The highest leverage thing you and I can do is take deliberate control of the quality of our health. Whether we're talking about the benefits of weight lifting, HIIT Interval Training, or just going for a brisk walk around the block -- regular exercise is *the* highest leverage activity you can engage in to dramatically alter the quality of your life. Period.
I had this realization when I was 19 years old — fat, unhealthy, and walking around with absolutely nothing to be excited about in my life.
Until the day I decided to make a change.
For me, it happened when one of my best friends, Sam, took me to the VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) recreational center to join him for a weight lifting sesh. I remember looking around and feeling puny. I felt small and fat at the same time. It didn’t feel good at all. I remember trying to do a reverse triceps dumbbell curl while sitting down on a bench — facing a long rack of big rubber-wrapped dumbbells situated in front of a huge mirror that expanded from one end of the weight room to the other, from the ceiling down to the floor.
The weights came in pairs of 5 lbs. and went all the way up to 150 lbs. I grabbed a 20 pound dumbbell while secretly wishing I could lift those 105 lb. dumbbells that the big tan dude next to me was tossing around like they were pencils.
I picked up the dumbbell and prepared to do a reverse triceps curl. My friend Sam was behind the bench spotting me… I hoisted the dumbbell into the air, and into the starting position, right behind my head and above my right shoulder — and then I braced myself and extended my arm upward, sending the dumbbell away from my head in a slightly diagonal direction above my head and a couple feet over my right shoulder blade — and all of sudden — like an old man going into cardiac arrest, the muscles in my right arm gave out and the force of gravity sent all 20 whopping pounds of that dumbbell propelling downward towards my forehead — and, well, you know what happened after that... a painful *thud* ensued by me trying my damnedest to not start crying like a little bitch in front of all the cool kids.
That night after my embarrassing experience in the gym with a 20 lb. dumbbell, I went home and spent the entire night researching everything I could about weight lifting, bodybuilding, and proper nutrition protocols to achieve a “ripped” physique. Most of what I found online was garbage. But among the garbage I did find a tiny little treasure in the form of a PDF eBook titled Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
Coupled with a handful of other reliable resources about fitness and weight lifting, I decided to embark on a new adventure; one that I’d never been on or anticipated beginning… and it totally transformed my life. I can credit the hobby and eventual obsession I developed for weight lifting to many of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
And to be clear — it’s not the weight lifting itself that changed my life, it’s the discipline, focus, flow, and psychological well-being that resulted from the steady progress of a worthy ideal: getting ripped like Brad Pitt in Fight Club...
Eventually, I fine-tuned my goal from “getting ripped like Brad Pitt in Fight Club” to “Achieving 8% body fat while simultaneously increasing my strength and muscle mass.”
But to be honest, I think that might’ve been the first goal I ever set and stuck with for long enough to see through to its end.
The health benefits of weight lifting and strength training expand into every arena of life. Lesser known benefits from developing the habit of exercising regularly include powerful lessons on life, such as:
Life-changing? Yeah, bro. Life-changing. Start reading to find out how developing a gym habit can easily translate into a success habit of any kind, and in any area of your life.
1. You'll develop laser-like focus by tracking results.
Wanna make MASSIVE changes in your personal and professional life? Start tracking your progress. I’ve kept a training log for the gym since I first began weight-training at the age of 19. Almost ten years later, I’ve a detailed record of progress that I can look back on and feel great about. Over the last decade, I’ve transformed myself from overweight, unhealthy, and totally out of shape — to 8-10% body fat, peak physical condition, and ended up transforming my body to the point that I unexpectedly ended up garnering the attention of a handful of modeling agencies and becoming a male fashion model. There was never a day that I woke up, looked in the mirror, and gasped at some mighty transformation… it was slow and steady. When it comes to transforming yourself physically, progress comes in such small increments that the impact can only be felt after long periods of time, during which you need to be focused and steady, knowing that you have to track the little stuff so you can measure your progress against the slow but steady realization of your long-term goal. This rule applies just as much in life and work as it does in the weight room.
