The day of my senior prom I had a life or death experience.
In those days everyone would go to a dance, and then head back to a rented hotel room (or rooms) and party. The trouble was as we would enter, hotel employees would start searching our bags and confiscating our booze.
Of course we had no idea they weren’t allowed to do that, we deferred to authority and the big thing was, how well can we hide our hooch so that we can get it into the room.
On April 27 some years ago around 4pm my friend and I had a brilliant idea. We would go to the room early and drop off the beer BEFORE the dance. No one had done this before, the hotel staff would never expect it.
I jumped into my father’s car and off we went, high on our own great foresight and the prospect of things happening on that once in a lifetime experience. Both of our dates were hot and slutty, it was hard not to rub my hands together and pull on my nonexistent mustache.
We pulled up to a stoplight and looked over to our right at the car next to us. It was an old mustang with blacked out windows. The sun was shining through the windows so we could see the driver( who was a girl with long curly hair), we continued to stare when we saw a male silhouette lean forward and give us the finger.
My friend and I were no stranger to fights, we scuffed up quite a few times. Where I grew up, a night out was spent trying to hook up with a girl, and if that didn’t happen, the next best thing was a fight. (Yes, pathetic and lame, sue me we were in highschool) We both immediately returned the offensive gesture. FUCK YOU TOO.
The light turned green and we both start driving. I’m looking over at this asshole and he’s throwing up gang signs.
Another thing that I was used to.
This clown thought he was hard but where I lived, this was shit people did to mimic real gangs and I despised this sort of shit.
Then this guy climbs out of his passenger side window and throws a water bottle at my car and hits the door. I pointed back at him “Pull over motherfucker”!
It was at this point where reality and the bubble I’d lived in regarding REAL violence met.
This guy waved behind him and my friend and I both looked behind us to see who or what he was gesturing to. There was a big old school cherry red Cadillac filled with at least 4 other guys.
Now you have to consider something, at this point I was the meanest, toughest, guy I knew. I had won two state championships in wrestling and I weighed 190 pounds of lean muscle and testosterone. My friend was an All American nose guard. I looked at my friend when we both realized we were outnumbered. “We can still beat the fuck out of all of them”.
I’d never imagined that a group of guys, who outnumbered an opposing force 2 to 1 would also intend on using weapons. I always thought there was an unwritten rule about mutual combat (even on the street).
That there was a fistfight, someone lost or both quit and you lived to fight another day.
My buddy looked over at me and said with a little panic in his voice “Fisto, they’ve got a gun“. I might have considered myself tough but I was also nobody’s fool. I cut the Cadillac off and looked to get off the main street.
As it turned out, I was somebody’s fool. The car in front slammed on the brakes and I almost rear ended them. The caddy pulled up right behind me. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backwards.
They were swarming my vehicle and I knew there was no other recourse.
“GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR”!!! I yelled.
I wasn’t afraid, I was fucking fearless. I was so angry that these pieces of shit had imposed themselves on my friend and I.
I ran around the front of the car and dropped the first guy I saw with a big right hand. His brow burst open and I remember feeling satisfaction. I hit the next guy with a glancing blow and was about to follow up when I felt like I’d just pulled a muscle in my lower back.
It was excruciating. I whipped around to see another guy with a knife in his hand and the thought “I’m going to die on the side of this goddamn road” flashed through my mind.
I hit the guy in front of me as hard as I could and then I felt another sensation as one guy ran up and put one hand around my waist and I felt like I was being scratched deeply.
I knew I’d just been cut.
I turned around again and hit him too.
I looked over to see my friend and he was on top of the guy he had throttling him. “Good” I thought. I turned back around and fought with two guys for what seemed like forever, every time I’d turn around and hit one guy the other would be stabbing and slashing at my back.
Insanity set in.
People were driving by holding their horns down and screaming “stop” out of windows.
Finally I dropped one of them and I rejoiced “Now I can concentrate on just one!” I almost licked my lips at the thought.
These guys weren’t big, they were punks with weapons. I could tell the guy I turned on was afraid. I ran at him and started beating him senseless. I wanted to kill him. I wanted gouge out his fucking eyes. I wrenched the knife out of his hands and looked over to check on my friend.
What I saw made my blood run cold.
The guy that I had knocked down was right behind my friend with his knife raised. My friend was hitting the guy on the ground and didn’t realize he was in danger.
I threw my guy to the side and sprinted towards my friend as fast as I could. It seemed like a dream where you never actually get there. The guy was stabbing and slashing at him, my lungs were already on fire, and although he was only about 8 meters away from me, I knew I wasn’t going to get there in time.
I sent this asshole reeling with an uppercut and he flew into the street.
I looked down at my friend and saw a shadow underneath me and instinctively ducked and turned while the first guy I threw aside slashed at my face and missed to cut through my left ear.
Pain seared through my head like lightening stuck the side of my head. I screamed out in pain, I thought my ear was cut off.
It also gave me another burst of energy that used to knock him onto the hood of the caddy.
I saw my bloodied friend laying on the ground at my feet and I thought he was dead. I looked back up at the four other guys still in the fight surrounding me and I grit my teeth and spit.
