Stop Looking At Me, Swan – Life Lessons Learned From Billy Madison

I realize that my last few posts have been quite heavy and serious, but don’t think that means I’m all done with making ridiculous connections and analogies between healthy living and seemingly unrelated movies. For today’s article, I decided to draw inspiration from one of the funniest and dumbest movies of all time:

Billy Madison

If you haven’t seen this gem of a movie, well…shame on you.  Here’s a quick synopsis: Billy Madison (played by Adam Sandler) is waste of space 20-something who lives with his billionaire father in a mansion.  He finds out that his father had paid of all of his grade school teachers so that he could graduate.  In order to prove that he’s fit to one day take over the family business, Billy goes back to school and repeats each grade, first grade through twelfth, in the most comedic way possible.

I watched this movie for the eight-millionth time this past weekend, looking at it through the eyes of a motivational fitness blogger, and realized there’s quite a few lessons to be learned from Mr. Madison.  I’ve pulled my favorite quotes and turned them into motivational moments…because that’s what I do.

Here we go!

Stop looking at me, swan!

At one point in the movie, Billy is sitting in a tub and decides to yell at the swan faucet fixture for looking at him.  Now, what the hell does this have to do with self-improvement?  This.

Are you like Billy every time you go to the gym, paranoid that everybody around you is a staring ‘swan’? I get one or two emails a week from people who are either afraid to go to the gym, afraid to take a group class, or too afraid to use anything other than the treadmill because they’re worried people will stare at them for being out of shape or uncoordinated.

Don’t worry about the swan Billy!

Besides, they’re just people – you’d be surprised how many of them are so vain that they hardly notice anybody other than themselves anyways.  Or, they’re just like you and too busy being self-conscious about themselves to worry about you.  So, get out of your head, put in your head phones, and do what you need to do at the gym to take care of business.

If you want to try free weights, take a fun dance class, or go to yoga for the first time, do it because it makes you happy.  I guarantee the people around you will either:

  • Not notice you because they’re just as self-conscious as you.
  • Admire you for taking control and trying to better yourself.

If they ARE giving you funny looks, I’d recommend not free-balling it to the gym next time.

First and second grade were easy, but social studies, division? This is gonna be tough.

Sure Billy breezed through first and second grade, but as soon as he made it to third grade he instantly became nervous about all of the new things he’d have to learn.  Do you spend all of your time on a treadmill or elliptical simply because you’re scared to wander over to the free weights section?  Maybe you’re not afraid of ‘swans’ looking at you, but you simply don’t know what weights to lift or how to lift them.

It’s time to graduate sucka!

Weight training has been proven to be more efficient at burning calories than straight cardio. Don’t be scared, the weights won’t bite.  Unless they’re killer zombie weights, in which case you have bigger problems to deal with.  Let’s assume they’re not.  You can start here:

If you’re not ready for weight training, you can start with body weight training instead.  Think of this as grade 2.5:

Veronica, I thank you, for kicking the sh** out of me!

Every once and a while, you need somebody to tell you like it is.  After getting screwed over, Billy drank himself stupid and gave up on his quest to graduate high school.  It took an actual ass-kicking by his first grade teacher, Ms. Lippy, to realize that he wasn’t living up to his potential.  Billy pulled his head out of his ass, stepped up his game, and ended up winning the competition.

I had a good friend last year who was overweight and had recently lost his job. This is one of my best friends and favorite people on the planet, so when he had started getting down on himself for everything that had gone wrong, I gave him a virtual kick in the ass and told him that he wasn’t living up to his potential.  Of course, I only did this because I knew he could handle it, and it was exactly what he needed to hear.

This same friend, now a completely different and improved person, recently yelled at me when he didn’t think I was living up to my potential.  I needed it.

I know for a fact there’s a better person hiding inside of you (not literally, that’s creepy) – it’s up to you to bring him/her out.  Be honest with yourself, or find a friend who is willing to be honest with you, and start taking steps to improve your life.

Don’t make me send Veronica Vaughn to kick your ass.

Of course I peed my pants.  Peeing your pants is the coolest!

