27 Things I’ve Learned In 27 Years
Having turned 27 a couple of weeks ago I thought we’d kick the weekend off with 27 lessons I’ve learned.
Having now spent 10 years in the gym and working on my online ventures you’ll find mindset shifts, mental frameworks, training techniques and the like below.
As Bruce Lee said “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own“, I hope you find something useful that’ll save you time and resources below.
Here are 27 things I’ve learned in no particular order.
1 – You Must Set Deadlines To Make Today Reliable & Accountable
Your cutting phase, your website creation, your savings goal… these things should all have deadlines.
Without a deadline there’s no urgency, there’s no fire under your ass motivating you to get it done.
A deadline keeps you both reliable and accountable.
2 – Money Influences Happiness By Freedom, Not Material Possessions
There always has been debate over the ‘money buys happiness’ statement and always will be.
Over the last few years as I’ve built my online businesses I’ve found that money can buy or at least influence happiness via freedom.
When you have money you don’t have to do things that you would have to otherwise, you aren’t stuck in one location, you can travel where you want and outsource things you don’t want to do.
If however you expect to find happiness by buying big houses or new cars, well you’ve stepped on the hedonic treadmill and there’s no getting off.
3 – Focus On Quality Food, Not Shill Supplements
Powders, potions and ridiculous claims all form the beast that is the weight loss and bodybuilding supplement industry.
It’s not until you look at studies, learn proper training techniques and understanding caloric manipulation that you can see just how crook the industry really is.
Zinc, fish oil, vitamin D and whey protein are all I need.
Forget the testosterone boosters and micronized creatine.
4 – Don’t Expect Linear Progress, In Anything
Seth Godin calls it the dip, the extended period of time that you’re grinding away and seeing little if anything in terms of results.
Most people quit in the dip, when they fail to see a tangible result for the effort they’ve expended they’re discouraged and throw in the towel.
The dip is the test, if you want it bad enough and endure the dip you’ll be greatly rewarded on the other side.
5 – Nothing Is ‘Free’ There’s Always An Opportunity Cost
You may save $5 filling up the gas tank in your car by driving to the other side of town to go to the cheapest fuel station, but that $5 saving is costing your an hour of your time.
Unless you value your time at $5 an hour you’re actually losing out.
I no longer shop around, I aim for convenience.
I’m paying for it I know, but that time is more precious to me.
That time could be better spent training, reading or writing instead of sitting in a line of cars waiting for discounted fuel or a slight discount on the new iPhone.
6 – Don’t Be Scared Of Training In A Low Rep Range (Stop Chasing The Pump)
First of all, what is the “pump?”
The pump is the tight feeling caused by blood rushing to the targeted muscle in the body part you are training after performing multiple sets.
Here’s the thing…
The pump alone does not indicate that you are making progress or that your muscles are growing – a high repetition set of push-ups can be used to obtain a pump, meanwhile dumbbell bench pressing 130lb dumbbells for 5 reps may not give you a pump even though this lift and weight is far more beneficial towards growth.
Applying progressive overload with heavy compound movements in the 6~ rep range will build mass and strength, if you’re constantly chasing the pump with lighter weights your big arms will only last for the duration of your workout.
When you’re curling a 135lb barbell for 6 strict reps you won’t need to worry about the pump or the size of your arms, they’ll take care of themselves.
7 – The Weighted Pull-Up Is The ONLY Exercise You Need For A Cobra-Esque Back
For many years my back was my weakest muscle group, in terms of both strength AND size.
That was until I discovered pull-ups and progressed to the weighted wide grip pull-up.
Up until then I spent my time doing set after set after set of one arm dumbbell rows, machine rows, and lat pulldowns.
The above exercises are legit and will increase your back development if you’re performing them with correct form AND apply progressive overload.
They all pale in comparison to the pull-up.
Cut out excessive back isolation and ensure the pull-up is the first exercise you’re hitting on back day while fresh.
Work on bodyweight pull-ups from a dead hang with a wide grip then begin to slowly add additional weight in the form of a dip belt or vest.
Then watch that V taper grow.
Check out my guide to performing pull-ups here.
