On Failure

Seek failure in everything you do.  Most people when they are lifting weights – or anything else – go to COMPLETION (if they don’t quit early).  That’s the norm.  Draw a line, go to it, and stop and pat yourself on the back, “Good job, you did it.  You finished,” you tell yourself.

Mental Gaskets
In order to increase the strength or your muscles you need to push to FAILURE.  You do reps until you can’t finish – until you are breathing and fighting and blowing smoke and the weight is just sitting there motionless.

And you fight it and fight it and fight it.

You see how long you can keep it up there, and you blow gaskets trying to get that weight up one more time.  If it starts to drop, you throw another log on that fire inside you, and you fight to get that thing going back the right direction.

When at last you see that all your strength (and you know you aren’t willing your arm a break) is still only stalling it since it is still moving down ever so slightly, you close your eyes (to block out the thought of it from coming down) and you grunt and yell and keep fighting.

You do mini reps.
You keep moving up and down, little pumps, until you again hit a 2nd motionless point, and you repeat the grunt and this will be your last rep.  You hold your position as long as your body will.  You keep fighting until your arm is all the way down.  That is FAILURE.

The Last Rep
The thing about the exercise – whether it’s a set of bicep curls or a phoning session or some other life trial with no clear end – you do all the preceding work in order to get to that final exam, the last rep, the last call, the last whatever.

You don’t count your reps every time you do it.  You don’t measure your strength, that’s not why you exercise or phone (to see how strong you are).  You work to get stronger. You want to get to that last rep.  You are wanting to fail.  You are rushing toward failure as fast as possible.  You want to destroy that muscle, that phone will.  You do your reps like business as usual until that last rep, and you never know how many it will be, and you don’t care.  It’s about saying YES, I WILL MAKE IT ONCE MORE.  YES I CAN, YES I WILL.

Each time you let that weight down or press the disconnect button.  How many doesn’t matter.  It’s always one more.  One more. One more.  One more.

This one Makes You GROW
When I get to my last rep I am saying to myself this is it.  This is WHY I’ve done the other 20, or 100, or whatever.  This is game time!

I’m going to GROW on THIS rep.  THIS is the rep that MAKES ME.  I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.  I’m going to hold that weight up for as long as I freakin’ can.  I’m gonna shake and sweat and turn beat red holding that thing up.

I don’t decide I’m done, my arm does.  
You can take that power of your mind with you in anything you do.  Go out and run until your legs can’t move.  It’s scary as hell.  When you aren’t trying to aim for the PR (personal record) or being strategic and having to save some and pace yourself to “make it” but instead say I’m going to run for 6 minutes as HARD and as FAST as I can go for every second of it because I WANT to “die” not at the end, but ASAP because I WANT to FAIL… I WANT COMPLETE FATIGUE…


That is scary business my friend.  
That would mean you all out sprint 100m, 200m dash pace for the next 200m, then 400m dash pace for, well you are probably lead by now, but you have to keep “sprinting” until 6 minutes is up.  You have to dig deep.  You have to FAIL.  You have to completely exhaust yourself, guaranteed.

By the time you hit your second lap you’ll be lead.  You’ll be driving your legs like you are pushing a sprint, but they’ll only be pumping out a jog.  That’s the feeling that makes you want to quit, that and your breathing is so fast.  But you just say this is what I ran the last 400m for, to get to this point so I can tire myself all the way out.  I want to “die.”  That’s the whole point.

Sign me up for 15 miles, Coach.  Anything but failure.

