That feeling of being focused on the things you care about most.
Accomplished in what you’ve done, but driven to do more.
Confident in what you’re doing and how you feel when you do it.
To me, that is a big part of what it means to be successful in life.
Here’s how I’ve used fitness to help me get there, and the stages you’ll pass through if you choose to do the same.
A bit of backstory to start.
I used to feel the exact opposite of all those things. I was aimless, shy, soft, weak, and lost. I can’t tell you for sure that it was because I was overweight and unhappy with my body.
But it didn’t help.
I knew that I needed to change.
Was it a new job I needed? Was I having a hard time going on dates because of my clothes? Maybe it was my haircut?
Whatever it was, I knew that I was giving off heavy loser vibes.
Because that’s how I felt.
What I’d accomplished in an average week was a grim mosaic of energy drinks, weed, instant coffee, and beer. I needed something to get my head straight.
I started meditating.
Just a few minutes before bed. Thoughts would rush into my mind, just like everyone else who meditates. But these were mostly ‘visions’ of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to feel.
Was it so much to ask that I could have a kickass body, run my own business, and feel like the main character of my own life?
It pissed me off that I was stagnant. Tired of being shouted at by the fat chef I worked under. I’d have ‘shower thoughts’ on my drives home from work about who I would be in 15 years.
This is the hard part.
This is where guys like you and I need to give absolutely everything we have.
There’s no motivation except from ‘pain’.
You don’t want to stay where you are, and that’s what encourages you to take action.
You don’t yet know that people will end up treating you differently when you’re in awesome shape. You don’t know how it’ll feel to look back at where you are today. You don’t know what you’ll do or how you’ll start.
But you know for sure that here isn’t where you want to be.
It’s at this point that you need a critical moment. Where you witness the tiniest possible morsel of progress.
That’s the glimmer of possibility that shows you hope for the future. There’s more out there for you.
For me, it came through strength. Weight on the bar. I started doing squats with a barbell, following a popular strength program called 5×5.
August 2015 was the first month that I ever did 3 workouts a week for a month straight. I ended up squatting about 175 lb for 5 reps. That would’ve snapped my spine on day 1.
To me, that was magic. The golden fleece. I tasted tangible progress, and knew I could do better.
To add to the fact, my body began to change. My chest, shoulders, legs, and arms began to grow and look more defined. Even with these stupid simple workouts that took me all of 45 minutes.
I’m not talking about the huge transformation where you go from fat slob to ripped fitness model. Just a 10% improvement of where you’re at right now. Even if that only means no longer feeling out of breath when you walk up the stairs.
Seriously, picture that.
Now imagine that you knew exactly what you did to make that happen. Imagine that you knew exactly how to do it again.
Excitement. Elation. Confidence. Inspiration. Hope. Achievement.
Call it over dramatic if you want, but a candle shines bright in the dark.
It was that first training program that showed me how I needed to be consistent in order to see the changes I wanted.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE
What happens next is a blast.
People would give me compliments at work (even in a joking, in-passing, kind of way). They were noticing that I was making changes and dialed in with my work.
The Pygmalion Effect is a phenomenon that states – how others view us, dictates how they treat us.
If a family member or friend was happy to see me losing weight and getting in shape, it made me want to work even harder to do right by them. When folks would ask me about how I was making it happen, I’d feel the urge to encourage them, too.
When you get into shape, it will only be a matter of time before you start showing the people in your life the best version of yourself.
Not because you’re ripped and sexy. But because of the skills, confidence, and badges of hard work you earned along the way. It’s undeniable, and it can start to ooze out of you.
Fitness is universally recognized.
At this point, you might be happy with what you’ve accomplished.
You might maintain your progress, or let it slide a bit if you shift your priorities in life.
But going one level deeper unlocks a world of new possibilities.
This is where you learn about diminishing returns.
You might’ve added 5lb to the bar every single time you worked out before. But now that you’ve got some more muscle and strength, things slow down. A 10% improvement of your physique isn’t a 30-day thing anymore.
That can be demoralizing. Or it can be invigorating.
“Goals transform a random walk into a chase.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Learning to read sheet music.
Getting your first batch of paying customers.
Finishing a big project that you’ve been working on.
Those are all great accomplishments to be proud of – but if you want to get the most out of a pursuit long-term, you don’t stop at your first milestone.
You’ve got to level up.
You’ll need to learn, like I did, about how to train to grow more muscle.
You learn that getting your ass in bed each night is a big deal for looking and feeling awesome. What used to help you lose body fat like gangbusters might not be working quickly anymore. Food tracking probably becomes more important here.
All that low-hanging fruit has been collected. You need to build a ladder.
Get ready to become a beginner all over again!
Once you get to the edge of this cliff, you realize 2 main things.
Training that changes your physique is HARD.
You must be willing to be patient.
Accepting and mastering those truths will give you deeper roots to draw on in all aspects of your life.
If you can spend 1hr in the gym, 4 days per week, moving heavy stuff, until you almost can’t… you will learn to work harder.
If you can stay consistent with your diet and workouts for 6 months, without knowing what the payoff will look like… you will learn to stay focused.
Those skills are valuable in any corner of your life.
Health. Wealth. Relationships.
You’ll see how you can carry that same mindset over into those realms to drive success. Problem solving gets easier, the more you do it. Call it myelinzation or whatever you want.
I started ‘burning a cleaner flame’ around here.
My sleep was better than ever. My grumpy, groggy, demeanour had faded. My eyes felt brighter, and my skin was clearer. Friends would joke that I was in ‘monk mode’.
Believe it or not, eating better, sleeping better, and exercising regularly will make you a better person to be around. Which, in turn, makes it more enjoyable to be that person.
It’s at this point that you might enter the final realm.
During this part of the game, you start to see these workouts as part of your life.
A non-negotiable. You see fitness as a way to sharpen your mind and ground yourself. A natural rhythm has formed with your life that supports your health.
You’ve become deeply involved with your training and nutrition.
Experimenting with new and different ways of setting things up to give you better results. You’re fascinated with the process of making progress. You’ve become eager to see what another few years will bring, without giving up on what needs to be done today.
It’s here that you’ve transformed into the ‘cliff upon which the waves crash’.
Gaining a little weight, missing a workout, or experiencing a setback is no longer the end of the world.
It’s all part of the game, and you’re here to play it.
People ask you for advice in the gym.
People give you compliments.
You apply what works in the weightroom to your work and relationships.
That means you earn more money, and enjoy more success.
You carry proof of your hard work with you everywhere that you go.
Not to prove it to other people but to prove it to yourself. Every day when you get dressed, you’re reminded of all that effort you’ve put in.
On the skill acquisition side of things, you’ve learned deep lessons.
You learned that you can accomplish the things that you set your mind to.
Even if you can only generate a droplet of progress, so be it.
With enough effort and time, that becomes enough. You know those droplets will grow in size, number, and cumulative effect.
You’ve got the ability to see past the noise and quick-fixes.
You’ve tapped into the wellspring of motivation and drive that never runs dry.
That’s the promised land.
I can’t wait to see you get there.