A few weeks ago I asked a group of model-train enthusiasts about the secret of happiness. They told me that if you’ve got a hobby you can spin all of life’s pain and horror to the sides and focus on that thing you love. The recipe is simple—get a hobby, get happy. And apparently anyone with a hobby can be happy, even if it means, say, getting punched in the face until you black out. Or did I get that bit wrong? Maybe some hobbies make you happy while others, like boxing, just make you less angry. With this dilemma in mind, I visited the chummy yet undeniably hard-ass members (and their receptionist) of North Melbourne Boxing and Fitness to hear their personal take on happiness.
Jake Carr, Pro Boxer
VICE: Hey, Jake, what’s the secret of happiness?
Jake: Happiness is dedication and the addiction to it.
Can you describe the addiction?
A lot of boxing is spent training in the lead-up to a fight. You usually spend six to eight weeks in training camp for one night. I train six days a week, two sessions per day, so obviously it’s the training you get addicted to and the adrenalin rush it gives you.
What about pain? Does pain detract from happiness?
No, pain is part of dedication. You actually get most of your pain from training, and you train hard so that you can fight easy.
Do you get angry?
Well, you want to stick to your game plan. You don’t want to get angry because then your technique gets sloppy.
Do you ever get in fights outside the ring?
Never. It’s too much of a risk hurting my hands. Obviously these are my tools, so if I’m being an idiot out on a Saturday night and run into someone giving me lip and I hurt my hands, well, there goes my career.
What do girls think of your boxing?
They don’t mind it. Especially when they’ve seen the boxing because I don’t have a shirt on, and they don’t mind that. I was actually out for dinner last night, and I was sitting there and one of the waitresses kept walking past. Finally her friend walked up to us and said, "Oh, my friend wants your autograph. I said, 'OK, not a problem.' She’d obviously seen my fight on TV, so I gave her my autograph, and she wrote down her number.
Will you call her?
Possibly. I’ll just see what her weekend plans are. Maybe see what she’s doing.
Do you have a fear?
Yeah, spiders. I hate spiders. A week ago I was lying on my bed and I felt a bit of an itch on my neck, and it turned out to be a little spider. That was it, I was out of there.
Are you happy?
Extremely. I wouldn’t change anything I’m doing at all.
Louie Marcocci, Amateur Boxer
So Louie, what’s the secret of happiness?
Louie: Just do whatever you set your mind to and you’ll be satisfied. And keep the wife happy.
Tell me about your wife.
If she’s happy, everyone’s happy.
And if she’s not?
Everyone is miserable.
So what makes her happy?
I’ve got be nice and do the right thing. Come home on time.
And what about your boxing. It makes you happy?
Yeah. I’ve been doing it 12–13 years, but I hate repetition so I get bored just following the white line in a swimming pool. No, with boxing, the last thing you’re worried about is the cardio—that you’re dying, and you’ve got no air in your lungs. That actually makes you fitter.
And what do you do when you’re not boxing?
What’s your job?
I’m in the meat wholesale business.
Does work make you happy?
It makes me moody. Look, I’m in a family business and common sense is rare, or they just don’t care. There are a lot of people out there, and we’re all different. But it’s not a problem as long as you show that you’re trying. That’s all that matters and that’s what makes me angry—people don’t try.
Do you tell your kids that?
Absolutely. Try something. Do it the best you can at that time. Whether you succeed or not isn’t important because we’ve all got issues. Absolutely no one is perfect, and I’ll be the first one to put my hand up.
So what are your issues?
I’m very moody. I’m happy today—you’re lucky. But juggling life makes me moody. I know that if I’ve had a bad day at work I’ll come here and I won’t feel like boxing. I’ve come here today because I’ve actually had a good day.
And how has your hobby contributed to your quality of life?
Well, it’s interesting because I was a lot more aggressive before I started boxing. Now I’ve just mellowed out completely.
Hi Emma, what’s the secret of happiness?
Emma: Just doing it and just being happy. There’s no real recipe for happiness. It’s one of those things that doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. Just be happy.
So you could be happy being alone in a locked room?
Well, no. I guess happiness is a product of our surroundings and our influences and I’m not saying we should be without influence, I’m just saying it’s about making the most of them.
So what’s your influence?
Dancing. It’s something I’ve just always done.
Can you see any parallels between dancing and boxing?
Absolutely. Everything is choreographed so when people are swinging punches it’s very much a combination of movements. And that’s exactly what dancing is too.
Are you a good dancer?
Yes. I have spark, I guess.
Spark is performance quality, it’s dynamic and it’s interest. Yeah, I’m a bit different to a lot of other dancers and that definitely helps.
Do Louie and Jake have spark?
Yeah I think so. I don’t box but I can see how complicated it is. I can see how much speed and skill and thought is involved in every movement.
Are you happy?
If there was something you could change about your life what would it be?
I’d probably dance more. Maybe at a higher level too.
But you wouldn’t take up boxing?
No because I don’t like getting hit in the face. And I think that’s fair enough.
Previously - Model Trains and the Secret of Happiness