Becoming James Bond

Robert Novitsky


How the archetypal hero transformed my life, and made me into a better man

If you ask, most men will agree that James Bond embodies the art of cool, confidence, charisma, and power. He saves the world, gets the women, and does it all in style. Women want him, men want to be him. And it’s no wonder. James Bond epitomizes the masculine ideal.

He fights the faceless shadows of SPECTRE, the hidden criminal organization that runs things behind the scenes, which can be compared to the unconscious elements of the psyche. He operates out of sight of the general public, or the conscious mind, which allows him to battle these hidden elements. He is the true archetypal hero, in every sense of the word.

This is why I wanted to discover some of his character traits within myself, and I succeeded in doing so.


I’ll reveal action-steps that I took in order to embody this masculine ideal in the second half of this article. These are actionable steps you can take today that will transform your life.

In the first half of the article, I will introduce you to a little bit of Jungian psychology as it relates to James Bond, which will get you into the mindset necessary to undertake these challenges.

Are you ready? Read on.

The archetypal hero has been discussed in Jungian psychology as an ancient motif found across all cultures. Rooted in the human psyche and often times manifested in dreams as symbolic representations, our brain attempts to integrate new information through storytelling, which seems to be the way the right hemisphere communicates with the left hemisphere of the brain. The hero is the actor in the unconscious drama that has helped us grapple with chaos (i.e. the unknown) and come away with some semblance of order, which we can use to achieve our ends and orient ourselves in the world.

He symbolizes the unconscious self that embodies all archetypes. In essence, the hero is that part of you that goes on a figurative journey to find something of value, and bring back that treasure to the tribe.

Your goal is to assimilate the unconscious content that has been disowned and not yet understood by you.

This is akin to, in symbolic terms, confronting the monster within you or what you most fear, and conquering it. A common myth is that of a dragon guarding treasure — an opportunity that carries risk and reward.

If we want to understand James Bond, we have to understand his character on a deep level — his thought process, his background, his motivations, his philosophy of living. Though James Bond has many skills, and some of them may be worth learning in order to fully grasp his mindset, what we can start with now and what I believe would have the most impact is tapping into your “shadow” in relation to what is unknown to you about James Bond. In other words, you must seek and integrate those forces that are currently unreachable by you, which form the basis of his personality. The idea is that you cannot embody something which you have not yet explored.

There’s a scene from the movie Skyfall, which sums up where Bond’s confidence comes from. In the scene, James is found at an exclusive casino in Macau where he attempts to track down the terrorist responsible for the MI6 server hacking and subsequent bombing of MI6 headquarters in London. He is approached by Séverine, who Bond previously sees assisting a man named Patrice in an assassination of an art dealer. He tells her that he wants to meet her employer, and determines that she is in actuality a victim under the rule of a tyrant. She agrees to take Bond to him in the hopes that Bond kills him, hence, freeing her from her captivity.

This brings us back to the shadowy aspect of the plot. James Bond doesn’t know who this man is, but he knows that he’s a powerful and dangerous individual. This does not deter James from facing his shadow who, as the movie later reveals, is symbolically his other half.

James Bond: I want to meet your employer.

Séverine: Be careful what you wish for.

The scene is quiet. There’s no music, only dialogue. The lighting is dim and there’s a sense of being watched by some unknown force. Here, James is warned that he may be in for more than he can handle. This is the classic crossroads, a point at which an important decision must be made — a decision with serious consequences. James is unfazed, and instead of running away with his tail between his legs, he just looks at her and says:

James Bond: You’re scared.

His observation is correct. She stands up to leave, but he pulls her in and confronts her. This scene demonstrates not only his assertiveness, but his willingness to face what would normally frighten someone else. The unknown is faced head on, unflinchingly. Where does he get this confidence from?

