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If you act like a whore, don't be surprised
when people treat you like one

Stigma of being tough

On this page:
Why do you want to be tough? | You'll always have problems | 90/10 rule oftrouble | A tough guy's life | The hierarchy of toughness | The real cost of being tough | So what is the answer? | Further Resources

As I mentioned on the making you tough page, most people don't know how real bad asses act. What they know is how they THINK tough guys should act. This is based on observing how the low level punks and assholes - the ones who make their lives miserable - act. Therefore these people are easily chiseled by organizations offering to make them "tough" - since they don't know what real tough is, they can't spot when someone is selling them a bill of goods.

Much less how fast members of these "organizations" -- that are promising to teach them how to be kung fu killers -- would be bitch-slapped in a biker bar for the kind of rude and obnoxious behavior they display at the schools. As I said elsewhere, the mark of a true bad ass is how he treats, and is treated by, other bad asses. The baddest of the bad respect the fire power of other heavy hitters. Because not respecting it is the fastest way to be on the receiving end of it.

In my younger days, I was a bad assed piece of real estate. I WAS the dude that tough guys stepped out of my way when I walked down the street. The bad mofo's found reasons not to mess with me. To me, someone who blustered how he was a black belt or knew some obscure fighting style was a "happy fight," in other words someone whose ass I wouldn't hesitate to kick. To this day, I can still make a room full of cops backpedal while clawing for their guns when I go into killer mode. I have a droopy eyed, half asleep look that has "chilled out" bad asses on three different continents.(1)

This is what a lot of people dream about being able to do. They figure that it would fix a lot of the problems in their live. Want to know what my attitude about what a hard ass I was?

That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

The long and short of it is, the only thing I ever got out of being a hard man was a hard life. I had to be tough, because what I was doing brought me more all kinds of shit. It was a never-ending, self-reinforcing cycle that I was on. And I was bringing it on myself.

Being tough isn't a solution to your problems, it just brings you whole set of nastier and more dangerous problems.

Why do you want to be tough?
For many people becoming tough looks like the solution to their problems. They look at the swaggering punks who make their lives a living hell and dream of being left alone by them. Never more to feel fear, uncertainty or have to swallow their pride by backing away from these assholes. To be able to stand up to anybody and tell them to fuck off.

Man, the golden dream of having the self confidence of these guys.

What they don't see is the nearly psychotic terror and paranoia these assholes live with everyday. Nor do they see the pathological selfishness of these morons. But what they really don't see is what total losers these guys are.

Face it, these guys are such pathetic, petty, ain't-got-nothing-else-going-for-them losers that they are willing to risk their lives over a seat on the bus or a look from someone else. And that is exactly what they are doing if they try this shit on someone as neurotic and petty as them. Which is why they spend all their time harassing innocent people instead of other bad asses.

In my life I have known plenty of 'tough guys.' Thing is about 99% of them are now either dead, in prison, busted up and holed up somewhere or burned out on drugs and booze. Being a bad ass isn't a winning strategy. It's literally flushing your life down the toilet. Return to top of page

Problems don't go away, they just change.
I wish I could remember the name of the actor who told this story, if I did I would immediately give him the credit he deserves. When he was a young, struggling and poor actor, he waited tables in a restaurant across from the Ritz Hotel. From his lowly, food stained position, he looked up at the "glamorous penthouse suite" across the street and told himself "Man, one day I am going to be there and all the hassles and bullshit that I'm going through now will be gone."

Thirty years later, things were going to hell. He was in town on a business trip, on the phone with his agent, there were contract problems with one movie, they weren't sure which movie to take next and he was just trying to figure out what to do to solve all these problems. As he was talking on the phone he looked out the window and down into the street and saw the restaurant he had once worked in. At that moment he realized he had made it. He was in the penthouse.

And instead of solving all his problems - like he had dreamed being there would do - he just had another, different set of problems.

I don't tell you this to discourage you, but I am warning you that problems will be with you for the rest of your life. Thing is the kind of problems you have now WON'T be the kind of problems that you will have ten years from now.

The only good news is that what seems so overwhelming and unbeatable now will seem a whole lot less important later on. Not because it isn't a problem, but because as you live and learn you acquire new tools to help solve the problems you have. As time goes by you will face new challenges and learn new coping skills. Which is why it seems like what was so overwhelming at one time in your life will be easy later on.

However, the most important thing you can do is NOT take a course of action to solve this immediate problem that will give you a massive battery of long term problems. That's what I did when I decided to become tougher than the tough guys who were making my life a living hell. Because the only thing I got from taking that course of action were nastier and more dangerous problems. Return to top of page

The 90/10 rule.
There is an old saying: 90 percent of the trouble is caused by 10% of the people.

If you think about it for a moment, you will begin to see the truth of the matter. Those who are selfish and aggressive enough to cause trouble for other people are, in fact, a small minority. The reason they seem so numerous however is that you are focusing on them.

