Lessons from Black Widow on Creating A Better Life

Throughout all of the Avenger movies, we learn that Black Widow is forever haunted by what she calls the “red” in her ledger

Her “red” represents her life as a Russian spy before the Avengers and all the awful things she did to accrue the moral debt she carries in her mind.

Whether or not we realize it, many of us carry around a ledger of our own to keep a mental checklist of our good and bad choices.

No matter how many good Black Widow does, no matter how many lives she saves, she still had difficulty acknowledging that she’s worthy of being an Avenger.

Like Black Widow, you might wince when you think about your ledger, thinking only about your mistakes instead of your progress. Only about how far in the hole you are. How you can never get out.

Today we’re going to dive into the red in our own ledgers, come to terms with where we are in our journey, and prepare to balance it once and for all.

Acknowledging The Red in Your Ledger

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Photo from: https://pixabay.com/en/notepad-pen-paper-writing-business-926046/

“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!” – Odin

During Avengers: Age of Ultron, there is a moment between all of the Avengers where they each try to lift Thor’s hammer (the Mjolnir) after a party.

The rule is, whoever can lift the hammer is worthy of ruling Thor’s realm of Asgard.

Hawkeye can’t move it at all.

Iron Man and War Machine make an attempt to no avail.

The hammer shifts ever so slightly when Captain America tries (giving Thor an incredibly worried look).

But when it’s Black Widow’s turn, she passes on any attempts to lift the hammer.

Something about that short hammer scene always stuck with me. Like there was so much more going on than just a few friends having fun.

Then, one day, I was at the gym surrounded by these beasts who were performing moves I’m still far off from achieving when that scene came to my mind.

I realized it’s easy feel like Black Widow when you’re around these demi-gods and think you’re so far behind on your journey.

The problem with Black Widow is that she doesn’t think she’s worthy of the hammer. She thinks of her own ledger and deems herself unworthy without even giving herself a chance.

This is Black Widow’s constant problem: she’s haunted by her past and won’t allow herself to fully embrace the new person she’s become. And here she is, just like Hawkeye (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsdk-AnkVks), a mortal amongst these super-humans.

We all have symbolic red in our ledger. The things we think are holding us back from achieving our goals.

Some possible red includes past injuries, unhealthy habits, lack of confidence, comparisons to other people, food addictions, self-sabotage, or trying to break up with your previously-held beliefs.

Think about the past year of your life.
Which way did your ledger move?

Did you add more red, or did you start to balance it out? Did you already give up on trying to make progress this year?

The red in your ledger probably isn’t as big as being an assassin for Russia (I hope), but it stands for who you used to be; the things you work hard to change.

Moving Past Your Red

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Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/126293860@N05/15225676088

The red in our ledger is real – we have to correct our past mistakes and move forward with our lives. But so many of us, like Black Widow, can’t get out of our own heads and actually do it.

So what can you actually do now that you’ve acknowledged the red in your ledger and you want to continue to move forward?

1. Focus on your progress and your goals.

Black Widow brings a unique and badass skillset to the Avengers team. If she compared herself to others, that would defeat the point of what she brings to the table.

In our lives, we may not be on a superhero squad, but with social media, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to the people around you.

Take the time to think about what you want from your health and fitness journey. You bring your own unique perspective, advantages, and disadvantages to the table. You’re your own character. You can’t choose where you are right now – you’re already here. But you can choose how you move forward.

Write out each goal you’ve had in the back of your mind. Yes, write all of them. Then actually go through all of them and ask yourself if it’s something that would enhance your life or something that you think you “should” want.

You don’t have to run a marathon, deadlift 600 pounds, or climb a mountain to be the best version of yourself. Instead, just focus on being a little bit better tomorrow than you were today.

Make progress toward the goals that actually matter in your life.

It boils down to you being better than you were, not better than anyone else.

2. Be Prepared Like an Assasin

It’s when setbacks happen that most people want to (and actually do) quit.

