• Category Archives Personal development
  • Grow up! – On ‘being mature’ and growth

    I can’t even begin to count the number of times people have told me to ‘grow up’. I’ve always thought it was stupid. It made no sense to me that being playful would be immature. Honestly, I don’t even know when someone is ‘mature’ or not. The closest thing I can come up with would be ‘having traits that you attain through years of life experience’… Or something. Not all acquired traits are good things though, so I don’t really understand why people attribute so much value to ‘being mature’. It’s a hollow statement. The concept of constantly maturing and growing is more important than avoiding people’s disapproval for being playful.

    The strangest thing about growing up might be that I realize more and more how much growing I want to do. I remember a conversation from when I was around 18, talking to someone who was around 24. I said something along the lines of being pretty mature and that I did not expect to change much in the years after that. She laughed and told me that she had said the same in the past, and that I would definitely change over the years. I laughed it off at the time, thinking to myself that “she just didn’t know me that well”. Of course I changed over the years in many ways. I read somewhere that as a general rule of thumb, people psychologically change a lot until they are somewhere around 35 years old. I don’t remember the source and if my memory serves me right, this statement was related to big events severely impacting someone psychologically. Regardless how accurate it is, it definitely sounds more logical than an 18 year old thinking “he’s there” despite the fact that he just left high school.

    Here’s a fun example of learning and knowing a lot about something and still messing it up. I’m a bachelor of social work meaning that I have 4 years of psychology and social skills drilled into my head, but in my daily life I’m still the same person who makes stupid comments, gets misunderstood and more, just like anyone else. Just this saturday at a bar, I was talking to an old friend when his girlfriend came up to us. She told us how she got her ass grabbed and flipped out over it. My friend told her “Wow, you normally don’t get so worked up about something like this.” I responded with something along the lines of “Well, being easy in that sense can be a good thing.” What I tried to say was that it can be a great asset (pun not intended) not to get angry or worked up so easily. What she heard was more along the lines of “being easy and letting guys grope you can be a good thing” so she felt pretty insulted. I felt so stupid at that moment that I started tripping over my own words while trying to explain myself and apologize, something that hardly ever happens with me. There you go, years of training in knowing what to say and I mess up.

    Sure, this was just a minor, stupid (and in hindsight hilarious) thing, but this thing happens to us all the time, in every aspect of our life even if we don’t (want to) realize it. I know perfectly well how calorie counting works when dieting, yet a while back I made the mistake of putting too much peanut butter on my sandwiches, resulting in so many extra calories that I remained stagnant in my fat loss progress. I wish I was exaggerating or joking but I’m not. I’m sure we all have things we think we know, but once we block out the idea that maybe, just maybe, we are mistaken or have to adjust our stance on something, we stop learning. We stop growing. We stop growing up. We set ourselves up for making the same mistake over and over. This could be in terms of sports performance, health, relationships with people, career or anything else. It’s easier to tell ourselves that we know exactly how things are than admitting that we need to grow or mature, but that’s not going to help us. Besides being a somewhat arbitrary trait, being mature or immature suddenly doesn’t seem that relevant anymore, or at the very least it’s infinitely less important than striving for constant growth.

    So what’s more important? Possessing some arbitrarily defined traits and habits like being serious, not watching children’s cartoons and not making perverted jokes? Or having the realization that maturing is a constant process without a specific endpoint, that we don’t know everything and that we would do well to learn and grow?

     

    “You can’t grow without burning. I don’t like to be too comfortable. I like to stay hungry.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger as Joe Santo

     



  • Self defense, victim blaming and feminism

    I believe everyone should have at least a basic degree of skill in self defense, for the obvious reason of defending oneself, a loved one or even a stranger, when in danger. In the Netherlands, in short, self defense is (by law) grounds for not being prosecuted for using violence. This generally happens when you have used the minimum amount of violence necessary to protect your body (physical violence), property (theft/damage) or virtue (rape).