8 – The First 15~ Minutes Of Any Run Are The Hardest, From Then On It’s Meditation
“My cardio is terrible, I can’t run for more than 10 minutes!“
First of all, you don’t get better at something by not doing it (want to improve your running? run!) secondly the first 10 to 15 minutes of each run are the hardest as your breathing begins to adjust and as your legs start to turn over you’ll find after the first mile or two you’re locked in. The thing is most people trying to get into run – be it to get faster or just for the caloric burn give up before this point!
Running is a true test of your will…
Lifting a heavy barbell 3 or 4 times for a couple of sets is never going to be easy, no discredit to heavy lifting – however more often than not we enjoy this – the quick exertion of effort before the euphoric feeling takes over, indicating you’ve just smashed a personal record.
It’s over in an instant, you get yourself pumped up with your go-to lifting song and you un-rack the weight, rep it and you’re done.
There’s no time for that little voice in your head to set in.
There’s no internal battle, it’s just you and the weights.
When it comes to running any reasonable distance on the other hand you’ll find that your body is 100% capable of going the distance. If you’ve been lifting for a year and have your body fat under control I can guarantee you that you’re capable of running a lot further than you think straight off the bat.
Probably 6 miles or more.
But the voice in your head will tell you otherwise.
“Slow down, we don’t have to be doing this”
“You just hit the 3 mile mark, you’ve done good… just stop now”
“Let’s call it a quits and run more tomorrow, you’ve done enough”
Most people will allow the opinion and the pointless chatter of that voice to hold weight.
That voice is your subconscious.
That voice, if listened to will ensure you never reach your goals, be they under the bench press or in the board room.
Ignore that voice and push through.
The endurance athlete is a master of his own will-power.
9 – Consistent Results Requires Actions Based On Your Values, Not Your Feelings
Success comes down to discipline and value based decision making.
Emotion will send you off course, emotion will self-sabotage you.
When it comes to selling copywriters and advertisers know this, they play on your emotions to get you to sign on the dotted line.
Take actions and make decisions based on your values, not your feelings.
The loser dismisses and avoids putting in the work because he wakes up and doesn’t ‘feel’ like doing it, maybe they’re tired, sad or de-motivated…
The winner takes action based upon his values, he doesn’t give a fuck whether he’s tired, sad or de-motivated…
He knows that these temporary, negative feelings will soon be eradicated by getting that hard task done because it falls in-line with his goals.
10 – Following A Purely IIFYM Based Diet Will Sap Your Energy Levels
If the way you look is all you’re concerned about then flexible dieting is for you, you don’t have to endure months without eating chocolate, hell – you can eat ice cream daily if you want to make it fit into your daily macronutrient goal.
If your performance, how you feel and your overall health are of concern to you I don’t recommend going all out on the pizza and donuts with flexible dieting.
Here’s what I found out about flexible dieting from my personal experience that no one told me…
Your performance in the gym and energy levels will suffer
Fasted cardio works wonders, however the same cannot be said about lifting weights on an empty stomach.
If you’re on the pursuit of mass and strength you’re going to want to get in a solid pre-workout meal containing protein and carbohydrates for energy.
Proats (protein oats) are my go-to pre workout meal, the complex carbohydrates contained within my proats give me immense, sustained energy to smash through my heavy sets in the gym.
The times I’ve followed a text book flexible dieting approach and derived me pre workout carbohydrates from a sugary treat I’ve had some of the worst workouts of my life – with a quick spike of energy followed by a crash, leaving me struggling after the half way point of my workout, feeling drained of energy.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar) provides your body with a quick insuline spike, nothing like the feeling of solid, sustained energy that complex carbohydrates can provide when timed correctly before a workout.
Trying to sit down and write an essay? If you’re constantly experiencing spiking and crashing insulin levels from simple carbohydrates you’re not going to be particularly productive or enthused about anything you’re doing.
You run the risk of bad health if you go all out with flexible dieting
This one goes without saying, eating processed foods, trans fats and large amounts of simple carbohydrates (sugar) day in day out will catch up with you eventually.
