On turning fear into excitement, avoiding the trap of endless email, and pull-up negatives

It took me a long time to learn that feeling fear doesn’t make you a coward.

Like most people, I used to look at fear as a bad thing. If I were really brave, I would never feel fear, period. Therefore I concluded that I must not be brave.

Anytime I felt fear bubbling up inside of me, I would take it as a sign that I was doing something wrong. That I couldn’t take on the challenge. And I would quit.

But, at some point, I realized that everyone feels fear. Even the seemingly fearless like retired Navy SEAL David Goggins.

What someone like Goggins does differently than the rest of us is that he doesn’t let his fear control him. He acknowledges it. , Then, rather than retreating or letting it overwhelm him, he leans into it. He takes his fear as a sign that he must be doing something right by taking on a challenge.

Fear has some useful benefits we often overlook. It evolved to give us strength, speed, and stamina. Feeling fear means we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

So help fear do its job.

Next time you feel fear bubbling up, ask yourself: “how can I make use of all this energy?”

Think about what value-driven activities you can channel your energy into.

Better yet, start to notice where you feel the fear in your body — is it in your belly, your chest, the back of your throat?

As you notice where you feel fear in your body, you may also become aware that it’s the same area where you feel excitement. So To turn fear into excitement, you simply need to reframe your fear.

Start by acknowledging your fear, then telling yourself, “I am excited” as you breathe into the feeling.

Sound silly? Try it before you knock it.

As Russ Harris, ACT mindfulness expert and author of one of my favorite books, The Confidence Gap says:

“Fear is not your enemy. It is a powerful source of energy that can be harnessed and used for your benefit.”

Fear is your brain and body readying you for action.

Regard it as a teammate, not an opponent. Allow it, channel it, and use it.

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On building self-discipline, becoming who we really are, and side kicks

I didn’t use to be a very disciplined person.

I’d say I wanted to do something, like work out, practice the guitar, or get up early… but when the alarm went off, I’d always find ways to justify hitting the snooze button.

In fact, I’ve only recently realized I’ve become a fairly disciplined person. As in, one of those people who says they’ll do something — and then actually follows through with it.

And that got me curious.

How can we actively work to increase our discipline so that we can do more of the things we say we want to do?

Here are three science-backed strategies I’ve found personally helpful:

1. Instead of trying to change yourself, change your environment.

Set up your environment in a way that encourages the lifestyle you want to live. If you want to eat healthier, stock your house with healthy foods. If you want to prioritize your workouts, set up your home gym in a way that removes any possible hassle.

Doing this removes any reliance on willpower and makes it easier to do what you say you want to do.

2. Exercise your discipline muscle.

Even if you’re not a naturally disciplined person, deciding that you want to become more disciplined and actively exercising your discipline muscle can help improve your stamina.

Small acts of effort such as practicing better posture, forcing yourself to floss, or yes, exercising regularly can increase self-control and effort toward later tasks.

3. Tie your goals to a larger purpose.

Why do you want to become more disciplined? Is it because you admire others who are self-disciplined and would like to see more of that quality in yourself?

Maybe you have a short- or medium-term goal, such as studying for and passing an important test, doing your first pull-up, or building a regular stretching habit. Or, maybe you have a longer-term goal like being healthy and mobile as you age, making a positive impact in your field, or obtaining a black belt in a martial art.

Whatever the goal, having a meaningful “why” behind your goals and making sure they resonate at a really deep level makes staying disciplined significantly easier.

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On choosing consistency over perfection, gaining wisdom as we age, and handstands

Happy Monday,

If you want to make progress in any craft, fitness-related or otherwise, the first step is a willingness to try.

To give your best effort even when you feel like an awkward, bumbling beginner.

To keep showing up even when you don’t want to.

To keep going even when it feels pointless. Or when you’ve been stuck on the same plateau for ages and it feels like none of your hard work is making a difference.

You don’t have to have a good training day every single day. What matters more is that you keep putting in the work. That you keep pushing through the struggle, and ultimately, refuse to give up.

Aim for consistency, not perfection.

