Hard words: Mike Campbell on Unleashing Your Alpha

This is not alpha male behaviour.

This is not alpha male behaviour.

The idea of Alpha-maleness has taken a bit of a battering in recent times. Mention it to most people and they’ll think Jordan Belfort or someone similar – a loud-talking, drug-snuffling, people-exploiting arsehole who’s just looking out for number one.

Mike Campbell, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on a couple of things, wants to stop that bullshit. Being an alpha male, Mike Points out in new book Unleash Your Alpha, is about honesty, integrity, and grace under pressure. Like me, Mike believes that training hard and eating right are integral to living the manliest possible lifestyle, because they’ll give you the hormone profile, the energy, and the disposition to act like a fully-formed human being. Unlike me, Mike is a qualified and experienced personal trainer, and so he’s put together an exercise and eating programme to get you there. He kindly sent me a copy, and I read about half of it during one drunken evening, post-it-noting all the bits I liked. Then I asked him for an interview, and he said yes. So here he is:

One thing about being ‘Alpha’ is that it’s often misrepresented – as being like Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross, or more recently Jordan Belfort. What, in your opinion, is ‘alpha’? What isn’t?
For me it’s this misconstrued definition of alpha that is part of the problem – the macho arrogant dick. Historically ‘alpha’ simply meant ‘one who led’ – a leader. Someone who has heart and backbone. An open minded man who’s confident in himself, has control in his life, is compassionate yet strong, healthy and masculine. A man who strives for more and will always welcome a challenge- seeking to step outside his comfort zone. What isn’t alpha? For me it falls into two categories, both falling into what I call ‘The Anti-alpha’: 1: The macho, arrogant dick who is often hiding deep insecurities, and pushes his way around mentally, physically and emotionally. A man too strong in his masculine with no real awareness of his feminine side- all backbone and no heart. : The over-sensitive guy. A guy who is all heart and no backbone. Can’t stand up for himself, and lives well inside his comfort zone. Alpha is the balance- good qualities put to good use.
What are the biggest mistakes you see guys starting on the road to self-improvement making?
Lack of direction, or perhaps more specifically – priorities in the wrong place. Many guys say they want one thing but their behaviours don’t mirror that. For me for any long term and meaningful success with health and body, a guy must first get his head in the right place; What does he really want? Where does this sit in his list of life priorities? If he can paint a clear picture of where he wants his life to go and how much he values that, then he’ll be able to apply himself to it, and the training, nutrition and lifestyle factor come in to play. However, without the plan, commitment and purpose to what you’re doing it’s often lost or easily falls away.  As far as wastes of time go – it’s the 1%. I see many guys pour time and energy into getting the minute details of training right, weighing food portions etc, when what they need to do with that time and energy is put it into actual training, into ensuring the rest of their life lines up with their goals and making sure they can live a normal, enjoyable and happy life. More of the 99%, less of the 1%.
Conversely, what are the things that every alpha guy you know does? 
Plan, execute, assess, refine and hustle. Every guy I have interviewed for the book, watched, read and admired from afar puts great importance on ensuring their life is going in the direction they choose. They put time and energy into their health. They have a general (or specific) plan for their life, and more often than not this involves a bigger mission- a driving passion that gets them out of bed in the morning. They have the ability to be selfish and say no to things that put them off track, while still being considerate, helpful and giving back. The main theme is direction and balance in their life- never completely satisfied, but always grateful.
One thing that’s interesting about your book is that it takes what hippies would call a very ‘holistic’ approach to being ‘alpha’. Why is that? Which bits of the puzzle do most guys miss?
Again, I think most miss what’s going on in their heads. So many of us have ridiculous egos. Egos that end up getting us in trouble, be it from comparing ourselves to others or simply shrugging off injury, illness or weight gain. It’s a massive cause of how fat and unhappy we are. To pull your head in, recognise that you might in fact need to make a change and quite possibly ask for help is a step too far for many guys. However, it’s one thing that could actually make the most impact because from that real change can happen. So as far as being holistic, that’s because it has to be. Life is complex, it’s not one thing or another – it’s a constantly flowing exchange of complicated shit! So in order for any change, be it dropping the gut, getting stronger, increasing your sex drive or simply feeling better about yourself, you need to address the whole – your head, nutrition, training, sleep, stress and the finer points that make you a man.
Another thing is that it touches on some Pick Up Artist-style stuff at times. My experience of PUAs is that they can be decent, nice guys who want to get better at social interaction…or total arseholes. What’s your experience? 
Haha, you nailed it. Firstly: my hat comes off to the over-sensitive guys for stepping (most likely) way outside their comfort zone to challenge themselves and grow as a person. Are the intentions right? Well that’s up to the individual, but if they are trying to become a better man and live a better life- awesome! Hopefully they can take that confidence and apply it elsewhere. The other side of that coin is the arrogant dick. Priorities all fucked, and clearly operating selfishly. Quite possibly hiding a lack of self worth or direction. The guy who does it as a power play. I actually read Neil Strauss’ The Game quite a few years back as a younger single man and it did have an effect on me, but in a (hopefully) positive way. I used it as a tool to help me develop more confidence in social situations with ladies. It worked, but I certainly didn’t treat it as gospel or live as a PUA, I ultimately used it to become a better man and take that confidence into other areas of my life.  So I have developed some of my own practices and challenges over the years which I bring into the book. I also talk heavily about gaining confidence, but it applies to guys at work dealing with their boss, colleagues…anything. To step out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you truly help you grow, and if you do it and do it you’ll notice things start to change. Plus: little games and challenges are a great way to grow, learn about yourself and have fun.
What’s the simplest bit of advice you’d give to anyone looking to improve their life? 
First, decide what you truly want your life to look like, then go after it: make a plan and apply yourself it with consistent, determined hard work. Eat well, train often and with purpose. Prioritise a good night’s sleep and enjoying your life. Every now and then take a good look in the mirror and work on what needs it. 
HOMEWORK: Check out Mike’s book at his page or on Amazon. There’s a lot in there that I like, but your second project for the week is to work on what he calls ‘Tiny goals’ – doing one small thing a day, or making one small commitment a week. Yours could be drinking a litre of water a day, or having less than five alcoholic drinks this week. Do that.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.

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