There’s a big misconception that just because an individual is in good physical shape that they’re healthy. The state a bodybuilder is in as they step on stage is extremely taxing on the body and is unhealthy, following flexible dieting to the extreme while maintaining shredded abs is unhealthy.
As cliché as it sounds I see fitness as a marathon not a sprint, and you aren’t stacking the odds in your favour of going the distance if you’re willing to give up your health just to indulge in processed foods on a daily basis.
Your skin will suffer
There’s a ton of products out there for both men and women to improve your complexion, eliminate acne and acquire that healthy glow.
Eating high quality food is the easiest way to improve your complexion, the opposite is also true – eating processed, sugary foods is a sure-fire way to get acne and reduce the quality of your skin.
Looking after your skin is the easiest way to look younger, but many don’t realize this until it’s too late.
11 -Using Small Chunks Of ‘Dead Time’ Productively Adds Up Quickly
You’ve heard the saying 100 times before without a doubt, “we’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day yet some people manage to get more out of it.“
There’s no voodoo magic involved, they’re not expending their fortune to buy an extra hour or two…
What they are doing is something both the multi-millionaire and the guy that’s down to his last penny trying to catch a break can do…
It’s utilizing dead time?
“SJ, what the hell is dead time?”
Dead time is time spent sitting on the subway waiting to get to your desired station, it’s time spend sitting in traffic on the highway as you drive yourself home during peak hour, it’s the time spend performing your low intensity cardio in the early morning.
Instead of sitting around merely in an idle state waiting to get to your destination or desired distance on the treadmill you can harness this time for productive means!
This might sound like an overly simple concept that’s hardly worth discussing but that really isn’t the case, as this time be it an hour or two a day quickly adds up over the course of the week, month and year.
If you spend an hour in the morning and evening commuting to and from your workplace from Monday through Friday that’s 10 extra hours you’ve just gained for productivity in a week by utilizing your dead time…That’s 40 hours a month!
40 hours a month can net you a ton of new information, ideas and output.
Don’t take my word for it, Elon Musk – founder of Tesla, SpaceX and co-founder ofPayPal understands how these blocks of time add up.
Musk purposely works longer days than his competition to ensure he’s able to outwork and out-innovate them.
While his competition works 8 hours a day he works 10 hours a day.
Once again, that’s an extra 10 hours a week or 40 hours a month.
40 hours a month is an entire work week!
“SJ, what can I do while I’m driving or spending time on the subway or treadmill?”
There’s a few dead time habits I recommend implementing, but as always select or create habits that fit based upon your own personal goals.
- Listen to a podcast
- Listen to an audiobook
- Guided meditation (headspace)
- Review your to-do list
12 – Do Not Put Off Tomorrow That Which Can Be Done Today
If it takes less than 5 minutes do it right now, be it making that phone call or taking out the rubbish.
Rather than adding lots of little tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list just do the thing now.
Often later becomes never.
13 – Spending A Few Minutes Working On Shoulder Mobility Daily Pays Off…
I spend a lot of my time in the gym focusing on size and strength, in the past whenever I would get a slight pain or ache in my shoulder I’d disregard it and ‘push through the pain’ the problem here was I didn’t understand that there was a difference between the muscular fatigue (good) soreness and an actual injury in progress.
Needless to say I’ve had several shoulder issues (rotator cuff impingements) primarily in my earlier years of lifting.
After spending hundreds of dollars on physiotherapy and massages I would recover, only to encounter the same issue again a few months down the track… besides a couple of warm up sets of the exercise I was about to perform I didn’t do any dynamic stretching, foam rolling or mobility oriented drills.
Ever since then I have implemented some rotator cuff stretches as part of my warm-up/morning routine that has increased my shoulder flexibility and improved my overall posture (as I spend a large amount of time in my office working on my blog, books and other projects and find myself with a hunched back from time to time).
14 – Don’t Be Scared Of Salt, It’s LOADED With Trace Minerals
When it comes to creating a complete diet, whether this be for building lean muscle, shredded fat or even just for general health and well-being you’ll always hear the same key factors beign discussed.
Caloric intake – be it a surplus, deficit or maintainance level.
