One of the most important lessons I have learned from strength training and fitness is the difference between Reaction and Response. Not only have I learned that there is a marked difference between the two behaviors, I have learned how to utilize these behaviors intelligently.
Reaction is what I would like to deem an amygdala driven behavior. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our flight or fight reactions. Reaction is emotionally driven and is a behavior that is limited to instinct.
Response in the sense that I use it, is the cerebral driven behavior. It is based in the ability to skillfully use the forebrain for an intelligence driven behavior. This is where the word “responsibility” comes into play. It means our ability to respond to the circumstances in our lives.
By no means is one behavior better than the other. Each behavior has it’s place. I am a man who is comfortable with his emotions. I am comfortable feeling them and using them to react to situations in which the forebrain is not necessary. This puts me at an advantage over those who are too “heady,” people who live in their head. If you are someone who constantly lives in their head, this puts you in a dead space. The “head” or “intellect” is nothing but dead ideas that tries it’s best to join a party that it’s not invited to. The party of life dances in the river of liveliness.
Now, responding is a wonderful behavior that allows us to use the newest, most powerful addition to the human body, the neocortex. This part of the brain levels us out as human beings. This part of the brain is more intricate and powerful than a computer. In situations where emotion cannot compete, we can use our cortex to respond intelligently and favorably to any situation.
When both of these behaviors are use in conjunction with one another we have a force that can surmount any situation and circumstance.
In order to be a healthy male, it is important to have optimal testosterone levels. Testosterone is important for the mental health, physical health and overall well-being of men. This hormone plays vital roles in the human body. Testosterone is responsible for regulating fat distribution, sex drive, muscle mass, bone mass, the production of red blood cells and sperm. As men age past 30 years, testosterone decreases by about 1% per year. Keeping testosterone levels at optimal levels all throughout life, especially in older men is important as testosterone is responsible for bone mineralization and keeping bone resorption minimal. This means that slips and falls will have a significantly smaller impact if testosterone levels stay at an optimal level. Also, keeping testosterone levels optimal reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Before I dive into ways to increase testosterone levels naturally, I’m going to list the effects of low testosterone levels.
Low Testosterone Levels Can Negatively Impact Sexual Functioning:
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
Low Testosterone Levels Can Negatively Impact Emotional well being and Physicality:
- Emotional problems(i.e.,Depression)
- Decrease in strength and muscle mass
- Significant amount of fat gain
Some conditions that can lead to low levels of testosterone are:
- Diabetes(Type 2)
- Chronic medical conditions such as: kidney and liver disease
Now that we know the importance of testosterone, the roles testosterone plays, what low testosterone levels lead to and what conditions lead to low levels of testosterone, we can get into ways to increase testosterone levels naturally:
- Heavy compound lifts
- Managing stress
- Proper sleep
A balanced, healthy diet is vital in order to increase testosterone levels naturally. Eating a diet that contains adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats are essential to maintaining optimal hormonal balance and function:
- Sources of protein: Our bodies can produce 11 of the 20 amino acids needed to synthesize protein. The other 9 amino acids must come from dietary protein. The protein consumed through diet are broken down into these 9 individual amino acids and used to make protein necessary to support life. Some of these proteins become enzymes, some are used to repair tissue cells and others become hormones. Sources of protein include, but are not limited to: beef, chicken and fish. We can get plant based protein from peanuts, walnuts, etc but meat has a better quality amino acid profile.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats are essential for proper hormone production and balance. Some sources of healthy fats are, but not limited to: Avocados, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, olive oil, dark chocolate, tuna, salmon and last but not least(I saved the best for last…)
- …Eggs are one of the most important sources of healthy fats because of the simple fact that it’s yolk contains dietary cholesterol which is the precursor of testosterone. For a long time it was considered unhealthy to consume the yolk of the egg which contains cholesterol because it was believed to cause heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein(LDL) or “bad cholesterol.” It has now been shown that NOT consuming sources of dietary cholesterol such as beef and eggs is associated with increased LDL.
Going to the gym and engaging the compound lifts such as the: squat, bench press, deadlift, barbell row and standing overhead press is essential for increasing testosterone levels naturally, especially squatting. Squatting has been shown to increase the body’s testosterone levels the most because of it’s tendency to engage the largest muscles in the body, the leg muscles. When we engage in compound lifts, using the most amount of muscles at one time, we are activating the body’s natural response to stimulus which is releasing significant amounts of testosterone in order to signal muscle repair. The bigger the muscles the bigger the temporary increase in testosterone we receive. It is advisable to go as heavy as safely possible in order to get the full testosterone increasing effects. Lifting sissy weight will not produce enough of a metabolic response for our body to respond favorably.
Lowering Stress Levels
Keeping stress levels low is another essential factor in increasing testosterone levels naturally because when we are stressed, we release a hormone called “cortisol.” This hormone is responsible for catabolizing muscle tissue which slows down the metabolism and increases fat storage. This increase of fat storage eventually leads to being overweight and obese which then decreases testosterone levels in the long run. In order to combat stress, engaging in activities like meditation, exercising, reading, writing, anything that gets the mind off of stressors is advantageous. It is also advisable to cut any unnecessary negativity out of your life such as negative friends, family, co-workers, social media, TV programs, etc. The aforesaid sources of stress will impact you significantly over time. These psychic vampires wreak havoc on our lives in such an insidious way that we tend to take for granted the immense impact it has on our physiology. In order to reduce and manage stress we must be vigilant in the minor details that act as leeches to our emotional energy.
