Under The Bar: Can Aggression Be Good?

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Under The Bar: Aggression

aggression

noun

1 an act of aggression: hostility, aggressiveness, belligerence, bellicosity, force, violence; pugnacity, pugnaciousness, militancy, warmongering; attack, assault.

2 he played the game with unceasing aggression: confidence, self-confidence, boldness, determination, forcefulness, vigor, energy, zeal.

For to be poised against fatality, to meet adverse conditions gracefully, is more than simple endurance; it is an act of aggression, a positive triumph.
Thomas Mann

My aggression out there is my weapon. I think it's more letting them know that I'm not going to let them get away with something, and I'm not just going to kind of poke it back and be content to stay in rallies.
Andy Roddick

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Sun Tzu

To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
Sun Tzu

Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.
Napoleon Hill

‘In the ring our opponents can gouge us with their nails or butt us with their heads and leave a bruise. But we don’t denounce them for it or get upset with them or regard them from then on as violent types. We just keep an eye on them. Not out of hatred or suspicion. Just keeping a friendly distance. We need to do that in other areas. We need to excuse what our sparring partners do, and just keep our distance – without suspicion or hatred.’

Marcus Aurelieus


Can this be good?

Can this be good? Can this serve your training or business in any positive way? If so, how can and should it be used? How often and by whom?

While it’s widely noted in business, personal communication and other social fields that aggression is best avoided and other avenues should be used, statements are usually made that the aggressor is the one who will always lose in the end. For the most part, I totally agree with this. Aggression is a card that should seldom be used but in training, business and life there are times were aggression can and will serve you well and take you to levels you never dreamed possible. It can and will take you outside of your comfort zone – WAY outside your comfort zone. I’m not talking above how close to the end you can get, I’m speaking about jumping over the edge to see if you can land on the other side without falling into the abyss.

We live in a world where there will always be vultures hovering overhead waiting to prey on any mistakes we make. These vultures are much closer than you think they are. Most of the time they are people close to you – the ones that know you best. They know your strengths and weaknesses, they know how you think and many times can plan what your next step will be.  These are the ones to be watched closest because they won’t just burn you – they will incinerate you like a vampire walking into the sunlight. If they feel you will submit, are overly accepting, and are very generous, they will work their way in until they have developed an exploitive relationship and then take all they can. This also sends a message to other vultures and thus, they will come in flocks. You need to know how to keep them at bay because if you have a hard time fighting off the small ones, what will you do when the older, more skilled, mammoth ones come?

Does this sound grim? I’m sure it does, but you know what? Life isn’t easy and I’m sure everyone reading this has been screwed over by someone using either straight out aggression or passive aggression. You have to know where to draw the line and understand that any past acts were not all your responsibility.  The way you perceive these past acts makes a huge difference. If you feel it’s always your fault than you will always get walked over and taken advantage of.  These issues are NOT personal and shouldn’t be taken for more than what they really are.

Aggression is a double-edged sword. It needs to be used wisely but when done so it can take you to a totally different level in the gym. In business there are always problems. Aggression may be used to help cease some of them as well as create some new ones.  There is an old statement in business that says no problem = no profit. In other words, you always need to have problems going on; even of you have to create them on your own.

Please understand that I’m not speaking about being an asshole, nor am I talking about being assertive. I am talking about things you may have to do that will make you very uncomfortable, maybe not that well-liked, but may need to be done or you will be taken by the vultures.

There are many strategies for do this such as deception, misdirection, fear, praise, create a cause or reason, find people to fill any voids, kill all group-think, portray being afraid, be irrational, use the no-return tactic, create urgency and desperation, disorder, disruption, pick your battles, be hyper-aggressive, as well as many others you may have in your arsenal. The key once again is to have a plan, do not panic, focus, and don’t take it personally.

Let’s move on to some specific examples:

In The Gym

In the gym I used to have (and still do) a second personality named “Zippy”. Zippy was (and is) out of his mind but takes me to a place that is hyper-aggressive to the extreme. Many times this turned into over-arousal and backfired with missed lifts, injuries or just stupid acts such as punching or smashing my hand on the barbell.

