What Does It Mean To Excel?

Who comes to mind when you think of success?

Whether in technology or sport, people who sit atop their ladders are viewed in high esteem. Often, the more successful you are, the more you’ve contributed to your field; but this is not the only way to excel.

The corporate structure is the template we follow to be considered successful. You start as a simple pawn and, with application, time and luck, you progress. Though this approach limits you to one area; business for example.

In the past, you weren’t so limited. Men and women of yesteryear contributed to different arenas and they too excelled. Leonard da Vinci was not just an artist but a technological innovator.

How do you gauge success?

Does it boil down to objective data, like wealth? But success is subjective in many ways; Michael Jordan is more successful than Mark Zuckerberg for the sports fan.

Success is determined by your definition of the word. If that means having a lot of money, then so be it.

Excel based on factors you deem important. Your family, friends and society all have different markers for success. Attempting to meet their determinants is an exercise in futility.

Become a success in your own eyes.

Lessons Imagined Vol. 2

The two continued to walk and the smiles gradually washed from their faces. A gentle sea breeze eased it’s way across, accompanied by the gush of nearby bushes. Several minutes past when the older man said, ‘I was just being stubborn you know’.

He spoke with more than a hint of regret in his voice. It was clear the thought was something he had recognised long ago though had never vocalised, let alone acted upon. The younger of the two remained quiet, managing to keep several quick witted remarks to himself.

‘Change is possible at any age. There’s truth in the fact that it’s a greater challenge to change old habits but it’s doable.’

The old man was looking at the path ahead. His face grappling with the notion.

‘I know I’m stubborn. Hell, I’m proud of it; it’s one of the reasons I’ve thrived as a businessman. Though it does have its negatives.’

‘Change is always possible, son,’ he repeated as he lifted his gaze.

‘Pride has stopped me from changing in the past and has led to more harm than good. It’s stunted my ability to grow and become a better man,’ he spoke sadly and softly.

The older man turned his head towards the younger man and said, ‘Learn from my mistakes, son. Learn to compromise’.

The younger of two nodded, promising to keep this advice close to heart.

Lessons Imagined Vol. 1

The water lapped the bank gently. It was late in the day though the dry heat lingered, as was typical for this time of year. Dusk had brought many out of their homes. Children played games of their own invention while dogs took the opportunity to stretch their legs and converse with their counterparts.

The two walked side by side, one taller than the other; they kept a good pace, enough to force a light sweat. The walk had been silent. Not an uncomfortable silence but a silence that allowed the two to enjoy each others presence.

The older man walked with a brisk gait. His hair was more salt than pepper. His face showed he was not afraid to work in the sun. The various lines and contours illustrated a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. Even if he wanted to, he would have difficulty suppressing the emotions he felt. Despite the signs of father time, he moved and behaved with a youthful exuberance.

The younger man walked with his hands clasped gently behind himself in a sage-like manner. Each of his footsteps angled out slightly as he strode along. He moved with a quiet confidence though there was a knowingness that he still had much to do with his life.

‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ the older man spoke while casting an eye over the dogs in the field. He was talking to himself though said it in a manner that suggested something had dawned upon him; something he had stubbornly ignored in the past.

‘I remember you saying those very words when Mum tried to get you to change in some way’, the younger man said softly, his voice appearing to come from times gone by.

One corner of the older man’s mouth tilted into a subtle grin which would be imperceptible if you weren’t looking for it. He let out a light chuckle acknowledging that he too recalled these instances in the past.

‘Boy, was I stubborn,’ the older man said, his grin turning into a wistful smile.

The younger man snorted, his face breaking out into a close-lipped smile as he managed to stop himself from a quick-witted reply.

‘Boy, I’m stubborn. Better?’ said the older man while giving the younger man a knowing glance.

‘Much better,’ the younger man replied as the two basked in their memories.

The Hero’s Way

Stories inspire. I remember Yes Man with Jim Carrey having this effect on me. His life wasn’t panning out as he had expected though a seminar with a motivational speaker changed everything. He began to say yes to the opportunities life had to offer rather than remaining in his comfort zone.

I made a concerted effort to apply the same principle to my life and, even today, remind myself of the benefits of staying open when I start to play things safe.

If created correctly, tales that follow the journey of a hero make us, the viewer or reader, hope he succeeds. In many cases, we wish we were the hero due to his noble characteristics and exciting adventures.

Exaggeration and a bit of magic make the lives of these individuals a little hard to replicate but we can lead the life of a hero if we choose. It takes a willingness to be bold and to seek adventure. Though the main ingredient – the thing that most stories gloss over – is the need to work hard.

