Lessons in Autism from an Austrian Strongman Legend

Would you just LOOK at the SIZE of the biceps on that dude?

https://youtu.be/zW4y0WzSWiIUnless you also share the same kind of era-specific special interest of strongman, you probably don’t know of the behemoth on the left. That’s Manfred Hoeberl, an Austrian Strongman competitor in the mid-90s, known for his 26-inch biceps. Bandana-clad and big-armed, he cut a characteristic figure among his strongmen peers, making him an eminently watchable competitor.

Of course, being in Iceland, I rooted for Magnus Ver Magnusson, as one does. But Manfred had the strongman LOOK.

And then there’s me on the right. I can barely fit my hair into a bandana, and I’m not as well-known for my biceps.

Through absolute happenstance, I caught an episode of one of my personal favorite YouTubers: Big Loz Official – an English strongman whose commentary, insights, and content just ticks all of my special interest boxes. He finally landed an interview with Manfred, one whom I’d been wanting to hear from for a while.

What does this have to do with autism, HUNTER?

Among the many anecdotes he shares, Manfred recalled being a half-point ahead of Magnus Ver in the 1994 World’s Strongest Man competition heading into the final event. And not only was he leading prior to the event, he led during the event (Atlas Stones).

Until he made a fatal mistake.

Well, not literally fatal.

He looked over.

To see how Magnus Ver was faring. Breaking focus. Checking out the competition. Side eyeing for a split second.

Magnus took the event and the title, winning the event only just, and the competition by a single point. It was the closest Manfred came to a title.

I’m paraphrasing, but Manfred remarked that THAT was the decisive moment. Where his claim to glory was snatched away a glance askance.

I’m guilty of that too.

Where I compare my experience to peers. To other creators. Even to other autistic professionals. To those lifting their own Altas Stones, where I should be focused on my own.

That’s never a winning move.

My Atlas Stones are mine own. I’m my own competition, not others.

My autistic experiences, joys, successes, failures are not a competitive event.

It’s hard not to fall into this trap, for my autistic brain and soul to seek additional inputs, vectors, data to frame whether or not I’m “doing well” or “doing good.” For all my innate hyperfocus, I am equally strong in zeroing in, but also perilous when I zero out and break the turbolaser beam of me and my own word.

Manfred’s advice: “You do you.”

True words there.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can apply some similar wisdom to my biceps.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram.

Speaking of YouTube strongmen and creatives, well, only one of those applies to me, but I hope you’ll check out my channel and subscribe nonetheless. Thanks so much.

New Normal? In Autism, it’s something different.

My hair is back to normal. As you can tell.

Which begs the question: that’s normal? I guess so. These days, my hair is normally longer than it is short.

If I were to walk around town, it’s pretty normal. At work, it’s not necessarily abnormal. At church, yeah, it ain’t normal. Even in the autism community, y’know, it might be abnormal by comparison — I grew this awesome redness and haven’t given myself a ‘normal highlight color’ like most of us else in the neurodivergent community.

What is normal?

I had an abnormal week. I worked only two days, non-consecutive. I spent Monday mostly outdoors. The other days I spent being a stay-at-home-dad, working every trick in the book to get my daughters to nap at the same time, for hours on end — which they did. Yay me. Go Dad.

Was that normal?

I tend to talk more than others do when others don’t and talk less when others expect me to. I’ll answer some emails in as few words as possible, while waxing labyrinthine and poetic in others. I’ll begin meetings with wild stories and pack a rabbit warren of tangents into what becomes my trail. At times I feel like I’m the only one who gets it. It’s not a matter of smart/dumb — it’s just different, and I feel my lens to be clearer.

Is that normal?

I’m finding more and more people who share the same ‘abnormalities’ I do. The obsessive lateral interests. The hyperfixations. The same categorical social miscues. The similar toolboxes of coping with people and environments and life. The penchant for prolixity. The aversions to contact: eyes, handshakes, proximity.

Aren’t those normal?

Autism is my normal.

It’s normal for me to overexplain, to conjure obtuse analogies, to confuse literalities, to cringe at a lack of specificities, to walk in unpredictable gaits as my mind cycles through ideas, to rehearse conversational possibilities before they happen, to analyze details that you’re uncomfortable with me knowing but you’re just not mindful enough to obscure, so of course I’m going to ask about that reminder to give Richard a heartworm pill and comment on how unexpected it is to either have a dog by the name Richard or a person named Richard who requires a heartworm pill.

It’s normal for me to forget things in front of my face, to ignore things beyond the periphery of my routine, to seize up and shudder at a full sink, to spend hours emptying my dishwasher, to want to help so bad that I become an annoyance, to earnestly come back with details about episodes and events that impact you, to reach the apex of achievement and wallow in pity within a day, to cry at random and have nothing to explain the rare and strange event.

This is normal.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram.

As for what really sparks joy, join the many others who’ve followed my exploits on my channel. But watch out: I don’t have “casual fans.” If you dig it, YOU DIG IT. This episode is a GREAT affirmation of the autistic experience. Hope you enjoy.

Boring is a Great Privilege

If I were a drink, I’d be tap water served eerie still, unshaken and not stirred. As a cereal, I could ‘outbran’ bran. And as ice cream, I’m the kind you get when “Plain Vanilla” just seems a little too adventurous.

I’m a boring guy.

I eat dinner earlier at a time where even senior citizens would make fun of me. I prefer muted colors. The hardest thing I’ve had to drink was Mike’s Hard Water® from my shower. I haven’t had a birthday party since age 8. The last time I went out after dark was to check the mail.

I’m boring autistic.

So not only am I boring, I’m an autistic boring. Even among autistic advocates: I’m not “hip,” I don’t have cool multicolored hair, and I still think “vibe” is a noun and not a verb.

I’m old, I’m a homeowner, I’m a dad, and I have a job and career I’ve held for over a decade. And I’m autistic. That doesn’t really connect with a lot of the autistic audience who is younger, still finding their way around themselves, their lives, their present and future. Of course you “vibe” with someone more like you, only cooler. Not “less like you” and “way uncooler.”

But that’s not every autistic audience. That’s not every autistic advocate and ally.

Some groups, companies, organizations: they’re boring too. They’ll nod inside when you bring up autism advocacy, but they’ll recoil as soon as they see a visible face piercing. They’ll say they embrace and support autistic initiatives, but whoo boy hold on, not if it means, you know, “having weird colored hair.”

It’s not bad to be boring. It can be bad to want boring.

Boring is my privilege.

For all the uphill traction that genuine, authentic, “weird,” hip, and otherwise non-boring autistic advocates would face in the boring bastions — I don’t face that. I love that many passionate autism allies are authentically themselves, acerbic, and colorful, and dedicated their voices to bettering neurodivergent lives.

It’s a shame that many more boring places and spaces aren’t ready to embrace you.

But they embrace me. They see my straight laces, my straight edges. They think, “Well, he looks like a put together young man with a well-tended rolodex. THIS is the kind of autistic advocacy we can tolerate.”

Boring privilege is my weapon.

Because guess what they hear as soon as they make the mistake of letting me in the lobby? Of thinking that my plainer-than-vanilla, more-boring-than-bran veneer would somehow let them off the hook? Of assuming that I’ll have “more institutionally friendly” autism guidance fit for people who wear collared shirts?

EVERYTHING YOU WONDERFUL, WILD, ANTI-MILD AUTISM ADVOCATES AND ALLIES WOULD TELL THEM.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram.

Oh, latest episode! Enjoy.