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What Is Alpha?

Article written by Josh Mac

Top dog, big man, number one, head honcho, ALPHA MALE… that’s what we’re all trying to be here, right?  We want to be the biggest, strongest, scariest, most hardcore, bad-ass fishy in the pond, the scourge of barbells everywhere and the most wanted male in three counties.  Does that sound about right? Well, here’s how to become that hard ass, and also how not to.

First, we have to determine what qualities make up this boss.  Is it wearing sleeveless t-shirts on cold winter days?  Trash talking?  Neck tattoos? Having the biggest arms or the biggest lifts or just the having the biggest mouth? 

The internet would answer all of those with a collective yes.  The web would have you believe that the big, mouth breathing, dirtbag wearing the Sons of Anarchy hoodie slamming his fist on the bar is some kind of fine specimen of leadership.  And I’m here, writing this with a resounding and unequivocal: not really.

Here’s a little secret gang, one of the biggest marketing schemes in the fitness industry right now is selling a chunk of your missing self-confidence to you on a t-shirt for $19.95 plus shipping. For the price of a good restaurant porterhouse steak dinner, a company will sell you a foreign made “Alpha mode” warning label in your choice of color that basically reads “Caution: dirtbag with social anxiety issues.”

I’ll run across these guys while traveling and lifting at box gyms.  He’s got the tats, he’s got the beard, the Tapout gear, and now he has the #Beastmode shirt. Look out ladies; he’s so potent and fertile that he should be wearing a dental dam just to ask you to move because you’re blocking the mirror. 

Yolo.

Clearly, just wearing the shirt isn’t “Alpha.”  Maybe we need to look to the animal kingdom to see how Alpha males are perceived in the wild.  Let’s go with the obvious choice here, the lion.

Extremely photogenic lion is just here for the ladies
Extremely photogenic lion is just here for the ladies

Lions are the king of the jungle.  That said, they’re not all in the same social pecking order.  Some are the wandering vagrant loser lions of the plains while others are the big cat equivalent of Dan Bilzerian.

When a lone male lion musters up the lion balls to challenge an alpha, he’s got one thing to lose and everything to gain.

You see, lions travel in groups called prides, which are basically harems. So if you’re a male lion without a pride, then you aren’t exactly swimming in lionesses.  Without female concubines around, the young lion has a lot of incentive to challenge an Alpha.

Months of not getting any is enough to drive a lion bonkers to the point of running up on the biggest cat he sees and starting a fight for the title.

The lions size each other up, circle one another and begin to plot their attack.  They become very vocal at this point.  It usually starts with a simple: “You mad, bro?” followed by a “U wot m8?”  That’s usually enough to start the melee of claws and jaws.

When our young lion actually wins the challenge and kills or shames Simba’s dad into defeat, he takes over the pride.  No, I mean he literally TAKES over… he kills the offspring of the previous alpha and starts mating with the distraught mothers.  What a scumbag.

He also lies around all day as the lionesses go out to hunt for food.  Yep, the ladies do the hard work.  And when the lionesses finally return with their hard earned kill, he gets up off of his fat lion ass and eats first, before the cubs and the females who caught the damn food to begin with.  Kind of like a four legged Michael Moore.

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Now, I’m not going to lie… that part sounds pretty cool. But let’s face it; the alpha male lion is a fat, lazy, self-centered, egotistical, jerk-off.  Maybe those shirts DO make sense now.

But what makes a MAN an alpha male?  Well, considering that most of us work trivial jobs for paper that society agrees upon has value, that we trade for processed food and fermented grains in an air conditioned and heated mega building, only to hop into out fossil fuel burning combustion engine on wheels to motor us to our comfy, climate controlled homes; the term alpha male may only apply loosely if at all.

Basically, to the club wielding Inuit who’s beating a baby seal to death in -40 Fahrenheit to feed their family, the “Alpha male” sleeveless shirt wearing fella doing tricep kick backs down at Gold’s looks like a friggen Ken doll.

Hell, even the rugged homeless souls who live under bridges, wearing Seahawk Super bowl XLIX shirts that were found in a dumpster and surviving the elements without much more than a few blankets and a fire barrel are pretty hardcore.  But if I were to describe the traits of the real modern Alpha male, I would do so thusly.

Respect

This is a no brainer and it is number one for a reason.  The alpha lion doesn’t respect any other lion, as they are his servants.  Conversely, the least alpha thing that a man can do is wantonly disrespect others because of his own over-inflated perception of his self-worth.

We’ve all seen the motivational memes by now about strength building people up rather than tearing them down and it’s absolutely true.  There are few things as catty and childish as talking down to someone who you perceive as worth less than yourself.  If they lift less, encourage them to keep lifting. Guess what, unless you’re an all time world record holder, YOU lift less than a lot of people.  Disrespecting other lifters is not only not Alpha, but a total Richard-move.

Situational awareness

Know your surroundings and what’s taking place around you at all times.  There is nothing desirable or enviable about ignorance.  An alpha studies the environment they’re in and adapts to it.  Expecting others to change for you is selfish and immature, and most definitely not alpha.  Being a big, muscular dumbass doesn’t inspire very much confidence in your ability to lead, let alone tie your own shoes.  Show me a thoughtful person and I’ll show you the makings of a top gun.

Teamwork

Being the pinnacle of testosterone’s food chain means being able to work with people, even other a-dogs with whom you have different beliefs or opinions.  Having the mentality of putting the group’s interests over your own is one of the most commanding personal traits you could have.  Be big enough to swallow your own petty pride and put differences aside when it comes time to complete the task at hand.  Being alpha means not thinking about yourself all of the time, despite how Instagram depicts it.  #douchebag.

Proficiency

Mastering your craft and doing and being the best that you can at something is a far better display of your top dog prominence than walking around acting like a meat head prick to everyone.  Being alpha is about being so good at something that you could do it in the dark, one hand tied behind your back, dizzy from spinning around 15 times, under a strict time limit and on a Saturday, with precision.  Welding that perfect bead, delivering a precise and deliberate axe blow, running a locomotive smoothly through curves and undulating terrain *ahem* are all examples of skills that when mastered, scream out to the world:  this is my house!

Being prepared and keeping your skills honed, regardless of what they are is truly alpha.

Blacksmiths are alpha
Blacksmiths are alpha

Being an alpha male isn’t what you see in magazine or supplement ads.  It isn’t bucking up to people on a daily basis with your chest out.  It isn’t loudly spouting your opinion when no one is asking for it.

Being an alpha is doing the right thing when it’s easier to do the wrong thing, saying the supportive thing rather than the destructive thing, and putting others before yourself when it’s not for yourself.  If you want to carry yourself as the A-1 predator, don’t be the lion. Be the real alpha. Be a man.

 

References:
http://www.sketchyscience.com/2014/08/the-alpha-myth-real-science-of-wolf.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13671-evolution-myths-survival-of-the-fittest-justifies-everyone-for-themselves.html#.VN9xpvnF-So

4 thoughts on “What Is Alpha?

  1. An Alpha doesn’t command respect he earns it!!! Awsome article could not agree more!!!

  2. Leadership is getting people to do what you want them to.

  3. Leadership is getting people to WANT to do what you want them to

  4. I appreciate this write-up. I’ll go out on a limb and make a broad assumption – In the world of fitness, you very rarely find this kind of humility outside of the strength community.

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