And it the fact that you are focusing on them that is what is causing you to be targeted by them.

The question shouldn't be what can you do to keep from being harassed by these assholes. But rather what do you need to STOP doing in order to get them not to choose you.

By looking at them and giving them so much attention and time, then they know that you are someone who they can get away with hassling. They won't literally stop what they are doing, they WILL stop what they are doing and come running to mess with you. Return to top of page

The tough guy's life
What kind of life do you think hard asses really have?

What most people don't realize is that as scared and nervous as they are about getting harassed by these guys, tough  guys are ten times more paranoid. They are constantly living in fear that someone is going to do to them what they are doing to others. The rabbinical scholar Hillel once summed up what is wrong with these people's lives when he said "What is hateful unto you do not do unto others."

Well they never got that message.

The guys who harass you on the subway, in schools and in the malls are trying to prove to themselves how tough they are by doing horrible things to innocent people. Thing is, this is the kind of behavior that they dread having done to them by the real badasses. And yet they are engaged in a life style where they will continually cross people who are tougher, meaner and nastier than they are. They are constantly in danger of being victimized themselves.

 The fear and terror you feel is nothing in comparison to what these assholes experience. Which is a big reason why they take it out on others. Return to top of page

The hierarchy of badasses.
What many people don't realize is that there is in fact a hierarchy of toughness. You don't just go out learn how to be a tough guy and the world leaves you alone.

It is very much like the levels of predation. While the bigger fish will eat smaller fish, there is always a bigger fish out there that they know will eat them, just as fast. So for the middle line predator, life is a constant search for those smaller and weaker while looking out for those bigger and stronger. Amazingly enough, the larger fish will most often ignore those much smaller fish that the middle fish went after. Simply stated those tiny fish are just not worth the much larger fish's time and effort.

Which means you are far safer from the real big fish than you are the middle ones.

From the punk's point of view however, he must always be careful not to cross the wrong person. He knows that if he does then he will get torn up - if not killed. This means that whenever you see someone acting like a total asshole, you can rest assured that he has checked out to see if he can get away with it first.

And it will be your staring at him like a deer in the head lights or walking by obviously ignoring him that tells him that you are the prime target for his attacks. This is because how someone who is really afraid of him does these acts are significantly different than how someone who is not scared of him (or is just too busy to pay attention to such a loser) will do it.

Now the flip side of this hierarchy of tough is that the tougher you are, the more you will draw the attention of the serious badasses. The tougher you are, the bigger and badder will be the kind of attention you will draw to yourself. And if you think the obnoxious punks are scary, wait until you draw the attention of the real badasses.

Which totally destroys the myth that if you make yourself tough you will be left alone. Return to top of page

The real cost of being tough
What most people don't realize however is the real cost of being tough isn't that you run the risk of getting your head blown off.

The real cost of being tough is that nice people won't want to have anything to do with you.

You will become a social pariah, an outcast. Nice people will look at you and see no difference between you and the rest of those assholes who swagger around trying to impress everybody with how tough they are. And functionally speaking this will be true. You will have become so wrapped up in proving how tough you are that you will have fallen into the same game as those assholes.

You will have become exactly what you hate.

From an outside perspective however, answer this question. If all you are is a bad ass, why should these people want to deal with you? What do you have to offer to them that makes their lives better? There is no reason to risk becoming involved with you. The specter of violence will ride your shoulder like a raven. And violence doesn't give a shit who it eats alive. Which means associating with you will put them in danger.

You will be left alone everyone nice

Unfortunately, the only people who will be attracted to you will have the same kind of problems an will just cause you more problems and grief. Their behavior will attract more violence and trouble, which will give you more and more opportunity to prove how tough you having to fight. And if you keep that behavior up, you'll eventually end up inheriting another major problem

This pulling away of nice people and replacement of not-so-nice people doesn't happen overnight. But it does happen. In time you will find yourself surrounded by nothing but troubled people. People whom violence is systemic to their lifestyles. And to tell you the truth, violence will have become systemic to yours too. Violence will become a part of your everyday life.

Not exactly what you wanted when you set out to make yourself tough in order to avoid the threat of violence was it?

What is the answer?
There isn't one. At least there isn't a simple answer.

But before you can solve the problem, you have to know what it is

Return to top

1) The reason I say this is that - as anyone who hosts a seminar with me can tell you - I insist on researching the problems and caliber of bad ass that the people I teach will be facing. I do this by talking to the local cops and going into the rougher parts of town to get "the flavor" of the local trouble. This has resulted in me walking through the alleys of the sleaziest, most dangerous ghettos in courntries around the world. From this research, I tailor my seminars to fit the problems seminar attendees will be facing. Don't think I haven't had the local bad boys look at me and wonder who this crazy cigar smoking motherfucker none of them felt that it was safe to try to find out. Return to text

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