Is Competing in Physique Sports Healthy?

As someone who has been around competitors a lot over the past ten years, I often get desensitized to all of the…unique things that competitors do when preparing for a contest. Recently, I was in a conversation with someone that’s new to our sport, or world I like to call it, and it’s always nice because being around someone like that, you get a fresh perspective on what’s going on. I was having a conversation with this colleague and a local competitor and as he described his peak week, she looked at him and said, “Is this even healthy?!” I really enjoyed the rest of the conversation and thought it was a fun topic to write and talk about.

 

  • In a long-term sense – my answer is yes.

I think when done correctly, in a long-term sense, competing is very healthy. Obviously, the benefit of exercise is undeniable and competing requires a lot of that. One could argue that the general trend for competitors to focus on low intensity cardio isn’t healthy in a long-term sense, but with the rising popularity of HIIT cardio, I think many more competitors are taking advantage of the benefits of intense aerobic training. Weight training also has a long list of benefits, which competitors should experience in spades. Learning how your body reacts to food and learning how to control your weight and body composition are also incredible tools for your long-term health. Competing over a long-term span also requires good health. You can only maintain an impressive exterior with an unhealthy interior for so long. Anyone that wants to compete for years quickly realizes that to look good on the outside, you need to pay careful attention to your internal health.

 

  • In the short term, I believe it’s healthy about 80% of the time.

Many times, we are judged on our behavior in the moment people are witnessing what’s going on. If that’s the case, then yes, there are certainly some unhealthy behaviors required to peak for a show. That’s why I separate long-term and short-term judgement. Is restricting water before a show healthy? No. Is training two to three hours per day healthy? Rarely. Is a severe calorie deficit healthy? No. But all of these unhealthy practices, and many more, are done in short bursts. Which leads me to my next and favorite point…

 

  • All Sports Have Risks

I think it’s unfair to compare competing against itself. Football players get concussions and all kinds of injuries. Motocross racers break bones constantly. Race car drivers die relatively frequently. Are these sports healthy? For the most part, yes. Physique sports get unfair judgement because our “injuries” or unhealthy practices aren’t limited to a playing field or timed event. They are just as much a part of our sport though and are “on the field” injuries all the same.

Don’t Fear the Scale!

The body weight scale can be a very scary thing for many people. People often build up so much of their expectations, their definitions of fitness success, and have a strong emotional attachment to the number that shows up when they step on the scale. It should not be that way! The scale is ONE tool, ONE metric, out of many, that helps you to determine what your body is up to. You would not judge the performance of a car by only looking at ONE gauge. You must look at all kinds of hard numbers: lap times, top speed, rate of acceleration, tire temperature, lateral g-force, and the list goes on. Then you have to pair that with some soft values like the driver’s taste of the car, confidence entering corners, grip feeling, and more. My point with this analogy is that your fitness results and progress come from a wide variety of soft and hard values and you can’t put too much emphasis on body weight.

 

  • View Bodyweight Objectively

One thing I always tell my clients is to try very hard to view their body weight objectively. It should not be an emotional number. Try to view the process in third person, almost like a science experiment. The test subject (you) has a variety of variables: diet, training, sleep, stress, hydration, etc. and that has resulted in an objective metric that helps guide you (and your trainer) in manipulating variables.

 

  • Girls, weight gain can be positive. Guys, gaining weight isn’t always a positive. LOL

This is another funny gender difference in behavior when it comes to the scale. I think all women can relate; the men I’m going to poke fun at though are usually athletes or weight lifting enthusiasts. Girls have a tough time with even the slightest weight gain, but there are quite a few scenarios where an increase in weight can be good. For instance: putting on lean muscle tissue, being properly hydrated, and having proper nutrition, just to name a few main cases. Unless you’re comparing the weight gain to body composition, then you don’t actually know why you gained weight. If you’re doing everything right and the scale goes up, take it into consideration, but likely it’s not a bad thing.  Now for my gain-hungry guys, the scale going up can be bad. I know we all like to think the 20 pounds we put on is solid muscle, but unless you’re a genetically gifted person who has had very little exposure to weight training, that kind of reaction is very improbable. Put the weight on slowly and steadily and you’re more likely to add quality weight over quantity weight. You’ll look better, feel better, and be more likely to hold onto the gains when you go into a diet phase to get off the extra bodyfat.

 

  • Short term weight gain may be necessary for long term weight loss or weight management

A very common and often very scary scenario for some people is that they will need to gain weight, in order to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight in a sustainable, long term way. Many people, although in need of losing weight, under eat healthy calories. To properly restore someone’s metabolism, get them functioning healthier, and set them up for long term success, generally a substantial calorie increase is needed. This almost always results in short term weight gain. Don’t get scared and punk out. Ride it out; you only need to do this once. Allow your metabolism to elevate to a normal or faster than normal rate, and you’ll have sustainable weight loss and weight management forever, and work significantly less-hard to do it.