But guess what: everyone slips, even superheroes.

The difference is, the superheroes correct their mistakes. They get back up and move on.

Just like courage cannot exist but in the face of fear, heroism cannot exist but in the face of difficulty and missteps.

All is not lost for the day because you had a bad meal.
All is not lost for the week because you missed a workout or two.
All is not lost for the month because you were sick for a week.

When a mistake happens, it’s easy to think of the red in our ledger and give up. But Black Widow doesn’t. She knows life is full of ups and downs with new surprises every single day.

Just like Black Widow, you need to be prepared for what life throws at you.

Now that you have your goals from the first action step, it’s time to make sure we’re prepared. Create your plan of attack for all the things that come your way.

Here’s mine:

  • When your coworker brings in donuts, you will say no.
  • When your workout partner skips a workout, you will show up to the gym anyway.
  • When you sleep in, you will fit in your workout at lunch or dinner.
  • When you miss a meal, you’ll be sure to meal prep tonight so you are prepared tomorrow.
  • When your coworkers ask you out for happy hour, you’ll either be prepared for this in your diet or you simply won’t go.
  • When your significant other buys snacks to fill the cupboards, you’ll maintain your discipline.
  • When it’s time to workout, you’ll be there.

If any of the items in your list fail, simply acknowledge you added more red to your ledger and immediately get to work to balance it out.

At no point does Black Widow say, “This isn’t going as planned, I quit.”

She stays adaptable, and so should you. At no point should you quit, no matter what life decides to surprise you with.

3. Be a part of something larger

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Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tales2astonish/6976086600

There’s a great scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Captain America is doing what he does best: Preparing to save everyone knowing he might die in the process

And Black Widow doesn’t hesitate to join him on the floating rock and sacrifice her life to save others. She knows she’s part of something larger than herself.

She’s an Avenger. She can’t put herself first, and her teammates aren’t just there for her sake. The Avengers have saved the world many times, and Black Widow is a central part of this heroism.

Coming together to help others is the ultimate push to confront the red in your ledger.

We’re all part of our own Avengers team, whether we know it or not.

Your family, friends, community, city, country, team, or any other group you feel a part of needs you to step up.

But we don’t always act like it.

Black Widow was the same way. Sure, she has always been prepared for her demise, but she never was prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of the world. By joining the Avengers she can help herself and move past the red on her ledger by helping others. She has an extra piece of motivation to be better each day – one that isn’t selfish and that helps her to overcome the guilt she had.

Your journey isn’t just about you. There are people around you that need you to start putting your best foot forward. We really are the average of the five people we associate most with.

So be a positive influence on the people who associate with you. Bring out the best in yourself for others. Be better to yourself, and help people directly:

  • Checking in with them to see how their progress is going
  • Cooking paleo meals together
  • Going on group hikes
  • Signing up for a new fitness class
  • Or just supporting their journey in general

You might not be able to fly, but you can change our life and others around you.

There are multiple Avengers for a reason. You may not have Thor’s strength, like Black Widow, you have your own set of skills.

Celebrating Your Progress

Most of the Avengers went from good people to great people.

Thor was a cocky, successful warrior and had to be humbled.
Captain America needed the strong body to match the mental determination.
Tony is still Tony, just with better technology at his disposal.

But Black Widow’s past is, well, darker than the other Avengers. None of the other Avengers were “bad” before they were “good.”

Black Widow transformed everything, especially how she was living her life.

She doesn’t acknowledge this, though. Just like how many of us do not take the time to look at our lives and say, “Wow, I’m making completely different choices than I did in the past.”

In the real world, most of us have transformations that look and feel a lot more like Black Widow than Tony Stark.

Your journey to a better life is sometimes a tweak here and there, and sometimes it adds up to an entire lifestyle transformation. It’s important we stop to take a moment to acknowledge our progress. Because if we don’t, we might believe that we simply can’t balance our ledger, when we may already have!

