Earn It.

Sun Jumping

A healthy life is a wonderful thing.

A healthy life cannot be handed to you. It cannot be donated.  It cannot be purchased, borrowed, or stolen.  A healthy life doesn’t come from a bottle of pills, surgery, or a machine.  A healthy life can’t be obtained in “just 15 minutes a day, three times a week!”

A healthy life isn’t redistributed from those who have one to those who don’t.

A healthy life must be earned.

I’m going to tell you why that is the greatest freaking thing in the entire world.  

And when you come to this conclusion, the conclusion that you don’t need somebody else’s permission to get healthy, that you don’t need to buy some magic bullet, you suddenly realize that there’s nothing stopping you from getting started other than yourself.

Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge.  It won’t take just a week of hard work, or even a month.  It might take a year, or two, or five.

You’re going to struggle.  You’re going to have days where you want to give up.  You’re going to have days that make you wonder “is this worth it?”

  • Ask Joe if the 10 months was worth it.  The smile on his face says yes.
  • Ask Saint how he felt on his wedding day after reaching his goal.
  • Ask Staci how she felt when she deadlifted 315 lbs for the first time.
  • Ask Ryan how he felt when looking in the mirror and saw a new man.

It’s always worth it.

Remember this: the longer it takes you to reach your goal, the more obstacles you have to overcome, the more challenges you face along the way, the more you’ll appreciate, respect, and cherish your healthy life.

Self-respect doesn’t appear out of thin air.

Like a healthy body, it has to be earned.   

As Henry Rollins will tell you, “I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect.”  

And you know what? Getting strong isn’t easy either; It requires hard work, dedication to the cause, and consistency in your efforts.

I love that about exercise: it’s the great equalizer.

In the gym, on the track, or in the park, our social status, wealth, and level of influence doesn’t matter.  It makes no difference what kind of car you drive, if you live in your mom’s basement, or if you have a level 90 character in World of Warcraft.

When you exercise, NONE of that matters.

You know what DOES matter?

Are you faster than you were last month? Are you stronger than you were last week? Did you set a new personal record? Are you better off today than you were yesterday?

No matter how small the improvement, if you can find a way to be better every single day, a few weeks from now you will be a completely different person on the inside.

As time goes on, your outward appearance will start to reflect that new inner strength you possess and that new level of self-respect.

I get a few hundred emails a week from people who are taking their first steps towards a healthier life. More often than not, I can tell within the first few sentences of an email who is going to be successful and who won’t.

The people that won’t be successful (with their first attempt) say things like:

  • “How long will it take before I (lose 50 pounds/get abs/fit into these pants)?” – They are only interested in the results and aren’t really interested in putting in the time and effort to get there.
  • “I know what you said to do, but I can’t (strength train/give up this food/make this change/etc).”  These are people who are afraid to try new things or make changes, and thus would rather keep doing what they’ve always done. It’s less scary and sounds easier.
  • “I know what I’m supposed to do, but I don’t have time to do it.”  These people have not made their health a priority.
  • “I read what you said, and then I read on these 47 other blogs conflicting ideas, so I’m confused and need to research more.”  These people will never get started because they’re too busy collecting information rather than taking action.

When people ask for advice, and then push back after I give it to them, I can’t help but think of a quote I read recently:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  If what you are doing is not working, do something else.”

Conversely, these are the emails I LOVE to get:

  • “Hey Steve, I took action today.  I cleaned out my cabinets of junk food.  I signed up for a gym membership.  I started training. I cooked my first healthy meal ever.  You’ll hear from me in three months with a success story.”
  • “I’m doing this for me.  Not because my doctor said so.  Not because my friends said I was getting fat (in fact, they tell me I’m crazy because I’m already ‘too skinny’…relative to them).  Not because I’m trying to win some contest.  But because I want to respect myself and look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.”
  • “Steve, I read what you said to do, and for the past six months I shut up and did it.  Here’s my success story.” This one is my favorite.

I’m not saying my advice is infallible, but the people who tend to have success aren’t afraid to jump in and figure it out along the way.  They have GRIT. They understand that there’s no perfect time to start, no perfect diet plan, no perfect workout plan.

They understand that getting started is the most important thing. 

They read articles about strength training and then go to their gym and learn how to deadlift and squat.

They see a success story and say to themselves, “Hey, that person was just like me. I can do what they did; I’m going to start.”

They think back to previous attempts they made to get healthy, realizing that failure is only a failure if nothing is learned from it.  They make small adjustments and try again.

The people who have success aren’t afraid to fail, aren’t afraid to step outside of their comfort zone, and aren’t afraid to make an investment in themselves.

I have a challenge for you.

Do ONE thing that scares you.

Go to that workout rather than sleeping in.

Cook a meal today rather than taking the cheap and unhealthy way out.

