It’s a common life trajectory for men: graduate college, get married, get a 9 to 5 job, have some kids, settle down in the suburbs. And somewhere along that way, they start to get a little soft and stagnant. They let themselves go, becoming less active, and more sedentary. They have more material possessions but fewer hobbies and interests. They lose their edge.
My guest has spent his life battling against this loss. In his more than five decades on earth, he’s served in the French navy, trained soldiers in close quarter combat, skydiving, long-range weapon shooting, first aid, and explosives, set a deep water scuba diving record, and studied multiple martial arts, and he currently owns a gym, teaches as a MovNat Master Instructor, and coaches men over forty in how to live better, stronger, and more vibrant lives. His name is Vic Verdier and today on the show he shares his advice on how a man can stay fit and engaged with life as he gets older. We first discuss Vic’s background before getting into why it’s important for men to seek physical achievement and become physical polymaths, and the role strength training, cardio, and working on your balance plays in that pursuit. Vic then shares his advice on keeping the pounds down and your testosterone up as you age, and why he thinks training in combatives is important on both a practical and psychological level. We talk about the importance of maintaining a connection to nature and keeping your possessions minimal, before ending our conversation with why it’s important to stay comfortable with being uncomfortable, and how men can continue to seek adventure and exploration, even when they live in the suburbs.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
- How being paralyzed for a time helped Vic turn his life around
- Why does Vic focus his work on men over 40?
- The value of being a physical fitness polymath
- The strength training methodology Vic recommends
- Why cardio is overrated
- Eating well as you age
- Why men should know how to fight
- The benefits of maintaining your connection with nature
- Why a minimalist approach to life improves your health
- Why you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable
- What should a man do if he’s feeling stagnant in life?
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast
- How I Learned to Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
- Weird and Wonderful Ways to Get Uncomfortable
- Physical Benchmarks Every Man Should Meet, At Every Age
- The Workout the World Forgot
- The 10 Physical Skills Every Man Should Master
- Break Out of Your Cage and Stop Being a Human Zoo Animal
- The History of Physical Fitness
- How to Escape Human Captivity and Reclaim Your Primal Health
- Get Fit Like a Wild Man: A Primer on MovNat
- Video of Vic doing cool MovNat stuff
- Keep Moving
- How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage
- Take the Simple Test That Can Predict Your Mortality
- Don’t Just Lift Heavy, Carry Heavy
- Kettlebells and the Psychology of Training
- How to Master the Kettlebell Swing
- Get Rucking
- 12 Balance Exercises You Can Do On a 2×4
- How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Will Make You a Better Man
- Sisu, The Finnish Art of Strength
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Parkour
- Gulliver’s Travels
- On Becoming Antifragile
Connect With Vic
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Listen ad-free on Stitcher Premium; get a free month when you use code “manliness” at checkout.
Read the Transcript
If you appreciate the full text transcript, please consider donating to AoM. It will help cover the costs of transcription and allow other to enjoy it. Thank you!
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. It’s a common life trajectory for men: Graduate college, get married, get a nine-to-five job, have some kids, settle down in the suburbs. And somewhere along that way, they start to get a little soft and stagnant. They let themselves go, becoming less active and more sedentary. They’ve got more material possessions, but fewer hobbies and interests. Just lose their edge.
My guest has spent his life battling against this loss. He has more than five decades on earth. He’s served in the French Navy, trained soldiers in close-quarter combat, skydiving, long-range weapon shooting, first aid and explosives. He also set a deep-water scuba diving record, and studied multiple martial arts, and he currently owns a gym, teaches as a MovNat Master Instructor, and coaches men over 40 in how to live better, stronger and more vibrant lives. His name is Vic Verdier and today, on the show, he shares his advice on how a man can stay fit and engaged with life as he gets older.