The grind doesn’t make for good reading. No one wants to read about the countless hours of repetition required to make the difficult look easy. As an audience, we want to be entertained.

Know this though: it’s possible to become the hero. Take the time and put in the work behind the scenes and eventually, you’ll become who you want to be.

Very few are willing to put in the hard work. There’s plenty of space at the top while the rest of the populace slug it out in the purgatorial middle ground.

Say yes to putting in a hero’s effort to become a hero.

The Secret To Dominance

This is a tale of two brothers – Ralph The Repeater and Earnest The Explorer.

The two lived on the planet Erasnick, a place that prided itself on its athleticism.

The brothers came from a family of pedigree. Their father had been named the Interplanetary Player of the Year three times and many other members of the family had represented Erasnick at the Games too.

As with most brothers of a similar age, a fierce rivalry existed between the two. Ralph and Earnest would make a competition of nearly anything, including their daily chores. The two would race to see who could muster the family’s Keepel, a sheep-like animal, the fastest.

Of course, their keenness to compete led to some troubles. Once during mustering season, the boys rustled the Keepel with such speed that the creatures were worked into a frenzy affecting their Goopel (a purple plasma-like substance) production for weeks.

The brothers went down different training paths; this is how their names came about. Ralph, the older of the two, was known for his discipline. When working on a skill, he had the willpower and fortitude to train for hours. He would adopt the tried and tested methods that past athletes had sworn by.

Earnest opted for a different approach. He would tell you himself that he is a ‘shiny objects’ kind of guy. He wasn’t sold on the idea that methods of the past were the best way to achieve results. He didn’t possess the stubborn discipline of his older brother but was inquisitive and searched the galaxies for alternative ways to improve. His exploring came at a cost, though, as the time which could have been spent training was instead spent travelling and determining the effectiveness of the approaches he had discovered.

When it came to local and national competitions, the two excelled in different areas with Ralph winning half of the time and Earnest the other. An observer could not say who was the better of the two.

Interplanetary competitions were a different story. Although they often put up a good fight, neither brother was able to take home the crown.

Soon after another failure at the tournament, the brothers sat together consoling each other over a steaming mug of Jalapo. The planet hosting the year’s competition, Plidar, was famous for its Jalapo. The flavour of the drink was reminiscent of Earth’s cinnamon though rather than being watery, the drink was thick and creamy.

It dawned on Earnest, as the two were discussing where they had gone wrong, that perhaps they should try a different approach.

Earnest proposed they take a leaf out of each other’s books – that is, Earnest would teach Ralph about the more effective methods of training he had gathered during his exploration, while Ralph would train Earnest to improve his discipline and single-mindedness.

Having nothing to lose, Ralph agreed and the two went to work.

The local competitions yielded the same results as before their discussion. It was a dead heat between the two. The difference now was their competitors, who usually managed to stay within reach of the two brothers, were blown away. It had become a two-horse race.

It wasn’t long before the next Interplanetary event rolled around. This would be a true test of their new strategy.

The difference was remarkable. The competitors were fierce but the brothers from Erasnick proved too strong with Ralph winning the tournament by the barest of margins over his younger brother.

A similar thread would appear for years to come with the two trading places on the podium. Their approach, combining a doggedness to work hard with searching and applying the most effective training methods, created an unparalleled legacy of Interplanetary dominance that would never be surpassed.

Ostracised For Being Healthy

When others hang around you often enough, they pick up on your habits and values.

Making good food choices, exercising regularly and being discerning with how you treat your body can often lead to people perceiving you as the ‘health nut’.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are perceptions, how you think people see you, but at the same time it’s impossible to be completely impervious to their comments.

For the most part, it’s important to recognise when people make comments around your healthfulness, they are often in good jest. Simply roll with the punches and add to the humour of the situation. Use it as an icebreaker before directing the conversation elsewhere.

There are a select few though, who are a little more malicious with what they have to say. They speak of you as if you’re some kind of alien and attempt to rile you up.

There are a few things to keep in mind when this occurs…

  • Reacting aggressively and attempting to counter their argument is exactly what they’re after. They want to see you squirm a little.
  • Their comments are a reflection of their own insecurities which they are projecting on you. Perhaps they have body image issues for instance.
  • The best tact is to self deprecate and go along with their argument. There is no sense in reasoning with this person. Instead make light of the situation. Not only will this make the conversation enjoyable for you, but diffuses their line of attack.

