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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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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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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Don’t Try To Get Better at Everything at Once

The other day, I went to do a few sets of pull-ups and was disappointed to realize I could no longer do as many as I once could. There was a time a few years ago when I was working pull-ups diligently a few times a week and got up to doing ten in a …

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How Fitness and Sports Can Teach Us About Life

I didn’t grow up as an athlete. I was a shy, clumsy kid who preferred books to sports. I didn’t do my first push-up until I was twenty-one, and it wasn’t until much later that “athlete” became a core part of my identity. Like most adults, I first started exercising mainly to lose weight. Once …

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The Fastest Way to Make Progress in Any Skill

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins Setting goals is one of the most important things you can do to go from where you are to where you want to be. One reason goals are so powerful is that they give our lives direction. Setting goals helps …

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Why Crushing Every Workout is Unrealistic

I usually look forward to my training. My workouts are my time to focus and get out of my head. I enjoy the alone time and the chance to work toward goals that excite me. Whereas some people dread their workouts, my training sessions are usually the highlight of my day. But for some reason, …

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The Awkward Beginner Phase of Anything, and Why It’s Worth It

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” — Epictetus

Very few people enjoy the feeling of being a beginner.

That awkward, bumbling beginner phase is something most people will do just about anything to avoid. I know this because I avoided being bad at things for most of my life, choosing instead to always play to my strengths.

Growing up, I wouldn’t even try something new unless I was reasonably sure I would be good at it. I followed this same strategy until around my mid-twenties, when I realized that I’d need to start putting myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations or risk remaining the same person for the rest of my life.

I’ve tested my willingness to be a beginner countless times over the years, pushing myself out of my comfort zone by doing things like taking up handstands, writing my first book, traveling, and living around the world. Most recently, I began training in martial arts. After feeling somewhat athletically competent for years, training elements of taekwondo, Judo, karate, and jiu-jitsu instantly transported me back to being a complete beginner.

The other day, my martial arts coach taught me a new skill called a tornado kick, a 360 roundhouse kick that’s considered basic level at best for any taekwondo practitioner.

I didn’t grow up doing martial arts or gymnastics and have no natural ability for either. Now, in my thirties, anything involving twisting feels especially foreign to me.

I was acutely aware of my thought process as I began to work the skill, feeling the epitome of foolish and stupid.

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