I remember the very first time I wanted to give up.
The air was thick as mud and my olfactory nerves were being incessantly pounded by the smell of freshly cut grass with every breath I furiously fought for.
I thought I was dying, but in reality, I’d just never exercised before. I was fat, out of shape and my favorite meal was a bologna and cheese sandwich with a large bag of Doritos.
I’ll never forget the other kids running laps around me during my first ever football practice. I was ashamed, confused, and disappointed that I just wasn’t cut out for athletics as I’d began to believe before the practice had barely started.
I had to sit out the rest of the practice because I couldn’t catch my breath after one lap around the field. Once it was over, one of my football coaches approached my mother and said “Ms. Deen, I’m afraid little JC isn’t going to make it – he couldn’t even think about keeping up with his peers. We think he may have a bad case of asthma and you should probably have it checked out before he continues.”
I’ll never, ever forget it.
She stared him straight in the eyes and said “that’s bullsh*t – he’s just fat and out of shape. He doesn’t have asthma and he’ll be here every practice no matter what.”
I was only 10 years old.
As we approached the car, I was so excited to be done and seeking shelter from the pain and embarrassment. I remember sitting in the living room begging her to let me quit – it just wasn’t fun and all that running really hurt.
She said “no, you’ve started something and you’re going to finish it – even if you have to suck wind the rest of the season, you are not a quitter.”
A 10 year old boy really has no say with regards to these matters, so I ate my bologna sandwich, a few Doritos, and went to bed.
My First Lesson In Discipline
The next day, I woke up in dire pain. I’d never ran more than 50 yards in my life. My entire body ached and I was cursing this game of football under my breath all day long at school. All of my peers were excited for practice but I wanted to ditch it.
But guess what? Mother bear was my ride and she was sure I’d be there.
So I show up again at this dreaded practice field. We began the conditioning work and I remembered just how much I wanted to evaporate into thin air. My brain was constantly telling me I couldn’t do it – I didn’t have it in me.
Such atrocious thoughts persisted for about 2-3 weeks, but with every practice, the little voices inside my head dissipated. I began to keep up with the skinnier kids and actually started to develop some athleticism.
Over time, going to practice became fun. I even began to excel at something I’d never really attempted before. I was becoming quite the football player, even if I was only 10 years old!
Before I knew it, the season had ended, my pudgy figure had begun to transform, and I had a newfound confidence I’d never had before.
From this point on, athletics were a major part of my life. Day in and day out, I continued to push the limits. I competed in any sport I could and while I didn’t always excel (never fast enough for the track team, and couldn’t stay interested in baseball), I was always competitive nonetheless.
I learned through hard work and perseverance that you could overcome what sometimes seems to be the impossible.
The Reason I Continue to Succeed
It took me a while to figure it out, but one of my high school coaches said it best. “it’s okay to be less talented than someone else but never, ever let yourself be outworked.”
But in reality, there really is no such thing as talent. People just spend more time than others on whatever task at hand.
I used to get this all the time – in school, on the practice field, in my extracurricular activities. People would say, “oh, you were just born with this talent – it comes easier for you.”
I used to believe it, but then I began to think about what my coach was saying. I’d worked really hard for where I was and where I was going.
For those of you who are regular readers, if you’ve been here from the beginning, you know I started JCDFitness back in October of 2008. Re-reading some of my older articles makes me sick at my stomach. My writing style and ability has changed/improved drastically over the last 2 years.
Many might find it hard to believe, but I’d never written much more than a typical freshman English paper when I started this website. I knew nothing about writing style, or getting a message across through article form. All I knew is that I wanted to share my experiences about health and fitness.
So, without knowing much about what I was doing, I just started writing. I remember being so self-conscious about my writing – having my friends and mother proof-read each post for me so I wouldn’t feel like an idiot for publishing something that wasn’t perfect.
But over time, I started to get the hang of it. I’ll never claim myself to be a great writer but I do believe I’m a great communicator – something I’ve worked very hard at since I was young. My whole life has been about building relationships – writing is just one way I get to practice communicating.
So what’s the point?
I’m not really afraid to fail anymore. I’ll continue to use JCDFitness as an example, but I’ve many other ideas we could throw out there.
When I first began publishing, I was so afraid of what others would think, what they might say about me or my philosophy on fitness. But one day I woke up and stopped caring. The only way we learn is by doing and taking action.
I wrote a few articles that flopped. So what? I wrote some more that got attention.
