Those Bullshit Excuses

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”The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”Jordan Belfort

We always have excuses. Not enough money. Not enough time. Being too old. Being tired. Not having the skills. I could go on and on. I could find a thousand of bullshit excuses. During the last 4 months, I’ve postponed writing something for the simple reason that I was telling myself that I didn’t have enough time.

Really? In all honesty, I had time to watch tv, play video games and lose my time on internet. In the end, we choose what we really want. We choose that we are too tired. We choose that we don’t have the skills. The universe doesn’t use magic against us. It’s all us. It’s our damn choice.

The Next Chapter

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“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” – Duke Leto Atreides (Dune)

Deep inside, we fear change. We are afraid of going out of our comfort zone. Why do we feel that fear? It’s because what comes next is unknown. We can’t predict the future, therefore we cannot anticipate the chaos and turbulence that could happen in consequence. Still, it’s critical for each individual to embrace change.

Societies has evolved through time with revolutions, inventions, wars, new ideas and big changes. We aren’t where we are today because of stagnation. We are here because some people did it. They went beyond their threshold to make the human race evolve.  Without changes, we would still be in the stone age.

It’s the same for each and every one of us. We need to confront fear. We need to go beyond the comfort zone. That’s the only way to grow. Stagnation was never the answer. Make the next chapter happen, whatever it is.

Unbreakable

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There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. – Malcolm X

We often look at the best like they never have any struggles. We imagine that they have a kind of magic aura, that nothing can defeat them. The bests aren’t gods, they are humans just like us. They have known countless struggles in their journey, They have tasted defeat. George ”Rush” St-Pierre, the ex UFC welterweight (170 pounds) champion, isn’t an exception. GPS’s career had his ups and downs. Let’s rewind to November 2006. At that time, St-Pierre had the chance to face Matt Hughes for the championship belt. St-Pierre gave a brilliant performance and won a remarkable victory over Matt Hughes by way of knockout.

GSP was now at the top of the world. He was the undisputed champion and the best welterweight fighter on the planet. The wind was in his favor. His future was really promising at 25 years old. He was young, popular and good-looking. He had truly everything. It was time for celebrations and it’s exactly what George did during the months following his conquest. GSP was living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. For his first title defense, he would have to face Matt Serra. His adversary was a total underdog. He didn’t even had an impressive record. It was considered a piece of cake by George. The fight wasn’t hyped, people thought GSP would easily beat Serra. Matt Serra even said in an interview that he felt out of place being in the same cage as GSP.

That night of April 7th 2007 in Houston will forever be in GSP’s head. Against all expectations, Matt ”The Terror” Serra gave St-Pierre the beating of his life. It is seen by far as the biggest upset of the UFC history.  What were the odds for that result? What went wrong? GSP didn’t make any excuses for his bad performance. Many years after the event, it was said that GSP wasn’t prepared for the fight mentally. He had many distractions leading up to the fight, one of them being his father death. The other being that he disregarded his opponent. Serra took everything from GSP that night. He let a bittersweet taste in St-Pierre’s mouth that would last for a year.

It could have been a downfall from their. It isn’t unusual to see good fighters crumble after a reversal of faith like Serra vs St-Pierre (see football player Tim Tebow).  During the succeeding months, GSP had to learn what it meant to truly be unbreakable. He had to face himself in the mirror. The only thing he was thinking about was vengeance against Matt Serra. He was completely numbed by that desire. He wasn’t thinking about his actual next opponent: Josh Koscheck. The truth? He wasn’t ready. He realized his mistake after meeting with a sport psychologist. He talked about that critical moment in his book  Way of the Fight. The psychologist told him that he was carrying a brick. That brick was Matt Serra. As long as he would carry that brick he wouldn’t be able to be himself again. He told GSP to write the name of Matt Serra on brick and carry it. When I would be ready to embrace his future, he would have to throw the brick in the river. And that’s exactly what George did.

GSP choose another path. He understood that he was defeated, but he wasn’t destroyed. He knew that he hasn’t said his last word. He made the decision that he would learn as much as possible from that defeat. Never again that situation would happen. He would be back and nothing would stop him. After that understanding, GSP consecutively defeated Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes in the following months. He was once again on the path of glory. The 19th April 2008, GSP was back in Montreal. It was time for GSP vs Serra II. Face to face with his nemesis. He finally got the chance to redeem himself from that painful night. St-Pierre came to fight with a killer instinct. He took back his lost prize in a devastating fashion. After that fight, GSP went undefeated for 5 years until his retirement from competition in 2013. He was unbreakable until the end.

