Nobody was ever inherently born a master at their craft.
Even Tom Brady had to take a few bumps and bruises before becoming the G.O.A.T.
Few, if any, have explained this better than Will Smith when he said, “The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”
However, while developing our skill, we often fail to appreciate our progress and instead dwell on our shortcomings. Our shirtless reflection in the mirror doesn’t elicit happiness and pride for how far we’ve come; we just see a lagging body part or fat on our lower abs.
After missing a rep on the final set of bench, we don’t remember when we could barely hit one with that same weight. Instead, that one missed rep takes control of our thoughts and torments us for the rest of the training session.
Does logging into your bank account invoke memories of that young, broke sixteen-year-old you once were? No, you just get restless that you must make even more.
And that is OKAY.
It’s okay to become frustrated. It’s okay to become impatient. It’s okay to want more.
It’s how a young boxer from Louisville becomes a legend. It’s how a kid who gets cut from his high school basketball team goes on to become the best basketball in history. That is how chefs attain Michelin stars and recording artists go platinum. That is how we simply become great. We reject mediocrity.
But to even get to that point, you need to start. You need to lace up your boots and take the first step.
The first step is never pretty, though. Starting will entail failing. Failing is inevitable. You need to fail. You need to suck, and most importantly, you need to embrace it.
Embracing the suck means taking it home, buying an expensive bottle of red, cooking dinner, making love, and cuddling.
Then, and only then, can you vow never to experience it again. Failure is not for you. You are destined for more.
Failure and sucking are both traps, ruthlessly clutching at you and holding you down. You have two choices. You can settle, and let yourself be overcome by fear, giving it complete power over your life.
Or, you can fight it. Break free of this insidious trap, and rise from the smoking husk of your former self.
There is one option if you are to become the best version of yourself.
Use failure as your opportunity to learn and grow stronger. No longer beholden to it; it is your greatest chance for redemption. Failure is your motivation; failure is your success.
I etched my personal “suck” onto my body for eternity. It forever lies inked on the inside of my right bicep. It reads “#135/1.” It isn’t a trendy hashtag or an old sports number. It represents the first time I ever benched in my Uncle Tony’s basement gym. The gym where I discovered my calling for fitness. But, when I say benched, I mean I pressed 135 pounds for one, single, measly rep.
This tattoo serves as an unbreakable bond to the rest of my existence. A promise that I will never let myself fall back to my former self.
It is my “I’m still Jenny from the block.”
Whenever I get frustrated with my progress, I look down and remember where it all started. Almost instantly, I am thrown back into time and envision my fifteen-year-old self nervously setting up for that bench press with my intimidating Uncle Tony gazing over me as my spotter.
Coming back to the present moment, the years and years and years of my training flood over me. The highs and the lows. I remember every gym I’ve been lucky enough to experience. I remember the unbreakable bonds I have formed with every training partner in my life. I remember that few things are better than an intense pump or dripping in sweat.
That is what reignites my training. It makes me yearn for my next failure. Because it will be my next opportunity to become even stronger, mentally and physically.
Failure, or sucking at something, shouldn’t make you shy away from trying new things.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of visiting and training at DeFranco’s Gym at The Onnit Academy in Austin, Texas. If you know anything about DeFranco’s, Onnit, or just Texas for that matter, then you know it was an entirely badass experience.
Getting a behind-the-scenes look at what makes a company so great is pretty inspirational stuff. So is lifting with a group of bros with enormous banners of Brian Cushing and Joe Rogan hanging over your head.
But, even with so much surrounding me to take in and absorb. I couldn’t fully relish the moment as one thing kept stealing my attention. It was sitting in the corner of the room; completely untouched. Although I knew what it was from a fundamental standpoint, it was still a foreign object to me in the realm of fitness I know so well.
A steel mace is a long hollow shaft with a solid cast iron ball attached to one end. Utilizing the principles of disproportionate weight distribution, they aim to challenge your stabilizers, joints, proprioception, and core strength.
Like a Muay Thai bout or swingin’ kettlebells, steel maces look artful when gracefully performed. Being skilled in both Muay Thai and kettlebells, they were just screaming my name. I needed to try them. My curiosity and competitive drive couldn’t resist the temptation.
Except, there was one problem. I had no idea where even to begin. We only had a small window of time to train at the Academy; I didn’t want to waste it. Hesitation set in and time expired, I missed my chance.
Returning to New York City, I still couldn’t shake the curiosity of the steel mace. I had only one choice. Spend one hundred dollars on something I’ve never even tried before. OBVIOUSLY.
A few days later, I cracked open that freshly delivered cardboard package. I pulled out a long twenty-pound steel mace and held it in my hands with excitement. I couldn’t wait to use it.
But still, my knowledge of using them hadn’t changed, and I had no idea what to do with it. Being “green” with fitness equipment was a very strange, frustrating, and humbling moment as a trainer.
Resorting to the wonderful world of the internet, I grabbed my iPhone and popped open YouTube. Finding a quick steel mace workout from Onnit entitled the Mace Warrior Maker, I pressed play.
What happened next is documented below.[video_player type=”youtube” width=”560″ height=”315″ align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″]aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cueW91dHViZS5jb20vd2F0Y2g/dj1wN2hNVHVvOTlvUQ==[/video_player]
This video serves as a testament to try new things. Do not fear “putting yourself out there.” If anything in life, anything at all catches your interest run to it with open arms. If someone near and dear to you wants you to try something that they love to do; indulge them. Get outside of your comfort zone. Feel your heart race with uncertainty. Feel the sweat bead down your forehead. As far as we know, we only have one life to live. Don’t waste it by creating regrets. Go out and live.
To steal thoughts directly from Mark Fisher, “when you leave this world, leave empty.” Die with nothing left inside of you. Not because you are soulless and vile, but because you left everything you had to offer out into this world. Leave it better a better place than you found it. Because that new thing you try, just might be your calling.
This may seem incredibly profound and philosophical for swinging a steel pole in circles over my head; I know. After all, I’m just trying a new training tool; it’s not that different for me. But, these were the thoughts it left in my mind.
Fortune favors the bold. Try something new. Embrace the suck. Tirelessly beat on your craft. Become absolutely great.