 

  • Fluctuation is Normal

There are so many factors that affect weight: hydration, salt intake, sleep, glycogen levels, effects of travel, effects of stress, and many more. Bodyweight fluctuation is very normal. I try to advise clients against weighing once to judge progress. For general progress monitoring I prefer to advise clients to weigh two to three days in a row and take an average. In clients that are on very strict programs, their weight is much more predictable and fluctuations can be accounted for. But in more general fitness scenarios, there are simply too many variables changing by the day or even hour to not account for this by taking an average.

 

  • When to Weigh

When you weigh is directly connected to the result you will see. When monitoring progress, the best time to weigh is first thing in the morning. Go to the bathroom and wear the same thing every time you weigh. This will minimize the fluctuations. Assuming you sleep the same amount of time and don’t wake up for any intake of fluids or food, you’ll likely be in a similar state every morning and can rely on good readings. Depending on your diet, fluid, and many other factors, it’s not uncommon for people to gain five plus pounds throughout the course of the day.

Five Tips for Not Missing Meals

Consistency is one of the most important aspects of achieving any goal. Sticking to your meal plan is essential and will produce incredible results quickly. That’s easier said than done! Here are five tips for sticking to your meal plan and not missing those metabolism building meals!

 

  • Plan ahead

Proper preparation is the number one way to stick to your diet. Usually bad decisions or less-than-optimal solutions occur when we are unprepared. Clean food isn’t always available. If you get behind on your meals for the day, you will likely also get very hungry and start to rationalize bad dietary decisions. “I’m starving; I don’t even care; just give me SOMETHING!” Always try to plan ahead. Make a plan the night before about what you’re going to eat and when. Learn how to make a plan that allows for flexibility. For instance, you MIGHT have a lunch meeting that will require you to eat at a restaurant. Plan the meals around the lunch and have a plan before you arrive about what you will order and also what you will avoid at the restaurant. It’s far easier to avoid the bread when you’ve decided ahead of time, “I will not eat the bread served before the meal.”

 

  • Keep a stash

I rely on my stash all the time! In fact, I keep multiple stashes around. I have a truck stash, an office stash, a stash at my Dad’s house, and a gym bag stash. What’s a stash? For me, it’s whey protein sample packs, tuna packs, and raw nuts. A stash should be a quality source of protein, fat, and carbs that are not quickly perishable that you can depend on if you’re stuck without a meal. Life is often unpredictable and sometimes your days just don’t go how you planned! That’s okay if you’re prepared. If you have a stash of foods that fit your meal plan, it’s very unlikely that you will need to miss a meal or rely on unhealthy foods to sustain you because you don’t have access to any clean food.

 

  • Learn to be resourceful

You know those survivor shows, where survival experts can turn a barren desert cave into a livable bungalow and eat a three-course meal before bed? That should be you when it comes to sticking to your meal plan! Make something out of nothing. For instance – how to navigate a convenience store or gas station when you need to eat and you don’t have food, your stash is empty, and restaurants are closed. “Health Foods” can be a trap. Sports drinks, granola bars, mixed nuts, and most other items marketed as “health” food are usually very calorie dense and were designed for people in endurance events. Your road trip may require endurance, but not the kind that requires intra drive glycogen replenishment! My favorite go-to is beef jerky – the sodium content is high, but it’s high in protein and low in fat and carbs. If you want fat or carbs, you can add in a single serving of nuts or be one of the one in 1000 people that buy the fruit at the gas station. Protein bars can be hit or miss and the same with protein shakes. Just make sure you check the nutrition facts to avoid unnecessary calories from sugar or fat.

 

  • Learn how to order at restaurants

Ordering at a restaurant in a meal plan friendly way is a learned skill. There are lots of tricks of the trade. A few of my favorites:

  1. Make sure the meat is cooked with no butter or oil (it often is).
  2. As for any and all sauce, get it on the side (this can sometimes cut the calories by 25-50%).
  3. Get certain items steamed instead of pan fried, fried, or any other method that involves using fat to cook a would-be healthy food choice.
  4. Just ask for what you want! If you can’t make a good combo using their preset menu, just ask for what you want. They’ll often make it for you.

 

  • Set a timer

For me, and most dieters, the stomach grumble is timer enough. But if you’re trying to add muscle mass and living in a calorie surplus that doesn’t leave you hungry or you have a slow metabolism and meal frequency is a struggle, then set yourself a timer. Use a phone or watch and set a timer so you don’t forget. Keep shakes nearby in case it’s time to eat and you’re not in a setting to pull out a meal. That way you don’t end up trying to make up for lost time late at night or missing meals altogether.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Competing (or before competing again!)

Competing can be a big decision and it impacts all areas of your life. I’m not psychologist, nor would I consider myself an expert, but I’ve experienced enough contest preps personally, as a husband to a pro competitor, a coach of hundreds of athletes, and gym owner, to make a few observations. I believe anyone that wants to compete should answer these three questions before they make the decision to compete or before they return to competing after a burnout or a break.