James Bond: You put on a good show. But ever since we sat down, you haven’t stopped looking at your bodyguards. Now, three of them is a bit excessive. They’re controlling you. They’re not protecting you. The tattoo on your wrist is Macau sex trade. You belonged to one of the houses. What were you? 12? 13? I’m guessing he was your way out. Perhaps you thought you were in love. But that was a long time ago.

What comes with the willingness to look into the abyss is Bond’s ability to observe his environment without being controlled by his emotions.

In Egyptian mythology, for instance, the eye at the top of the pyramid is the power of attention. One can only use this power if one is not controlled by base instincts, such as fear, which muddies the waters of perception. Bond notices the tattoo on her wrist, the barrette strapped to her thigh, and the bodyguards standing overhead and deduces from the situation. His attention is clear, sharp, and focused. He follows her eyes as she looks toward her “bodyguards.” He notices the minor details that most people would overlook, and because of this, he moves the game along in his favor.

Séverine: You know nothing about it.

James Bond: I know when a woman is afraid and pretending not to be.

Rather than taking what she says at face value, James observes the truth behind her lie. We can learn something very important from this: Watch what people DO, not what they say.

Séverine: How much do you know about fear?

James Bond: All there is.

The above quote is most profound, and gives us the answer to the origin of his confidence. It’s not that he was always immune to fear, but rather that he knows fear well from experience. He’s met with it face to face on many occasions, from all angles, and that’s why he is able to see it in others. He has conquered fear through knowing it, rather than avoiding it, and to know something is to have transcended it. Thus, he is the master of fear itself.

Séverine: Not like this. Not like him.

James Bond: I can help you.

Séverine: I don’t think so.

James Bond: Let me try.

Séverine: How?

James Bond: Bring me to him.

Séverine: Can you kill him?

James Bond: Yes.

Séverine: Will you?

James Bond: Someone usually dies.

James is confident even in the face of Séverine’s fear. He is a rock, untrammeled by the doubts of others. When he’s asked if he can kill her employer, the shadowy figure who is unknown to him, he simply affirms that he can. There is no uncertainty in his words or his tone. His body language does not hint at any deception. He is fully confident in his abilities.

Rather than keeping with the tense situation, Bond breaks set and jokes, “Someone usually dies,” eliciting a genuine laugh of relief from Séverine. His confidence in the face of danger, allowing her to relax and let go of her worries, is a tribute to the James Bond we all know and love.

Actionable Steps

According to Carl Jung, the archetypal hero embodies the personal and collective unconscious and appears in religions and mythologies across time. You’ll find it in literature and movies. Some authors like J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter novels) are conscious of what they’re doing, and others are not, but those who use it are tapping into it on some level.

Though all heroes share a mythological pattern, James Bond is unique in his own right. He’s smooth, calm, confident, and charming. He has exemplary style. He has many skills. He is cultured, yet dangerous. Women adore him. You don’t find that in Harry Potter, and certainly James Bond is more prolific, having 26 movies under his belt as of this writing, which spans a timeline of over 50 years! Twelve actors have played the role, each bringing their own interpretation of the legend to the big screen, while still portraying crucial aspects of Bond’s manner without changing his underlying makeup.

james bond through the years

What makes Bond so distinctive and memorable is that he represents the British spirit. The books were written by an English author named Ian Fleming, who also worked for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during World War II, and who after the war decided to write a spy novel, his first being Casino Royale. His James Bond character was influenced by many people he met during the war that typified the secret agent/commando persona because they were real spies and commandos. It is said that one in particular who worked for MI6 wore handmade suits and was chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce.

The British have a long history of social class ranking. For example, the term Gentleman was actually pegged at the lowest end of the gentry (or of high social class), Esquire and Knights being of higher social standing, and Royalty being at the very top. Though originally written in as upper class, James Bond has since changed his class many times throughout the film series (Sean Connery, arguably one of the greatest Bonds of all time, comes across as someone with working class beginnings).

