001: A Different Kind of Superhero Story


“You’re probably thinking ‘This is a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kebab.’ Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story.” – Deadpool, 2016

The Black Toenail is all about facing adversity head on and coming back stronger. Better than yesterday. Adversity fuels our desire to be more than we have been to date. Life is all about taking what gets put before us, facing it with all the gusto we can muster, then spit the blood out of our mouths to face what’s coming next. And we come back stronger, faster, and smarter. It’s a trial by fire. A crucible.

Just like the hero stories told throughout humanity. Just like Achilles, King Arthur, and Popeye. Just like Deadpool.

The recent Marvel comic superhero-come-to-life-movie struck a chord with me – as he has with the legions of fans of the comic book itself. Deadpool is unlike most comic book superheroes. He kills. He swears. He’s damaged. He started off totally mortal. But then, however forcefully, went through a process (applying science and technology), and came out different. Once he added his past skills, knowledge, and abilities, Wade Wilson became the superhero known as Deadpool. He came back stronger, faster, and smarter.

That same capability lies in all of us. While I am not saying we can heal immediately, leap over buildings, and get away with killing people at will, I do believe we can apply what we know of science and technology, improve our skills, knowledge, and abilities, and, fueled by our adversities, come back a completely different person. If we take what we know about stress, training, nutrition, sleep, and biology, improve our current skills and/or learn new ones, expand and improve our mindset, we can smash boundaries we didn’t even know we had.

In order for Deadpool’s mutation to take place, his body and mind had to be heavily stressed. We are no different. Without the appropriate amount of stress we will not learn, adjust, or change. In his book On Combat, LTC Dave Grossman describes the Bathtub Model of Stress:

Think of your body as a bathtub and stress is the water that pours in. Now, the drain can only release so much, so if water comes in so fast that the drain cannot handle it, the water begins to rise. If it rises too high, it overflows and damages the floor. If five gallons are suddenly added to the tub, you have got to get out from under the faucet for a couple of days to let the water–the stress–subside.

Grossman goes on to say life is a marathon, and we need to be able to manage stress throughout our entire lives. Stress induces hormone releases in order for us to cope with the stress. Those hormones effect changes in our bodies and brains – both positive and negative. Eventually the stress hormones will fade off, but we can burn them off too. We can make the drain larger, allowing us to cope with more water–stress–and better handle what life throws at us. How? Back to Grossman…

“The best way you make your drain bigger, so that you process stress out faster, is to engage in appropriate management dynamics, specifically, daily vigorous exercise.”


When I was in Iraq in 2004, my team was working 16 hour days patrolling and meeting all day, then drafting and pushing out our reports until 9:00-10:00pm every day. Being the Team Leader, I was on the hook for much of the support, mission planning, and logistics as well. Couple that with IEDs, harassing fire, and mortar & rocket attacks, it made for a very stressful time. I was irritable, angry, felt trapped by my circumstances, and dearly missed home. It was getting pretty bad. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep, and I was feeling worn out. I knew I had to do something. The Doc was always an option, but I didn’t want to go that route as medication doesn’t sit well with me. After a while I managed to carve out an hour each day to get to the gym and workout. Heavy weights became my Prozac. And all was better in the world.

Physical training. PT. Strength and conditioning. We have been using this as a means to control stress, perform better, and recover from injury throughout history. From sports to military to combat to rehab to lifestyle, the data is in and it’s pretty well accepted that PT will make us stronger, faster, and smarter. It is the one factor that will improve all aspects of one’s life. Business gets better when we’re fit. We are more motivated, we sleep better, sex is better, we are happier, our relationships are better, and we communicate more. While there are lots of camps people are fans of – Crossfit, GORUCK, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Prancercize, etc. – the point is to do something. Regularly. Vigorously.

But in order to meet success in Grossman’s “daily vigorous exercise,” as well as better cope with our hormones, we must look at the rest of our lifestyle. Along with physical training and stress management, we must have solid diet, sleep, and blood chemistry in order to support it.


Food is the most powerful drug we take every day. It effects our hormone balance, feeds muscles, tweaks our bloodstream, and causes changes in our brain. If you’re reading this blog, you already know what I am talking about. As Melissa Hartwig says in her book It Starts with Food, “It starts with food.” Again, there are many schools of thought on diet. As a recovering fat kid, I have tried many styles of eating in an attempt to make a difference in my body composition. My only conclusion is this: one size most definitely does not fit all. Genes, goals, economics, and Life all have an impact on how and what we eat.

But there is one other conclusion I have come to – probably the most important. Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, summed it up best:

“Everything you eat should make you look, feel, and perform better.”

Sleep. It is when we hit the reset button on our bodies. Like the Borg in their Regeneration Units, we need sleep to recover from all that Life throws at us and all that we throw back. As noted by Dr. Kirk Parsley, a former Navy SEAL and MD:

“I work with, and have worked with some of the most elite people on the planet. This list includes world-class athletes, professional sports teams, the world’s most powerful CEO’s, the most successful entrepreneurs across the globe and the Navy SEALs.

What do these elite performers all have in common? All of them perform better with sleep.

What’s the second thing? The second thing they have in common is that nearly all of them consider their routine lack of sleep not to be a problem. When we first meet, that is. After we’ve worked together for a while, 100% of them understand that lack of sleep WAS affecting their performance.”

Think about it. Sleep on it.

I was going to talk about supplements, too. But these days it has morphed into another topic entirely: Biohacking. What is that? The application of science to come back stronger, faster, and smarter, of course. Or as described by Mark Moschel on bulletproofexec.com:

“Biohacking is a crazy-sounding name for something not crazy at all—the desire to be the absolute best version of ourselves.

The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.

You know how coffee feels like a shot of energy to your brain?

Pre-coffee you is sleepy….zzzzzz…

Post-coffee you is WIDE AWAKE!!

The only difference is the coffee in your stomach.

The lesson is this: What you put into your body has an ENORMOUS impact on how you feel.”

The key here is to know what you are taking and why. Too often I see people taking multi-vitamins because they are told it’s good for them. What are they taking? Is the dosage right? Why are you taking it? No clue. It just makes their pee more expensive. But, as we saw with Deadpool the right application of the right stuff can render amazing effects.

Okay. Lots of ground skimmed over, huh? Almost there…

The bottom line is this: We decide. We decide what we are going to stick in our faces. We decide what our goals are. We decide whether we are going to get up in the morning, make our bed, and get after it today. Or not.

And that’s the last bit I want to talk about. Mindset. Outlook. Perspective. Whatever. The mind is the primary weapon in this fight. If our mind is right, we can use any tool, any weapon, any bit of knowledge to our advantage and make a difference in our lives. And our children’s lives. And the lives of those around us. If Wade Wilson never decided to take life on his terms, he never would have become a superhero. But he did. He decided.

And so can you. Couple that mindset with  training, nutrition, biohacking, etc., and we can become superhuman. We can be our own superhero. Just without all the goody-two-shoes crap written into newsstand comic book heroes. We have shit. We kill. We swear. We’re damaged. But we’re working through it, and that process fuels our own, different kind of superhero story.

And every day is a new chapter.

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!” – Deadpool, 2016




On Combat, Dave Grossman

The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf

It Starts with Food, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

LTC Dave Grossman (retired)

Melissa Hartwig

Robb Wolf

Dr. Kirk Parsley

Mark Moschel








Deadpool quotes:

“…a different kind of superhero story.”

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!”


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