 

  • Is my goal to win or is my goal to be my best?

This might seem like an easy question because the obvious answer is BOTH! But more often than not, these two achievements don’t line up. I’ve seen it many times where an athlete achieves their personal best package to date, but has been disappointed with their placing. I’ve also seen athletes be off their personal best and win. Obviously, the latter is much easier to handle, so we won’t focus on that too much. It’s very hard for competitors and hard for loved ones and coaches to watch someone achieve their best but be disappointed. The fact of the matter is that competing in physique competitions is a subjective sport that often involves the personal taste of a panel of judges. Those opinions and tastes can often create puzzling results. Not that the judges make bad decisions, but it’s just the nature of opinions and tastes. As much as sanctioning bodies try to create standards or judging criteria, there’s always taste involved. I always encourage athletes to create a physique that they think is the best. It should be better than the previous contest and always improving. You can only focus on what you can control and you can only control what you look like. If you have made your best effort to meet the judging criteria, you have a look that you think is your best, and you have improved to a personal best, you should be happy. You can’t control who shows up and you can’t control the tastes of a panel. You can of course be disappointed with the outcome of a placing, but your own happiness should be centered around your achievement of a personal best, not an outside opinion. This kind of outlook will keep you happier for longer and keep you in a sport you enjoy. If your happiness is based out of placings or satisfying others, you should really question if competing will be a good decision for you.

 

  • Am I competing because I like it or is it a means to an end?

This is important to answer for yourself. The first part of the question is pretty straightforward – Am I competing because I like it? If the answer is not a clear yes, you should probably reevaluate. The second part of the question is a bit tougher, and it’s entirely possible that this is not an either/or question. You may enjoy competing, while it’s also a means to an end. Where people run into trouble is when they don’t enjoy competing but hope to achieve something because of competing. Common reasons include: hope for financial gain, notoriety or fame, or a goal with a deadline. If you don’t enjoy competing, financial gain, notoriety, and a goal with a deadline are all achievable without getting on stage and probably more efficient by other means.

 

  • Does competing fit my other life goals and plans?

Probably the most important question of all. I’ve seen competing mesh very well into busy lifestyles and I’ve seen it cause huge disruptions. It really depends on the person, their situation, the intensity of their prep, and a few other factors. If you plan to compete, you should really make sure your family and close friends are on board with the goal. Competing can put a strain on relationships for a lot of reasons: time investment required by you, a heavy focus on yourself, lack of energy in the latter parts of the diet, and more. It’s also important that competing fits your career goals. Not many people can make a living competing and it can be disruptive to a job if you’re not prepared or careful. It’s important to make sure you can maintain your career goals while competing and make necessary safeguards like taking time off near the show to protect yourself.

Book Notes: Perennial Seller

Perennial Seller

By Ryan Holiday

Published 2017

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections (link to bottom of page)

 

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Ryan’s work. I pre-ordered my copy of Perennial Seller while reading Ego is the Enemy, and couldn’t wait for this book to drop. Not only do I relate to Ryan a lot, as we are the same age, both have been Marketing Director for apparel brands (American Apparel is slightly larger ship to steer than the brands I’ve been a part of building, GASP and Better Bodies), and I relate a lot to his perspective on things. I also enjoy his writing style, which is powerful points supported by TONS of interesting stories and real historical accounts that support his arguments.  The pages turn quickly and the information is awesome. I’ve taken the same strategy to all his books – read it once fast, because I really can’t help it. Then circle back with a highlighter and pull out the points I want to be sure to hold onto.

Perennial Seller is divided into 4 major parts: The Creative Process, Positioning, Marketing, and Platform.  The premise of the book is set up in the introduction: There have been creators over the years that have been able to produce works that are timeless, even if slow out of the gate, have had success that left a legacy and remained relevant for years and years. Ryan tells us that he believes that this is not a mistake but by studying works that transcend their immediate impact that a formula for timeless success can be uncovered.

Key Questions the rest of the book serves to answer:

  • Is there a common creative mindset behind work that lasts?
  • How is it different from work that’s popular one day, gone the next?
  • How do such creators think about vocabulary used to package their work?
  • What kind of relationship do they have with their fans and followers?
  • Is there a pattern to Perennial Sellers that we can learn from?

Key Takeout’s the book will deliver

  • How to make something that can stand the test of time
  • How to perfect, position, and package that idea into a compelling offering that stands the test of time
  • How to develop marketing channels that stand the test of time
  • How to capture an audience and build a platform that stands the test of time

 

 

Part 1: The Creative Process

Ryan starts the book with the creative process because it’s imperative to the creation of the Perennial Seller. You cannot simply produce something and make it great through promotion and sales. The Creative Process must be done carefully and thoroughly for the idea or the product to ever make it the full way. The work must be great. This is not a process that can be outsourced. You must take full responsibility for the creation of your idea, you must also have a purpose for your creation that’s far beyond skin-deep goals like profit or notoriety, and you must be patient to give it the time to develop into greatness. Drafts are crap, and can only be great through long periods of testing and refinement. You must constantly question your work – and it cannot be done in isolation, test it over dinner conversations, articles, polls. The most important question you must ask is – Who is this for? You must think outside your own walls, and not create a product that YOU will enjoy but that your targeted audience will benefit from. Don’t be afraid to be bold. If you’re not, then chances are you’re just tweaking something that’s existing and people won’t care – you should provoke a reaction. It takes time and sacrifice to make something timeless.

