The Iron Mind


The title to this blog post is specifically vague to detract most people from actually reading it. It’s too powerful for the masses. The Iron Mind is for doers and action takers not for hopers and wishers.

In other words, The Iron Mind is for Ridiculously Extraordinary People.

Tangent (those are getting common, huh?): Sitting on this couch, with an oversized mug of green tea at my side and a little bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival blasting through my headphones, I have an ear-to-ear smile on my face while simply thinking about writing The Iron Mind. My hope is that it positively affects you as much as it positively affected me.

Several months ago my friend Nick IMed me with a link to an article. I was busy at the time and told him I’d try to read it later. You know, because sometimes I’m an asshole.

An hour went by, I finished what I’d been doing, and I remembered the article.

I read it and, to put it lightly, freaked out. I IMed Nick with something that boiled down to “holy shit!”

This article turned out to be one of the most life affirming pieces of non-fiction I’d ever read.

I became obsessed with it. I talked about it with anyone who would listen. I Tweeted about it regularly. I couldn’t get enough.

I read it daily, absorbing it to its very core and 6 months later I still can’t get enough.

Has anything ever made you want to scream, smile, cry, fuck, fight, and say thank you all at once?

This article does that to me.

It’s like a hit of heroin coursing through my veins. I get a little, then I want just a little more. But a little more is never enough. I fiend for it like a junkie in line at the methadone clinic. Thankfully, I can’t overdose on this drug. This drug can’t kill me. This drug can only make me stronger and wiser.

This drug is The Iron.

The Iron was written by Henry Rollins, former Black Flag vocalist, current spoken word bad ass, prolific author, actor, radio host, TV host, and documentarian. The article in question is from a 1994 Details magazine but it’s posted all over the Web. You can read it here:

In The Iron, Henry describes himself in his formative years as being a weak kid who was constantly picked on. Then a phys ed teacher took Henry under his wing and told him he was going to get whipped into shape.

Reluctantly, for fear of having to deal with his teacher’s repercussions, Henry purchased a weight set and meticulously followed his teacher’s instructions.

Working out not only sculpted Henry’s physique but sculpted his formerly weak confidence. Specifically, he gained the confidence to be himself, and to form his own thoughts and opinions instead of striving to be like one of the herd.

In the article Henry discusses The Iron in mostly literal terms as far as what working out did for him.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you. – Henry Rollins

While I take The Iron literally when working out, I also took The Iron metaphorically, as a symbol for the road blocks I run into when striving to reach my goals.

There will always be something trying to hold you back. You can either take care of it or not. You always have a choice. The easy choice is not always the right choice. The difficult choice might be the best choice you ever make.

Lift the fucking weight off the floor or drop it. It’s all there for you to do or not do. – Henry Rollins; page 32, paragraph 2 in “Smile, You’re Traveling”

If you’re having trouble sticking to a healthy diet, use The Iron Mind.

If you respect The Iron, The Iron will teach you what you need to know and inspire you to keep going in the face of adversity.

The more you lift The Iron (literally and figuratively), the easier it will be for you to lift The Iron.

If you tell yourself you’re going to eat healthy and then go out to eat fast food, The Iron wins. But The Iron will be happy to give you a rematch. Lift it or don’t. The choice is always up to you. The Iron doesn’t judge.

The more you drop The Iron, the more difficult The Iron will be to lift. Eat fast food once, okay, everybody slips up. Eat fast food every day and the momentum of eating healthy will be all but gone.

If you’re trying to start a business and keep hitting walls and setbacks, use The Iron Mind.

Did you lose your ass on some PPC ads? What did you learn from it? Pick The Iron back up off the floor and get back at it. Do more reps, place more ads, acquire more knowledge. Or quit.

Have you launched a blog and maybe aren’t getting as many readers as you thought? (*Ahem*) Too bad. Get to work and keep at it. Or quit.

Want to travel but don’t have the money right now? Don’t tell yourself you can’t afford it, ask yourself how you can afford it. Make it happen. Or quit.

The most important thing to remember is The Iron wants you to succeed. The Iron wants to work with you, to help you, to talk you through it. If you fail The Iron, it’s because you let The Iron beat you. If you beat The Iron, it’s because you worked your ass off and proved to The Iron you deserved to win.

To this day Nick and I regularly quote pieces of The Iron to each other. It was so influential Nick named a song on the new Swellers record The Iron:

“We either do this now, or we don’t. We need to do this right now, or we won’t.” – The Iron by The Swellers

We use The Iron as motivation. As inspiration. It’s a way to let ourselves know that whatever success we want is ours for the taking. Nobody will hand us a thing and we don’t expect them to.