Make one decision today that’s makes your life better in some way.

Looking in the mirror with pride at what you see is one of the greatest feelings in the entire world, and I know that self-respect and confidence can carry over to every other aspect of your life.

Go to bed proud tonight, knowing that you’re on the path to a healthier life.

Wake up tomorrow knowing that the day is full of potential and possibilities.

And then get started.

Nobody will give you permission.

Nobody will serve it to you on a silver platter.

You are solely responsible for your future.

And the future is f***ing bright.



photo source: jump

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    54 thoughts on “Earn It.

    1. Very timely post Steve, I have recently decided to make it happen, rather than waiting for it to happen. No excuses are great enough to put off taking a positive action to achieve your goals. Success, in any aspect of your life, is not just handed out, you need to earn it 🙂

    2. The quote you use about doing something different reminds me of my favourite Einstein quote

      “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

    3. Love this post. Just what I needed to hear. I have just started on this healthy journey. Feeling better each and every day 🙂

    4. most days of my life, I try to stand on a tall building and scream this at people before I remember that I can’t make them happier if they dont want to be.

    5. My daily motivators are:
      – The memories of all those who thought I would fail or give up. That negativity drives me to push harder.

      – Those who support me and believe that I can reach the impossible. That energy that they put out has helped me get back up and stay focused and positive.

      – Finally, my dog. Funny enough a quote that has gone across the web that reads something like “be the person your dog thinks you are”. That’s something humbling that reminds me to continue being myself and not fearing those who are afraid to be themselves.

    6. This is going on my wall ASAP. People are lampooning me for panning the AMA’s decision to make obesity a disease. It’s a symptom of diseases and/or life choices not a disease. Diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, and disorders you generally can’t control control.

    7. Thanks for this article! I started strength training for real (decided to be committed to it and not just half-ass it) in January after reading this blog for a few weeks. Yesterday I looked at myself in the gym mirror and for the first time in my life I thought, “I like the way I look and I don’t even care because I just hit a deadlift PR.”

    8. Wow – what an Amazing post. The part that really hit home for me was the part of overcoming obstacles. I’ve got some endocrine issues that fight me hard every step of the way and have learned to appreciate ever single ounce and inch that come off. It definitely isn’t easy, but oh so worth it!

    9. This past winter, after I hurt my back getting up from my tv chair (I am a 45 year old lazy (not so lazy now) computer tech) I realized I was on a one way luge trip to bodily destruction. Figured out, even before I found nerd fitness, that life has to change. It’s not a diet or a fancy workout but a change to how life is lived. And yeah, after 6 months of strength training (Starting Strength, handing out copies to friends and enemies) the results in the mirror do make me smile but even better, daughter is feeling better and having more fun with healthy dad. I’m even dressing up as Superman (Action Comics #1 reboot version), with her as Steampunk Joker for Comic Expo this weekend.

    10. Steve, You are f’ing awesome. I wasn’t going to run a race tonight that I registered and paid for because I am tired and on my period. Don’t get me wrong — I’m no flake — I have worked hard for a year and a half to lose 91 pounds, and I swam nearly 2 miles this morning. And now after your email, I will be running 5 miles tonight, too. Thanks for reminding me how important it is for me to valiantly protect my self-respect.

    11. In about an hour, I am going to do something that scares me…swim. Okay, it doesn’t really scare me but I want to do a triathlon and the lake is finally getting warm so I need to see how far I can swim without feeling like I’m going to die and then determine what to do to get to a sprint tri swim length, again, without dying.

    12. Future is bright! I used to be the one that says I’m going to do it or I’m still looking into it. I learned more and saw results by getting out there and doing it!

    13. Love it Steve! I’m trying to give up sweets in order to live a healthier life, but I’ve been having a really difficult time. The quote inspired me though 🙂 Thanks so much!

    14. Hey Steve,

      A month ago I was one of those “Can’t seem to find time” emails. Looking back, yes it did sound pathetic. But at the time it was the truth, I put sleep over my fitness and it started to effect my progress. Well, I am happy to say I sucked it up and made time. It required me to workout after work (10pm) at night, but boy was I happy I did it. At some point I will try to shift it to morning so I have a better balance. But overall, I make sure I work out 3 times during the week or I am unsatisfied. Thanks for your upfront advice and I am leveling up my life for sure!

    15. I wore a bikini in public today for the first time in years. After a couple of months with paleo/Nerd Fitness I feel great! I think I look great too. Not only because I´ve lost a few ponds and gained some muscles but because I feel healthy and strong. Thank you for being an inspiration!

    16. Today I used your hotel room workout plan in my thimble-sized room, while jet-lagged, and felt absolutely great afterward. It’s definitely about just doing it. Thanks!

