use an 11′ Radius from the factory, while the Bauer TUUK runner uses a 9′ in the interest of maneuverability.

* If you have a good Local Hockey Shop in the area, do yourself a favor and spend the $25 to get your Skates properly contoured. Even if you are using a $100 pair of lower-end Skates, a good contouring/sharpening job will go a long way toward Optimizing Your Skates. If you don’t know where to start, pick 9′ (if you want a little more Agility) or 11′ (if you want a little more Speed/Stability). If your LHS has a knowledgeable skate guru, split the difference and get a 10′ Radius.

Here is a ROH Sharpening Chart, one of many you can find on the Internet:

skatechart* Sharpening preference is very personal and comes with experience. The common advice is to start with a 1/2″ ROH and then adjust accordingly Players who want more “Glide” trend toward 1″, while Players who want more “Bite” trend toward a 1/16″ (although you rarely see a cut sharper than 3/8″).

Just for reference, here is a now-outdated Pittsburgh Penguins Sharpening Chart:

penssharpeningchart

This chart is fascinating to me. Those familiar with the NHL and specific players can recognize why certain players on this list use particular styles. For example, 6’4, 22o lb. Jordan Staal uses a 5/8, which makes sense because he’s a larger player with an economical/low-effort stride. Meanwhile, the even-larger Mike Rupp, a grinder who uses a more high-effort stride, has his skates sharpened at 7/16″.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Sergei Gonchar uses a 1″, which obviously contributes to his effortless, low-effort/high-endurance gliding. The endlessly-gifted Evgeni Malkin uses a 1/2″, but they could probably give him a 1″ or a 1/16″ and he wouldn’t care.

By contrast, the notoriously-picky Sidney Crosby, like me, uses an obsessive-compulsive 7/16″, and like me, gets a burr in his saddle when the sharpening is off by as much as a 1/16th of an inch. I have read that Sid will, like me, go up to a 9/16″ on softer surfaces such as Florida’s and Tampa Bay’s (or Wilmington’s).

I used a 7/16″ in Pittsburgh, but I also Tucked and Anchored the Boot. Since moving to Wilmington, NC, where despite what any of the locals will tell you the ice is softer than in Pittsburgh, I have moved to a 9/16″, as the 7/16″ was digging-in too much.

Skate Sharpening is ultimately trial-and-error, but you can expedite the process by Contouring Your Skates properly. You can then determine if a standard 1/2″ sharpening is too “grippy” or not “grippy enough”, and adjust as you see fit.

Lastly, you can have your Skates Pitchedin unique ways. A Skate’s Pitch refers to how aggressively a Skate places the Player on her or his toes or heels. For example, a Skate with a very aggressive Forward Pitch will tend to throw the Player on his toes, in-theory leading to greater Acceleration. Graf Skates are marketed as having a more-aggressive Forward Pitch than CCM/RBKs or Bauer Skates, for another example. I’ve read that Defensemen sometimes prefer a Heel Pitch, as they spend more of the game skating backwards.

I would not suggest altering Pitch until you have your personalized Profiling and Sharpening down to a hard science. Most Players below the professional level would probably benefit more from being well-rounded and using a Neutral Pitch. Having said that, Pitch is another aspect a Player can experiment with after a proper Profile and ROH Sharpening is established.

6) Laces: The Real Way to Optimize Your Hockey Skates

lacesw

Just do the right thing and put a pair of Waxed Gold Laces on your Skates. I promise it will turn you into an Alex Ovechkin clone.

But really, Waxed Laces tend to hold better, which becomes an issue as you become a stronger and more-advanced Skater. I prefer Waxed because they retain less moisture, as Unwaxed Cotton Laces tends to soak up sweat like a sponge. Some guys prefer Unwaxed, but I have never heard a rational argument why.

Lace Color is entirely up to you, but if you wear something other than Black, Yellow, or Gold, you’re likely to get some funny looks and snarky comments. I wear Gold because it tweaks Hockey Canada due to their lingering resentment toward Russia, but also because I like how it looks.

laces2

7) Retail Footbeds

footbeds

A number of manufacturers, most notably Graf and Superfeet, produce customized Footbeds that can be placed in skates to assist with comfort and postural alignment. These Footbeds come in a variety of patterns, each meant to provide a different benefit to the skater.

I have extremely flat, hideous feet, which have hindered me to a huge degree in finding skates that fit properly. In my search for properly-fitting skates, I tried four of the most prominent insoles currently available at the retail level for hockey players. Here is my review of each:

Graf Sidas Concept 3D Insoles

grafinsoles

These were my favorite of the retail Footbeds I tried. They came in the Graf 709 Texalites I purchased.

These Footbeds are described as “Anatomical Fit”, and noticeably improved comfort in the skates I wore them in. It was not that they noticeably lifted or lowered me in my skates, but that they provided relief like like letting out a deep breath: I didn’t notice how relatively uncomfortable I had been until I replaced my stock footbeds with a pair of Sidas 3d Concepts.

It should be noted that I am not a big Graf fan. I had regrettable dealings with their customer service department, and found the Graf reps at the retail level to be pretty condescending. When I tried to return my 535 Supras due to poor fit (within the Warranty window), Graf basically told me that I was stuck, and to go buy a more-expensive pair of Grafs (which I eventually did). Compared to CCM and Bauer, Graf was dismissive and unhelpful with me.

Having said that, I would still use their footbeds and despite my affinity for CCM. The suggested retail on a pair of Sidas Footbeds is $25-$30.

CCM Custom Footbeds

ccmfootbedsI tried both the “Mid” and the “Low” Arch (CCM doesn’t make a “Nonexistent” Arch as of this writing), and while they might be great products, I did not notice a major change using either. The “High” Arch Footbed is a bit more pliable than the Superfeet Yellow Footbed, so if you are looking for a modest amount of Arch Support, those may work very well for you. They were perfectly comfortable, but I cannot speak to improvements in postural alignment.

Retail price on the CCM Footbeds is about $50. They come included with the purchase of the CCM RBZ.

Superfeet Yellow

superfeetIn short: I think Superfeet Yellow are a great product, but they are not the right product for me.

Superfeet Yellow differ in that they are very stiff compared to Graf Sidas or CCM insoles. I can verify that Superfeet help noticeably with Postural Alignment, which is shown in this Superfeet promo ad:

superfeet2

The first time I tried them on, I was very noticeably “lifted” in my skates. Remarkably, my shooting and stick skills seemed to improve, as Superfeet Yellow threw me into proper body alignment in a way that other footbeds had not. It almost felt like being in sneakers and playing hockey on foot.

My issue is that I have deformed feet from 20 years of Hockey, most of it skating barefoot. The Superfeet Yellow insoles have an extremely-high arch, and they take up a great deal of room in your skates. If you have a high-volume foot – meaning fat or thick or full of bone spurs from being cracked repeatedly, like mine are – Superfeet are going to further reduce the amount of room in your skates.

Also, I personally like the tactile sensation of having my feet as close to my blades as possible, which Superfeet Yellow remove. I am a throwback and I’m used to skating barefoot in leather, softened boots, and unfortunately I lost some “foot feel” by using Superfeet. While they improved my posture, they seemed to hinder my skating technique to some degree, perhaps by forcing me out of my 20-year old skating mechanics.

I do recommend trying Superfeet if you are not going to go to a Podiatrist. Many people swear by them. Superfeet Yellow retail for about $30-$40.

Lastly, I have not tried them, but Shock Doctor also makes Hockey Footbeds. They appear to provide more cushion, but maybe not as much in terms of postural alignment. They retail for about $20.

Footbed Conclusion

Retail Footbeds help, but not to a tremendous degree. I would say a proper Retail Footbed can improve fit by 5-10%, but they are not going to automatically fix a badly-fitting pair of skates.

If you have wretched feet and the means, I would recommend finding a Podiatrist with a background in Hockey. He or she can likely take all of the guesswork out of finding the proper Footbed or Arch Support for you, and ultimately save you a good deal of time and money.

8) Advanced Customization

Much of the guesswork has been taken out of Advanced Fitting through the use of technology such as the U+Foam seen in the last several generations of CCM Skates. All of the major manufacturers offer similar concepts that allow the skate to completely conform to the foot, and as I wrote above contemporary skates often feel like slippers when worn around the Living Room.

That said, if you have unusual foot dimensions – extra-wide or extra-narrow foot, instep, heel, bone protrusions on foot or ankle, etc. – it would likely benefit you to seek out a quality Local Hockey Shop and work with an expert on some Advanced Customization.

If that is not an option, some manufacturers, such as Graf, offer highly-individualized fits on their factory models. Here is Graf’s Skate Fitting Guide: http://www.grafcanada.com/product-lineup/skates. While Graf tries to take much of the guesswork out of an Advanced Customization, it would still benefit a Player to seek out a knowledgeable dealer and undergo a proper fitting, if at all possible.

Advancements in Skate Lining have rendered much of the need for custom foot-beds and inserts moot. While Players with special conditions may still need inserts, the contemporary Hockey Skate can often be molded to a perfect fit.

When Skates Just Don’t Fit

016

There is an addendum to everything else in this article:

Sometimes, Skates simply do not fit. The above picture is a shot of my CCM U+Pros, which fit me as well as anything I have worn. However, as you will see from the picture above, I heavily creased the boot along the outside edge, which I am now referring to as a “Jack-crease.”

I have made Jack-creases on almost every pair of skates I have ever worn, because I have large bone protrusions on the inside of my ankles. I am not sure I have ever worn a pair of skates that fit properly, though the U+Pros certainly held up their end of the bargain.

The point is this: sometimes, no matter what you do to Optimize your Skates, they simply do not fit your feet properly.

You can do all the research and do as many fittings as possible, but sometimes you are going to purchase a pair of skates that cannot be altered or molded enough to fit right. The trick is to cut your losses and admit that a pair of skates are a bad fit for you, rather than waste excess time and energy.

Finding a skate that fits properly has been a major chore. As I alluded to above, in the past year I have gone from U+10s (too stiff, poor-fitting) to Graf Supra 535s (too shallow) to Graf 709s (too much volume – the depth helps with the bone spurs, but my feet float in them) before finally getting lucky and landing a pair of CCM Custom Pro Stock Tacks made for American Goal-Scoring Legend Mike Modano:

002

Again, I got extremely lucky, because you obviously can’t find these at every Local Hockey Shop. 2014 is off to a banner start. But I digress.