 

Part 2: Positioning

The next step in Ryan’s blue print for creating something timeless is the important process of positioning, packaging and knowing your pitch. “Positioning is what your project is and who it is for.” “Packaging is what it looks like and what it’s called.” And “The Pitch is the sell – how the project is described and what it offers to the audience.” This process requires you to take careful look at what you have created and clearly define who this is for. You should have an intimate knowledge of who the first adopters and customers will be, and be able to clearly define the target audience. You will need to work your ass off to reach the people in your target group, but success is only possible if you have defined that target. Once you have taken a critical look, even tested material with your core audience, it’s time to package the project. Ryan uses a great analogy of a movie that spends hundreds of hours in filming, editing, reshooting, but approves it’s art work on one person’s desk in an afternoon.  “A great product in a great package is what creates an explosive reaction.” Pitching your timeless product requires two things: that you have a meaningful reason for existence and that you can communicate what it gives to it users with crystal clarity.

 

Part 3:  Marketing

Marketing is defined in this book, and the author’s previous book “Growth Hacker Marketing” as any that gets or keeps customers. Which is a pretty broad definition. As the creator, and positioner of your timeless work marketing requires a humble approach that ultimately leads to the most important marketing of all: word of mouth. All efforts should lead to increased word of mouth. Though many examples used through this book are about products that were not popular at release, but have stood the test of time, the launch of a perennial seller is still very important and will put speed into the entire process. Ryan suggests an important, but simple, step of simply taking inventory of everything you have access to: relationships, media contacts, research from previous projects, favors, advertising budget, allies and more and using this list. This section actually contains quite a few detailed strategies including: product placement, influencer marketing, media coverage, paid media, press, newsjacking, and pricing.

 

Part 4:  Platform

I particularly enjoyed this section of the book because I think it’s so important, and it’s been important in recent history but it’s only going to get more important as we move into the future. Ryan definition of platform is: the combination of the tools, relationships, access, and audience that you have to bear on spreading your creative work – not just once, but over the course of a career.  This is a long-term strategy that’s value grows with compounding interest. I’ve written a few articles about the future for influencers who have grown their followings on other people’s platforms (Instagram, facebook, etc. ) and Ryan’s advice in this chapter about building your email list is right in line with my thoughts. Email may be replaced one day but it’s a long ways off, so for now email is the most stable and direct way to communicate with your community with little to no risk of algorithms or fees standing between you and your followers.  Another long term strategy presented in this chapter is about your body of work, and how you should work in a way that builds forward and backward support of your work. Meaning, your old products will help launch your new products, and your new products will find new hands and help sell your old products. The section ends with a very compelling list of reasons to building your platform and wasting no time doing it. Without a platform you will always be at the mercy of other people’s interests and permissions. To remain creative, and free your projects must remain diverse and fuel you with energy – waiting on other people’s interests and permissions will kill that creative spirit by limiting you and trapping you.

 

Conclusion

The book ends with some words about a key ingredient: luck. Much of what we are in control of will determine our fate, but there will always be external factors at work. I think the best story included to sum this up is Ryan’s example of a metaphor by Bill Walsh, the legendary NFL coach. Bill suggested that a championship team is not in his control. Too many external factors come into play to make a super bowl run. But if you maximize all of your controlled variables, and set up a near permanent base camp near the summit you maximize your chance of success when those external factors line up for you. If you are not in position when the external factors line up, you greatly reduce your odds and become far more dependent on lots of luck.

 

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections:

I love to learn, and for me reading is one of my favorites ways to learn. In my quest for learning through reading I did some research on retaining the knowledge I am taking in to make sure it’s not “going in one ear and out the other” as we like to say. One of my methods of retention is taking notes, writing outlines to study, and recording my reflections and reviews of the information. I used to take a lot of physical notes, but seeing my book shelf full of books with folder papers sticking out the top is not only unattractive but also not a very scalable way to store information.  Now I’ve started transferring over my handwritten notes and highlighter filled books into digital format, and just in case anyone wants a quick read of any of the books I’ve read, or curious about someone else’s insight on a book they’ve read I decided to start publishing these notes.

