12 Things I Learned in 2012

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Well it’s already December 22nd in a few time zones, and the world has kept spinning.  Congratulations to us all!

Anyway, today's post is a bit different from my normal topics, as I wanted to put together a list of lessons I learned throughout the past year.  Forgive me for getting a bit nostalgic, but I figure it's only fitting given the time of year.  Enjoy!

1.      Hard work is still king.  I’ve always been a big believer that people tend to make their own luck, and that luck is simply where preparation meets opportunity.  It wasn’t until I read “Wooden” by John Wooden, however, that I really began to appreciate how hard work and mastering the basics is the key to success.  Two of my favorite sayings of Coach Wooden's are “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and “Make each day your masterpiece.”  I take a lot of pride in constantly trying to make myself better (both as a trainer and an overall person), and I’d like to think that it’s my hard work that landed me in such an incredible situation.

2.      You must love what you do, and I feel sorry for those that don’t.  Having had the privilege of working in two different careers, I can definitely tell you what it’s like to tolerate, hate and love your job.  The former can make you feel really unfulfilled, while the latter makes you love your life.

Want to know if someone is on the right track?  Ask them if they love what they do.  If the answer is anything but a definitive “Yes, I love it,” then the answer is a resounding no.

3.      Deadlifting may supplant the squat as my king of exercises.  I’m pretty sure my love for the squat has been sufficiently documented on this blog.  But the more I learn (and mature?) the more I think the deadlift is the king of exercises.  For one, you get a bigger bang for your buck with a deadlift as you get so much more engagement in your upper body.  As with many exercises, the deadlift is very technique intensive which initially drove me away from advising it for the general population.  But, take it from me, there’s nothing that leaves you feeling sexier than a well-executed, heavy deadlift.

 Three words to describe this woman: Getting. After. It.

Three words to describe this woman: Getting. After. It.

4.      If you can respond to an email in under one minute, do it!  This is a tip I read somewhere, but can’t remember where.  There was a time earlier this year where I was juggling three different gigs and didn’t have a smartphone.  Suffice to say, from 4:30 AM to 9:30 PM I had about one hour where I could actually reach the internet and get any sizable amount of work done.  I credit this one tip with saving me a lot of time and keeping me organized.

5.      No one does it alone – you need support.  We all like the stories of the “self-made man” and the tales of millionaires that made all their money through hard work.  Well there’s a reason why some people succeed and others don’t – it’s whom you know.  You’re really only as good as your network, and there’s a reason why the most connected people tend to also be some of the more successful.  Never be afraid of asking for help in any capacity, because if someone likes you or what they’re doing, they’ll be more than happy to lend a hand.

6.      Be supportive.  No one likes a Debbie Downer.  This lesson is one I learned first hand when I was going through my career change.  On one side, you have the cheerleaders who want to see nothing but the best for you...but on the other, you have those that for some reason or another, don’t want you to succeed.  While I’ll never understand these "scrooges," I can only think that they have some very personal issues (in addition to some deep rooted jealously).  And to be honest, I feel sorry for them.

7.      Each week, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.  You know that excited feeling when your phone rings and it’s someone awesome that you haven’t caught up with in months?  Well, be that awesome person on the other end.  I’ve been trying to institute this routine more and more regularly, and I've really enjoyed it.  Best case, you get to speak with your friends.  And those that never answer?  Maybe they weren’t worth calling anyway.

8.      Everyone needs to get stronger!  While I may change my mind on this statement in the future, I’m convinced that many of the physical issues that people develop could be cured if they were simply stronger.  Now, there’s a fine line as people have to move well before they can add strength, and it's hard to tell if a lack of strength preceded any movement dysfunction.  But, the more I see, the more I buy in to the statement above.

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9.      Soft tissue is the cause of a lot more problems than we think.  Back when I thought I knew everything, I thought foam rolling and soft tissue work was for sissies.  I couldn't have been more wrong, as I now turn into a crying, whining mess if I ever have to miss my daily date with a foam roller (yes, I’m being ironic).  While this short paragraph is not the time to explain the benefits of myofascial release and autogenic inhibition, I encourage everyone to try out a foam roller.  It doesn’t take a team of scientists to realize that you will feel better once you stand up.

10.  Don’t make decisions based on money.  Instead, ask yourself "is this the right thing to do in order to get where I want to go?"  If I had made decisions strictly on money, I wouldn’t have this blog and I’d still be working a boring desk job, hating my life and counting the days until I’m 65 (which are higher than I can count).  The more I learn and pick people’s brains in this industry, the more the “do what you love and the money will come” mantra seems to appear.

11.  Never stop learning.  I thought I had an appreciation of this saying…then after a few months I actually understood what it meant.  While it’s less frequent now, I remember earlier this year when I would have to swallow my pride every single day as I had a plethora of “teachable moments.”  An example?  Try having current Red Sox Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Boyle tell you in front of everyone that you’re doing a specific warm up incorrectly…talk about getting served a big ol’ fat piece of humble pie!  While no one likes to look like they’re clueless, I think I’m beyond the phase where I care what other people think.  I hope it never stops.

12.  All foods are not created equal.  Grass fed beef, and organic, local foods are better than the alternatives.  Why?  Because of the quality!  In the case of animals, it’s what those better fed animals have eaten that makes those meats so much healthier than conventional animals.  In fact, beef itself is actually pretty good for you…but it’s the way conventional beef is fed in warehouses (corn, grain and forced cannibalism, as opposed to natural grass) that raises the unhealthy profile, diminishing the great omega 3’s in beef.  I'm not quite sure why we ignore the quality of food - which, after all, is important to keeping us healthy - but don't ignore the quality of our cable TV, cars, or smartphones.  When it comes to our health, quality DOES matter, and once you realize the facts, it’s impossible to ignore the truth.