How to Beat the Machine- The Legend of John Henry
Show me the machine… I can beat it!
There are many historical figures that people look up to.
Napoleon. Alexander the Great. Genghis Khan.
Those are some of history’s greatest conquerors and leaders.
Most people have heard these names.
They are immortalized in the sands of time.
Strength By Sonny is all about John Henry.
He would be our patron saint (if there was one).
Today, I will tell you about the legend of how one man beat the machine.
Perhaps, you can too.
Teach em’ while they’re young.
Although John Henry is a tall-tale, he has had a profound impact on my life.
His story laid the initial foundation for my competitive spirit.
I first heard the legend when I was 5 years old.
It was when my preschool teacher, Mrs. R, read John Henry: An American Legend.
** This is an Amazon Affiliate link. I get a small commission if you choose to purchase it, at no additional cost to you.
Mrs. R gave me her copy.
I still have it and take it with me anytime I move.
To this day, it is the most important book I have ever heard.
In fact, I would consider it to be the most important book that any man could read (at any age).
It is a 32 page children’s book with pictures.
And yet it is a masterpiece that teaches you what being a competitive man is all about.
But like I keep saying… simplicity is sexy.
One of the disadvantages of growing up in today’s world is the fact that the most important lessons in life are often hidden.
There are too many distractions that hinder individual instinct.
There are too many distractions that downplay the importance of social skills.
Ultimately, today’s world has made it difficult for boys to become men.
“It’s time I went out into the world.”
John Henry was born to be a steel-driving man- a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives (to blast the rock away in constructing a railroad tunnel.)
In fact, part of the tall tale is the fact that he was born with a hammer in his hand.
He grew up fast.
As he got older, he did a man’s work with his father.
One day he told himself, “I’m taller and stronger than anyone around. It’s time I went out into the world.”
John Henry listened to his heart.
He knew that there was a whole world out there for him.
His time had come to leave the nest and make a name for himself.
He was bred to win.
“My hands are just itchin’ to hold a hammer again.”
John Henry briefly worked on a river boat.
However, it wasn’t his destiny.
His destiny found him when the opportunity arose to work on The First Transcontinental Railroad.
*** For all you history buffs, this was the first railroad that linked the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic. It was a crucial element to America’s Manifest Destiny ideology during the 19th century.
John Henry felt right at home.
He loved his job so much that he and his gang became the fastest team moving westward.
He was the leader because he was the most powerful steel-driver.
This was his calling.
Unlike his experience on the riverboat, this was not work for him.
He was enthusiastic and would often sing as he hammered spikes into the ground.
He would have done the work for free.
There are some people who legitimately feel this way today.
Those people are called entrepreneurs.
What John Henry felt is similar to how most entrepreneurs (and aspiring entrepreneurs) feel.
The work might be back breaking… the hours may be long… it doesn’t matter.
Unconditional love for what you do drives you forward.
I don’t make a dime off of Strength By Sonny at the moment.
I am far more motivated when I am working on this site than I am with my real job.
I love the good and bad of it.
I love the initial brand building phase I am going through right now.
When I’m of king of this domain (years down the road), I will love it too.
The work is demanding.
It is stressful.
I often skim on sleep.
It’s all worth it.
It’s what I was born to do…
“Who can beat that? Try me!”
One day John Henry and his gang were steel-driving through a mountain.
A group of men arrived with a strange machine (a steam drill).
One of the newcomers asserted that it could drill faster than any six men combined.
He challenged, “Who can beat that?”
John Henry proclaimed, “Try me!”
John Henry was a natural born competitor.
He was born to be a steel-driving man.
That was his calling.
In his heart, he knew that no man (or machine) could outwork him.
“I’ll keep swingin’ ‘em, Lawd, Until we win!”
A great contest took place.
Whoever could drill to the other side of the mountain wins.
John Henry versus the Machine (which was fed coal by several men).
The contest lasted several hours.
They were neck and neck.
Finally, John Henry’s competitive spirit completely took over.
He went into over drive.
He blasted away swinging two 20 lb. sledge hammers.
As he was doing this he cried out:
“Ain’t no hammers
Strike such fire,
Strike like lightning, Lawd,
And I won’t tire!”
“Hammers like this, Lawd,
There’s never been!
I’ll keep swingin’ em, Lawd,
Until we win!”
What did that mean?
It meant that John Henry was going to win no matter what.
He would keep swinging until he finished the job.
Winning was the only option.
The machine was no match.
It completely broke down and collapsed.
Yet, John Henry kept hammering away until he broke through to the other side.
When the dust settled, John Henry was found dead.
His heart gave out from the great feat.
He had defeated the machine and exited this world the same way he entered it… with his hammer in his hand.
How You Can Beat the Machine
How was John Henry able to beat the machine?
He was big.
He was strong.
But it was his heart that pushed him into overdrive.
That’s how you transcend your current capabilities.
You gotta have heart.
Competitors have heart.
We all face a machine in one form or another.
Perhaps it is an opponent.
Perhaps it is an insurmountable task.
Or maybe, just maybe, it is our own fear of failure itself.
Competitors know how to block it all out and just focus on the end goal.
They are guided by their heart’s desire for victory.
They just keep on drilling because they know that they will eventually see the light.
They know they want it more than the competition which is why they are able to bury their adversaries (no matter what advantages they may have)…