Have you…

  • Losing a few pounds
  • Put on some muscle
  • Tried a few new exercises
  • Avoided eating that extra cupcake even though it looked delicious
  • Started sleeping or resting properly.
  • Packing your lunch for work
  • Tried a new vegetable
  • Committed to a new adventure
  • Started walking or a new active hobby

Let’s learn from Black Widow’s struggle and acknowledge what we’ve done, no matter how big or small.

If you’re having trouble acknowledging your daily victories, you may need to do a better job tracking your progress! Whether you need to take progress photos, keep a workout log, start timing your runs, use Jerry Seinfeld’s chain technique, join an accountability group, or simply journal, you need to be sure you’re keeping track of how you are moving forward.

Don’t just assume you’ll know when you’ve made progress. Without documenting your progress, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.

Balance Your Ledger

You can never go back in time to take things off your ledger. Those mistakes are done.

However, every day is a new day to begin the process of balancing your ledger. It is no small task, but if you feel up to it you can even list out your ledger.

Take a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side list out the red in your ledger.

However, instead of just listing all the red in your ledger and beating yourself up over it, for each item in your red directly across on the right-hand side, list something you could do to actively balance the red.

  • Not enough walking? Plan in a walk around your local park.
  • Forgetting to bring your lunch? Put in your calendar to meal prep.
  • Sore and stiff all the time? Sign up for a trial yoga class this weekend.
  • Want to try a paleo meal? Print out a recipe right now and buy the ingredients on your way home from work.
  • Lack of support? Find a group either online or in real life that can support you on your journey.
  • Keep cheating on your diet? Resolve to stop buying any temptations from the grocery store so they’re not in your house.

For every mistake you’ve made, there’s something you can do to make it right.

You don’t need to balance your ledger all at once. It took you years to get here. So take it slow and be proud of each step.

Every day we can work to erase the red in our ledgers. To acknowledge how far we’ve come. To deem ourselves worthy of our own personal hammer.

What mistakes did you make in the past?

How can you reach your own Level 50 and be worthy of the hammer?

 

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Priority Shifts, No More Off Seasons, And Working Like The Rock

“When you don’t know what to do, get still. Get very still until you do know what to do.” – Oprah Winfrey

That quote has been the epitome of the past few years for me.

Also, to be noted, this post is more of me writing to flesh out all the ideas I currently have in my head. If you’re going through a career change or another big change this might be helpful. This one is less about fitness and more about life. Continuing on.

Recently, a huge work project wrapped up and I thought about moving on to hunt for a new one. Instead, I stepped back and took a week off from any work at all. At the end of that week, I realized I still didn’t want to get back into hunting mode.

Sometimes, priorities shift internally before your brain catches on. New goals start formulating in your mind, and when you’re working so much it’s hard to step back and realize the priorities you have and the things you want have completely shifted.

That’s why I love Oprah’s quote so much. I’ve stepped back since the start of 2016 from everything to see what I really want to continue with and how many of my goals were me “shoulding” all over myself (<– A highly recommended post to read, BTW.)

My dreams of waking up in the morning, writing all day, and working on copywriting projects was over. I lived it, it was fun for the time being, and now I want something else.

My dreams and goals have shifted, but it took a long time to admit. Sometimes abandoning a dream feels like a break up. You’ve loved something for so long, you worked hard at it, but it just doesn’t want to continue, and that’s tough.

When you know something is over, but you’re not sure of the next steps, it’s important to quiet your mind as much as possible from all the thoughts that don’t help.

Worries about failing, goals you “should” want, superficial things, that writing degree you paid tens of thousands of dollars for…. All those thoughts.

However, do not think about it too much. It’s easy to think too much about life and in turn make yourself stuck with analysis paralysis. As I’ve been trying to figure it out, I’ve been active with ideas and really testing them out to see how they feel.

