The Journey of Myself & A 339 lb Savage To American Ninja Warrior
“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
Point number one is that I respect Arnold so much for what he did upon moving to this country, creating the life he envisioned, not taking no for an answer, being incredibly self disciplined and for living an absolutely incredible lifestyle. The disclaimer is that without his genetics and work ethic we sadly won’t get to look like him in his early to late 20’s. If we do, then more power to us! At least we all have a vision to shoot towards which is what I’m getting at.
Now that we got that out of the way, onto the real meat, potatoes and entree of this week. I’m aware it’s been two weeks since I last posted so I’m doing my very best to create two wonderful works of art for all of my friends and readers this week!
What I’d like to focus on today is a combination of 3 separate pieces which I’ll do my very best to tie together. The first being the abundant opportunities available to all of us today at scale because of Al Gore and the Internet. Second, my journey from where I personally was in 2014 with sports, school and life, to where I am today. And third, the ability to have health and wealth all in one package by helping many others along the way. Sound good? Great let’s rock and roll!
To begin, too many smart people are dismissing social media today and this is why they are but shouldn’t at the same time. First and foremost, we all need to recognize the opportunities behind new online paradigms, tools and trends. But with that being said, it’s important to capitalize on these platforms (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) by correctly adding value to others life’s.
With the internet being infinitely scalable, it’s created the best time ever for everyone regardless of age or Generation. Yet, with all of these factors, we still have 19, 20 and 21 year old Instagram models, health & nutrition gurus and “life coaches” taking exception to the norms. Those people promoting and supporting the get rich quick schemes of 21 year old’s is ruining fitness, business and individual’s psyches.
The glaring difference between certified personal trainers (who actually have a client base of individuals with results & testimonials) and an overnight Instagram fitness star with 500,000 “followers” is usually that of maturity, experience and discipline.
Today, millions of people in the general public are buying into the idea that inviting the virtual world into your home, taking selfies 24/7, and exposing your nearly naked body are sufficient methods to being deemed a fitness expert. That’s a real shame, because it’s also something that can be accomplished by a 21 year old with less time spent in the gym than Bill Gates would spend in a room with Steve Jobs in 1996.
The result is usually an overconfident barely-legal, whose social media account looks like a soft porn photo shoot laced with ridiculous quotes about life, motivation and positivity that they’re almost always too naïve to even comprehend. Their “followers” learn nothing, and the massive audience they’ve “earned” usually ends up being mostly comprised of people who have little to no interest in actually working out.
These, males or females, are the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hilton’s of fitness: strategic, savvy marketers, and generally not too hard on the eyes — and they use each of these attributes to their advantage to feign expertise in the one area where they lack it. All of a sudden, people who hardly know how to coach a basic squat or press pattern release terrible online programs for sale, become boxing trainers and kettlebell instructors based on 1 workout they did of each, and have diversified their portfolios as online ambassadors for boutique gyms, supplements, and apparel. Why are they here for the short term when success is predicated on the long term process? It just blows my mind!
All of this gives big-platform fitness the bad, flashy, aesthetics-only, paid-motivator, anything-goes name it has. And the public eats it up for lunch.
On the other hand, shouldn’t that mean the obesity problem in the Western world is taking care of itself? The results certainly don’t speak for themselves. At least not yet when in January 98% of gyms are filled and by May & June we’re back to being able to bench, squat and deadlift with all of the room in the gym that we’ve dreamed of. As a matter of fact, the obesity rate in America has continued to grow (at the end of 2015, 26 of the USA’s states had at least 30% of their inhabitants deemed clinically obese. With that in mind, that number was 13 in 2010).
The idea of fitness may be more readily on the minds of people, but with the wrong spokespeople on these platforms, not much has changed or will change. Especially when the same insta-famous stars are simultaneously preaching empowerment and personal change in all of the wrong ways.
The reality is folks like these don’t care about the industry or actually making change — and they only care about their followers growing, edified egos and ultimately putting short term money in their pockets. These are people who are “playing the game” and winning, right? To some, that’s admirable. Personally, it affects my moral compass, and that’s one reason why I decided blog about it. I am playing the long term game to impact not only myself but tens of thousands of people and generations to come.
