Ten years ago, I’d have scoffed at much of the advice I’m about to provide. But life tends to teach you lessons. Being a stubborn man, I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way. The good news is, we are all works-in-progress. As individuals, we are in a constant state of change, and we can change for better or worse depending on our thoughts and actions. Here are 35 essential life lessons from a 36 year old fitness blogger, separated into four categories:
Lessons for Work
1. Take Pride in Your Work
If you’re a personal trainer, hone your craft. If you’re a bagger at the grocery store, hone your craft. I don’t care if you’re a lawyer, a pro ball-player, or a fast-food worker. Whatever you do, get great at it. Be like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead and life will find a way to reward you.
2. Pull Your Weight
One of the most “unselfish” things you can do is pull your own weight. Don’t make others pick up the slack for your laziness. If you aren’t good at some aspect of your job, make up for it in another aspect.
3. Improve Your Systems
Life, especially life at work, is all about systems. Reflect upon your systems and improve them over time. Teach these systems to others. This is how we improve as a society.
4. Know About “The Greater Good”
Sometimes you need to do things for the greater good, and often this will require you to turn the other cheek or swallow your pride. Atticus Finch chose not to retaliate when he got spat on in To Kill a Mockingbird. We could all benefit from being more like Atticus Finch.
5. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you want to succeed at your job, then this is quite possibly the most important piece of advice. Don’t be complacent. Learn new technology. Figure out that thing you keep putting off. Strive to be well-rounded. Steve Jobs got out of his comfort zone and changed the world.
6. Find a Job You Love…
I wasn’t always an impressive worker until I started doing what I loved. If you’re passionate about your field, it’s not work – it’s fun. Confucius offers this advice so you know it has to be important.
Lessons for Relationships with a Partner
7. Tell Your Significant Other How Beautiful they Are Every Single Day
Tell them every damn day. Even if they tell you that it’s getting old – still tell them daily.
8. Know that Chivalry will Never be Dead
Open doors. Pay for dates. Talk to her about what she wants to talk about. Dale Carnegie knew a thing or two about getting people to like you and he would say the same thing.
The Fonz had a hard time admitting he was wrong, and it’s hard to envision Clint Eastwood apologizing. But times have changed, and failing to own up is not a manly characteristic. Real men say sorry.
We’ve all screwed people over. We’ve all been screwed over. Forgive people for what they’ve done to you – it’s usually more about them than it is about you. Resentment is such a worthless emotion.
11. Treat Her Like a Queen
So you think you’re Don Juan deMarco? I’ll let you in on a secret – there is always somebody within her reach who makes more money than you, has a better physique than you, or has more knowledge than you. But she’s not overly-concerned with that. What matters more is whether there is somebody within her reach who will treat her better than you. Looks fade. Hubris is ugly. Respect is timeless. If you don’t respect her there are fifty guys around the corner who will, and you will lose her to them if you don’t figure out what makes her tick.
Lessons for Life
12. Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Don’t be that guy who is all talk. There are few people who are more annoying than that guy. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
13. Be Grateful
It’s been said that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Life deals us all some hefty blows. It’s how we react to it that determines our reality. Learn to have a grateful “default.” What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and some of life’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
14. Stand Up for What You Believe in (and Believe in Something)
Think of the ten people you admire most in the world. Chances are they stand for something. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up for what you believe in – your voice matters. Robert Frost took the path less chosen and it made all the difference.
15. Have Balance
This is the trickiest lesson of all. We’re supposed to sleep at least 7 hours, work, read, exercise, and have good social lives? Some of your days won’t be balanced. But each month should be balanced. Schedule in what your life is missing.
16. Have Integrity
Recall the ten people you admire most in the world. Chances are they also have integrity. Integrity encompasses a lot of things, so if you have it, you’re doing a lot of things right. What exactly is integrity? Well, it’s been said that integrity is doing the right thing even if nobody is watching.