Book #4: The Dip

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“Quite or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”Seth Godin

You probably already know Seth Godin because of his popular blog. Who doesn’t know him? If you don’t, I seriously think it should be on your must read list. For the others, it’s also possible that you know him because of one of his seventeen books. He’s a best selling author. On the top of my mind I can think of books like Tribes, Purple Cow and Lynchpin. In the field of marketing, Seth is a great and popular writer. For The Dip, he went in a different direction. This book isn’t about marketing. It’s a book about motivation and life decisions. The main idea is “when to stick or when to quit”. This is the core of the book. Well obviously, the author push the subject deeper than its surface. The book is quite short, less than a hundred pages, but it very interesting. Believe me, it is worth it. Recently, I had a few problems with a project. I was about to quit. Then, this book came back to my mind. The project was saved. Thank you Seth.

Godin advocate that we should know when to quit. Many projects are dead ends and shouldn’t be pursued. That’s a problem we often meet. Let’s take the example of someone who isn’t able to let go a business that isn’t worth a shit. Another common example is staying in a job with no possibilities of advancement in salary or/and responsibilities. It’s the idea of accepting a permanent status quo. This kind of situation is a dead end in the pure sense of the word. It’s not even a dip. If you work harder, nothing will change. On my part, I can say I had that exact problem when I was in university. I’ve forced myself to complete a bachelor in a field that I had zero intention of working in afterward. My decision was already taken at the end of my first year. At that time, my motto was: “always finish what you start”. What a dumb idea! Looking back at it, it was a useless “pride” problem. Pride can easily be the cause of a dip.

On the opposite side, some people quit way too soon. I’ve seen a lot of people starting weightlifting with promise. Things would go well for a few weeks, then whitout warning they would vanish from the surface of the earth. No explanations, total mystery. The problem is that we all start things with ease. After the honeymoon, things start to get hard…sometime really hard. That’s “the dip” and that’s where most people will quit. When I’ve started snowboard, everything was easy at first. I had a teacher and everything was going fine. Once the teacher was gone, the dip came and my snowboard adventure was over. I could make a very long list of all the things “dips” have crushed in my life. The problem is that we want it easy, we want the quick fix mentality. We are pain avoidant. As soon as things will get hard, resistance will tune in and we’ll most likely quit.

People who do great things are the one who get through dips. They see the light at the end of the tunnel where others aren’t able to see it. It’s accepting the long term rewards. Being on the other side mean big opportunities. Godin is right when he says that we should never start something if we intend to quit when we reach “the dip”. Otherwise, it’s a total waste of time and energy. It’s making a habit out of it. Like Godin said, you’ll become a serial quitter. Starting one thing after another and never finishing anything. Quitting is most likely a bad decision at a bad moment. One of the best advice I got from this book is to never take a decision during a crisis. We tend to make big moves during those times of panic. In other words: “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.“.  The best thing to do is to wait and take you decision when calm is back.

Nobody can avoid the dip. Not you, not me. The only difference is how we react when we meet one. The next time things start to get hard, you’ll know that are going down in a dip. The good news is that you can reach the other side. Remember, hard work and persistence can lead to big rewards. Be great or quit. It’s the only solution.

Always the Hard Way

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We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”John F. Kennedy

Human is lazy by nature. We are triggered for the easy stuff. It’s not a surprise that it’s more difficult to wake up to go for a run than staying in bed. Unless we impose ourselves to go on the harder path, we won’t fall on it by luck. You can find yourself on the easy way without even knowing it. Just look at your life and you’ll most likely see areas where you’re avoiding hard work. I’ve found that the hard way can be tricky. What used to be a zone of danger, can become the new comfort zone. Therefore, even in the improvements that we achieve, we will find a way to keep to status quo.