The percentage of protein, carbohydrates and fats based upon your goal.
Basic supplementation recommendations like protein powder, fish oil, multivitamins and nitric oxide precursors.
You rarely hear mention of the importance of trace minerals, despite how important they are to our body… hell, it wasn’t until I read through Aubrey Marcus’ book ‘Own The Day, Own Your Life‘ and the mention of his morning cocktail (lemon + himalayan sea salt) for trace minerals that I started taking and researching trace minerals.
You don’t need to buy an expensive trace mineral dropper supplement, a simple pinch of himalayan salt is LOADED with trace minerals.
There are in excess of 72 naturally occuring trace minerals that assist bodily function, however below you’ll find an explanation of several key trace minerals that’ll make a noticable difference when consumed (you can absoultely get trace minereals through food, however getting both sufficient quantity and quality of these minerals can prove to be somewhat difficult!).
Builds bones, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar. Allows muscles to contract correctly and reduces muscle soreness.
Balances fluid within the body, assists in the muscle contraction process.
Balances fluids in the body, helps to maintain a steady heartbeat and to make muscles contract, and may benefit bones and blood pressure.
Vital in the formation of red blood cells and lean muscle.
Key component of the thyroid hormone.
Extreme cases of deficiency can lead to a slow metabolism, weight gain, abnormal lipid profile and mental sluggishness.
15 – If You Have Trouble Sleeping, Drink This…
- If you’ve got sleep insomnia or any related bedtime issues you should be drinking this every night.
- If you simply want better sleep like myself, you should be drinking this every night.
Here’s What You’ll Need
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey (I recommend raw honey)
Here’s How To Make It
Boil your kettle
Pour in 2 tablespoons of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix in 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
Drink 15~ minutes before bed
16 – Start Each Day With A To-Do List
Without a to-do list or goals list you’re not going to have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning.
You must know what you’ve got to do before it’s time to do it. Have 3 – 5 things written down either on a small whiteboard or in a notepad next to your bed.
Wake up, get dressed in your clothes you layed out then begin to forge your way through your to-do list…
It’s the small routines that set individuals up for success, get started tonight and you’ll notice the difference tomorrow!
17 – Binaural Beats Are Legit For Increasing Productivity
When I’m struggling to focus on reading, writing, proofreading or even just get into the groove with my cardio I listen to binaural beats.
Binaural beats work by playing two different frequencies to each ear, whether you choose to listen to these beats while meditating or thinking deeply you’ll be left feeling amazing with increased focus and productivity as a byproduct.
In order to reap the benefits of binaural beats you MUST listen to them through headphones.
Jump on YouTube and search for ‘Binaural beats for productivity‘ and try for yourself.
18 -The Most Effective Recovery Technique For Me Is A Post-Workout Infrared Sauna
Below are the big benefits I’ve uncovered from regular infrared sauna use…
Our body eliminates toxins by sweating. The advantage of a infrared sauna over a traditional sauna in this regard is that a regular sauna only heats the air within the sauna. Meanwhile, an infrared sauna heats your body directly causing a rise in temperature without the internal heat of the sauna room itself being as high.
The result – an intense detoxifying sweat at a cellular level.
Here’s a study noting the core temperature of an individual in a infrared sauna vs. that of a traditional sauna.
During my research on the detoxification benefits from infrared saunas many experts report detoxification results are up to seven times (!) greater in a infrared sauna vs. a traditional sauna.
Heat is fantastic for stress relief and relaxation, so it comes as no surprise that the infrared sauna is one of the most affective means of stress relief and relaxation that I’ve personally come across.
As I’ve discussed before, a high level of stress is a result of increased cortisol levels which is responsible for that ‘fight or flight’ reaction we get under times of immense tension.
While in an infrared sauna cortisol levels remain relatively stable, however upon finishing off your session in the infrared sauna cortisol levels generally drop quite drastically – resulting in reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, efficient burning of calories.
The infrared sauna heats your body directly as opposed to a traditional sauna which is a lot more of a harsh and intense experience to sit through for anywhere above 20 minutes, making the experience itself more relaxing and the tangible benefits more noticeable afterwards too!