17. Own It
You aren’t a passive bystander in your own life. You lie in the bed you make for yourself. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, then teach people how to treat you. If you don’t like your situation, do something about it. Begin tomorrow. If you want a home gym, start saving. If you want a new career, start planning. If you want to date a perfect-10, you should probably have some great attributes yourself.
18. Know the Serenity Prayer
I am not a religious man, but this is some damn good advice. In fact it might be the secret to life:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
19. It’s Not About Money
Money is nice. It pays the bills. It provides us with necessities and allows for luxuries. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. The relentless pursuit of money has ruined many more lives than it has helped. Be good to the people close to you – they’re far more important than all the money in the world.
20. Think for Yourself
Don’t be a follower. Be your own pilot. Listen carefully and learn from everyone. But use your brain and make your own decisions. It’s very empowering!
21. Have Fun
If you’re not having fun then your priorities are screwed up. No matter what, you should always be having fun in life.
Sure you have to be realistic, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream. Dream big. Every huge advancement in society started off as one man’s vision. Don’t be afraid to take risks either. Nobody stole second base with their foot on first. If you don’t succeed, guess what? You just learned some valuable lessons that you pay off in the future.
23. Forgive Yourself
Guilt is another worthless emotion. If you screw up royally, then you should definitely feel like complete crap. But only for a limited time. Eventually you have to move on. Guilt prevents us from moving forward. Everyone has made huge mistakes in life, and nobody is even close to being perfect. In fact, there’s no such thing as perfection. Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on.
24. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
You should indeed strive for well-roundedness. Renaissance men are a breath of fresh air in our specialized world. But everyone has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Work on your weaknesses but exploit your strengths.
25. Take Pride in Your “Brand”
Sean Connery takes pride in his self, and this is an admirable quality. You should care about your wardrobe, your hairstyle, your hygiene, and your image. Your brand will differ from my brand, and you should certainly feel comfortable “being yourself.” But just don’t get to the point where you wear sweat pants and stained t-shirts day in and day out. Clean it up be well-kempt.
26. Perform Random Acts of Kindness
I’m not suggesting that you need to be Gandhi or Mother Theresa, but you need to do what you can. Visit your grandparents. Volunteer every once in a while. Throw that homeless person a $5 bill even if you aren’t sure how he’ll spend it. If you’re a trainer, train someone for free from time to time. “Like” people’s posts and wish people Happy Birthday on Facebook. Pay it forward.
I used to look at crying as being pathetic. Now I think men who can’t cry are pathetic. If you can’t shed a tear over anything in life, then you’re probably self-absorbed. A real man isn’t afraid to cry from time to time.
28. Take Self-Improvement Seriously
There are two kinds of people in this world – those who grow, and those who stagnate. Don’t be a boiled frog. It’s not easy to change for the better. It’s not easy to alter your habits and improve your mindset. But you can’t accept your faults and choose not to work on them. Take self-improvement seriously. Stick notes on the fridge. Keep a gratitude journal if need-be. Print out motivational quotes if they help you. Read. Join a support group. Never stop working on yourself.
Lessons for Training/Nutrition
29. Take Pride in Your Physique
Your body is a testament to your health. Don’t accept having a huge gut. If you have no glutes then train them diligently. We can’t all look like Arny, but that shouldn’t stop us from caring.
30. Take Pride in Your Strength
The “train for looks and strength follows” and “train for strength and your physique follows” arguments have been around for over a century. You should care about both. You will never pull like Bolton or bench like Mendelson, but you can excel at some exercise or physical activity. Don’t be all show and no go.
31. Fun – The Missing Element in Program Design
If Sheiko or Westside has you dreading your workouts, then it’s probably not for you. Learn to craft your ideal routine – one that will deliver results and one that you will enjoy.
32. Find a Gym that Feels Right
Some gyms have you dreading your training, while others excite and motivate. Spend time finding the right gym for your goals and your liking. It makes a huge difference!