I want to get back into the health and wellness industry, move out of Denver, get to Europe, work on incredibly creative projects, live well, 5% less body fat, and above all create way more superhero workouts for people to use. (Actually, can I just create superhero workouts all day every day? That is all I want to do at this point.)

The second step for me, in this giant brain-dump of a post, is to dedicate all resources to making these newfound goals come to life.

This is a quick video from Elliott Hulse to watch on the importance of this next step:

 

If you can’t watch videos right now, essentially he says it’s important to mull over a decision, play with ideas, and think about your next steps. However, once you’ve made your decision, THAT’S IT. The decision is made, now you must follow through.

Now that you’ve made your decision, you have to stand in that decision. You have to become the person who deserves to have the results of that decision.

I have only half-assed my own personal commitment to fitness. This really stemmed from a place of not deciding what I wanted, not only in the gym, but in my entire life.

wanted to be lean, but I wasn’t becoming the person who deserved a lean body. The person with a lean body works incredibly hard in the gym, fits in the extra cardio, refuses to be lazy on any day except rest day,

Look at your goal. Who is the person you need to become to achieve those goals?

That’s the question I have overlooked on this new life path. The person I need to become to achieve my new goals is different than the person I was before.

Note: I’m not saying you need to be inauthentic and change your personality, I’m saying the virtues in line with your new goal are different, and you need to develop them.

Only losers complain about the results they have from doing the same thing they’ve always done. I can say that because I’ve been there. I’ve wondered why I wasn’t getting results when I wasn’t making the sacrifices and building the character associated with achieving those goals.

The work needs to be done. The effort needs to be put in. Nothing short of 100% will do.

I already achieved so many of the goals I set for myself at 18, and now at 26 and with a whole new set of goals, I’m realizing I’m back at the bottom and have a long way to go.

That’s why I’m going to set much harder rules on myself for the next few months.

I am eliminating any cheat meals, “off” days, and extra sleep from my habits until my birthday in June. It’s extreme, but I prefer to go all-in instead of half-in.

Not to mention, these new goals are much tougher than any previous goals I’ve set for myself before, so it requires much harder work than ever before.

Lately, I’ve been looking around at people who are living a life I want. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, is one of those people that has the work ethic that I admire.

I’ll write more about this in the future, especially after I try a few things out, but his work ethic in unparalleled.

That’s it for now. This post is not so important to most people, but everything to me and my life moving forward.

The Rock is also worth a follow on Instagram for morning inspiration like:

 

 

Funny how things come back full circle. When I was 14 me and family were evicted from our 1 bedroom efficiency and forced to leave the state of Hawaii. At that time I made a promise to myself to do everything I could to work extremely hard to make sure we never see another eviction notice again. The only action I could take as a 14yr old punk kid was go straight to the YMCA and hit the iron. At that time all my heroes were big strong dudes who were successful – Eastwood, Arnold, NFL players and Pro Wrestling icons. That's why it was so cool for me to go back to the YMCA this past week, train like an animal and remember where it all started for me. Funny thing I realized as I was training that I still wake up every morning at 4am to train with the mindset that "the wolf is always scratchin' at my door" and that f*cker is delivering another eviction notice. One day I'll get the proper psychiatric therapy I need ;), but until then let's always be hungry, humble and always be the hardest workers in the room. #WolfIsAlwaysScratchin #ButNotAt4am

A photo posted by therock (@therock) on Mar 20, 2016 at 5:31am PDT

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Stop Being A Spectator In Your Own Life

Social media has made us all spectators in our own lives.

“Is this share-worthy?”
“Will this get likes?”
“I need a picture of everything I ever do.”

Look, I totally understand taking pictures for memories but there is a line where it becomes obsessive.

This is why I love social media, but I’m horrible at documenting my own life. I don’t feel the need to whip out my camera during every single moment and capture every single thing. I know I need to work on this so I can put out more content that helps people, but I also need to work on reducing the amount of negative content that is out there.

