Necessity Is The Mother of Badassity

woodBy this point in our conversation, it should be pretty obvious that Badassity is a trait to be treasured and cultivated. Although it is only a fabricated word, the underlying meaning of bold determination and persistence in the face of difficulty is one of the most real and useful tools in the mixed bag of attributes they hand you when you sign up to be a Human being.

Living your life with a properly Badass attitude makes all the difference in the world when it comes to achieving anything worthwhile, or attaining any sort of satisfaction. Without this philosophy, you are stuck perpetually chasing temporary comforts and luxuries and never feeling quite satisfied because there is always more to chase. Your money is drained and yet your heart is never filled. With it, you can properly say “Fuck It” to all of those fiddly details and start getting something done at last.

But our society and its marketing engine work ceaselessly to program this toughness out of us, and offer us pampering instead. You need it. You deserve it. Here, lie down on this table and let us give you a massage and soda. Or maybe you’d prefer a massage table and a soda dispenser built right into your automobile?

You can see the results of this all around you in the types of lives it produces, and you don’t want those results. But perhaps you still find your own badassity to be lacking in some ways. How can you get more of the good stuff?

The answer is sitting right next to you right now. In fact, it’s packed around you as part of the very air you breathe. Because just like Oxygen, junk, household budgets, or any other free-flowing substance, Badassity Expands Automatically to Fill Any Space Made Available to It.

How is it that some people find that life becomes strained to the limit after their first child is born, but then manage to go on to produce and raise several other children simultaneously?

How do some runners that can barely jog out a few blocks go on to finish a marathon less than a year later?

How do some people go from married, affluent lives of comfort, through divorce and perhaps career loss, then rebuild everything from scratch better and simpler than before?

It’s all through the simple fact that these people were faced with a feeling of necessity.

Some of us are self-motivated enough to create this drive out of thin air, but most people need do be dropped into a cold pool of urgency before they respond. Either way, the necessity forced them into action, whether they were ready for it or not. Then they pushed and this action made them tougher, which made the next bit of action all the more effective, and so on. Before they knew it, each had become a badass in his or her individual way, and the benefits began to flow.

Let’s use a recent story to illustrate this principle at work in my own life:

The MMM family showed up here in Canada for our usual summer vacation just a week ago. In keeping with the tradition I call “Carpentourism”, I scheduled some work to allow myself to stay active and help out a few friends and family members at the same time. The big one this year is a replacement of the shingles on my Mom’s 150-year-old house in downtown Hamilton, and a new kitchen inside that same house. Both things have been crying for a rebuild for at least a decade.

Since it is my summer vacation, I figured I would be Mr. Executive Carpenter and make things easy on myself. We arranged for the invincible local rocker (and handyman) known as The Kettle Black to do most of the re-roofing work with the help of my brother and just a bit of guidance from me. Shingles would be delivered to the rooftop right on cue. Meanwhile, the cabinets would be ordered from Ikea well in advance, fully assembled by my equally hard-working mother (who is celebrating her 70th birthday in two weeks), and I would concentrate simply on rebuilding the kitchen, reworking a few electrical and plumbing fixtures and popping in the new cabinets. Piece of cake.

Of course, as with most construction projects in foreign territory, it didn’t go down quite so smoothly.

I secured my brother-in-law’s old VW Golf Diesel and filled it with tools for the 500 km trip from Ottawa to Hamilton. I found that the car had a barely-functional rear hatch, a cassette deck radio, noisy snow tires and broken air conditioning. So instead of my usual roadtrip style of riding in abundant comfort with a custom-crafted MP3 playlist, I had the opportunity to adapt to the vehicle’s 37C (100F) interior temperature and rely on my own singing and Kazoo playing for entertainment. Miraculously, I still arrived at the same destination, and in great spirits and with the benefit of improved heat tolerance. And I was going to need plenty of tolerance. Badassity Through Hardship: Score #1.