 

Latest Article I wrote about reading: http://gregmccoy.net/reading/

Great Article about reading retention: https://open.buffer.com/how-to-read-more-and-remember-it-all/

Book Review: Let Your Life Speak

 

Let Your Life Speak

By Parker J Palmer

Published 2000

 

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections (link to bottom of page)

 

This book is a gold mine of vocational wisdom that I would recommend to just about anyone.  If you have ever wondered “what’s my purpose?” or “am I supposed to be in this career path” or “is this job right for me” or even just felt an itch about your career that you can’t seem to scratch I would certainly recommend this book. It’s a very deep book so if you’re like me, and most people in modern society and the instant gratification of cell phones and google has reduced your attention span to less than that of a gold fish you will probably need to read this in small chunks. The text is just too potent and deep to absorb too much at once unless you’re experienced in this type of reading (which I am not). I personally read the through the book roughly a half chapter at a time and at the end of each chapter went back with a highlighter to grab the parts that stood out to me. This book was so thought provoking that I could not help to read it a second time, chapter by chapter and take notes and write out some insightful questions that I needed to find my own answers to.

 

In general, this book is about guidance toward finding a vocation that allows you be your “true self” and make the most of your god given gifts and live a fulfilling life.  One of the most insightful questions asked is “Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?” That takes some searching, and in my case it even took some time to fully understand the question but the first two chapters of this book got me in a much better mind frame to both understand and answer that question. The author talks about not willing yourself into your vocation but that you should listen and pay attention to your gifts to find your true path in life. Meaning you cannot force yourself against your own nature to do something and expect to achieve your potential and most importantly be happy and fulfilled. He makes a very piercing point that most people spend the first half of their life ignoring their true gifts and pleasing others and the next half of their life trying to find themselves again. He suggests going back to your childhood to find clues about your direction in life and your ambitions and that you can often see where you let the influence of others guide you more than your own gifts.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is by Fredrick Buechner who said that “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” That was a very powerful quote to me and sums up what I think everyone hopes to achieve in life. Find “deep gladness” in the work you do and the fulfillment of knowing that what you’re doing is fulfilling a “deep need” in the world. That’s purpose.

The author switches back and forth from theoretical advice and his own personal examples. He is not afraid to use his own vocational mistakes and reflect on a battle with depression at one point in his life to drive home the points that this book aims to communicate.

At the end of the book there’s also a list of 5 monsters that leaders need to deal with to be effective, which I found to be very insightful. My favorite as an example, is his discussion about chaos and how good leaders live with the fact that not everything can be controlled. A natural chaos in life is natural and needed for both creativity and progress.

 

The book is not long at all, it’s barely over 100 pages. Depending on how easily you can digest the depth of the text it can quick read or it can take you some time.  Most nonfiction books I read I would recommend to people based on their interests or careers but his one is applicable to anyone with a purpose in life, which I think hopefully applies to everyone, so I would recommend this book to everyone. I have always been a fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and refer back to it often in discussion. This book is a must for anyone that is firmly planted in the self-actualization part of the pyramid.  If your basic human needs are met, your own psychological needs are met and you are in a place where you’re concerned about making the most of your gifts, fulfilling your potential, finding your true calling this book is perfect for you.

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections:

I love to learn, and for me reading is one of my favorites ways to learn. In my quest for learning through reading I did some research on retaining the knowledge I am taking in to make sure it’s not “going in one ear and out the other” as we like to say. One of my methods of retention is taking notes, writing outlines to study, and recording my reflections and reviews of the information. I used to take a lot of physical notes, but seeing my book shelf full of books with folder papers sticking out the top is not only unattractive but also not a very scalable way to store information.  Now I’ve started transferring over my handwritten notes and highlighter filled books into digital format, and just in case anyone wants a quick read of any of the books I’ve read, or curious about someone else’s insight on a book they’ve read I decided to start publishing these notes.

 

Latest Article I wrote about reading: http://gregmccoy.net/reading/

Great Article about reading retention: https://open.buffer.com/how-to-read-more-and-remember-it-all/

Book Notes: The Obstacle Is The Way

The Obstacle Is The Way

Ryan Holiday

Published: 2014

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections (link to bottom of page)

 

I read Ryan’s latest book Ego is The Enemy last year and loved it. I would describe it as philosophy in modern language, with great examples to illustrate the concepts, and written in a way that feels very practical to apply. I ordered The Obstacle Is The Way before finishing the other book, and pre ordered his latest upcoming release I was so impressed by it.

 

The Obstacle Is The Way is a modern version of Stoic Philosophy. I did not know of Stoicism before picking up this book – though I’ve taken a college level philosophy class I’ll admit it didn’t even ring a bell seeing the word on the page. Stoic philosophy I found out was practiced by philosophers as early as 300 BC and is. to paraphrase it, is separating logical reasoning from emotion. The biggest difference is that it’s advices are very practically applied as opposed to most philosophy being observations and understandings and not necessarily a usable guide to everyday life. As I learned in the book Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous Emperors of Rome (who I’ll admit I only know because of the movie Gladiator), was one of the most notable Stoics in history and his writing is studied heavily on the subject.