As a universal hero archetype as well as being a symbol of modernity, Bond is a mixture of culture and timelessness. He adapts without compromising his values, he’s ever present in our psyches, and damn, does he look good!

We all understand the value of looking our best. Whether you’re rich or poor, taking the time to look good will affect how people perceive you. These, of course, are always subject to the cultural values of the society and environment, so be sure to dress accordingly. When Bond travels to various locations around the globe, he makes sure to blend in, but always with style. Being well dressed can also be psychologically rewarding, leaving you feeling more powerful and able to perform at a much higher level. It has also been shown to improve abstract thinking, which can help you in competitive environments that require mental prowess.

A good book I started with when learning the basics of men’s style was Esquire’s The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good. Make sure to check it out.

Being well groomed is also not to be glossed over. Get a good haircut. Trim your nails. Shave regularly, or trim your beard. James always keeps things neat, so be sure to take time out each day for proper hygiene/grooming.

Here are a few products that I recommend: Hair products (Suavecito Pomade for Men, Layrite Deluxe Original Pomade), a double edge safety razor (the one I have is a Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor MK23C), razor blades (I recommend Feather for the sharpest blade and Astra for more sensitive skin), a shaving brush (a great inexpensive one would be the Omega Shaving Brush PRO 48 or if you want to plop down some money for a top-of-the-line badger brush go for the Edwin Jagger Best Badger Shaving Brush), and shaving soap (you can’t go wrong with Proraso, but there are many others).

Though James Bond shaves with a straight razor in Skyfall, you can skip that and go with the double edge safety razor instead, which I linked to above.

Staying fit is another very important lifestyle choice. It’s no secret that in order to be a good 00 Agent, James has to stay physically and mentally fit. If you sit around all day at work and at home, your body becomes weak and soft. As your body loses it’s strength, energy, and flexibility, the mind follows in lockstep. A sedentary lifestyle is not conducive to good health and esteem. Do yourself and the ladies a favor — lift weights, bike, swim, and run. You need to build mental and physical strength, as well as endurance. You will see that the quality of your life will increase substantially.

I recommend getting a gym membership. I have one at LA Fitness. It’s $25-$30 per month depending on what deal you get. Be sure to negotiate for $25/month for multi-gym access if possible and a low initiation fee (one-time fee). Serious about barbell training? Some commercial gyms like LA Fitness have a few power racks, but if you’re into power lifting, then a specialty gym is recommended. Another thing to remember — Always negotiate. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want, and ask again. Be ready to walk away if necessary.

Do you feel confident enough to protect yourself and your loved ones in a confrontation? Another good idea is joining a dojo and learning self defense. James Bond is prepared for any threatening situation that might come his way.

In order to help get into shape for his role as Bond, Daniel Craig learned Krav Maga, which combines Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Aikido for real world self defense. I personally joined a dojo that regularly hosts seminars with Bruce Lee’s former training partner. Learning martial arts humbled me, giving me a more realistic assessment of my abilities and areas of improvement.

For staying motivated throughout your physical and mental training, it is highly recommended to get a training partner. It’s hard to get yourself in the gym on a regular schedule if no one is there to push you, especially at the beginning. This is essential.

strong people are harder to kill

In terms of specific workouts, do some compound exercises. These exercises are more efficient and effective for building muscle mass and strength because they act on many different muscle groups at once, rather than isolated exercises that are better for aesthetics. Daniel Craig’s workout for Casino Royale was a combination of powerlifting (heavy weights) with compound exercises. The heavy weights elevate your heart rate and is a great way to get some cardio in for burning off body fat. Examples of compound exercises include the overhead press, power clean, bench press, squats, and deadlift.

I must say that joining a gym was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Knowing that I can deadlift 340 lbs., squat 270 lbs., overhead press 135 lbs., and bench press 200 lbs. gives me a great amount of confidence. I’m not only stronger, I’m sharper mentally, and I’ve eradicated my lifelong anxiety.