We first discuss Vic’s background before getting into why it’s important for men to seek physical achievement and become physical polymaths in the role of strength training, cardio and balanced work in that pursuit. Vic then shares his advice on keeping the pounds down, your testosterone up as you age, and why he thinks training in combatives is important on both a practical and psychological level. We talk about the importance of maintaining a connection to nature and keeping your possessions minimal, before ending our conversation with why it’s important to stay comfortable with being uncomfortable, and how men can continue to seek adventure and exploration, even when they live in the suburbs. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at aom.is/edge.
Vic Verdier, welcome to the show.
Vic Verdier: Oh! Well, thank you. Thank you, Brett. Thank you for having me.
Brett McKay: So you’re the most interesting man in the world. So we’re gonna start this conversation talking about your background. You’re a MovNat instructor, and I think a lot of our listeners are familiar with MovNat. We’ve had Erwan Le Corre on the podcast a few times. We’ve written about MovNat on the site several times. But you were first introduced to the philosophy that’s behind MovNat, developed by this guy named Georges Hébert, physical fitness philosophy, by your grandfather. We’ll start there. So tell us about your grandfather and Georges Hébert’s philosophy, and then how that led you to joining the French Navy.
Vic Verdier: Okay. Thank you for the nice word. So obviously, I’m French, you can tell by my accent. And as a teenager, I wanted to become a musician, so I spent hours and hours sitting in front of a piano or a keyboard or synthesizers, and playing rock and jazz rock and so on. And my grandfather at that time was a PT instructor in the the military, and he didn’t like to see me having this kind of lifestyle. So every weekend, he will take me out and we’d do some… Any kind of sport or any kind of adventures in nature: Going to the woods, running, climbing, things like that. And when I realized, a few years later, that music was not really an option in France, the music industry is very small, so I decided to join the Navy. So I became an officer in the French Navy and I was mainly training officers from foreign armies.
So that’s where I start to learn about Georges Hébert ’cause most of the training at that time was based on his philosophy. And soon, I’m skydiving, scuba diving. I learned to use firearms, to teach hand-to-hand combat. But one of the things that I really, really enjoyed was the obstacle courses we had. In French, obstacle course is parcours d’obstacles. And it’s probably the origin of the word “parkour”, the sport, the urban sport. And I was practicing over and over again, and that was one of my favorite things to do in the Navy.
When I left the Navy, I started to teach scuba diving. I was very interested in deep diving, deep ship wrecks, deep caves, using rebreathers, mixed gas diving, what I like to call the three D: Deep, dark, and dangerous. And I was really into that so I wrote many books, I was traveling a lot, teaching that. And at some point, I moved to Thailand, and my lifestyle started to go down the drain a bit. Started to put some weight on, I was 45-pound overweight. And one day, unfortunately, I had a diving accident. It’s called decompression sickness, and it’s when you have tiny bubbles, nitrogen and helium bubbles, in your bloodstream. And some of them get stuck in my spinal cord. And for several weeks, I was really paralyzed from the waist down. So I had to relearn to walk, relearn to move. And that’s when I remembered all I had learned from Georges Hébert, meaning the different ways to crawl, the different ways to walk and run and move.
I got better. I started to enjoy Thai boxing, Muay Thai. I started to teach it. And about 12 years ago, I met Erwan, Erwan Le Corre from MovNat. It was at the beginning of MovNat. And we came along very well. And I started to travel and teach for MovNat. Now, 12 years later, I’m still teaching for MovNat, but I also go on a gym in Seattle named Kettlebility, and I also do some online coaching for men. And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Brett McKay: Well, that’s quite a life. I mean, it’s great. So you started off musician, you trained French commandos, foreign commandos as well. Your shipwreck crew’s really interesting. You actually set a record for the deepest shipwreck with a mixed breather, correct? At one point?
Vic Verdier: Yes, at one point, yes. Since then, the record doesn’t hold anymore, but yes, at some point, yes.
Brett McKay: And that’s… I mean I don’t think people realize how dangerous that shipwreck diving is. It’s really… ‘Cause if you get stuck, you’re hosed, basically.
Vic Verdier: I actually think that cave diving is even more dangerous because you’re well very far from the exit, so there’s no way to come back to the surface when you get lost.
