[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I had the idea for this blog a few weeks ago when I was running around Sedona, listening to audiobooks and indulging in severe alone time. I re-listened to a section of David Goggin's book Can't Hurt Me, which is one of the best memoirs I've read to-date. Goggins popularized the phrase "stay hard" and he's become a popular dude. People want to be like him: athletic, mentally tough, a "savage." As an ultra endurance athlete, I concur. I do need to stay hard. But there is equal value, I think, in staying soft. Let me explain by trying to identify what soft and hard even mean in the first place:
Let's start with some definitions, of which there are plenty:
Soft: squishy/not firm or sympathetic/lenient/compassionate, especially to a degree perceived as excessive; not strict or sufficiently strict, or having moderate power or basic or quiet/gentle or soothing or not strong/robust.
Hard: solid/firm/rigid; not easily broken/bent/pierced or difficult or reliable or not showing sympathy/affection; strict or harsh or unpleasant to the senses or relating to great difficulty.
Stay hard: be strong. be mentally tough. don't give up.
Stay soft: be kind. be empathetic. be compassionate.
For the sake of argument, I'm going to equate hard energy with the masculine and soft energy with the feminine. This is not to say that one is better than the other. I vacillate between these two energies all the time. My two great loves are running and writing. Writing is often introspective and sensitive. Poets especially can become very "soft" or in touch with their emotional selves. Most of us though, have been through some really hard shit that made us stronger. We are thus, in a sense, hard as well. The poetic spaces I've found in the past few years have been incredibly beautiful and healing. Having a community of artists who can come together and be vulnerable in a shared space is beautiful and irreplaceable. Running, on the other hand, is less introspective. More in the moment and nitty gritty. We must stay disciplined. We embrace masculine energy. "Pain is weakness leaving the body," etc.
Anyone who is either a runner or a writer will tell you that neither discipline is either only hard or only soft. It does not behoove anyone in any discipline to be embrace only a hard or soft energy. I'm overgeneralizing grossly but my point is that nobody can "stay hard" all the time, and I'm not even sure that's what Goggins meant. Stay hard when you need to stay hard. Be soft and gentle when you need to be soft and gentle. There is more strength in vulnerability than in remaining aloof and distant. There is more strength in pushing through a difficult task or situation than in giving up. There is more satisfaction in doing a hard thing than an easy one, and more grace in empathy than in judgement.
Tony Robbins (you've probably heard of him) an American author, coach, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. Robbins is kind of cult-ish but he's got something good going for him. He writes about the laws of polarity: good and evil, love and hate, attraction and disconnection. Masculine and feminine energies are not based on gender: any person, male or female can embody both or either energy. Masculine energy is "hard." People with primary masculine energy are strong, mission-driven, problem-solvers, and competitive. But, these same people have trouble communicating. Those with feminine or "soft" energy are more open and emotionally free. They are ready to give and receive love, and they long to be understood. The only downside is that their loving nature can make them susceptible to being taken advantage of by others. Feminine energy is more collaborative, creative, and intuitive than masculine energy.
The important thing about these "hard and soft" or "masculine and feminine" energies is that all of us have both. None of us are always one or the other and knowing when to embrace our hard, masculine side or our softer, feminine side is far more important than identifying too closely to either. So yes, stay hard. Stay disciplined and focused. But also know when to stay soft and empathetic and receptive.
or take a quiz to find out how masculine or feminine you are here.