 

Obstacle is the Way is basically broken up into three parts: Perception, Action and Will. Which is the steps one takes to both view, and turn obstacles into advantages. Ryan sets up the book explaining the concept we will be exploring, which is that obstacles are inevitable and that’s if we can suppress our basic emotions and reactions to these obstacles we would see that obstacles are advantageous to us, and that we should be thankful for the opportunities and lessons they create. In today’s world, our obstacles are more internal than external. In history obstacles like plagues, wars, and common disease set between us and our goals. Today the obstacles are more internal, things like stress, frustration, and debt. There are less threats that will kill us but plenty of obstacles nonetheless. Though the obstacles have changed the way great people react to them has not. Great people find a way to turn weakness into strength and to turn obstacles into advantages.

 

“The things which hurt…..instruct” Benjamin Franklin

 

Part 1: Perception

Ryan defines Perception as how we see and understand what occurs around us – and what we decide those events will mean. He then breaks it down into several brief chapters of advice to gain perspective on perception, and how to embrace it’s power in relation to obstacles.

  1. The Discipline of Perception
    1. Practicing healthy perception require exercise. If we are to keep our primal emotions and responses in check, we can stay calm in the face of adversity, and see the good in situation then we must practice doing so.
  2. Recognize Your Power
    1. No matter what situations arise, or how unfair things can be, we are never completely powerless. We control our mind and how we see obstacles.
  3. Steady Your Nerves
    1. Pressure and stress come with ambitious goals. As pressure mounts, grace and poise are more important than any other attribute because they are required if you hope to use any other skills.
  4. Control Your Emotions
    1. It’s ok to feel, but you need to separate emotional feelings from objective happenings (stoicism in a nutshell). Ryan calls is the “domestication” of emotions.
  5. Practice Objectivity
    1. Objectivity takes practice. Pull yourself out of the situation and work to see what’s really happening and see things for what they really are. This is an exercise which means it requires repetitions.
  6. Alter Your Perspective
    1. Ryan gives perspective two definitions
  7. Context – a sense of the larger picture of the world, not just what is immediately in front of us
    1. if you blow a meeting, realize it’s one meeting in a lifetime of meetings. As Richard Branson says “business opportunities are like buses; there’s always another coming around
  8. Framing
    1. an individual’s unique way of looking at the world, a way that interprets its events
  9. Is it up to you?
    1. We have to realize a distinction between what is up to us, and what is not. Focusing exclusively on what is up to us enhances our power. While chasing things that are not ours to change is destructive behavior.
  10. Live in the Present Moment
    1. Don’t overthink things. Practice living in the moment, working hard. 50% of businesses start in terrible environments without realizing it because they were busy living in the moment, and don’t realize their disadvantage until it’s in hindsight.
  11. Think Differently
    1. Our perceptions decide what we’re capable of. Stretch your perception of what is possible.
  12. Finding Opportunity
    1. See the good in everything. Start to view obstacles, rivals, setbacks for what they are: gifts. They make force you evolve, improve, realize what you don’t want, etc. Turn negatives into positives.
  13. Prepare to Act.
    1. Once you’ve managed your perceptions properly – you are ready to act with a cool head and steady hands.

 

Part 2: Action

Taking action isn’t special, taking the right action is what counts. When obstacles arise you can’t evade them, rely on others to solve your problems, or contemplate them to death – you must take directed action that supports your big picture goals and missions.

  1. The Discipline of Action
    1. Our instincts can cause us to be paralyzed in the face of obstacles, to simply wait for someone to fix things. Make a habit of running at obstacles, head on.
  2. Get Moving
    1. The timing is never perfect, someone might be trying to slight you, it might be too risky, it doesn’t matter – you must just start. Not doing, is the only surefire way to make sure nothing happens.
  3. Practice Persistence
    1. Expect problems but do not get distracted, discouraged or otherwise derailed from you goal. Each failure crosses one option off the list of what the solution is. Innovation comes by weeding through all the not-possibles to find the one way that is possible.
  4. Iterate
    1. Failure is inevitable. Expect it, enjoy it and learn from it. It’s often the source of breakthroughs. “Like any good school, learning from failure isn’t free. The tuition is paid in discomfort or loss and having to start over”.
  5. Follow the Process
    1. There are no big tasks, just big goals with tons of small tasks. “The Process” is breaking up those big goals into small tasks and putting your head down to complete each task with utmost quality. FINISH the task, and finish it well. Come up for air every now and then to check direction but trust and rely on the process.
  6. Do your job, do it right
    1. Our job is to try hard, to be honest, and to help others and ourselves. No matter what long term plans you have always excel with what you’re doing right now.
  7. What’s Right is What Works
    1. The conditions will never be perfect, a lot of times it’s far better to make the most with what you have than wait for the perfect opportunity that may never come. It’s better to make progress than try for perfection. Bend the rules, ask for forgiveness instead of permission – make things happen.
  8. In Praise of the Flank Attack
    1. Taking on a more powerful competitor head on is rarely the smartest way to approach a fight. Be guerrilla. Instead of pushing back against a competitor trying pulling after they have thrown a punch to use their momentum against them. True fatal weakness often comes when we (organizations) rely on size, strength or power. This strategy is much harder but that is why it works.
  9. Use Obstacles Against Themselves
    1. Sometimes you defeat obstacles not by attack, but by sitting back and letting them attack you. Moving forward isn’t the only way to progress – you can move sideways, and backwards. Deciding to resist action is action itself. This takes true humility but is effective.
  10. Channel Your Energy
    1. Don’t spend time focusing on all the “not-fairs” – channel your energy into your work. Be physically loose and mentally tight. Like an athlete in the zone – you don’t waste energy getting mad, or even celebrating.
  11. Seize the Offensive
    1. Truly gifted people view disaster as opportunity. A “teachable moment” waiting for you to seize it. When everyone else sees misfortune you see opportunity.
  12. Prepare for None of it to Work
    1. Somethings just won’t work out. You can do everything in your power but you can never control everything, and sometimes doing everything right will still leave you short handed. You can only put 100% effort into what you can control and affect, that’s it.

