The Value of Aggression — Ode to Dan Gable


Dan Gable is a demi-god in the world of wrestling. He’s been called “Sports Figure of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. Why?

As an athlete, he had a 182-1 prep and college record. His single loss, in his final NCAA match, infuriated him. To make up for it, he out-trained the world and won the gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics…without surrendering a single point. This is like winning Wimbledon on serves alone.

Most impressive to me, as coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, he was able to replicate his success. He had a recipe. Here are a few stats from his 21-year career:

21-year record — 355-21-5 (94.4% wins)
Big Ten record — 131-2-1 (98.5% wins)
21 Big Ten Team Titles
45 National Champions
152 All-Americans

The above video clip is from Dan Gable – Competitor Supreme, which my mom bought for me when I was 15. It changed my life.

I watched it almost every day in high school, and it kept me fighting through all the various losses in life. Didn’t finish the SAT in time? Watch Dan Gable. Have a guidance counselor laugh while telling me I don’t stand a chance of getting into Princeton? More Dan Gable. Lost my first important judo match in 7 seconds? Watch the Iowa Hawkeyes…again and again and again. Then, return to the same tournament six months later and win.

In life, there are dog fights. You must learn to enjoy them. Few people look forward to banging heads (literally or metaphorically), and therein lies the golden opportunity.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But there are factors inside your control that greatly improve the odds. Being aggressive doesn’t guarantee success, but failing to be aggressive nearly always guarantees failure. In a modern world of political correctness, glad handing, and fear of offending everyone and anyone, the art of the fight is undervalued.

Remember: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.


In Other News:

Have you read The 4-Hour Body but not put a review on Amazon? Please leave one here! It would really mean the world to me.

Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek but not put a review on Amazon? Please leave one here! I actually read them!

Posted on: November 11, 2012.

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120 comments on “The Value of Aggression — Ode to Dan Gable

  1. I could watch these videos a hundred times and never get tired! We need more of that fight in EVERYONE! So many meet with one single failure and resolve to give up and quit. They look at successful people with spiteful envy and reduce their years of dedication to “luck”. If only. . . they say.. and do nothing.

    I will be forwarding this to everyone!


  2. When he said, “Regardless of whether you win or lose, you have to be aggressive,” my mind went into cheerleader mode.

    “Be, aggressive, be, be, aggressive!”

    There’s no hope for me.


  3. So long as aggression isn’t confused with anger. In fact, anger is antagonistic to aggression, evident even at the hormonal level.

    I can wait to see how this ban thing pans out. Best of luck Tim, your’re as much an inspiration now as you were two years ago.


      • Hi Tim,

        A little off the subject of this blog, yet found it hard to find any other way to contact you. Do you know of any company who has adapted the 4-hour work philosphy accross the entire company? We are putting this into our strategy and would like to speak to others who have done this – if any.



    • Anger is integral and inescapable. Recipe for ruin is to deny this. To channel anger into productive outcomes is our best shot. To understand what drives our anger is a shortened path to self-awareness and proactive behavior. Not to go all zen, but it’s true…the universe was born of yearning, anger is born of squelched desire. It informs us of the importance of our unfulfilled needs. Too much suppression/denigrating of this vital instinct in my opinion. Probably relates to aggression in that way. Good luck with the brick and mortar wars Tim, and congrats on #1 number 3…


      • I agree with jballz. Anger is neither good nor bad. Like all emotions it is neutral. However, anger is the energy of change. Used correctly, it provides the fuel to get us what we want. I’ve always admired fighters/wrestlers for their controlled use of anger/aggression.


  4. Watch out bookstores who have banned Tim’s book, I’m pretty sure this is his message to let you know he is out for blood!

    Btw Tim, two things: replace your blog video in the upper right corner to your new 4 Hour Chef trailer (great trailer by the way, totally got me psyched about the book which I guess was the point) and if you are looking for a way to share the first chapter of your new book to your physical book buyers, maybe you can talk with someone on Amazon to make available the sample for its kindle edition.

