There are a great many quotes on it:
“If you always do what you’ve done, you’ll always get what you’ve got.”
I see people wear shirts with these words. And I hear a lot of people talk about challenging the status quo. But I don’t see very many people operate in a tangibly different way from one day to the next, one week to the next, one month, one year.
In fact, with most people, if you learn what they did in each season, on each holiday or vacation or weekend or sick week last year, during an injury or life challenge, you can create a predictive model for this and every following year. For some people, it's predictable to the day or even the hour. I've had clients with seasonal professions whose behavioral is so predictable from one year to the next that you wonder if anyone is at the helm.
So here’s a little homework assignment:
1.) pick a period of time where you are outrageously predictable
2.) do the opposite
That’s it. Simple. Try it a few times. Soon you’ll find that the various equivocating narratives you’ve been telling yourself and others evaporate. A peer of mine once noted his propensity to turn every weekend and holiday into a "cheat day" with eating. It's interesting that once someone evaluates "special day" he or she usually finds that there are almost more "special days" in the year than "regular days." So, for this peer of mine, he BEGAN a hard diet on July 4th. His family always does a big barbecue party with lots of adult beverages for the surrounding days or weekend of July 4th. He still partook in the visit. But he volitionally challenged his personal habitual behavior and brought his own prepared meals for the holiday. It set the tone for the next 4 months, during which he achieved trace body fat percentage for the first time in his life.
We may think we're real rebels or highly independent people. But there are so many automated switches and behaviors inside of everyone. It's not realistic to talk about changing outcomes without an overt plan to do the opposite of one's normal thinking, living, acting. Find these patterns. Acknowledge them. Alter them.
Actually challenge the status quo.
There are people with already-hypermobile joints and tissue whose program is only stretching or yoga. There are people with extremely immobile joints and tissue whose program is only resistance. Both are making a strategic mistake.
Strength IS stability. Flexibility IS instability. The risk of chronic spinal and joint deterioration goes up with instability.
BUT, incredible power without the capacity to use it through full skeletal ranges raises risk of acute tweaks and strains.
So do both.
I’ve added this deficit Trx Sissy Squat (video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxPbI5Fhv17/ ) as a finisher after extremely heavy split stance and Hatfield squAt, and found I can go with increasingly greater ranges and depths AS my strength has exploded. As this extensibility has progressed, my recovery to train hard has improved. Don’t just play to one facet of fitness.
➡️ 14 Coaching Appts
👍🏾 fasted cardio
✅ 2 hours note prep beforehand
🤔 are there any celebrity trainers with significant experience?
My calendar doesn’t even fit in frame. Pay attention to the 4am meeting (repeats daily) pictured on right.
What you learn about human behavior in even one day like this, let alone the 15 years I’ve been a professional in this industry, cannot be captured in a post.
But it does raise a pertinent question: why are there fitness celebrities who’ve never once logged real experience like this? Just because someone is a good “workout-ER,” why are we allowing them to delude themselves into thinking that means anything? Couldn’t a quadriplegic who can’t perform a single exercise be a better coach and more valuable voice of authority than some random narcissist who uploads a selfie six times a day and who never trained, coached, managed, mentored, or directly led a significant number of people?
I find that everyone, myself included, gets zeroed in on advantage/privilege/access as THE determinant for success.
But Angela Duckworth challenged the world a few years ago finding that ONLY grit is determinant in successful outcomes, not socioeconomic background, IQ, and a host of other things we all took for granted as the explanations for outcomes. Yes, they and other related factors can INFLUENCE outcome. But ONLY grit is determinant.
And this distinction is critical in preventing the poisoning of your own mind. Some factors you can’t control. Some you can budge a little. One, and the most important one, you entirely manipulate: grit. Hard work for the long haul makes up for and in some cases supersedes the combined benefit of all other advantages, privileged, and access. Thus, if you spend 100% of your mental effort on the factors you can’t control, what are we even doing here? If you can shift to even 5% of your mental focus toward grit, you can develop toward a direction that may turn out to be better than all other advantages.
But what if you could make it 100% of your focus is on the development of grit? And zero percent of your time is wasted on bemoaning the many unfair but currently unchangeable factors?
Don’t get distracted.
➡️ 30 years later
🔼 up 50lbs of muscle
✅ a beast of a man
✅ a gem of a human
Not my client, but a decade ago I did connect him to one of my employees, Mike Schmidt, a top strength coach in the Midwest.