Brett McKay: And now, you’re coaching MovNat. So and again, you’re going back to that philosophy that your grandfather embraced, and the French Navy embraced, the physical fitness, the natural method which is all about crawling, climbing, running, walking, fighting, swimming, just those basic movements that make us human. So you mentioned you do some coaching for men. A lot of your focus is on men who are over 40 because not only helping them become more fit, but also, just get better in life, become more virile, manlier. So let’s talk about that because there’s something I’ve noticed that a lot of men, when they hit about their mid-30s, early 40s, they develop what I call… I’ve been calling it soft to suburban dad syndrome. So this is basically, it’s a guy, he gets out of college, gets married, has kids, moves to the suburbs, just settles down, which is a fine trajectory in life. It’s what we’re all aiming for. But in the process of that, they sort of let themselves go. They get softer, physically and emotionally. They lose their interest. They’re not very engaged with life. It’s just like work, back to the house, watch TV, go to work the next day. So just lose their edge.
So you have a lot of ideas on helping men get their edge back. And the foundation of that is physical fitness. We’ll talk about different exercises you talked… And specific exercises, but in general, you start off helping men just rediscover the value of moving. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Vic Verdier: Yeah, so first of all, I really like the name, the soft, suburban dad syndrome. I think it’s a great name. And I hope you do not mind, but that I will use it again? Yeah. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: Yeah, sure, go ahead.
Vic Verdier: I think it’s important for everyone to have a sense of achievement. On an evolutionary standpoint, for men, this sense of achievement was mainly based on mastering skills and having a rule in the tribe. So I think men are physical by nature. We identify with our ability to do things, to be strong, to be able to move. And unfortunately, when we age and we have a more sedentary lifestyle, we lose this kind of drive, this kind of self-esteem, and it’s a vicious cycle, if you want. You have less drive, so you move less. And if you have less movement, you develop more limitations, maybe some pain. Then you become afraid of moving, and because you are afraid of moving, you reach a state of resignation, something like, “Yeah, it’s not for me anymore. I’m too old for that.” And of course, if you have less drive, then your movements are less, and so on and so forth.
So I think it’s important for men, for aging men to keep strength and mobility on a physical standpoint, but also, on a mental standpoint, to keep having fun and to keep this social aspect of moving, of doing something physical. So yes, I’m coaching more matured men. And the solution, most of the time, is to have those men to move every day, but not only to move every day, but if possible also, to move with other people, this kind of cooperation, kind of social aspect of movement and of physical activities.
Brett McKay: And so what are some movements that guys who… They work in an office job all day, they live in the suburbs. What kind of movements do you… Are they often neglecting and you encourage them to do?
Vic Verdier: Yeah, and lifting is one of them if we want to keep some strength, but simple movements like squatting or like spending time on the ground, in my opinion, very important, okay? We lose mobility, we have some limitations, and we start to get a bit shy on moving. Squatting is something we can do pretty much anywhere. We can squat when we watch TV, instead of sitting on a couch. We can spend time on the ground, even if you’re working on your computer. Right now, I’m sitting on the floor in my room. You can have a standing desk and move all day long. And as soon as you can, working outside or playing sport is something essential.
Brett McKay: And you encourage men to become physical polymaths. What do you mean by that?
Vic Verdier: It means that the more things you do, the more movements you learn and you practice, the more you expand your layer of movement. Meaning when you want to learn something new, it’s always easier if you start with movements you already know. So the more things you learn, the more physical activities you practice, the better it is for you or for your development as an athlete. And when I say athlete, it means anyone; anyone is an athlete, somehow.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I definitely think adults get in a rut. You’re doing the same exercises, the same movement every day, every workout, over and over. But when was the last time you climbed a tree? When was the last time you swam across something? When was the last time you carried a load for a distance? Do you know how to jump down from something from height and roll to break your fall? And then there are tons of variations of everything. There are different kinds of crawls you can learn. There’s different ways you can swim and different ways you can swing across something. And you would say you shouldn’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone and do that kind of stuff, even if you’re a 40-year-old guy.
