Tag Archives: Mike Tyson

Hypnosis for Authors and Writers

How far would you go to write words with power? Would you consider hypnosis? I did and here’s my story. It starts off from a most unlikely beginning. While looking into kickboxing sparring techniques, I discovered the work, life, and philosophy of Cus D’Amato, the inventor of the peek-a-boo style of boxing. Mike Tyson is his most famous pupil, but he also trained two other world champions: Floyd Patterson (the heavyweight champ between Rocky Marciano and Ali) and José Torres, all hall of famers. Smaller fighters looking to close the distance with larger fighters with longer reach would do well to watch clips of Tyson executing the peek-a-boo style. At 5’10” Tyson was a small heavyweight. But, by working the angles, he had his way against much larger opponents.

At 5’7”, I’m cannon fodder for the bigger guys at the gym, which is pretty much everyone. Watching clips of Tyson improved my game, and, as I learned more about Tyson’s life, I discovered there was more to him than the “Iron Mike” persona of the 80s and 90s. For one, he’s extremely well read. He quote Plutarch and Nietzsche with ease, and from his quotes, it’s evident that he grasps his place in history in relation to those who fought before him, from the gladiators to his contemporaries. He credits much of his character inside and outside of the ring to his foster father and trainer Cus D’Amato.

D’Amato was an extremely driven individual whose sole purpose was to find and train heavyweight boxing champions. He sacrificed all for this end. Increasingly fascinated both by Tyson and D’Amato, I picked up Tyson’s biography of D’Amato: Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D’Amato (2017). One of the enduring lessons Tyson learned from D’Amato was that character is everything. Inside the ring, the fighter with a stronger character will prevail over an equal or even stronger opponent with less character. To make his fighters strong in their minds, D’Amato would, on a regular basis, take his fighters to the hypnotist. But this was no ordinary hypnosis where you find balance, inner peace, or a better night’s sleep. He hypnotized his fighters to hit with bad intentions.

Some want money. Some want power. To others, family’s where it’s at. There are those who live for wine and a song. For me, the highest good of life is to be remembered and not to be forgotten. It terrifies me, not the thought of dying, but the thought that after I’m gone, the world will continue as though I had never been. To be remembered, I sought a topic that could stand the test of time. I found that in the theory of tragedy and I listened to the old masters talking their theory: Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, Hegel, Nietzsche, Kaufmann, Szondi, and the others. To join the ancient conversation, I wrote The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected. I founded the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition with Michael Armstrong, Michelle Buck, and Keith Digby at Langham Court Theatre (https://risktheatre.com/). I started writing these blogs, started conferencing. All so that one day in the future, I might enjoy posthumous fame. Time will tell.

For me to reach this level–to enter the canon–however, is a shot in the dark. I lack the depth of these other writers. In terms of intelligence, I would say I’m slightly above average. But I am persistent. And stubborn. The odds of entering the canon are a million to one against. I’ll take these odds. But I’ll also take every advantage that comes my way. That’s when I started thinking about hypnosis. After all, Mike Tyson was a long shot and he entered the canon.

I looked for a hypnotist and I found one: Harmony Shaw. When I first saw the name, I blinked. Wasn’t she the labour foreman for Lark Construction when we did Selkirk Place, a 230 bed care facility back in 2007? There was a photo of her on her website. Indeed, it was her. I guess in thirteen years, you can pick up one or two new skills! I gave her a call, she remembered me as well and we caught up on old times. It was meant to be. She explained how it works. We do a meet and greet session, no hypnosis. In the first session, about an hour long, clients tell her what they’re after, and she takes notes. Later, she’ll use these notes to plant subconscious cues during the actual hypnotherapy sessions.

Harmony also went through what to expect during the actual hypnotherapy session. The client reclines in a day bed and relaxes. Her job is to keep the client in between a state of sleep and waking. It’s sort of like the moments you’re drifting off to sleep or the moments in the morning where you’re conscious you’re dreaming but not quite awake. While the client is in this in-between state, she charges up the client’s subconscious with suggestions. So far so good.