Improved (Circulation) Recovery From Heavy Workouts
I eat well, supplement smartly and perform active recovery throughout the week, however performing heavy compound exercises such as the squat, bench press, overhead press etc. do all take their toll on the body – especially when working in the 4 – 6 rep range.
Tight muscles, aches and pro-longed delayed onset muscle soreness have all become quite common for me.
Regular use an infrared sauna has drastically improved my recovery time between workouts and overall feeling of my joints and muscles.
You can thank the heat penetrating your body from the infrared sauna increasing circulation and speeding up oxygen flow for these recovery benefits.
Weight Loss (reduced water retention)
Here’s where many bloggers and infrared sauna advocates lose all credibility.
A infrared sauna will NOT cause you to drop three pants sizes or unlock six pack abs without doing any exercise. That’s not how it works at all and it never will – don’t by into these marketing ploys targeting your lethargic nature.
Many fighters and bodybuilders will use infrared saunas in order to cut weight in the form of water weight several days out from their fight/competition/weigh in. It’s very important that we differentiate that we’re taking about weight in the form of fluid (water retention) we’re not talking about fat loss.
Spending time in an infrared sauna will leave you looking ‘dryer’ and leaner provided your body fat is already relatively low – however this weight can easily be put back on by avoiding the sauna and increasing your fluid intake.
Prior to a photoshoot or event which I want to look my leanest for, a week or two beforehand I increase my water intake, supplement with dandelion root extract and use a combination of Epsom salt baths and infrared sauna sessions. When you’re 10% body fat or below implementing these few techniques at the last minute can take your physique from good to great or great to jaw dropping depending on how much fluid you’re currently retaining.
Clarity Of Mind
This ties in with the stress reduction mentioned previously.
One area I need to work on is allowing myself more time to relax and unwind – constantly working on a combination of my online businesses, training, coaching and assisting others to reach their goals I have a very limited amount of time to take a step back, clear my mind and re-assess any trials or tribulations that I’m facing.
40 minutes in a quiet sauna is a fantastic time to achieve this clarity.
Reading a book, meditating, listening to relaxing music or journaling are the 4 go-to options for clearing my mind and relaxing in the infrared sauna – it’s a matter of finding what works best for you.
19 – Focus On What You Can Control (Be A Stoic!)
You cannot control the traffic, the weather of the mood your boss is in when he greets you tomorrow morning… so do not spend any time focusing on these things. Instead opt to focus on what you can control.
You can control your actions and your response to things outside of your control, that’s it.
Remember this and find draw strength from it.
If you remember and implement one lesson from this article, make sure it’s this one (if you haven’t already), as this is by far the biggest game changer.
20 – Small Changes In Grip Placement Make Big Changes In Targeted Muscle Group
Small tweaks to an exercise can make a large impact on the focus area.
Let’s take biceps for example…
The biceps are comprised of the inner (short) and outer (long) heads.
A shoulder-width grip targets both the inner & outer heads of the bicep.
Want to smash the inner head of your biceps? Utilize a wider than shoulder-width grip.
Want to smash the outer head of your biceps? Utilize a narrower than shoulder-width grip.
Want to build grip & forearm strength? Perform your curls with an overhead (palms facing away) grip.
21 – You’ll Never Get Rich Working The 9 – 5 (Scale, Outsource Or Own Rights)
This was a hard truth for me.
You won’t get rich working for someone else, sales being the only real exception here.
An hourly wage or a yearly salary, albeit even a large fixed salary will not make you rich.
At what point would you consider someone rich? Perhaps at the 2 million dollar net worth mark?
If so, with a $200,000 salary and 50% savings you’re going to take 20 years of saving to get to that mark, not to mention the amount of stress and expectations from the corporation that’s dishing you out those 6 figures.
Real wealth isn’t tied to a clock, real wealth comes through ownership.
Owning in demand domain names, owning the rights to a published book, owning real estate… this is where real wealth comes from.
You’re no longer clocking in and out of an office, your assets are doing the work for you.
22 – Every Book Contains 1 Or 2 ‘Golden Nuggets’
In the vast majority of self-help books there’s a ton of ‘padding’ so to speak.