    Over the last few years, a lot of discussions have popped up everywhere about feminism, rape culture, patriarchal societies and so on. One common topic in these discussions is the rape of women, which is ridiculously prevalent in countries like India, but also a big problem in Western, developed (?) countries. In these discussions, you will occasionally find someone stressing the importance of self defense. An almost inevitable response is that of the critic, that telling a woman to take self defense classes is a type of victim blaming. After all, rape is always the rapist’s fault. Discussions about bullying or harassment in general sometimes go in this same direction.

    I’m sure these critics also don’t insure their possessions against theft, because theft is always the thief’s fault.

    Here's your first lesson. Courtesy of Endure and Survive.
    Here’s your first lesson. Courtesy of Endure and Survive.

    Yes. Of course rape is the rapist’s fault. If someone claims that the victim is to blame, for example by saying that the victim asked for it by dressing provocatively, that someone is quite possibly a complete assnozzle and you are probably wasting your time giving this personany attention.

    If the ‘victim’ instigated the ‘rape’, for example by saying something along the lines of “fuck my brains out, you manly stud!”, the ‘victim’ would not be a victim and the ‘rape’ would not be rape. It’s really not that complicated. Really.

    The ridiculous “Self defense advice is victim blaming!” line is usually followed up with “It’s not the victim’s fault, we should educate people to stop raping!”. While true and most likely part of the solution, there is a big problem here. Education is not always enough to instigate change. Point in case: The number of fat dieticians. The number of people smoking. Oh, and the number of rapists too. While not based on solid numbers, my belief is that the number of rapists exceeds the amount of people that don’t know that rape is wrong. You could educate the whole world on rape (or attitudes towards women or whatever), decrease the amount of rapists to some extent (?) and there is still a risk, albeit smaller.

    Does the story above mean that rape is a victim’s fault? No, and I have no idea why some people would think that. It is completely asinine to liken a recommendation for self defense to even insinuating that rape is ever a victim’s fault.

    I do agree that a woman should be able to walk out in the streets at night without reasonable fear that something happens to her. I want kids to be able to hang out with other kids without the fear of being bullied. I want people to be able to do their jobs without them being harassed. But until I can safely assume that these things are the case, I will recommend self defense classes to people.

    Next up, a more in-depth post about self defense where I discuss several martial arts and forms of self defense to help you pick.

     

    “I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense. I call it intelligence.” – Malcolm X

     



  • 9 things I wish I learned as a teenager

    I think everyone experiences this at some point. Maybe at a certain age. Maybe when you’ve had some sort of epiphany in your career, sport or relationship. Maybe it’s not such a big deal or maybe it gets you down completely. That typical “If only I’d known-” thing that occasionally pops up.

    All we can do is apply what we’ve learned and teach others.

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    Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” – Epictetus. Mindsets are contagious. Don’t focus your attention on the naysayers. Surround yourself with people that help you up. Find a combination of inspirators and realists. Find someone who’s been where you are now. A coach, a role model or both. Along the way you will find people to inspire, people who will look up to you. Take them seriously and realize that you may mean the same to them as your coach/role model/inspiration means to you. Lastly, find other athletes/entrepeneurs/succesful people who are around or slightly above your level and train/learn with them. Some will say that sharing your goals and efforts with people will empower and motivate you through accountability. Others will claim that people who boast about their goals and efforts are less likely to succeed. Whichever works for you is fine, but I am under the impression that the former claim is based on people who share their plans with those who are supportive and the latter claim is based on people who share their plans with indifferent, pessimistic and cynical people. The latter can easily poison your mindset.

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    Repetition of words is incredibly powerful. Marketing experts know this and psychologists know this, yet it’s so easy to forget this when when we talk to ourselves in our heads. Telling yourself you are lazy, weak, ugly or stupid often enough will inevitably trigger something in your head that will make you believe it more and more. I’m not into the whole “Look into the mirror and tell yourself that you’re awesome” thing (although it seems to work for some), but simply focusing on achievements and goals rather than wallowing in self pity for any perceived flaw can go a long way.

