I’ve Never Met a Happy Wimp

Michael Van Osch remembers the incomparable power of the influence of a strong mentor.

Once in a while, a man comes along that so personifies real, positive manhood that he simply can’t be ignored. His mere existence can inspire legions of boys and men to be better, to accomplish big things and to be the rocks our society needs. He may or may not be famous outside of his own circle, but the impact he has is great.

If, like me, you’ve had a man such as this in your life, you count yourself blessed and lucky as you strive to live up to the higher standard set by his influence. My mentor, Donald “Moe” Targosz, was one of those special men. Moe was many things: an ex-pro football player, English teacher, winning football coach, businessman, husband and father, not to mention an avid ice-fisherman. But above all, when you met him, you knew immediately that this was a real man. You knew because he lived every day by his principles—principles backed by beliefs that simply couldn’t be shaken by the winds of folly, fad, and social pressure.

I can proudly say that this bear of a man with a bald head and a crooked chin was my mentor from my late teens until last year, when he succumbed to cancer. And when you get to have as many conversations over almost 30 years as I did with a man like Moe, you wish somehow that you had a recording of every one of them to which you could refer back in times of discouragement and despair.

♦◊♦

After losing such an important figure in my life, I find myself looking back to the lessons I’ve learned and the struggles I’ve overcome in my life, thanks in part to Moe’s help and advice. Equally adept in making his point by using a quote from Shakespeare or by making a football analogy, Moe opened the minds of many students over his 30-plus-year teaching career at St. Jerome’s High School in Kitchener, Ontario. He opened our minds to a bigger world—a world where, if you could dream it, you could do it.

Without a doubt, the biggest lesson this man ever taught me can be summed up in a quote that is uniquely Moe:

“I’ve never met a happy wimp.”

Though you may laugh, as I did, upon hearing it for the first time, let it sink in and take root, and you may realize that this one simple statement actually says it all. It may not sound like Shakespeare, but like a single line from the Bard, it conveys a wealth of knowledge.

What at first may seem to be mere bravado, upon inspection becomes the most succinct way of saying that if you want to be happy in your life, then it is up to you. It is up to you to:

  • Stand up for that in which you believe
  • Go after what you want out of life
  • Refuse to settle
  • Respect yourself and others
  • Keep your word
  • Refuse to compromise your principles and values for anything
  • Overcome fear and be open to new people and ideas
  • Dream big and take risks as a part of your life
  • Continuously move out of your comfort zone to find and live your calling.

♦◊♦

Let’s test-drive Moe’s quote, shall we? Think about men you know in your own life. Who are the happy, successful men? The ones who continually compromise themselves, the small thinkers, and those operating out of fear? How about the ones who have given up on their dreams or those who don’t do what they say they’ll do—are they the ones you admire?

How about putting yourself to the test? We know that happiness doesn’t come from the “outside,” so when you’re not “feeling it,” simply ask yourself if you’re acting like the man you want to be. Are you living to the best of your ability at work, with your family and friends, and with yourself? Are you making the hard choices, or are you taking the easy way out? Probably not.

We live in an age when it can be very easy to forget that becoming the man you want to be actually takes action; yes, even work. Unfortunately, it’s not simply a question of entering a Google search for “man” and hitting return. No, it’s a lifelong process that requires intentional effort, learning, and sometimes re-learning timeless lessons from men who have gone before us.

It is not always easy or popular to do what you believe is right. Moe was often in opposition against school officials and other teachers for doing what he knew was right—for what he knew was best for the young men he was teaching. And that’s where his strength showed, because, despite threats and many roadblocks along the way, he did what he thought was best for his students. Near the end of his teaching career, his refusal to compromise his beliefs got him fired—he wouldn’t acquiesce; he wouldn’t lower his standards. So he picked up and went on to be a very successful businessman until he passed away. How many of us are willing to stand by our principles when faced with the possibility of losing our livelihood?

♦◊♦

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Moe would have been “an unhappy wimp” going against his own code. Being a wimp has nothing to do with physical size and stature, how much you can bench-press, or how suave you are with the ladies. A wimp, in its real definition, is someone who goes against his own principles, who doesn’t fight for his beliefs but caves under pressure and looks only for battles he knows he can win.

At the end of the day, all we have as men (and women) are the choices that we make. And it’s those choices that determine the legacies that we leave. It may feel that our current world, one of offices and sterile conference rooms, is so far from the days of old, where knights showed bravery and honor on blood-soaked battlefields, that Moe’s quote and underlying call to action is simply ideological rather than practical. But make no mistake that today, this conference room, office and cubicle, this is our modern battleground. This is the place where we decide how we live and what legacies we leave. This, just as Moe would echo, is our equivalent of the moment in Hamlet when Shakespeare gives us his everlasting call to action, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

In other words, “I’ve never met a happy wimp.” Thanks, Moe.

Photo The Wandering Angel/Flickr

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About Michael Van Osch

Michael Van Osch, Founder - www.thinktankmen.com
As a coach and author, Michael helps uncommon men escape the corporate trap, seize the freedom of being an entrepreneur and build the life and income they imagined. Meet Michael at http://thinktankmen.com.

