Lifelong Learning is Your Only Hope (Part 1)

roosevelt_safari_elephantYou don’t have to go to college or get a higher education in order to be a lifelong learner, especially not these days. In fact, it’s common knowledge that higher education, including spending years in dusty libraries appealing to out-of-touch professors, learning irrelevant information, is archaic for a society as fast-paced as ours. With access to the internet, you are capable of learning everything from do-it-yourself carpet cleaning to mobile app development. By continuing to learn, you will continue to develop yourself, while opening yourself up to newer and more exciting opportunities than if you kept yourself in a fixed-knowledge mindset.

Teddy Roosevelt didn’t have this luxury, but he made sure to highlight the fact that he was a voracious learner. He carried with him a fascination with zoology and history from an early childhood. He constantly sought advice from other intellectuals throughout his life, and he personally wrote an estimated 150,000 letters! What the actual fuck. In order to put that into perspective, think about this: If this number is correct, TR wrote an average of 7 letters for every day of his life. What the actual fuck?! I won’t even get into his political learnings, if that’s even a word, because he learned so much in other areas, and had such a rich working knowledge of the world we live in, it enabled him the situational awareness that allowed him to lead our nation into the twentieth century.

This guy was brilliant, and it’s intimidating even to write about him. The takeaway though should be to strive to continue learning throughout your entire life. It’s not important what you’re learning, as long as you continue to grow with your knowledge in some area that interests you. TR became such a well-rounded individual by hyper-focusing on objects of interest, and pivoting to more important facilities when the time presented itself.

Naturalist, zoologist, rancher, explorer, environmentalist, futurist, and historian, Roosevelt harbored an immense fascination with learning and helping human kind, and it propelled him into office, and eventually into the presidency. Teddy wrote his first long form essay at nine years old, titled “Natural History on Insects.” Even riddled with logical and spelling mistakes, you’ve got to give this kid some credit for trying.  TR did not hold back.

Teddy Roosevelt continued to learn throughout his life. He was an avid explorer, and has a river named after him in South America. He had a passion for taxonomy and created an immense collection of specimens from all over the world. Whatever you’re curious about, chase after it and learn as much as you can, you never know what information will help you out in the future, but there is no shortage of information during this time period in history.

Teddy Cries

So maybe he didn’t cry. But he definitely mourned after some of the crises that disrupted his life. Grieving is an emotion that is considered socially acceptable no matter who you are, under the right circumstances.

On the morning of February 14, 1884, Teddy was summoned to his home to find that his mother had succumbed to typhoid fever and would die shortly. 11 hours later his wife, Alice, was defeated by Bright’s disease, which had attacked her kidneys. This was two days after Alice had given birth to their first daughter, also named Alice.

Teddy was devastated. He had just lost the two most important women in his life, and as part of the grieving process, he ordered other officials to not mention his wife’s name and soon abandoned his political life for a life in the Dakotas as a rancher and Sheriff. For two years he lived there raising cattle and reading and writing history, but little was recorded about how hard he grieved. Speculation suggests he was tormented by the passing of the most important women in his life, and everyone grieves in their own way.

It appears that once he returned to New York to continue political life, he was whole again, but this could have been a repression tactic in order to continue to appear strong to opponents that would have rather him stayed in the Dakotas. Emotions are generally treated with caution in the public light, and are considered unnecessary for masculine leaders, but Roosevelt shows this is not the case. Unnecessarily showing emotion could be regarded as weakness, but grieving for true loss and euphoria for substantial accomplishments should never be kept under control, as they are the strongest emotions that other humans may empathize with, and have the effect of humanizing the wearer more than words spoken ever can. One of the signs of a great leader is that they are able to show emotion at acceptable times, and able to hide other emotions when necessary.

Masculine = Male and Feminine = Female

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It’s just not true. At the present time, it’s 2016, and we’ve come a long way towards disassembling socially constructed gender roles. Traditionally, it is true that the average male will exhibit mostly masculine traits, and the average female will exhibit mostly feminine traits. Are there outliers? Of course. But it is no longer socially unacceptable to portray traits that weren’t determined for you by your sex.

I don’t want to stray too far from the topic at hand. This blog is about presidents, and what they did and how they acted as great leaders of the free world. Currently, I’m working on a series about Teddy Roosevelt as the archetype of masculinity and arguing that the masculine traits he exhibited made him a great leader. Not based solely on the fact that we may see our first female president in about 5 days, I felt the need to address any female readers that have ambitious dreams of entrepreneurship, politics, or leadership roles.

Outward leadership is predominantly a masculine trait. Holding frame is considered masculine. Physical strength is a masculine trait. Shouldering your own burdens, and helping others with their burdens is traditionally masculine. These are all qualities that make strong leaders, and as women it is imperative to realize you must accept that and be prepared to play the game. In business dealings, taking a clueless feminine frame will not gain you any favors. Instead, it’s important to adapt a confident, masculine frame that knows how to handle problems as they’re thrown at you and portrays a dominant air. People will try to take advantage of you, and allowing yourself to be taken advantage of is markedly feminine.