But I was curious. How would this work? I asked colleagues at work. A surprising number of them had gone through or seen hypnotists in action. Apparently, schools used to hire hypnotists to entertain students during grad ceremonies. The consensus on these shows is that it appears to work on some people. But it didn’t work on the people I chatted with, who were skeptical. To them, hypnotism was some sort of scandalous parlour trick. A thing of ill-repute.

The day came for my hypnotherapy session with Harmony. Friday after work. It had been a busy Friday afternoon, so I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to get into that half-asleep half-awake state, I was so wound up. We met up, I got into the daybed and closed my eyes. The session began with her telling me: “Focus on the sound of my voice.” Then she started talking about the sound of the clock as it checked off the seconds. She told me to concentrate on the sound of her colleague in the next room, who was cleaning up. Before you knew it, I was in that half-asleep, half-awake state. Harmony asked me to signal by moving a finger that I was still awake. I did this and she got out her notes from the previous session.

It was at this point the hypnotherapy session proper started. I heard her say the things we had talked about. “You will write with bad intentions,” she said. “You will write words with power,” she said. “Your words will outlast the pyramids,” she said. The first thing I noticed was that it was sort of shocking, no, shocking isn’t the write word, it was sort of enticing and discomfiting to hear someone say your words back to you. These are all phrases I’ve thought about to myself. It was different to hear them told back to me in another person’s voice. The second thing I noticed was that it was odd to have someone talking to you in this half-asleep half-awake state. The mind is sort of floating in this in-between state. It can notice it is being talked to. It understands the meaning of the words that it hears, though some higher functions appear to be shut down. It is open to suggestion.

We’ve all been spoken to in this in-between state. The difference with hypnotherapy is that the hypnotherapist keeps you in this state. Normally, if someone’s talking to you as you’re dozing off or waking up, you’d either doze off or wake up. The difference is that the skilled hypnotherapist keeps you there. Our first session was just over an hour long. During the session, I had no sense of time. I still could feel meaning, but at a rudimentary level. Some of the higher brain functions do not appear to have been engaged. As the hour wrapped up, Harmony counted down from five and told me that I would wake up feeling refreshed. When I got up and looked at the clock, I was surprised that just over an hour had passed. It had seemed like ten minutes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after experiencing my first session, it was just as she had described. It’s like you’re having a nap with someone talking to you. There was no magic about it, which to me, is a positive thing. The hypnotist stage acts on YouTube seem contrived, not entirely believable. This sort of hypnotherapy Harmony practised on me made sense. I could see how, if this is that Tyson experienced, it would have helped him. I think if anyone is attempting anything that challenges physical or mental limits, hypnotherapy would be something to try. Hard work and effort would get you 99% of the results. Hypnotherapy would be that boost that gets you that 1% extra.

Since the session with Harmony I’ve  been writing some presentations and some new blogs. I’ve found myself writing in a more direct and concise tone. I’ll be writing, and there’ll be a voice in the back of my mind: “Write with power, write with intention, don’t do any tricks with words when the direct approach suffices.” I don’t know if this is due to the hypnotherapy or simply that I know that I’ve done the hypnotherapy. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I know I’ve done it, and I feel that it’s given me a mandate. And that’s good enough to take my writing to a higher level. If you’re wondering whether to try it, definitely go for it. There’s no magic to it. There’s no mind-blowing results. But it will take you that 1% higher. And for it to have that effect is pretty amazing.

I’ve been telling my friends about my hypnotism experience. Most of them have been surprised that I got hypnotized to “write with bad intentions.” “That’s wrong,” they say to me. “Writing isn’t a contest,” they say. “It’s not like boxing,” they say. But isn’t it? You’re locked in the cage with all the other writers saying the same thing. And in the end, it is a contest: only a handful will be remembered. And if you’re the one who’s remembered, you have to deliver the knockout blow to your worthy adversary. Isn’t writing and fame a heavyweight bout for the ages where every advantage counts? Am I missing something here or is it my contemporaries who are missing something?

We only live once. Keep your mind open to new ideas, especially new ideas where there is little to lose but much to gain. We owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be in each thing that we do.

