Family History is fascinating and there are insights everywhere once I’ve started really looking. I have spent lots of time going outside of my family taking workshops, etc to gather this sort of illumination. Yet, I have found that by going deeper and learning about all my family members and diving into the past in a genuine, open, unassuming way from what I thought the past had been and letting go of who I thought this family member is, I’ve learned more than any workshop could ever uncover.
I spent this past weekend with my 71 year old Uncle Steve, an amazing boxing historian who is currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada. I heard his story and reflection of his life as we reviewed over 100 years of our Family History that I’ve pieced together including his own.
After listening to Steve’s story, I began to realize that Steve’s mentors were embodying principles that are familiar to me from my own experience with men’s work albeit Steve uses different languaging and conveys the principles through different life experience.
Prior to and at the inception of his huge fame from 1986-1989, Mike Tyson lived with my Uncle Steve in an apartment in Midtown Manhattan. During this time Steve was responsible for coordinating everything for Mike leading up to the boxing match — food, doctors, training, interviews — you name it — i.e. a shit-load of responsibility.
Steve’s mentors were three men: Bill Cayton, Jimmy Jacobs and Cus D’amato and here are three jewels of masculinity they bestowed upon him that he was willing to receive and grow for himself while grounding and capacitating into the large overwhelming situations he managed with Mike Tyson.
Principle 1 – Accountability
My uncle calls this one “Intentional vs Unintentional.” When he or Mike said stupid shit in press conferences they were later taken into the offices of Jimmy or Bill and interrogated even on the smallest of details.
For example, Jim one time asked Mike to explain why Mike said to a reporter that his training before the fight was “boring.” And then Jim pointed out to Mike that he was making millions of dollars and people were suffering and starving all around the world…Mike didn’t have a reply.
They held Mike accountable for exploring gratitude in a way that brought up the shame and exposed the “un-intentionality” of his speech so Mike in the future could be “intentional.” And they did it in a way that was firm, loving, and receivable — not yelling, terrorizing, or traumatizing — but in a way that exposed it and that he would never forget it.
As a corollary to this, as men, knowing what we are saying when we speak and how we speak are both important.
Saying what we mean and meaning what we say is how I would describe the form of accountability that Mike was learning.
And when Jim or Bill started the conversation they wouldn’t make assumptions. Meaning they would first ask Mike, “When you gave the press conference to ABC did you say …. ?” before exposing him — in case Jim or Bill got mis-information.
Learning to NOT make assumptions or jump to conclusions is what demonstrates the accountability of the person who is doing the exposing. Asking that question first is the key.
We as men cannot make assumptions and just lay into people and expect to be received, it needs to be exposed in a clear, grounded and firm fashion with the intention of holding that person to a place of being a King or Queen — anything other than that is shitting on everybody and conveys a disrespect and superiority that undermines the accountability from the get-go.
From another angle, one day my 10-year old son called me up and said “Look Dad I didn’t sleep in my own bed although you asked me to because of …. I realize I fucked up.” Days before this conversation, I finally told him after doing everything I could possibly think of that I’m drawing the line and that he needs to learn self-reliance and that he had to sleep in his own bed for a week and once he did then we can go do things together but he has to show up and face this. I rarely set such a firm boundary but there was no other option. In response to his phone call, I said no problem you owned it and took responsibility and exposed yourself without me having to investigate — that’s courage, I’m proud of you and so I forgive last night — don’t do it again.
Exposing others with loving firmness, not making assumptions, saying what we mean and meaning what we say, and exposing ourselves — these are all forms of accountability that allow us as men to show up and demonstrate our Masculine Love. This is what keeps the community safe and healthy.
It’s our responsibility to do this unasked when we see Life inviting us to show up.
Principle 2 – Details Matter
When fighters weigh-in for their fights they also choose their set of boxing gloves they are going to use for the main fight out a of group of many boxing gloves that are presented to them and then those gloves are put in a box and saved for the night of the fight.
Mike liked boxing gloves where his knuckles would fit tight up against the glove so when he hit something there was nothing in between so it felt like you were being hit by a brick with no cushion whatsoever.
It was a crap shoot as to whether a pair like this would exist at the weigh-in because every boxing glove is cut slightly differently at that time.
My Uncle Steve got the idea to order 12 gloves from Everlast and have them sent to his place before the fight and have Mike try them all on and find the ones that fit and then mark them with a little black pen on the end of one of the laces and then pretended that Everlast mis-delivered them to his address in Vegas. He then brought them to the weigh-in where Mike could then select the ones he knew fit. So ultimately, when Mike fought he was more relaxed because everything felt right.
Details matter. If you add up all those little details that Steve was paying attention to and nourishing and realize as a whole the details are what support the larger vision of Mike being as relaxed and ready as possible, then you get the idea of this principle.
As we grow our capacity to hold more and more details in a discerned and connected way, our reality and consciousness grows in proportion and the more we become responsible for, and the bigger a vision we can hold, devote ourselves to, and follow to through completion.
Principle 3 – Mastery
The photo is signed by Cus D’amato to Steve:
“My Good Friend Steve, follow the master in handball and film editing and you will become a master too! If you are not one already! Cus”
On the surface, Cus was saying for Steve to follow Jimmy Jacobs as mentor (“the master in handball and film editing”).
On the deeper layer after hearing Steve’s stories, what Cus meant and was indirectly implying was that the calmness you cultivate amidst the tension of handball tournament needs to grow beyond handball to every area of your life.
Pushed even deeper, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything so be conscious of what you’re doing everywhere. It doesn’t end. These old guys knew this and this was their abbreviated way of saying it.
Mastering one thing well (a thing every man needs to do) involves accountability, paying attention to details, calmness and devotion i.e. Love.
Ask my uncle what are the history of the actual film formats of still-cameras, motion cameras, etc and he will explain each format in intimate detail. That’s Love. He’s in Love with his purpose and always has been.
As a 12-year old kid when I lived with my uncle in NYC in the early 90s I had no clue — it all felt like “boring” details that have no relevance and I just wanted attention and love and that’s ok because I was “unintentional” at the time. And now, its taken a bit and I’ve found its much more rewarding to hold “intentionality” and inspire others by my Love of Purpose.
Take another look at your family and maybe you’ll find some details that you didn’t realize were staring you in the face for the last 30 years and share them with me.
Love and Firmness,