The dozens of new releases on the shelves of your local bookstore and on the Amazon best-sellers nonfiction list are for the mostpart reworded and rehashed versions of classic books such as ‘Think & Grow Rich’. Hell, there’s only so many techniques and mindset shifts that work – these 400 page new releases aren’t loaded with groundbreaking content (with a very few exceptions!).
The author generally has 1, 2 or perhaps 3 ‘golden nuggets’ pieces of information that’re extremely insightful and new, that you can implement in your life, however an author can’t write and publish a 10 page book!
23 – You Don’t Realize How Much Adversity Someone Has Faced Until You Read Their Biography
“I’m not as talented as Michael Jordan” and “I didn’t have the prestigious upbringing that Arnold Schwarzenegger had” quickly fade away as soon as you realize what these men, who have made it to the upper echelon of success have gone through.
They faced more than you’d ever imagine but it’s not until we delve into the backstory, into their biography that we see that.
We merely see their success in their chosen field, their multitude of sponsors, endorsements and 8 figure income in the media.
We often forget that it wasn’t always this way.
They started out just like you or I.
24 – All Successful People Read, Therefore YOU Should Read… Daily
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Charlie Munger… all recommend reading, daily.
These individuals are wise, well-spoken and extremely successful business moguls.
25 – Reducing Water Retention Can Take Your Physique From Good To Great
As you begin to drop down towards the single digit body fat mark water retention begins to play a bigger factor in just how good your physique looks.
Someone with minimal water retention and 12% body fat WILL look significantly leaner than someone sitting around 9-10% body fat with a reasonable amount of water retention.
Single digit body fat with minimal water retention will make your physique look jawdropping.
We know that reducing body fat is a game of calories in vs. calories out (ensuring you’re in a caloric deficit through a combination of dieting and cardio) but when it comes to reducing water retention guys get confused.
Experts try and make reducing water retention a hell of a lot harder than it actually is!
All I recommend doing is:
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly (water binds to carbohydrate molecules)
- Reduce your sodium intake
- Supplement with dandelion root extract, a natural & inexpensive diuretic
26 – You MUST Pull The Trigger
“Think about what you want and you’ll get it”
Yep, it doesn’t work quite like that!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing the law of attraction as rubbish – I’m stressing that ‘The Secret’ portrays it the wrong way.
Visualization and positive self talk and ‘acting as if’ have been used by business titans and professional athletes for years, long before ‘The Secret’ was published.
However, unless you’re tracking that diet, unless you’re building that business… all the positive thought in the world won’t be able to attract you what you want.
If you want to be a money magnet, envision what you want WHILE you grind away at building your empire.
If you want to lose weight imagine yourself in fantastic shape as you hit your cardio workouts and prep your low calorie meals.
Lining up the cross hair isn’t enough, you must pull the trigger and take action toward your goal.
27 – Liquid Nutrition Is The Easiest Way To Bulk Without Wasting Time/Money/Energy
Liquid nutrition makes bulking easy!
When you’re in a bulking phase your blender should become your best friend.
My go-to recipe:
- 2 scoops of whey protein powder
- 1 cup of oats
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup of blueberries
- 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
- 1 drizzle of honey…
You’ve just made yourself a 900~ calorie shake that not only tastes amazing, but there’s a few other big benefits too…
You save time
There’s no cooking time, no dishes to try and no waiting for your meal to be ready. Ingredients in and a few seconds of pulsing the blender and you’re bulking shake is ready!
You’re loaded with nutrients
Bulking shakes or smoothies can be extremely nutrient dense. Spinach, blueberries, honey, peanut butter, bananas… your body will love you for it.
You feel more energetic
Liquid nutrition will leave you feeling light and agile – if you’re an entrepreneur or value your productivity at all for that matter you’ll likely find that you’re not getting much done at all when your in a lethargic state as your body attempts to digest meal after meal.
If you’re in college or on a budget then you’re going to reap the savings right here. Oats, whey protein and whatever other greens or berries you’d like to add to your bulking shake are inexpensive in comparison to cuts of steak and free range chicken breast.