If the Hollow/Pitch are correct, and you are in good physical condition, and different forms of Lacing/Tongue Placement are not fixing the problem, you might save yourself a lot of time and aggravation by admitting to yourself that a pair of skates are not salvageable, and trying to recoup some of your investment by selling the skates secondhand. You might also seek out a good Equipment Manager, Pro Shop Veteran, or Podiatrist who can help you understand what sort of fit, alterations, custom footbeds, etc will allow you to skate optimally.

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways in which you can Optimize Your Hockey Skates, rather than taking the easy way out and buying a newer, more-expensive pair. I would argue that you should not even consider a new pair until you’ve given all of the suggestions above a trial phase, along with a Workout Routine and a proper Contouring and Sharpening by a knowledgeable professional.

So take hope: you can effectively and rapidly Improve Your Skating, which will make you a hot commodity no matter what level of league you play in. Optimizing Your Hockey Skates is the first step you can take to being a Better Skater, and ultimately a Better Player.

Jack

Micro-Blog: Thoughts from 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins Pre-Season

trainingcamp

Just finished watching the last Penguins’ Pre-Season game versus Detroit, and I have a bunch of post-Training Camp thoughts that need to be expunged. (Almost) no links, no pics – just my collected thoughts from the 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins’ Training Camp and Pre-Season. If I don’t get my views out here, I am going to end up chatting up girls with gems like, “To be honest, I’ve been really torn over giving Pouliot or Maatta an eight-game look,”. Thanks for bearing with me.

Forwards

Like everyone else, I am continually-orgasmic over the Pens’ Top-6. It doesn’t matter if the team runs Joker (Jussi Jokinen) or Beau Bennett out there with Geno and James Neal, because the team is basically guaranteed offensive production from the spot. Whoever ends up on Brandon Sutter’s line is assured to provide sound two-way play, in addition to higher production than one might typically see from a third-liner.

Both guys give extremely-unique looks as the Left Wing with Geno and Deal: Beau offers the right-handed shot and the better skating ability, while Joker offers greater versatility and seamlessly fits the East-West style Geno and Deal play. Also, as you now know, Joker can put up points in giant spurts, and flip-flopping the two between the 2nd and 3rd Line LW slots might extract optimal production out of both.

I am bullish on Matt D’Agostini as the 3rd Line RW. He has scoring-line offensive instincts, and will be hungry to secure a longer-term contract. He offers a nice right-handed shot, and in my view provides what Tyler Kennedy failed to provide last year.

I am NOT bullish on Tanner Glass. I do not disrespect non-Philadelphia Flyer NHL Players, so I’ll leave it at that.

I do like ex-Flyers who now play for the Penguins, such as LW Harry Zolniercyzk. His speed and tenacity would be ideal for the Pens’ 4th Line, a sentiment that Coach Disco has echoed. Irrelevant Fact: Harry Z makes half of what Tanner Glass makes.

I am a big fan of Dustin Jeffrey and a reasonable-big fan of Joe Vitale. I think” Simply Dusty” offers versatility and offensive upside that Joey V. does not, so if it comes down to the two, I would rather keep Jeffrey.  Saying that, I would prefer to keep both while removing a different forward from the mix..ideally, a 4th Line LW who makes $1.1 million against the Cap and inspires message-board vitriol like this.

I believe shoe-horning Chuck Kobasew onto the roster would be a very good move. I realize the team is presently over the Cap, but the opportunity to add a player like Kobe at a fraction of his market price is too good to pass up. Beyond that, Kobe is a tailor-made Pittsburgh Penguin, meaning he excels at aggressive forechecking while displaying above-average offensive instincts for his skill-level. Additionally, Kobe is a nice insurance policy against injury to any of the RWs higher up on the Depth Chart.

Craig Adams will obviously do his thing. I am from the Mario School, meaning that I would prefer a more offensively-aggressive Penalty Kill, but if we are going to run the current Kill than Craiger is an ideal Killer.

My prediction is that the Penguins keep 14 forwards at the onset of the season, but we will see what Showtime Ray Shero elects to do with the roster.

Defense

The Top 4 is set and beautiful. My only note is that I hope Hockey Canada leaves both Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury off the team, which will ideally motivate him to make another run at the Norris and further elevate his already-impressive play. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tanger (as well as Flower) use the two Olympic weeks to heal up and prepare for the NHL Playoffs.

I do not think moving Matt Niskanen for Cap Relief is a wise decision. I obviously trust whatever Showtime decides, but I do not think Nisky is a player you just give away for Cap Space at this point. If some team offers a nice prospect that’s one thing, but just looking at Nisky as an expendable $2.3 Million Cap Hit is errant thinking, in my view. He’s been developing very well since coming to Pittsburgh – keep him.

I like Deryk Engellend, but I think Robert Bortuzzo has made him redundant. Again, no disrespect to Engel, but I think Bort is a superior player who brings a very-comparable skill-set. Engel makes so little money that he’s worth keeping for nothing more than depth, but personally I’d rather move Engel for a sliver of Cap Relief and just go with Bort full-time on the 3rd Pairing.

My belief is that the team will send Simon Despres to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he will play 20 minutes per night and toil while the early portion of the season unfolds. Simon will be back up in Pittsburgh sooner rather than later, and for the moment sending him to WBS seems like the most-reasonable decision to get the team Cap Compliant (other than disappearing a certain 4th Line Defensive Forward who makes $1.1 Million against the Cap).

If the team makes a larger move to get Cap Compliant, I would be all for keeping either Derick Pouliot or Olli Maatta in Pittsburgh for an eight-game preview before returning either to his respective Junior team. Again, this assumes the team makes a larger move to get Compliant, rather than just sending Simon Despres to WBS.

Our depth on Defense is ridiculous. Again, I do not want to trade Nisky, but should some team offer a dowry, I would not at all mind seeing Brian Dumoulin or someone similar get some NHL games.

Goaltending

Flower is my guy. Always has been. if you hate him, shut up.

Tomas Vokoun’s blood-clot situation ensures that Flower will see a lot of action early. I obviously do not like seeing T-Vo on the shelf, but the Good News is that Flower will be force-fed more games than he ordinarily would have played in the first part of the season. I am pulling for Flower to get into a rhythm and lead the team on an early-season tear.

I think Showtime will look to claim a goaltender off Waivers over the weekend, then makes other roster moves accordingly. jeff Zatkoff is subject to Waivers, and I am quite certain some shit-stabbing team (cough the Islanders cough) would claim Zatkoff if the Penguins try to bring him up. Better to leave him at WBS until later in the season.

Signing someone like Johan Hedberg off the street is another option, but again, necessitates further Salary-Cap massaging. Thankfully, Assistant GM Jason Boterill is excellent at Cap Management, and I am sure he will find a way to accommodate whatever vision Showtime has in mind for the 2013-14 Penguins.

Final Remarks

The team has excellent depth, thanks to the NHL’s Salary Cap reduction to $64.3 Million for 2013-14. This reduction has led to a Buyer’s Market in which teams such as Pittsburgh were able to get quality assets like Matt D’Agostini and perhaps Chuck Kobasew at rock-bottom prices. Given that the team is intrinsically top-heavy, the Penguins in particular can take advantage of this market advantage and provide better lineup depth than they have had in the last several seasons (excluding last year’s All-Star Team experiment).

This is the team I would take, if I stole Showtime’s Iphone:

Forwards: Sid-Kuni-Duper/Geno-Deal-Joker/Sutter-Beau-D’Agostini/Jeffrey-Vitale-Adams (Harry Z/Kobe)

Defense: Tanger-Scuds/Snake-Candy/Nisky-Bort (Engel)

Goal: Flower/Waiver Claim (I am confident some team will try to sneak an NHL-caliber backup down to their AHL team this weekend)

Again, my sincere hope is that both Flower and Tanger blow the doors off the place in an attempt to gain Hockey Canada’s attention, and I selfishly hope both are overlooked. It will be to Canada’s huge disadvantage if they leave both guys home, which as a die-hard USA Hockey guy makes me insanely happy. Both are young enough to play for Canada in 2018.

Meanwhile, I hope both Snake (Paul Martin) and Candy (Brooks Orpik) play their way onto Team USA. With Showtime and Disco so heavily-involved, and I think it’s entirely-possible.

Nothing against Steve Kolbe, but I listen to Penguins Radio because I really like Mike Lange. This not-so-subtle phasing out of Langer is discouraging, but time does march on. Noting that, Kolbe is light years ahead of “loathesome homer” Paul Steigerwald, and I am openly rooting for Kolbe to take over as the TV Play-By-Play guy.

The team looks ready to roll. I realize the Penguins just trounced the Red Wings’ B-Squad, but frankly the top-end guys have mostly just been biding their time until the Regular Season. You will see more urgency out of Geno, Deal, et al. once the games start mattering.

The puck drops October 5th. Can’t wait.

Optimal Strength and Conditioning Training for Hockey Players

Hockey players of all skill levels can greatly improve their on-ice performance by optimizing their athleticism through a well-constructed Strength and Conditioning program. While athletes on college and professional teams have access to quality Strength and Conditioning Coaches, recreational and adult-league players are often shooting in the dark as far as their physical development goes.

If you have a desire to be competitive in the modern game, it’s tremendously important that you develop your athleticism. While there are rare players with God-given talents who can afford to cut corners on their off-ice work, most players should be putting a major emphasis on developing their physical capabilities away from the rink so that they can concentrate their efforts on developing their skills when they can get on the ice.

This is a lengthy article, and I’ve divided it into two parts: Energy Systems (forms of unweighted Cardiovascular Conditioning such as running and swimming schemes) and Strength Training (which encompasses weight training, plyometrics, and similar Set-Rep movements that build explosiveness, strength, lean body tissue, etc). At the bottom, I make a few dietary and supplement recommendations, based on my own experience. I recommend you absorb the article in chunks, and refer back to it as needed.

Key Concepts

I am not going to get into the “Whys” of sport-specific training very much, and instead focus on the “Hows”. I am writing this under the premise that you are an amateur player looking to excel in your respective league, and that you currently are not doing much off-ice training. I am also writing this under the impression that you do not have access to fancy equipment seen at Athletes’ Performance-type facilities, but have access to the equipment seen at most commercial gyms (barbells, dumbbells, treadmills, etc).