This also happens at every single concert I’ve ever been to. People are so busy taking pictures and videos that they spend all their time looking at their phones instead of the band on the stage.

They will have pictures forever, but you probably won’t see that band more than once or twice their lives. Instead of looking at the band, we’re looking at our entire lives through our phones.

I see this with people on dates, with friends, with parents and children… We’ve all become mindless to the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. It’s the best blessing to humanity in years. We are able to communicate ideas and thoughts, create communities, and establish relationships that were never possible before.

Some of the best things in my life have come from the internet, actually.

However, there’s another side where so many people are so busy with their phones, they’re ignoring their own lives.

Instead of working toward their goals every day, they’re too wrapped up in what’s happening in the world. Whether it’s celebrities fighting, politicians being politicians, internet drama (because everyone is always outraged about something), your friends’ new baby picture… whatever, it all takes away from winning in your own life.

After any week where I spend way too much time online or on my phone, I’ve noticed this insane amount of irritation with the people in my life, no ability to focus, and less progress toward my goals. None of those are acceptable.

Instead of actually enjoying life every single day, we seem to have become spectators to our own lives.

Instead of being in the arena and getting our hands dirty with winning, we’re consuming life through a little screen and comparing our lives to everyone else’s in the process.

In case you haven’t read the famous “in the arena quote”, you need to:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

 

The point is, life is not a rehearsal.

There are no do-overs, we can’t go back in time, and we never know when it all ends. Maybe that’s too morbid for most people, but it’s a fact.

I have no hard conclusion for this post, just a reminder that life is short and we should actually have memories that doesn’t involve documentation or technology. Record what matters, help other people, and don’t worry about the other things.

The ONLY Key to Success

It’s easy to beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon.

You fail on that diet because pizza is delicious.
You skip the gym because it’s cold.
You declare “Next Monday!”

The answer must be within the newest, shiniest thing you want, right? Nope.

The best plans and gear in the world don’t count for anything if you can’t follow through.

The problem is, there’s no new plan or diet that will give you what you really need to succeed: Consistency.

Yes, excitement is important and doing something you actually enjoy doing is important. However, if you don’t stay consistent all the bells and whistles in the world won’t matter.

As of today, there are only 73 days left in the year.

Some people use that as an excuse to wait until 2016 to start working toward the things they want.

If you really want something, the time to start is now. 73 days is a long time. It’s enough to change your body, change your finances, change your career, or change your entire life. That’s 1,168 hours (assuming you sleep 8 hours every night) to work with.

The reason I preach so much about habit and character development is because I saw that my clients who simply showed up every single day were the ones to crush their goals.

One of the best things I was ever told is:

Only take advice from people who have what you want.

This is why I’ve been studying people who are successful in all the areas I want to have.

So what’s the one trait they all have?

They show up every single day, whether they feel like it or not.

That’s it. It isn’t the shoes, the cars, the money, or any other circumstance. They simply commit to doing the one thing that matters the most every single day.

I’m currently reading Ronda Rousey’s book, and quote hit home:

My mom always says that to be the best in the world, you have to be good enough to win on a bad day because you never know if the Olympics are going to fall on a bad day. (pg. 71)

Most of us will never compete in the Olympics, but the message still applies. Even on our worst days, we need to be able to get the important things done.

That’s what separates the winners from everyone else. That’s what puts people in the category from just dreaming about something to making it happen.

The only way to make sure you smash 2016 is to start to build the habits now so they’re automatic by the time the clock strikes midnight.

It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently. – Tony Robbins

Now is not the time to cry over 2015, to wish you had done something different, to quit before the year is over.

Plan for your bad days so you can smash through them.

That’s how you become a champion.

Lessons From The Gym – Why I Train

Today marks the five year anniversary since I started to turn my health around.