That cabinet pre-order never happened, as my Mom’s best efforts were thwarted by the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of IKEA’s kitchen department. We also had to start from scratch on the roofing  – the color and style had been chosen from Lowe’s, but no materials were on site or in stock and the friendly but incompetent staff had no interest in getting them there in a timely manner. It was Wednesday morning and we were ready to rip off the roof, so a delivery the following Thursday would be of no use for us.

The Kettle and I left the Lowe’s parking lot in disdain but immediately noticed a smaller professional roofing shop right across the street. Within minutes of stepping in, the knowledgeable owner had our order completed and scheduled for a next-day rooftop delivery, at $300 less than we would have paid at the big box store. Now we had the roofing materials we needed, and an improved knowledge of how to do roofs in Ontario next time. Badassity Score #2.

So we hit the roof just a few hours later than planned and began to strip the crumbly old shingles, heaving them down into the dumpster. There was only a single layer of them and we were speedy and feeling efficient again. Until the following horrific scene confronted us:

Ho. Lee. Sheeyit.

Ho. Lee. Sheeyit.

So in other words, when this house was last reshingled sometime in the early 1990s, the previous guy who was obviously completely off his rocker, saw this same expanse of shitty 150-year-old wood and decided “yeah, that looks pretty good. let’s install some shingles.”

So the hardship had returned. We now needed 1400 square feet of 1/2″ OSB to build ourselves a proper roof deck atop this aging expanse of barnyard scrap. That’s 45 sheets, or about 2300 pounds worth, which is not going to fit onto the tiny roof rack of the Volkswagen Golf. And the clock was ticking as this area has a very temperamental climate with frequent torrential summer rainfalls.

I made some telephone inquiries around Hamilton to see if anyone could get it delivered by the next day. No dice. My distant second choice was to make the 10km trip up to Ancaster Home Depot and carry the sheets home in an HD rental pickup truck, so I headed up there at 7PM to avoid traffic. Only to find out that they wouldn’t rent the truck to me since I only carry a Colorado drivers license.

So my mother and I returned the next morning at 7am to catch the store opening and rent the truck in her name. Someone else beat us to it and rented the truck minutes before we arrived, but we were able to secure their van instead. Massive paperwork and delay ensued, but I rallied a forklift and some staff to help fill the van more quickly. I broke the rules and did the driving myself, since my mother had no interest in piloting the 7000 pound behemoth through the downtown streets and backing it into her steep narrow driveway. She did however help me unload the full metric tonne of wood sheets, the Kettle arrived at that moment and we were back on track. After just 6 hours of lifting cutting and nailing in the blazing July sun, our rooftop looked like this:

Badassity Score #3: This new OSB roof will permanently improve many aspects of the home’s performance. And the Kettle and I got an incredible day of weightlifting and more practice in production framing techniques as a side benefit.

At this point, we were finally able to get to work on the actual roofing job. Since we both have the same general attitude towards summer construction work (you get up at 6am, eat something, then work as hard as you can until just after it gets dark at 9:30 with occasional pauses only to drink gallons of water and barbecue a few pork chops), this part went quite smoothly.

We finished the thing just in time, at the very end of the fourth evening. The lines were straight and the ridge caps gleamed tidily in the sunset light. I woke up this morning to a heavy rainfall on the properly flashed skylight over my bed, and knew we had been wise to take on this job.

Experiencing hardship and the rewards that come from overcoming it are quite simply what makes life worth living. As an almost-40-year-old with some dough in the bank, I should be seated comfortably in a Lexus and cruising around between the golf courses and restaurants and starting to pile on the pounds and disabilities each year. Instead, I feel better than ever, and the extreme nature of this project coming right at the end of 8 months of construction on my own house has whipped me into the best shape of my life. (Badassity Score #4!)

But I still have much to learn by gaining inspiration from those more badass than me. The Kettle Black just turned 50, and while I went straight to bed after work each day, he went out to the live music venues or worked on his own gigs through the night. 10 years older than me, he looks like this:

A Canadian Badass at the half-century mark

KB: A Canadian Badass at the half century mark

This week’s lesson? Plunge in over your head and do something you’re not quite ready for. With the right attitude, you can only come out ahead.