Maybe I wrote some things that weren’t too politically correct? Maybe it lost me a few readers? Perhaps I stepped on a few toes?
Most people will pack up their bags at the very first piece of hate-mail they get. Goodness, I remember how emails poured in during class right after I published the first Clean Eating article. After reading some of the stuff I did, most people would’ve stopped publishing altogether.
It’s Hardly Ever Comfortable
My life philosophy is to fail forward – keep pushing. Never, ever give up. As soon as you give up, you’re never going to get what you want.
In sales, the end goal is the close. One reason I am drawn to the professions I am (fitness, web design, and selling in general) is because they’re all results-driven. One way or another, you’re getting a result.
Regardless of the outcome (someone says no, tells you to jump off a bridge, buys from you, etc) you’re always getting a result. You always have something firm to base your next decision off of.
It’s like the guy who wants to ask a girl out. His fear of rejection keeps him tightly clutching his beer, sucked to his seat. The problem is he’ll never ever know anything if he doesn’t act. He’s so afraid of getting a “no” that he won’t rise up get what he really wants.
Now the chances are highly variable as to what the girl might say depending on his approach. But one thing is guaranteed – he will get a result because he took action. She will either say yes or no.
And regardless of her response, he can leave that bar knowing something. He’ll know that he needs to step up his confidence and approach more girls, or he will have the shot at taking this new girl out.
But without that first step, without having the balls to push for a result, you’re wallowing in mediocrity.
Why You Might Need To Suffer First
I hate to say it, but sometimes, suffering a few bad blows is what we really need. Sometimes, it’s that kick in the pants that gets us going again – striving for something bigger and better – reaching for the stars.
When I first moved to Nashville in 2007, my life took a turn for the worst. It seemed as if everything in my life had turned upside down. I worked a few odd jobs, and then eventually worked a corporate gig that landed me a few therapy sessions. I was depressed, and lacked direction.
It seemed life was crumbling around me. My health was horrid, I’d lost touch with some great people in my life and couldn’t maintain any relationships.
I think Tyler Durden said it best. “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
I’d hit rock bottom.
But then one day I woke up. I realized that everything around me was, in some way, a reflection of how I viewed my situation.
There was only one way to change it and it began by taking personal action to fix what I could.
It was one step at a time.
First I got back into school. Second, I found a way to quit that horrible job. Then, I began rebuilding those old relationships.
Shortly thereafter, I began pouring myself into everything I loved. I made goals for JCDFitness, and decided to focus on improving my writing.
I then started to learn web development and design in my spare time (no sleep, lots of coffee). I began doing the things I loved again. But this time, it was without any fear or inhibition. I simply threw myself into what I wanted and trusted that it was going to work out.
I developed the mindset that I could have/do anything I wanted as long as I push and continued to push.
It’s like the saying goes, no risk, no reward – know risk, know reward.
But How Does This Apply To Fitness?
In many ways, actually. I am finding lots of people develop some fairly lofty goals when it comes to their personal aesthetic ideals.
The problem doesn’t lie within their ambitions; I feel it lies within their mindset and eventually their approach.
A common problem we all face is having the gumption to develop a plan, be realistic with time frames and then being objective enough to make changes when necessary (or when to leave stuff alone when nothing’s broken).
It’s not a matter of having what it takes – because I believe we can all achieve something worthwhile when it comes to strength and physique development. It’s more a matter of developing the mindset for success. Being resilient and never giving in.
Having goals and striving for more is what gives us life. I think Thomas Carlyle said it best here:
“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”
Without a goal, you’ll never make any real progress.
Never, Ever Give Up
So my challenge to you is this.
If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, go find someone who can help and keep you accountable. Get so sick of your current situation that you make the changes you need to make. Get downright fed up with your lack of progress; hire a coach if you need to.
If you’re a young guy in dire need of building some muscle, remember to be patient. Realize that this journey is a marathon, and hardly a sprint. Your goals should revolve around getting strong and eating well. Your hormones will take care of the rest.
If you’ve been injured and coming back from a long layoff – realize that you’ve been in great shape before and it’s something you can invariably achieve again.
If you’re brand new to this fitness stuff, soak up the information here, as well as the information at LeanGains.com, Alan Aragon.com, LeighPeele.com, RogLawFitness.com, AmpedTraining.com and Lyle McDonald.com.
And finally – you know yourself best. Develop a plan and work that plan. Do not waiver. Never give up – continue pushing and fighting as if tomorrow will never come.