Today you’re going to learn a lesson from the first avenger: Captain America.
In case you’re not familiar with the famous comic book, Steve Rogers is guy who wants to enlist in the US army during World War 2. Unfortunately he’s incredibly scrawny and sickly and thus deemed unfit for action. Eventually he’s given the opportunity to participate in a new government program that transforms him into an incredible super-soldier. As this super soldier, Captain America kicks some major Nazi ass, rallies the troops, and helps win victories for the allied forces.
Here’s the trailer for the upcoming Captain America movie in case you haven’t seen it:
I don’t want to talk about Steve Rogers’s transformation into the First Avenger – we don’t really have the opportunity to inject ourselves with some crazy serum to become a superhero. Instead, I want to talk about Captain America’s role in World War II. Chris Evans, the actor who is playing Captain America in the movie, had this to say about his character:
“Steve has been dealt kind of a lousy hand in life,” Evans says. “He’s 5-foot-nothing. He’s 110 pounds. He’s got a lot of ailments, but it hasn’t made him bitter or jaded or anything. Even after he’s given this great gift, he still continues to do the right thing, not to prove anything to anyone other than himself. He just has this great moral code.”
How badass is that? A dude that transformed his body into something spectacular and continued to push himself to be better, which in turn inspired those around him to be better too. He doesn’t force them to be better, he doesn’t ask them to be better, he simply makes himself better and leads by example.
You can’t force motivation
A few weeks ago, I saw a memorable tweet from productivity guru Leo Babauta: ” You can’t motivate others to do things. The best you can hope for is to inspire them with your actions.”
Once or twice a week, I get an email from a new Nerd Fitness reader who asks about the best way to get motivated to stay in shape. Unfortunately, I never have a good answer for them, because it’s pretty damn hard to give somebody the desire to want to live better.
Because my reasons for exercising are different than yours, which are different from the reasons your friends exercise, and so on.
I can write inspirational posts all day long, and I do what I can to inspire others to act, but I can’t force anyone to enjoy exercise or want to eat better. I can tell you that the Paleo Diet is the best way to get lose weight and eat better, but I can’t shove veggies down your throat or see if you’re eating donuts in your office. I can tell you that strength training is the key to living a long life full of activity and happiness, but I can’t carry you into a gym or force you to do proper push ups.
That drive to succeed and level up your life has to come from within you.
What I generally tell these people is to keep reading the site, hang out on the Nerd Fitness Message Boards, and keep trying different activities. Eventually, something clicks - from this point on it’s no longer a diet or a workout plan – it’s a way of life.
I freaking love when this happens.
Lead by example
Let’s say you’ve found your inner motivation, you’re now willing to do whatever it takes, and you’re well on your way towards becoming a super-version of yourself. You’re stronger today than you were yesterday. You weigh less today than you did a month ago. You’ve heard “have you lost weight? you look great” twice this week. You go to a restaurant and already know what the healthy options are on the menu. You are leveling up your life and you feel great.
You need to become Captain America: step up and take a leadership role amongst your friends and family.
Now, I’m not telling you to start explaining to your friends about why they shouldn’t drink that soda or that they need to exercise more – unless they’re asking for it, nobody likes to be preached to. Instead, you need to do everything you can to lead by example.
My friends and family
One of the pleasant surprises I’ve had from starting Nerd Fitness is that some of my friends and family members are now in the best shape of their lives. I got an email from my folks the other day to let me know that my dad has given up every grain in his diet except beer (and I certainly won’t fault him for that). I’ve covered the Paleo Diet extensively here on the site, but I’ve never once told my parents that they needed to follow it – everybody lives their own lives and has the freedom to chose what they want to eat and what they don’t want to eat. I’m happy to say that D lost 12 pounds last year and is hellbent on dropping another 12 pounds this year.
Because these changes came from within, I know he’ll be able to stick with them and succeed.
Two years ago, one of my best friends was overweight and out of shape. I did my best to keep him motivated and inspired (while gently encouraging him to focus on strength training), but I knew things wouldn’t click until he was REALLY ready to transform. Last month, it happened – after two years he started strength training. I now get daily emails from him saying things like “just deadlifted a new personal best – booyah” and “did power cleans for the first time today, wow those are awesome.” He literally can’t wait to exercise after work; he is a machine that can’t be stopped.
Had I bought him a gym membership six months ago and forced him to work out, he wouldn’t be seeing the results he’s seeing now because his heart wouldn’t have been in it. Now that it’s his decision, he’s going to get the results he’s always wanted.
Encourage, Share, Inspire…over and over.
Do you have friends and family who you want to help get in shape? If you want to help them change, do everything you can to help them help themselves. When that motivation comes from within, it’s 18,000 times more powerful than when you try to force motivation upon them.
If you have friends who all eat unhealthy, go out of your way to eat healthy when you’re around them – don’t look down upon them for their food choices, but happily answer any of their questions about why you’re eating the way you are. If you have friends that are lazy, overweight, and out of shape, invite them to your next run, Frisbee game, give them your buddy pass to the gym – don’t get mad when they decline, but happily continue to invite them over and over.
Last but not least, be patient and persistent. Unless your friends/family are severely overweight and on the verge of serious medical issues (where immediate intervention is required), do your best to inspire through action and inform when inquired. It could take days, weeks, months, or years, but eventually they will come around. And because the motivation came from themselves, they’re far more likely to make permanent life changes.
How about you?
Remember, we’re all in this together. You inspire me with your success stories, and hopefully I inspire you with my actions. I’d love to hear some success stories about how you’ve inspired those around you to live better. I’d also love to hear if you have close friends or loved ones who you’d want to help get in shape but are struggling to do so. Maybe we can all help each other out.
Today’s Rebel Hero: My Dad! Pictured here on while on vacation cruising through the Caribbean.
I told you my dad gave up all grains but beer; here he is doing arm curls with two beer buckets while on Cayamo, a floating music festival produced by my friends at Sixthman. He’s almost 60 and told me that he wants to be in better shape now than he was at 50. Go get em, D!