They were hesitant to rush in and I tried to yell “come on!” but what came out was a hoarse gasp.
They were bloodied and beaten also.
I was exhausted.
I got out a “fuck you!” that had a little more steam.
I was going to die on the side of this fucking road.
I accepted it. My life was over for me before things ever really started.
That didn’t mean I was going roll over.
FUCK YOU! I yelled strongly this time.
It was at that moment some guy drove up from the road,beeping his horn and with a pistol in his hand thundered “I’m a cop! You’re all under arrest!”
The punks immediately ran to their cars and took off.
I stayed there unsure of what to do. I looked over at the crowd of people standing there watching me. I must have looked horrible. My shirt was gone, I had blood streaming from a hundred cuts. My friend wasn’t moving as he lay at my feet.
“Could someone please call an ambulance!?”
That seemed to snap them out of it. Some people ran over and started looking at my wounds and trying to help my friend.
I grabbed his hand and called his name, he didn’t respond and I thought he was dead.
Suddenly my buddy came to…he was asking for chewing gum.
It seemed like forever until the ambulance got there. I still had no idea how bad my ear was. The EMT just grimaced when he saw it and gave me a cold pack to hold against it.
I was 17 at the time so I was stuck in pediatrics. Blood everywhere and baby ducks on the walls. Doctors needed my parents’ consent to give me pain meds while they stitched me up but they were unreachable at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
I had several doctors stitching up wounds at once. I was giving a description to the police. I couldn’t focus.
(Brilliant move by the way, interview a 17 year old kid while he’s got no pain meds and receiving hundreds of stitches…)
Still, I remembered the guy I hit first.
“One guy had a big cut over his left eyebrow”
My friend was 18 and in the other part of the hospital. I asked how he was doing and they said he was stable.
I laid there, trying to maintain manly firmness while cuts and gashes were sown together.
I was taken to the x-ray room, my hands were so swollen the doctor thought they may be broken.
I couldn’t keep my hands still and they had to retake the xray several times. I was still talking to the cop who kept asking me the same questions over and over.
A nurse walked in “Officer, we’ve just had 3 guys that have been beaten up in a fight come in.”
Sure enough, it was them.
I smiled. Good.
I finished getting my stitches. I’d gone to the bathroom and found another cut on the side of my leg.
A plastic surgeon came and sowed my ear back together.
Parents and friends started arriving, wanting to know what happened. They were concerned.
One parent, a man I had great respect for asked what I was going to do.
“I have to get ready for Prom”.
The other parents were shocked. “No you just need to go home and rest”.
“No. I’m going. You only get one senior prom”.
I left the hospital with my buddy and our dates met us at his parents house to help us get dressed. We somehow turned it into a fun time, we were taking photos, there’s a great one of my date smiling in a gorgeous silver dress at the camera as she holds a bandage over the stab wound in my back while my friends mother is taping it on.
That night was something that deserves it’s own write up but it was straight out of a teen movie and ended with us half naked showing off our wounds and then going back with our girls.
That next day I went to visit my wrestling coach in his home. This man had taught me so much that looking back, the man I am today is from many of the principles I learned from him.
I relayed the story of what happened to him while he sat an listened. This man knew me better than almost anyone. You can tell the type of character someone has in the sport of wrestling. It’s hard. Unbelievable so.
At the end he told me something that would change the direction of my life.
“Fisto, you have the world by the balls. You need to write a list of things to do before you die”
This was at least 10 years before that stupid movie that has people saying “bucket list”. A term that get’s on my nerves because it makes this idea generic.
I went home and wrote “Things to do Before I Die (in no particular order)”
I carried this list in my wallet for 15 years. I wrote things down from the perspective of being a grandfather who had his grandson asking for another story. I wanted to be a Renaissance Man.
That list shaped my life.
What I realized pursuing and doing these various things is that your confidence, as a man becomes internalized. Your sense of how you value yourself is no longer dependent on someone else’s opinion (it shouldn’t anyway but that’s hard to internalize when you’ve never accomplished anything). Your value comes from your own views on how you see the world around you.
It’s like a switch just flips somewhere along the way.
When I think about my life I realize a big part of that switch was the things I learned about myself the day I was attacked.
I stood over my friends body and refused to run. I looked at people that outnumbered me and were trying to kill me with knives and told them to fuck off.
Can you imagine how easy things seem after going through something like that?
Oh there’s a cute girl, am I going to die if I approach her?
Oh there’s a job interview I have to go to, am I going to be stabbed if I don’t do well?
I’m not recommending going out and putting yourself in a life an death situation, but I am saying start pushing boundaries.
I’m a firm believer that life begins where your comfort zone ends.
Being productive in the following 4 areas in tandem are the key to developing the inner, unshakeable, confidence that men of stature and substance possess. You must:
Learn new skills, sharpen old ones.
Problem Solve: Travel, learn new languages, get into adventures.
Go to Battle: Practice martial arts, become fit.
Get good with women: Social interactions that lead to sex.
Have the courage to become the man you should.