One of my best personal example, I’ve set a goal to read much more during the past three years. This year, I will be near the double of my last year number. It’s ten time bigger than it was 5 years ago.  I’ve notice that the more I’m reading, the more I tend to go for books that I’m comfortable with. I’m plainly avoiding the hard way. I know I should be reading thick books like The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Last Lion Trilogy or War and Peace. In the end, they would give me much more benefits and knowledge. That’s why I’ve started The 48 Laws of Power that was in my bookshelf for years. That’s why I’ll get into The Selfish Genes after even if this is the kind of book that isn’t easy for me.

I did the same pattern in the gym for a few years. I was avoiding the most difficult. I was skipping deadlift and squat. Plain and simply because they are difficult and painful exercises. The truth is that it was what I needed the most to do. What we tend to avoid is most likely what we should be doing. I’ve avoided having a real weightlifting plan before stumbling upon 5/3/1. It was way easier to write my own program and build it around my skills. Doing more of the easy, doing less of the difficult. 

You can see through history than many people had success by taking the hard way. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the hard way when he has decided to move to America. He left Austria, his friend and his family behind. He wanted to be a professional bodybuilder and that’s what he did. Without that move, maybe we wouldn’t even know him today. Taking the hard way lead him to take it again and again. It became a habit for him. Watch Pumping Iron and you’ll someone who is embracing the hard way. Doing Hollywood movies with english as a second language isn’t the easy way. We could say the same for becoming governor of California. All his life turned around doing hard things.

You want another example? Napoleon Bonaparte was dethroned in 1814 and was sent in captivity in the Island of Elba near Italia. He was a prisoner, but he was living the life of a rich noble. He could still see friends and family. He was free inside the island, but couldn’t leave it. Staying there for him was the easy way. He chose to escape in 1815, he went back to France and took back his throne in a matter of days. He stayed 100 days in power until he was defeated in Waterloo. It didn’t finish well for him. He tried and he could have succeed. He went on the hard way instead of dreaming about it. The good news is that unlike Bonaparte, most of the risks we will take during our lives won’t be as dramatic. 

The whole idea is doing what you aren’t comfortable of doing. Look at the thing you are the most avoiding. Start doing them. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Go beyond your threshold. You will see how your life will take a sudden turn. I was afraid of doing For Victory or Death for months until I decided to take the hard way. I was finding every reasons on earth to avoid writing. Looks like I’m not dead yet. 

In the Bookshelf #2: The Old Man and the Sea

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I’ll make a confession to you and I’m shy about it. For 27 years of my life, I had never read a book by Ernest Hemingway. Well, it’s now a thing of the past. The Old Man and the Sea was my first Hemingway’s experience. I can say I’ve really appreciated it. To make a little background, the book was written in 1951 in Cuba and published in 1952. It is the work that made Hemingway well known. He won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1953 and it was one of the main reasons for is Nobel prize of 1954.

In this book, the author bring us into the life of an old cuban fisherman named “Santiago”. The whole book is a battle between a fisherman and a huge fish (a large marlin). At the beginning of the book, the protagonist is out of luck. He didn’t catch any fish in the last 84 days. On the 85th day, he sail far on the Gulf Stream with the intention of turning the tide. By noon the first day, a fish bait is line. The battle begin. After days of struggle, he finally catch the giant fish. Unfortunately, he’s unable to get the fish inside the boat. The marlin is simply too heavy. The catch will be devoured by sharks on his way back. The fights that Santiago had with the marlin, nature and sharks can offer many life lessons. Here are my three favorite lessons.

One of the main message of the book is that luck isn’t something we should depend on. Santiago is called a “Salao” by the villagers. It means  that he is doom by the worst luck. He even lose is fishing partner, a young boy, because of that. Santiago believe in his own skills. He thought that with perseverance he can shift to momentum. “To hell with luck,” he thinks. “I’ll bring the luck with me.” The old man work hard and he use the best techniques. He knows that good things don’t happen to those who wait. He’s a great example to follow. As Thomas Jefferson said:“I’m a great believer in luck, and I have found the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Another important lesson of the book is to accept the present moment for what it is. The fight between Santiago and the fish is long. It last a few days. The fisherman hurt his hands during the battle. He’s alone and he doesn’t have anything to cook food. Even with all those problems, he doesn’t quit. He knew that all of it is a temporary situation. “He was shivering with the morning cold. But he knew he would shiver himself warm and that soon he would be rowing.” He accept the suffering without complaint.

