What weight-lifting taught me about getting stuff done

Alex Busson
Sep 24, 2018 · 3 min read

I lifted weights to stop being skinny.

Who knew I needed it to write a novel, start a business, and never leave important work unfinished? Well, here are 5 BIG things weight-lifting taught me.

Hopefully they help you too.

1. What you measure you can manage

While putting on weight, I found it was a good idea to take 4 measurements.

I’d take 2 measurements at the gym:

  • The amount of weight lifted
  • The set/rep I’d fail on

And I’d take 2 measurements at the end of the week:

  • Body weight
  • Body fat percentage

The thing with measuring, I’ve found, is you almost always need 2 measurements to make an accurate judgment.

For instance, you might lose weight — but what if you’re losing muscle?

You might gain weight — but what if it’s just water?

Using just one measurement (in most people’s cases, weight) never tells you enough.

2. Your only competition is yourself…

…And the people who really know what they’re doing are the least likely to judge.

When I began lifting weights, I weighed about 140lbs. I could barely even squat an empty barbell.

There were 2 massive bodybuilders at my gym, and to tell you the truth, they intimidated me a little. Then I got better.

I experimented with different rep ranges.

I picked up a shoulder injury. And this meant I had to switch things around again.

I’ve never been particularly judgmental. Still, I realised pretty quickly that it’s impossible to judge what others are doing.

  • You don’t know their goals
  • You don’t know their challenges
  • You don’t know their diet, or previous injuries

You can only compare yourself to yourself. And that goes for most things — not just lifting weights.

3. The path to success ALWAYS has bumps

My goal was to reach 180lbs.

I got there.

But there were several weeks when I lost weight.

If you can do it with your goal, it’s fascinating to plot your results on a graph. Over time, you see the failures are just small dips across a steady upward trend.

4. Consistency trumps intensity

You’re better off doing 3 short workouts without fail than sporadic marathon sessions.

I began with simple power lifts — 3 exercises per workout, 3 days a week.

It’s not much. Pretty easy, in fact. But I NEVER missed a session.

Those 3 workouts were as sacred as my career and family. Being consistent made it easy to measure results — and make small changes along the way.

You can apply this to most things.

The author Graham Greene only wrote 500 words a day — and rarely worked longer than 90 minutes. Yet he never failed to get his 500 words. Over time this added up to a bunch of novels.

5. You must find the small levers which open the biggest doors

You see a lot of bodybuilders weighing their food and planning their nutrient intake down to the last second…

I’m not knocking them.

If you want to be, say, Mr. Olympia, you do have to do those things. But I don’t.

Once I reached 180lbs, I realised I didn’t want to get any bigger. By a bodybuilder’s standards, I’m not even big — and I already have friends taking the piss. Who needs more of that?

So I now only have to do 3 things consistently.

  1. Consume enough calories
  2. Consume enough protein
  3. Lift heavy shit

These 3 levers open the biggest doors to success.

No, they’re not enough to get on the cover of Men’s Health. But they are enough to get you around 80% of the way — without any of the rigorous extra hassle.

Whatever you’re trying to do, find the small levers which open the biggest doors for you.

Focus on those first.

Originally published at alexbusson.com on September 24, 2018.

Alex Busson

Written by

I’ve stopped posting on Medium — and don’t even log into my account. If you’d like to stay in touch, please contact me through my website: alexbusson.com

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