This is not to say that you must abandon any form of femininity. Forbes has noted that a balance of masculine and feminine strengths in the workplace is better than one or the other. It can be wielded with great power and respect as well, but coupled with a strong frame of mind is devastating, especially when opposed by unsuspecting men, their frames will easily be disrupted by yours, and you’ll notice the conversation begin to work in your favor. Teddy Roosevelt also exhibited feminine traits openly in the form of grieving for his wife and mother.

Just because something is masculine does not mean that women can’t handle it. The world we live in is no longer binary, and depending on what your specific end goal is (entrepreneur, CEO, president, etc) it’s best to accept that sooner and to choose the traits that you believe are the best qualities of those who have historically performed well in the situation at hand.

Teddy Roosevelt Lifts.. Do You, Bro?

teddy-rooseveltTheodore Roosevelt Sr. was a wealthy American businessman and philanthropist. Arguably his largest contribution to the world was not growing a profitable plate glass importation business, but was telling his son, Teddy, to quit being a little bitch.

He probably didn’t say it like this, the Roosevelt’s were already part of New York’s wealthiest 1% when Teddy was born. Knowing what Teddy went on to do with his life, this fact itself is amazing due to the overwhelming majority of children born into so-called “old money” becoming leaches on their parents’ trust funds instead of forging a name for themselves on the platform their parents and grandparents have built for them.

To be fair, Teddy recognized his father as “the best man [he] ever knew” and said that he combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He taught Teddy and his siblings about equality between the sexes, arguing that “what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man.” He was a loving and caring father, but combined this side with the insistence on discipline that any business owner could respect, and I attribute this to Teddy’s studious, stoic and solemn nature later in life.

Like many of you, Teddy was a disappointment to his father early in his life. Teddy was a weak boy, and he grew up with a series of ailments, including asthma that would wake him up in the night with the experience of being smothered to death. It terrified and frustrated his parents. Asthma was poorly understood by doctors at the time, and there was no cure. At the age of 12, Roosevelt Sr confronted the boy and said “I am giving you the tools, but it is up to you to make your body,” at which Teddy immediately replied, “I will make my body!” Teddy’s father helped build a gym for Teddy on their estate, and Teddy initiated a vigorous regimen of gymnastics, weightlifting and boxing.

Through sheer willpower and discipline, Teddy fought off the debilitating side-effects of the asthma, and committed himself to advocating the “strenuous life.” He became an active member of the boxing team at Harvard, and after college his doctor warned him to avoid strenuous activity. Instead he climbed the fucking Matterhorn.

Even while in the White House, Teddy was known to spar from time to time. He practiced boxing an jiu-jitsu in the White House basement, and even demonstrated a hold on the Swiss minister to the delight of his guests during a state luncheon. It was said that he would invite elites and spar with them despite the fact that they would almost always overcome him. It’s said that he lost sight in one of his eyes while sparring a military aid in the White House.

Teddy’s childhood illnesses and subsequent vanquishing through exercise of said illnesses profoundly affected his worldview. He was known as a man that appreciated life’s struggles, and his early endeavors molded him as a man of action that contributed to him molding modern history.

There are several takeaways from Teddy’s dedication to an active lifestyle. Whether of not his youthful symptoms were psychosomatic, he did not allow perceived weakness to define him. Instead, he continued to chase greatness by setting a goal, and attacking it feverishly until that weakness was overcome. Here is a man that was consistently improving himself, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. If you want to be considered by constituents and enemies as a “locomotive in human pants,” it would be wise to follow in his footsteps of taking massive action in all areas you are involved in. Read more of Teddy’s physical exploits here.

Teddy Roosevelt: Archetype of Masculinity (Introduction)

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Anyone who has committed the time to do significant research into Theodore Roosevelt’s life and accomplishments surely knows that he was not a man to mess with. Arguably the most accomplished US president, and perhaps person ever to live, Teddy’s actions and beliefs should be a staple of study for any and all aspiring leaders. A man of great strengths in physical, emotional and intellectual terms, he exuded the definition of modern masculinity. This series will outline events that occurred in Roosevelt’s life that allow us a glimpse into the mind of the president that brought our great country into the 20th century and drove the initial carriage of social activism and political reform known as the progressive era that continues today.

Tomato Tuesday will go into depth on the traits that Roosevelt modeled which define masculinity, and offer ways that budding leaders can imitate his persona in order to grow into themselves and be successful.

  • Young Teddy was plagued with illnesses and disease that he resolved to overcome.
  • Teddy suffered great losses, including the death of his wife and mother on the same day.
  • Teddy was a curious intellectual, and resolved to be a lifelong learner.
  • Teddy refused to be taken advantage of, but conducted himself in a gentlemanly manner.
  • Teddy could not bare to be a burden on others.
  • Teddy refused to remain complacent, physically or otherwise, and abhorred moral laxity.

Tomato Tuesday by no means wishes to attempt to encompass all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments (that’s what a biography’s for) but seeks to highlight some of the most noteworthy and examine how they coincide with masculine vigor and virtue. Before reading on, I suggest you watch this short refresher on Roosevelt’s life.