In my neighborhood, this invariably triggers a flurry of lawn contractor activity. A pickup truck pulling a long trailer full of equipment pulls up, a fleet of young guys gets out and each picks up a leafblower, then for the next hour they blow leaves and gasoline fumes back and forth at each other while the surrounding square mile of city becomes a toxic and ear-splitting war zone. Eventually they manage to get a portion of the leaves into plastic bags in their trailer and they motor off.
Just a few days ago, we had an early snowstorm here, which dropped a quick few inches of luxurious fluffy powder onto the newly blown lawns. I was enjoying a casual bike ride through the stuff on my way to the grocery store when I glanced over and noticed a shockingly irrational specter: One of my neighbors was clearing the light powder from his short sidewalk with a SNOWBLOWER!
Like 99% of the snowfalls in this region, this was a quantity of snow that could have been easily swept aside with a shovel, or a broom, or even a tiny little bird feather… but this able-bodied gentleman was out there doing his duty with a gas-powered appliance. The stench leaking from the crude 2-stroke engine left a stain in the air that could be smelled from 500 feet away.
Earlier in the week, when the temperature was in the 60s, other neighbors were using gas-powered lawnmowers to slowly mow their lawns while simultaneously sucking up and chopping the autumn leaves into the lawnmower’s bag, which they then threw out with their weekly trash.
All of these events led my brilliant engineer’s brain to come up with a few new Inventions:
Imagine a leafblower so advanced that it harnesses the power of your abdomen and biceps, while sucking away your stored fat reserves. Yet it operates nearly silently and costs under 15 bucks. With just a simple wooden handle and a few ounces of sturdy bent plastic or metal prongs, it could be lightweight and quite wide, and be able to clear thousands of square feet of densely-packed leaves per hour, leaving you feeling refreshed and healthier and more connected with Nature every time you use it.
Imagine a snowblower so supreme that it works a complementary set of muscles to the leafblower above: your shoulders and your lower back, as well as the hamstrings and portions of the gluteus. It also operates with silky silence, and it ALSO gets 100% of its power from the ultimate renewable resource – your beer belly.
You would assume this futuristic device would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? Wrong! This too is under fifteen bucks.
My next invention is an advanced motorcycle that weighs less than thirty pounds and costs less than three hundred dollars. Yet it has a range of over a hundred miles per day, and you never have to find a power outlet to plug it in, because its power source is – you guessed it – the cellulite stored in your ass which gets converted into muscles in your legs and calves as a side effect of the transportation!
I know I am blowing your mind with these inventions, but I actually have working prototypes right in my garden shed and garage.
I also have a lawnmower with a spinning reel of sharp metal blades that gets its power from me pushing on the handle, and even a boat (which I am demonstrating for you in the picture below), that is 11 feet long, and able to navigate everything from tranquil lakes to roaring ocean surf waves to car-sized river rapids.. but which deflates to fit in a bike trailer, weighs less than 25 pounds, costs less than $100, and is also powered entirely by muscles.
I think you might be noticing a pattern here. And the pattern is of course Muscle over Motor.
It’s more than just an article. It’s a Founding Principle of Mustachianism, because when you embrace it, it adds great fun to your life even while it simultaneously strips away the fat from your physique and your budget. It’s one of the most powerful little three-word sentences you can embrace.
Because of the power of Muscle over Motor, you should be deeply suspicious of anything with a motor. A motor represents a shortcut to getting something done. That sounds good on the surface, but you must consider what you are shortcutting.
A motorboat will get you across the lake quickly, but wait a minute, you like being on the lake – so why not use your muscles to actually earn your trip across it? It takes longer – that is a good thing. You will enjoy the beers on the deck afterwards much more when you really deserve them.
A Hummer will get you up the logging road and across the rocky meadows. But dude, you’re sitting in a glorified Lazy-Boy recliner and pushing on a pedal. What kind of wussy way of climbing a mountain is that? Leave the motor vehicles where the pavement ends and put on your hiking boots like a Real Man or Woman (or a pair of old flip-flops if you want to be even more badass like some of my old-school Colorado friends).
If you want more speed than walking and the ability to cross dozens of miles of terrain per day (as well as catching much more air on the descents), try a mountain bike instead of an SUV.
A Harley – of course with its quiet stock mufflers replaced with illegal straight pipes – will get you through some beautiful rocky canyon roads and allow you to ruin the outdoor dining of thousands of people in the hopping downtown Chicago restaurant districts. But a nice lightweight road bike will get you up the same roads and let you hear the birds at the same time, and your resulting muscular physique and healthy glow will get a lot more positive attention in downtown Chicago than the overpriced motorcycle and standard-issue black leather “Independent-minded Renegade Harley® Rider” Halloween costume ever will.
If you need to carry a few bags of cement over to a neighbor’s house, try a wheelbarrow or a dolly instead of a pickup truck. If you need to get up to a different level of a building, give me a break, you don’t need an elevator or escalator… find the stairs! You work on the 63rd floor? I envy you!
In the gym, the machines with fancy paint jobs and HD displays are to be mocked, because there is already a much more effective yet simpler tool that helps you exercise, namely the chunks of metal with handles on them in the free weights section.. or better yet, in your own garage or basement or living room or friend’s house.
Even if you’re missing some of your younger physical abilities or you are in a wheelchair, you can still use what you’ve still got to kick as much ass as possible!
The thing about this philosophy is that it keeps you very busy, which means it keeps you out of financial trouble as well.
If you are following Muscle over Motor, your leisure time is packed with active high-effort outdoor activities which you love. And because of this, you don’t even have time to take up expensive hobbies like waterskiing behind a powerboat, or jacking up your Jeep so it has higher ground clearance so you can drive it around the trails at Moab, or riding ATVs around to shoot at animals. Sure, these can be fun activities as well, but we all have a finite amount of time and money.
So which activities do we choose: the expensive ones where you sit on your butt and twist a throttle? Or the low-cost ones that also make us healthy and develop our physical skills?
This isn’t a perfect rule, because there are exceptions. Motors are still useful when we’re trying to get some serious work done. I’m not suggesting that the world’s excavator operators climb down out of their cabins and pick up garden shovels, or that carpenters sell their table saws and start cutting 16-foot trim boards with a handsaw. Taxi drivers may or may not want to switch to rickshaws, and accountants should definitely not give up their computers.
But when applied to most of your life, this whole idea of powering your own damned recreational activities (including lawn care) is a great one. It’s another form of Insourcing, but it applies to everyone, not just homeowners with chores. If you find yourself tempted to use a motor when a muscle will do just as well, you should imagine me hovering behind you and reminding you of the slogan every time you reach for a gas-powered lifestyle accessory.
So MUSCLE ON!
This is email #14 of roughly 35 in the MMM “Just the Classics” boot camp series. You can always find the original versions of any of my posts in this complete list of all posts.