On the original IG post (here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxKlZIJDx0C/ ), you can swipe left to see @petertressel ‘s generous endorsement, calling my attention to an effort I started 15 years ago around when he and I first met.
Peter’s story and his trainer’s programming are powerful; but those details are for another day. He’s also a great friend who’s taught me much. And his words here struck like a hammer: the endeavor for excellence continues to reverberate out today out into the world to influence trainers, clients, and even others in the clients’ lives.
My teams and I slaved for fitness, for our passion, and for our clients. And to this day, the loyalty and support returned continues forward.
If you really take a moment to observe the positive influence of even the negative people in your life, challenges appear a little less challenging. It isn't to minimize the challenges. They're real. Life can be difficult. But observe how far you've come due to the efforts of others outside of you.
Not frequently enough, but often I reflect on how awesome my life has been and is thanks to all the people in my life. No thanks to me. Thanks to them. I am deeply grateful for the many selfless supporters of me, my business, my vision, and my family. I have done nothing noteworthy in a vacuum. That my children have a home and food to eat is due to the outpouring of love and care from many, many incredible superhumans. From family to friends to clients to peers, I’m astonished at how many truly selfless people have touched the journey through which I still endeavor.
I just thank everybody.
In dark moments, I’ve had friends just show up, traveling across the world, without hesitation or question, to simply be present. I have buddies who had the perspective to anticipate need, and offered financial support while I took time off from work and travelled for my father’s funeral. I’ve had family just open their homes without question. I’ve had clients bend schedules and increase support during my times of challenge.
While sadly others pat themselves on the back for empty condolences (ie - them: “let me know if there’s anything I can do;” me: “yes, actually, is it possible to...;” them: *crickets*), I had genuine, awesome people step up in tangible ways which they didn’t need to, weren’t expected to, and certainly never asked to.
I thank everybody.
And I realize how dark it must seem for people who have so little support. If you are one of those people, sitting in a dark mental space, I have two thoughts for you:
1.) there are more people willing and ready to be your ally than you realize
2.) there are more people willing and ready to be my enemy than you realize
To the first one, the substance of character in others is greater than you can imagine. You’ve seen it: people are ready to go to war all day long over a cause they know nothing about and to which they have no connection. Look at online debates. Most of those topics are in no way understood nor is their impact felt by the loudest voices. Hours and hours are spent over debates and issues which at best some people feel some ethereal understanding; yet look at their indignation. Ask those people for support. Ask them to make a real contribution to a real human they actually know in a real way. Give them an opportunity to be a contributing member to society instead of a caricature of humanity. Let keyboard warriors become people of substance.
To the second, as much support as I have, 100 to 1, people wish for my failure. Crabs in a bucket don’t rejoice at the sight of one climbing out. Out of jealously and low confidence, there are people I know who not only didn’t give a rip when I had Lyme or the many times we almost lost our son in the ER, I get a sense they were pleased, sitting well in their schadenfreude. Several times, to my surprise, people of whom I’d always spoken highly, just went radio silent or actively worked against me in my moments of great success or great defeat. Some people whose weddings I attended didn't so much as say hello when my daughter was born, when I went in for surgery, when my son went in for surgery, when I lost loved ones. Some of the same people, whose current careers are still riding the momentum from business successes I helped shape, didn't even show up for the Elev8 Wellness Grand Opening. They never once stopped by. They never called. These are people who each directly or indirectly made hundreds of thousands of dollars from opportunities I provided. Dead silence. Nothing. I've come to learn that a lot of people smiling to my face were ready with the knife while my back was turned.
And I thank them too. The fakes, the phonies, the many, many broken people with chips on their shoulders, inimical as they are, and as incapable of support as they choose to be - thank you. I don’t mean it tongue-in-cheek. I mean it. You have shown me by comparison how incredible the other people in my life are. I still don't think low of you, even though you've chosen to be measurably uncharitable. Every time you have decided to work against me, it's resulted in a net improvement in my life. Former co-workers and peers whose jealousy is palpable, your anti-helpful attitude drove me to a dream life where every week I spend multiple entire weekdays with my kids and family. Former clients who needlessly withdrew, your empty hour allowed me to grow into a more valuable coach with ever-more serious clientele at a higher pay rate. I don't just mean the dollars. I mean the worthiness. The hour you once occupied in my calendar with your negativity was a net loss for me, both a lower rate than I was worth, and a lower effort than I deserved. It sapped valuable energy which is now devoted toward the flourish of invested people with a committed attitude. I thank you for leaving, while I honestly wish the best for you one day when you're ready to make the change and be a force for good in the world.