Guess what? Heavy compound lower body movements suck! Eating chicken breasts and broccoli suck too. But the results are well worth the effort. We all love our days off from the gym. Lounging around on the couch while flipping through channels appeals to all of us, as does diving into the icecream, cake, or pie. But if you give into your daily urges your health and physique will suffer. Sacrifice each and every day and stick to your training and diet.
34. Don’t Obsess
Sure you should sacrifice, but nobody likes that person who can’t socialize because he’s too obsessed with his physique. You have wiggle room with your calories and macronutrients. You can plan around a splurge every once in a while. Don’t miss out entirely on life’s guilty pleasures. If you love hotdogs at the ballgame, popcorn at the movies, or a beer with the guys, you can get away with it if you plan accordingly. And don’t put your selfish endeavors above your loved ones’ big life events. You can celebrate and minimize the damages by planning ahead.
35. Be a Damn Good Training Partner
If you’re going to have a training partner, then be caring, reliable, and competent.
So there you have it! 35 Essential Life Lessons. You’ll probably have to learn these the hard way just like me, which is okay. Just be sure to keep on truckin’! – BC
Brilliant read! Very strange as I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this sort of thing and your list is startlingly similar to mine. It’s nice to have it written concisely so I can refer back to it!! The only thing I would add is that family and friends are no 1. You could have almost everything but if you don’t surround yourself/ keep yourself surrounded by people you love, you may as well have nothing! Another few peons I think are in tune with myself and may be of interest to you are : desiderata And Invictus (you probably know both of these). Keep up the good work!
Hi G. I tried to allude to that in #19. I agree, family and friends (and your spouse) are what it’s all about! Thanks!
Just read numbers 19 and you touched on what I was talking about there! Deserving of its own category though!
Haha. Just saw your reply. Yep, definitely deserving of its own category!
You had me until “keep on truckin'”! Lol.
Rapidly approaching 47 I have also learned many of these lessons and whole-heartedly vouch for all of them.
Seriously, I think you get better with every article and blog.
Keep on truckin’.
Will Ferrell – Keep Truckin’!
Wonderful!!!!!! x100. Simple and one of the first lines stole my heart “Be like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead and life will find a way to reward you.”
Wasn’t that a great book? Made a big impact on me and my life.
Had to look up ‘boiled frog’ and glad I did….I’ve been a boiled frog on more than once occasion in life, just didn’t know it had a name. Great article!
Yeah my professor in undergrad taught me that and always used to caution us to not become them!
Chivalry is already dead. Women killed it.
Jeez Aaron! Talk about Debbie Downer. Deep down I think most women love to be treated special (have doors opened for them, courted, etc.).
I always reply to my door opener( male or female)
Thank you very much. Without fail I get a look like what planet are you from. The same look comes when I hold the door open for people. Who knew it was a foreign concept. I would also like to say your parents are without a doubt very proud of the man you have become. The world is a better place since the glute man cometh.
I would like to share this with my sons and clients – ok with you? Thank you – well thought out and meaningful to me.
Of course it’s okay with me! Thanks Sheila.
Great article. I believe I do all of those or most of those. I am surprised you knew of the serenity prayer. Most people don’t now that. Look forward to more of your posts.
Yeah it’s an amazing prayer. Thanks Harry!
Check out Sinead O’Conners song Feels so different
On the Album I Do not Want What I Havent Got
It is amazing. She sings the prayer in the beginning of the song. It is my favorite version
Bret, you got it all wrong:
Sorry for the off-topic, but I just watched this vid and found a whole new respect for basketball, that stuff is hardcore:
Excellent article Bret! This is one to be posted and shared often. Great reminders. Thank you!
Perfect timing! I needed to read this today..er…tonight. Thank you for sharing some perspective.
Great stuff. Between this and your tnation article you have put out some great lists.
AS USUAL GREAT ARTICLE. THANK YOU FOR SHARING. TNATION ARTICLE GREAT TOO.
HAVE A GREAT WEEK.
Re #18, the serenity prayer; perhaps it’s not really an issue of knowing it as much as understanding it – with your heart that is and not your brain.
LOVED number 17! My new favorite quote. Well said! 🙂