Principle #4 – The Riddle of Iron
Thulsa Doom: Ah. It must have been when I was younger. There was a time, boy, when I searched for steel, when steel meant more to me than gold or jewels.
Conan: The riddle… of steel.
Thulsa Doom: Yes! You know what it is, don’t you boy? Shall I tell you? It’s the least I can do. Steel isn’t strong, boy. Flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks, a beautiful girl. Come to me, my child…
Thulsa Doom: [coaxes the girl to jump to her death]
Thulsa Doom: That is strength, boy! That is power! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body. The desire in your heart — I gave you this! –Conan the Barbarian
As Conan slashes his way to revenge, we learn two universal truths via his character arc/journey. (1) A man is in complete control of the weapons he commands. (2) A man’s spirit is far more powerful than any weapons he stands against.
That’s why two were able to stand against many in the final battle scene. Conan didn’t need Crom. He only needed his sword, some personal accountability for making his own destiny, and belief in himself. With that realization, he fearlessly jumps into battle and conquers his enemies with a warrior’s fury, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. This lesson can be applied to all things.
Do I understand that others may potentially find it sad or pathetic that I’ve learned important life lessons from fictional characters? Yes. Do I care? Not really. Whatever can motivate you and help you become a better athlete — or man/woman in general — is valuable regardless of the source. Red Sonja motivated me in a whole other way…
In Conan’s world, it was the riddle of steel. In our world, it is the riddle of iron. What is the answer to the riddle? The twofold answer is the same as what Conan discovered:
1. A man is in complete control of the weapons he commands. You can use the iron for whatever you desire: to get stronger, to get bigger, to get faster, to get shredded, to rehabilitate an injury, to let out some aggression, for personal sanity in a chaotic life, and everything and anything in between. Don’t let others try to dictate what is the right way, or push their personal goals onto you. Don’t follow the trends or conventions if you don’t believe in them.
Training needs to be a personal, individualized endeavor. Simply identify your personal goals at this moment in time — whatever they may be and regardless of what anyone else thinks (especially society), find the right coach/mentor, and commit 100% to an appropriately designed program.
2. A man’s spirit is far more powerful than any weapons he stands against. A spiritless man/woman may crumble before plastic-coated, pink weights. But no bar, no matter how many plates or pounds are loaded onto it, is any match for a real man/woman. Attack your training with confidence, not with fear.
Borrowing from another warrior culture — the samurai — remember this, “No matter what it is, there is nothing that cannot be done. If one manifests the determination, he can move heaven and earth as he pleases.” — Hagakure.
Until next time, crush your enemies — the squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses that stand before you.