In order to increase testosterone levels naturally we need to sleep properly. One study shows that a good portion of the American adult population, atleast 15%, get under 5 hours of sleep. This same study shows that males who were sleep deprived experienced up to a 15% drop in testosterone levels. This level of sleep deprivation is akin to aging 10 to 15 years(1% drop in testosterone per year). Getting about 7-8 hours of sleep is essential to maintaining healthy levels of testosterone. Sleep is responsible for proper hormone regulation in general. While we sleep, our cortisol levels are regulated while other hormones that are responsible for repairing the body from daily rigors spring into action to get the body ready for another day. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, we are inadvertently robbing ourselves of our well-being. Another study reported that young men who were sleep deprived experienced feelings of decreased well-being which can be linked to a sharp drop in testosterone.
So what have we learned about testosterone? When we maintain a healthy diet, go to the gym and engage in heavy compound lifts, manage our stress and wrap it all up with proper sleep, we are likely to increase our testosterone levels naturally without ever needing a needle. I guarantee that some of us can stand to fine tune some or all of the above mentioned aspects of our lives, plus, these are just 4 ways to increase testosterone levels naturally. There are different kinds of eating patterns such as intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet that have produced decent results in increasing testosterone levels naturally. At a later date, I will get into the details of how these eating patterns have helped me increase my overall well-being inside and outside of the gym.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 10). Male hypogonadism: Tests and diagnosis.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 10). Testosterone therapy: Key to male vitality?
- University of Chicago Medical Center. “Sleep loss dramatically lowers testosterone in healthy young men.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531162142.htm>.
- Vingren, J.L., Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. et al. Sports Med (2010) 40: 1037. doi:10.2165/11536910-000000000-00000
The line of work that I do for a living has it’s many rewards. But none of the rewards I’ve earned while doing this line of work compares to the gem I’ve picked up recently. I’m certain this gem applies to all other fields, fields that are much more sophisticated than the field of work I’m in. In my line of work, which is blue-collar by nature, tends to be thankless, dirty, political, chaotic and downright fatiguing. This line of work has helped me develop core values as well as strengthen the values and principles I came into it with. By far one of the most important core values I’ve developed was to forego respect.
Now, I don’t mean that one shouldn’t value respect in the wholesome sense, when it comes to self-respect, bodily respect, safety, etc. And I don’t mean that one should lack ambition either. What I mean is:
- Do not do anything for respect
- Be a man of value
- Generate self-respect
- The Irony
Do not do anything for respect
Chasing validation in the form of desiring to be respected is like grasping at smoke. When we chase validation, not only does it evade us, it puts us at the mercy of other people. These same people are not superior nor are they inferior to us, yet the average person chases the validation in the form of getting respect from them to no avail. It actually makes them lose respect for us. More importantly, this causes us to lose our integrity. We lose the essence of who we truly are when we chase validation. Chasing implies that the object of our affection is running away from us, and just so long as we continue to chase, we are moving further away from our true life’s purpose.
Be a man of value
One of my core principles is to do what I believe in. It is how I do what I do for a living. I believe in serving people the best way that I can. I strive to be a man of value, as opposed to a doja, which is a person that allows himself to be taken advantage of and discarded. There is a clear difference between being a man of value and a doja. A doja has no boundaries and whores himself out for base pleasures while a man of value has solid boundaries around him. The man of value does what he believes in no matter what anyone says or thinks about him. This man does not care if anyone respects him because he understands that not everyone is for him and everyone is not obligated to respect him much less even like him. Unlike the man who chases validation, the man of value is not self-concerned every time he steps outside of his house. The man of value is only concerned with developing and giving his gift to the world. Through the process of developing this craft, this gift, he
Through the process of honing, developing, beating on his craft, the man of value generates self-respect. He is fully able to draw any emotional state from within because of the range of emotions his craft takes him through. His craft teaches him things about himself that he had never known. More likely than not, taking care of his craft means he has to take care of himself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pouring himself into his craft means that he has to be in top-notch shape in all aspects of his being in order to produce the best work he possibly can. All of this self-love comes back full circle and transmutes itself into self-respect. He has set standards for himself therefore he doesn’t seek the validation of others in the form of respect. Others are fully able to love and respect him because he loves and respects himself.
The irony of the above is that when we forego respect, we gain respect. We do not seek it, it finds us. The man who does what he believes in while focusing on being of service to others, being a man of value, is ultimately respected. He doesn’t have to ask for it nor does he have to seek it. This comes to him similarly how sadness finds us. Notice we never have to go looking for sadness, typically nobody wants to be sad. Yet sadness comes to us without us even trying. The same goes for respect when we are just focusing on our purpose in life. When we focus on purpose, being of value we become full within, increasing our density, drawing respect instead of fishing for it. Everything a man needs can be found within. As a man, nothing is given, everything is earned, including respect.
Let’s not fall into the trap of seeking validation in the form of respect or any other form. It is important that we latch onto our God-given purpose and carry it out to its full extent. Just so long as we chase love, respect, attention, general validation, etc, we will be betraying our purpose.
“Directly after copulation the devil’s laughter is heard.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
- The Hedonic Reset Point: Striving exclusively for outcome. Outcome dependence leads to overall dissatisfaction it is here the “devils laughter is heard.”
- Unconscious Pursuit of Pleasure Leads to Conscious Pursuit of Pain: Mindless hedonism & destruction
- Developing A Grounding Discipline To Gain Power: Pleasure comes from the process itself & outcome independence.