Can you Imagine someone who says:
“I don’t have time to work out?”  
“I’m just too busy with all my responsibilities to get a workout in…”


You are telling me you can’t take 2 minutes to run as hard as you can twice each day?  If you did that ONE workout once (2 x 2min max distance run) each day, I guarantee you will get in the best shape of your life.  Mentally and physically.  Guaranteed.  It would take 6 minutes.  2 minutes on, 2 rest, 2 on.  If you are reading this doubting that you can achieve peak fitness – or rather your PR fitness level – in 6 minutes a day with as short of a workout as that, I will tell you a secret: You don’t work out to burn calories.  You work out to signal your body (in the sense of enzymes and proteins) to do something.  Increasing your heart rate is comparable to brushing your teeth – twice a day to remind your system to keep building a better stronger heart and muscles.  The exercise is like the order from the architect to the foreman to get back to work on that skyscraper.  Results are not directly proportional to the length of time you work out.  That would be like the architect harping on the foreman for an hour about how they need to get back to work.  All that is needed is a reminder – quick and powerful though.  The foreman will get back to work harder and more effectively if you get right in his face (go to failure) than if you just ask nicely (completion).
Mental Barriers Justifying Your LAZINESS
So let’s walk through these mental barriers that are justifying your laziness, yes laziness – or weakness if you prefer.  Toughen up.  It’s not going to kill you, it’s going to MAKE you.

Ok so here’s how it usually goes:

1. I don’t have time
2. I don’t have time to do the other stuff (change, shower, etc.)
3. I don’t have what I need (clothes, equipment, etc.)
4. I just don’t care that much
5. I will do it (or more) later
6. I just don’t feel like it right now
7. I’m hungry, hungover, sore, tired, etc. (sick is purposely not included)
8. It’s too cold, rainy, snowy, windy, hot, dark, etc.
9. I just did X yesterday

Let’s take these one at a time.

I used to run to work and back 3 times a week, that’s 7.5 miles each way for about an hour each way. Then in 2012, I did some reading on endurance.

The best way to improve your long distance endurance is by doing interval training (400m repeats for instance) – that’s awesome I thought, I can train with like ¼ the time investment.

Today, I did a 400 (one lap) as hard as I could (75 sec), waited 90 seconds, then did another 400 as hard as I could (80 sec), then waited another 90 seconds and ran my last 400 because I quit.  Yes, I quit.

The instructions were to quit if your pulse doesn’t come back down to below 120 measured after 90 seconds of rest.  I should have just banged it out, but I let the excuse of my pulse stop me.  Some will say that’s wise, but my pulse was 124 after 90 seconds of rest, and I’m not sure how accurate that was.  I basically just didn’t want to push myself again.  So I quit.  I hate admitting it, but my mind had so many excuses to quit.  The track was covered in ice for the last 100m, it was my first day doing interval training, and it was only 7:30am, I was better in the afternoon, etc.  They all piled up on me and got the better of my judgment.  My willpower was depleted.

You know what got the best of me out of all of them though?

“At least I tried.”
I hate that.  That is an excuse you should never let win.
I find these hard rules are great for personal progress.

Once you find a little slogan like that that your mind wants to use as a good reason, i.e. “At least I’m DOING intervals at 7:30am…“

That’s crap.  BS.  You can’t let that type of thinking into one cubic cm of your brain.  The goal was to run 4 x 400m as fast as I could.  Period.  The game is to NOT give up, and today I lost.

I share this with you because I want you to see:

1. Yes you do have time to exercise
(I could make you so tired in 10 minutes you’d feel it for a week, and EVERYONE has 10 min)
2. FAILURE is SUCCESS and SUCCESS requires constant FAILURE
3. QUITTING is laaaaaaame
4. Recognize “Excusitis” – the “disease” of making excuses
5. Set Hard Rules to Trump your Excuses


I’m never allowed to say any of the following phrases to myself.
1. “I don’t have time”
This one is easy to fall into.  You have to just never let get you.  It’s never justified.  Do a blitz workout: Working out only takes 9 minutes.
Run 4 x 200m on the minute (4 min). Do 3 sets of pushups to failure with one minute rest in between. Good. Done. You have to time your rest!  Don’t laze around for 10 minutes between sets.

2. “I don’t have time to change, shower, and change back…”
Try this for me right now.  What time is it?  Note the time.  Now change into your workout clothes, note the time, then change right back.

Get up and do it.  Put this book down.  Do it now.

How long did that take?

My point exactly.

Changing clothes seems like a workout sometimes but it’s just a mental barrier.  Often the decisions of what to wear or finding the clothes take way more time than the actual action.  Sooo true for most things!!

