Theodore 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.