- We Have True Power Now: In this sense, true power is predicated on mastery of a craft.
The Hedonic Reset Point
We want what we want and though we receive it, we aren’t satisfied. I’ve been told that the devil comes to us in the form of everything we’ve ever wanted. I’ve been told that we should be careful what we wish for because we just might get it. These proverbs are all predicated on one theme.
We start off with a desire, we stoke this desire to a point where it burns within us and churns our pistons which propels us into striving to obtain it. This is a healthy way to commence engaging our desires but can turn pathological once misguided. Once we have obtained our desire, this thing, we get our fill of it. It is akin to that post orgasmic clarity. It’s that refractory period in which we are left in the wet spot: cold, numb and sticky.
More often than not we are so focused on the end game that we aren’t fully enjoying the present moment during the process. We dither from where we were to where we want to be, from hopeless depression to anxiety. When we focus on where we were/are in comparison to the endgame we get depressed from hopelessness due to the gap, when we focus on the future exclusively in regard to the impending pleasure or reward, we get anxious. We can hardly contain the excitement. We plot out our plan, moving from point A to Z. We start at point A then go into a fugue state, end up at Z, receive the reward, get the dopamine ticks, enter the refractory period which is characterized by the “devil’s laughter.”
Unconscious pursuit of pleasure leads to conscious pursuit of pain
At this point we skip the striving altogether and go straight to pleasure seeking just for the sake of pleasure, outcome dependence. We indulge in hedonism to its fullest extent, engaging in any and everything that gives us the tingles. We reach the heights of pleasure. Once that height is reached, there is no where else to go but down. We seek pain as a source of pleasure. We engage in violent, thrill seeking activities. At this point, inflicting pain not only on ourselves, but others, becomes a cherished past time, a hobby that thrills us into euphoria.
Developing a grounding discipline to gain power
The path to mastery is the panacea to this pathological behavior. When engaging in a craft for the sake of engaging in the craft as opposed to seeking pleasure for it’s own sake, we forego the emptiness of base pleasure identification. The path to mastery is being in love with the process itself rather than the outcome of the craft. This is called outcome independence. This is the single most powerful thing the human mind can partake in. Pure genius is developed through the forging of the mind under the stress of a path to mastery. Under the process, the toil of mastering a craft, we transform into the actualized version of ourselves. We become like a torch that is capable of lighting other torches. This is called being of service to others.
We have true power now
We’ve mastered ourselves via our path to mastery of a craft. Now what do we do with it? We have the option of going back down the path of self-destructive hedonism. Or we can become compassionate and use it to serve others. We can use our newly found power to attempt to light the torch in others. Even if it is one person who we reach, that is a win.
So, what have we learned? Essentially, it is much more beneficial to take the time to go deep within ourselves to find a passion that is not predicated on material wealth. Material wealth will come, ironically, when we don’t focus on it. When we focus on a passion, something that wakes us up and gets us going and something that keeps us up at night, we become to immune to emptiness.
While there are core principles that any training program should be wrapped around, training the compound lifts, training in various set-rep schemes, mobility, cardio, etc, how we configure those principles is totally up to us and what works for us. Everyone’s body type, endurance levels and even natural talents and abilities are different and therefore, these programs reflect these aforementioned talents and abilities while addressing weak points. We are all different. Do not hesitate to design and believe in the programs that work for YOU. When we share our routines, people are so caught up in dogma that they critique the routine strictly through the lens of dogmatic “expertise” without being helpful in any way. On the other hand, if we aren’t mindful, we let this negativity in and it can derail our efforts. We might even become an “expert” ourselves! Don’t get me wrong, we should encourage criticism for the purpose of helping one another in a productive, constructive way. Don’t let someone come at you and your preciously, orchestrated, astonishing routine that you stayed up three hours past your bedtime to design only to be destroyed based on their own preconceptions of how one should design their training splits, set-rep schemes and rest and recovery phases, cycles, meal times etc. In order to design our own custom program, these are the questions and underlying concepts we must consider:
- Does my program adhere to sufficient rest and recovery?
- Am I training the four major compound lifts?
- Cardio, Mobility, Stretching, Neural Efficiency?
- Am I eating sufficient calories to support my program?
- Do I enjoy my program?
Does my program adhere to sufficient rest and recovery?
It always cracks me up when I go on a forum, website, or just social media in general and see “experts” take one look at a split that someone took the time out to share and say “overtraining.” At this point in my career, I’m not sure if I subscribe to the notion of overtraining as much as I do under-eating and under-resting. Personally, I enjoy training with high volume with little rest days between. Due to my experience, genetics, lifestyle, and other factors, I am able to rest and recover and therefore reach my goals with the splits I design for myself. I know of people who train with higher volume than I, which I think is insane and their physiques and performance reflects the hard work they put in. There is no way someone can take one look at another person’s routine and know for certain that said person’s split promotes overtraining; that is unless they know every aspect of that person’s life. Proper rest and recovery is the part of the equation that needs to be accounted for in order for the whole equation to be balanced. So, when designing our routines, let’s think of the details of our day-to-day life through in order to get the most out of what we work on in the gym. Let’s think through what our day to day schedule looks like or even feels like. Let’s think about when we will be eating, resting, working, etc. All of these factors play a role in our overall growth in regards to how we design our split.