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    For that same reason, considering people’s criticism and making it work for you yet not against you is incredibly important. I’ve written a more in-depth article on that here. Basically, you discard people’s unproductive bitching but take genuine criticism to heart to improve yourself.

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    Engaging in discussion can be an enormous waste of energy. Many people are more concerned with being heard than actually having a productive discussion. They don’t ‘listen’, they wait for their turn to speak. Or they just speak. Others are offended or get emotional too easily to have a productive discussion with. Be mindful of where you invest your energy.

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    You can take away the meaning of ‘sorry’ by following it up with ‘but-‘.

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    Hot picture to break up wall of text and refresh attention. It's Nicci Fett, an amazing cosplayer who does the sickest tricks with make up, armor building and more. Show her some love at www.facebook.com/ErrorFett .
    Hot picture to break up wall of text and refresh attention. It’s Nicci Fett, an amazing cosplayer who does the sickest tricks with make up, armor building and more. Show her some love at www.facebook.com/ErrorFett.

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    Consistency, focus and hard work are essential in anything where you want to achieve a lot, whether that’s strength training, career or something else. Don’t try to rely on luck since it can’t be measured or influenced. Don’t try to rely on “that trick that worked before”. Circumstances change, plans change, but consistency, focus and hard work will always be valuable assets in achieving your goals.

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    Adapting to your environment in terms of behavior or looks does not necessarily make you a faker nor does it make you an opportunist. Well, maybe a bit of an opportunist. Social interaction is a game that is played all the time, with or without your consent and you can’t really bend the rules. You can, however, learn to properly play the game while staying true to yourself.

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    Momentum of continuous action fuels motivation, while procrastination kills motivation” No idea where I first read this. I’ve had this quote saved for a long time apparently. This point is best illustrated through examples.

    Example 1: It’s Saturday morning. You wake up early, get dressed, drink a cup of coffee, head to the gym for a quick workout and go back home to shower and eat a good meal, all according to plan. You feel good about yourself for waking up early and training hard. You do a few small but important tasks you had planned. The tasks make you snowball into a productive groove, you feel even better and within no time, most of your to-do list is finished and it’s only lunch time.

    Example 2: It’s Saturday morning. You sleep in. You drink a cup of coffee. You want to hit the gym but realize you have some small tasks to do for today. You browse Facebook for a few minutes while thinking what you should do first. Fuck, all those hot cleavage pictures of funny cats have taken half an hour of your time. You should probably get to those tasks, but you’re starting to get hungry. You eat. You start getting frustrated so the first task you started takes longer than it really should. You finish your first task around lunch and realize that you’re not sure if you’ll make it to the gym today. What a shitty day. Fuck it. I’ll go and do something fun. I still have Sunday to do the rest of my stuff. and try again tomorrow.

    There you go. Momentum breeds momentum. Achievement breeds self confidence. These two principles reinforce each other.

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    Perceived shortcomings and failing to meet your own standards, promises and plans are great triggers for a depressed state of mind. Take your own words seriously and don’t take promises lightly. Otherwise you will become unreliable to others (which is bad for relationships) and to yourself (which will mess up your self esteem and perceived potential).

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    “Of course some will be outraged that I insinuate that, but all you have to do is ask yourself, when is the last time you believed that the reason you aren’t where you want to be in your life, or your training is because you simply haven’t done the things to earn that yet?” – Paul Carter



  • Strong women, part 2: Being skinny

    So I came across this image and put a big, red cross of frustration through it.

     

     

    Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
    Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

     

    Although I’m all for people deciding for themselves what they should do with their bodies, promoting a specific ‘perfect body’ to people (especially to young girls) irks me. It’s no secret that there are countless people, mostly young girls, with eating disorders and although we love blaming commercials, there are a lot of communities that -in varying degrees- will tell you that thinner = prettier. We don’t even need the commercials to tell us that we need to be skinny anymore, we now have fucking pro-ana websites giving us advice on how to get skinny.