  • Lisa Wysocki July 7, 2014, 5:06 pm

    I am very impressed by your generosity to family, friends, and complete stangers reading your blog! Every article you write models great social behavior and awesome attitude. Thanks for all you do for us “mustachians” in progress!!

  • Ken July 7, 2014, 8:54 pm

    Sweet Article, I’ve been complaining too much about little hardships of life. Mostly 1st world problems, I’m going to buck up and enjoy the journey and learn from the pain!

  • Mira July 7, 2014, 10:17 pm

    Such an interesting and inspiring worldview here. MMM and community members who are trying to reframe views to this much more effective and realistic way may want to check out the book The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I think those who seek self-improvement through badassity will find more examples of this very good worldview.

  • Zambian Lady July 8, 2014, 3:33 am

    I find it interesting that you have been ‘spoiled’ by Alpine Lumber. It must have been frustrating not to get the same service in Canada. I called my health insurers this morning to follow up on a claim I made two weeks ago. They normally respond within 5 business days and so when it took them long this time, I thought something was wrong. I had a good laugh with the representative when I told him that they had spoiled me with their efficient (and most welcome) service.

  • Karen T July 8, 2014, 4:44 am

    When reading this post, I am struck by the resiliency demonstrated. When things go wrong, you just figured out a solution and did it. Recently, I have been exposed to a family that has none of that. When they are in a situation in which things are predictable, they can cope, but when they lose their job or something goes wrong, they crumple. Watching it happen is painful and one wonders how much to help, if at all.

    • Eldred July 8, 2014, 7:28 am

      Well, I can understand people being thrown for a loop if they lose their job. Especially if they can’t find another one quickly. Been there, done that(13 months).

  • Kim July 8, 2014, 7:29 am

    I love the line about golf, restaurants, pounds & disabilities – you basically described my father-in-law, a high-profile attorney who put his career & success above his family, and now 4 marriages later is retired with a shiny new knee (preventing him from doing the activities he likes) and a behemoth beach house that he can’t even walk up the stairs in (hence the elevator).

    On another random note – Kettle Black looks like one of my former coworkers, a mustachian around the same age who retired early and has an amazing Florida surfer body that made all the rest of the engineers (even us in our 20’s) look like Dilberts. Yet another benefit to the MMM lifestyle, smokin’ hot construction bods :)

  • Pat96714 July 8, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I can’t agree with MMM more. Necessity has brought many wonderfully badass things into my life. My wife and I would have never become goat ranchers had someone not literally dropped a goat at our front door. We would never have started growing our own food were groceries not so expensive. I would never have taken on a project like building our own house if rent were cheap in Hawaii. I can go on for days.

    I think the point is that you might only be motivated by your inner drive to the level of creating a comfortable life for yourself and family. It’s all the things that are forced upon us and then finally conquered through badassity that make us more apt at handling difficulties. We are much more willing to try something new that we would have never tried before with the confidence of success through perseverance.

    Now we cultivate opportunities for growth with mustachian style!

  • Guy July 8, 2014, 1:26 pm

    It’s amazing how adaptable humans can be when they have to! The trick is to apply this adaptability to situations where you want to instead of are forced to. By doing this you can avoid lifestyle inflation and invest in yourself instead!

  • Mike W July 8, 2014, 5:38 pm

    I feel like I am close to going through some adversity of my own. I’m two months away from getting married and my fiancé has some hefty student loan debt. I know I’m going to be very happy being married to her so I’m not too worried about our life together, I know its going to be a blast. Still this is going to be challenging for us both as she does not have a job right now.

    Because of this, I’m doing everything I can to lower our expenses. And she has been completely supportive of me doing this. I’m doing things that I should have done years ago. Such as getting the cell phone bill under control, spending less on groceries, possibly even moving to a cheaper apartment. Adversity definitely does force you to get your ass in gear. I am thoroughly convinced that these changes in our habits are going to make us reach financial independence just a little bit sooner, even including the student loan setback. This article encouraged me that much more. Thank you MMM.