First, consider a physical specimen and elite athlete such as Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. Most would consider him to be an exceptional athlete in a League full of elite athletes. For much of his career, Iginla has represented the prototype of the contemporary Power Forward, and an optimal blend of size, strength, and speed.

Jarome pointed out once that his game really took off when he stopped training like a conventional bodybuilder and started training more like a sprinter. Here is an overview of one of his training templates:

http://www.muscleprodigy.com/jarome-iginla-workout-arcl-1245.html

There’s a good chance that you train like a conventional bodybuilder because that style of training is so pervasive. Legions of gym-goers mindlessly do three sets of 10-12 reps, with no regard for Tempo, just because they read it in a magazine or a friend told them to do it. As a Hockey player, if you want to optimize your results, you are going to need to train in a specific way.

As a player myself, over the years I have used a variety of training modalities to various degrees of success. Here are the Key Concepts I’ve come to adopt in my own training:

* Optimal Strength distribution between Hip Dominant (HD) and Quadriceps/Knee Dominant (KD) muscles.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. After years of drastically over-developing my Knee Dominant muscles (primarily the Vastus Medialis), I eventually incurred a severe knee injury. The Good News was that in the process of my recovery, I was forced to rebuild my stride so that it was better balanced between Knee Dominance and Hip Dominance. I now have a better, faster, and more-economical stride due to the development of my Hip Flexors and Glutes.

* Athletic Cross-Training

Playing baseball or tennis is going to improve your game in a distinct way that Strength Training will not. Sports are reactive; something happens, and the Athlete responds to it. The methodical nature of Strength and Conditioning Training does not improve an athlete in this regard.

If you have the option, a session at the batting cages, a boxing class, or a game of soccer is going to improve your athleticism in a way that Strength Training cannot. If traditional sports are not available to you, General Physical Preparedness training such as Sledgehammer Swinging, Tire-Flipping, Jumping Rope, and similar work can be an adequate substitute if executed properly:

 

* Combination Anaerobic/Aerobic Conditioning

While Jarome’s program emphasizes explosive power and Anaerobic Conditioning, Aerobic Conditioning has gone somewhat under-appreciated in recent conditioning programs. While a well-conditioned Aerobic athlete may lose a fraction of a second on his blue line-to-blue line sprint time, she or he can also continue to perform throughout the progression of the shift or game at 90-95% of her or his capacity (whereas a purely Anaerobic athlete tops out at 60-70 seconds and gradually fatigues as the game progresses).

Unless you are a professional-level player on strict 40-second shifts, it may behoove you to develop your Aerobic system in tandem with your explosive power.

* High-Performance Mass Only

Jarome noted that the inflated muscles of a bodybuilder are largely useless on a Hockey player. While a Hockey player may want extremely large legs (to allow for optimal power output), adding size without strength makes a player cumbersome, plodding, and slow. While it benefits a Hockey player to train Limit Strength, training for Non-Functional Hypertrophy like most gym rats is counter-productive. Any size a player adds should come with a commensurate increase in Strength.

* Emphasis on Muscular Control and Slow-Twitch Muscle Development

While developing fast-twitch muscles like the pectorals, biceps, and hamstrings can be selectively useful to a Hockey player, the development of the slow-twitch muscles (triceps, shoulders, quadriceps) has much more applicability from a skill perspective. Excellent muscular control of the triceps, for example, allows for precision in passing and puck control, as the muscle group acts as a stabilizer for your hands and forearms. Development of muscular control of the quadriceps allows for better precision in skating.

A Brief Word on the Strength-Endurance Continuum

Here is a very brief overview on the different Strength Capacities people possess:

Limit Strength – The absolute most weight a person can move. For training purposes, Limit Strength is defined as Greater than or Equal to your five-repetition maximum (5RM), or 87.5% of your one-rep maximum (1RM)

Functional  (Myofibrillar) Hypertrophy - A repetition range in which you develop strength commensurate with size gains. This repetition range is generally defined as 6-8 reps, or 80-85% of your 1RM. This type of Hypertrophy is commonly seen in elite level anaerobic athletes, such as gymnasts, boxers, and sprinters.

Non-Functional (Sarcoplasmic) Hypertrophy – A rep range in which you increase size without additional strength; the “bodybuilding” repetition range. This range is generally denoted as 8-12 reps, or 70-80% of your 1RM. While there is debate about distinguishing between the two branches of Hypertrophy, this higher-volume repetition range generally does not boast the same gains in strength as the Functional Hypertrophy repetition range/intensity level.

Strength-Endurance – Strength-Endurance is localized muscular endurance (as opposed to general Aerobic/Anaerobic endurance, or  Cardiovascular Endurance; “lung power”). This is the ability of a muscle to contract repeatedly or hold a contraction under tension. Strength-Endurance is generally defined as anywhere over 12 reps (70% 1RM), with a terminal limit around 30 reps (25% 1RM). Within this repetition range, Speed-Strength (loaded movements), Strength-Speed/Plyometrics (explosive movements), and localized muscular endurance can be trained.

Aerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to efficiently operate in a Heart Rate Zone (HR) of 70-80% of maximum. Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is generally defined as 220 minus your age, but this number can go up in well-conditioned athletes.

Anaerobic Conditioning – The ability of the body to operate in a HR Zone of 80-90% of MHR. Anaerobic Conditioning can involve Anaerobic Endurance (the ability to stay above 80% MHR for time) or the ability to maintain an Anaerobic Ouput at or near the 90% MHR mark. The HR Zone above 90% is generally defined as the VO2 Max Zone (Maximum Oxygen Uptake), and it’s a given that a person cannot operate in this zone for time periods beyond 30-40 seconds (thus the nature of the 40-second NHL shift).

This is a very brief overview of big-chunk exercise science concepts. It is only meant to inform you of which systems you will want to develop as a player. Most people reading this will not need to get so technical, but feel free to ask me questions in the Comments section if you want to really get into the science.

Optimal Energy Systems Training

Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) for time: This is non-stop running or swimming for a set duration (usually 25-60 minutes) within the Aerobic Heart Rate Zone. For me, this is about 133-162 Beats Per Minute, though I err on the high end because I’m fairly well-conditioned aerobically. This is the most standard way to improve Cardiovascular Conditioning, which improves overall on-ice performance on a number of levels. The key is not fall into a comfort zone. Try to challenge your body and perform at higher levels for extended durations to increase your Cardiac Output.

My sentiment on Aerobic Training is that You Are Stronger Than You Think. Jogging or lap-swimming at a comfortable pace is not going to really help a hockey player, but pushing the Aerobic Threshold (working at or near 80% of your MHR) improves your body on a number of levels, which I won’t get into here.

You do not need a Heart Rate Monitor, but if your treadmill is equipped with one, it may be useful in giving you an idea of what 160 BPM feels like. If you do not have one, just keep asking yourself, “Can my heart work harder?” Chances are, it can.

400 Ms: Quarter-mile “sprints” at maximum intensity. This is an excellent way to train Anaerobic Endurance. For me, a 400 M sprint takes about 90-120 seconds (which runners will note is a 6:00-8:00 minute mile). The goal is not to hit your absolute maximum speed, but the maximum speed you can sustain at the upper time-limits of your Anaerobic System. You could also implement 90-120 seconds’ worth of “weighted” strength training to a similar effect, if you understand how to do so.

I would equate a quarter-mile sprint to 75-100 M of Maximum-effort swimming (which is 3-4 “lengths” in most swimming pools). The key is to work as hard as you can for 90-120 seconds, recover for 60-90 seconds, then go again. This will greatly improve your ability to maintain level of play at the end of a shift.

If you wish to train the upper limits of your Anaerobic Endurance, running at a pace that you can only sustain for 2.5-3 minutes is an effective way to train. This is slightly different from a 400 M, as you must pace yourself in a different manner. You are training the threshold between Anaerobic and Aerobic work, and amateur-league shifts tend to run more in the 2-3 minute range than the 45-second range. This is one training method in which a treadmill, with an incline and a timer, can be more effective than running outdoors.

15-Minute Timed Walk: This is a technique taught to sprinters to teach them how to recruit their hip flexors preferentially to their quadriceps. The goal is to walk as far as you can in 15 minutes. This is easy on Day 1, but as you progress it will become quite challenging to better the Distance you can complete. Your stride will naturally lengthen, and your body will involuntarily start developing more hip-drive. If you are a very quad-dominant skater (or if your skating posture is “aggressively-forward” or the majority of your bend comes at the knees), balancing your stride with hip-dominant work will help prevent injury and develop more overall power.

True Sprints: the best way to develop maximum speed is the True Sprint. Treadmills unfortunately do not allow for a True Sprint because you are not working from a dead stop, and many agree that treadmills take away the necessary stabilization of the antagonist muscles, robbing you of the maximum benefit. If your goal is maximum speed (such as improving blue line-to-blue line speed for a time-trial), you probably need to take 1-2 training days and do legitimate sprints on a track or field.

I would start with 50-yard sprints x 5-7 on a football field, if possible. The aim is to constantly be Accelerating, or trying to accelerate (much like a lifter does under an extremely-heavy weight). On longer-duration sprints, your acceleration reaches a Terminal Limit or plateau where you cannot accelerate any more. Shortly thereafter, you may experience a loss in acceleration, at which point your body starts training Anaerobic Endurance as in the 400 Ms drill.

If you can run a 400 M (quarter-mile) in 90 seconds, you should aim to do a 200 M in 40-50 seconds (much like an NHL shift). Again, the goal is Constant Acceleration - shorten the distance, if needed.

Energy Systems Training Plan

This will vary with your goals as a player. A Power Forward-type may want to improve his acceleration, which a Sniper may want to improve his Anaerobic Endurance.

I recommend incorporating some of each of the above techniques into your training, based upon the areas you need to improve or wish to Optimize. Less-conditioned athletes may have to start with more Aerobic Conditioning and Timed Walks before progressing to True Sprinting or 400 Ms. Also, do not be afraid to take “Active Recovery” days in which you do lower-intensity work. Listen to your body, and tailor your training program to your Hockey schedule.

