Today I want to talk about two separate incidents that occurred over the last couple of weeks. The first was at my gym. I had finished getting dressed and was packing up my stuff to head off to work when a woman came up to me and said, “I love your six pack abs. I was checking them out while you were getting dressed. How do you get a stomach like that?” As her comment was extremely flattering (yet mildly creepy), it took me a minute to find my voice, but at last I got out one word: “Crunches.”
The second incident happened at my Weight Watcher’s meeting this past Friday. There is a new member in our group who was explaining how she did on Thanksgiving. Generally, she did great; she doubled up only on vegetables, passed on the stuffing, and even went for a walk with her family after dinner. But before she could give herself credit for her work, she said something about how she did have a small portion of pie, so she wasn’t perfect and therefore didn’t really get it right.
So, these are the two things I want to talk about (no, not my abs and Thanksgiving dinner). I want to talk about effort and knowledge.
When you’re given a task at work, do you just tap one button on your keyboard and the project is magically done? No (though if it is, I would really like to borrow your keyboard). To produce results, you have to do the work behind it. Want to build up your cardio endurance? Start running. Want more defined abs? There’s one answer: crunches and planks until you want to die. Yes, it’s hard to do. But it’s not impossible. If you put in the work (and I mean really put in the work; going to the gym once and then stopping for a burger and a beer on the way home and then never going back doesn’t qualify), you will see and feel the results. It takes a bit of time, but it can be done. And that brings me to my second theme: knowledge.
That woman in the Weight Watchers meeting was upset because she wasn’t “perfect” on Thanksgiving. But I believe she was at her second meeting. Now, have you ever seen or participated in a martial arts class? If so, you may know that they have a ranking system that is illustrated in class by the various color belts that people wear with their uniforms. Black belts are masters, white belts are newbies, and those in the middle are all the other colors depending on skill and experience. The instructor of the class would NEVER expect a white belt to do some of the moves that a black belt can do, or at least not do it as well. And you can’t go from newbie to master in a day. You have to learn how to perform the moves, and practice. A lot (said the woman who reached the belt level just below black belt twice in two separate schools in two different states). The woman at Weight Watchers is a healthy eating white belt. She doesn’t know how to avoid seven different desserts all staring at her after Thanksgiving dinner, especially when everyone around her is tucking in and enjoying themselves.
So, that’s my lesson for today. Do the work, and take it one step at a time. As something gets easier, move yourself up a belt (or a notch in your belt that’s getting bigger), and make it a little harder and then practice that. Do the crunches, and as they get easier, add on some more. Learn how to eat a healthy holiday dinner, and once you’ve gotten that down, learn how to get desserts to stop talking to you and calling you by name.
And finally, take credit for your hard work. If you work your ass off on a project at work and the boss says, “Wow, this is fantastic! Great job!” Do you say, “Thanks, but I had a really hard time getting that analysis right”? No. You take the credit for your work and move onto the next item on your to-do list. So take the credit for the gains you make in your personal life. Don’t say, “well, I went to the gym 4 times last week, but I was really lazy on those other 3.” Celebrate the 4 days (though not with a burger and a beer :-), and plan your next step. Before you know it, you may have a random stranger give you an extremely flattering (yet mildly creepy) compliment to start your day.