Underlying concept – Stimulus, recovery, adaptation: This concept is predicated on the fact that the strength and duration of an external stimulus produces a degree of fatigue which the body recovers from then super compensates for. Being aware of this concept allows for the athlete/coaches to design programs in such a way that they take full advantage of the body’s ability to be dealt a stimulus(training), recovering(sleep and nutrition), and super compensate(building muscle along with neural efficiency.)
The Five Major Compound lifts
Let’s face it, a program chock full of endless sets and reps of isolation movements is not the best use of one’s time. Not saying it isn’t possible to actually do this but why would we? Every program should be designed around or include at least four compound lifts: deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press and barbell row. There is no getting around this component of designing our splits. I am not saying that if these are absent from our routine that we will not reach our goals but we would do well to throw in a few of these compound lifts to allow for efficiency and better use of time.
Underlying concept: The major compound lifts, Squat, bench press, overhead press, barbell row and deadlift are the most efficient way to train. They work multiple joints, multiple muscle groups and allow for quality development of neural efficiency. These movements also burn the most calories at one time while improving structural integrity.
Cardio, Mobility, Stretching, Neural Efficiency
These four components are a must have in any and every program no matter what the programs goals are.
- Cardio – Cardio is important because it helps keep the heart healthy. Cardio is also a tool that aids in keeping body fat under control. Contrary to what many believe and say, cardio will NOT hurt our gains. It is a great way to actively recover on rest days. That sounds counterproductive but as I mentioned before, cardio aids in keeping the heart healthy and strong. A well-trained heart aids in cardiac efficiency as well as pumping vital nutrients to recovering muscles. We typically want to do cardio after lifting and/or on rest days but in moderation.
- Mobility – By far one of the most important components of any program when we are talking about the compounds lifts. Mobility in all of the compound lifts insures proper movements of the joints and muscles. Proper mobility insures that one or more joints and muscles are not overcompensating for their antagonists. This prevents injuries and undue stress on muscles and joints. For example, people who unintentionally “quarter squat,” may have tight hips, ankles, quads, etc. It is up to them, or the trainer, to coach them into a proper movement pattern this is done by-
- Stretching the muscles for maximum mobility. We want to incorporate proper stretching. Each muscle incorporated in each compound lift should be stretched to a point of tension for about sixty seconds each.
- Neural efficiency is the central nervous system (CNS) learning and memorizing a movement pattern for maximum results. We want to be able to execute a movement correctly 100% of the time. We want to be able to execute a squat, deadlift, barbell row, with the least amount of effort in regards to form in order for the muscles that are supposed to be engaged, get engaged with minimal risk of injury.
Underlying concept: The above four components all tie into one another in order for the program to be as effective as possible. When training for any goal we should take a well-rounded approach to ensure maximum efficiency, effectiveness and reduce injury as much as possible. We have to do what is right to insure the integrity of our programs as well as our bodies.
Do I enjoy my program?
We should also have fun with this. It isn’t all about the numbers. We shouldn’t be getting so caught up in numbers to the extent where we aren’t enjoying what we do. If we are serious about this lifestyle, we should at the very least enjoy what we are doing. No, I am not saying that we will always love it. It will be hard, it will be a grind and some days we will just flat out not want to train, but that is more reason for us to ensure enjoyment through programming that maximizes the potential for us to not only walk out of the gym feeling good, but feeling good while training. There are times where I would drag myself to the gym and put myself through a grueling training session only to enjoy every minute of it when initially I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Programming for not only growth but enjoyment is key to staying disciplined and motivated; unless we are doing this for competitive purpose, by all means, balls to the wall. But even then it should still be fun, win or lose.
Underlying concept – Outcome dependence: Studies show that when we start to think of what we love, such as our passions and hobbies, as work we tend to want to do it less. When training, we should think of it as play first. We should be training for the sake of training freeing ourselves of outcome dependence. Ironically, this is when we do our best.
Am I consuming enough calories to support my program?
This goes hand in hand with rest and recovery but nutrition is pivotal so I always feel the need to address this important aspect individually. When we train, we have to take into account what our goals are. In order to reach these goals we have to fuel and repair properly. None of the aforementioned is possible without the proper caloric intake. We want to calculate our total daily energy expenditure(TDEE), which is the total amount of energy in calories that we need to sustain ourselves throughout the day. After we have figured this number out, we want to either eat in a 200-500 calorie surplus or deficit; eating 200-500 calories above or below this number, or eat at maintenance which is going to be this exact number. I cannot emphasize enough how important nutrition, specifically calorie and macro calculation is to reach goals. Many people who are just starting out neglect nutrition in regards to reaching their fitness goals because it’s such an easy aspect to ignore or miss. What we consume directly has an impact on how our body performs and develops.
Underlying concept: Eat for your sport: Whether we are prepping for a show or a powerlifting competition we have to eat in such a way that supports our goals. If we are looking to put on mass, we eat in a surplus. If we are training for a meet, we eat to support our energy levels. If we are prepping for a bodybuilding show we eat in a deficit. The point is to eat in such a way that supports our goals.
Periodization is the strategic planning of training in order to reach the best possible peak performance in the most important competition of a season. This entails planning a program in macro and micro cycles, specificity, etc, to train for specific sports competitions. This component is more for athletes and competitive lifters but the average joe may incorporate it into their program as well. After all, it is a program. I will not say much about this aspect, as if we are athletes, we are more than likely going to have a real expert such as a coach design a full on program with more comprehensive measures to help us win!