Vic Verdier: Yes, of course. The thing is, we tend to be very specialized. The reason for that is we like to do… We like to be good at what we’re doing, okay? And therefore, we tend to work on the strong points and neglect weak points. I think it’s important to be good at pretty much everything; not necessarily extremely good at everything, but at least good at everything. And that way, it’s easier to move, it’s easier to learn new skills, and we feel better, we have less pain, less limitations in other word, we get better at living.
Brett McKay: So you mentioned one of the things you encourage the men you coach to do, is to get some strength training in, and that’s because as you get older, that’s one of the first things that starts going. If you don’t continue strength training, you lose muscle mass, you lose strength. What kinds of strength training methods do you recommend for your clients?
Vic Verdier: First of, I think it’s a bit… If you read in the dictionary, the definition of sarcopenia, you will read that it’s a loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process. And I don’t like the “natural part of the aging process.” I think it’s not natural at all. We were not like that a few generations ago. And if you go back in time, you have great example of much older athletes who were able to do impressive feats of strength, okay? One of my favorite example is Leonidas, the king of Sparta. We all know about the movie 300 and the Battle of Thermopylae. When he died during this battle, he was 60, and he was in front of his men. So I think that the sarcopenia, the loss of strengths as we age is a myth. We can really fight that. And the best way to fight that is to move and to lift. If we can lift heavy objects every day, it’s good for our muscles, it’s good for our bone density, and we can do that in different ways. We can do that through manual labor or we can go to the gym and lift heavy stuff.
Brett McKay: And you like kettlebells, and that’s something that you’ve spent a lot of time with your coach. And why do you like kettlebells? What’s the benefit of those?
Vic Verdier: So as I said, I own a fitness studio in Seattle, and we mostly do Russian kettlebell and powerlifting barbell training. So the reason kettlebell is a great tool, it’s because it’s a good way to train explosiveness. It’s a good way to train ballistic movements. Explosiveness is something that we often neglect. It’s our ability to quickly generate power, okay? And that’s something we use in daily life. That’s something we use in martial arts. That’s something we use when we play any kind of team sport. We need to be explosive. We can do that with our body weight. We can jump and sprint, for example, but we can also do that with weights through kettlebell or Olympic lifting. And kettlebell, for me, is a very convenient way to train explosiveness without too much of training, without years and years of practice.
Brett McKay: What are your favorite kettlebell movements?
Vic Verdier: I think the staple is definitely the kettlebell swing, that the one that everybody can safely learn and practice on a daily basis and see great progress.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I like that. I use the kettlebell swing as part of my high intensity, my conditioning. So after I do my regular barbell training, I’ll end with a couple rounds of kettlebell swings. It feels great, it gets you… So we’re all about the kettlebell, not only it’s that strength, but it also gets your heart rate going as well.
Vic Verdier: Oh, definitely, yes, yes. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: And what’s your take on cardio? What are your favorite cardio exercises for men you coach?
Vic Verdier: For many years, or at least the last decades, we put off emphasize on cardio, okay? And cardio, the last few decades was mainly on treadmill, for example. Try to explain to your ancestors that you go to a special place indoor and you have a special machine that we simulate the way you walk or you run. I think cardio is a bit overrated, and I unfortunately see a lot of people in gyms spending hours and hours walking or running on a treadmill. Running is useful; walking is even more useful. As we became more sedentary, we lost this ability to walk over long distance. And I think just going outside and walk, explore the city, explore nature is probably an easy and convenient way to improve your cardio as well.
Brett McKay: And that’s something you can also can do with friends, it’s a very social activity, go for a walk.
Vic Verdier: And that’s a very social activity.
Brett McKay: Yeah, hike, walk or whatever. So focus your cardio on walking, don’t overdo the cardio. Yes, it’s important for metabolic health, heart health, but you don’t need to make it the only thing you do. Make sure you get some explosive training in there, strength training as well, and find cardio you enjoy doing.
So let’s go to the MovNat part of what you do. One thing you talk about a lot is being able to balance. Why is this important as we age? And what are some ways to practice balancing?