While on a school field trip, one of Billy’s 3rd grade buddies accidentally peed his pants.  Suck.  Now, rather than rip on the poor kid, who’s already having the worst day of his life, Billy turned the situation around by “peeing” his own pants and then claiming that “you ain’t cool unless you pee your pants!”

Sure the quote might be random, but the lesson behind it is incredibly important: never underestimate how important your friends are!

They can pick you up when you’re down, make you laugh when you’re crying, motivate you when you’re lazy, and even splash water on their crotches when you’ve pissed yourself.  If you can find somebody to try this whole exercise thing alongside you, you’ll be far more likely to succeed and get better results.  I know this is absolutely true for me.  If you don’t have anybody local who can keep tabs on you and keep pushing you, join the Nerd Fitness Message Boards, where we’re all motivating each other.

Take care of those closest you, and they’ll take care of you in return.

You get your ass out there and you find that f***ing dog.

Remember when Miss Lippy read The Puppy Who Lost His Way to Billy’s first grade class – the kid in the story lost his dog, looked for a little while, and then gave up.  Eventually the dog found his way home, and everything was happy!  Not for Billy.  He delivered one of the funniest monologues ever:

The part of the story I don’t like is that the little boy gave up looking for Happy after an hour. He didn’t put posters up or anything, he just sat on the porch like a goon and waited. That little boy’s gotta think ‘You got a pet. You got a responsibility.’ If your dog gets lost you don’t look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find that f***ing dog.

If you’re trying to get in shape, you can’t eat a couple of carrots, do two push ups, and then give up when things don’t go your way. Don’t just sit on the front porch like a goon and wait for your gut to disappear either.  It’s going to take hard work, consistency, strong will, and determination.  This ain’t no cake-walk.

You need get your ass out there, eat right and exercise, and turn your f***ing life around!

Hopefully this gave you a few laughs and the kick in the ass you needed to stay motivated.  Either that, or you thought this was one of the most insanely idiotic things you’ve ever read.  Fingers crossed for the former.

O’Doyle rules!



Here are some other ridiculous movie analogies I’ve made:

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28 thoughts on “Stop Looking At Me, Swan – Life Lessons Learned From Billy Madison

  1. Actually, if you don't mind sending Veronica Vaughn over to do “kick my ass” or frankly, do whatever else she likes… that would great…

  2. Steve,

    I totally agree with you on the whole “Swan” thing. My whole life I've been woefully out of shape. Overweight, weak, everything. In college I was always too afraid to go to the awesome free wellness center we had on campus because I might be seen

    Back in late January, I decided to suck it up. No worrying about what other people thought. I told myself, “we all have different fitness goals here. I shouldn't be ashamed of mine just like no one else should be ashamed of theirs.” And you know what? Once I actually got there I found that everyone was very friendly, non-judgemental and willing to help. If they were judging me for my weak arms or chicken legs, they were doing it silently. Slowly it's gone away.

    I tell you that one thing that really helped me get over that fear was having a good workout routine. I read the Testosterone Advantage and about halfway through actually doing it I picked up New Rules of Lifting. Knowing exactly what I should be doing and why I am doing it has empowered me to not be scared of working out along with the big guys.

    Now I will be the first to admit that there is still some vanity involved- but I've used it as motivation rather than an inhibitor. Now I want people to see how much improvement I've made rather than how much less I am working with compared to the experienced gym rats.

  3. Hahahahaha

    Give me back my snack pack!

    There are just so many memorable quotes from this movie.


  4. Hey Josh!

    Thanks for the comment man. Dude, you have a great attitude now, stick with it. Good call on having a routine making it easier too. Once you know exactly what you're doing and know where you need to go, you can walk with purpose and take care of business.

    Too worry too much about the “vanity” thing either. It's okay to want to look good too 🙂


  5. Nice parallels. Billy Madison was one of the very few Adam Sandler movies that I could stand. He was too angry or trying to be someone other than who can portray. Mostly I liked looking at his school teacher. Schwing!

    Being in the gym overweight can be very intimidating but you are dead right. Those other people are really focused on themselves and how they look or do not look. This is a big issue for guys (and probably women too). They will not show up at a gym because of how they look. I often look at heavy people in the gym with compassion at the courage it took to get there and do their thing.

    The real staying power of achieving a goal weight is the feeling of being inside your body and feeling good.

  6. I've been doing the same thing for a while and I've started integrating two days a week of weights in to my program. The only problem? I have no idea where to start. Any resources you have to offer?

  7. I will admit to being someone who occasionally stares at/thinks about other people working out in hopes that they will just get too self-conscious or creeped out and leave. But in selecting the people I do that to, I do not even consider weight or shape or anything like that. I only stare at the people who make noise. Those who grunt on every friggin rep. Or those who feel compelled to sing along with their i-pod. Whether they're way in shape or way out of shape, I want them gone. For quieter people (and even an occasional grunt is okay), if they're heavier, I'm just impressed that they're there and doin' what it takes to get healthier — if I even notice them, which is rare. I don't look unless there's noise.

  8. I so want to join a gym. I'm looking at different ones in my area and wondering which one's would have the most moms since I'm then making the assumption they're all big bottomed girls like me. I need to just get out there and do it. F**K them swans, I'll swing em around by their skinny little necks! RAWR! I wish you had a gym here…

  9. I know I mentioned this on Twitter but I'll mention it again now…

    Billy Madison was filmed in Toronto. I just so happen to live in Toronto.

    The real life Knibb High is actually Western Technical-Commerical School. I just so happened to go to Western Tech.

    Awesome, no?


    (O'Doyle RULES!)

  10. Thanks Frank!

    It's a big challenge, but one that everybody faces, whether they're big or small, male or female…getting comfortable in their own skin.

    Honestly nothing makes me happier than seeing a big guy lifting weights in the gym, trying to better himself.


  11. Howdy! Glad to hear you're starting to put some weights into your routine 🙂

    Always go with free weights over machines!

    And try to do a full body workout – start with some leg exercises (squats or lunges)
    then a pushing exercise (push ups if you can do them, or dumbbell bench press (lie on a bench and press the dumbbells straight up above you).
    and then a pulling exercise (either dumbbell rows, inverted body weight rows, or pull ups)
    And then go with some ab work (planks, crunches on an exercise ball)

    3-4 sets of 10-12 reps each is a great place to start…wait about a minute between each….or if you're feeling super energized, do them as a circuit (one set of squats, one set of push ups, one set of pull ups, plank….no rest in between)

    Hopefully this helps!


  12. I try not to let the noise bother me either, by putting in my headphones…

    I will say that sometimes I let a grunt out at the end of a set when doing heavy squats…I can't really help it, it just comes out.


  13. Hey Tara

    If you play your cards right, you can get free sessions and 'week trials' at each gym to find one taht you like. I recommend doing this before locking into some contract – go to workout in the afternoon or whenever you normally work out to judge how busy it usually is.


  14. “That is the grossest thing I've ever heard!”

    that line, and “there will be absolutely no cheating, especially with my wife, who is a dirty dirty tramp” (or something like that).


  15. Hahaha, thanks Jeremy,

    And yeah, I now think of every freaking movie, book, article, etc. in this way…I love the challenge.


  16. You know, I actually like swans. Because after about a month or so and my weight keeps dropping, well, they all end up saying something. It's like an extra pat on the back for me. Yes swans, TAKE THAT!

    And I wish more girls would lift. There's only one girl that I see who's a legit lifter (not some stupid 5 pound 30 rep type) and she's awesome. I aspire to be bad ass like her. I don't know why women have a crazy fear of lifting but it's as if they're only attracted to cardio machines. Honest question, since I'm curious. Do you actually care if a girl is lifting weights? Like, do you actually even notice? Because when I lift, I zone out and don't give a crap about other people unless they're grunting like they're constipated. That annoys the hell out of me.

    But I digress. Time to go find my own effin' dog. I think I'm going to have a Billy Madison Happy Gilmore weekend.

  17. Great article Steve! “Stop looking at me, swan!” has always been one of my favorites from this movie. I'm also partial to the part where the high school principal says:

    “Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

    Incidentally, I think of this movie line every time Sarah Palin speaks.

  18. Great article Steve! “Stop looking at me, swan!” has always been one of my favorites from this movie. I'm also partial to the part where the high school principal says:

    “Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

    Incidentally, I think of this movie line every time Sarah Palin speaks.

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