That’s the beauty of naysayers and detractors. They make evident just how wonderful your real supporters are. And they aren’t to be hated or reviled. They’re to be pitied, loved, and thanked as well. And I hope people can apply this understanding to all their enemies.
⬇️down 100+ lbs
Lupus diagnosis ➡️ no sign of Lupus
Not my client, but I did connect her to the right person. Swipe left (here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxHyu99DtTY/) to see @saracopenhaver07 ‘s very kind words the other day, which was a sobering reminder that there is this ripple effect in lives you end up touching, but also how they end up teaching you far more.
Her trainer, Neil Javener, was one of my best coaching clients and greatest hires of my career. His own journey is such an outrageous case study that people often don’t believe me when I brag about him.
There is an impact you have on environments and people which extends far out from wherever you are in a moment. And it’s profound how much farther people can take the tools and that impact long after your connection. Just remarkable work on both their parts.
Sara's story is interesting in many respects, the most prominent being how the removal of certain foods makes people with inflammatory diseases completely asymptomatic. I've heard that there are two groups of people living under a rock who still doubt this. One is the pharmaceutical lobby. The other is pharma lackeys.
I joke. But in all honesty, at this point, the only way anyone still says they doubt the role of food on human health is because they are evil or incredibly uneducated, willfully naive, belligerently anti-science, and out of step with basic logic. What we call "food" is a collection of many chemicals. The term "food" is a loaded word. It has no inherent value. All it means is some people at some point ate it and didn't immediately die afterward. Any item we think of as food has no intrinsic capacity to be safe. Fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and grains make their own insecticides. Some people tolerate a peanut. Some people die. Some people tolerate penicillin. Some people die. There is no such thing as a non-impacting substance. What we call "food" has no obligation to continue being safe for you for the rest of your life. Our environment, our epigenetics, our microbiome, and our immune programming all change throughout our lives. It only takes one little switch flip and your once-favorite food is now deadly. But even this is too black-and-white simpleton thinking. Some foods which don't immediately kill you are creating a slow damage that accumulates. Some foods which make a child flourish end up contributing to that child's parent's heart disease. Making the pseudoscientific claim that a substance we've labeled as "food" cannot play a critical role in autoimmune disease or any rampant inflammatory condition is such a parochial level of infantile thinking that it barely warrants a response.
But one of those two doubters may be your medical doctor, a self-avowed scientific thinker, or other authoritative dictator. So we have to spend a minute dismantling their unsupported fiction.
Multiple studies have already shown that fasting resets immune function. Every traditional culture figured out that food avoidance seasonally or yearly improved health. It's beyond debate anymore. People who dismiss food sensitivities or inflammatory response from food don't rise to a level which deserves the dignity of rebuttal. But let's make this really clearcut. To those people:
Eat poison berries. Other animals do. Drink snake venom. It's just proteins and peptides. Eat mad cow disease. It's just protein. Drink bleach or gasoline. They're just calories. I thought a calorie was just a calorie and a macro is just a macro. Right? That's your argument, right? In fact, pick any "dangerous" chemical and eat or drink it. What makes it "dangerous"? OBJECTIVE RESULT, not expert opinion. If you are unwilling to consider objective results, philosophically refusing to consider food's role in the disease pathology, that's circular dogma, not science.
In the same way that you may not end up flourishing if you drink bleach, some people will not flourish when they eat "foods" you categorize as "safe." No food is inherently safe. That's a logical fallacy with a massive question-begging antecedent. All substances are potentially deadly or destructive. Safety depends on the status of the person ingesting it, not on your personal opinion of the food. You're confusing historical societal acceptance of a food with universal safety. That is irrational and leading you to dismiss the very real subject of individual tolerance.
It's totally unsurprising, then, that fasting can improve people's health. We just take out the X factor when there's no food. With fasting/anti-inflammatory/elimination diets, if you've never conducted the scientific experiment, just shut up about this subject forever. Among people who CONDUCT science, their findings don't lie. I have had hundreds of clients whose white blood cell counts and rheumatoid markers improved after fasting. No one cares what your suffix is. No one cares where you went to school. No one cares about your fallacy of appeal to authority. The default scientific position isn't that foods "can't be" harmful or pro-inflammatory. Show us the data. Explain the mechanism. And maybe run an actual experiment on fasting, rather than speaking from a place of willful inexperience and ignorance.
Food, or perhaps lack of it, is the cure.