 

Part 3: Will

Ryan describes will as our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world. And Will Power is turning undeniably negative situations into learning, humbling experiences that even help ourselves and others.

  1. The Discipline of will
    1. If perception and action are the disciplines of mind and body then will is the discipline of the soul. It is the only discipline that’s 100% in our control. We can form our perceptions and putt 100% effort into our actions but when things go wrong it requires will to endure and even be happy despite of problems.
  2. Build Your Inner Citadel
    1. A fortress inside of us that no external adversity can ever break down. We are not born with this, and it must be built and actively reinforced. We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical strength through mental practice – sound mind in a strong body.
  3. Anticipation (Thinking Negatively)
    1. The world is ruled by external factors. Be prepared for this. The only guarantee is that things will go wrong. The only things we can use to prepare for this is anticipation. Be prepared for failure and ready for success.
  4. The Art of Acquiescence
    1. Constraints in life are good. Accept them and let them direct you. When the cause of something is outside of us we are better off to accept it and move on.
  5. Love Everything That Happens
    1. Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones. We don’t get to choose what happens to us but we do get to choose how we feel about it.
  6. Perseverance
    1. Staying Power. It’s not about overcoming one obstacle but many. It’s not round 1 it’s the long game.
  7. Something Bigger Than Yourself
    1. When we focus on others our own personal fears and troubles will diminish. The desire to quit feels selfish when we consider the people who would be affected. Unity over self.
  8. Meditate on Your Mortality
    1. Remember you are mortal. You are not invincible and time is not limitless. Keeping your mortality in mind gives you purpose, urgency and perspective.
  9. Prepare to Start Again
    1. Behind the mountains are more mountains. Each time you learn something, develop strength, wisdom and perspective a little more of the competition falls away until all that is left is you: the best version of you.

 

Final Thoughts:

First see clearly. Next, act correctly. Finally, endure and accept the world as it is. It’s not enough to read or say this it takes repetitions of thinking and acting to turn it into muscle memory.

 

 

Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections:

I love to learn, and for me reading is one of my favorites ways to learn. In my quest for learning through reading I did some research on retaining the knowledge I am taking in to make sure it’s not “going in one ear and out the other” as we like to say. One of my methods of retention is taking notes, writing outlines to study, and recording my reflections and reviews of the information. I used to take a lot of physical notes, but seeing my book shelf full of books with folder papers sticking out the top is not only unattractive but also not a very scalable way to store information.  Now I’ve started transferring over my handwritten notes and highlighter filled books into digital format, and just in case anyone wants a quick read of any of the books I’ve read, or curious about someone else’s insight on a book they’ve read I decided to start publishing these notes.

 

Latest Article I wrote about reading: http://gregmccoy.net/reading/

Great Article about reading retention: https://open.buffer.com/how-to-read-more-and-remember-it-all/

 

Reading: whose doing it and who isn’t!

Reading statistics continue to drop, but it’s very clear that reading is one of the most common habits amongst successful people.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” —Richard Steele

 

I’ve always enjoyed reading. I don’t know if it comes from the days my mom used to read me the Hank the Cowdog before bed, or my childhood goal to read the entire Goosebumps series but I’ve always enjoyed it. I had a professor during my time at Oklahoma State University that encouraged his students to read 100 books. I love a good challenge and that goal has always stuck with me. I’m roughly 70 books into this endeavor, which I was initially proud of until I started to learn that a lot of people read 30-50 books per year.  Over the years, and a lot as of recently, I’ve been reading articles and studies that strengthened my view of the importance of reading, and I thought I’d compile some of the things I’ve found along with my own thoughts and put a piece together that I hope encourages at least one person to pick up book.

Who Is Reading?