Finally, the book put a lot of emphasis on the idea that we must refuse to give up. A man can be destroyed but not defeated“. Being destroyed is something you don’t have control on. You can die, but it doesn’t mean it happened because you gave up. To be defeated you need to give up. If you don’t, you can’t be defeated. The best example is the American conflict against communists in Vietnam (1959-1975). The south of the country was occupied by US army but Viet Congs never surrendered. Therefore, they were never defeated. Even if Santiago only brought back the fish bone, he wasn’t defeated by the sharks because he never abandoned the fight.

 “The Old Man and The Sea” is a Great introduction to Ernest Hemingway. This book is much more than a simple novel. Most of the things you will read in it can be applied to your daily life. In other word,  you should read it. If you don’t have time to read it, I will probably call you a lazy motherf*cker because it’s only about a 100 pages. Anyway, if you really don’t have the time, I recommend that you watch the oscar winning animation film (1999). I’m still not sure what will be next Hemingway’s book. A Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bells Tolls?

Randomness of June 2014

In “randomness”, I’m posting about the interesting stuff of the last month. It can be quotes, books, articles, websites, movies or whatever I think you could find interesting.

[1] I’ve been reading Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus Notch Persson and the Game that Changed Everything. I don’t remember reading a book that fast. It was a really well written biographic book. It was a complete dive in the world of indy games. It’s also a great story of success. It will probably part of my series “On the Bookshelf”.

[2] Here is a great quote by Calvin Coolidge (president of United States from 1923-1929): “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.The quote is self-explanatory. Whatever gift or talent you have, whatever school degrees you have, it won’t get you anywhere if you are not willing to do hard work.

[3] Do you know about Examine.com? It’s an independent organization that presents research on supplements and nutrition. They have tons of references to research on their website. They just released their Stack Guides. They cover subjects like testosterone, fat loss, sleep quality, bone health, memory and much more. You can buy each of them separately or all of them for a lower price.

[4] You should listen to the Art of Manliness podcast with John Romaniello. John is a bodybuilder and the writer of Man 2.0. The podcast is touching subjects like testosterone, Joseph Campbell, hormone optimization, intermittent fasting, fitness, the definition of “alpha” and a lot more.

[5] An excellent quote by the writer Mark Twain: “I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.” It’s easy to be stressed by many things in our daily lives. Most of those things aren’t that important. We tend to overestimate the impact of bad things on long-term. If you have a house over your head, food to eat, your family is in good health and so is yourself…probably that your other problems are not that much important. My best example…last week I’ve had problems with my cellphone. On the moment it was the end of the world. It took a matter of 10 minutes to get things in order at the cell company. One week later, I don’t even bother anymore. In three months I won’t even remember about it.

[6] I recommend two great articles by Ryan Holiday. The first is Things I Learned On the Way to 27. I relate to this article because I’ve turned 27 in June.  Here is a quote I’ve found impactful: “It doesn’t matter what age you are or how healthy you are: people die. They die unexpectedly. They die tragically. Sometimes they die violently. Never let this drift too far from your mind.” The other one is 30 Must Read Quotes From Icons of History Required To Turn Your Adversity Into Advantage. Get ready for the like of Marcus Aurelius, Churchill and Thoreau. I hope you like quotes!

[7] I’ve read 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler. It’s a weightlifting program as a book. I’ve you are in interested in powerlifting or bodybuilding, it’s worth taking a look. I’m currently doing that program and it’s breath of fresh air. 

[8] I’m cheating, it’s a July article, but here is Love is Not Enough on Mark Manson blog. It’s about the idealization of love and relationships. I was surprise by the intro on John Lennon and so you will. Great stuff. 

[9] Another good quote by the humorist Louis CK:You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person.” It’s true that we have so much difficulty nowadays to just spend time with ourselves. It’s like we are junkie for information or sensation. Being active non-stop. It’s not a surprise that we have so much anxiety and stress in our lives. On that note, I’m planning to read Mindfulness In Plain English.

[10] One more book that I’ve read was The Gallic Wars by Gaius Caesar. The title says everything, it’s the military campaign of Caesar in Gaul just before Rome Civil War. It’s really straightforward. Don’t expect things about the life of Caesar or the Roman army, it’s mostly a summary of the different military campaigns. It’s the only book that has been written by Caesar.