I knew this level of aggression made me much stronger and took me to a place that I otherwise would not be able to go, but it took years until I finally figured out how to use this effectively without tearing myself up. Hyper-aggression taken to the extreme will not propel you into victory but destroy you. In training, your body and mind can only recover from so much and when you take yourself to a hyper state you are creating great stress for your body to recover from. This is why is takes longer to recover from meets than just maxing out in the gym.

These are the three things I did to use aggression – or the hyper state of aggression.

  1. I only used it when I needed it. When my mind was totally focused and the confidence was locked in 100% I didn’t need to “Zippy” up. When things were locked, once I hit the chalkbox everything would fade away and I wouldn’t remember anything until the lift was over. This was my optimal state.  During the times when I got to the box and I wasn’t in that state, I needed to find another way to get there. This is where the hyper-aggression came in. For me, the way I accomplished this was through fear. I was never one to visualize and think about making the lift, I would think about missing it, blowing my knees out, tearing my pec off and being carted out on a stretcher. I purposely put myself in a state of the greatest fear I could muster. This way when I did get under the weight all I wanted to do is get it off me as fast as I could. I also used the no-retreat method – once it started it was going to get done – no question. I can remember getting hurt training for many meets and getting hurt in many meets but I never pulled out of one.
  2. This places a great demand on your central nervous system and recovery so I learned very quickly that I could not become hyper-aggressive more than three times in one training sessions. I called these “Zippy Cards”, so I was allowed to use three Zippy cards per day. Over the period of an entire session this forced me to choose wisely what I was really going to fight and what I wasn’t, (choose your battles).
  3. I kept people around me at critical times (meets) who knew how fast I could cross over and knew when I should and when I shouldn’t. They also knew how to disrupt it yet keep things on target to accomplish the goals of the day.
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In Business

This is a tricky one and the methods and tactics are not the same as you would use in the gym. You do, however, need to have a plan, do not panic, focus, and don’t take it personally. Knee-jerk reactions will NOT do yet at the same time waiting 24 hours may be to later. Every situation is and will be different and as will how you should react. For the most part, aggression in business is rarely needed but when it is, the value of its use and how it is used is extremely significant. When you are dealing with money and not weights the rules change immensely.  Instead of egos you deal with entitlement. Instead of fear you deal with lack of confidence. Instead of strength you deal with greed. The game is different but the rules are still the same.

  1. You need to know when to flip the “Zippy Card” and only use when needed. Understand the longer you put something off the worse they will become. It’s much better to have a curial and uncomfortable conversation than a critical one. At the same time you should never expose your entire plan to anyone. I don’t care if they are advisors, best friends, managers or general employees. If you are too transparent you will get taken advantage of and things will end up becoming aggressive. Just because you think you need a “conversation” or to take action does not necessarily mean it has to happen. One more time – remember this is not personal – it’s business. When I say you need to know when to use the cards this is a serious issue because the consequences are usually harsh for one or both parties. Make sure it really is needed and is based on fact and not assumptions. If the decision is made to act, do so swiftly.
  2. Pick your battles wisely. Once again is it needed? Will it help the company? Is it hurting the company? Is there another way to solve the issue?  How much emotional strain are you under because of it? If your decision is to act with aggression do not slap, but go in for the complete knockout. A slap will always bring another one back and you end up in a battle. If this is the desired goal (sometimes this is a good goal) great. If not you need to go for the kill or it will not go away after you take the first action.
  3. Keep great advisors around you for these critical decisions. Their value is making sure you don’t make it personal and keeping you accountable is the most valuable asset you will have. My other point is if you do ask for advice you should listen and think about what you are told. There is no golden rule that says you have to take it, but you owe it to the person who is taking their time to help to at least listen and think.

Aggression does have its place when the cards are played at the right time for the right reason. Unfortunately, most people have no plan in regards to what they are doing and do take things personally. So many times simple things can become a mess very quickly.  Don’t be that person. Be strategic in your thinking and planning and watch how fast things change. This is not saying there will never be problems (we need them) but you will know what they are before they happen and this is a huge advantage.

Under The Bar

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