The decision making is what takes time.
Lay out your clothes the night before.  Your workout gear will be all ready for you to quickly don.

Shower for 2 minutes.


2 minutes RJ?  Yes.  Set a timer.  Rinse only – if you have to.  Ok the timer hasn’t gone off yet, grab some soap and do as much as you can.  Timer goes off.  Obey it, stop, rinse and get out.  You’ll be cleaner than when you started, and that’s all that matters!  In this case, good enough usually is!

3. “I don’t have what I need” (clothes, equipment, etc.)
Ok, fine.  Do some pushups, situps, shadow boxing, air squats, supermans, simon says, etc.  You don’t “need” workout clothes for that.  So what if you sweat in your clothes?  Are you going to wear them again before you wash them anyway?

You don’t need to go to a gym to workout!

I used to let all these little minuscule reasons stop me from keeping my resolution.  Like oh I don’t have my running shorts…

Drop and give me 20.
Do a wall sit.
I don’t care, just fail at something immediately.  Get up, rest, then fail again.  Fail 5 times and you’re good.  You’re more than good, you’re a CHAMP!

“5 a day is a CHAMPION’S WAY!”

4. “I just don’t care that much.”
I do care!  My mind in the moment is saying I don’t because I’m tired or lazy and then when the real me comes back I have all those negative feelings about being a lazy bum.

Thoughts like: “See, RJ, you can’t do it, you are lazy.  You can’t actually be as successful as you think you can.  You can’t even…”  Fill in the blank.

So, whenever my excuse is that “I just don’t care that much” that means I HAVE TO GET UP and DO IT NOW.

#4 is pretty much my panacea.  It works for every problem I’ve ever had with any GTD stuff.  Getting Things Done.  Great book by the way, read it.  Getting Things Done by David Allen.

#4 works for getting up to wash my face before falling asleep after a long day and I decided to take a little breather and lay on my bed before changing – a habit I’m especially prone to, sadly.

5. “I’ll do it (or more) later”
Not for exercise or diet or any other item that has a clear “time prescription” aspect to it.  If it is a to do list item on the other hand, that is fine to put it in the calendar for later.  That way you won’t forget and have planned on getting it done.  It’s often better to plan things that aren’t urgent for later and design a plan around killing more than one bird with one stone anyway, so this is OK as long as you do write it in your calendar or on a task list.

Abide the 2-minute Rule though: if you can do it in 2 minutes or less, do it now.

6. “I just don’t feel like it”
This goes especially for running and socializing, and for either one, I have to immediately get up, put my running mix on, and go for a run.  That is the solution.  Get up, warm up, and jog.  Once you are jogging you’ll feel like running, and you run until you feel powerful, happy, and energized.  Yes, running energizes you.  Your running mix will energize you too.  Endorphins start firing, and you’ll be feeling great in no time.  You just have to get over that hump, and once you feel how amazing it feels to run without feeling tired you’ll be hooked.  You’ll run like the wind!  The positive cycle starts and keeping in shape is easy.

7. “I’m hungry, hung-over, sore, tired, etc.”
You’ll see if it’s a shorter race or workout as soon as you start your hunger goes away.  Usually this is enough time to finish it and then eat.  Don’t stop to eat.  Don’t do something that will make you face deciding whether to work out again in another hour.

Go now and do your best.  Just go and work as hard as you can.  It’s going to be less than if you were well-rested, well nourished, or what have you, but going on these days and in these moments as you will see only makes you stronger mentally because when you finish you will know that feeling of going on empty and the next time you are not feeling like it for a lesser reason you will say if I could go on that one day after an all-nighter I can go now, and you will be able to follow through all that much easier.

Remember: obstacles are opportunities.

8. I’m not allowed to say “At least I…” or “Well, yesterday I…”
This is called resting on your laurels, and an excuse I am especially prone to.  It’s what did me in today on the track.  I felt like I was already a success even though I quit.  A little bell should have gone off, but the heart rate rule let me off the hook.

