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Issue #12: Choosing Strength

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Would you prefer mental strength or physical strength?


Today, I want to dive into an exchange I recently stumbled upon between Piers Morgan and Chris Williamson that got me thinking.


And, eventually, fired up.


While it’s a hypothetical ‘this or that?’ – the subject matter matters.


Piers asked Chris this  compelling question: “Would you prefer mental strength or physical strength?”


I watched this clip and kind of had a semi-conscious internal response to it. Essentially agreeing with Chris’ response. Then I put it down and forgot about it.


Until the following day.


I had just completed a pretty gruelling track session of 400m repeats and the central concept in that chat came flooding back to me.


So, what was Chris’s response?


Without skipping a beat, he chose physical strength.


And you know what? He’s onto something profound.


I agree wholeheartedly.


I also agree with Chris’ analogy that “trying to think your way out of overthinking is like trying to sniff your way out of a cocaine addiction”.


That’s a good line.


And today I’m going to break it down for you.


The strength one, not the sniffing one.


Chris emphasised an integral point that I don’t think many people  get:


“Everything flows downstream from physical strength.” 


When you cultivate a fit, robust body, it fosters capability, determination, integrity, and resilience on the mental front. And I couldn’t agree more. Physical strength serves as the bedrock upon which mental fortitude is built.


The realm of improving physical strength and fitness consistency asks us to approach and overcome edges. No matter where you do that, mentally, physically or emotionally, you are growing as a person. You are becoming someone capable of doing hard things as well as someone with undeniable evidence to believe just that: You can do hard things.


This belief will carry over to every aspect of your life. From physical feats to tough conversations to tasks in work and business, to feeling an uncomfortable shitty feeling that you’d fucking rather not feel.


Ever experienced heartbreak?


Well, just being physically fit won’t get you through it. But utilising some of the skills and self-belief built by getting physically strong can help you get through it.


That is mental strength.


Back to the conversation 


Chris said ‘Physical strength’. Piers, on the other hand, argued for ‘Mental strength’. He went on to state that the world is full of kids who have no mental strength. They’re all strong “gym bunnies”.


And he has a point.


Plenty of data points to lower levels of resilience, life/job satisfaction, and ability to get through tough times. Higher levels of apathy. Less direction. Less ‘get up and go’. Decreased ability to hold opposing viewpoints. Quicker to take offense.

More fragile. Less robust.


Not everyone. But the collective ‘mental strength’ seems to have waned.


Having said that, in the Western World at least, rates of general health-related disease and obesity are continually on the rise. They seem to go one for one, almost.


Piers’ point also has validity when we bring it down to the individual.


We’ve all seen individuals with Herculean physiques falter in the face of mental challenges.


Or more commonly – something I see every day in my work – a guy has big muscles or the ability to complete an ironman, yet is deeply insecure.


As if the physique’s job has been to try and build a solid foundation, to become a man of worth through what the body can do.


These men have fallen into a common trap of wanting the body and its physical accomplishments to do a job it can never do.


A better body, a ‘more secure’ body alone won’t deal with your insecurities.


However, and this is a crucial point, it might very well set you on the path to do that as you build yourself up. As you become stronger and show yourself you can do hard things, what you then do with this momentum and self-belief matters.


It can become the foundation to build a sense of security within yourself and not rely on the body.


It’s just that, a foundation.


So Piers has a point. Yet he misses another one.


While there might be ‘gym bunnies’ with low mental strength and high insecurity, what we don’t know is the mental strength of those men before they got physically fit and strong.


I would argue there’s a high chance it was weaker before getting physically strong.


That has likely improved their mental strength from a previously lower base. That trajectory matters.


The tools it provides matter.


And if there is still room for them to become truly secure in themselves, then they have a solid foundation to do so.


One based on self-respect. The ultimate foundation of all strength.


If you’re not secure, you don’t have a strong foundation.


If you don’t respect yourself, you don’t have a strong foundation.


That’s really what building either of these is about.


It’s just that if you had to choose one, physical strength provides a platform for how you can build self-respect, and that underpins any mental strength.


Because what we must also do here is define, or at least explore, what mental strength is.


I think many people mistake it for intelligence.


Mental strength is not just intelligence or the ability to argue or win arguments.


Or some kind of outdated and over-simplified ‘stoicism’ that means someone just never processes or shows an emotion.


What is Mental Strength?


It’s resilience. It’s the ability to discern, to hear opposing opinions with an open mind.


It’s having grace for yourself and others. It’s being able to apologise and own mistakes.


It’s not letting the opinions (or potential opinions) of others run your life and how you feel about yourself.


It’s being able to face challenges despite fear and doubt.


It’s the ability to do hard things, especially when you feel unsure or insecure.


It’s the ability and willingness to learn, adapt, and evolve and not be stuck to old ideas that no longer serve you.


It’s the willingness to ask for help and the ability to recognise when that is suitable and smart. It’s humility.


It’s having compassion while still having strong boundaries.


Shit, for many, especially Nice Guys, it’s recognising where a boundary is needed and communicating it. Then upholding it in the face of someone pushing back against it and getting pissed off or upset.


That’s self-respect.


And the very heart of internal mental strength is self-respect.


As is looking after your body. Fortifying it.


Those who commit to physical strength often develop mental resilience along the way. It’s a symbiotic relationship, fellas.


Sure, mental health and strength are paramount. No one’s disputing that. However, if we had to pick one, physical strength it.


Why? Because it sets the stage for a cascade of mental growth and empowerment.


As Chris said: mental strength is a flow-on effect of physical strength.


In my experience – which, to be clear is 12 years working in the realm of improving people’s physical strength and now 10 years working on people’s mental strength – the reverse is rarely true.


Yes, people will build mental strength and find the drive and self-respect to become physically strong, fit and capable. But it is less likely.


I’ve seen it time and again firsthand.


Simply improving one’s mental strength does not automatically increase one’s physical strength, as it does the other way around.


Think of physical strength as a catalyst for self-respect—the quality that underpins all facets of personal development. And strength, whatever form it takes; mental, emotional, physical.


But here’s the beauty of it all: growth doesn’t stop at the gym. Whether it’s confronting discomfort, having difficult conversations, or setting boundaries, every challenge we overcome contributes to our mental fortitude.


Stepping out of your comfort zone – approaching and going past edges (that is what real mental strength is) – is about embracing the uncomfortable and emerging stronger on the other side.


Final thought


There’s an African proverb that I love and often find great purpose and reflection in.


It goes:


“I build the road and the road builds me”.


You might’ve heard me share this before. I think it’s relevant and applicable here.


As I do things that are challenging, hard, uncomfortable, and new to me, I am continually creating a new path for me to walk on.


As I do this I am built, I am molded and made.


I am strengthened.


Things that challenge me mentally, emotionally, physically – independently or combined – make me.


I am never complete and ready to take on those things before I do them. I make myself as I take them on.


The capability is built during and after the fact. The moment I choose the strength to face and go through them I am built. And continue to be built.


What do you think? Where are you at with each of these? And what do you need to work on?


And one to contemplate:


“Are you strong enough to respect yourself?”


Until next time, stay strong, stay resilient, and keep crushing those EDGES.


Keep building yourself.


P.S. If you want to explore building this global strength yourself – start the journey with me and my team here.