2014: Annual Year End Review

If you’ve ever experienced failure then you know about the gnawing pit of despair where life slips into a fog and the only audible voice lingers inside your head.

Am I a failure? Will I ever recover? What next? What does this mean about me? How can I ever face anyone again? Do they know? What will they think? Is this really happening?

Our mindset about failure, whether failure identifies us as failures or presents an opportunity to learn, shapes us moving forward because we possess an innate need for consistency between our beliefs and our behavior (1).

When we believe failures define our identity, we stop trying. Failure equals intense pain and we will do anything to avoid pain. Not that we are fully satisfied with our lives, but shopping, TV, work, and painting on the smiley face seem to dull the desire for meaning.

Facing failure after failure is where I’ve been over the past year.

 

A great example of failure in not replenishing nutrients properly after cutting weight. Only 4 reps after 8 in training (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=655044664583547)

A great example of failure in not replenishing nutrients properly after cutting weight. Only 4 reps after 8 in training (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=655044664583547) Photo Credit: Eric Feigenson

I had this pipe dream a few years ago of helping women eliminate the weight loss struggle with nutrition and strength training while supporting myself from anywhere in the world. After shedding 30 pounds of fat and transforming my skin, mood, and energy with nutrition, eating more and moving less, I was passionate about sharing this solution with anyone with ears.

As we moved from Camden to Memphis to Boston, I did just that and while I always had a few clients and some revenue, it was never enough to support us. Plus, all earnings funneled back into “the business” via educational programs, books, or services.

 

Connecting with your values and then aligning your life with that truth may be the most difficult practice of life.

The more aligned our home, job, friends, and habits are with our internal beliefs, the happier and more satisfied we feel. The less so, the more miserable, anxious, and disempowered we feel.

It takes courage to face our truth and accept what is with the commitment to change what is needed. It’s one thing to “just be you.” It’s another when me is ugly on the inside, full of anger, selfishness, and insecurities. Accepting my truth no longer denies or avoids the ugliness but accepts and embraces it in order to become better. No one in the positive-thinking-instant-inspiration group will tell you this because they’ve never done it themselves. Avoiding negative truths by pretending they don’t exist is escapism. The more we avoid, the bigger the elephants in the corner of our minds become until they take over and we’re left in the wake.

My true self wanted to start a business but not build the supporting structures. While I am passionate about nutrition and strength training, I was terrible with money and terrified of finding new clients. I was also reticent to fully commit to trying everything necessary to grow because if I didn’t try 100% then I could never really fail for real (read Mindset, by Carol Dweck for more insight into this phenomenon).

I chose to ignore my elephants in the beginning by listening to the business advisors who said, “It’s okay to just be you! Hire someone else to finish what you start,” or “Focus on the positive and ignore criticism so you’ll build momentum,” or “Fear isn’t real. It’s just a construct of your mind,” or “You must not be living your purpose. When you define that, then everything else will flow from it.”

Something wasn’t quite right about this teaching, but I wasn’t ready to listen, which culminated in the darkest moment in my business last year. I churned out weekly blog posts, videos, and newsletters, yet could no longer deny the fact that I had ZERO clients, ZERO prospects, and ZERO money coming in. All while spending a few hundred dollars each month on this endeavor. An MBA isn’t required to understand the balance sheet didn’t add up.

Failure with a capital ‘F.’ That was me. All this excitement and certainty I’d spewed to everyone over the past few years could no longer hide my truth.

 

“Good judgment is usually the result of experience, and experience frequently the result of bad judgment.” -Robert Lovett

With whom could I share my secret? The facade of confidence I’d built on the outside appeared that I had it all together. If I told the truth, people would know. What am I supposed to do now? This dream was my life for the past several years. Should I just walk away? How could I? But what if it was the right choice?

It hurt to call a peer and dish the truth, but when I contacted Serena, she immediately said, “It’s okay. This happens. I’ve been there. You need to quickly generate some cash flow and preferably in the environment you love. Ask for a job at the front desk of your gym even. Just get in there now and do something consistently to build your confidence.”