On one end of the spectrum you have a group of people who think it's easy. They think they'll somehow accidentally gain too much muscle. On the other end of the spectrum you have a group of people who think it's impossible. They think the only way to gain any appreciable amount of muscle is to use anabolic steroids, other hormones or peptides, SERMS and SARMS, and various other drugs. Both are way off the deep end. There are incredibly inexperienced YouTube kids who have created a sort of "career" out of speculating on who is and isn't using drugs based on little more than their own frustration with muscle gain from their short-lived effort and looking around the internet. Like the first group of people who think muscle just magically packs itself on, these online "experts" haven't ever worked full time in a legitimate gym environment with thousands and thousands of people. So their naive philosophies continue to influence the public, making "muscle building" this largely mythical and purposely misunderstood subject.
For the first group, it's true: lifting weights can stimulate muscle gain. However, even for someone who quadruples his or her strength through lifting weights, the muscle gain they think they experience was over at about the sixth week. You have to purposely eat in an unimaginable way to continue gaining size. For the second group, it's true: for the adult, the average person, the non-elite athlete, it's next to impossible to gain any significant muscle beyond the beginner adaptations of year one.
The average person should actually be worried about losing muscle, not gaining it. That's how hard lean tissue is to build. In fact, on average, people lose about a pound of bone, tendon, ligament, and muscle every year after age 20 or so. Most of obesity has to do with being incredibly weak and lacking muscle. Skeletal muscle is an endocrine organ which regulates hormone signaling in the body. If you aren't training to become stronger, you are training to become weaker and fatter.
Among the ignorant nouveau people in the fitness industry, they're just too weak-willed, inexperienced, and lazy to understand what it takes. For substantial mass gain, the athlete must be prepared to keep eating more food than the prior week or month. When 5,000 calories doesn't cut it, it's time for 6,000. When 6,000 doesn't get it done, 8,000. This endeavor requires a mentality which almost no one in the influencer sphere could understand. Especially for the natural athlete, you are going to have to gain 20-100lbs of body fat in the effort.
You can see that almost no one is wiling to do this when you watch popular YouTube channels. People who are too self-conscious and always want to remain lean never gain any real size even when they go on drugs. I have to laugh when I see this one skinny character on YouTube talk about size gain. He's got one of the most popular channels, looks like he weights 140lbs but claims to be over 170lbs, always looks exactly the same, has absolutely no full time coaching experience, but somehow is an "expert" on the subject because he is a "celebrity athlete trainer", whatever that even means. He is built like I was when I was 15 and hadn't started lifting consistently heavy. He has ZERO credibility on hypertrophy. Yet this is the type of person "educating" the public on training and building muscle. It's ludicrous.
Put aside the controversy for a second. And, for the moment, also table the discussion about NET lean tissue gain after a hard diet cutdown. Lee Priest in this clip (https://www.instagram.com/p/BxGlNbWD2Sl/) is still saying something valuable. Thanks @leeapriest.
You have to eat a lot AND train a lot FOR A LONG TIME to feed performance and tissue increases. I can't overstate this. For over a decade, I’ve told people if you aren’t willing to train crazy, eat over 12,000 calories per day, sleep more than 8 hours per night, and gain at least 40lbs of body fat in the pursuit of lean tissue development, just don’t even talk to me about “hard-gaining” or necessity of drugs. Over that same course of time I've seen an increased trend in the ignorance on this subject. It's so bad that in recent years I have met people who think they can just train modestly or stay lean and pack on measurably more muscle. One guy came to me thinking he was going to become a pro bodybuilder by putting on about 15lbs in the offseason. It's laughable. By the time he cut down, he had ZERO net gain. You want to force the body to add muscle? Gain 150lbs while you consistently lift substantially more weight for 10-20 years.
I drank over 20 tablespoons of oils per day when I decided in 2006 to test this whole natural-athletes-can’t-gain-size fiction. That’s not counting full meals, over ten scoops of protein powder, full bottles of honey, and cups of oats mixed into shakes every single day. I question the resolve of anyone claiming he's bent on gaining muscle but wants abs more than 1-2 months per year. Because I was using no PED, I had to go up to 287lbs of bodyweight in order to have about a 10lb net muscle increase in the course of a year or so. That isn't going to happen on accident, people.
Even WITH drugs, you see guys look pretty much the same for years. I know guys who've been on piles of anabolics and drugs for years, decades for some. They look pretty much the same with basically the same athletic performance as 5-10 years ago.