Optimal Strength Training Program

There may not be an Optimal Strength Training Program for all athletes, but there certainly can be a program that is optimal for you.

Let’s whittle down the areas of Strength Training to the ones that are most applicable to a hockey player:

* You Will Do Squats of all shapes and sizes: Back Squats, Box Squats Front Squats, Overhead Squats, Dumbbell Split Squats, etc. There is a reason Squats are the linchpin of NHL Strength Training programs: no other exercise develops Leg Power and stimulates Growth Hormone release as effectively. However, you should Squat intelligently: because muscle mass is not your primary goal, you are going to keep the Repetition Ranges either extremely low (3-8 Reps per Set) or fairly high (15+ Reps per Set). All Size gains must come with a commensurate gain in Strength. Accelerate the weight, and lower under control but not deliberately.

You are also going to focus on Glute Activation, balancing out what I suspect to be slow-twitch and quadriceps dominance with a plethora of Deadlift Variations. I am not going to get into Deadlifting 101, other than to repeat that the reps are to be kept around 3-8 per set. Five sets of five reps is an excellent, time-honored Rep Scheme that you could adopt and expect rapid results from. The key is to use any means necessarily to get your glutes firing and powerful. Deadlifts and their accessory exercises are one of the best ways to accomplish this.

Your concern as a Hockey player is Force Production. If you push yourself into the ice harder, you will propel your body away from the ice with more power. This is basic concept of physics, which you can research elsewhere. As it pertains to your training, you want to drive up your Strength numbers on Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift variations, Single-Leg Squats, and so forth. I assure you this will lead to speed gains, especially if you can whittle away your excess body fat.

* Balancing out Knee Dominance seen in slow-twitch athletes is critical. The Timed Walks will help in this regard, but you should aim to include certain Glute Activation Exercises, as well as Hip-Dominant movements such as American Swings, Deadlift variations, and Bridging movements.

High-Rep Posterior Chain movements, like Stiff-Leg Deadlifts and weighted lunges, are going to leave you extremely sore; these need to be implemented on days in which you have a 2-3 day break before your next game or important practice. Low-Rep movements such as Deadlifts can be placed on a “Heavy” day, in which the goal is increase Maximum Strength.

* With upper body movements, again the optimal performance protocol will center around Force Production along with Injury Prevention. The upper body movements that involve the most Force Production are the Olympic lifts, the Bench Press, and standing Barbell Shoulder Press variations. These are all movements in which you can Accelerate the weight, and are thus most applicable to sports.

(Note: I realize the Olympic lifts are not upper body movements, but most players are not going to utilize them without experience or an experienced trainer. I included them with the Presses just to illustrate the type of Strength movements that one can Accelerate, as opposed to most Pulling movements or Isolation movements.)

To help prevent injuries, counter-balancing all of these pushing movements with some quality pulling movements is crucial. To cite one example, Weighted Chin-Ups are one of my absolute favorites. They protect your shoulder girdle by conditioning you to retract your scapula, which in English means that they offset the caveman-shoulder look that excessive bench-pressing can give you. Other favorites include Dumbbell Rows, T-Bar Rows, and Farmer’s Walks. I prefer Rep Ranges of 5-8 for these movements.

Injury Correction would be another article onto itself. If you are reading this with an ailing shoulder or knee, I suggest you save this article until you have rehabilitated yourself. There are plenty of free articles all over the internet that cover all areas of the body at-length.

Lifting weights under Tempo is optimal for bodybuilding, but not as much for Hockey player. If you have a lengthy break between games, it may help to balance out your body with a more-traditional program in which you lift and lower the weight with extreme control, but this is most likely going to add size without strength. Unless you are severely underweight, this is not an optimal way to train while in-season.

If you are like me and have a narcissistic desire to look good naked while performing well at Hockey, I recommend Christian Thibideau’s Star Complex protocol. It incorporates most of the Strength Training principles I have described above:

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/6_weeks_to_superhero_how_i_build_muscle_and_strip_off_fat_fast&cr=

Combined with the Energy Systems and Nutritional Guidelines I’ve recommended, this program has been the most-effective for me. It allows me a large volume of work without excessive Eccentric training that bodybuilders prefer, and is very useful for increasing Force Production.

Finally, a Sample Program

Putting together the above considerations, here is a sample of a program I might construct for myself as an in-season adult-league player (albeit a very dedicated one):

Player: JF

Height/Weight: 6’1/195 lbs.

Athletic Developmental Goals: Emphasis on Endurance, Durability and Agility, with secondary work on Speed and Acceleration (I want it all). Strength Training emphasis should be on development of muscular control (especially in slow-twitch muscles) rather than maximum explosiveness. Emphasis should be on Performance Work/Compound movements rather than machines.

Personal Notes: I have a tendency to put on size very easily, so heavier strength training should be kept extremely heavy (5Rm or less with selective Functional Hypertrophy work); Glutes/Posterior Chain do not naturally fire as well as Quads – emphasis on Glute Activation and Posterior-Chain recruitment/development.

In an ideal world, here is what my Training Schedule looks like:

Saturday AM: True Sprints on football field (50-60 yards x 6-7 reps)

Saturday PM: Limit Strength weight training (Thib’s Star Complex A) followed by Pick-Up Hockey

Sunday PM: Active Recovery or Game

Monday AM: Strength Training (Thib’s Star Complex B)

Monday PM: Aerobic Training (70-80% MHR) + light weight training

Tuesday AM: On-Ice Skills Training

Tuesday PM: Game

Wednesday AM: Thib’s Star Complex A

Wednesday PM: Hockey Skills Training

Thursday PM: True Sprints or 400 Ms, Thib’s Star Complex B

Friday AM: Hockey Skills Training

Friday PM: Aerobic Training + light weight training or Pick-Up Hockey

That’s in an ideal world in which I can train myself twice-per-day while meeting my personal Calorie Demands. Work, school, man-whoring, significant others, etc. tend to interfere with this. The point is that I try to Strength Train four times per week, sprint twice per week, and jog twice per week if I can work it around Hockey and my other commitments.

On Nutrition for Hockey Players

Most templates I have seen assume a lot of things about the athlete. Many look like something a Strength Coach would write that could be generically implemented on a group of 25-30 people. The plans I have read both online and in books on the subject do not take into account food allergies or sensitivities, body type or body composition, and so forth.

For example, one book on the subject is The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain. While a paleo-type diet built around lean meats, fruits, and vegetables would benefit most people, Loren also recommends foods that I generally do not believe to be beneficial to most people, such as milk products, fruit juice, commercial breakfast cereal, etc.

Diets like these assume the athlete has optimal body composition, and does not desire to gain fat or lose muscle. Many diets written for Hockey players are carbohydrate-heavy, with the rationale being that carbohydrates are imperative because they tend to readily be converted to energy, While these diets think “Performance first, Physique second”, they also do not consider how much improved Body Composition (muscle: fat ratio) will improve performance. Excessive amounts of refined carbohydrate have not improved my Performance noticeably, but they have led to wild swings in Blood Sugar, insulin resistance, and sluggishness, not to mention increased body fat and decreased metabolic output.

Having said that, I personally have swung too far the opposite direction and completely omitted carbohydrates from my diet. While this has led to a much better hormonal profile, decreased body fat, and improved muscular size/strength, this has not led to optimal performance on the ice.

So, my recommendation to start with Protein Intake. I am going to suggest that a hockey player err on the high side and aim for 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. I am suggesting this because Hockey is so calorically-demanding and metabolically challenging that a player is rapidly breaking down her or his lean body tissue.

Take for an example a player such as Danny Briere, who is slightly-built. Danny rapidly loses weight, and likely muscular weight, throughout the season, to the point that he has to choose lighter Stick Flexes as the season wears on. Being a rec-league player, I do not have the luxury of unlimited sticks via Easton or Bauer, so it behooves me to maintain (or ideally, improve) my muscle:fat ratio and strength through a season.

Here is an excellent article featuring New York Islanders’ Strength Coach Jesse Demers:

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030811p40.shtml

While Jesse recommends a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for his NHL players, he also notes that he recommends a ratio close to 1:1 for players entering training camp:

Early in the off-season, Demers recommends a 2:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. As the workout intensities increase, he says the ratio needs to be closer to 1:1 to provide extra protein for muscle growth and repair. However, he says players can become overly focused on protein, so he must ensure they don’t skimp on carbohydrates. “A lot of guys are scared of carbohydrates; they think they make you fat,” says Demers. “My biggest thing then is getting guys to not be scared of eating a carbohydrate, according to certain rules, throughout the season and throughout the off-season.”

He and I independently come to some of the same conclusions:

1) The calorie and nutritional demands of a Hockey player are extreme.

2) Protein Intake needs to be increased to keep a player Anabolic, or at the very least anti-catabolic, as training demands increase

3) As Jesse writes, “Carbohydrates according to certain rules.” This means adequate amounts of rice, potatoes, and possibly oats and gluten products if you elect to keep them in your diet. It does not mean reaching your carbohydrate requirements via Sour Patch Kids.

Very important to note that Jesse estimates a player’s caloric expenditure to be 1800-2500 Calories per game:

Demers measures calorie expenditures by measuring the players’ metabolic heart rates. He starts by establishing a baseline for each player’s VO2 max—the amount of oxygen he can process—at four different work rates. Using these data, along with a player’s height, weight, and age, he can calculate the number of calories that player burns during a game. Depending on the player, calorie expenditures can range from 1,800 to 2,500 per game.

While you might not be an NHL player, you are placing relatively-similar Caloric Demands upon yourself. That means you may be drastically underestimating how many calories you need, or trying to make up the caloric deficit with post-game trips to Taco Bell. Both courses of action are going to lead to trouble, as well as less-than-optimal performance.

While Jesse thinks carbohydrate intake is paramount, I think the base of any athlete’s diet should be protein, rather than carbohydrate. This view is unconventional, but there are many who will support it, particularly in the fitness community.

Assuming a 200-lb Hockey player is getting 300 g of protein throughout the day (again, for optimal performance), I would suggest the player aim for 3-5 whole food meals and 1-3 protein shakes, made from some combination of whey, casein, and egg. Egg protein powder is an option if a player notices any kind of lactose sensitivity or intolerance.