I’ve been working with my company for seven years now and by no means has it been easy to become an effective leader here. My job is physically and mentally demanding which draws everything a person has to survive if they want to make a living here. To thrive is another story. Over the past seven years, three of which I have spent serving as a shop steward(union delegate,) I have had to develop not only my body but my mind to withstand the daily challenges I face as a shop steward. A shop steward, simply put, is a person elected by a workforce to represent them in dealings with management. This position requires a high level of leadership, discipline, motivation, negotiation skills and a host of other endless skills one has to master to become an effective leader. Personally, I have to deal with at least forty different personalities daily which does not include management personnel. Over the course of these seven years, I have read many books that has helped me earn and keep my role as an effective leader. In this article, I will be listing just seven of these books and the main take away points I got from them. Here are 7 must read books to become an effective leader:
Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Forget the “other essays” part, to become and effective leader, one must learn how to think for oneself. One must not be afraid to trust one’s own ideas and put them into action. If we are to be the best version of ourselves, we have to assert ourselves through the ideas we have about the way the world should be. The essay, “Self-Reliance” helps us to realize the immense value in this. My favorite part of this essay is where Emerson states:
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts…”
How many times have we witnessed a great piece of work by our peers and say to ourselves “I thought of that!” Yes, we may have thought of it first but they beat us to the punch by executing it first. It was not that they were smarter than us, but because they had the audacity to trust themselves in sharing it in its physical form. Emerson comes from a time when writers spoke of “the ether.” We can think of the ether as a huge blob, or sphere of unborn ideas that have yet to be pulled down by the human mind. Everyone has access to it, but all one has to do is think, trust, and act in order to reap the benefits of manifesting it. To become an effective leader, one has to be audacious enough to let their thoughts come out to play.
The 48 Law of Power by Robert Greene: Many people view this book as a way of manipulating others. I viewed this book as a way of studying human nature. Whether people want to admit it or not, they want power. I do not know of anyone who wants to be helpless in this world. The majority of people I know are making power plays any which way they can while dressing it up in sugary rhetoric. Robert Greene warns us of these kinds of people in this book as well as his others. Although this book is Machiavellian in nature, the main take away I got from it is to always be cognizant of human nature. People get too comfortable with the way they want to view people rather than the way people actually are. There exist cold, hard, tangible human nature and it does not care about anyone else except for what it wants. In order to become an effective leader, I had to be aware of this. Human nature is driven by self-preservation. Anyone who tells you differently is flat out lying to you or selling a dream.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch: In order to become an effective leader, time management is important. This is a skill. There is no way around it, if we want to be leaders, we have to know how to manage our time in such a way that it is the most effective and the most efficient. The 80/20 principle by Richard Koch introduced me to the “Pareto Principle” which is also known as, “the 80/20 rule,” and “the law of the vital few.” It states that for many situations, circumstances or events, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When I learned this, it changed my life. I started to focus on the small tasks, if done properly, that influences or yields the greatest results. This is an important aspect in to become and effective leader because there are times where one must pick the battle that will have the most profound effect on the war. Understanding the 80/20 principle, one learns how to work in the most effective way, therefore saving time and energy in the long run.
The 33 Strategies of War By Robert Greene: This is the second time a Robert Greene book has shown up on my list and for good reason. This author has had a profound influence in my development as an effective leader. The idea that stood out to me the most was the idea of “self-directed warfare.” I’ll quote:
“To become a true strategist, you must take three steps. First, become aware of the weakness and illness that can take hold of the mind, warping its strategic powers. Second, declare a kind of war on yourself to make yourself move forward. Third, wage ruthless and continual battle on the enemies within you by applying certain strategies.”
I am not one who goes looking for confrontation but when confrontation comes my way, I take great pleasure in going in head first. Confrontation is an opportunity to grow into the best versions of ourselves. This book has helped me to diffuse, negotiate, or neutralize any confrontation I have had in my journey to become an effective leader. This book has also taught me how to take losses. Why was a book with the word “war” effective in dealings at the workplace? Because the workplace is a microcosm of endless battle. Everyone is vying for dominance, a one up, or just pursuing some form of self-interest. When I think of this book, I think of a quote that I’m fond of:
“It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.”
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute: To be honest, I did not read all the way through this book because it only took me a few chapters to get the underlying theme running through it: empathy. To become an effective leader one has to be aware of not only the thought loops running through his followings heads but how they are feeling at any given moment. The moment a leader loses the ability to know what his group is thinking or feeling, is the moment they lose sway over their group. This book allowed me to think outside of the box by confronting my egocentrism.
Your Forces and How To Use Them by Christian D. Larson: This book is absolutely a must read to become and effective leader. It is well written, kind of abstract and airy, but at the same time if one focuses enough, they will get the most out of this book. This book is spiritual in nature and having some form of spiritual awareness is a must have in order to become an effective leader. What I took away from this book is the idea that we must control our minds and WILL things into existence. This book has taught me to be aware of the forces of my mind in regards to concentration as an important aspect of the mind and more importantly the will. If one has not developed will-power, one cannot become an effective leader, point-blank.
Linchpin by Seth Godin: The main idea of this book is to become indispensable. If we want to be valued, we have to add value. We must be someone who can come up with new ideas and implement them in such a way that we change the landscape around us. This is an important part of becoming an effective leader. A leader is someone who can take the crowd, lead the crowd into another era simply by being original. But it is not enough to be original, one has to be indispensable. Being needed is characteristic of being indispensable. One is needed when one has come to terms with the fact that fitting in is not revolutionary and does not add value to the world or even their immediate surroundings. In order to become an effective leader, one has to be indispensable to those around them. Seth Godin does a great job with driving this point all throughout many of his books.
