Swagger vs. Strut

Simon Cowell predicted that Adam Lambert would win American Idol because he has "swagger". (He was wrong, by the way.) But what I saw more in Adam was strut--he was cocky, confident and full of self. 

For real swagger you have to go all the way back to the Duke. John Wayne defines all of the good aspects of swagger for me. It may have been a rock in his shoe, but he even walked with swagger. And I don’t remember thinking that he was full of himself. He came across with a certain quiet posture that let you know that you better not cross him, or else.

I think that young men have more swagger than older men. When a guy is young, there are answers to all of the questions he asks. He makes statements confidently and figures out the end of the story before he even reads it through. There is a country song that talks about being ten feet tall and bulletproof; it has to be referring to a man full of swagger (and beer). I admire these qualities in young men as I watch them navigate life.

There aren’t many older guys that I know with swagger. There's a couple at the YMCA where I go; they are the ones with hair transplants and new tattoos. Most men my age stumble more than swagger. There are good reasons for that. We have figured out that when you ask the right questions, there may not be answers. We qualify statements as we offer them. We read all the way through the novel and stay until the credits are running at the end of the movie. We are no longer ten feet tall. We have far too many wounds to make any claims of being bulletproof and two beers pretty much knocks us out for the evening. No, it is much harder for older men to have swagger.

I think swagger may also be a condition of the heart. While swagger looks different on different people there seem to be common threads. It looks like a lack of self confidence on some. On others it is simply projecting the self-absorbed person that they really are. People that have a quiet confidence don’t swagger. Kind words, listening more then talking and mediating conflict are not the attributes typically found in men of swagger.

My wife told me tonight as she was making dinner that I used to have swagger. I’m sure that it was when I was wooing her toward our lifetime commitment. I guess I needed it then. I stagger and stumble a little now, but I think she likes me better that way. 

It is harder to start a business when you don’t have swagger. Living enough of life to know that the story doesn’t always end the way it is supposed to gives way to a certain pause. I have always been encouraged by the fact that the tortoise won at the end of the day. Now that hare, there was some swagger for you.

–Steve Wyer







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