    Give them hell,
    Joao Eira


  5. These days a lot of people avoid the fight and go straight from disagreement to reconciliation. That’s not natural and can only lead to more stress.

    Good luck with the book release, can’t wait to read it!


  6. Thanks in large part to Tim and 4 Hour Work Week, I bounce around from place to place a few months at a time, and I sometimes train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with world class grapplers.

    And there’s common trait in all of them. Yeah, they’re incredible technicians but that’s not it…they WANT it. They just want to win so effin’ bad. They cultivate and channel a primal aggressiveness that is both scary and utterly fascinating. Especially when you feel it percolating inside your own self.

    Dan Gable tapes should be prescribed in place of anti-depressants. :-)


  7. Tim,
    As a University of Iowa alum during the glory days of Dan Gable, I have one problem with hailing Coach Gable as a hero. While his winning record cannot be contested, the behavior of many of his wrestlers off the mat should have been and should be under scrutiny. During my four years at Iowa, rumors abounded of sexual assaults and gang rapes committed by “Dan’s boys.” I knew women personally who had been assaulted by University of Iowa wrestlers because they had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. At that time, rape of this nature was something women were ashamed to admit and rarely reported. Instead, they suffered in silence…the perpetrators never held accountable for their actions.

    Coach Gable and the University turned a blind eye to the women brutalized by this cultivated and then misdirected aggression. (for the record, it was not only the wrestlers who were guilty of this kind of misdirected aggression.)
    We need to be careful when hailing the value of aggression when instead of serving its intended role, it ends up hurting innocent victims.


    • Dear Lauri,

      Thank you for your comment. Of course, this is very serious. Allow me to offer a few thoughts:

      – First and foremost, anyone guilty of rape should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. End of story. It’s horrific and evil.

      – Second, I don’t believe Dan Gable would ever turn a blind eye to rape. Most people are aware, but his sister was raped and killed in his family’s home. He has VERY strong feelings about such things.

      Having spoken with him personally, I would expect zero tolerance from him towards anyone (especially his athletes) associated with rape.

      – Lastly, as you rightly pointed out, aggression can be creative or destructive, like many things (fire, blades, etc.). Aggression, when misdirected or unfocused, is absolutely negative. The key is to harness it properly and wield it responsibly.

      Much appreciate you adding to the dialogue,



      • I think there are different uses of the word aggression. In the instance Lauri speaks of the usage of aggression refers misguided anger and entitlement. The way that Dan Gable is using it he is referring to tenacious persistence.

        Thanks for the post Tim. I’ll be watching you on CreativeLIVE this week. I missed the deadline for submitting a video to be one of your live “students”, so I’ll be home watching from my couch…can’t wait!!!


      • I would suggest the distinction you are making would be “violence” as a specific concept related to aggression. If choosing words carefully… anger and aggression can be embraced as necessary aspects of the human experience. Violence is the negative aspect of those forces, which we all must recognize in ourselves and in society. To come to terms with anger and use force of will (“aggression” if you prefer) without violence…is an element of grace.


      • Tim,
        THANK YOU for your thoughtful response. After receiving emails from some of your readers accusing me of slander, I thought to clarify the intent of my comment. I did not intend to libel Coach Gable (and thank you for providing more information on the man), I only meant to point out that there can sometimes be unsavory consequences to cultivating aggression in the same way that there can be unsavory consequences to cultivating priviledge (as in the culture of the priesthood that allowed for eons of sexual assault to go unreported and unchecked). It requires emotional maturity (in both men and women) to be able to know what to do with the “leftover” aggression once the sporting event, legal debate, video game, conflict of war, is complete. When emotional maturity is not present, this unfulfilled aggression can sometimes come out sideways and cause harm to another. Sadly, there is not always adequate education or supports in place for those being “coached.” And, unfortunately, we live in a culture where the victims are still afraid to report their assault – out of shame and out of the knowledge that 1) people might not believe them and 2) they will be ridiculed themselves for “telling the family secret” and 3) have to be the ones to prove that they were not somehow at fault.

