I’m known for being a guy that strikes up a conversation with random strangers while waiting in the line at Starbucks, sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s, or simply out shopping in the community. Apparently, there is something about me that causes people to feel comfortable disclosing their life stories within minutes of meeting me. It’s nothing I seek out. It just happens. Perhaps it’s a gift from God (or a punishment, depending on how you look at it). What starts as a simple “Hello,” often turns into an informal counseling session.
Many times, I’ve found myself awkwardly embracing a person as they break out in tears over a deeply-embedded secret they just shared with me… and I wish I could pinpoint it to a specific type of person whom I seem to attract. However, there is no specific pattern of persons. It has been both men and women, young and old, various ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and walks of life. Why do they choose to disclose their secrets to me? I’m not really sure. Nevertheless, this same scenario repeats itself constantly.
Despite my ability to attract conversation, I’m actually an introvert. Although I dig good company and great conversation, I also enjoy solitude just as much (if not more). Perhaps this is due to the awareness that I am unversed in many of the topics other men enjoy talking about. I am sports illiterate, I don’t know a thing about mechanics, home repair, or craft beers. Despite this, I am constantly approached with invites to play football, basketball, or soccer. People usually see a guy of my stature and assume I’m athletic. However, the truth is that I go to the gym to relieve stress…. And since I have a reputation for juggling several projects at once, I find myself at the gym often.
My introduction to weight lifting was less than glorious. I was 20 years old, scrawny, and weak. At the time, I weighed a total of 140 pounds, which was rather low for my 6-foot 1-inch height. Quite frankly, I had grown tired of my physical condition. Aside from lacking muscle, I was aware that I wasn’t as strong as most guys my age, and I was determined to do something about it. Lucky for me, I caught wind that my employer had entered into a partnership with a local gym. The partnership included a significant discount. So without thinking about it twice, I enrolled in this new benefit.
My excitement quickly ran out when I realized I knew absolutely nothing about lifting weights. The only type of weight lifting I had done was stacking 50-pound onion sacks in my first summer job. However, I was determined to grow my strength, so I humbly recruited one of my co-workers to help me get started.
My co-worker was a bit of a “beef head.” I had known him for quite some time. He was your typical jock, who relived the glory days of high school despite having stepped into adulthood. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but I had paid for my membership and I was committed.
My first day at the gym started with a bang, literally. As I entered the weight room, I caught the glimpse of a man, with the physique of Arnold, who had stacked a significant amount of weight on the bar and was preparing to lift. I stopped to watch him bench what appeared to be an impossibility to me. I watched him as he lifted the bar with unmatched precision and strength. However, the impression he was making abruptly ended as he released some human thunder comparable to the launch of a space shuttle. Apart from being grossed out, I suddenly became fearful that the same would happen to me.
I’m still kind of embarrassed to admit that I could barely bench the bar. It didn’t make matters better with my beef head of a friend making fun of me the entire time. It was even worse when the soreness set it. I was suddenly overcome with the awareness of muscles I never knew existed. I was absolutely miserable. Yet, I persisted.
It took a while before I was able to add weight to the bar. However, I was determined, and slowly, but surely, I began to gain strength. Along with strength came muscle. The muscle brought confidence. The confidence created a new lifestyle for me. It is one that continues to this day.
My experience at the gym has provided the framework to work through many of my challenges of life. Here is what I have learned:
Reaching your goal always starts with a decision.
My experience taught me that the first step to reaching your goal begins with a decision to start. Dreams are never reached unless you get to work and start moving.
Reaching your goal means facing your fears.
It sounds silly that I was fearful that I would pass gas while lifting weights for the first time. Nevertheless, many of the fears that we face, on the journey to reach our goals are just as irrational…. And should they come to fruition, it’s important to remember that a little gas never hurt anyone.
Reaching your goal means acknowledging your limits (and not judging them).
I could only bench the bar for my first month at the gym. However, I was able to increase weight as I developed strength. Had I tried to slap two 45’s on the bar, I would have thrown my shoulder out of joint and caused damage to my body. In like manner, I can damage myself if I try to take on more than I can handle in life. It’s important to be realistic and develop strength along the way.
Reaching your goal means ignoring ridicule.
My beef head friend was somewhat of a jerk. However, I learned to ignore his insults so I could learn from him. I can guarantee that you will encounter people who will annoy you. In those moments, I encourage you to ignore the insults and glean any knowledge you need to reach your goal. You might not be able to silence their taunts, but you can steal their secrets to success when they are not looking.
Reaching your goal requires commitment.
The only way to reach your goal is to have a made-up mind to keep at it until you get to where you desire to be. There will be moments where you feel like giving up, but the committed heart will continue in the face of opposition.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on john-eli.com.
Featured Image by Luis Vidal