A few more recent insights from my daily time in the gym:
Lesson Four: Perspectives can work, excuses won’t.
One day, while we were still in the weight room, but as we were getting ready to leave, my workout partner Don packed up and said, “Ok. Great workout! See you tomorrow.” I replied, “Well, I don’t know. It’s supposed to rain really hard tomorrow.” He said, “Not in here.” I had to laugh.
There’s a lesson to be had in that response. By our attitudes, we can magnify or reduce the significance of obstacles that come out way. Why should we ever do anything to magnify the problems and inconveniences we face? And yet, it’s every bit as common as it is irrational and self defeating. Excuses are easy. We should do our best to avoid them, and take a more pro-active attitude in whatever challenge we face. We always have the freedom to adopt a more useful perspective on any tough situation than appearances alone might suggest.
Lesson Five: Two of the most liberating words in the world are: “So what?”
On another day recently, Don introduced me to a powerful personal philosophy embodied in the two words: “So What?” He told me about a recent time when he got to the gym with shorts and T-shirt but realized he had forgotten his workout/running shoes. He first thought was, “Oh, no.” But then, he immediately reversed course and said, “So what?” And he got to it. If you’re not wearing two thousand dollar handmade Silvano Lattansi brogues, go work out anyway.
So, suppose you show up at an event and discover that, through no fault of your own, you’re improperly attired. So what? Go on in with confidence. You get to a meeting and realize you didn’t bring some paperwork you had wanted to have. So what? Don’t stress out. That helps nothing. In any situation where a valuable goal is in play and a challenge or unexpected difficulty arises, this is a great inner response. When we learn to shed the dread, we up our game and improve our prospects for positive outcomes.
I’ve learned that The “So what?” Philosophy can work in many useful ways. You’re hesitating to make an important call or send a crucial email. You may get rejected, or worse, ignored. So what? Do it anyway. You’re trying something new and worry that you might fail badly. So what? Failure is more often than not a necessary prelude to success. Of course, such an application of the “So What?” Philosophy doesn’t depend on believing that nothing really matters, only that so much of what we fear and worry about doesn’t.
As an addendum, hours after I wrote this, Don showed up for the daily workout and discovered in his car that he had left his gym bag at home. He had on long pants, his work shoes, and a golf shirt, the outfit he had worn for calling on clients that morning. His attitude, once more: So what? He found a dirty balled up t-shirt in the car, put that on, and had a good workout.
Lesson Six: It’s important to have fun.
In the weight room, we work hard, but we also have fun. My friend Don is 51 and surfs many times a week, and skateboards, and fishes, and bowls, and plays golf and tennis, planning all this around his work, so that there’s always plenty of time for fun. How many of us do that? As he said to me the other day, “Most people our age seem to think they’ve grown out of the fun stuff they enjoyed earlier in life and have to give it up. Why? We should always have fun, as much as we can.” That seems to be a great life philosophy, and even one you could build a beer commercial around.
Have fun in your work. Have fun at home. Have fun whenever you can. But, you might worry, maybe the serious people around you will think you’re crazy.