  • Joe July 9, 2014, 3:15 am

    The first thing I thought of when I wrote this is my father. I don’t know how many projects I did on my first house with my father that seemed to go like this. But, with his guidance, we just rolled with the punches. Talk about badassity through necessity, though. Upon selling the house, I learned it was now code to have a sump in the house (which I never did). So, my father declared, “we can do that”. The necessity part started as storms unexpectedly rolled in as we only had the hole half dug. The badassity part as we dug like I have never dug a hole before. Saved at least $1,000 by doing that. But, I am still glad there’s no basements in Florida….

  • nostache July 9, 2014, 7:59 am

    Would have met up yesterday but figured the drive from oakville would have been too anti-stache

  • Emily July 9, 2014, 11:42 am

    This post got me to thinking. I know nothing about DIY home projects and it’s always bummed me out. I’m a single mom with two kids -so I keep a tight budget and try to live frugally. The one thing that always bothers me is having to call and pay someone else to do small fix-it jobs around the house that I know are not rocket science and I could probably do myself if I just knew how. So today I’m taking my first baby step toward DIY badassity. I just went online and signed up for free Home depot workshop – this week it’s a Lighting and electrical workshop. If all goes well maybe I can tackle a couple of small lighting issues in the house without sticking my finger in the electrical socket (literally and figuratively speaking!).

    • Wendy July 10, 2014, 1:09 pm

      Emily there is so much information available on the internet, that you really can do so much more yourself. Google and YouTube are your friends. Do a little research, and look at multiple videos to make sure you get a consensus on the right way to DIY.

  • Marcia July 9, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Wow, that roof picture made me shudder. CRAZY.

    I had to look up Hamilton on google maps. Near Buffalo. Had no idea.

    I loved this post. We need to do more of this. It’s so easy to get lazy.

  • Chris Kemler July 9, 2014, 2:14 pm

    I would suggest sourcing your future kitchen cabinets from one of the many other fabricators out there. I bought my cabinets from “Cab-Parts”. Picked my stuff out from their catalog, talked with people that were helpful, and parts were shipped to my door. These were semi-custom (similar to ikea) that I assembled and installed myself. Now I have a trusted source with pricing competitive to Ikea and MUCH better customer service. Same thing with MMM’s roofing supply experience. A smaller local business with less overhead was able to outperform the big box. Home Depot, Lowes, Ikea are not the only places to get your supplies, and many times they aren’t the best.

  • Justin July 9, 2014, 6:51 pm

    Looks like you’re not the only one having fun in Canada! We had a minor catastrophe getting to Montreal from Raleigh. Catastrophic tire failure in the middle of the Adirondacks where there’s no cell reception and no tire shops anywhere around. And it was Saturday night so it wouldn’t have really mattered.

    And our spare tire was stuck in the trunk compartment with a corroded nut and bolt. The only tools I had were a multi-tool and the car’s tiny tire iron. I beat the crap out of the bolt and pried and pried till I ripped the assembly out of the floor of the trunk tire well recess (after about 2 hours). Mission accomplished, and my $6 12V DC emergency tire inflator handily inflated the spare to the spec’d 60 psi. We drove the last 150 miles to Montreal at 50 mph. The alternative would have been to wait forever on a tow truck, get hauled out of the Adirondacks to who knows where, and waiting on a tire shop to open two days later.

    With my wife and 3 kids. No thanks, we powered through it!

  • Joe Chongo July 9, 2014, 8:07 pm

    When I saw the image of the rotted wood, I couldn’t look away – much like how you can’t look away when you see a skateboarder on YouTube who is about to rack himself on a rail.

    Several years ago, I had a similar experience once. I had cut back some rotted subfloor and noticed that one of the beams had some rot on it. So I removed a couple pieces of exterior siding to have a closer look and what was left of the wall simply crumbled out! Ho. Lee. Sheeyit. indeed.

    The problem was improperly installed/flashed windows that were allowing every rain storm over the past decade to rain directly into the walls. That in itself is bad enough, but several thousand carpenter ants had moved in completely decimated the studs. There was nothing left below the windows.