If you find yourself justifying subsequent mediocrity by letting this phrase pass through your mind, set this rule as rule numero uno.  It’s especially fond of high achievers because we don’t know where we ought to draw the line with our work.  We fight battles with ourselves about “Am I overworking myself?  Am I enjoying life enough?” and these doubts usually lead to cyclical performance.  On fire one week, totally lethargic the next.

9. It’s too cold, rainy, snowy, windy, hot, dark, etc.
This is actually really easy, but soooo many people get stuck on this one.  Once you are running, you are always fine.  Hot, cold, whatever.  The heat is a way better reason than the cold to not run, but people let the cold stop them way more often.

Too Cold – Get in gear.  Wear gloves, pants, t-shirt, and hooded sweatshirt with hat and scarf wrapped around everything but your eyebrows to your chin.  Look like a mummy.  Put ski goggles on.  And then do 1 min each of the following inside: High knees, Arm Circles, Butt Kickers, Squats, Shadow Boxing.  You will be sweating if you are doing it fast.  Now go outside and you’ll love the cold.  You probably will be over-dressed and have to shed layers.

Too Hot – Wear only what is essential.  Soak yourself with a hose.  Run.  Hot again.  Pull over, run to some random house turn their hose on, rinse and repeat as needed.  If they come out.  Smile and say sorry I’m running and I’m soooooo HOT!  Then run off smiling and laughing your ass off :)

Raining – Repeat process for too cold without all the layers.  Simply warm up to a sweat while inside before you go.  Rain is kind of nice actually.  Fun too.  You’ll come to like it.

Snow – I love the snow!  Stop looking at your watch every two seconds – your times will be terrible compared to normal because of the traction, but oh well who cares?  You’re doing this to work and FAIL, remember?  Ski goggles can be key if it’s really coming down and you are having a hard time seeing where you are going because snow is getting in your eyes.   Just run for fun and work hard.  Snow too deep?  Obstacles are opportunities remember?  Push through it.  More glory on the other end.  Love the snow, especially when trail running.  Beautiful.

Too Windy – When I heard a runner complain about the wind, I seriously just thought well it’s like a treadmill, you work harder faster so you get to your goal quicker… a little wind pffff no biggie bring it on!  A lot of wind?  Even better.  Remember when you train to fail instead of trying to set PR’s or hit milestones on distance, you aren’t measuring yourself every day.  You have a time trial once a week.  That is when you measure.  Until then, beat yourself up, then baby yourself and recover.

An Aside on Rest & Recovery
You train hard to maximize the signal to your body to do something when you aren’t training, when you are recovering, so when you are recovering, baby yourself a ton.  This is why you did the last rep, so that you could nourish your body.  Eat the best foods, sleep as soon as you can, drink all the healthy green tea (or even better: white tea – it has more antioxidants), and water you want.  Stretch, breathe, relax.  That is when the gains are made, so don’t over-train.  Don’t stay up late, don’t go drink (alcohol) right after a workout.  You work out to prepare your body to FEED so it will redesign itself.

Too Dark
It’s never too dark.  Go run.  Quit whining and making excuses.  You won’t fall down and if you do, big whoop a few scratches maybe, big deal.  It’s no reason to flake.  Street lights provide plenty of light.  If you are worried about traffic, buy a reflective vest – or just move off the road as they get near.  Go buy a headlamp with 200+ lumens.  Running at night becomes a blast.  It’s like a whole new world out there.  Get a dog to run with.  They will be having so much fun it’s contagious.  This is really not an issue.  The bottom line is you shouldn’t make a judgment on any of these reasons without going out and trying it.  Once you get out there it will cease to be an excuse and will be a source of empowerment.  You’ll tell yourself, “You are such a warrior!  You’re out here even at this hour putting in the work.  What a champ!”

Visualize Your Breakthrough:

A Plugin to Smash Mental Barriers

<Youtube and play The Intro by XX (long version) as you read this>

Envision a warrior
He or she is walking confidently toward you.
That is you.
That is your warrior self.
Now see from your warrior eyes.
YOU are walking confidently.
Feel yourself waking with the stride of a warrior.
Look down and see your arms and legs.
They have the markings of the warrior.
You are powerful beyond measure.
Imagine your goal, your creative endeavor.
Feel the feeling of victory.