    Even the recent “strong, not skinny” movement, that I originally supported, seems to have caused a slew of women to become semi-orthorexic variations of the original “thinner=prettier” girls. They basically want to be really thin, but with 15lbs of
    extra muscle. In terms of health, this may seem like progress but it’s not that black and white. Besides the risk of replacing one eating disorder with another (there’s quite a bunch of fitness models with a history of wrecking their bodies with eating disorders and messed up dieting), the focus still tends to be on the way a woman looks. That makes little sense if you’re saying that “strong beats skinny everytime.”

    Sports performance at a modest level correlates with health, vitality, a better quality of life, longevity, higher self esteem and a better, overall feeling of well being. Physical development can offer us so much in terms of physical and mental
    health, yet we’d rather focus on visible collarbones. Or more recently, visible collarbones and bigger biceps.

    Don’t get me wrong, wanting to look good is absolutely fine, but I do believe that it’s good to assess your priorities and the reasoning behind them. There is a difference between trying to look a certain way because that’s what everyone wants to see, or trying to look a certain way because that’s what you want to be. The former may result in eating disorders and insecurity. The latter may result in a lifelong journey to be better and stronger, where you can actually enjoy every step forward instead of chasing the carrot on a stick.

    Frankly, I’d rather see my body as the result of taking good care of my body and loving myself, rather than hating what I see and desperately trying to adhere to some arbitrary ‘perfect body’ ideal. Then again, I’m not a young girl.

    The ‘perfect body’ of a woman is not the skinny, fat or muscular one. It’s the one well taken care of and loved – especially by herself.

     

    “This makes me feel special.  I will not always be the best at everything in life but I will always be the Hardest Worker.   My advice – more people should spend less time complaining and comparing themselves to others and more time working!  My satisfaction is far more related to the effort that I put forth versus the end result.  The end result is often out of my control, my effort on a daily basis is not.” – Gillian Ward Mounsey. A woman who has outclassed many men in her life through sheer, hard work. Read her story here.

     



  • Looks matter

    It’s not nice to judge people on their looks. If you do, you’re shallow. Mean. You “don’t know what’s important”. If the world were perfect with rainbow-farting unicorns and fluffy kittens influencing us rather than psychological and sociological facts no one wants to hear, then yes, perhaps looks wouldn’t matter.

    The biggest part of my life, I haven’t been particularly concerned with my looks. The exception might have been around 4 years ago when I considered bodybuilding… Which lasted for only a few months. I still have no sense of style, I have a beard because of the assocation with manliness and not because I consider it a fucking fashion accessory, and when I was 15 I thought my dad was being stupid when he recommended against letting my hair grow long because of what other people might think.

    I don’t blame my 15 year old self for wanting to be too cool to care, nor do I blame myself for naively spouting things like “looks are not important, it’s what’s inside that counts” while having long hair, wearing a leather jacket and studded bracelets with spikes because “my clothes are how I express myself”. The first time I really thought about the subject was when I just turned 18. In sociology class, I made a remark about how it was stupid to judge people based on their looks and that I don’t do that sort of thing. The professor said that it was silly to think that way, because everyone does it. “Stupid, narrow-minded adult sheep, conditioned by society!” is what went through my head, but it’s basic psychology to have associations with everything you experience with a person, their looks generally being the first thing. Go look up any of the 342424534524362 studies that conclude that many people, for example, associate obesity with laziness and muscularity with dominance.

    Over time, I finally realized that when I wanted a job or get on someone’s good side with a first impression, I had to be mindful of how I presented myself. It took time for me to realize the impact that my looks had on someone else, both for business reasons and for personal reasons. I never gave it too much thought and besides putting on nice shoes and a dress shirt when I went job hunting besides college, I still didn’t care that much.