Vic Verdier: It’s important for everybody, we’re always in a state of balancing somehow, unless you’re laying on your bed, you’re always balancing. The problem is not balancing, the problem is falling, and we start falling mainly because we don’t challenge our sense of balance enough. As we age, the consequences of falling become even more critical. There’s easy ways to challenge your balance. You can go barefoot or with minimal shoes, and there’s a lot of receptors on the sole of your foot and the ankle that will stimulate your brain and help you to get better at balancing. Because we always walk on the asphalt or a flat surface with shoes on, we tend to stop challenging our balance somehow. Okay. So being barefoot, being on unstable surfaces, being on uneven terrain, going hiking, uphill, downhill. Or it’s something also you can practice with your eyes closed. That’s also a good way to challenge your balance. It can be eyes closed, or just not looking down in the first place, and that could be practiced anywhere. When you climb stairs, when you walk in your apartment with the light off, or walking on stones, uneven terrain. There’s so many opportunities to challenge your balance that there’s no excuse not to do it.
Brett McKay: And another easy thing, we’ve talked about this on this website before, if you wanna be more deliberate and intentional about your balance practice, get a two by four and put it in your living room and just walk on it.
Vic Verdier: Yes, that’s what we… That’s something we practice a lot in MovNat during the certifications, and with the practitioners. A two by four is an easy way. It’s kind of an entry point for anything that would be more challenging in the future. The two by four is on the floor first and we move around, we move on it, forward and backward, we crawl on it, and after a certain point, the idea is to bring this two by four a bit higher up and increase the challenge, the difficulty by introducing this fear factor of falling or potential fall.
Brett McKay: Alright, so we talked about movement, and we’ve talked about doing some strength training, working on explosiveness with maybe some Olympic lifts with a barbell, or a kettlebell, moving every day, working on your balance. Something a lot of men experience as they get older is that they start putting on the pounds. What’s your advice about how to eat and diet as you get older?
Vic Verdier: As we age, there’s a drop in testosterone and it means most of the time, the body fat will increase over the years. There’s a lot of different physiological mechanism for that, but I think keeping the weight down is not only a matter of diet, it’s probably even more a matter of lifestyle. I use an acronym for that. I like acronyms. And for me it’s the SEEDS, S-E-E-D-S. So the first S stands for sleep, and usually the lack of sleep will create a nominal cascade that will disrupt our ability to really process the food we eat in a very efficient way. The E stands for exercise, and obviously the more active we are, the more we can fight this drop in testosterone. The second E stands for environment, and testosterone is closely linked to vitamin D, and the more we’re outside, the more we enjoy sunshine, the more vitamin D we’ll get. D stands for diet, and it’s not as much the food we eat, okay, because honestly, diet is more like a religion for some people. I think it’s more about common sense. As we age, we move less than when we were young, and therefore we should eat less. That’s one thing.
The second thing is, when do you eat? And sometimes it’s a good idea to fast a bit because again, on an evolutionary standpoint, that’s what we did. So our body is used to that. And finally the last S is for stress, and it’s something I really emphasize in my coaching because nowadays we live in a constant state of stress. Okay? Stress from work, stress from daily life. And I think it’s important to live a simple life, a life where we have time to meditate, maybe also time to do some journaling, time to spend some time in nature, time to listen to music, time to be more creative, in order to decrease this level of stress that is actually killing us somehow. So, as we age, we tend to get or to add a bit of body fat to our body, and I think that all those elements will definitely help any man who start to experience this drop in testosterone.
Brett McKay: So you’re also an expert in combatives, and you encourage men to learn how to fight. So why do you think being a protector and knowing how to fight is important, both on a practical level, I guess, to know how to defend yourself and your family, but also on a psychological level?
