If You Start, Go All the Way

all in

I want you to think back to the last time you truly threw yourself 100% into transforming your life (which is different than this transforming).

If you’re like me, that might be difficult. You see, I don’t know what it is about us nerds, but we’re often afraid to try with all of our effort. We’re afraid of failing, that giving our all and not succeeding is a knock against who we are at our core. If we don’t put it all on the line, then “we” are protected.

So, instead of going all in, of giving everything we’ve got…we kind of half-ass it. We give half an effort, and then when things fail, we’re quick to say “this system doesn’t work,” “well I didn’t really try,” or “I knew it would fail.”

Well, Charles Bukowski has something to say about that.

If you watch one thing today, let it be this (hat tip to Anthony):

Charles Bukowski: All the Way

Although Bukowski probably wasn’t talking about physical fitness and training, I think it’s perfectly applicable to everything we do at Nerd Fitness.

For some reason, we hold back – almost as if it’s preferred to actually going ALL IN on something. Why? Because if we’ve given our all, and we still fail…what is left? If we go all in and fail, we tell ourselves that we are failures. We aren’t good enough.

In reality, giving our all and then failing is one of the best things that could possibly happen to us. When we give max effort and we fail, we’re only setting ourselves to level up.

When we put it all on the line and then fail, we’ve taken the first step to true improvement.

If you half-ass your way through a job interview or college application and things don’t go well, you’re stuck wondering “what if I had actually tried?”

If you go ALL in on either of those things and fail, you can quickly move onto the next opportunity, making improvements to your strategy and tweaks to your resume.

In the same vein, if you half-ass your way to transforming your body and things don’t work, you’ll never know why it didn’t work.

If you are going to get in shape, go all the way.  Actively work towards bettering yourself, every day, and see what you’re capable of.  Don’t think in terms of days or weeks, but rather for the rest of your life. You’re not dieting, you’re not just exercising to look good in a bathing suit for a few weeks each summer. You’re doing it to build a better body for the rest of your life.

This is all, of course, assuming things don’t work out when you go all in.  The far more likely scenario is that…things will work out.  Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has found ways to succeed through going all in and refusing to consider failure.

So remember: If you’re going to try. Go all the way:

It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.”

And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

Of course, our little green friend Yoda said it more succinctly: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Yes or No, Not Guess So


To this day, I still remember a powerful lesson that Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san in The Karate Kid.

When Miyagi asks Daniel if he wants to learn Karate, Daniel replies with a half-assed “yeah, I guess so!”

Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: Get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”  [makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: Just like grape. Understand?
Daniel: Yeah, I understand.

For Daniel-san, this was an easy lesson to understand.  He could either NOT do Karate, and thus avoid fighting Johnny Lawrence (NO MERCY!), stay safe, and spend the rest of his life scared…or he could go ALL the way, apply himself and focus on the lessons learned from Miyagi.

If he were to only go half-way, “yeah, I guess so,” he could find himself in a world of trouble when his half-training gets himself hurt.

Oftentimes, we think that just dipping our toe into the water or going halfway is an easy way to “try” something without the fear of failure or having to put forth max effort. This doesn’t mean adopting 50 new habits at once, but rather truly committing to some new small changes in your life.

With karate, with deadlifting, with building a business…”yeah I guess so” doesn’t give you a chance to succeed – doesn’t show you what you’re truly capable of, and can oftentimes do more harm than good.

I remember a lesson my mom taught me when teaching me to drive.  When I got ready to pull into traffic for the first time, she told me: “Stephen (yeah she still calls me that), you either pull into traffic, or you don’t. Go half-way and you’re screwed…so if you’re gonna go, GET YOUR ASS OUT THERE!”

Thanks, ma!

Go All the Way, and Don’t Half-Ass It

go all the_way

I wish Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation was a real person, as I would very much like to hang out with him.

Sure, he’s full of amazing quotables, but there’s one in particular that always stuck out:

“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

Anytime you can draw a brilliant life lesson from a quote that says “ass” twice, you better listen up.

Be more like Swanson!  WHOLE-ASS YOUR LIFE.

We get one shot at life on this planet, and half-assing things for fear of failure or rejection (or worse, fear of success) isn’t going to get you what you want. It’s time to step outside that comfort zone, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m not saying you need to go FULL PALEO and strength train 7 days a week and burn yourself out. Instead, I’m saying see what happens when you full dedicate yourself to a plan, don’t allow self-sabotage, and find out where it takes you.

What are you currently half-assing, and what are you afraid to go all the way on?

Next, what’s one step you can take TODAY to move closer to going all-in, whole-assed, on those things?

