How to Shorten Your Learning Curve in Any Craft

  “Oof.” I let out an involuntary noise as my opponent, a nameless guy at least fifty pounds heavier than me, slams my legs down, baseball slides his hips to the opposite side, and pins me to the mat. The last of the air in my chest releases as he does so. Since starting jiu-jitsu …

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5 Universal Life Lessons from Jiu-Jitsu

Three months ago, after years of not understanding what the hype was about, I turned up at my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. I quickly became hooked. I’m not alone in my experience — people who train jiu-jitsu often become fanatics about it. Many end up training for years, decades even, — a feat that’s nearly …

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The Five Stages of Learning and How to Apply Them to Any Skill

  “A certain naïveté is prerequisite to all learning. A certain optimism is prerequisite to all action.” — George Leonard Beginning a new learning journey can be exciting. Beginnings are full of hope and possibilities. Starting something new can give us a glimpse of what could be if we stick with something long enough to see it through. …

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On starting where you are and a medicine ball core circuit

Hey there,

When you start something new, it can be tempting to try and rush through the beginning or intermediate steps and try to get right to the cool and sexy stuff.

I did this when I first started boxing. I barely knew how to throw a basic jab — let alone defend one — when I convinced my coach to let me start sparring, the boxing term for practice fighting.

When sparring, you’re supposed to practice all the skills you’ve been working on while training. But because I didn’t know much yet, I’d often leave sparring sessions feeling frustrated and defeated. I compared myself to others who had been training for years or a decade more than me and thought that maybe I just didn’t have what it took to be a skilled boxer.

Looking back, I realize that I wasn’t willing to start where I was. By pretending I wasn’t a beginner, I skipped crucial foundational steps. Doing so held me back and slowed my progress.

Whatever your goal or pursuit, there’s no point in pretending you’re further along than you are. By being honest with yourself and accepting where you’re at, rather than fighting it, you can then figure out the necessary steps to get where you want to be.

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The secret to improving at anything and an equipment-free circuit workout

Hey there,

Recently, someone came up to me at the gym and asked me how I got so good at jump roping.

I responded with a simple answer: I practiced a lot. For a really long time. And I didn’t give up.

And it really is as simple as that.

No matter what you want to get better at in life, the key to all improvement is long-term, focused practice.

This same lesson applies whether you have a fitness-related goal like jump roping, pull-ups, or sprinting, or a non-fitness-related goal like writing, public speaking, or becoming a less reactive person.

Practicing — really practicing — doesn’t mean putting in just a couple of mindless practice sessions here and there.

Showing up and putting in your reps is an important first step. But eventually, you’ll want to be more intentional about your practice.

This means diving into focused, deliberate work with the specific goal of improving performance. And doing this day after day for the long haul.

When I picked up a jump rope for the first time since elementary school, I wasn’t naturally gifted at it. I tripped a lot, got rope burns, and some days could barely jump at all.

But I kept at it, and eventually, it became something I’ve become pretty good at.

No matter where you’re at in your journey, keep going.

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Aiming for mastery and a park-friendly workout for warmer weather

Hey there,

When most of us think of masters, we think of athletes like Michael Jordan and Laird Hamilton, thinkers like Einstein and Bill Gates. We think of black belts, Grandmasters, and other superstars who have risen to the top of their craft.

But mostly, we think of these people as others — as in, people not like us. People blessed with talent and drive to become masters in their craft and fulfill their potential.

This is the same response I had when I was first training at circus school. I was mesmerized by the talent of those around me. What I didn’t take into account was just how long they had been working to get to the level where they were at — and the likelihood that if I worked as hard as they did for as long as they did, I could get there, too.

Mastery depends less on initial talent than the willingness to pick a path and stay on it.

As George Leonard writes in The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei:

“What we call “mastery” can be defined as that mysterious process through which what is at first difficult or even impossible becomes easy and pleasurable through diligent, patient, long-term practice.”

Go here to read my article on Medium about my path to handstand mastery and how to work toward mastery in your life.

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My Jiu-Jitsu Journey: Part One

Many of you may know this, but I didn’t start getting into fitness until the end of college. Since then, I’ve constantly pushed the limits of what I previously believed was possible for my talent and ability level. Along the way, I’ve transformed from someone who hated exercise and couldn’t do a single push-up to …

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Changing your limiting story and three basic handstand drills

Hey there,

The stories we tell ourselves about who we are often limit us.

For example, my story used to be that I was shy, weak (physically and mentally), and unable to deal with failure.

Your story might be that you’re not the type of person that could be fit. Or that you could never move away from your hometown, change careers, or take risks.

These stories can come from anywhere. They can stem from a single comment from a bully in third grade. They also come from our families, the town and country that we grew up in, and society as a whole.

These stories inevitably shape who we become. But we can change these stories to become the person we really want to be.

The first step to changing your story is to take action, no matter how small.

Act as if you are already the type of person you want to be.

For example, if you want to become strong, do the things that strong people do.

This might mean you start day one doing a single push-up against your countertop because that’s what you can do right now.

It might not seem like much, but do this consistently, and you’ll get stronger. Over time, as you continue to challenge yourself, you’ll have changed your identity from someone who can’t be strong to someone who is strong.

But you have to start with that first step.

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Considering what kind of person you want to be + three drills to improve your sprint speed

Hey there,

What kind of person do you want to be?

This is a question I’ve given a lot of thought to in my own life, especially over the past few years.

We are not destined to be the same person for the rest of our lives. We can — and will — change, so we might as well be intentional about it.

For example, we can choose to get healthier, fitter, or learn new things. We can build our self-discipline and get better at relationships. We can even change our personalities if we want to.

As William Zinsser writes in On Writing Well:

“Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.”

It’s that hard — and that simple.

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