    Overwhelmed, I sent a local construction company photos and that very morning they had 6 people over to stabilize the walls and reframe. So to anyone thinking about buying a house – please, please, please remember to examine your windows very closely.

  • Ontario's Left Coast July 9, 2014, 8:36 pm

    Wow, great job. Another born-and-bred Hamiltonian saying thanks MMM for stopping by our fair city. By the way, I’m a fellow Mustashian and recent fan of your blog. Thanks for all that you do!

  • Amy July 10, 2014, 11:49 am

    MMM would you let us know what you think about @parentwin’s Washingtonpost.com article about driving a Mercedes to pick up vouchers? I have no qualms with her getting vouchers because it sounds like she needed them, but I was wondering some facts her article leaves out.

  • dunny July 10, 2014, 2:11 pm

    Hi there MMM
    This post is great, in your original writing style that I love so much.
    Although I appreciate that the satisfaction you get with the DIY, being a single female, I usually hire somebody to do big home repairs around my old house. Don’t have the talent or desire (feel slightly guilty and lazy though). I do my own gardening and landscaping and feel really good doing that. Nothing like a big pile of gravel or compost to move with shovel and a bucket for that feeling of power and independence. Also, have a hobby of learning how to make and preserve food the old-fashioned way — gives me that feeling that I could manage if civilization/technology broke down.

  • Kate July 10, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Excellent post. I’m continually amazed at how your quick thinking and lemons-to-lemonade attitude increase your badassity. There’s always a bright side to things – when we don’t see it is when we are in complainypants mode ;)

  • Marty July 10, 2014, 9:48 pm

    Great job on the roof! Hope mom stays stays dry this winter. As far as IKEA is concerned I would rather have my head waxed by the Taliban then build the “user friendly kits” they pricvide. IKEA’s logo should read “shop here if you no longer want to remain married”. Maybe my badass needs a tune up.

  • CrysandGeo July 10, 2014, 11:29 pm

    The way to do a Kitchen at Ikea in Canada is to design your kitchen using their software/website from the comforts of your own home (i.e., with wine in hand). Bring in your fully designed kitchen, wait in the obligatory line and bring up your specs to make your order. Save time and your marriage.

  • Melissa July 11, 2014, 8:38 am

    Very true that necessity is the root of perseverance. I recently became self-employed and I am disgusted at myself that I wasn’t as wise with my money – or even my time-management for that matter – when it wasn’t such a necessity. Better late than never I suppose.

  • Beach Bum July 12, 2014, 10:15 am

    I live in Hamilton, I did my 900sqft garage roof at the start of the summer. I hit up the roofing supply outlet on Parkdale. They have 50% off on discontinued lines of shingles, i had a few odd packs but just mixed the “reddish” colour shingles in with the “less reddish” colour shingles in a sort of a pattern and it looks great. Key point here is getting 40 year super tough shingles for way less cost that what perfectly matching 20 year shingles would cost.

  • Matth July 14, 2014, 10:59 am

    I just had a wonderful learning experience that could have been a terrible disaster if I’d let my optimism die. It seems like a somewhat fitting tale for this article.

    I tried to change the brakes on my car today, but didn’t have the right socket to take off the rotors. Then, I stripped a caliper pin while putting it back, and had to scramble for an emergency replacement. I learned a valuable lesson about always being prepared, and also got my first real mess-up behind me.

    The really great part is that, since I only half-finished and left a damaged part on the car, I get to do it all over again this weekend. Life is generous with its learning opportunities for those who risk being badass.

  • Herman's Building Centres July 14, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out! We’re really glad we could be of service.

  • Cindy July 15, 2014, 8:47 pm

    Go you! If people are looking for other opportunities to expand their badassity for a good cause, consider joining the Peace Corps. I’ll be going to Nepal where “Volunteers should expect two years of cold showers, laundry by hand, and squat toilets. But don’t worry, you get used to it quickly! ” All for the purpose of working on a project to “improve the nutritional status of women and children under two, through increased homestead food production, improved water, sanitation and hygiene, and improved maternal, newborn, and child health.” I’m excited to expand my badassity!

