The 80’s were the best.
Specifically, 80’s action movies. Larger-than-life characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, the Ninja Turtles, and international superstar Ralph Macchio (yeah you heard me!). Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the hundreds of hours spent watching these movies instilled within me a lifelong philosophy that has helped me level up my life, my health, and my wealth. Thanks, 80’s action heroes!
Hopefully you’re looking at me like I’m crazy at this point. Which is why I’m going to teach you how to become your own 80’s action movie star, and use your new identity to level up your life.
You can thank me later.
Now, clearly the first step is find a grizzled mentor PRONTO. Ideally, somebody old and weathered, who preferably speaks in half-sentences and riddles.
Although Yoda started the trend in Star Wars, a grizzled mentor can be found in nearly every 80’s movie. Think Mickey in the Rocky films, Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. (Quentin Tarantino paid homage to this coveted role with Master Pai Mei in Kill Bill Vol 2.)
Seriously. One of the best things you can do for yourself, whether you’re trying to get fit, or build a business, is find a mentor who can have a profound impact on your life.
What to look for in a grizzled veteran mentor:
- They have done what you hope to accomplish. Regardless of how radical you are, a coach can make you better… but make sure you are taking advice from a master who has been there, done that. Far too many people teach without first having had success.
- They aren’t afraid to call you on your bullshit. If ever want actual advice or a strong critique, don’t ask your friends and family. Your mentor should be someone who can call you on your b.s. (especially if you’ve hired them!). Yes, you have time to train. Yes, working on your mullet is important. Of course, neon spandex are fashionable. Etc.
- They are always teaching you. “Wax on, wax off! Paint the fence!” Your mentor should be challenging you in different ways. Find should be someone you respect beyond the narrow skill-set you’re seeking. (Van Damme being goaded into dancing and fighting in Kickboxer was maybe the most ridiculous scene of the 80’s).
Although I run a fitness website, after creating my own exercise programming for well over a decade, I hired my own Mr. Miyagi (Anthony Mychal) who has been virtually mentoring me for the past two years. It’s been a game-changer.
Do you have a mentor in your life? Along with practical advice here from Art of Manliness on finding a mentor, here’s how you can find one:
- Check your current network or social circle.
- Check the Nerd Fitness message boards. Look for people in similar circumstances who have succeeded. Reach out to them and start with a basic question or ask to take them out to coffee. Expect rejection or a polite “thanks, but I’m really busy.” Thank them profusely either way, and learn whatever you can from everybody you can.
- If you can’t start an informal mentorship, and you have the means, hire somebody! It need not be expensive. Ask for recommendations on coaches before cold calling.
Gather Enough Footage for a Montage
80’s action stars were ripped, but they didn’t always start that way.
They had to endure years of training with their grizzled mentor, start at square one, be okay with sucking, and slowly get better over time. Of course, we don’t have years to wait, which is why we have training montages.
As this South Park song, “Gonna Need a Montage” hilariously points out:
“A sports training montage.
Show a lotta things, happening at once,
Remind everyone of what’s goin’ on.
With every shot show a little improvement,
to show it all would take too long.
That’s called a montage.
Even Rocky’s had a montage.
in any sport, if you want to go
from just a beginner to a pro.”
Or, as Steven Furtick puts it: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
So, if you’re going to build a montage showing you getting better at something (I imagine your goals are “get fit and be a badass,”) you’re going to need lots of footage. Like, years and years worth. After all, who wants to see a montage of somebody who’s in shape just get more in shape?
We need the struggle! We need dramatization! We need transformation!
So start today! Take measurements, take photos. And start training. Because you’re gathering footage for a montage, don’t expect results overnight. You won’t notice the changes day to day, but over many months the montage will start to take form.
And hopefully this is already common knowledge, but the most dramatic montages involve training with old school methods (namely, strength training).
Your future 80’s action star self thanks you:
Feel free to add some gnarly tunes to the montage you’re building too. After all, would Karate Kid be the same without Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best?” or Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love?” No way. And don’t even get me started on Rocky’s “Eye of The Tiger” or “Gonna Fly Now”
Identify Your Arch Nemesis
Rocky had Apollo Creed, and then Clubber Lang, and then Ivan Drago.
Conan the Barbarian fought to avenge his family’s death, seeking out the evil sorcerer Thusla Doom.
Daniel-san trained to right the wrongs of the privileged Johnny Lawrence and Cobra Kai.
In order for you to become the best version of yourself, you need a villain of epic proportions to direct your anger and motivation towards. Whenever possible, seek out a villain that has wronged you or your family at a young age, defeated your best friend in battle, and has an overblown sense of superiority and self-worth.