    17. I love reading your emails!!! They are amazingly inspiring! I am in the process if my transformation and have been documenting my progress to be able to send you through yet another success story!
      I have lost 27 kgs now and I am loving life!
      Thank you for being that voice in the back of my head!!
      You are a awesome inspiration
      Thank you

    18. Steve, three months ago I came to these same conclusions on my own. I cut out bread, cheese, and sugar, and ate only vegetables, greens, nuts, fruit and small amounts of fish and chicken. I started exercising daily. I did join a gym but go there just to vary my routine. I’m proud to report that I went from 217 lbs to 178 pounds in ten weeks. I am stronger and much healthier. I feel great and have lots of energy – and I feel good about myself. People compliment me daily on the change.
      I stumbled across your blog two days ago and realized that I was (without knowing it) on the Paleo Diet and following your advice. I wish I had seen your blog before I started because it would have reinforced what I learned for myself.
      If you say “I can’t ….” You will feel deprived and ultimately fail. When you choose to say “I won’t” you are in charge and you can succeed. Your advice is right on.

    19. So. Damn. AWESOME!

      And inspirational.

      And spot on.

      You got me all fired up! I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do with all this energy since I just sat down for dinner, but I’m fired up nonetheless.

      So thank you for telling it like it is. Too many people are looking for instant gratification and easy results. Well, it ain’t gonna happen. Like you say, you gotta EARN it. You gotta pay your dues.

      Unfortunately, most never will.


    20. This is an awesome read. Before i joined Nerd Fitness i was an underpants collector jumping from fitness site to fitness site reading trying something, giving up moving to next site to try something yes but never sticking. I think it was because none of them spoke to me in my language, thats what is so great about this site you understand what motivates us nerds and how to get us to take action rather then just collect knowledge.

      Reading your quote made me think of a similar one i heard from Vann from Farcry 3 “Do you know what Insanity is…its doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result” Im sure it comes from somewhere else but thats where i heard it and i think its great as it taught me to realise if something isn’t working(sitting around playing games all day and being unheathly) Isn’t going to help me get fit and in shape that i am happy with myself. I have been training hard for about 3 months so far and im about 20kg’s lightly then when i started its great when i run into people i havn’t seen in a few yrs and the shock at how much lighter i am now.

    21. Just yesterday I finally decided to go to a kettlebells class. I was always delaying it – ‘I’m scared, I do enough working out, I don’t want to go alone, everyone will hate me’ – that sort of thing. I can say now (being sore all over) that going there was one of the best decisions I’ve made this summer. Also, I feel so proud of myself now!
      This post essentially captures everything I felt being afraid and everything I feel now, defeating one of my biggest gym fears.

    22. Dude it’s an awesome article. I was reading it with my morning tea. Prior to that I was in the shop and bought me a pack of chips and couple of beers. Thought I was going to enjoy myself in the evening, but after reading this, healthy thinking kicked in and I’m pretty sure this will be exchanged in to evening bike ride 🙂

    23. Love it. I remember looking at this wondering wth I was getting into. Though dealing with spinal problems, I’ve been able to get around all that and start making the difference. Now 38 lbs lighter and the back is much stronger, not to mention the rest of the body. All it took was this mentality and moving the equipment into the water (less gravity = less stress on joints and spine). Thanks for the honesty in telling people what they need to hear vs want to hear. Cheers all!

    24. no photos in this one, no subtitles. just raw information that empowers and moves mountains.

      nice one steve

    25. Love this… I just sent it to a bunch of people I know as an example of one of the many reasons I love this site, and am hoping they will learn something from it! So awesome.


    27. Managed to go and get that gym membership I’d been postponing for months the other day after reading this. It was nowhere near as scary as I’d imagine it, it was lots of fun, can’t wait to go back in tomorrow!

    28. Great post. Just read and article about “Positive Psychology” on wiki. Concerned with three issues: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Positive emotions baby!

    29. Goddamnit. You read my mind… I slept in this morning, avoiding my workout that was supposed to push me further along the way to my becoming a Grand Champion of Sasuke, or Ninja Warrior. So from now on, I will not rest until I have achieved total victory on Ninja Warrior.

      P.S. It was your post about Yuuji Urushihara and how he was the only competitor to win twice that pushed me over the edge, so thanks! So I’ll see you in 6 years when I’m a legal adult, and you’ll know me as the only person to ever win Ninja Warrior THREE times, and then you’ll be posting about me!
      Stay awesome!

    30. My family experienced a suicide over the 4th of July my emotional eating spun out of control I have put on almost 10# in less than a week. I am out of town for this and food is everywhere hopefully I can get back on track in the next week

    31. Not from Einstein, it’s actually paraphrased from narcotics anonymous literature. Definitely true for addiction, including addiction to sugar and other unhealthy behaviors.

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