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D’Amato – Mike Tyson (Sloman)

2017, Penguin, 465 pages

Book Blurb

When Cus D’Amato first saw thirteen-year-old Mike Tyson spar in the ring, he proclaimed, “That’s the heavyweight champion of the world.” D’Amato, a boxing legend who had previously managed the careers of world champions Floyd Patterson and José Torres, would go on to train the young boxer and raise him as a son. D’Amato died a year before Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

In Tyson’s bestselling memoir Undisputed Truth, he recounted the role D’Amato played in his formulative years, adopting him at age sixteen after his mother died and shaping him both physically and mentally after Tyson had spent years living in fear and poverty. In Iron Ambition, Tyson elaborates on the life lessons that D’Amato passed down to him and reflects on how the trainer’s words of wisdom continue to resonate with him outside the ring. The book also chronicles D’Amato’s courageous fight against the mobsters who controlled boxing, revealing more than we’ve ever known about this singular cultural figure.

Author Blurb

Mike Tyson is the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, and the first boxer ever to hold the three biggest belts in prizefighting–the WBC, WBA, and IBF world heavyweight titles-simultaneously. Tysons’ enduring appeal has launched him into a career in entertainment: he was a standout in the films The Hangover and The Hangover Part II, and recently he has earned tremendous acclaim for his one-man show Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. Tyson has launched a clothing company, Roots of Fights, and Tyrrhanic Productions, which currently has several film projects in development. In 2011 he was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Kiki, and their children.

Larry “Ratso” Sloman is best known as Howard Stern’s collaborator on Private Parts and Miss America. Sloman’s recent collaborations include Mysterious Stranger, with magician David Blaine; Scar Tissue, the memoir of Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis; and Undisputed Truth with Mike Tyson. His biography The Secret Life of Houdini is soon to be a major motion picture for Lionsgate.

Iron Ambition

This book inspires. The book talks about boxing. Talks a lot about boxing. Talks a lot about D’Amato’s all-in fight against the corrupt mobsters who ran the IBC. But it’s not a boxing book. It’s a self-help book. And it’s the kind of self-help book people who don’t like self-help books will like. It’s about an old guy whose developed a specialized martial art: the peekaboo style. He’s got one goal: train world champions. The fundamentals of his peekaboo style aren’t physical, they’re mental. He believes in character. Character makes the difference in the ring. His training techniques are unorthodox. He would put his fighters under hypnosis, and whisper to them, “When you hit, hit with bad intentions.” He would have his fighters recite, twenty times, at morning and at night, a simple mantra daily: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” He would tell his fighters that they were God’s most ferocious creations. He would tell his fighters that the memory of the boxing idols of that day would all be forgotten in the future, unless one of his fighters would say, in the future, “I learned this punch from Jack Dempsey or so and so.” He would take in street kids with absolutely no confidence, and instil in them the self-confidence of the gods. He was Cus D’Amato, and his protege was Iron Mike Tyson.

My mind is divided on self-help. Obviously it works. That I don’t doubt. The problem is the people who invest themselves into self-help seem to become themselves self-help coaches. They’re like tinker toys, each winding one another up. They don’t seem to do things other than train one another. But this book is awesome in that D’Amato is into self-help and he does things. He produced three champs: Floyd Patterson, José Torres, and Mike Tyson. He took fighters with low self-confidence–especially Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson, who had no self-confidence–and convinced them they could be world champions. In the book, Tyson spends pages marvelling how D’Amato’s techniques raised his confidence so high that he thought he was a god. To this day, Tyson struggles because D’Amato raised his self-esteem too high. If that’s not testimonial to D’Amato’s system of character building, then I don’t know what is.

The book is filled with examples of D’Amato and his “mind over matter” philosophy. I’m not much into hocus-pocus, but if it helps you succeed, then it is good. Here’s a short passage that gave me the chills. I wonder if everyone gets these moments or these moments only come to the happy few?

Cus was a believer in destiny. Even as a young boy, he felt that he’d be famous someday; he always had a feeling that “there was something different” about him. I had the same exact feeling. So it felt right that I would move in with Cus and Camille. Cus was so happy. I couldn’t understand why this white man was so happy about me. He would look at me and laugh hysterically. Then he’d get on the phone and tell people, “Lightning has struck me twice. I have another heavyweight champion. He’s only thirteen.”