To become and effective leader, one has to spend hours reading high value material and many more hours implementing them. These are just seven of the books that has helped me to be the leader that I am today. There is still much work for me to do. But so far, the ideas in these books repeat themselves over and over again: time management, self-discipline, courage, originality, spirituality, understanding of human nature, etc.
Drop a comment(s) listing books that have helped you or people you know become effective leaders in their respective fields!
In this day and age we have more technology at our hands which means we can move at a much faster rate than previous eras. Combined with the fact that we are living in the information age, we have a recipe for being the most productive people in history if we are productive enough. Here are 8 ways to become more productive:
Proper Sleep – More than a third of Americans are sleep deprived, says the CDC. It seems as if this “#teamnosleep” culture thinks that this is a way to become more productive if they were not before. Believe it or not, sleeping more increases production. It is just common sense that if we are too tired to function, we end up making more mistakes than average, forcing ourselves to go back and correct these mistakes. It is better to get enough sleep, bang our tasks out efficiently rather than doing the task over again because of neglecting to sleep properly.
Lift – Whether it is the first thing in the morning or after a long day at work, lifting will decrease stress levels. Decreasing stress levels by lifting allows us to get all of that pent-up aggression out without hurting anyone in the process. After a great training session, we get a rush of endorphins that allows us to feel light as a feather. Almost as if we are floating down the street without a care in the world. Imagine feeling like that while having a ton of things to do! Alright, maybe this is wishful thinking but exercise in generally increases a sense of overall health and well-being. This thing called our body is where we approach all of our tasks from. It’s the aperture through which we actualize our dreams. Increasing it’s well being is a great way to become more productive.
Get busy – Yes, get busy. In order to be productive, we have to be busy in the first place. I’m not talking about busy work, I’m talking about doing work that is meaningful to you. Find your purpose, for those of us who do not know what our purpose is we can find our purpose by doing a bunch of things as a way of “getting our feet wet.” Or we can think about what it is we would be doing for fun if we had already amassed a fortune. Getting busy is a way to actually fuel our passions as well. For example, we need to jump out there and try a few things, excelling in one field while realizing our true passion. We can use knowledge we accumulated in one field, as well as its resources, and apply it to our true passion and desire.
Eat right – Now that we are busy having a go at life, we have to literally fuel our bodies, most importantly, our brains to engage our day-to-day life. Personally, I had to learn this the hard way because I was one of those people who put tasks before diet. Many of us seem to believe that by not eating properly, we are devoting more time to getting the things done on that long list. Eating a proper, balanced diet means better focus and concentration.
- Breakfast: Breakfast literally means to “break fast.” We have been sleeping for about 7-8 hours without a meal. It is ideal to have a meal high in carbs to start off fueling ourselves for the day. These carbs should be complex. Breakfast cereals and oats are ideal because these are slow digesting carbs; sources of steady energy that is released into our system a little at a time without sending our pancreas into overdrive. Ditch the sugary drinks and pop tarts for breakfast that only serve to have you crashing before half of your day is over. Pairing oats, breakfast cereals, fruit juice with some eggs is where it’s at for a balanced, functional start to the day.
- Lunch: Keep it simple and light on the carbs. Depending on the kind of work we do, we want to keep the carbs light to avoid getting sleepy after lunch. It is ideal to have a salad with some form of protein source such as chicken, fish, beef, etc.
- Dinner: It is ideal to have another meal fortified with veggies, protein source and again light on the carbs. Heavy carbs late in the day means the likelihood of our bodies struggling to digest it while we are sleeping. Dinner should be about 2 hours before bed, giving the food enough time to digest in order for us to have a good, quality sleep.
These next four are a little far out for some of us but bear with me. They have a connecting theme that weaves them all together:
Meditate – First thing in the morning, meditate for at least ten minutes. This is a great way to raise our spiritual and mental vibrations. Meditation increases focus and allows us to balance our emotions in a conscious way. Doing this in the beginning of our day, as soon as we wake up, addresses any concerns we have about the day before we even start it. Allowing ourselves to sit in silence for the first ten minutes of the day sets the tone for the rest of it. We find our peace and carry it with us through out the day without getting frustrated (well maybe a little bit from time to time) by the small irritations of daily life. We don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on the important things that need to get done. This is a great way to get connected with source energy and therefore empowering ourselves to become more productive.
Affirmations – Our circumstances and everything in them are a series of affirmations that we have accepted over time. Whether circumstances are what we want them to be or not, we can all agree that these are things that we have chosen as adults once we understand the deeper currents at work. Intentionally affirming what we would like to see happen changes our lives first on a subconscious level, then on a physical level. Affirming “I want to become more productive” is a great affirmation. Once this affirmation is repeated over and over and held in the mind for a period of time, this affirmation becomes a thought, then a feeling, then a behavior over time. Boundaries go up and anything that does not serve this thought is therefore kept out.
Let’s write down our goals – …on paper. Let’s map our goals out. Let’s make a plan. For some strange reason, whenever I write my goals down(on paper) they always seem to manifest even long after I’ve forgotten I’ve written them down. A real world example is this website and all of the content I have put up so far. A year after I have conceived the idea and WRITTEN it down, here it is. I have never thought I would be designing my own website, providing content for millions of people to use and watching videos of me. If you do not take anything else from this article, take this one bullet point and it will change your life. I have no idea if it’s some sort of magic, or if it’s a deep-rooted psychological thing but it works.