  • Embok July 15, 2014, 9:19 pm

    Dear MMM:

    Finding this blog a few months ago has inspired me to strive for badassity (on a smaller scale than your roofing exploit) despite my own limitations: I recently had a tenant move out of our small fourplex, leaving the apartment foul with the remnants of his 10 years of smoking in it. While I don’t have your great construction skills, I was able to remove all the yucky carpet, carpet pad, tack strip and approximately 17,000 staples used to hold down all the carpet pad used since the building was built in the late 1920’s. YouTube videos showed me how to do it! Had professionals refinish the floors and do the painting as I have both asthma and a more than full time business, but also used YouTube videos to figure out how to take off the chipped and worn kitchen tile from the counters with a sledgehammer and masonry chisel. I asked a friend to teach me how to tile, and he did: so with a lot of help from him, we tiled the kitchen counters and created a cool tile backsplash. Working the tile saw was scary but fun. We put in some decorative glass tile detail, which did not set: turned out the fellow at Lowe’s who’d told me to use mastic to stick it to the wall was wrong. An hour on the internet later, I figured out we needed special thinset; got it; ripped out the tile; and redid it. That set me back about 4 hours all told, but I got it done and grouted by the night before the tenant was to move in. She was thrilled! So was I — I’m not in great shape, working to recover strength after some health issues, in my mid-50’s, and female, so it was personally tremendously satisfying to learn a new skill that involves actually creating something tangible, rather than negotiating abstract deals all day. I came home exhausted, sweaty and filthy every day — and felt great to build something with my own hands. I probably would not have dared to try it without the many examples of others’ badassity on this blog. Thanks for helping push me outside my comfort zone.

  • Dylan Smith July 20, 2014, 3:43 pm

    I’m a bit curious about shingles. Here we use slates and while the upfront cost is likely higher, a slate roof is something that will still be good 150 years from now. Even synthetic slates will last longer than I care to remain on this particular planet. Where slate isn’t available we tend to use tiles (either ceramic or concrete) which will also last a few generations. So I have a bit of curiosity – what in North American roofing culture resulted in using wooden shingles instead of something more durable?

    • Eldred July 21, 2014, 9:06 am

      I’d guess the housing boom after WWII, and the creation of suburbs. I think quick (and inexpensive) construction techniques were needed, and those structures wouldn’t hold the weight of slate roof coverings.

  • Susan July 25, 2014, 1:07 am

    Off topic: Just read this article http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/10308045/Cecile-Meier-A-week-without-spending and thought you may get a kick out of seeing your name glorified in the comments section of a major New Zealand news site. #kiwislovemoustachiasm

  • Stan September 13, 2014, 6:58 pm

    Next time you are in the Hamilton area and need tools or a hand, let me know. I live 5 min from the Ancaster HD store, have done tons of renos for myself and my day job is an hvac mechanic. I have some good contacts in the hamilton area as well. Keep up the great work !

  • BH July 10, 2016, 10:04 pm

    Hi MMM:

    I notice from your twitter feed that you completed another roof for your brother. Great work. I have always been nervous taking on roof work – especially high and pitched roofs like the one in this article and the one in the twitter feed.

    I have a question – from the pictures it looks like you guys are not roped up. Do I have that right or is the rope just not shown in the photo?

    I was crawling around a cottage roof this weekend trying to find the source of a leak (which I think I found) but I am not really comfortable staying up there for any significant repair unless I felt safe so that I could focus on working up there. What safety precautions do you take? Any thoughts would be appreciated.


  • The Blue Dove November 23, 2017, 6:22 pm

    Hello – I’m going through all the posts and reading them – loving it! – and thought I would drop a note when I find a typo. Let me know if you want me to stop.

    On this page:

    Some of us are self-motivated enough to create this drive out of thin air, but most people need ****do***** be dropped into a cold pool of urgency before they respond. Either way, the necessity forced them into action, whether they were ready for it or not. Then they pushed and this action made them tougher, which made the next bit of action all the more effective, and so on. Before they knew it, each had become a badass in his or her individual way, and the benefits began to flow.


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