I would then suggest the player follow Dr. John Berardi’s suggestion of separating carbohydrates and fats in given meals. Around the workout or workouts, a player would optimize Protein Synthesis by combining a protein source with a carbohydrate source. During less-active times, a player would combine a protein source with healthy forms of dietary fat (fish oil, coconut oil, animal fat, olive oil, avocado, mixed nuts or nut oils and butter, etc.)

My preferred carbohydrate source is rice. For an athlete, I do not see a huge difference between opting for brown rice over white rice, since the goal is to temporarily use an insulin surge to drive dietary protein into the muscle cells. I am definitely against high-sugar sports or energy drinks, unless an athlete is at optimal body composition. Not to start another brainy nutritional discuss, but I also believe Glycemic Index is far less crucial than Glycemic Load in determining how severe an insulin spike might be.

For you, this means that you do not need to justify the intake of Sour Patch Kids as a means of more-efficiently delivering dietary protein to the muscle cells. A natural carbohydrate source such as banana, corn, white rice, or white potatoes will accomplish the same principle more effectively and without dousing your body chemistry with unwanted additives.

Former NHLer Gary Roberts has a lot of great suggestions for a player looking to get adequate calories while ingesting quality foods rather than Sour Patch Kids and nachos. This article provides a nice overview, but a routine internet search will bring up a lot of additional information on his nutritional views.

My ideal diet for a day in which I have a game might look like this. I weigh 190-200 lbs, depending on activity levels:

Waking (8AM): 50 g egg whites cooked in organic or pasture butter (such as Kerrygold), 1/2 cup walnuts

Mid-Morning (10:30 AM): 40-60 g protein powder

Mid-Day (1PM): 60-80 g chicken, 1-2 cups broccoli, 1-2 cups brown rice

During Workout (4-6PM): 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Workout (6PM): 50-60 g protein powder, possibly with 1/2 cup Oats and 1/2 cup applesauce

Pre-Game (7:30 PM): 30-40 g chicken or fish, 1 cup green vegetables ( I personally do better without rice before games)

During Game: 15 g BCAAs, 10 g Glutamine, 5-10 g Creatine in 32 oz. water

Post-Game (10:30 PM): Chicken or fish and Potatoes or Rice/Vegetables as desired

That seems like a lot of eating, but it’s really just breakfast, lunch, two shakes, and a meal before and after the game. On non-game days, I am probably eating one less whole food meal and swapping out the rice for healthy fat such as olive or macadamia nut oil on a salad and ample amounts of coconut oil or animal fat.

Beef, chicken, and fish have about 6-8 grams of protein per ounce, and medium whole eggs have about 6 grams per egg. One scoop of protein powder generally yields 25 grams of protein. Omitting a powder makes it very difficult to keep yourself in a positive Nitrogen Balance (think of it as “Protein Plus/Minus” – you want to be as far into the positive as possible, and you accomplish this by ingesting more protein than your body can catabolize, which keeps you Anabolic. This is a great thing.)

All of this will lead to some unusual dietary habits, such as eating two dinners sometimes. If I have a typical day in which I swim laps, weight train, use the treadmill a bit, and then go play Hockey for 90 minutes, I might pound chicken and rice afterward and then have a huge protein shake an hour later. Staying Anabolic, and thus keeping your body from feasting upon itself for Energy, is paramount. If you are going to continue to play Hockey, you are going to need to adapt to meet your ongoing Metabolic needs if you want to maintain a high-level of performance.

I realize this reads very neanderthal, but my on-ice performance was actually best in college and shortly after, when I was eating copious amounts of animal flesh to promote my Physique/Man-Whoring goals and back-loading all of my carbs in the form of tequila and whiskey. But I digress.

Worth repeating: this is what works well for me. I seem to have moderate-to-severe sensitivities to both Gluten and Dairy products, as well as a family history of Diabetes. Ensuring a positive Nitrogen Balance while being smart about carbohydrate intake (and thus controlling insulin) is what promotes optimal Body Composition for me, which in turn promotes optimal performance. If you are 160 pounds and 7% body fat, you obviously metabolize carbohydrate more efficiently and probably want to scarf down as much food as possible. But the principles of maintaining a positive Nitrogen Balance and meeting Calorie Demands remain.

If you get your protein intake optimized, the carbohydrate and fat will likely take care of itself, especially if you swap out glutenized or sugary carbohydrates (fruit juice, soda, Sour Patch Kids, white bread, brownies, etc) and bad fats (baked goods and the like) for rice, potatoes, and quality fats. If you’re like me and refuse to give up alcohol, ditch beer, wine, and sugary mixers. Drink your Vodka like a Man, and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.

Another issue is Water Consumption. Back in college when I was a complete meat-head, I trolled around with a gallon jug most of the time, usually filled with BCAAs and Glutamine. As fitness magazines informed me, an optimal water intake was around 1 ounce per pound of body weight, and again weighing around 200 lbs, this was about 1.5 gallons for me.

As I’ve aged, I’ve fallen into a lazy, more socially-acceptable habit of drinking coffees, zero-calorie energy drinks, etc. in lieu of water. I think this has hurt my on-ice performance to a degree.

So, my recommendation is to ensure a daily water intake of 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight. This is going to seem like a lot, but I think the rewards are worth the effort.

If you have a 32 ounce water bottle and weigh 200 lbs, you would need to drink and refill the bottle six times per day. It’s a hassle, but again this is an article on optimizing your performance. Even if you doubled your current water intake, you would likely see a noticeable jump in performance and stamina.

Final Remarks

You can agree or disagree with my recommendations, but I do have the unique vantage point of having experience in both Performance and Physique protocols. Just as Physique-obsessed gym-goers could stand to learn from athletes, Performance specialists could stand to implement some of the dietary and nutritional approaches advocated by meat-heads.

This is one program written by a lifelong Hockey player who has taken a keen interest in Fitness. I have worked for a lengthy amount of time as a Personal Trainer and I am well-read on most Fitness topics, but I am not the ultimate authority on Strength and Conditioning.

In fact, I rarely implement this program as written. It’s an Optimal program, not necessarily a practical one. Hopefully, I have given you a starting point or a few things to think about as you design your own programs or work with your trainer to create a program.

Jack

Jack’s Rules

I am constantly talking about my Personal Code of Ethics, which replaces or supersedes the more clearly-defined rules of modern society. I am constantly getting into conflicts because I prioritize my Personal Code over what is common, established, or sometimes what is legal.

My Code of Ethics is complicated, and frequently contradicts itself, so much so that even I have a hard time putting it into words. As Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” My personal ethics are kind of like a disorganized office desk: I have a system and I know how it works, but to a random observer it looks like a total mess.

desk

So instead of trying to explain my ethics, I present a much more coherent and entertaining list of Jack’s Rules. There are 11 Rules which I consistently follow but occasionally break, all of which have led to happiness and personal success over time. These Rules are the closest thing I have to a “Plan” or “Morals”. I don’t encourage you to follow Jack’s Rules, but I don’t discourage it either, because I’ve had a lot of success following these Rules. I’m just presenting the information, and what you do with it is your decision.

Throughout the course of the article, I will explain why each Rule is in place, and hopefully explain why one’s Personal Ethics might sometimes compromise ethics that are more common in society – as well as why this might not be such a bad thing.

1) Hit on Her

properhat

I’m sorry, but I’m Not sorry, John…I’m a Cocksman!

- Vince Vaughn, Wedding Crashers

America has trended in such a way that Men have gotten way too deep inside their own heads when it comes to Women. 50 years of Feminism, Romantic Comedies, and single-parent upbringing have made Men, on the whole, both much-more sensitive and much-more insecure when it comes to the Fairer Sex.

The problem has gotten so pervasive that entire sub-cultures have popped up to help Men learn how to Be Men. A notable, popular book on the subject is The Game by Neil Strauss, in which the author champions Men that have never learned how to interact with Women the natural way.

Regrettably, the majority of Men today seem to fall into this category. This has led to a convoluted American social landscape in which many Men act disinterested in or even hostile toward the Women they are attracted to as a means of winning the affection of Women. It’s insane. Just as prevalent are the Men who have been taught to embrace their feminine side to too strong of a degree, who hesitate throughout every step of the courting process for fear of coming across as insensitive.

To combat this, I have made my #1 Rule as simple as possible, throwing out all of the socially-conditioned Negative Reinforcement that’s been beaten into my head as a 21st Century Man: when in doubt, Hit on Her.

If I stop and think about it, I can find all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t flirt with a given Woman: she could be married, she could have a boyfriend, she could be totally disinterested, she could have just buried her cat, etc. Without much effort, I can come up with a dozen perfectly-logical reasons why you should not talk to a Woman.

This is an example of being afraid of success. God forbid you hit on a Woman and she responds positively. Many, many Men are overwhelmed with imagery of how the situation could go wrong without considering how the situation could go right. For all you know, you are a Woman’s exact type, and she’s been eye-balling you since you walked in the room. Don’t be afraid to be the best thing to happen to her that day.

Not Hitting on a Woman demonstrates poor self-image most of the time, though many Men would have you believe that they are just highly-selective and have a veritable army barrack full of ardent Women waiting for them at a moment’s notice. Most Women have “a Desire to be Desired”, and your indication of attraction to them only serves to makes You more attractive in their eyes.

There is a great quote from the book “Shit My Dad Says” on the subject:

“That Woman was sexy. . . . Out of your league? Son, let Women figure out why they won’t screw you. Don’t do it for them.”

Sure, many times a Woman is not going to respond positively to you hitting on her. There are countless reasons for this, none of which you as a Man can reasonably anticipate. Frankly, it’s not your job to know all of the little things that could be needling a Woman emotionally at any given time. Your job, as a Man, is to initiate the courtship phase and validate all of the effort a Woman puts into her personal appearance by showing Sexual Interest. It’s easy.

Best-case scenario? She was already scouting you, and thinks you’re a Hunk of Burning Love.

Fair Warning: things can and will go wrong sometimes. To cite a fairly-recent example, I had a girl’s live-in boyfriend stalk me on Facebook because he had a problem with me hitting on his girlfriend. Now, the girl in question had told me that she was single and more than encouraged my flirting, but that did not change the fact that I had made an enemy out of someone I did not know. Had cooler heads not prevailed, this could have ended in a fistfight or worse.

