I am 99-percent sure his name was Danny, a chiseled 6-foot-2ish personal trainer with spiked blonde hair and, according to my sources in the grapevine, a penchant for going wild in the bedroom. I always wondered what that meant, picturing a cross between Conan the Barbarian and the “rebel” archetype in the formulaic 90s boy bands. Please note that I do not reference either perjoratively.
During early childhood, my cousin and I worshipped Arnold and often dressed up like him in Commando to fight invisible enemies. Afterwards we might bathe together in the jacuzzi, an anecdote readily offered by our mothers in any social gathering regardless of context or relevance.
And as a teenager, I distinctly recall making my father check out at Target for me with a Backstreet Boys or N Sync CD (can’t remember which, had both). He assumed this was due to adult lyrics, when really I just didn’t want anyone to see me until I could blast songs like “As Long as You Love Me” in the privacy of our home while running and jumping around and shooting imaginary basketballs and throwing imaginary footballs as the hero of an imaginary game with real girls from school watching during a sort of cardio fantasy workout. I would time the climactic plays — a touchdown, a buzzer-beater — with the choruses when Nick or J.T. or J.C. belted away.
That was a bit much to share; I thought I had buried that part of my life. Back to the present. Every time I try to get aggressive in the sack, my fiancée either emasculates me with derisive laughter or reprimands me for causing pangs of pain with my clumsiness. Woman, I am trying to toss you around like a rag doll to exert my dominance — it’s not supposed to be graceful. I would ask Danny for tips, but he left years ago to teach P.E. and enjoy nature in Colorado or Wyoming or somewhere around there.
Danny did, however, leave me with two lasting memories. First, he would stuff an extra shirt in his pocket when going out to bars because at some point he would rip off the first one. Most people find this to be douchey. I cannot be the only one who thinks it is awesome. Come on, I know it’s very fulfilling for you to spend your time at a bar alternating between judging people there and on your Facebook app because your circle of friends lacks the ability to entertain itself through conversation. But try to appreciate that people like Danny exist so that people like you have something to talk about.
Second, and more impactful, I will always remember Danny’s signature catchphrase every time I mentioned fitness. He would lift up his shirt, look into my eyes with a tinge of provocation, and say, “You have to ask yourself… How bad do you want it?” And then he would make a chopping motion with his hands up and down his six-pack while exhaling a sound resembling a sword being unsheathed.
Again, this might be construed as unseemly by some folks. But I love it and embrace the utility. Danny’s “How Bad Do You Want It” move should be plastered in bedrooms across the world. Not to promote eating disorders or steroids, but the idea of aligning one’s goals with willingness to endure.
It is the way of the universe. Getting anything good in life generally requires some degree of discomfort. The body you want, the relationship you want, the career you want… will not necessarily be achieved with hard work, but that is a hard prerequisite. Your comfort zone is the ante you put down to have a shot at winning. The more you are willing to lay on the line, the more you stand to gain.
Exhibit A: Body
What you see here on the left is a case of not wanting it badly enough. In fairness, Asian parents seem to have an alarming propensity to overfeed their infants, and sometimes this carries over into adolescence. My mother thinks every baby she sees is too skinny and therefore on the verge of death. Mom, pump the brakes here. This is not 1800s Ireland. Vons stays open during the winter. The baby will be fine.
My dad used to hide family-size bags of Chex Mix and Nutty Bars around the house. I would hunt them down after school and pound them while watching Step by Step followed by back-to-back Family Matters episodes. The question remains why he bought them if he didn’t want me to eat them. The hiding game was dehumanizing, as if I were a dog that had to roll over before getting an effing treat. I should have taken his credit card, logged on to the Internet with our dial-up modem, and ordered cases of Bold N’ Zesty flavor shipped to our effing doorstep.
Now, I can complain about an environment that set me up to be a fat failure, or I can accept responsibility. If only Danny had been there to thrust his torso in my face and ask, “How bad do you want it?”
What you see on the right is a case of favorable lighting and maybe some sucking in, not sure. Either way, I am in better shape than most 31-year-olds with a desk job. Getting out of bed at 6 a.m. to go to the gym before work sucks. It is almost painful. I like to cuddle in the morning and rub my thing against other things. But I care about how I look and feel, especially as I get older, and I want this badly enough to weather the first-world nuisance of exercising.
A little tip for you young bucks: If you don’t start treating your body well now, it’s not going to get easier. Your natural metabolism and energy level are not miraculously rising. You’re not going to get hitched and lose incentive to attract others, crap out a kid that cries all night, and all of a sudden want to start jogging at dawn.
Exhibit B: Relationship
I am marrying the girl I want to marry. Because I just missed being born in feudal China, I had to ask her. I had to ask her parents. I had to ask her out in the first place. My first voicemail to her, I rambled so much trying to be funny that at one point I said out loud that I wish I could start the message over. These are awkward, uncomfortable moments. The guy who is not nervous during them a) is a sociopath, b) is not that excited, or c) has way too much practice.
I stomached the nerves and insecurity by making the judgment that something else was more important. But the hard part is not over. That was child’s play. Marriage likely will include some bona fide suffering on both sides. It succeeds only with a commitment to fight through the pain until death bestows its sweet mercy.
There will undoubtedly be many times when I picture Danny to remind me that the struggle is common to all things worth achieving, that outcomes are a function of how badly I want it. Thankfully he won’t actually be there because he would probably bang my wife.
Exhibit C: Career
I wanted to be the Asian Bob Costas. But I didn’t want it badly enough to put in the work to have a shot. And when the Asian Bob Costas does come along, I will be his biggest fan without the slightest touch of envy. I will appreciate that he is in that seat because he deserves it, or at least a lot more than I do.
I wanted to start a food truck with my ex that sold fries with fun toppings. But I didn’t want it badly enough to take a leap of faith, risk losing money and looking stupid and being rejected. Plus, what a terrible idea.
Most folks have thoughts of how their lives could be that never have a chance to materialize because they are not willing to be uncomfortable enough. Maybe you want to be an entrepreneur, except for the part about asking people for money. Maybe you want the spouse of your dreams, except for the part about putting yourself out there. Maybe you want to lose a few pounds, except for the part about working out when it would be so easy not to.
Sacrifice in a way is this great mechanism for equity. Sure some people start out with a prettier face or trust fund, but they won’t get much out of life without wanting something and working for it. A peculiar feeling of peace comes with surveying your lot in life and believing that anything missing is your fault. Danny would say that you forgot to ask yourself:
How bad do you want it?