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The Push-Up Lecture

The purpose of My 5 Life Strategies are to preserve and cultivate your most precious personal resources: time and energy. Money too, but we’re not talking about that right now. As a reminder, here are the first four principles:

  1. Practice Personal Authenticity - know you are, accept who you are not, and make choices accordingly

  2. Live the Rules Of Awesome - if it’s not awesome, don’t do it, eat it, buy it or go there

  3. Strategize Habits - eliminate the stress of decisions in your day by turning beneficial choices into habits and watch life get real enjoyable, real fast

  4. Get Oppositional Stability - manage your stress and diffuse emotion by coming at issues from the opposite side first

When you live by these principles, you will have more of your personal resources available. You will have cleared mental space, saved yourself time, and generated energy to follow the 5th strategy: Allow in the extraordinary - Live in the present moment, say yes to unexpected offers, leap into opportunity, trust that all is, and will be, well.

Allow in the extraordinary doesn’t necessarily have to mean plan a trip to Italy (although it can). One of the most extraordinary things I allowed for in my life was seizing the opportunity to conquer the personal fitness challenge of a push-up. For the longest time, early in my career, I could only do push-ups on my knees. I would instruct my clients to do them in full-on plank position, but I would just demo with a knee push-up claiming to be tired from so much teaching and not wanting to overdo it (which was true, but only partially). The truth is I couldn’t do it - I didn’t have the strength to lower my body in a plank position all the way to the floor and press myself back up. And the extraordinary thing I discovered was that, it wasn’t a matter of physical strength - when I describe a push-up, I know it sounds purely physical, but the truth is that it’s actually the opposite. What I was missing was the mental strength to make it happen, the emotional fortitude to let go of my ego, give up the idea of who I was supposed to be already, let it be ugly, and learn.

I was going through a very challenging time in my life when I first started my teaching career. Teaching fitness was my salvation in so many ways and I rose quickly in the field - which was amazing, but also limited me greatly because my ego got involved. My own personal progress got limited by a mini private “inferiority complex” - the need to prove I was strong enough to be a leader and a teacher, to prove I belonged at the head of class.

Here’s the thing: the first step is to acknowledge exactly where you are and know where you want to go (personal authenticity). The next thing is to make a habit out of what you want (strategize habits), so I determined to do one plank push-up every day and try for another. That’s it. The first day, I couldn't do it all, so I employed oppositional stability - I lowered myself down slowly to the count of 10 and then got on my knees to get back up. And finally it happened - one day I was able to do one perfect push-up. And, from that day forward, I settled for no less than that level of awesome from myself.

But what’s extraordinary about the whole thing is how I changed emotionally through the process. This was my first big life lesson of realizing my ego was in my way, my sense of shame, my fear of rejection or being found out as a “fraud.” I was not able to accomplish my goal until I accepted my imperfections. I was not able to build strength until I admitted my weaknesses. But by acknowledging these things, by accepting this personal challenge, I not only developed physical strength and capability beyond my wildest imagination, I built emotional strength.

Once you can push your own damn body up off the floor without anyone else’s help, you change as a person. You feel your own “extraordinary” power. You get to understand the depths of your capability. And most importantly, you gain the self-assuredness of knowing that whenever life knocks you flat, there is simply no question about whether or not you’ll be able to get back up.

Do yourself a favor: do push-ups. End of lecture.

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