Vic Verdier: That’s an interesting topic. That’s something I really like. I’m really passionate about combatives in general. First of all, because men are, historically speaking, our protectors, they protect their tribe, they protect their family, and for a very long time, all the jobs in the army, the police, the mercenary, security, it was mostly men. So being able to fight is important for them, but for the rest of us, it’s still important. It’s important to defend ourself, it’s important to defend our family, the people we love, and sometimes it’s also important to be able to defend someone, even if it’s a stranger in the street, someone who is in danger. For us, it creates this feeling of safety but also of confidence. So I think it’s important for all of us to learn some combatives, some form of combatives, one way or the other.
Brett McKay: What have you seen happen to a man, maybe he’s like 35, 40, and they take up some sort of combatives, whether that’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu… Like, what’s the change you see that happens in them?
Vic Verdier: They definitely become more confident. You can even see it in their posture, the way they walk. There was an interesting study a few years ago about how criminals will pick their victims, and it’s mostly about their posture and their gait, and they will pinpoint which one of the person they will see in the street would be a hard target or a soft target. So I think it’s important for anyone to have some form of training. I personally like striking, Thai boxing, because I used to teach Thai boxing. I still teach Krav Maga, but I think it’s also important to do some grappling, some Brazilian jiu-jitsu as you mentioned. Also to know how to use weapons. It could be improvised weapons, edged weapons, firearms.
Brett McKay: And the nice thing about taking up a combatives practice is not only do you get that you learn how to defend yourself, you get that confidence boost, it’s also you’re moving your body. So if you’re looking for a way to exercise, you’re killing two birds with one stone there.
Vic Verdier: It’s usually a very good exercise, yes, and good for your cardio, and good for your strength when you have to work to move someone else’s body around you. Yeah, it develops some strength and some explosiveness.
Brett McKay: So one thing you talk about too with your coaching is maintaining your connection with nature. Why is that so important? What are the values or the benefits of getting out into nature? Like doing your exercise, for example, when you’re out in nature.
Vic Verdier: If you think about it, we live in a very artificial environment. We are conditioned to follow a path, and it happens for most of the population on this planet. I think the Western world, in Asia, worldwide, we tend to live more and more often in cities, and we are conditioned, brainwashed to follow the paths, to go through pedestrian crossing ’cause otherwise it’s not safe, to take the elevator, to follow the fences, because it’s more comfortable, it’s easier. And I see three benefits of going in nature and training in nature. The first one is you have less safety because everything is challenging, everything is challenging for your body, but also for your brain. Nothing is smooth, nothing is safe, somehow. Everything can break, everything can collapse. So it forces your body and your brain to assess the situation every single second.
The second benefit of training in nature for me is it’s not easy. You really have to pay attention. You become more resilient. You develop this mental toughness that we were talking about. You recently had a podcast about “sisu,” the Finnish word for courage and grit, and so on, and I think being in nature forces you to develop that. And the third benefit of training in nature is, I would say, it’s the sense of creativity. I know it sounds a bit weird, but being able to making your own path. In nature, there’s always multiple ways to go from point A to point B, and you can choose many of them, many different ways, depending on your abilities, depending on your fitness on that specific day, depending on your mood and so on. So I think it’s important to let your brain wander around and find opportunities to train in nature.
Brett McKay: And this could mean you’re gonna look kind of silly. I think a lot of people think, “I’m just gonna go for a walk in nature,” which is fine, but you actually encourage guys like, “No, find a tree to climb, walk barefoot, pick up a log, climb under a log. Look for ways to do that sort of stuff.”
Vic Verdier: Yes, yes. [chuckle] I know it’s always a bit difficult for people to break this kind of convention somehow. There’s a very French tradition of fighting conventions when it comes to movement. I talked a bit about the parkour and the Yamakasi, who a few decades ago, started a new sport where you climb and jump in the streets, and everybody’s looking at you like you’re kind of a gangster trying to escape the police. There’s a lot of examples. In France, people like Philippe Petit, who was balancing between the Twin Towers or balancing on a wire over the Niagara Falls. There’s plenty of strange people like that, who want to break the conventions of movement. We don’t have to go to the extremes, but it takes a bit of courage to go in a park and to look like a weirdo, to crawl, to climb on trees, but somehow I think there’s a lot benefits. It builds your courage against peer pressure, but it’s also building your courage facing the environment, the sun, the cold, the rain, the dirt, the insects, all the things that can scare some people.