Now, if you’re not lucky enough to have had your family wiped out by an evil sorcerer, you’ll have to make due with what you have. Are there any people in your life that have told you that you can’t be what you want to be? How about an all-powerful disease that claimed the lives of your ancestors (namely, heart disease or diabetes)?
Like John Rambo, you need to adopt a “me against the world” attitude if you’re going to be a kick-ass 80’s action star. Nobody believes in you, the odds stacked against you are insurmountable, and chance for success is minimal.
Fortunately for you, the deck IS stacked against you, even in the 10’s:
- You are bombarded daily with food that is designed to get you addicted and craving more.
- You are surrounded by advertisements for things you don’t need, to keep you complacent.
- Most people choose to knock others down rather than elevate themselves. Haters gonna hate.
Sounds like a pretty solid bad guy to me. Rather than getting disappointed about how dire things seem, you need to realize that this is how great movies are made!
Instead of seeing challenges as hopeless situations, realize that they are opportunities for greater redemption and revenge at the end of the story. Use them to empower and motivate yourself:
- Instead of seeing the McDonald’s every day on your drive home from work and feeling powerless (and eventually going in and ordering food), get angry. Use that anger (“They can’t control me!”) to motivate you to defeat the Empire and cook a great meal at home. Turn this into a story. Imagine yourself as your favorite hero, or create your own.
- Are you the latest in a long line of overweight, unhappy, unhealthy relatives? Screw genetics. Get angry that you’re expected to fall in line. Be the first in a new line of healthy people. Start a trend that carries over to your children and their children.
- Have you been told your whole life that you can’t do something (either by others or yourself?). Bullshit. Get pissed. Break the damn mold. Feed off that “nobody believed in me” attitude. Build up to that moment where you get to say, “Howdya like me now?!”
The greater the challenge to overcome, the more glorious it is when you defeat the bad guys and are victorious (aka healthy!).
Make Everything WAY More Important Than It Really Is
Ever seen the movie “Over the Top”? Sylvester Stallone literally arm-wrestles for the custody of his child.
Rocky IV? The dude single-handedly predicted the end of the Cold War, years before it actually happened!
Daniel-san wasn’t just fighting in a Karate tournament. He was fighting for all of the other kids who have ever been bullied and couldn’t stand up for themselves.
Go ahead and add a bodacious amount of importance to every decision you make daily.
It makes things way more interesting, and reminds you of the gravity of every choice. You’re not just deciding between a healthy lunch or a Big Mac, the fate of your stomach is at hand. Every time you train, you’re not doing it because your doctor prescribed 20 minutes of exercise, you’re doing it to pay tribute to the men and women who fought before you.
The more interesting and engaging your story is, the more likely you are to follow through.
Start looking at life like it’s an 80s movie. You must honor your parents and grandparents who fought hard to give you the opportunities you have today. Or, you are part of an elite group of underdog commandos (The Rebellion!) and you owe it to your brothers and sisters in arms to give it your all.
You might not ACTUALLY be arm-wrestling for the custody of your kid, but every day you decide to eat better and exercise is another day you can watch your child or grandchild grow up.
Life can be a movie if you want it to be. What’s the last step?
What’s your movie about?
And just like that, you’ve turned your life into an 80’s action movie. To recap:
- Find a grizzled mentor who will show you the ropes.
- Find an arch-nemesis who keeps you training and vigilant.
- Gather enough footage for a montage.
- Make everything way more important than it needs to be.
I want to hear about your 80’s movie. You’re the main character, and I want to hear about your movie. What’s your character name? Who’s the enemy? What are you fighting for? And what song will you use for your montage?
Get creative, and leave a comment with the plot to your 80’s inspired life movie.
Here’s mine (read in this voice) :
A lowly skinny boy of humble beginnings. The first of his tribe who chose to stand up against the evil and oppressive Emperor Boredemo. For decades Bordemo and his henchmen have kept the human race unknowingly enslaved: fat on Empire-sponsored food, dull-witted due to Empire-sponsored television programs, and complacent thanks to propaganda telling us “this is as good as things get.”
One day, Steve rescued an old man who had fallen down, who begrudgingly agreed to train him in the ways of the ancients. Over many years (with this song for the montage) Steve strengthened his body and his mind, ate food from the land rather than a lab, and now aspires for a better future for him and his tribe. Word has spread, and a Rebellion set on taking down the Empire has begun. The leader of this Rebellion?
Rebel-One, coming to theaters Christmas Day, 1985.
Your turn. Go ahead and make your 80’s pitch below. And then go out and get started on your training.
We’ll pick a winner and hook ’em up with a free Nerd Fitness T-Shirt.
PS: I can’t write this article and not mention my two favorite things that pay homage to 80’s culture in recent years. Ready Player One, a book I read in a single sitting, and Kung Fury, maybe the most insane 30 minute 80’s homage you’ll ever see. You’re welcome.