Five years ago, just before my 21st birthday, I discovered I had an ulcer that was basically trying to kill me. My habits were a mess, and that was the result of that. I hadn’t discovered any of my food allergies yet, I thought coffee was a complete meal, I had fast food every single day, I was running on about 4 hours of sleep for a year, my stress levels were through the roof, I was a full-time student with a full-time job, and I had the occasional cigarette to deal with the stress. My health was waiting to implode and I was doing all this way too young.

Blacking out from stomach pain in the middle of a park in Denver was my wake-up call.

I immediately went to the doctor and she said I had to reduce all my stress ASAP. I went home, e-mailed my boss, and quit. I also decided to not take summer classes that year.

Of course, I still had to make an income, I just couldn’t do it as an editor at a paper any longer.

I marched into my local gym, and due to a really nice girl at the front desk (who ended up being a really good friend all these years later), I was able to get a meeting with the head boss of the gym. He didn’t really have any other positions available, but I told him I really needed this job and I’d even clean the whole gym from top to bottom every single night. This got his attention, and I went right to work starting the next day.

Most people would think that going from hot-shot editor to cleaning a gym at night would be some kind of low-point, but it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I had never really been in a full-blown gym yet with all kinds of squat racks, machines, and all kinds of new equipment I had never seen before. I could blast the music, close the doors, and get to work. Some nights I wouldn’t even play music, I would just think. It was incredibly relaxing to have some silence with no phones, no one bothering me, and just time to go through each machine and clean it while also learning what it did.

I quickly worked my way up to being a personal trainer during the day while cleaning the gym at night. I’d walk home around 10 PM through the streets of downtown Denver, but instead of being completely stressed, I always felt better.

This was the first time I drew a connection between working out, spending time in silence, and overall life happiness.

These habits have stuck with me through the years until now. Fitness has always pulled me through no matter what was going on in my life. I didn’t start training seriously until about a year and a half ago, but I spent so much time studying and taking baby steps that I have spent very little time on any injuries or setbacks.

Now that my 26th birthday is tomorrow (the 24th), I thought I’d reflect on all the ways fitness has changed my life and the reasons I will continue to train until I die.

1. Being strong bleeds into all areas of life.

I have never worked out just to look good. I work out so I can handle everything else going on in my life. When I’m strong, I feel confident in asking new clients to hire me, making new friends, and sticking to the decisions I make. When I feel weak, I can feel myself shrink away from life and wallow in self-pity.

2. It brought supportive people my way.

Most of the people I meet through fitness are extremely positive and encouraging. I know it’s overrated to use the word “fitfam”, but there truly is an element of a fitness family when you start lifting. Sure, there’s a lot of rude people who think they know everything because they lifted a weight once, but thankfully they rarely cross my path.

3. I know how to fix my health problems.

When I wake up feeling groggy, have sore muscles, am tired throughout the day, or anything else that comes my way, it all has a solution. I diligently track everything I do, so I can go back to the past few days and see where the mistakes happened. Most people wander through life completely exhausted, aching all over, and then go to the doctors and get medication and surgery. Preventative care > everything.

4. Self-reliance.

I’ve noticed a surge in my thoughts on self-reliance ever since starting to lift. It started with being able to move things around all by myself. I’ve moved plenty of times and most of those times I wasn’t in a position to hire movers, so it wound up being me trekking up and down flights of stairs for a few days to get everything moved myself. It was never a fun experience, but I could do it on my own. I have no doubts this evolved into me starting my own business.

There is also something to be said for having relationships out of mutual respect instead of neediness. In the past, I had friendships and relationships because I felt like I needed the other person. This, of course, always ended horribly. When you’re needy, people can walk all over you, lie to you, cheat on you, and you take it. Two self-reliant people who come together out of mutual respect, friendship, and love always end up in a healthier place.

5. Studying the deeper parts of life.

Health is not everything, but without it, life is miserable. It’s a building block to build the rest of your life upon. When I felt better, I was able to think better. When I was able to think better, I realized an internal shift from less selfish thoughts to thinking about other subjects that interest me. Now, I spend a lot of time reading philosophy, trying to understand this life.

