Henry Rollins was one of my life’s biggest inspirations and passive mentors, especially in my late teens and early 20s after I lost my father. From his music, to spoken word, to books and other writing, Rollins made a humongous impact on my character and life (more on this later).
While doing some summer cleaning of my Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later) archive, I found a reminder of one of Rollins’ most popular pieces of mainstream writing from Details magazine back in the 90s about growing up, self esteem, discipline, physical fitness and life, entitled, “The Iron and The Soul.” This piece doesn’t appear to exist on Details anymore (the media is the worst when it comes to digital archives… more on this later too.) but it has become a legend among many — photo copied, cloned, reposted all over blogs, message boards and gyms around the world because of it’s impact, especially on developing minds and bodies. Here’s a passage:
It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.
I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.
I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.
Read the whole thing including the backstory on Mr. Pepperman.