2. Gaining control over your training program will lead to taking control over your whole life.
Most people are really great at blaming others and point fingers. This does nothing more than put their lack of education on display for everyone to take note of. Weight-lifting is an awesome way to put yourself in charge of the life you lead because the only person responsible for your results is… YOU.
3. Develops your leadership skills.
Once you’ve developed the habit of putting yourself in control — or being able to *direct* yourself — and take personal responsibility for your thoughts, decisions, and actions — you truly become the leader of your own life. And that’s a very powerful thing… Leadership is a quality that most people do not possess; not because they weren’t “born” leaders. Leadership isn’t inborn. It’s developed. It’s crafted. It’s personalized. Leadership is a learned skill and a daily habit. Whether you know it or not, making the decision to set a fitness goal — and to stick with it — while remaining flexible enough to learn from your mistakes — is personal leadership in action. When you do this for an extended period of time, you develop the habit of leadership, and this then, begins to pour into every arena of your life. Including your ability to lead and influence other people.
4. You'll cultivate un-shakeable confidence.
The harder and smarter you work in the gym and with your weight lifting routine, the more results you begin to see staring back at you in the mirror… and the more often you see positive results, the better you feel about yourself. And when you know that YOU are responsible for those results, your confidence begins to skyrocket. This is an upward cycle of positive personal validation that keeps on feeding into itself and helping you become better, bigger, stronger and more confident every single day, week, month, and year.
5. Your weight lifting routine will lead to a transformation that inspires others.
I remember when I first began using the right ratio of weight lifting + proper diet to transform my body and physical fitness… Within a reasonably short period of time — about a month and half — people already started noticing the results I was getting. This usually happens when someone who never exercises picks up a weight lifting protocol and actually sticks with it. We tend to see the most dramatic results within the first few months… If you do this, you’ll notice that before long you’ll be inspiring others to do the same thing. The true test however, is the test of longevity… can you stick with your weight-lifting routine beyond the 90-day mark when the muscle growth and progress begins to plateau? Can you stick with it past the 6-month mark? The 12-month mark? 2 years? 5 years? A decade? …. for life? Longevity is key in the school of iron as well as in the school of life.
Most people quit when they stop seeing immediate results. Champions stick with it, relishing even the most minute’ moments of progress. Every inch off the waistline, every millimeter of muscle growth, and every new striation you develop is a moment worthy of taking pause to celebrate… not for too long though — for just long enough to miss going back in their to pound out another set, another rep, and to achieve a new personal record you’d never hit without building the personal integrity to stick with it — even during the times when it felt like progress had come to screeching halt. These are the types of lifestyle benefits that inspire others to inspire themselves to finally take responsibility and make a change within their own lives.
6. Learned optimism is the result of a goal-oriented training program.
As I write this article, I continue to remember just how big of an impact weight lifting has had on my personal and professional life.
For example: when I write down “Today I’m squatting 275 lbs. for 12 reps” — I begin to think about it and visualize it. Then once I’m in the gym, my mental focus kicks in and helps me crank through that extra rep to hit my goal of 12 — when I might’ve given up at 9 or 10 had I neglected to write down and think about my goal in positive and powerful way before ever even stepping foot in the gym.
There are more studies than ever before within the field of Positive Psychology on the power of optimism, and since learned optimism is directly tied to the brain, we continue to have new breakthroughs in science and psychology about how to best utilize the gem between our ears to live healthier and more fulfilling years.
Now let's close it out with perhaps the highest leverage benefit that results from a consistent weight lifting routine: a massive improvement in one's ability to solve problems and challenges in any area of life -- physically, financially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually -- whatever the problem, you're about to learn how fitness can fix it.
7. Weight lifting helps you solve problems.
I remember just a few weeks ago, when I was trying to think of a way to help a young fan of the show. He was in his late teens, and reminded me a lot of myself at that stage of life… he wanted to get in shape and get more girls. He wanted to stop caring about what people thought of him and start living life on his own terms. He wanted to stop pretending like he was going to follow the career path of becoming a doctor so that he could focus on doing what he was really passionate about — music.