<Begin reading here at 42 second mark, when the up tempo happens>
Now you are at your obstacle
Your opportunity
Your canvas
Be it track or field, pushups or alarm clock,

piles of dishes, laundry, homework, a meeting, or a phone.
This is one of those times you are feeling tired.
You don’t want to get up.
You are thinking about an excuse as to why this time you don’t have to.
But you remember this moment.
You have seen it before.
It is in this moment you become great.
This is the moment.
This is when you decide to switch tracks

You are a driving a freight train with a head full of steam.
You are accelerating to 88 miles per hour.
You are the train and its engineer, its driver.
This is the moment.
This is the moment you become great.
This is the moment you switch.
You lean out the side and swing the shovel as hard as you can.
And you hit the switch.
You see ahead the track shift over.
And your train goes the other way.

Steaming along, you are chugging up a hill.
And as the discomfort of fatigue becomes familiar,
You put your foot on the gas.
You throw your first booster on the fire, the GREEN BOOSTER.
You know it is just momentary unpleasantness.
Your body is still working.  Your mind is still alert.
You CAN actually still do this.  You know it.
It’s funny, this feeling.
It makes you laugh, like a bit of dizziness after spinning around a bat.
Just like that, you are getting used to this feeling of fatigue.

So this is fatigue? you say.
You want to bring the feeling on faster, but deny its effect.
You know the feeling will stay like this for a while

It’s just a bit of unpleasantness.
You keep pushing on your gas pedal, noticing it’s not all the way down.
You push it down again,

and you notice it’s pushing back on you now.
You have to keep pushing it to keep it all the way down.

Then you understand something.
You have only to think about pushing on the gas petal,
and as long as you are deciding to push on it,

it stays down.
It stays all the way down.
It isn’t stronger than you,
It is sneaky though, a sneaky gas pedal
And if you don’t keep trying to push it harder every 10 seconds or so

It will start to come up.
Keep thinking about that pressure you’re putting on the pedal

and don’t be discouraged by the speed of your legs.
If they are fast that is fine.  If they are lead that is fine too.
It just means you are almost done.
You are closer to your goal.
You can keep the gas pedal down.
You realize you can just keep it pressed.

It’s just a brief time of discomfort.

It’s becoming easy now

to push the pedal down through the discomfort,
It’s easy because you know that breathing fast is perfectly normal.
Even though your legs and arms are slow they are quite alright,

and will be completely better in a matter of minutes.

This is just a part of the process.

You’ve been here before.

This understanding gives you another realization.
The part of you that wants to let the gas pedal up is a worry wart.
Pfff you say.  Just relax you Worry Wart you.
You’ll be awesome in just a minute here.

That realization is your second booster.
You throw the YELLOW BOOSTER on the fire.
And you feel your body respond.
You feel new SPEED enter your body.
You say BRING IT!  I’m READY!

Just a minute is all – this is no do or die.

No judgment you are trying to win against.
You aren’t trying to see if you are what champions are made of.
You are.

You are powerful beyond measure.
You are a champion.

You need polishing is all.
You are polishing yourself each second you keep pushing.

Keep pushing.

You are closer now to uncovering the true genius you are, the champion inside.

Now it is time for the RED BOOSTER.
Throw the RED BOOSTER on the fire.
Feel the surge of energy enter your body once more.
You are now a sprinting warrior.

Your hill is nearly vertical.

But you are taking it with SPEED.

Your train is chugging.

Pipes bursting with steam.  Wheels driving.

Heart pounding.  Breathing as hard as you can.

This is just a simple repeated decision.


You are in control.
Push that pedal down again.
Push it down and keep pushing.

Now break through the floor.  Crush the pedal.
Put all your force, all your weight,

every ounce of power and energy into that pedal.
It is starting to crack, you almost have it.
It is giving way.
Imagine you are chopping with an axe.
You are swinging your axe as hard and as fast as you can imagine.
Your swings have turned into a blur.

You can feel power surging through your entire body.





And the pedal gives way.



You have broken your barriers three times.


you are one step closer to

becoming the best version of yourself.

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