One of the first nights that I stayed over at the house on one of the home visits, Cus took me into the living room, where we could talk alone. “You know I’ve been waiting for you,” he told me. “I’ve been thinking about you since 1969. If you meditate long enough on something, you get a picture. And the picture told me that I would make another champion. I conjured you up with my mind and now you’re finally here.”

D’Amato reminds me of a character in an Ibsen play, Solness in The Master Builder. He too, practised this visualization technique to become the master builder. So, there are others out there who feel the pull of destiny. A curious, driving call full of power and powerlessness at the same time. The fire burns into you, but at the same time you are thrall and a pawn to this destiny that looms over you.

Why do we do this, the endless hours of training? Cus too, has an answer. We do it for immortality, to be remembered in a song for the future generations. I feel sometimes D’Amato should have been an ancient Greek, living in the times of Homer. The ancients also recognized this justification. They built pyramids so that they would be remembered. They fought the Trojan War for ten years so that it could be a song for the future generations to epic singers to sing. Today, if you want to be remembered, there’s something wrong with you. You need to be humble. You need to blend in. Don’t go for a home run when you can get away with a hit. D’Amato sets today’s values on their head. Aim for one thing with all your being, he says:

I used to ask Cus, “What does it mean being the greatest fighter of all time? Most of those guys are all dead.” “Listen, they’re dead, but we’re talking about them now, this is all about immortality.” That fucked me up. It changed the whole game. I just thought it would be about riches, the big cars, the big mansions he used to point out to me. But now he was taking it to a whole other level. He got me hooked with the riches, but now he suddenly said, “You’re going to be a god.” This was the real deal, and the real deal fucked me up real good. Then he said, “Forget the money.” Once he told me that shit, it blew my mind. He was talking immortality and I’m figuring out what that is.

And here’s D’Amato on having a purpose in life. People today, I think, value living for the sake of living. But D’Amato offers another view: it’s not about life, but about life’s purpose. Purpose is so concentrated a force that when it’s not met, the dead will come back:

Then Cus told me that he was dying from pneumonia. I started getting angry. We had so much together. I’m a little street kid with this old guy who’s in exile and we’d talk about these grandiose dreams and making money and buying mansions and how there was nobody in the world who could touch us. They couldn’t do anything but gawk at us. We were the most magnificent gift boxing had ever witnessed. And now it was over before we had reached our ultimate mission. I couldn’t go on with it without Cus.

“If you die, I’m not going to fight anymore,” I said, sobbing. Cus looked angry. “Now listen, if you quit fighting, then you’re going to find out if people can come back from the dead, because I will come back and I will haunt you for the rest of your life. You have to fight.”

On the way to the goal, fighters encounter obstacles. Life gets in the way. Injuries get in the way. Doubt gets in the way. Fatigue gets in the way. D’Amato had a solution. If you don’t go all the way, you’ll never know how close you were. To keep his fighters focused, he had this John Greanleaf Whittier poem posted in the very spot where he would work the fighters the hardest:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re the hardest hit–

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Iron Ambition is a fantastic and rich read for a variety of reasons. If you’re a fan of Tyson, you’ll want to learn about his trainer and manager. If you’re a fan of boxing history, you’ll want to read about D’Amato’s dangerous fight against the corrupt IBC. If you’re driven and laser-focused on goals, you’ll want the secrets of D’Amato’s techniques which gave his fighters the psychological edge. From Cus D’Amato you will learn that it is okay to want it all. It is okay to spend your life in dogged pursuit of one purpose. It is okay to sacrifice everything that stands in your way. It is not a crime to want glory and immortality.

Cus D’Amato was born in the 20th century, but he was really born out of his time. His values and beliefs resonate more closely with the ancient Greek and Romans who believed that it is not our peers who will judge us. It is eternity who will judge us. Why is it that way? It is that way because we have the spark to be great, to be the greatest. And when you have the spark to be the greatest, you comport yourself and live life as though eternity were watching every step you take. This book teaches you that greatness is not a crime and dares you to be more.

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.