I thought about what might be the best way to help him realize that developing unwavering focus on ONE area of his life, would inevitably pour into EVERY area of his life… Then I remembered a little example one of my own teachers had shown me a long time ago… I took out a clean sheet of paper and drew a circle with a ‘Y’ in the middle.
“The ‘Y’ stands for YOU” I said to my buddy, “and everything within this circle is within your scope of influence — meaning you’re responsible for everything within this circle: your health, your finances, you relationships, your career, family, friends, diet, decisions — everything about your life that you’re responsible for falls within this circle of influence”. He nodded his head indicating that he understood what I was trying to say. At this point, we’ve got just a circle with a ‘Y’ in the middle.
Next, I drew a little ‘X’ right at the outermost edge of the circle — just grazing the diameter. “This ‘X’ represents a problem in your life; any problem” I said. As he looked on, wondering when the hell I’d get the point, I began to explain to him that life bounces problems off the outer edge of our circle of influence at pretty steady rate.. and if we don’t walk up to the outermost edge of our circle and figure out a way to deal with the problem at the edge of our circle, then before we know it, ANOTHER ‘X’ (aka: problem) tends to show up at the edge of our circle. And if we don’t deal with that — ANOTHER one shows up… and another, and another, and so on, and so forth until one of two things end up happening:
#1: We end up IMPLODING. We curl up into a ball and let the weight of life’s problems weigh us down and make a sick, depressed, and angry at ourselves and everyone around us, or…
#2: We end up EXPANDING. We march up to each and every problem (or ‘X’) that shows up at the edge of our circle of influence, and we face it and figure out the best possible way we’re capable of dealing with it.
Life ends up pretty shitty when we go for option #1. But when we choose to opt-into #2 — we decide the direction of our destiny.
Expand + grow
More specifically, we expand and grow like crazy… Know why? Because *every* time an ‘X’ — or a problem of some kind bounces off the edge of our circle, we stand up and face it. And when we face that problem and deal with it appropriately and to the best of our ability — we grow…
But the beauty isn’t in our ability to deal with, and conquer *just one* of our problems. The real beauty occurs when we realize that when we handle ONE problem in life, we tend to grow and expand our circle of influence a little bit larger than it was before we dealt with some specific problem.
And what happens when you decide to go all the way out to the edge of your circle and deal with one of the many problems (‘X’s) that the outermost edge of your circle is surrounded by? Well, when you overcome ONE problem, your circle EXPANDS equally in EVERY direction… when this happens, you end up dealing with several other problems simultaneously.
Face your challenges + expand your circle
Let me give you an example of how overcoming a problem in one area of life helps you expand into every area of life.
let’s say you were over weight, and decided to start a weight lifting program to build some lean muscle and burn off that belly fat, you’ve decided to take action and deal with this health problem of yours (one of the many ‘X’s that can show up at the edge of your circle of influence.)
In addition to being overweight and out of shape, another one of your problems (or ‘X’s) is your lack of confidence… your unsure of yourself and you don’t like it. You get really nervous and anxious when you talk to girls and it’s embarrassing. You hate giving presentations because it’s way too nerve-wracking… Overall, your confidence is suffering and it sucks. But there IS an upside… since you’ve been hitting’ the gym and working on solving your weight problems, you start to see some results and begin feeling good about yourself and your capabilities. Eventually, you even end up making a massive transformation in your physical fitness.
Now you’re looking good, feeling good, and you’ve always got a finger on the pulse of your overall health + wellness. But there’s more. As a by-product of making progress with your physical health — you actually became more confident! — in life, in your relationships, in your career, and in your overall self-image and the awesome-ness that you’re *really* capable of achieving when you approach a problem and deal with it in a positive way. Your circle of influence expanded and grew — and you ended up handling more than just one problem; you handled many.
Pretty cool, eh?
1. Develop goal setting skills + focus
2. Puts you in charge
3. Develops leadership skills
4. Increases confidence and charisma
5. Inspires others to do meaningful things in life
6. Learned optimism
7. Massive increase in your ability to solve almost any problem instantly