I really like to find common denominators amongst people. People have been successful in a million different directions and endeavors but a common denominator amongst the most successful people in any area is that they read, and they read a LOT. Winston Churchill actually won his Nobel Prize in Literature. The founder of Nike had so much love for his library that he would make guests remove their shoes to enter. Warren Buffet has been reported to ready nearly 1000 pages per day, spending more than 80% of his time reading. Buffet said “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” Bill Gates reads roughly 50 books per year. Mark Cuban has been said to read over 3 hours per day.

There are no treasure maps or magic pills that will get you the success and happiness that you desire but it seems obvious to me that the more you read, expand your knowledge base, build your capacity to understand concepts, and learn by example the more likely you are to find what you’re after. You can’t say that reading makes people successful but the evidence certainly points towards reading being one of the biggest differences between the successful and unsuccessful.

Whose Not Reading?

There’s a very popular study that was done in 2003 by the Jenkins group that released some very scary statistics. They claimed that 1/3 of all US High school graduates would never read another book after graduation and that 42% of all College graduates would never read another book after graduation. The Harvard Business Review also released a statistic that for the first time in US History that less than 50% of the population currently reads.  It should be noted that this study is quite controversial and many people have published articles about its falsity. For the purpose of my points however the exact numbers aren’t really that important – while the Jenkins group produced the most alarming figures, there are plenty of stats out there that when simply put prove: People (namely Americans) are reading less and less.

I find this very scary for a few reasons. The first thing that comes to mind is the philosophy that if you aren’t learning then you’re regressing. I don’t think that reading is the only way to learn – you can of course learn from experience, from person to person communication, from video or television, etc. but at the heart of any deep learning is usually the study of written material. If there are more people regressing than progressing, that spells trouble for us! The next thing that comes to mind is that much of our future planning and innovation comes from a respectful understanding of the past and those that came before us. It’s a tragedy for people not to build on each other’s knowledge base and advance the world with each generation. The less we read and understand those before us I think the less likely that we will move forward with much significance. As an individual I can’t understand why so many people would not want to read more out of pure curiosity. It’s easier than ever before to use search engines to answer our questions, and there’s not a lot of things that you can’t find a quick tutorial for on YouTube but to gain deep understanding it’s hard to beat reading well written books on topics of interest. Just walking into a library and seeing a visual reminder of how much knowledge is sitting on the shelves is amazing to me. You can learn business, medicine, philosophy all with some concentrated effort to absorb what’s been written for us.

Globally literacy rates are improving as we as a human race work to educate more and more of the world. But still it’s estimated that 1 Billion people cannot read or write their name.  There are hundreds of articles across the internet that directly link illiteracy with poverty, incarceration, and even life span. Teaching someone to read is one of the biggest gifts you can give someone. When you flip the perspective, of reading from something you must do, or should do, to something that 1 Billion people don’t have the privilege to do it, really makes you think. Or if you consider the time when the Nazi’s were burning books that challenged their philosophies – makes you realize we take for granted that we can order any book about any topic from Amazon and have it in our hands in a couple of days. There have been people in history that have risked their lives to read, and others that have every opportunity and simply choose to do something else.

 

What to Read?

The obvious next question is what should you read? While I think the question of “To read or not to read” is a very easy question, I honestly don’t think that question of “what to read” is as important. I got to listen to Carl Sewell speak attending a college graduation for a friend at SMU. Carl said that he aims to read a nonfiction book to build his knowledge base every 6 months, a biography in between those books, and reads for pleasure about current events daily. I have read that some top CEO’s actually read fiction more often to help expand their creativity during their hectic tenures at the top of big companies. There have also been studies done where a surveyed group of successful entrepreneurs said that they felt that reading books across multiple disciplines led to innovation. Benjamin Franklin is one of history’s biggest influences in many areas, and the area of self-improvement is no different. Franklin used to break his self-improvement efforts into 13 week cycles, choosing an area of focus for each 13 week segment and rotating through 4 segments per year.

I personally divide my reading up into categories but I try not to be too strict on myself. I use the GoodReads app to keep track of all the books I’ve read and plan to read. Each time I finish a book I’ll usually decide if I want to continue on the path related to the book I just finished or I’m ready to switch gears and learn something new. I also like to rotate in some fiction books from time to time because I think allowing your mind to get lost in a story is important, it’s fun, it expands your imagination and I also end up learning quite a lot reading fiction. For instance reading Grisham books has certainly increased my knowledge of the legal system, and often the setting of a book gives you a new awareness of the city or region that the book takes place in.

Want to see my list or connect so I can see what you’re reading list looks like? Add me on GoodReads!

 

Read, read, read. —William Faulkner

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. —Tomie dePaola

He that loves reading has everything within his reach. —William Godwin

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. —Frederick Douglass

 

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-merle/the-reading-habits-of-ult_b_9688130.html\

https://hbr.org/2012/08/for-those-who-want-to-lead-rea

http://www.jenkinsgroupinc.com/

 

Articles of Similar Interest:

https://open.buffer.com/how-to-read-more-and-remember-it-all/