Comments

  1. Michael,

    Good post. Having a mentor(s) can make a huge difference particularly in the age of fathers that often had to be gone. You got a precious gift. Sorry he died.

  2. Great piece, and terrific words to live by. I think they’re especially pertinent, not just in relation to our personal struggles, but to the daily violation of our Fourth Amendment rights by the TSA and an disturbingly increasing number of violations of many of our constitutional rights in this country. An example of these principles in action is Bobby Unser spending $860,000 to defend himself against criminal charges (that came with a $5,000 fine) after he got lost in a blizzard on his snowmobile and may or may not have trespassed into a wilderness area.

  3. Hallelujah.

  4. siddheshwar says:

    I agree with it completely…. money is not the measurement of success. Money can buy you bed but not sleep. Not being a wimp and contribution to society would bring solace and good sleep.
    Excellent article…..

    thanks

  5. It is one problem if I am a wimp, it is another when my mentor is one. I had one… Now I’m on my own, I hope I will make it!

  6. I’m all for the notion that proactive effort, taking risks, and trying not to settle are admirable qualities that often lead to success. But you know what’s not an admirable quality? NAME-CALLING. The word “wimp” is often used to describe men who joined the chess team instead of the football team, made strategic compromises to initiate progress, stay at home to take care of the kids, or are physically smaller than the black-and-white archetype you draw. With respect to how you benefited from your mentor, that’s your story. not everyone’s. It’s antiquated broad-brushing like this that lead some men to tell others to “man up” — hide your feelings, don’t express yourself, be stoic above all else. Being a man isn’t about how broad your shoulders are, or how gruff and commanding you come across. To me, it’s about how genuine you are. Nothing’s more courageous, admirable — and manly — than being yourself. And by the way, if women exhibit these qualities, does that make them less feminine or woman-like? The last thing I would tell my kids is “I’ve never met a happy wimp”, the equivalent of “don’t be wimpy”. My father told me as a kid not to “be a retard” — name-calling is name calling , so I guess that’s okay, too.

  7. And I’d love to hear more about what got Moe fired at that school. Given the details, I wonder if we’d all be so admiring as you. If I come across a teacher who must do things “his way” versus the school’s way, and gets fired for it, I’m immediately suspicious of the teacher.

  8. The whole concept of “what makes a real man” should be abandonded. The bulleted list of attributes you made are great ideals for all, male and female, to strive for in their personal lives. Inferring that there is some distinction for men and that there is some “…need…” for “…boys and men to…accomplish big things and to be the rocks [of] our society…” is the kind of thinking that necessitated feminism in the first place if you ask me.

    No offense to the memory of a great friend in your life, but language is important and “don’t be a wimp” is the kind of meme we should not be perpetuating. And if you disagree I’ll kick your ass ;-)

    • Good point, Mike. Why should these positive tactics be directed exclusively at men? This article does more to reinforce stereotype than it does to inspire men to greater things. The whole “real man” concept is the work of marketers and television executives.

  9. I just had a talk with my son, who was beating down an awkward, timid classmate and calling him a wimp. I praised my son for maintaining the community standard of masculinity and affirmed that wimps should always be publicly humiliated.

    Our local “bear” of a football coach keeps up an amusing tirade of abuse on all the non-athletes, calling them wimps, faggots, sissies, cunts—you name it! I suppose this sort of thing would be banned at a more politically correct school, but thanks in large part to his larger-than-life charisma, the baiting of the nerds and losers is generally licensed among the students and faculty.

    It’s inspiring to see the shame it inspires in the boys who didn’t make the team–and the pride created in the boys who did make the team. The pride of manhood is created by competition and distinction, zero-sum, always won by the humiliation of another boy or man. It’s said that manhood is individualistic, but the real individuals are simply the ones who are strong enough to make the team, establish themselves in the group–winners as opposed to losers. In the end, they’re the only ones who count.

    That’s why we talk in sports metaphors and have words like “wimp,” to mark and enforce the elite boundary with the taunting that starts in junior high and never ends until the grave. It makes perfect sense that Moe was a coach and teacher—real men learn the right lessons early on, and never outgrow school culture. Fuck yeah!

    Inspiring article!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] (And not having money doesn’t necessarily mean failure.)  Michael Van Osch writes that he’s never met a happy wimp–advice that he gleaned from his mentor, Donald “Moe” Targosz.  I think Mr. Targosz may be [...]

  2. [...] also referred to Michael Van Osch’s blog post, “I’ve Never Met a Happy Wimp.”  A phrase from Osch caught my eye, “Let’s test drive… shall we? Think about men you [...]

  3. [...] (And not having money doesn’t necessarily mean failure.)  Michael Van Osch writes that he’s never met a happy wimp–advice that he gleaned from his mentor, Donald “Moe” Targosz.  I think Mr. Targosz may be [...]

  4. [...] (And not having money doesn’t necessarily mean failure.)  Michael Van Osch writes that he’s never met a happy wimp–advice that he gleaned from his mentor, Donald “Moe” Targosz.  I think Mr. Targosz may be [...]

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