Make the decision – This is one of the more important points. You have to get up off your ass and take action. Applying information that you have picked up here and there is where the magic happens. When we make the decision to do anything, including the decision to become more productive, even if it’s a small step in the right direction, things change for the better. There is no doubt about that. It is non-negotiable. We only change the things we decide to change. No one else can do it for us.
The purpose of this article is to help quell the most common mistakes beginners make in the gym.
So, we’ve gotten all of the excuses out of the way. We decided that staying the same is more painful than making a change. We have successfully moved out of the pre-contemplation stage of change, to commitment to take action and maintain that habit for the long run. There are just a few things to consider:
- Should I join a gym?
- Tracking macros
- Compound lifts
- Hammering form and technique
- Tracking progress
- Should I get a Training partner?
- Training Gear
- Rest and Recovery
Should I join a gym?
Many people know the answer to this question already. I would say that we should join some sort of gym or health club. It does not matter what type of gym it is or what level of experience people who attend that gym is on, beginner, intermediate, expert. It doesn’t matter just so long as we are adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Joining a gym is literally an investment in your health and finances. As obesity rates continue to rise worldwide, we will be wise to join a gym and cultivate the habit of training regularly, participating in any kind of program we can get into. Whether it is an aerobics class, strength training, yoga, etc. All types of training is going to aid in keeping obesity at bay. Obesity is associated with more doctor visits due to risk of diabetes, cancer, hypertension, stroke and other health concerns and in turn higher medical costs in the long run. It should be obvious to us that investing as little as $10 a month for a gym membership is the way to go.
Whether we want to gain weight as an ectomorph or lose weight, tracking macros is one the most important aspects of strength training and overall fitness in general. If we do not take the responsibility of building the habit of engaging our diet in a strategic way, we will just be running on a hamster wheel, essentially getting nowhere. My theory is that this is what discourages most of us. We do not take the time to learn about diet via macros and “calories in vs calories out.” When we do not see the results we expected, we assume that “this isn’t working for me.”
- Calories in vs calories out – this is the simple concept that gaining and losing weight is built around. Of course, there are other factors that may cause complication but this is our focal point when setting goals. To gain weight, we know we must consume more calories than we burn. To lose weight, we know we must burn more calories than we consume. Simple, right? There’s a twin component to this concept.
- Macros(Protein, fats, and carbs) – We focus on macros when we want to recompose our bodies. Focusing in on macros means the difference between having a muscular 6ft/1.83m tall, 180lb/82kg body and a flabby 6ft/1.83m, 180lb/82kg body and this comes down to body fat percentage or body composition.
It is easy to track our macros these days. I personally use the “MyFitnessPal” app and it has helped me to stay on track with my daily macros and caloric intake. Again, I stress the importance of tracking macros because it directly influences how well you can train each session. While we can look at reaching our fitness goals being based off 20% diet, 80% training, the 20% has a huge impact on the results we get from the 80%. Let me give you an example, if we eat crap that has little to no functional value our training will suffer. If we do not take in the necessary amount of calories arranged in the correct permutation of proteins, fats and carbs, we stand to suffer and maybe even injured during our training sessions. The body needs the correct nutrients with functional value in order for us to get the most out of our training.
When first starting out, I recommend focusing on the four main compound lifts. The most common mistakes beginners make in the gym is that they avoid the four main compound lifts and do a whole bunch of isolation movements. These compound lifts are: deadlifts, squats, bench press and standing overhead press. These four lifts give us the most bang for our buck. This is because these compound lifts work the most amount of muscle at one time. Let’s save the isolation movements such as: bicep curls, triceps push down, leg presses and all others for the accessory component of our splits.
For example, let’s say we are training chest on a particular day. We should start off with a bench press, then if we so choose, we can go into dumbbell presses, then a chest fly movement, and work our triceps with a push down and an overhead extension to finish off. Anything after the main lift(bench press) are considered accessory movements and they aid to build that main lift.
Hammering form and technique
Many people talk about “noob” gains when first starting out in regards to strength and muscle gain. If I were to take a different approach when I was a beginner I would have focussed on being much more meticulous when it came to my form and technique and avoid the common mistake of focusing exclusively on strength. Not that I wasn’t meticulous about form and technique from the start, but I would have placed more emphasis behind it rather than trying to get as strong as possible. Luckily, when I realized just how important it was to have good form, I stripped weight off the bar, started from scratch and learned how to excute these lifts properly.
It is very important that we learn how to do the aforementioned compound lifts correctly because of the risk of potentially injuring ourselves. Our best bet is that for our first year we focus on proper form and technique in order to build structural integrity. We want to focus on getting our muscles to work in a well orchestrated manner, in tandem with one in another so that we build a well-rounded, functional physique. Yes, we can load the bar up with weight but that would not be the best option if we want to maintain healthy joints, tendons, ligaments and properly develop musculature overtime. Remember, we want to do this for a long time. We want to build and maintain a healthy physique, not destroy it. The fun part is that we can throw in our own signature ritual when it comes to technique to help us develop a pattern of proper execution.
There will be the rare occasions when we injure ourselves here and there but those occasions will be far and few between because we are practicing safety via proper form and technique. The best part about focusing on form and technique is that the amount of weight we lift over time will increase to the degree that we have maintained a proper diet, proper form and proper technique. It is rewarding to focus on the fundamentals consistently to reap the most benefit. Let’s take our time, this is a marathon not a race.