        Thank you again for your thoughtful response.


      • Now you are just back peddaling with a bunch of nonsense. Your first post was way out of line and you were speaking of things you knew nothing about!! Again, go away.


    • I am a white man who grew up in the middle east…in Dubai specifically. we mostly played soccer there. Then i moved to Canada for university. And I was shocked to see how differently sports were played and taught in North America compared to the middle east.

      I saw coaches telling their players to be aggressive and injure opponents. I saw parents yelling at their kids playing in various sports to be tough and to “take him out” or “knock him out”

      Yes….parents and coaches were teaching young athletes to injure and to curse at their opponents

      I have been elbowed in the face…..stomped on deliberately, cursed at…with the opponents insulting my mother in the hopes of “getting under my skin”

      When I questioned those players their response was always: “stop being such a pussy….this is sports…if you dont like it then leave”

      this sort of treatment forced alot of the non north american players to play dirty as well….

      This culture of “us versus them” begins with the coaches and the parents.

      “If you put a good person in a bad system, the system always wins” – Deming

      The truth is as shown in Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine…The United States has had a historical record of creating a “us versus them” mentality.

      us versus the red indians

      us versus the russians…or the cubans..or the mexicans or the blacks or the muslims

      This mentality is prevalent in sports too….when at the end of the day sports is not meant to create hatred of opponents or aggression towards them

      And take a look at the most popular sports in North America….they all involve aggression and violence:

      american football, UFC, boxing, pro-wrestling, ice hockey (where the fans celebrate the injuries and concussions of rival team members)

      so yes….there is nothing wrong with having a strong and fierce desire to win…..but lets take a look at where pure aggression has gotten us

      and another area where the teaching of aggresion has resulted in the rape of women and crimes against innocent civilians abroad is in the USA military as this documentary shows

      Also see the movie peoduced by Mark Cuban


      • Hi, Tim’s man in India, please tell Mr. Ferris the following:

        There is nothing good in aggression. This kind of teaching/training creates the kind of persons mainstream media never portrays because the stories where the US citizens are the bad guys rarely get told. Aggression is praised only by the people who apply it, never by the ones who have to suffer under it: ask any injured US veteran how he or she thinks about aggression.

        Sports should be about the praise of the human body as well as the human spirit, it should elevate men and women both physically as well as spiritually, not degrade them to their most primal instincts and have them use their reptilian brain.

        The ancient greeks trained in the Gymnasion which couldn’t be further away from today’s gym. They trained their bodies and learned philosophy and other arts in the same time and place. How come after 3000 years we actually went backwards?

        Obsessively wanting to win, like Dan Gable used to teach, is what creates the mentality which gets you in the Mitchell Report or strips you of seven yellow shirts.

        Aggression also should have no place in business. Have you never been annoyed by an aggressive “foot-in-the-door”salesman or by the large amount of advertisements for the same crappy useless products you find in your mailbox or inbox everyday? (Ok, maybe some could use the Cialis or the enlargement pills but most of us don’t.) How good do you think employees feel when fired after an aggressive take-over of the company they have worked for? A culture which always focuses on the winner is doomed because in the end there’s no one left to beat. The ultimate winner shouts his “Nike!” standing on a pile of carcasses.

        I follow Tim religiously but this time I am really disappointed. Why didn’t he use the word drive instead of aggression? Aggression is blind to the circumstances, it focuses on extermination and not on solution, it is destructive and subhuman. You can’t be aggressively good or moral, or human or loving.


      • Thoughtful counterpoints. Unchannelled aggression is simply destructive.

        I suppose it can be made useful, in service of a difficult goal. Looking at fighters/competitors even: all are motivated differently. I love the movie “Warrior” – one brother’s fueled by anger, the other by love of family.


  8. Can anyone elucidate on the reasons behind all these bannings for the 4 Hour Chef? I saw on the update here that over 1,000 bookstores have banned it- What’s up with that?