But I could not have reasonably anticipated this. Personally, I would rather make mistakes of ambition such as this one rather than lose out on opportunities because of inaction.

So, my #1 Rule is Hit on Her. This is a Rule, and is thus non-negotiable. If I am standing next to a girl in line at the coffee shop, I flirt with her. I then flirt with the coffee shop girl. I then go and sit down, and if I happen to sit next to a Woman or Women, I flirt with her or them. An easy way to tell that something is wrong with me is if I am not strutting around like a walking hard-on.

Now, there are exceptions to this Rule: for example, if a pregnant Woman is holding her husband’s hand, she probably does not need the self-esteem boost my attention would provide. Unlike Vince Vaughn, I don’t make a habit of hitting on high-school girls. There are lots and lots of exceptions to Rule #1. But the exception is to let a Woman pass without chatting her up, not the other way around.

It’s worth repeating that this is Jack’s Rule. This works for me because I am a very old-school, traditional Man, and that I accept the responsibilities that go with Manhood. If this Rule does not jibe with your natural personality, I would not expect you to stock up on Drakkar Noir and breath mints and go off like a sailor on shore-leave. But if you spend most of your time silently pining for some satisfaction from the opposite sex, I suggest you ditch the self-doubt and fully embrace Rule #1.

2) ABC/TCB -  Always Be Closing and Take Care of Business

abc

There is a movie starring one of my favorite actors, the absolutely-ridiculous Alec Baldwin, called Glengary Glen Ross that talks about hardcore cold-selling. The movie is frequently-quoted by Men of a certain age, and one quote in particular is associated with the film: Always Be Closing:

There are two opposite groups of people in the world: Accounts and Creative, both of which are represented on my current-favorite television show Mad Men. If you are Accounts, that basically means you are good with people, driven, and goals-oriented, but not necessarily innovative. If you are Creative, that generally means you have a complete inability to get along with people on a professional level, but you compensate for this by having 1000 brilliant ideas a minute. You may also have a drinking problem.

donpeggy5

I am textbook Creative. To cite an example, I have over 100 unfinished articles such as this one in my drafts folder. Put a stimulant into me, and I’ll have a torrential downpour of brainstorms. But I also have a remarkable tendency not to see these ideas through to conclusion. I’m a dreamer, not a finisher.

So, one-half of Rule #2 is Always Be Closing. I have to make a conscious effort to outsmart my ADD, and the most-effective way to do that is to force myself to see all tasks to completion, no matter how large or small. I sometimes have to write my tasks down like a grocery list, lest my concentration wane. I also have to avoid time-wasting activities like the plague, as one of my favorite things to do is to engage in a brainless activity that allows me to fully devote my attention to these impressive ideas I have. Most of the time, it’s a fruitless, worthless endeavor.

The other half of Rule #2 is Take Care of Business, or TCB. This is taken from the six leisurely years I spent in Undergrad.

At my Alma mater, my beloved Duquesne University, there is a brick walkway that stretches the length of Campus called A-Walk. My absolute favorite activity in the world aside from Hockey was to steal coffee from one of our eateries (Off-Ramp) and to engage in Rule #1 for hours on end.

The problem with this was that my pesky Class Schedule was getting in the way of my busy coffee-drinking and flirting schedule. So, at some point either my roommate or I developed the term TCB, which means to go Take Care of “Business”. At the time, my “Business” consisted of sitting through 50 minutes of 100-level Physics or placing a phone call or e-mail to Father Hogan or Bob Arturo in which I abjectly-lied about something my lackeys or I were doing. After these arduous tasks, I was free to engage in my more-important pursuits:

awalk

To no one’s surprise, I’m the guy in the black Hangover Hoodie holding the stolen coffee. But I digress.

The notion stands: the first thing is to Take Care of Business so you can go back to the things you enjoy doing, whatever those things may be.

3) Focus on the Good News & Expect the Best

thegoodnews

My current-favorite television show, as stated above, is Mad Men. I enjoy most episodes of the show, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the episode The Good News from Season Four. Without barraging you with details, the episode is divided into two-halves: in the first half, Don (pictured above) learns that his best friend Anna is dying of Cancer. It’s bittersweet, as Don knows he is likely seeing Anna for the last time. As a kicker, he’s also getting divorced from his shrew of a wife, Betty. It has not been a banner week for Don.

Don deals with the News about Anna and his impending divorce in the only way he knows how, which is to grab a buddy and go on a mini-bender:

http://www.trailercodes.com/tv/mad-men–the-good-news/boys-night-out

I identify with this because, as usual, I would do the exact same thing. Like Don, I do not wallow by nature. Surprisingly, I am a relentless optimist, and at times this optimism includes a probably-unhealthy repression of the disappointing details in my life in favor of Hedonism.

I do not fully agree with the concepts of Optimism and Pessimism, as I think both are inaccurate distortions of reality. What I do believe in is Focusing on The Good News, whatever that may happen to be.

In Don’s case, the Good News is that he is a good-looking, wealthy businessman who has recently disposed of his nattering shrew of a wife. The Good News is that he has the means to grab a buddy, order a couple of T-Bone steaks, sneak a flask into a movie theater, and then go have unprotected sex with a call girl. It may not always be a long-term solution, but there is usually an upside to a given situation. Like Don, I would prefer to focus on the upside, rather than be overcome by despair.

Rule #3 is two-part, as my personal take is also to Expect the Best. Let me explain how this ties in:

I have a friend who was recently trying to give me some constructive criticism. As delicately as she could, she told me that I hold myself and others to unreasonably-high standards of behavior.

While I have a horde of unwanted acquaintances, I have relatively-few friends, or at least people I consider quality friends. There are dozens if not hundreds of people who will go out to the bar with me or who will beg me to solve their personal problems, but very few that I could count on if I actually needed something in return.

My friend was trying to convince me to be more-accepting of the fact that not everyone has my level of personal integrity, and that I should just appreciate people for being fun-loving or whatever. As sweetly as she could, she told me that I expect too much of people.

I listened to her, and after she finished, I kind of shrugged and said, “Well…yeah.”

Admittedly, while I never judge people on credentials or monetary worth, I am constantly judging people on Character, or lack thereof. My friend is right: I do expect a ton from people, because I expect a ton from myself.

I am not going to go on and on about this, because it will turn into a Valentine To: Me, From: Me, and given how much I adore myself, it could end up be a lengthy one. But just to cite one example: I drag myself to the gym almost every day and do as many Deadlifts and Weighted Chin-Ups as I possibly can. I do this because, selfish prick that I am, I have a dream of dragging people out of burning buildings to safety. I go to the gym 5% so I can engage in a little Rule #1, and 95% so that I am physically-prepared to help other people, should I need to be.

I get no awards for this, nor do I want any. But every day I strive to be Better for other people. You may notice this article is Free of Charge, yet well-written and meticulously-edited. I do this because I can, not because I have to. I don’t expect everyone else to be wired the same way as me, but I do expect some other people to be community-minded and interested in being Excellent.

I think it’s perfectly fine to Expect the Best out of life and others. I would argue that we individually need to raise our expectations of other people, rather than lower them.

There is going to be a pocket of people who completely agree with me, and a number of people who completely disagree with me. Either way is fine. I Expect the Best because it helps make me a better person, which in turn helps me better serve others. If that makes me an elitist or a snob or whatever, I’m cool with it.

4) Do It Natural

sherwood_5030_hockey_wood_stick

I could take this is so many directions (like Bareback?), but let’s stay out of the gutter for the moment….

In short, pick the natural alternative to the synthetic one. Your body can tell the difference between running on a treadmill and running outside, just like it can tell the difference between brown rice and Rice Krispies. The Natural approach pays dividends over time.

5) Face Forward

donfuture

Like most people, if you give me some time, I will sit and dwell on the mistakes I’ve made. I’m not one to beat myself up over the past, but there are times when I think “if only I’d done that differently…”

The antidote for this condition is Rule #5, Face Forward. Regret is for losers. While it’s fun to reflect on past successes, it’s more exciting and ultimately more rewarding to focus on your next challenge or conquest. Facing Forward keeps you motivated and out of your own head, which is a boon if you’re prone to being too harsh on yourself.

6) Keep Your Word

mario12

 

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2797778

As they say, a Man’s only as good as his word. I make an effort to follow-through on the things I say, and try not to make a bunch of empty promises. Keeping Your Word can range from showing up on time to going to Kansas City for a nice steak dinner before keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh. No matter how large nor how small, it’s good practice to keep your promises.

7) You are worth more than ______

This is going to come to a huge shock to you, but I rarely have lacked for self-confidence. In fact, shockingly, I have had to spend much more of my energy corralling my natural instinct to treat myself like a King than I have had to spend developing positive self-image.

I do not expect you to hug yourself with both arms and swoon like I do every time I walk in front of a mirror, but there are important reasons why you need to love yourself to a degree. Not to sound like Dr. Phil, but you really cannot help other people until you learn how to take care of yourself. Part of this means understanding how valuable you are as a person, and not allowing circumstances or other people to compromise your value.

I have two stories to share on Rule #7, one Funny and one Not Funny. The Funny story helps explain how I have always valued myself, while the Not Funny story is an important lesson on trusting your instincts and not letting others degrade you.

First, the Funny story:

When I was five or six, I wore a Batman costume every day to school until it became such as issue that my teacher and principal asked for a sit-down meeting with my parents. I was not causing trouble or anything – in fact, I was doing the opposite, sitting at my desk with absolute vigilance while my Kindergarten teacher taught the Letters of the Alphabet or whatever – but it was apparently distracting to the other kids that I was showing up as the Dark Knight every day. Lord, do I wish I had a picture.

batkid

Keep the faith, brother. Anyway, my principal told my parents that I was no longer allowed to come to school dressed like Batman. Not that my parents sent me out of the house this way, as I stuffed my homemade cape-and-cowl and $10 drugstore costume into my Batman backpack and changed into it once I got to school. So, my fun-hating teacher, Nazi principal, and father (who, like the Hulk, had issues with Rage Control) very sternly told me that I would no longer be allowed to come to school dressed as Batman. I recall my mother at least finding some humor in it, but she went along with the program. No more Batman costume.

I was pissed. How the hell was I supposed to fight crime and protect the innocent in my doofus white polo shirt and navy slacks?