Furthermore, I dated an attractive girl from the gym, and met a lot of new people. Yes, I do get more women admiring me and even approaching me. My family and friends respect me more, and I am more assertive than I’ve ever been. I don’t promise all of these benefits for you, but I do strongly recommend that you give joining a gym a chance. Shoot for at least 3 days per week of training.

The program that I followed is called Starting Strength. It is, in my opinion, one of the best programs out there for beginners who want to build strength and muscle mass. I recommend starting with these barbell videos from The Art of Manliness to get a great intro:

Furthermore, I dated an attractive girl from the gym, and met a lot of new people. Yes, I do get more women admiring me and even approaching me. My family and friends respect me more, and I am more assertive than I’ve ever been. I don’t promise all of these benefits for you, but I do strongly recommend that you give joining a gym a chance. Shoot for at least 3 days per week of training.

The program that I followed is called Starting Strength. It is, in my opinion, one of the best programs out there for beginners who want to build strength and muscle mass. I recommend starting with these barbell videos from The Art of Manliness to get a great intro:

How clean you keep your living space is a reflection of your mind. Make your bed every morning. Vacuum and dust. Organize your paperwork/email. Keep a healthy wardrobe with ironed dress shirts, suits, and blazers. An organized, clean environment will affect your mind in a good way.

clean living space

Screenshot from Casino Royale (2006)

Once your living space is pristine, set aside some time for meditation every day, preferably after a cold shower. If you’re familiar with the books, James Bond is known for taking a shower that started hot and ended cold. The cold shower has a range of benefits such as increasing norepinephrine in the brain (elevating your mood and wakefulness, while also reducing inflammation and pain), strengthening the immune system, and burning fat. If you want to train your body for improved circulation, start with a hot shower for as long as you want, and for the last 2 minutes end with cold water. Health benefits aside, this is also a very powerful technique for building will power.

After your cold shower, you will have the energy to sit and meditate for 5–10 min. Set a timer and focus on the gentle inhale and exhale of your breath. Let go of any thoughts that arise in your mind. This is excellent training for focus, retraining bad thinking habits, and letting go of compulsions. It is safe to say that Bond has stellar control of his thoughts and emotions. Keeping a clear head is absolutely necessary in his line of work, and life in general.

My experience is with the Wim Hof Method. It’s a program that trains your body to acclimate to cold temperatures over time, along with deep breathing and yogic exercises. It trains your body and mind for increased focus and energy.

I’m also currently meditating for at least 10 min. per day. The results of meditation can be astounding, depending on if you are doing it correctly. Personally, I am working on eradicating depression, as I tend to be susceptible to chronic moodiness. Meditation has allowed me to become aware of my automatic thought processes, which has reduced my depressive symptoms.

My recommendation is to start with something that seems simple like focusing only on your breath, counting up from 1–10. Inhale and exhale for a count of one, inhale and exhale for a count of two, and so on. If you find yourself lost in thought (as you will be), start over. Do this for 10 min. per day and work your way up to 20 min., then 30 min. After you master this, you can move on to more advanced techniques.

Regardless of your class, looking sharp and staying fit is something that can be learned, but being cultured is not just looking the part. It’s also about appreciating the finer things in life. You would never find Bond befuddled when presented with a selection of wines. He is a connoisseur of the best things that life has to offer. While he enjoys the opulence of Beluga caviar, he’s also no stranger to “the ordinary plain food of the country” when traveling abroad. His tastes are impeccable and his worldly knowledge is something to be admired.

When he wants to, he’ll break the rules. His own catchphrase, “Vodka martini, shaken not stirred” is his personal preference. When he’s not sipping on Taittinger Champagne in From Russia With Love, he’s inventing his own cocktails.

So, why does everybody want to be James Bond? Simple. He commands respect. He dresses the part, knows what he wants, and gets what he wants — all while remaining cool under pressure. He saves the world and lives a life of leisure and luxury, all on the government’s dime. You gotta love it!