There is so much wisdom to be learned from our ancestors. Emerson, Seneca, Thoreau, Aristotle… You don’t need a mentor if you have the timeless wisdom from the greats. Understand your own mortality; embrace it. There is so much more to life than I originally knew. This also leads to the next point.

6. The desire for less.

Feeling content with life is the ultimate happiness. Knowing you have everything you need to life a fulfilling life, ridding yourself of the desire for “more”, brings peace. There are still huge goals I am pursuing, but I have stripped myself of my materialistic cravings and feel so much peace within caring for the things I currently have.

This also applies to my fitness. While every company out there tries to sell you on all kinds of supplements, equipment, workout plans, or whatever else, 99% of it is simply frivolous.

I say this as a recovering consumer addict. I wound up with more bullshit than I ever needed in an entire lifetime. Debt is slavery, and it’s something I’m currently at war with. I WILL win, but I would definitely go back in time to change that habit if I could. The only things I have purchased all year are protein powders, books, pens, and notebooks. No clothes, no household stuff, nothing. It’s all bullshit.

7. All of life has a greater meaning.

We’re here to help each other. We are not here to have the most toys or the most money. When I worked as a personal trainer, the best gift I ever gave my clients was the gift of reclaiming their health. By reclaiming their health, they also received the gift of life. Even as a professional writer now, I help people claim their voice. I only find joy in work by helping other people make their lives better.

8. “The more you bleed here, the less you bleed in battle.”

This is what King Leonidas says to his son in the movie 300. There are many variations of this quote, but the point is if you put in the hard work NOW, when you are truly tested in life you will win.

I meet a ton of people who completely crumble with any amount of stress because they never push their own limits. They hide behind their problems with drinking, partying, weed, vacations, buying things, or whatever else their weak souls need. Sure, there is a time and a place for celebration, but not as a crutch to deal with the things life throws at you. I love a good drink, but one of my rules is that I only drink for celebrations. I don’t ever drink because I’m stressed out. Sometimes it is an annoying rule, but when life punches me in the face, I handle it better and better with each passing year.

The same applies to everything I pursue. The harder I work, the more I practice, the more I train, the better I handle everything that comes my way.

9. Pursue the best version of myself.

This is a direct influence from Elliott Hulse (you can watch the actual video, HERE), but it’s basically the idea of growing as a person and becoming the best YOU that you could possibly be.

Another way to think of this: “Someone once told me the definition of hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became, meets the person you could have become.”

Younger me was always full of excuses. There were a few things I was excellent at, but those excuses ate me alive. There were so many times I held myself back from my potential because I had all these bullshit reasons as to why I couldn’t achieve them.

The real problem is that I was personally identified with certain character traits, and that was really what held me back. For example, I never defined myself as being “smart” throughout most of my schooling, so I avoided harder classes (except for Physics, which I took as a Sophomore because that sounded fun when everyone else in my class was a Senior), because I didn’t put in the work. I didn’t put in the work, because I didn’t think I was too bright. I’m definitely not a genius, but with a little extra effort and care I could have ended high school with a much better GPA.

10. Realizing I can reach for higher goals.

Once you break personal records you didn’t think were possible before, a whole world of possibilities opens up. You realize that you are absolutely capable of more. Life truly is what you make it. I moved to Denver with absolutely nothing, I put myself through college, I built a business, I added muscle, I changed my diet, I broke a ton of habits I thought were “just part of me”, I released people from my past… I never would have thought any of those would have been possible just a few years ago before I began this journey.

I’m realizing the boundaries of what I consider possible in my own life and I’m finding ways to challenge them. This is the top thing I hope to pursue throughout the age of 26: I want to challenge everything and see what is really possible.

I’d love to hear what YOU have learned on your journey of strength. Leave a comment below!