When starting out we want to track our progress. This is another important aspect of strength training, like tracking our macros, we will be running on a hamster wheel getting no where if we do not know how we are progressing in terms of weight, sets and reps. There are many ways to track our progress. I’m a little old school and like to use a notebook to keep my progress on hand. We can use our phones to track our progress but in this day and age, our phones are distracting. Keeping a notebook allows us the freedom to leave our phones in our locker or turn it off while training. Nothing keeps us in the zone more than knowing where we are in our training session, how far we’ve come and how fmusch further we have to reach a particular goal than tracking our progress. We can always look back to last year to see that we were benching a mere 135lbs/61kg for 5 reps and this week we are benching 225lbs/102kg for reps of 8. Another benefit of tracking progress is managing volume and discovering different strategies of getting stronger. There may be a week or two where we can go up in load but we notice that if we increase our reps a bit, we can set a volume personal record.
Should I get a training partner?
It is a great feeling going to the gym with a buddy and getting stronger, maybe even competing a little bit with them. With a gym partner we can push our limits a bit more through encouragement, friendly competition and it is even a bit safer when we have someone to spot us just incase we want to go to failure on our last set. The downside is that we may become too dependent on a training partner and forfeit our independence. Start out training alone for some time, develop independence. Knowing that you have your own goals that you want to reach. Having a gym partner should only compliment your goals, not hinder those goals. Having a gym partner for some means that once that partner gets a new job, starts a family or gains other kinds of life altering responsibilities, it’s a roadblock for them. It means that they themselves lose motivation to continue on the path to reach their goals. Develop self-discipline by making it a habit to get to the gym no matter what. Having discipline even beats having motivation because motivation is based on emotion and emotions change all time. Discipline is an ingrained habit similar to muscle memory.
There are a ton of training gear out there. I started out with none at all because I couldn’t afford any but as time went on I purchased training gear one at a time. Instead of listing off all of the training gear that ever existed, I’ll mention the training gear that I use from time to time:
- Wrist Wraps – If you are an ectomorph like myself, you probably have small joints. I go as heavy as I can without using wrist wraps in order to develop joint strength and connective tissue as much as possible without aid. Wrist wraps support the wrist joint and reduces the risk of injury. I use these for pressing movements. Personally, they do not seem to help me much with pulling movements such as deadlifts, rows or lat pull downs.
- Wrist Straps – This is a decent piece of equipment. These are similar to wrist wraps except that we have a piece of material, a strap coming from our wrist. We wrap the straps around the bar or handle of a piece of equipment that we are pulling with in order to get all of our reps in when our grip starts giving out. I did not purchase these until a little later on in my training career, that is, when my back muscles got much stronger than my grip strength. Over time, pulling movements develop back strength to the point where they give out much later than grip does. Let’s say we want to do sets of 8 reps of a moderately heavy weight. Our grip starts to give out at around 5 to 6 reps. What the straps does is allows us to hold onto the bar a little longer to finish out the set so that we can reap the full benefits of it.
- Oly Shoes – These are hit or miss with some people. For me, it is a huge hit. As I am more glute and hamstring dominant in my squats, these shoes help to take the emphasis off of my posterior chain and focus more on my quads. For some, based off of their body dimensions, it may do the exact opposite. These are relatively expensive, running at about $160 dollars a pair. By no means are these shoes necessary. We can very well get along without using these shoes at all.
- Powerlifting Belt – I still have not touched my belt. This belt allows for core stability. I prefer to let my core do most of the work in order for it to develop naturally. But as soon as I start to feel some snap action, I am throwing this bad boy on. Also, this belt of course allows for us to lift more weight because of the added support we get from the belt in addition to having some sort of decent core strength.
- Gloves – No.
- Knee Sleeves – I wear these for aesthetic purposes, they just look so cool over some joggers.As for functional purposes, they keep the knees nice and warm and therefore, helps with mobility.
- Thin Bands – I use these bands to warm up the shoulders and arms before a chest, back or shoulders session. Invest in these! They have helped me to maintain healthy elbow, wrist, and shoulder joints.
- Thick Bands – I use these bands to help warm up the hips, knees and back on leg day. I go through a series of stretching, hip adduction and hip abduction movements to set me up for my squat sessions, very important for mobility.
Again, this list isn’t exhaustive.There are many other pieces of equipment that people use to train. Having training gear is not that serious. I recommend getting all of this gear one at a time and add them or subtract them from your routine. These pieces of equipment are not the end all be all. They should only HELP you. There should not be any particular amount of emphasis placed on getting these pieces of equipment. Only use them as you see fit.
Rest and Recovery
And finally, all of the above means nothing at all if we do not get adequate rest and therefore recover properly. If we do not sleep properly, manage our stress levels and just create a habit of getting out of our body’s way so that it can recover then we are wasting our time. We have to get at least 8 hours of sleep in order for our body to recharge for the next session, for the next day in general. The body repairs itself while it is sleeping. When we train, we are strategically breaking down muscle tissue in order for it to be built back up and then some. This is how we gain muscle and strength. We also must manage our stress levels to the degree that we keep cortisol levels in check. Cortisol is necessary but too much and it’s bad for the body.Meditation helps with rest and relaxation.
The plan is to approach strength training and fitness with a balanced, responsible, effective approach.A strong, healthy, body has many benefits. We want to make this a lifestyle. This is not a trend or something that we pick up and put back down. This is our health we are talking about!