Just like with weight loss and getting lean, the eating component is indispensable for building muscle. There is no magic. There is no pill which will allow you to bypass this. The type of food intake it requires to make big moves can be absolutely insane. It isn't going to happen by accident. That said, high difficulty isn't impossibility. Building muscle is actually quite well understood, just not by average people or popular influencers.
Coaching, mentoring, parenting, teaching, training - you name it - is about assisting in perspective. One party has a blind spot. The other party can see clearly in that blind spot.
In my world, the fitness world, this boils down to taking the under confident and empowering them or the overconfident and humbling them. The “unsuccessful” are those that reject your vision in their blind spots.
I’ve worked with many people who don’t think they could ever be fit, or lean, or athletic, or thin, or fill-in-the-blank-here. It’s unimportant to me what that category is, other than I know full well you can achieve it even while you believe strongly you can’t. I’ve seen elderly people get young, genetically obese people get shredded, “naturally-gifted” athletes become invalids. Any and all possibilities are for the taking.
On the contrary, overconfidence in strategy is about as effective as low belief in self. People ask me, “can you just give me the list of 50 things to do?” This is so conceited and cluelessly offensive that I just shake my head. You can’t do it. You have to slave to earn the right to even ask a question like that. It’s like shooting an email to the Tibetan monastery instead of climbing the Himalayas and begging to study at the Ashram. And even after you climb the summit, you should still expect to be turned away. “Just give me the checklist to become valedictorian at Harvard,” you say. Ugh. Before we have that discussion, show me you’ll master the prerequisites.
Put in 5-10 years of unbroken compliance before you ask a question even remotely like that. I worked out hard, every day, without any breaks for 3 years before I felt I had the right to expect lists. And I still didn’t have that right. 30 years later I still don’t deserve a list.
You don’t get to trump card the universe. Fitness isn’t a product which you can go out and procure. It is a process. You’re already in it. You never enter. The process began at your conception. You exit on your dying day.
I say the number one determinant of outcome is mindset. You can find many examples of “successes” who did the wrong things and “failures” who did everything right. I can predict with 110% accuracy who will flounder miserably not by program but by their word choice. If someone says, “I just need,” she is doomed. The fact that you come to me, the expert, and tell me that you’ve determined the one single factor for your success, means you still don’t understand humility and growth.
Lists exist. Programs are legion. Go to Instagram or bodybuilding.com.Search google. The answer to everything exists already, right? Find your workout program. Find your diet. Simple, right? Now you’re content and happy and totally healthy and fit, right?
Yeah, the answer hasn’t a darn thing to do with a list, a series of “do’s” and “don’t’s”. Instead, get some perspective.
How will you integrate self-care into your identity? A good answer would be, “I don’t friggin know.” When you catch yourself saying, “I know the right thing to do; I just don’t do it,” try to follow up with a healthy serving of humility. You don’t know, obviously. Just work the process.
And through that process we can increasingly gain more perspective, if we’re willing to admit we need it. And ever do we need it.
We need perspective.
There is no on or off. There is no all-in versus all-out.
There is only a skill spectrum. The things we call discipline, willpower, good decision-making, and so on are just skills. We are more practiced; or we are less practiced. No one is born with self-discipline. We either practice the skill of doing what we say, and the skill of listening to ourselves, or we are out of practice.
Skill in the face of challenge works quite simply. When the challenge is greater than the skill, by definition the skill is insufficient to overcome the challenge. There was no “failure.” You didn’t “fall off,” or have a bad day or week. What happened was the only thing that could’ve or should’ve happened: insufficient skill will not magically do more than a greater challenge.
We would never administer a calculus exam for a toddler who hasn’t grasped basic mathematical concepts AND consider that toddler a failure. Why, then, do we criticize ourselves for “failing” to “make the right decision” about exercise or nutrition? The scaffolding doesn’t exist yet. The skill has yet to be built. The test outcome was exactly what it should’ve been. There was no other possibility until more skill is developed. People will discontinue an effort at getting fitter because they keep playing at a low level of skill. You better think twice about quitting and taking that "break." All that happens is you are even less skilled and less practiced the next time around. Plus, you taught yourself that when you endeavor toward a goal, it's an acceptable option to quit before you have built enough skill to actually work toward the goal.
It isn’t that you “made a bad decision” or “had a bad week” and now you have to “start over.” Instead, you played precisely within your skillset. Practice more. As you are more practiced, your skill will be commensurate or supra-commensurate for more challenges, more days, more pressures.
There is no “off the wagon” or “on track.” But there is skill. And there is practice.