      • Already pre-ordered mine… Just waiting for the update on my Kindle… Take Luck, Buddy… You will be the victor in this battle…


      • Those publishing houses dont realise that they are fighting a losing battle…the only way for them to benefit is to open themselves up and embrace Amazon’s publishing goals…the sooner the better for them


      • Interesting. The nearest book store to me is a Barnes & Noble. It is over 30 minutes away, which means dedicating a significant amount of time and gas to get there. On the rare occassion that I actually visit the B&N, I find that their prices are significantly higher than Amazon. It just isn’t worth the trip to me, unless I need the book TODAY.

        Of course, these days, if I really do need the book TODAY, I just look to see if there’s a Kindle edition. I can be reading the book in seconds, I don’t need to leave the house, and I don’t need to wait for shipping.

        This ban is a desperate move by desperate people. Amazon is my first choice for almost anything other than groceries — and if they can find a way to deliver groceries to me for the same cost as a trip to the grocery store, including the cost of gas and the inconvenience of dedicating three hours to the task (we drive to a grocery store that’s over 30 minutes away because it saves us so much money over the local, union stores), that will change too!


    • Because I’m the first major acquisition of Amazon Publishing. Barnes & Noble and so on don’t want to carry Amazon books. Amazon, in contrast, carries books published by B&N (Sterling imprint).


      • Hey Tim,

        I really like this “fight” between the publishers.
        Even if you lose- and the odds are against you-
        it takes the publishing world in a different (and better) direction.

        I suppose it also goes without saying that if they are fighting you, you’re doing something right.


      • Yes but surely it would make sense for them to stock your book as it will be extremely popular. It would make business sense for them to stock your book, whether they like it or not. Does this mean we can ONLY but the book through Amazon?
        I don’t care i will be buying it anyway.


    • As an owner of both 4HWW editions and a signed copy of 4HB, I’m a big fan and sorry to see you caught in the mdidle at the forefront of the Amazon boycott. Your books help people live better lives. I also have close ties with friends in the independent bookselling world, and have significant issues with some of Amazon’s tactics.

      For anyone that’s interested these two articles provide further context:


      • I’m going to avoid speculating about Tim’s preferences. It’s clear that some people will double down on their support of him because of the boycott and it may help with marketing. Still, with the book not prominently displayed in retail locations in the Christmas shopping season, there will be costs in terms of sales and the number of readers who can get the book in hand. Those positive and negatives could cancel eachother out, but there’s a good chance of a net negative, which is why I think it’s unfortunate for Tim.


  9. Tim, you are an amazing inspiration to continue fighting every day. Just know that you have all of us to help you fight against these people who don’t want you to succeed. I can’t wait for your book and I’m going to buy 10+ copies and give them to friends and family!

    Thank you so much for everything and we hope you continue for a long time!


  10. The Hello Bar at the top is not reflecting the shocking 1100 bookstore number at the bottom of the post.

    Feel free to delete this comment after viewing.


  11. Hi Tim,

    I really enjoyed the principle behind the blog post and I subscribe to your thought process as it mirrors mine. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many men try to also adapt this principle and get it horribly wrong. They damage themselves and everyone around them. It’s a fine line and sometimes the more aggressive men can’t balance worth shit.

    Keep up the good work.



  12. I can see how Dan Gable’s advice pays off in the tennis world. Dangerous players like David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal profit greatly from this mentality, and it’s mind-boggling how long they keep up their levels of intensity.

    P.S. Hey Tim, I know you recently picked up tennis. One main thing that tremendously improved my game was better footwork. What you’ll discover is that most players you come across have god-awful footwork, and that if you can outlast them during a match, you’ll most likely win. That’s why talented players lose to bulky football players – football players train exclusively on movement.

    In any case, I look forward to your next book. Cheers dude!


  13. Poor move by the bookstores. This is a frontal attack. This, it seems to me, will rally all of Amazon’s resources. If I were in your shoes I would be freaking juiced! Though, there would be moments of doubt this certainly has the potential to be epic. Not only will it be win or die for your book, but also be looked at for the near future of publishing.

    Bad strategy B&N and friends.