Refusing to yield to the oppressive fascists at my school but needing to adapt in some way, I came up with an alternate solution: I would wear my Batman pajamas underneath my school clothes. Batman certainly didn’t bow before any totalitarian regime, and neither would I. Both Darkseid and the dream-killers at my elementary school could kiss my skinny white crime-fighting ass: if I wanted to dress as Batman, I was going to dress as Batman.

So, I started showing up for school with my Batman pajamas on underneath my school uniform in my Secret Identity as Kindergarten student. I vividly remember laughing my ass off each day, because all these kids were sitting around not realizing that I was Batman. I’m sure my teacher noticed my grey-and-blue pajamas poking out from under my Jack-boots and Third Reich school polo, but she must have at least been relieved that I was no longer wearing a cape and mask to school every day.

The little kid who refused to compromise is exactly who I am, in a nutshell. To this day, I rub a lot of people the wrong way because I do not back down if I really believe in something. Some would-be psychoanalysts think I learned how to be a narcissist, but I was born this way.

Flash forward 20 years to the Not Funny, but Important, story:

Most people cannot pinpoint the Biggest Mistake of Their Life. I can not only pinpoint this mistake, but the exact moment the mistake was made.

My first job out of college was working as a Personal Trainer for LA Fitness, a notoriously-unethical gym chain. My line of thought was, “I like working out, so wouldn’t it be great if I got a job teaching other people how to work out?” At the time, it seemed like a good place to start my professional life.

The job paid next-to-nothing, but I chalked this up to paying my dues. I was routinely being lied to and taken advantage of by my employers, but I had basically no professional experience at the time and didn’t know any better. I thought being marginalized and deliberately misled for obscenely-low dollars was a normal part of the “adult” world, barring a few exclusions. I believed that the situation would improve over time if I proved what a diligent worker and professional I was.

The gym was happy to run me ragged, as I frequently worked 50-60 hours per week for an average of $6 Dollars Per Hour. It would take a sub-article to explain why this was allowed to transpire, but for the moment take my word for it.

To add insult to injury, I was given a single, cheap work shirt that I was expected to wear every minute I worked for the company. As you can imagine, working a very physical job 8-10 hours per day will wear out a $3 nylon shirt in short order. Still, I tried my best to be a professional, washing the thing religiously and doing my absolute best to maintain professional decorum, since my clients were paying the gym $30-$50 per half-hour for the privilege of working with me.

(You read that right: the gym was charging people $60-$100 per hour and paying me no more than a taxed $12 per hour, if I was lucky. If you drive past a shiny new LA Fitness gym, now you know how it was paid for.)

I was not consciously aware of it at the time, but being paid and treated like a slave takes a major toll on your psyche and self-esteem. I was used to having girls fight over me and an army of lackeys who reinforced whatever opinion I gave them. I was not used to having to agree with – or at least stifle my contempt for – the often-ridiculous opinions of my clients and co-workers. I was certainly not used to being brow-beaten for $6/Hour, especially coming from bartending jobs in which I would routinely make $300-$400 to get drunk for six hours.

Up to point, while I had taken the work itself seriously, I had not paid too much heed to the asinine rambling from my co-workers and supervisors. My logic was that I was an excellent worker and the job paid dog-shit, so as long as I kept my clients happy, there was really very little any supervisor could say to me. Anyway, the weeks piled up and there was a changeover in management. The new manager sought to establish his authority by giving me a hard time, for whatever reason.

The LA Fitness rule was that I had to wear that God-awful, $3 nylon shirt while working. My former supervisor had been at least cool about it, and didn’t bitch if I showed up in one of my nice-looking Nike or Puma training shirts. This new guy really wanted to needle me, and since he couldn’t complain about the stellar work I was doing, he decided to rake me over the coals over my work shirt, which by now was literally falling apart from overuse.

I showed up for work one Monday morning with a clean, professional-looking Nike shirt on. The supervisor asked where my work shirt was. I calmly explained to him that the shirt was falling apart from overuse, and that I could use another one. I don’t remember his response, but he didn’t jump to get me another shirt.

On Wednesday of the same week, I show up in the work shirt, the collar of which is literally falling off. He gets indignant and asks, “What’s the deal with your shirt?” I remember choking back my considerable rage – I have quite a temper – and reminding him that I had asked for another work shirt two days ago. Again, I don’t remember his response, but he again did not rush to get me another shirt.

On Friday of that week (which I recall because I always trained a lovely cougar named Sophie M-W-F at 8:30 AM), I had a very professional-looking Nike zip-up over-top of my work shirt, which reeked of gym-sweat and was basically torn from neck to sternum like something an oiled-up cowboy would wear on the cover of a romance novel. While I had Sophie on the leg extension or whatever, this supervisor comes up to me – while I’m with a client, which is a big no-no – and starts harping on me about the shirt.

I snapped. I told him, in my most authoritative Sobe Voice, “TO GO GET ME A NEW GODDAMN SHIRT.” I may have said “fucking shirt.” I don’t recall, as the rage had taken hold by that point. He was aghast, because really, who has the balls to tell his boss to fetch him a shirt? Hint: you’re reading his blog. He got visibly red before telling me “go find my shirt”, which was nonsense because I was wearing it.

After I finished training Sophie, who was flustered and teary-eyed because she thought her boy-toy trainer was about to lose his job, I walked over to my supervisor. I was so entitled at the time that I expected him to apologize to me for interrupting a training session to bitch at me about my work shirt. It had barely occurred to me that I was at-all in the wrong.

Meanwhile, my supervisor, who I’ll call “Benji”, was expecting me to give a full and remorseful apology. When I started tearing into him like an irate football coach, things quickly escalated to a boiling point. I suddenly had the choice of going for Benji’s throat at the risk of my job, or backing off in the interest of keeping it.

Remember above when I mentioned making the Biggest Mistake of My Life? I was about to make it.

You have to first understand that I have this complete inability to quit anything, ever. It’s one of my great strengths. But it’s also a weakness, particularly in situations such as this. Quitting to me is an admission of cowardice and low-character, which is in direct violation of Rules #4 and #11. Unfortunately, when I was younger, I could not separate “quitting a shitty job or relationship” from “quitting in Mile 7 of an eight-mile run”. Back then, quitting was quitting, no matter what the circumstances were.

What I should have done was calmly taken off my smelly, tattered work shirt, thrown it at Benji, and told him to come outside and fight me like a Man. I had just turned 24 at the time, so it would not have been the most-immature thing I had ever done. Whatever I ended up paying in court costs would have been worth what I gained in dignity and self-esteem, and like I said, I was young enough that I could have survived any financial or legal repercussions.

Instead, I put my clients and my notion of professionalism in front of my own well-being. I pictured poor Sophie, on the verge of tears because her newest boy-toy was about to quit his shitty job, as well as my other 15 or 20 clients. I pictured the indignity of telling people that I was fired from my first “grown-up” job, which was still relatively-new. In one moment of poor decision-making, I decided that the desires and impressions of other people were worth more than what I thought of myself.

I did not exactly apologize to Benji, but I did just enough to not get fired. It was a colossal mistake. In exchange for keeping this crap job, I made a huge payment in self-image. I compromised in the face of a nerdy, small-cocked little bully, the sort of person I would have mauled and scraped off my shoe a mere six months ago. Unwittingly, I had pegged my own self-worth at $6/Hour, and that was reflected in most of the interactions I had with clients and co-workers going forward.

As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Over the next 2-3 years, I continued to work for LA Fitness, again for the insulting rate of $6/Hour while a veritable Rogues’ Gallery of social castoffs ate up all of my ambition and energy. Between being overworked and underpaid, my body began to fall apart, culminating in a severe knee injury that took 18 months to heal properly.

Once Benji realized that I would not cross the line enough to get fired, it was like blood in the water: he spent an inordinate amount of time aggravating me and making me look bad, because he knew that I would not quit. The atmosphere at work was an absolute nightmare, which of course carried over into my personal life.

While it’s true that I genuinely valued my clients, I should have made the hard choice and put myself and my own well-being in front of them. Because I did not, I let a bunch of lowlifes suck the energy and joy out of me to the point that most of my positive relationships deteriorated.

That’s not a happy-go-lucky story, and it’s not meant to be. But there is an important lesson, and that is that You are Worth More than ________. If you are in a bad relationship or working a bad job, it’s better get out and cut your losses than it is to suffer the gradual erosion of your self-image.

Changing the negative things in your life is one of the key ingredients to True Happiness. Sadly, many people will suffer for months or even years on end in the name of Integrity or Principle or Professionalism or some other gossamer concept. Being so Proud, this is something I have to be very conscious of, lest I let my personal integrity eventually lead to self-destruction. There is no Honor is Being a Martyr, only in Being a Victor.

8) Mean, But Clean

hipcheck

 

This is one of my Hockey rules that I’ve transferred to Real Life.

The Hockey Rule “Mean but Clean” is the credit line of Viciousness I have established for myself. As a puck-carrier, you get frustrated when people repeatedly take liberties with you while you are busy trying to create goals; less-skilled or unskilled players will slash you, hook you, knee you, and hit you from behind while you are concentrating on Offense and thus relatively-vulnerable. This gets old really quick, and your instinct becomes to seek immediate retribution.

But I draw the line at “Dirty” play. I think hitting people from behind or trying to blow-out their knees is cowardly, which conflicts Jack’s Rule #11.

This is a textbook example of a “dirty hit”:

Claude Lemieux boards Kris Draper from behind. Draper has no reasonable way of protecting himself. Lemieux could have killed or paralyzed Draper. This play is absolutely craven. Watching it makes me want to fight Claude Lemieux, but thankfully D-Mac did it for me.

And this is a dangerous, dirty play called a Slew-Foot, which is basically kicking out a player’s skates from behind:

The word that occurs to me as I watch both of these plays is Cowardly, which is something I do not abide. I think it’s much Cleaner to hit someone while he has a chance to defend himself, or to fight him Man-to-Man.

So, the restriction I have put on myself is that I can be as Malicious as I want, even Ruthless, as long as I do not cross the line into spineless, or underhanded. As far as Hockey is concerned, this usually means that I tolerate an amount of insubordination, depending on my mood, before the claws come out.