To hit home on my first point, the internet is scalable but only to the extent in which we make it scalable. It’s created the best opportunity for everyone regardless of age to capitalize on email marketing, value-driven sales campaigns, stories to be leveraged and for real-lasting change to be made. I suggest YOU properly use these tools instead of being the tool.
I’d like to take us all back on a brief journey to where I was (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) pre and post April 2014. At this point in my life I’m a junior at Washington & Jefferson, barely getting by with run-of-the-mill grades at a private liberal arts college, the newly appointed President & Captain of my College’s Rugby Club, in a serious relationship with my girlfriend of the time, on the executive board of my fraternity, working on my image in the gym and building upon the skillset(s) I had at the time.
More likely than not, my values and priorities at the time were geared towards showing up to class, making sure the rugby team was at practices and weekend games, keeping my girlfriend at the time as happy as possible, lifting at the gym so I wouldn’t get crushed physically and mentally on Saturday’s rugby games, doing the necessary work to get by in college, and sobering up from Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays involving way too much drinking and smoking.
With all of that being said, I wasn’t too focused on a disciplined diet, the right forms of supplementation, proper nutrition, personally developing myself and others, or becoming the better version of myself that it took me many more years to finally grasp and fully understand was possible. So what did I do at the time? I just squeezed by like the majority of everyone else does. And now, fast forwarding to April of 2014, we’re playing California University of Pennsylvania in a spring exhibition rugby game and I experienced my first real injury and setback playing rugby.
I’ll spare most of the details but let’s just say there was a 2 hour span where my right shoulder was partially out of place, I was drugged up on painkillers to dull the pain and finally to where my shoulders back in place thanks to Doctor feelgood. There was a lot I learned and had to overcome from that injury/experience but I’d say the biggest lesson I took away was that if we don’t risk (anything in life) we cannot grow.
5 to 6 months of physical therapy to recover shoulder strength, repair a practically withered away deltoid, lifting only 5 to 10 lb weights and still having to wake up every morning as a leader of a rugby club and stay focused in and out of the classroom was certainly a challenge I experienced along the way. I think too, looking back on it now, I was hesitant and leery in lying to myself and others. What I mean by that is my words weren’t aligned with my actions and what I truly wanted out of life. I turned complacent in not needing to do much (in terms of physical recovery, communication with friends, family and significant others, and my personal studies/work ethic to finish out college) which led me not needing to become much at the time.
This isn’t me seeking sympathy I just recognized that my potential was so much more and I deserved more. Did I recover to play rugby in the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015 seasons? Yes I did. But could I have given more effort and expected more blood, sweat and tears of my teammates? Absolutely. However, my influence and leadership wasn’t as sharp as it could have been so they only did what I did and then some in moderation. The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly. If only I knew what I know now, right?
There’s a lot more I could say but I certainly don’t regret the fun times I had leading up to my departure from rugby & college, from the close group of friends I made at W&J, whom I still keep to this day, and the memories and laughs had with plenty of beers, smoke sesh’s and a plethora of other shenanigans too.
What I do believe should have been of higher importance back then was my health, values, happiness for the present and for the friends I was surrounded by and my personal discipline. I don’t wish for my life to have been easier then, but I do wish that I was better and took myself more serious.
Lastly, to wrap it all up and crush my final point, we’re able to have health and wealth all in one. This may be contrary to what many think, and have preconceived notions about, but I promise you that 1) it’s possible, 2) we deserve it and 3) we have to believe in our chances of making it happen.
We have to take our health seriously whether we’re entrepreneurs, practicing law, crunching numbers in finance, dealing with patients, clients and medicine 12 hours a day, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day as an assistant, battling crime as a police officer or whatever the role in life is.
Overall health & wellness, especially when it aligns as one of our top values, becomes much bigger than ourselves. It becomes about helping others along the way. For myself, recently helping a good friend and business partner of mine get back into a routine of going to the gym 5–6 days out of the week has been beneficial not only for him but myself too. I know where his goals of competing in American Ninja Warrior (ANW) are in 2018 so I’d be more than happy to hold him accountable to that!