Brett McKay: Alright, so don’t worry about it. Like a soft, suburban dad would worry about looking like a weirdo.
Vic Verdier: Yes. [chuckle] You start doing it, and if possible you do it with other people, so the kind of social aspect of it, you start doing it and then it becomes more normal for you, and you don’t pay attention to other people looking at you with a strange eye.
Brett McKay: So a part of soft, suburban dad syndrome is you start accumulating too much stuff, and this stuff starts weighing you down, and you talk about this with your coaching with men, is to keep stuff to a minimum. So how do you encourage the men you coach to stay out of that consumer mindset and keep their accumulation of stuff to a minimum?
Vic Verdier: For me at the beginning, it was very easy because I was traveling a lot, and when you travel, you definitely have to downsize. Even if I was traveling with diving equipment, dry suit, with breathers, it was still just a few bags. Progressively, I downsized even more. Now, everything I own fits in a small duffel bag, a weekender, because I travel on a motorcycle all the time, and you realize that you don’t really need anything other than what? Maybe a few shirts and pair of pants, t-shirts, a couple of… A pair of shoes. And everything else you need, you can rent it most of the time.
So for many people, we buy stuff because it’s comfortable, or it’s useful at a specific moment, or it makes us feel good or look good at a specific time, and then we store it somewhere and we never use it again. We have plenty of excuses for that. “It’s cheaper than renting, or we might use it again later,” or, “Yeah, I know it’s broken, but I can still fix it at some point,” and so on. So we have plenty of excuses, but in reality, we don’t need that much. Of course, when you have a house and when you have kids, you need more things, but very often, there’s plenty of unnecessary and useless things that we accumulate. You’ve probably read at some point Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift?
Brett McKay: Of course.
Vic Verdier: And I don’t know if you remember in the story, his ship sinks, and he ends up on the shore of Lilliput Island, and you have tiny people with tiny ropes that try to keep him down, and every single rope is tiny and he can easily break it, but there’s so many of them that after a while, he cannot even move anymore. And for me, all the stuff we accumulate are a bit like those tiny ropes. A single one is nothing, but when we have too many of them, then we cannot travel or we start to worry about someone breaking in our house, so we need to buy an alarm system. We can’t move. We tend to carry too much stuff when we travel, and so on and so forth. So I think it’s important for everyone to get rid of stuff, and my rule is very simple. If you don’t use something for one year, you don’t need it.
Brett McKay: Right. This is like getting rid of stuff or keeping your stuff to a minimum. This will help reduce the stress.
Vic Verdier: Yes, definitely, yeah.
Brett McKay: Right. You don’t have to worry about your stuff anymore, or worry about taking care of your stuff. Also, stuff tends to break down, you gotta fix it, and that’s annoying, so just keep your stuff to a minimum. So you also talk about men as they get older, they get comfortable with being comfortable, and so you encourage older men to start doing hard things. So what kind of things do you encourage your men that you coach to cultivate intentional hardship?
Vic Verdier: I think everything around us became about comfort, being more comfortable. When you’re too cold, you have a heater, when you’re too hot, you have the AC, when it rains, you have an umbrella, when it’s sunny, you have sunglasses. So we have a lot of things to help us to get more comfortable, to get things done more easily. I don’t know, you probably remember, but when I was a kid, all the cars I was using, they had this handle to open and close the window. You don’t see that anymore. Now there’s always the automatic windows. I don’t really see the benefit of it. Okay? So pushing our limit, making us more uncomfortable is something we need to do. We need to walk more instead of driving. We need to carry our bag instead of using a trolley or wheels, we need to go outside even if the weather is bad. So I think it’s important to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, yes.
Brett McKay: And you’re also a cold showers… You’re a big fan of cold showers as well.
Vic Verdier: Yes, definitely, yeah.
Brett McKay: So they are simple things you can do. Even if you live in the suburbs, you can do uncomfortable things.