If I am in my normal state, which is Surly, this is more likely to happen:

 

Pull the Tiger’s tail on the wrong day, however, and you get this:

In both cases, Mean, but Clean. Peter Forsberg puts his shoulder into Vladdy Konstantinov’s chest, not the back of his head. Mario gets fed up and drops the gloves like a Man, rather than trying to slash the guy in the neck or slew-foot him.

This extends into Real Life. Most of the time, I cannot hit or fight someone on the street who offends me, because we live in a lawsuit-happy era. Yet the desire to make someone Accountable for cowardly, disingenuous, and/or inappropriate behavior remains.

In the Real World, Mean, but Clean could involve getting aggressive or confrontational in a very direct manner. What it does not involve is getting back at someone at any cost. You might dislike someone, and it might be satisfying to go key their car or pour sugar in their gas tank, but ultimately you need to establish a level that you will not sink beneath in the name of retribution.

For me, keying or otherwise defacing someone’s car is completely acceptable…if the person in question is watching me do it. Going behind someone’s back is the Real World-equivalent of a Slew-Foot, in my view. The point is that there are levels I will not sink to because of what a given action says about me, not because of my thoughts on a given individual.

9) Pick Your Friends Carefully

batmanjl

“Oh, good, my lackeys have arrived.”

As they say, you are the Sum of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With. In my view, it is crucial that you find and maintain a quality group of friends, but it is equally important that these people be positive influences in your life.

My tendency is to over-invest in people who ask for my help. Like all Disney Princes, I am a sucker for a Damsel in Distress. Shrewd individuals, Women in particular, have spotted this trait and tended to exploit it as much as possible. This has led to Rule #9, Pick Your Friends Carefully.

In choosing friends, I start with people who have personality traits that I respect or admire. I am not going to turn this into an article on how I personally make friends, as long the takeaway message is that it will serve you to be somewhat-discerning in who you choose to be friends with.

My litmus test for Friendship is “Would this person cancel all plans and drive 45 minutes to help me change a flat tire in the pouring rain?” I do not expect everyone I socialize with to be this committed, but the willingness to help me when I really need it is what takes someone from “Acquaintance” to “Friend” in my eyes.

This litmus test rules out a lot of married people, who understandably have already committed this level of care to their spouse and/or children. This also rules out most of the under-25 crowd for me, as many younger people tend to be a little too self-preoccupied for my tastes.

(Note: some other time, I’ll explain to you the differences between Self-Love and being Self-Absorbed. Night and day.)

I certainly do not try to be friends with everyone, because a lot of people are worthless vampires who will use your time and resources while offering almost nothing in return. If you are one of those people who wants to be liked by everyone, more power to you, but don’t say that you were not warned.

Again, not trying to make this a mini-article about I pick my pals. It’s my Rule #9 because I tend to be overly-accepting of people when they ask for my help or position themselves as victims. I have wasted a lot of time trying to find value in worthless people; time that could have been spent with positive, worthwhile people. I am also trying to save you the trouble of having selfish or self-centered types leech off of you. As everyone eventually learns, not every smiling stranger out there has your best interests at heart.

10) Rise

rise5

“…’Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse…”

- Eminem, Til I Collapse

I have written much about this, and I will probably continue to write much about it. Rise is my life philosophy. Let me explain why I made it Rule #10:

Rule #10 was almost “Be True to Yourself”. I think that’s a Rule everyone should follow, not something that is specifically mine. Thankfully, I have never really had any issue being true to myself, so it’s not something I need to reinforce in print.

Rule #10 became Rise because I no longer wanted to have a choice in the matter. Like Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, I want to be on auto-pilot when it comes to Rising.

If you ask any Football or Hockey Player, they will tell you that if they get knocked down, they pop back up immediately, almost on instinct. There have been a couple of times when I’ve actually been knocked unconscious, but still immediately got back on my feet and finished a shift or whatever. There have been entire minutes after being hit that I have been up and skating around that I can’t recall, kind of like a drinking blackout.

NHL fans might remember this happening to Sami Kapanen:

 

Sami is out cold, but he still manages to get to his feet and get to the bench on instinct. That is so Hockey. Great courage by Kappy. But I digress.

In a similar vein, I want to Rise on instinct. I do not want to consider a daunting task and consciously think, “I probably should try to do _______”. I just want to do it. If I have a kid and he tells me he wants to go to Harvard, I don’t want to think “How the hell am I going to pay for that?” Without thinking, I just want to find a way to do it.

Let me explain something else that older readers understand but younger readers may not:

It’s easy to find motivation and manufacture your own enthusiasm when you are younger. There is always something you want, whether it’s a girl or a car or an internship. You have not let learned how to be completely discouraged with people.

As you age, one of two things happens: you start achieving your goals and become complacent, or you become jaded and bogged down by despair. One way or the other, you begin to lose your motivation to Rise to the challenges life presents you. It becomes easier to just go with program or to acquiesce or relent.

Personally speaking, throughout life I have had a lot of doors slammed in my face. When I was younger, this used to be a major source of motivation for me. For example, if I got cut from a sports team, I would either train like a maniac, come back the next season and dominate, or I would go get some guys, come back, and beat the hell out of the team that cut me. This hyper-competitiveness is called Michael Jordan Disease. I used to feast on the negativity others presented me.

Around the time I graduated high school, I mostly outgrew this mindset. Negative Reinforcement irritated me more than inspired me, and honestly I stopped having so many doors slammed in my face. I have continued to Rise when have I needed to, but as I’ve matured, I’ve been presented with a different problem: a complete, almost disrespectful, lack of appreciation from people.

I wrote above on some of the misadventures I had working as a personal trainer. To use just one example, I would put in these insane 16-hour work days in the interest of accommodating other people who asked for my help. I would Rise to the challenge of every work day turning into an endurance event, but it would be to almost zero thanks or acknowledgment. I did not ask to have my ass kissed for going out of my way to help people, but I did not expect dismissive entitlement, either.

This is not a unique situation. There are plenty of people reading this, yourself likely included, who have been similarly under-appreciated. Most people are selfish by nature, and as you age the selfishness of others begins to enact a toll on you. You want to stay enthusiastic and positive, but you start to become cynical and jaded by the nature of other people.

Over time, you may begin to develop to the unfortunate condition where you start asking yourself, “What’s the Point?” You know you can Rise, because you’ve done it many times in the past – but why should you?

Are they going to appreciate or pay you any more at work if you put in a greater effort? Who really cares if you shave a minute off your 5K time, or hit a new Personal Record on the Bench Press? Is your girlfriend or wife really going to care (or even notice) if you go the extra mile to do something thoughtful? Why should you go out of your way to help out people when they are not likely to reciprocate?

The solution to this corrosive mentality is to take the thinking out of the equation, and to keep finding new challenges for yourself. Rather than choosing to Rise, I have made it a requirement, dismissing all other considerations and factors. That’s how Rise became my Rule #10. Rather than being a choice such as “Who should I vote for?”, I’ve made it an automatic response, like “Red means Stop, Green means Go.”

greengo

11) Don’t Be a Coward

campbell

 

This is my 11th, and probably most important, Rule.

If I had to distill my Identity down to a single sentence, it would be: I am not a Coward. People can say many different nasty or negative things about me, but woe be the wretch who dares question my Courage. Calling me a coward is like calling Marty McFly “Chicken“.

This has been a constant theme in my life. Here’s just one example:

In college, my girlfriend claimed to be pregnant. Now, I would later find out that she told me this just to keep me from breaking up with her (awful story), but for two or three months she had me convinced that she was carrying my child. I was 22 and had basically no life experience, so I took her at her word.

I was still in college when this happened. I worked as a bartender, and had no interest in having a child, particularly with this train-wreck of a girl. I spent a lot of nights not sleeping, trying to think about what to do.

As I’ve written before, I have this insane ability to get calmer as the situation requires: I will chase someone like a maniac for blocks if he or she cuts me off in traffic, but a pregnancy scare barely fazed me. I remember this sense of acceptance and peace coming over me, as I plotted out a checklist of things I had to prepare in the next seven or eight months.

Here is what I did not do: run crying to my family, demand that she get an abortion, or even blame her for not properly using her Birth Control. Again, this was a girl whose drinking/drug use/self-mutilation was so excessive that I hated being around her, yet I was stoically prepared to give up all of my other plans to be her Baby Daddy. This was not because I cared much for her, but because I thought it was cowardly to get a girl pregnant and then try to run away.

Fast forward a few months, and of course this girl was not pregnant. This was a desperate, elaborate lie she cooked up to keep me from leaving her. Lord knows I give Women a hard time, but one of those reasons is that Women are capable of some truly despicable things. Faking a pregnancy for the purposes of trapping someone in a flawed relationship is one of those things. It’s a miserable story that I wouldn’t mind forgetting, but I am extremely proud of the fact that I was prepared to stand by this girl and accept responsibility for my actions.

Rule #11 may be macho and even senseless, but it’s my most-important Rule. Whether it’s falling to block a shot in Hockey, admitting to the police that I was hosting an underage drinking party/orgy, or taking financial responsibility for a group of irresponsible people, time and time again I have not turned into a worm when the going got tough.

According to my Family Crest, I come from a family of Lions. While Lions might be ill-tempered, indifferent, lazy, and Proud, they are certainly not cowards (usually). Courage is probably my most-essential personality trait, which is why my lips curl into a contemptuous snarl when I see people try to dodge responsibility or run-and-hide.

farrell

If you want to follow Jack’s Rules, the most-important of those is Don’t Be a Coward. Be an Asshole, be a stubborn prick, even be vindictive or ruthless, but Do Not Be a Coward.

Closing Remarks

These are my Rules, and I certainly do not expect you to follow them to the letter. But as our morality as a civilization declines and you being to lose understanding of what’s truly Right and Wrong, it’s important that you have a Code of Honor that you seldom deviate from.

Having an Ethical Code is far more important than the Rules themselves. The world is moving in such a way that almost anything can be justifiable. People are rapidly losing their Identities because they can no longer distinguish between Good and Evil, or even Good and Bad. Having a Personal Code, or a list of Rules, takes much of the guesswork out of 21st Century morality.

Use My Rules, use my template, or make your own Rules, but make sure you have something to guide you during times of uncertainty.

Jack, Rule-Breaker/Maker

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers