“It’s fine, but I could just never look like that.”
“I could never deadlift 400 pounds.”
“I just suck at singing/learning languages/math.”
Today I’m gonna talk to you about prophecies. No, not the cool ancient kind that foretold of some epic badass saving the day. Though I do love those prophecies. But rather, the ones that can either set us up to level up our lives, or doom us to a life of “that’s just how I am.”
Oftentimes, it’s ourselves who choose to sabotage our mind and goals.
Other times, we let other people set our expectations for ourselves.
We all have these things about ourselves that we think “that’s just how I am.” We tell ourselves it’s been that way since we were kids, or there was a moment when our confidence was shattered, our path was altered, and suddenly these things we think about ourselves become true.
Today you learn why these prophecies are redonkulous.
Maybe we got cut from a team as a little kid and thus determined “I’m not good at sports.” Or we tried a musical instrument and were told to practice outside because we weren’t very good.
For whatever reason, we often encounter seemingly insignificant moments that drastically alter our mindset for decades. Here’s what happens:
- We hear we’re bad at something, or have a bad experience with something.
- We avoid trying again, because we are shying away from the potential for more pain of that experience.
- If we do try again, we try half-assed, so we can point to that and say, “See? It didn’t work.”
- We never get better at said activity, because we never practice it.
- It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the book The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle argues talent isn’t born, it’s grown. But why do we often see specific people who seem to have more talent or get further and do better? Aren’t great athletes just destined for greatness and it’s obvious who has talent and skill and who doesn’t?
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, would tell us a resounding: No! In one example, Gladwell found that most professional Canadian hockey players are born in the first few months of the year. Why is this important? Are these months producing scientifically engineered better players? Nope.
Because these kids are a few months older than their peers, they tend to mature slightly faster, MAYBE giving them a slight edge in hockey skill or size as kids. So, these players tend to get selected for special teams early on as a kid, and thus they practice more. Over time, a gap is created, a self-fulfilling prophecy comes true. They practice more, and the gap widens further.
For these hockey players, their self-fulfilling prophecy is that they’re better at hockey, and thus they go on to become better at hockey.
How about this!? In 1964, a Harvard Professor named Robert Rosenthal ran a study where he told grade school teachers he had a special test that could predict which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ. After the kids took the test, he chose several children from each class totally at random and told their teachers the test predicted those kids were on the verge of an intellectual “bloom.” What happened?
If teachers expected greater gains in IQ, the kids gained more IQ. Rosenthal found that the teachers gave the students who were expected to succeed more patient instruction and more positive feedback. And in turn, the self-fulfilling prophecy came true!
What does this mean for you?
Prove it wrong One time.
I’m going to tell you the story of a man named Danny O’Shea.
Spending his entire life in the shadow of his older brother Kevin, Danny became the football coach of a ragtag bunch of kids who had no clue how to play. Unsurprisingly, his older brother also coached a group of kids, except they were well-trained athletes.
When Kevin’s team had to play Danny’s team, Kevin motivated his team by telling them about the one time he beat his old brother in a bike race down Cherry Hill. That one single instance in which the outcome was different was enough to motivate these young lads to think, “hey, all it takes is one time,” and it lead them to an improbable victory.
This is the story of “Little Giants,” a movie that I remember fondly and refuse to go back and watch again in case it’s terrible.
But man, what a speech Rick Moranis gave:
It’s one thing to say “I am a confident person,” but if you don’t do anything about it…you’ll stay the same ole wallflower.
It’s one thing to write “I’m going to be rich and famous” on your dream board (or whatever the self-help gurus call those things), but without action and the willingness to die on the treadmill, you’ll never get there.
If you decide to break the self-limiting belief of “I’m just a fat person,” absolutely nothing will get done if you simply repeat this mantra while sitting on your couch eating cookies.
Identifying the new self-fulfilling belief is step one.
Frodo had a self-limiting belief that he could never get to Mordor… and then, step after step, day after day, he proved himself wrong… and freaking WALKED to Mordor. Become Frodo, and keep an eye out for EVERY tiny victory along your journey, no matter how hard you have to scrape, fight, and claw for it. Consistently remind yourself of those victories, and keep them at the front of your mind, to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that YOU decide on..
All of this to say that you actually can change your fate. It will require hard work, consistent persistence, determination, and the ability to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, for that’s where growth happens.
change and grow
People can change, and do change. Nerd Fitness exists today because of that fact.
Hell, Staci was overweight and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and now she’s a full-time member of Team Nerd Fitness, and can deadlift 400 pounds. Who she is now is nothing like who she used to be. But everything started with a single victory that allowed her to prove to herself that she WAS the superhero underneath.
My friend Benny Lewis “couldn’t learn languages” until he stopped accepting it as an excuse. What did he do instead? He turned this prophecy on its head, and gave himself permission to suck early on. With each small win, it gave himself more confidence to try more often to learn and to speak, which made him better at learning, which made him better at languages. Now, Benny is “the guy” who speaks 10 languages fluently and helps other people learn to do the same.
In each of these stories above, they all had ideas about who they were, what they sucked at, and what they could never do. With enough small wins, they were able to change their prophecy – a step towards the “I’m actually pretty damn good at …”
My self-limiting beliefs and how I crushed them.
I remember reading that comment above on a YouTube video of mine and thinking “shit, he’s right…I’ll never get that strong. I just don’t have the genetics for it.” That’s right, the guy who teaches you how to bust through plateaus and not listen to haters actually started listening to internet trolls!!
“I’ll never get really strong” was my self-limiting belief for years.
I love strength training, but I never thought I’d get actually strong.
Sure, maybe “strong for a skinny guy” – but really strong? And then, day after day, week after week, month after month, I proved myself horribly wrong.
Over the years I’ve managed to turn the prophecy on its head, but as I realized in the below text exchange with my friend Anthony Mychal (who’s been coaching me remotely), I still have some prophecies to change!
I had my mind focused on one day deadlifting 405 lbs since starting my training, feeling like it was light years away.
And then… I did it:
I’m getting strong as hell, and week after week my self-limiting belief was getting REAGAN SMASHED.
Now when Anthony says “you’re gonna pull 500 pounds,” it completely shifts my belief to what I’m capable of.
Depending on what people around you expected of you as a child, or what you have expected of yourself all your life, you have been subtly guided to who “you” are.
That’s why today I want to hear about ONE self-limiting belief you have. It can be fitness related, it can be about some part of your life you hope to change, whatever. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your place on this planet?
And then I want you to share with me ONE time, one moment, in which the opposite of that ‘fact’ is true for you. I don’t care how small of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me’ – but I did it!”?
- Lost weight and kept it off
- Was the life of the party
- Sang a note on key
- Learned a new skill that didn’t suck
- Approached a guy/girl, and didn’t fall on your face
- Went on vacation and did NOT get derailed on your fitness journey
Once you identify the cracks in the wall of this belief, you can start attacking it. Small victories, more confidence, momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on.
Leave a comment with one belief you’re breaking, and one small victory in the past you can point to. We’ll give away a free NF shirt to a random person that leaves a comment, because I want you taking action!
PS: Along with “I’m never going to be really strong,” I’m also currently battling this one: “I’m just a terrible singer.” I’ve been working hard on a plan to break this particular belief and also complete something that scares the crap out of me. The benefit of living in Music City! Epic Quest update coming soon 🙂
photo source: Kenneth DM: Scrolls