We can’t blame anybody for our failures except ourselves.

What’s holding you back?

Where can you use The Iron Mind to make drastic leaps forward in your own life?

Are you going to lift the fucking weight off the floor or drop it? The choice will always be yours.


  1. Inspiring article. I will read that link you gave about Iron Mind. Thanx a mil! I love lifting and love the challenge of Iron.

    Very nice blog you have here. I’m sticking around! ;)


  2. Nice post… nice blog! Inspiring goal!
    “Have you launched a blog and maybe aren’t getting as many readers as you thought? (*Ahem*) Too bad. Get to work and keep at it. Or quit.”

    I bet your collaboration with Leo from Zen Habits will help with the above problem! (that’s how I found you…) keep it up! people like me need blogs like yours.

  3. It’s been a while since I have read this text, I must have been 16 when I read it the first time, and it has been an inspiration ever since. Hank is one sick dude, I remember him saying to always run the extra mile, cause those are the guys who do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Don’t be one of those who quits before, rather go straight ahead and do more, more, more.

    Guess he influenced me even more as he was one of the few musicians who was not into drugs and could be called the perfect role model, even though he’d hate to hear that I guess :)

    • Hey Tumbling Tiger,

      Henry rules so hard.

      “could be called the perfect role model, even though he’d hate to hear that I guess :)”

      This seems true. Based on some of his other stuff I’ve read it seems he’d hate for anybody to admire him so much.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. At the risk of sounding cliché / geeky:

    “Do or do not. There is no try.”

    We are all already titans. All we need to do is unlock that power.

    When asked about how he was able to sculpt such a marvelous statue of an angel, Michelangelo said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

    We can do similar things with ourselves.

  5. Hi Karol,

    Very interesting blog. Checked out the “Iron” article and it was awesome. Thanks a ton for posting it here!!!

    I hardly ever comment on blogs, but was really curious about something – how do you plan on helping 100 people get the free lifestyle. Two years back, I set out with the same goal (and completely agree with your argument about the number 100 and why it was chosen). However, I am currently looking for a different vehicle than what I had originally planned. How do you plan on acheiving it — would surely like to know more and help myself before I can help others.

    Thanks for a great blog and keep the good work going,


  6. Karol,

    Love the article and the reference to Henry’s article. Thank you.

    If someone wanted to get started down the path of “whole body” conditioning, and had basically no experience in it (I don’t need to lose weight – just at age 40 I need to begin a process to reshape how I look and feel), what would be your best suggestion as to a starting point that isn’t overwhelming?


    • Thanks…not sure I’m well suited enough to answer this. :) Didn’t you have some of Matt Furey’s stuff? Combat Conditioning is on point. Truth is, whatever you can do that you actually stick to is best.

  7. What a difference your article and Henry Rollins article has made in my life. But then you know that, don’t you? It keeps this smile on my face. I have been giving this article to people , when they say, what is it about, I tell them, just read it, then you decide. Thanks for giving me this…

  8. Hey Karol,

    Love the post tonight man. I try to read the Iron article at least once a month to keep me both motivated and humble.

    My favorite quote, and a huge part of the reason I enjoy lifting weights, has to be this:

    “200 pounds is always 200 pounds.” No matter what people are telling you, no matter what you’re telling yourself, the weight won’t lie to you. Either you can pick it up, or you can’t. Either you’re getting stronger, or you’re not. Either you’re becoming a better writer and helping more people, or you’re not.

    Some of the most inspiring stuff I’ve ever read.


  9. Karol,

    How are you progressing in terms of pure strength gains?

    Curious how you are managing on a vegan diet while weight lifting…


  10. I have just read “the iron” article. Karol, a very powerful lesson indeed. (no pun intended) Thank you.

  11. One thing that has been holding me back is link building, doing enough link exchanges with related sites. I should start looking at it like lifting weights,
    no pain no gain.

  12. Awesome! Thanks Karol!

    I had never read The Iron. Thank you for sending it my way. Ended up here from your new eBook. Which is well worth the investment if I may say.

    I always knew i would learn more form Henry Rollins.

    Take care.

  13. Noticed you will be in Amsterdam end of July. Coincidentally or not, Henry Rollins will be there as well, paradiso 30th July. Just a tip i thought you might appreciate, considering how the Iron affected you. Great blog btw. Got it from a friend and just spend the last 1,5 reading and liking it.

    • Thanks CS! That is the only reason I’m actually going to Amsterdam. :) You live there?

      And thanks for the comments about my blog! :)

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