 

My dream wasn’t a failure, but my dogmatic commitment to my process of getting there was.

There’s a difference.

No one-size-fits-all approach exists to lose weight, get a raise, find a spouse, or grow a business. And while some ways may work, they don’t all work forever. Wedding myself to “the how” closed me off to alternative paths. So when the approach doesn’t work, instead of forgetting the goal, get out of the box and figure out alternate ways. You may find another path is easier and more enjoyable.

It took a couple of weeks to work up the courage to approach the owner of my gym, Total Performance Sports, and ask for a coaching job, but at this point I had nothing to lose. When he said yes last September (’13), I felt relieved, elated, and terrified all at the same time. There was so much to learn at TPS that would make me a better coach, but what if he found out my failures? What if I messed up? 

The mess-up happened a few weeks into the internship. A new client fell forward and flipped over her kettlebell while learning the swing under my coaching. She wasn’t hurt, but my boss and another coach witnessed this and I FREAKED OUT inside. This is it! Now they know

I finished the session barely holding it together. All I could think of was my mistake and the if only’s. If only I had done this, if only I did that instead, if only…

After hyperventilating, heart palpitations, and rivers of tears on the way home, I resolved to prove myself as a coach. I was going to master teaching the kettlebell swing. My first order of business would be reading ebooks on coaching kettlebell swings on the gym computer so my boss would see me when he walked by and approve…

 

Wait.

 

So my boss would see me as he walked by and approve? Are you freakin’ kidding me?!?! I was more concerned with how I appeared as a coach than actually being a great coach, eerily similar to how I was more concerned with how my business appeared than how it actually performed.

 

People-pleasing is a piss-poor way to live a full life. 

But I was the queen of diplomacy, chameleonism, and manipulation to appear amazing to the ones whose approval I craved. I’ve written about this at length on the blog (here), but this awareness busted through the last wall between me and the growth I desired.

Read the previous few paragraphs again beginning with “The mess-up.” Notice the focus on ME instead of my client. Under pretense of helping others, I cared more about building my own image than empowering women. Ouch.

 

Focusing on our fears distracts us from opportunities for growth.

I decided to approach failure differently in this moment. Instead of defining me and confirming my own beliefs about my abilities, I chose to see failure as an opportunity to learn. Failure teaches me what doesn’t work. It’s a sign I’m stretching myself. And I take great pleasure in growth. Instead of quenching my curiosity to try different ways in fear of messing up, I gave my curiosity free reign to take me on an amazing journey.

Top notch coaches trained at TPS and I possessed full access to them. The solution to my imposter syndrome was developing wisdom through the experience of application.

I began training one-on-one with Steve in January. I realized he never “cued clients to death” as I observed his coaching style. His minor adjustments dramatically improved lifts. Adjustments that had nothing to do with the focus of everyone else’s attention but instead with a deep understanding of the lift itself.

Steve completely tore apart everything I thought I knew about lifting and rebuilt it from the ground up. Although I intuitively moved well, I now possessed the fundamental understanding of why to go with it which allows me to create and control tension throughout a lift in the appropriate places. It also made me a 500% better coach.

I learned about commitment most of all. “You wait until the bar is almost to your knees before you decide if you want to lift it or not,” he said about my deadlift. “You need to position yourself well. Start the lift how you want to finish and then fully commit before you ever touch the bar.

 

Waiting to commit was at the core of my character flaws. I’ll jump in headfirst to anything, try it, and then decide if I want to continue or not. This isn’t the problem though.

The problem is the wishy-washiness that never produced a fair result of the tested effort. This was the way I approached everything in life. My tendency to dive in 95% of the way and then bail when it got tough was notorious. But that 5% of me not going all in was holding me back from experiencing deep satisfaction and joy in my marriage, my career, my friendships, and all of my endeavors.

The better method is to dive in 100% with clear benchmarks in mind. If I decide to improve my deadlift, I give an approach or technique a time limit to judge whether it’s working or not. I still have my out, but it’s a clearer, more accurate, and more satisfying method of judgment.