It’s fair to say that either we’re going to hold ourselves accountable or someone (like a friend, personal trainer or coach) is going to be holding us accountable. It’s so true to where another great friend and very close business partner of mine, who studied exercise science at Bloomsburg, is that accountability guy for me. Helping me out with my form on power lifts (primarily squats & deadlifts) have been a major key and help. Personally I’m looking to be at 265 lbs on bench, 325 lbs on squats and 410 lbs on dealifts by the end of December 2017. The 1,000 lbs club isn’t going to hit itself, right?
As Jim Rohn once said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” We’ll never hit a target or goal that we don’t aim for, have written down or tell other people about which is why it’s so important to have goals, write them down and set out about tackling them! I don’t give a shit if YOU think writing your thoughts, ideas and goals down on paper sounds cliche but its been proven by Harvard University and scientifically to have enormous benefits financially so I’d advise everyone to look into it!
Traditionally, for 40 to 45 years, what have we been taught, programmed and conditioned to do? We’ve been taught not to speak to strangers, to get good grades in school, stay out of trouble, get into college, maintain passing grades in college, graduate in 4 years, get a job, save enough money, have a family, buy a home, one day retire and then sail off on vacations in retirement.
Yet there is so much more to life than only that! More often that not in our careers we make sacrifices and lose sight of what’s really important to us. Maybe at first its the money. However, money will only get us so far in life. There’s more to it yet more often that not we see individuals sacrifice their health in order to chase the money.
Or maybe on the other end we see someone with a lot of time and good health for their age but not a lot of money to show for it. We’ve got to ask ourselves, “Why not have both?” But Donovan I have this going on in my life, I have an important job, I have deadlines, I have quotas, I have a daughter, I have a son to take care of, I have a car payment, I have a mortgage, I don’t know where I’ll find the time, I can’t this and I can’t that. We hear excuses piled upon excuses of this, that and the third. I’ve come to the realization and have completely started to ignore all excuses people make/are making. I just don’t hear it. It doesn’t fucking register. The input doesn’t equal the output.
We all have the time for prioritizing our health it’s just a matter of whether we want to do it right now, wait until 30 years old, 38 years old, or maybe even 40 or 50 years old when we’re in the middle of our mid life crisis. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but by that point in time it may be too late. Without the proper nutrition, time dedicated, discipline, supplementation, accountability and sweat equity we’ll never be satisfied with the results so we’ll just quit because that’s easier than dealing with the immediate pain at the moment. We must not let our dreams shrink to match our income. Because statistically it’s been shown by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that at 65 to 67 years of age, 28% of American’s (and climbing) pass away from the leading cause of death in America which is heart disease. Directly but not directly related to stress, time, money, poor lifestyle choices and improper health.
In closing, I’ll leave us all with this. If we knew we wouldn’t fail, and we knew we would succeed in absolutely anything we did, than my question to everyone listening and reading is what would YOU do?
If we don’t risk we cannot grow and if we don’t grow we’ll never become our best and if we never become our best we’ll never be fully happy and if we’re never fully happy than what else is there?
From the testimonials and personal experiences I’ve gathered and found the past 2 years it all comes down to daily progress. Progress = happiness. The equation simply makes sense in our career paths and our commitments to healthy lifestyles.
If we can be patient and disciplined when we’re younger than I fully promise all of YOU who’ve made it this far in reading this blog we’re going to be super powerful later on in life.
Just to finalize and digest what we’ve all just experienced the amount of opportunities available today at scale are incredible because of smartphones, social media and the Internet. However, we have to use them in the correct way! Two, all of our journey’s are going to be fast, low and as high as a rollercoaster but with discipline and focus it’ll all be worth it. And finally, we can all have health and wealth in a beautiful package simply by helping enough people understand, crystallize and get what they want in life too. We’re all born winners, but to be winners, we must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to fucking win!
Thanks for following along, I’m aware this one was a doozy but it’s all been worth it!
My Very Best,