Next time you’re feeling ostracised for being healthy, remember most of the time it’s merely horseplay. Use humour and the ability to laugh at yourself to navigate these waters.

How do you approach conversations where your healthy habits are the butt of the joke? Leave your thoughts below.

It’s OK To Say ‘No’

Saying ‘yes’ can open the door of opportunity. Having the fortitude and foresight to answer in the affirmative is often a way to step out of your comfort zone leading to growth.

But the ability to say ‘no’ is just as important.

When can you benefit from saying ‘no’?

  • When your intuition suggests the option at hand isn’t the best option
  • When you’ve been through the same situation before and know how it will pan out
  • When it’s detrimental to your health
  • When you’re not ready. Imagine saying ‘yes’ to something physically or mentally demanding that requires total commitment. A slip-up could lead to harm or a loss of confidence, affecting your future participation. The alternative – saying ‘no’ – allows you to assess and ask, ‘Why was I  unwilling and how do I prepare for a similar scenario in the future?’

Saying ‘no’ can be the easy way out but it’s situation-specific. A ‘no’ can also lead long-term growth by giving you a chance to reflect.

Don’t use ‘no’ as an excuse to stay in your bubble. Use it as a tool to freeze time, allowing you to assess then capitalise on opportunities that may have otherwise overwhelmed you.

Have You Become ‘The Exercise Guy’?

We use stereotyping to categorise people. Although it might seem callous and lazy, stereotyping is inevitable and necessary. It helps determine who a person is and how they are likely to act.

Given you’re reading this blog, physical training is important to you. People around you have recognised this association too due to the change in your physique as well as what you tend to talk about. This might seem a harmless association. You’re asked: how training is going and how many times you go the gym? But with time, your stereotype strengthens.

Soon, every conversation is related to your physical pursuits. Family and friends question your eating habits and make comments like, ‘I wish I had your willpower,’ when you decide against a biscuit from the dessert platter.

These interactions begin to impact on how you see yourself. You feel as though you have a model to uphold to meet expectations. Next time you’re at a family gathering, although the cake and desserts look delectable, you choose to abstain in order to uphold your perceived image.

You’ve become the ‘fitness guy’. The title becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that will continue to harden and become increasingly difficult to break from.

But it’s not a bad thing. The situation is an opportunity to evaluate how much you value exercise and where your other interests lie. You may find you have few other hobbies and that presents a chance to expand and pursue things that have been on your to-do list but you have never got around to.

Your choices shouldn’t be driven by how you think you’re seen by others. Make changes based on the person you want to be, not to fulfil a certain stereotype.

Why Do You Train?

Do you train because you want to or because you have to?

Understanding why you train can contribute to building healthy long-term habits, consistency, and progress.

There are immediate benefits of training like the satisfaction you gain after a tough deadlift workout.

Though, no one trains out of enjoyment all of the time. Waking up before dawn and jumping into an icy cold pool is rarely something to look forward to. But taking a step back and looking at training over time can create a clearer picture of reasons to train.

A birds-eye view helps you to get out of bed even when the prospect of training does not entice. If you get to the pool, you’re one step closer to your goal.

Set your goals with the future in mind. Targets are a good way to measure progress and make sure your on track, like achieving a particular lap time. Though plan even further ahead. What do you want to achieve in three months or three years?

Now you have less reason to skip training because there are consequences. By missing training, you put your long-term goal in jeopardy.

Train for the right reasons and use goals to keep yourself accountable.

External Expectations

We all have expectations of ourselves. A set of unwritten rules that guide our behaviours and actions.

Others have expectations of us too. Not just family and friends – everyone. The bank teller expects you to wait patiently in line while the service station attendant expects you to pay for your petrol.

We value others expectations differently. The more we respect someone, the more we try to uphold what they assume of us.

Are we doing the right thing by meeting the expectations of others? And how do we know what others expect of us if they don’t tell us directly?

Benefits of meeting the expectations of others

  • Strengthens the relationship
  • Encourages sharing of knowledge like between a mentor and student

Drawbacks of meeting the expectations of others

  • Internal conflict when personal expectations don’t match another person’s expectations
  • External conflict when we fail to meet someone’s expectations

The situation is a challenging because we value the other person, but the solution is simple – be selfish.

The only expectations we must meet are our own. It’s flattering for others to have expectations of us. Though the chances of the expectations matching are slim. If we communicate, focusing on self-expectations, with those around us, it can be a relatively painless experience. Ideally, they will realign their expectations based on our own and the relationship can grow.

Should we meet others expectations? Leave your thoughts below.