There are no what ifs or pieces left on the table. I’ve given it all and can now use the data to decide if I wish to continue as is or alter slightly.

 

Show me how you lift and I’ll tell you how you live.

You may have heard the saying, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” In this way I can extrapolate loads of information from a way someone moves their body while lifting.

When I began working with Steve, he pointed how how much I grind, or move the bar super slowly yet force it to completion. Alternately, once it got “too hard,” I’d bail before giving it a fair shot. It also felt quite forced. The funny thing is that I thought it was supposed to feel this way or that I wasn’t doing it right. This matched my internal mindset too. My entire life has been built around being an underdog and forcing my way to success, hitting rock bottom and climbing out again, brick by brick. Yet life isn’t always this crazy battle, unless we choose it to be. There are easier, less difficult ways to reach the same end.

On the flip side, my jumping headfirst into new things sometimes ended when the going got tough, ‘cuz I got going. This doesn’t quite work with marriage or the job front or all sorts of life events.

Learning to fully commit to my lifts helped me fully commit to my life. To stop blaming and begin taking responsibility, even if it wasn’t my fault. There’s no end for this process, yet each new layer is a new opportunity to decide what kind of person I want to be and then express those characteristics under the bar or in the rep of life.

Internalizing start how you want to finish in lifting helped me rethink how I coach clients, direct my career, and live my life. People often don’t reach their goals simply because they haven’t positioned themselves to succeed. Instead they say they want something without ever structuring the environment around them to produce success. Solid success without solid positioning is next to impossible. It feels forced, miserable, and a struggle because every moment is a fight. Some people believe this is just how life is supposed to be, one long fight, but the truth is all in the positioning.

 

Finishing how you want to start is just as important as starting well because you internalize the final few moments of an event to set you up for success or failure on the next. It’s a cycle that feeds itself. How you begin greatly determines how you finish and how you finish influences how you approach the next rep, goal, or endeavor.

Ending well is a major focus of my work now. How we end our day, for example, influences our sleep and the way we begin the next day. If you watch TV till 12, drag yourself to bed, and get up by 6 to drag yourself and the kids out of bed for school, I guarantee there will be chaos. Instead, getting in bed by 10

 

Since internalizing this shifts on the inside, my life on the outside changed too. I realized that I care about deep transformations on an individual and family level with highly motivated people. This changed my approach to whom I chose for clients and how I spend my time.

Cooking delicious healthy food is a passion of mine so I decided to spend more time doing it. I now offer healthy cooking as a service in addition to personal training and nutrition coaching. This comprehensive approach allows me to do deep quality work with a few clients that I now wish to share with you.

 

Next year will bring many exciting opportunities for you to dial into your own performance psychology to improve your life and build your bangin’ body. Deep articles, how-to videos, and courses are in your future and I’m honored to share these valuable lessons with you. 

 

In sum, it’s been a crazy year here, but I’m grateful for the growth on the inside that produced a more satisfying life on the outside. Hopefully, my failures can help you in some way so that you don’t have to go through my same mistakes and/or so that you may shift faster. Here’s a recap of the major lessons:

 

1. Connecting with your true identity and then aligning your life with that truth may be the most difficult practice of life worth doing.

2. Commit to the dream, not the specific process of getting there. 

3. People-pleasing is a piss-poor way to live a full life. 

4. Focusing on our fears distracts us from opportunities for growth.

5. Show me how you lift and I’ll tell you how you live (or “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”).

6. Start how you want to finish.

7. Finish how you want to start.

 

How can you course-correct one thing in your life for the next 7 days that will build to a big transformation? Leave a comment below sharing your one thing. I can’t wait to read yours. 

 

 

Life tastes better with butter,

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References:

1. Pages 1-10 http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bTp-dfS4_q4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=cognitive+dissonance+studies&ots=oM2-uKHgJp&sig=ZfQgETmEd6aiqE0lFsIt2TMGnao#v=onepage&q=cognitive%20dissonance%20studies&f=false

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