Some Tough Looking People Are Brittle.

Do you know anyone who is domineering, strong physically, aggressive, and determined to get his own way? I have known a few, but some were not tough. The first group includes many who are brittle. When things don’t go their way immediately, they lose their impetus.

There are politicians like that. You can identify them when they overreact to opposition.

Another group is tough. They may not be as strong or aggressive, but they are persistent. Many skilled people are not tough but show well for a while. Like running a marathon, endurance and dedication to the purpose eventually show up.

Compared to brittle, what’s tough.

The people I know who I think are tough have common characteristics.

  1. They have principles they rely on. If someone violates their idea of what’s right, they will oppose them.
  2. They are disciplined.
  3. They are resilient. They don’t demand that things stay as they have been before.
  4. They are never petty. Notice how gentle big, well-cared-for dogs are. They don’t have anything to prove. Just don’t push past their principles of how to play. It’s little dogs that will gratuitously bite you.
  5. They take action personally when necessary. They do not rely on gangs as do most of the pseudo-tough guys.
  6. Most tough people are quiet. They have no interest in displaying their prowess. They will present evidence and reasoning if it helps, but other than that, they listen and observe. Noisy, opinionated people are seldom tough people.
  7. Unless you pay attention, they are easy to underestimate.
  8. Tough people don’t seek fights. They are not the belligerent politician type. When they fight, it is at a time and place of their choosing.
  9. They know how to neutralize a building conflict.
  10. They are helpful.

You can recognize them if you pay attention. They are observant of their surroundings and know where the risks are. They avoid risks when they can and oppose them strenuously when they cannot. Decades ago, I knew a man who had been a member of Delta Force and another, more recently, who had been a member of the British SAS. If you put either in a room with 30 people, They would know in 30 seconds which, if any, could be a threat. In a restaurant, neither would sit where their back was exposed to open space. I don’t know their skills if they had to deal with a situation, but their temperament was such that I think they would change gears to another persona. One that is highly focused, intense, and designed to finish whatever starts.

The bits to take away.

You can defeat the bombastic, self-satisfied, pseudo-tough guy when you have strong principles, develop some skills, and pay attention.

As a thought experiment, who is the toughest of Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Donald Trump, and Ronald Reagan? In order would be more difficult.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Jean Chretien, and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Fourth place is easy.


I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don.shaughnessy@gmail.com.

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