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On my five favorite books I’ve read so far this year, boxing basics, and a question for you

In case you haven’t noticed, I read a lot.

I typically read anywhere from three to five books at once, bouncing back and forth between audiobooks, ebooks, and physical books. Sometimes, I’ll get both the audiobook and the ebook version just so I can easily take notes.

I didn’t always read this much. After high school, I stopped reading for fun and didn’t pick up the habit again until well after college. But now, reading (and learning) is one of my favorite activities.

As writer Steven Kotler often writes in his books, “books are where the secrets are.”

I’ve managed to read over a dozen books so far this year. Here are five of my favorites in no particular order. Some are recent, some are old, but all were new to me.

The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith —

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Do you want to feel like your life is more meaningful? Don’t we all? Smith, a journalist, dismisses the search for happiness and shows how adding meaning to our lives by cultivating relationships, working toward a purpose, and seeking out mystery can lead to greater long-term fulfillment.

Late Bloomers: The Hidden Strengths of Learning and Succeeding at Your Own Pace by Rich Karlgaard —

I feel like this book was written specifically for me. I identify as a late bloomer in nearly every area of my life — fitness, relationships, finding my purpose… the list goes on. Karlgaard goes into depth on why not peaking in high school can have significant benefits and why being a late bloomer may be more of a benefit than a hindrance.

Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life by John Kaag —

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist from the late nineteenth century. Kaag eloquently breaks down the lessons of James, showing us all how to create meaning in our lives and become who we really want to be.

The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer by Steven Kotler

What does it take to accomplish the impossible? This is the main question Kotler’s newest book seeks to answer. Based on the latest scientific research, this book is full of inspiration and practical tips to help anyone reach for high performance and excellence in all areas of their lives.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt —

How can we live meaningful lives? This is the main question Haidt seeks to answer in this book, and he does it by looking at wisdom both from ancient philosophers and recent scientific research. Haidt concludes that we have to create our own meaning and can do so through a combination of love, work, and a connection to something larger than ourselves.

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On the importance of long-term practice, knowing what you don’t know, and learning as an adult

Hey there,

Last week, someone came up to me while I was training and asked me how I got so good at jump roping.

I had been jumping nearly without thinking, while out of the corner of my eye, I’d watched as he tripped over his feet in frustration.

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 practice.

This same lesson applies whether you have a fitness-related goal like jump roping, or a non-fitness-related one like writing, public speaking, or handling your emotions better.

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

While simply showing up and putting in your reps is an important first step, eventually you’ll want to be more deliberate about your practice.

This means putting in focused, deliberate work toward your goal with the specific goal of improving performance. And doing this day after day for the long haul.

When I first picked up a jump rope for the first time since elementary school, I wasn’t naturally gifted at it. I tripped a lot and 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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Why we are happiest when we’re working hard, the stories of our lives, and taming the voices in our heads

Happy Monday,

We often confuse ease with happiness.

We mistakenly think that if our lives were easier, we’d be better off. That if we didn’t have to work so hard for the things we want in life, we’d feel happier and more fulfilled.

But for most of us, the exact opposite is true.

In fact, the times when we’re working hard, striving after some worthy goal are the times where we feel most alive.

As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Think about it: When you look back on some of your proudest achievements in life, were they a result of idleness or hard work?

If you’re like most people, hands down, your proudest accomplishments are ones involving goal pursuit or mastery. You’ll most remember that pull-up you worked so hard for, the dream job you finally got after years of putting in the work, or the book you wrote after years of struggling to put words to the page.

Put simply: we are happiest and most fulfilled when we are striving after a goal to better ourselves, our loved ones, or humanity.

Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to skip doing the work.

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On learning to take it day by day, pursuing excellence, and the joy of being wrong

Hey there,

Setting big goals can be overwhelming.

If you’re anything like me, you constantly remind yourself of how far you have to go and how little time you have ahead of you to accomplish all the life goals you want to achieve.

Not surprisingly, going down an anxiety spiral doesn’t actually help us get closer to our goals. Instead, it can cause us to freeze out of indecision — or to give up prematurely.

A better approach is to create high, hard goals, and then stop obsessing about the outcome.

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