On the importance of taking action, choosing hope over optimism, and travel-friendly workouts

Every single day you have a decision to make.

Are you going to take concrete action steps toward your goals? Or not?

The actions you take don’t have to be anything big. You just have to do SOMETHING.

This could mean committing to moving your body every day, even if it’s just a twenty-minute walk. Or finally signing up for that class you’ve been interested in for years.

Do enough of these small somethings day after day, week after week, year after year, and those seemingly small daily actions you took will add up to something big.

As the Chinese proverb goes:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

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The benefits of keeping a training log, improving focus, and deadlifts

Happy Monday, I started keeping a training log tracking my workouts back in 2013. Since then, I’ve written down nearly every workout I’ve done, every rest day I’ve taken, and every new personal record I’ve achieved in the past eight years. I also write down general notes about how I felt during my workout that …

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Mastery: The Art of Sticking With Things for the Long Haul

“What are you training right now?” This is probably the most common question I get asked by my fitness-loving friends. My answer is almost always the same: “I’m training handstands. Yes, still.” I first started dabbling in handstands back in 2013. I took a few adult gymnastics classes and was immediately hooked. How could something …

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Doing your most difficult thing in the morning, finding groundedness, and back day

Happy Monday,

Mornings have always been my favorite part of the day. I like the quiet before the hustle and bustle of the world begins. Most of the time, I feel clearest-headed in the morning, full of optimism and energy to start my day.

I also use mornings to complete the most difficult thing of my day.

Right now, that means writing. Every morning, I get up and write for about 90 minutes. Writing is my “hard thing” for the day and the thing I most want to accomplish.

Once I do my morning writing session, I can feel good about the rest of my day. No matter what else happens after that, I know that I finished one thing that brings me closer to my long-term goals.

Although doing my most difficult thing in the first part of the day has always been instinctual for me, what I prioritize in the morning has changed over the years.

I used to get up and work out right away because if I didn’t, I worried I’d end up making excuses and skip my workout.

As fitness became a more ingrained part of my identity, I became more flexible with my workout times. Now, I trust myself to work out no matter what time of the day it is.

This might be different for you. Like me, you might want to knock out your highest priority creative work for the day, or work out first thing to get your day going. Or you may choose to take that time to meditate and journal before the rest of your day starts because you know yourself well enough to know that carving out that quiet time later in the day is just not doable.

Get your difficult thing done first thing in the morning, and you can feel good about the rest of your day, no matter what happens.

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Why Mental Fitness Matters

Mental fitness is a term that gets thrown a lot these days, especially now during the COVID pandemic. It seems like everyone is struggling with something, and having strong mental fitness feels more important than ever.

But what does it mean to be mentally fit?

In psychology, mental fitness is loosely defined as creating a state of positive well-being and learning to cultivate awareness of how we think, behave and feel.

Increasing mental fitness has tons of benefits, such as:

  • Becoming more aware of your thoughts so they don’t control you
  • Increasing your ability to focus and concentrate on tasks
  • Building the resilience to deal with the ups and downs of life
  • Being able to confidently respond to a situation in the moment (rather than hours later after you’ve had time to think through your response)
  • Learning to focus less on negative emotions and the challenges of your life, and more on what’s going well

Just like we need to exercise our muscles in order to become physically fit, there’s a lot we can do to become more mentally fit, too.

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47 years of training, new workout packs available in the 12MA app, and karate katas

Happy Monday,

The other day I was wearing a Gold’s gym sweatshirt while walking my dog, and a guy waved at me from across the street with a big smile on his face.

He said he and his wife have been going to Gold’s gym, the iconic gym in Venice Beach where Arnold Schwarzenegger has been known to train, for 47 years.

47 YEARS!!!

Now that’s dedication.

It’s also a good reminder for all of us that fitness shouldn’t be just about looking good for beach season or temporarily getting six-pack abs.

(In fact, research shows that appearance goals are the least motivating long-term. This is why I always encourage people to have some non-appearance-related goals, whether strength, skill or adventure-related.)

Instead, fitness can and should be a source of joy in your life. The daily grind at the gym can build confidence, self-discipline, and mental toughness like nothing else can. And as my neighbor clearly showed, it can be a source of pride and community.

You can bet that I’ll still be training 47 years from now.

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Avoiding the trap of perfectionism, hip thrusts, and upcoming self-actualization course

Happy Monday,

So many of us have a bad habit of wanting to be perfect.

We try something challenging, and rather than focus on what we’ve done well, we zoom in on our flaws and only notice everything we’ve done imperfectly.

I often catch myself doing this when I’m training handstands or martial arts, two of my main training focuses at the moment. I’ll watch videos of myself training and pick apart every single thing I did wrong.

Doing so zaps my motivation and fills me with negative self-talk. Worse, it often leaves me feeling like my efforts are pointless — I’ll never live up to my idea of perfect, so why even try?

Of course, logically, this way of thinking makes no sense.

Trying to be “perfect” rarely leads to progress. For most of us, it results in procrastination and means we fail to put our full effort forward since we’re so worried about making mistakes.

But making mistakes along the way to our goals is how we learn. Mistakes, it turns out, are crucial to opening the door up to neuroplasticity — our brain’s ability to learn and change.

As Ryan Holiday writes, “Perfectionism rarely begets perfection, or satisfaction — only disappointment.”

Aim to be perfect, and you’ll never be good enough. You’ll be overwhelmed by self-doubt. You’ll be likely to give up and not even try.

Don’t aim for perfection. Aim to give your best, knowing that your imperfect efforts will one day add up to something meaningful.

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Working Harder Isn’t Always the Answer

I once almost got a tattoo that said “hustle.” At the time, I was still newly out of college and trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was living in San Francisco, surrounded by techies and startup founders — the type of people who glorify long hours and live off of …

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How to play the game of inches, mastering the inner game, and beach sprints

Happy Monday,

It’s easy to feel like all the little things we do to work toward our goals don’t really matter.

After all, you can only do so much in one workout or one day of work. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like no matter how hard you work, it’s never enough.

But as the sensei asks the student in the fictional but powerful Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love With the Process of Becoming Great,

“Do you know what separates the most successful people from everyone else?”

“Inches. That’s all that separates them.”

And it’s true: every little thing we do, no matter how seemingly small, adds up when we do it over and over for months, years, or even decades.

The work you put into your training, career, relationships, or life may not feel like you’re making much progress today.

But keep going, inch by inch, and over time it will add up to something great.

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