My answer: I’m working on a super secret project that I have been putting off for too long, and it was due to too many frequent trips (that I couldn’t say “no” to). So, I’ve essentially cleared my travel schedule for the next few months to stop half-assing the travel, half-assing the projects (which I was afraid to start for a few reasons), and half-assing my training (yes, that’s three half-asses, but BARE with me…ZING!).

Instead, my focus is on two key Nerd Fitness projects and building strength.  And still sucking at the violin.


Today’s Rebel Hero: Dane! Dane completed the Alcatraz Shark Swim this past summer. Every swimmer makes their escape from Alcatraz by swimming the 1.5 miles to safety – here’s Dane in his wet suit (and his awesome NF tshirt) after the swim. Congrats Dane!Dane B

Want to be the next Rebel hero?  Send a photo in your NF shirt doing something epic at Contact@NerdFitness.com.


photo source: abdulla falz: Karate Kid, Ian Broyles: Air, Jess Loughborough: Holiday









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    25 thoughts on “If You Start, Go All the Way

    1. Wow, you have perfect timing. I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been focusing on the fitness side of achieving my goal, but have let the nutrition part of it slack off. Going to have to focus on both if I want to complete my half Ironman in the spring. Thanks!

    2. As always, well-written and well-timed! I dream big and am always afraid to act. What I’m currently whole-assing: Whole30! I really needed the nutritional reset. I’m on day 18 and going strong. Starting to get that energy high 🙂

      Up next: I finally admitted to myself that I hate working out alone, and joined a Monkey Bar Gym. I’ll have to keep my mouth shut about seeing The China Study in their office (or not :P), but I’m really excited to be active again after a rough patch.

      So I’m proclaiming it here for everyone to see: I have my first class tonight after work and have a schedule planned. I will not miss a workout in the next six weeks.

      Cheers, rebels 🙂

    3. Congrats to Dane and his swim! Interesting article. I’d like to read more on self-sabotage. That seems to be my downfall in nutrition as I am pretty successful in keeping up with my workouts.

    4. I’ve joined the rebellion since
      past May, as with many things I started full of energy and determination, but
      around this time I have been failing with my diet and have fully dropped my
      workout routine.

      Although my compromise is to go
      all in leveling up my life, my tendency to depression causes me to start half
      assing things and eventually drop completely (get squashed like a grape).

      I agree with those that say that you
      are your worst enemy and personally like this quote “He who conquers
      others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.” Lao Tzu

      I hope I can get back on track and finish the fight!!! (I had to, this
      is Nerd Fitness after all 😛 ), or as I have learned here, continue the fight.


    5. Excellent article! It’s a very important lesson to remember, especially when you have that burning desire. I use to think that going ‘all the way’ was a problem and that i should always follow a strict schedule. Don’t tame it, let it flow, even if it has to take up more hours of the day, those hours will be worth something, and you’ll be happier knowing you’re doing your best in the present and sleep (hopefully) better knowing that… 🙂

    6. Do you have the time to listen to me whine
      About nothing and everything all at once?
      I am one of those melodramatic fools
      Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it

    7. Just going all in with my self-experiment blog about brain performance through keto-paleo, exercise and brain training. The start is slow but it definitely helps to read motivating articles like this one. Thanks.

      And yes, Elon Musk is the (Iron)Man… http://youtu.be/GtaxU6DZvLs his advice to become the best.

    8. Hey Steve, have you heard of habitrpg.com?

      It’s a pretty interesting planner that I use to organize tasks, habits, and daily work – you can go on ‘quests’ with friends to try and defeat bosses that’ll damage you health bar if you don’t complete your daily tasks. You can even buy equipment and get gold to buy yourself rewards – so, say i finish enough stuff on my to do list, then i’ll have enough gold to buy myself the time to watch ‘one episode of my favourite show’.

      I had trouble using planners before because they didn’t really motivate me, but with this one, since you’re constantly competing with your friends to level up and get cooler equipment, and if you don’t complete you daily tasks you lose health, it’s kind of got an extra kick to start working! And of course, it’s RPG themed so perfect for us nerds. 😉

    9. General Mattis said it perfectly “I don’t lose any sleep over failure. I don’t even know how to spell the word.” Just because you don’t succeed doesn’t mean you failed, the only failure is not giving it your all.

    10. One of the best quotes I ever heard was along the lines of… the only time you fail is when you stop trying. Of course you can’t feel successful if you don’t actually put the effort in to make it work. Fearing failure when it’s self perpetuated is like willingly being a masochist. I really enjoy posts like this, and the fact that it gets into the heart of why we behave this way whether as “nerds” or as people in general. It seems a self-defeatist attitude is a rather normal thing for humankind, but it sure doesn’t get us where we want or need to be.

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