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

  1. My last brick & mortar bookstore purchase was The Four Hour Body. If it weren’t for a 40% pre-order discount, I probably would have done the same on launch day for 4HC.

    B&N fighting Amazon is like mass fighting gravity. Major book retailers were headed in a downward trajectory *before* pulling one of its most popular authors. This is unfortunate for all parties involved.


  2. I can tell you this. Aggression is all well and good, but without the will to prepare, it’s worthless. A wrestling match lasts for 12 minutes. To be as unstoppable as Gable was, the preparation he went through had to be almost non-stop.

    The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.


  3. I’m not going to lie, my comment is technically unrelated to the blog post… but I can be creative and tie it all together, just watch. :)

    The following is 100% true:

    Aggression definitely has value. It was built up aggression which had me walking into a world renowned fight gym in the Seattle area (home to Amazon…) to help get my head back on straight. I currently train in boxing and submission wrestling/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Next week I will also be adding kickboxing to the mix (seriously… that’s part of the 100% truth thing). I train beside a current UFC champion and other UFC fighters. Whatever… no big deal. Just another day in the life of a preschool teacher.

    My submission wrestling coach was the one who suggested I read your book “The 4-Hour Workweek” since I was beginning to feel an inner urge to expand my life experiences. I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world, but have never been able to afford to on a preschool teacher salary (which is less than an elementary teacher).

    So far the book has been fascinating. I especially liked the part about finding a technicality in regards to winning the kickboxing championship. Well done. It reminded me of an extra curricular activity I did as a child called Olympics of the Mind (now called Odyssey of the Mind). I know, it sounds more nerdy than chess club… but it was an amazing experience which encouraged kids to think beyond the limits (including rules) of their sheltered worlds. My team won 5th at the world championships… so as I was reading through the chapters I kept telling myself, “I got this. No problem. I’m the queen of thinking outside the norm!”

    Needless to say, I’m still having trouble figuring out a way to liberate myself from the classroom so I can just teach the preschoolers from home. I thought about getting an assistant in India… but I’m not sure that plan would go over very well when… say… a child has an accident in his pants…. :)

    Kidding of course.

    Anyway, so frustration (for the moment only) sent me back to the “System Reset” chapter in the book in which the challenge to contact someone unreachable was outlined.

    “I’m going to try that,” I thought to myself. “I’m going to try contacting the author of this book.”

    And here I am. :)

    So as you can see… in my case aggression and wrestling have proved to be of great value. Through a series of perfectly timed happenings, I was lead to the knowledge outlined in your book which could prove to be extremely valuable in regards to my future. And I swear, my above story is completely true. If you come to Seattle, I’ll give you a tour of my fight gym and you can investigate for yourself. A 110% guarantee of pure honesty. :)

    Take care!


  4. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” (Gandhi)

    I remember reading in your book how a dozen publishers turned you down with your first book – then titled “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit”. :-)
    That was step one.
    Now you are at step three. They fight you.
    Guess what the next step is!


  5. BIG Dan Gable fan! Went to Iowa for wrestling camp back in the day. Lincoln Mc, Brands brothers… those guys were gods in my eyes.

    I learned a heck of a lot about persistence, “intestinal fortitude”, and self-determination and there’s no doubt I carry those principles throughout my life today.

    It always come down to YOU on the mat. Can’t blame anyone else.

    Love the sport!


  6. Hey tim,

    My senior year, I would watch this every single morning and sometimes in the evenings to keep me pumped for working out as often and as hard as I could. Dan’s principles are amazing. I thought, “Dan didn’t get scored on in the Olympics? Okay. I’m not gonna get scored on my senior year.” I had a total of 22 points scored on me. Record 40-2 in CA.

    I attribute a ton of my drive to Dan’s Competitor Supreme video. So powerful. It still stirs up strong emotions thinking about it. I left home for two years and the tape got lost. I cant find it to buy it online. Any chance that you have it still? Still looking for it.


  7. You can get the Dan Gables dvd here:

    I spoke with Melissa from the Dan Gables museum and should gave me her direct line to order his DVD, her number is: 310-233-0745.

    Hope that helps anyone who is trying to get a copy of the dvd.




  8. When I wrestled, I would play this quote in my head from Dan Gable,

    “When I’d get tired and want to stop, I’d wonder what my next opponent was doing. I’d wonder if he was still working out. I tried to visualize him. When I could see him still working, I’d start pushing myself. When I could see him in the shower, I’d push myself harder”

    Modeling Dan Gable helps me push harder. I agree when he said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything in life is easy”.

    How true and it does apply to life.


  9. In Jiu Jitsu, we use what’s known as the ‘Gable Grip’. It’s one of the most effective and strongest grips you can use. I’m almost positive that came from Dan.

    Thanks for the post Tim!


  10. Tim,

    You are absolutely right. Being too cautious is something I’ve been guilty of on plenty of occasions in my life.

    Much better to break out the aggression and bust some heads. Feels much better than being a politically correct pansy-ass!




  11. Hey Tim…You’re my Dan Gable. When the occassional tough day pops up, I listen to the 4HWW (:

    Best of luck with the new book. Can’t wait to get it tomorrow.


  12. My parents used to drive me from TN to Gable’s camp every summer in Iowa City in early 90s. I’ll never forget the day Gable actually demonstrated a move and used me as his drill partner. Incredible to be in touch with real greatness. Gable and those early 90’s Hawkeye teams changed my life.

    Oh, and I had “Competitor Supreme” as well. Great film.