Vic Verdier: Yes, I think it’s more of a state of mind than anything else. I am a big fan of stoicism, and one of Seneca’s letter is all about experiencing poverty once in a while. And a few years ago, I did a course where I spent three days in the street, sleeping on the beach, living out of whatever I could find. And it opens your eyes on what homeless people actually experience every day. Again, being comfortable with your uncomfortable, being able to live out of nothing is probably a great way to increase resilience, to increase… I remember you had an article on The Art of Manliness about Antifragile by Nassim Taleb, and I think it’s something we have to cultivate, we have to work on.
Brett McKay: So something you talk about with the men you coach is that they reach a certain point where they hit those goals that they had when they were young adults. They graduate college, they get a job, they get married, they have kids, get a house, and at that point, they kind of become stagnant. And what’s inspiring about you… How old are you, Vic?
Vic Verdier: 57.
Brett McKay: 57, right. So Vic’s 57, but you ride on a motorcycle everywhere, you own a gym, you’ve dived shipwrecks, you do combatives, you do firearms training. How do you encourage… What’s your advice to men who feel like they’ve just become stagnant to maintain that sort of spirit of risk and exploration, adventure? Even when they have a job… I don’t think you encourage guys to quit their job and move their family from their home…
Vic Verdier: No, no, no, no. [chuckle]
Brett McKay: But how can men maintain that vitality, even when they have those responsibilities they have at home?
Vic Verdier: I personally use two strategies, if you want. The first one is very easy. It’s to read books, books and biographies, novels, books of adventures, books of people taking risk. I’m thinking Hemingway, Jack London, but also biographies of great leaders who took risks, and thanks to you, Brett, I learned more about Theodore Roosevelt and the way he reinvented himself all the time, challenging himself. And when you read those books, you realize that you don’t really have anything to lose by trying new things all the time. So that’s my first strategy, getting some inspiration from reading. The second strategy for me is to, on a weekly basis, to do some kind of self-assessment, meaning every week I’m thinking about my life and what I’m doing, and when I start to settle down, I know it’s time to do something different. Do you remember this movie, Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray is repeating the same day over and over again?
Brett McKay: Of course.
Vic Verdier: I think… If I live twice the same day, somehow I wasted one day. So I try to have some diversity in my life, and every time I think that I fall into some kind of routine, I know I have to explore something else or go somewhere else or do… Take another course or learn some new skills. And you were talking about my motorcycle, so one of my projects this summer is to do a cross country trip in the US on my Harley, so from West to East Coast, and to teach workshop in every single state I will go through, and camp and meet people and exploring new places. And I know it’s not something that everybody can do because you have some responsibilities, family, and so on. I have the chance or I gave myself the chance to be able to do that, but everyone can do something a bit similar, meaning every weekend, we can have this kind of micro-adventure and do something we haven’t done before, or explore a place we haven’t been before.
Brett McKay: Right. It doesn’t have to be big. I think a lot of guys, they think it has to be big for it to count, but that’s not true. It can be… You could do it even something like on a week night, sleep outside in your backyard with your kids. Do it.
Vic Verdier: Yeah, it’s a great thing to do, yes.
Brett McKay: Super easy to do. Well, Vic, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Vic Verdier: You can go on my website, vicverdiercoaching.com or any of the social media out there. I usually have some posts on a regular basis. All the social media are based on Vic Verdier Coaching, so it’s easy to find.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Vic, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Vic Verdier: Thank you, thank you very much, Brett.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Vic Verdier. He is a men’s coach, MovNat instructor, gym owner, and you can find out more information about his work at his gym website, kettlebility.com. Also check out his Instagram feed where he’s posting a lot of the stuff that we talked about, Vic Verdier Coaching, and Verdier is spelled V-E-R-D-I-E-R. Vic Verdier Coaching, check it out. Also make sure to check out our show notes at aom.is/edge where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast. Check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archives with thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you think of, and if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code “MANLINESS” at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you’d take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing this show with a friend or family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding you to not only listen to the AOM podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.