     

    "Wow, out of the 20 applicants, that 15 year old, fat goth kid looks most suitable to work at this store." - No employer ever
    “Wow, out of the 20 applicants, that 15 year old, fat goth kid looks most suitable to work at this store.” – No employer ever

     

    A while back, on the website Bold and Determined, I came across an article where the importance of being presentable was highlighted. And it mostly summed up my current attitude towards my own looks. ‘Pride’ is no longer a dirty word to me when it comes to looks and I don’t give a fuck if someone calls me vain or arrogant – It beats dirty and badly taken care of. I also feel better and more motivated to work harder if I take a shower and wear something decent instead of sticking to a lazy outfit. Fun fact: people actually perceive themselves differently depending on what they wear. I’m not just talking about feeling prettier because you’re wearing those new shoes, the way you look actually influences your self esteem. (And vice versa, by the way.)

    If I have a business meeting or something and will meet someone new, I will make sure to look my best. If I had to deal with some fancy people for a business deal, I’d wear that pretty dress shirt and those neat shoes and make sure my beard was trimmed neatly. All to give a good first impression to help get what I want. Looking like a bum may certainly make people less inclined to work with me than looking fit, strong, clean and well taken care of. (Don’t you dare bring up the fact that I’m too lazy and uninterested to diet down to decent body fat levels to look better!) You may think it’s stupid that your looks have such an impact on how people perceive you, but it’s a cold, hard fact and you’re naive if you think it doesn’t go for you. Science has shown this again and again.

    So far for the business side, which I realized a long time ago and what my dad was afraid of with me as a teenager. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a guy having long hair, it’s the total picture of looking like you can’t take care of yourself (and my hair did look a bit like a a black Afghan Hound had died on my head) which can ruin people’s image of you. But there’s another side that didn’t come up until a few years ago, and which I didn’t become fully aware of until I read that article on Bold & Determined. If I have a girlfriend I want her to be turned on by both my looks and my personality. Also, I don’t want her to be embarassed when she shows a picture of me to her friends and they go “Oh… Uh… That’s nice, I guess. As long as he’s sweet.” If I walk through town with my mom, I’d feel like I’d be shaming her if I looked like a vagrant. I don’t care that much of the majority of people find me unattractive, but I’d rather have my mom be proud when people think “Wow, that woman has a good looking son!” than have my mom be sad or angry because people go “Why is that woman walking around with a bum like that?”

    There’s much more to wanting to look presentable than being vain or insecure (which is what I used to accuse people of when I was 15). Oh yes, I still believe that my looks are part of the way I express myself. I take pride in who I am and I want my exterior to match my interior. For every reason mentioned before, if I find out that there is a part of me that people react positively to (both in terms of looks and personality, actually) I will use it, emphasize it or even show it off.

     

    Hugh Jackman
    Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jackman’s broner-inducing looks have had absolutely no bearing on his popularity.

     

    All this may sound like an essay in favor of judging people based on their appearance – It’s not. If you don’t like the way someone looks, that’s not a reason to be a dick. I’m trying to point out that people will do this to you, that you should be aware of it and that you can’t change how everyone thinks just like that. How you deal with other people and their appearances is a different story, since you CAN influence how you think. Be conscious of the associations you have with people’s looks and consider how to act on it. The association in your head doesn’t have to be important, how you act upon it can be. You may associate the tattoo-covered man at the bus stop with criminals, but he may not be. So shouldn’t you just greet him all the same when you encounter him? You may associate the tired looking man in dirty clothes buying beer at the store with homeless alcoholics, but he may just as well be returning home from a day of heavy, physical labour. Shouldn’t you just let him be instead of giving him condescending looks?

    These examples are really obvious, but this whole concept is present in many subtle ways around us. Be mindful of the game and know how to play it.

     

    “What do you mean ‘You can’t eat from a pretty plate’ ? Of course you can eat from a pretty plate, and when you’re done eating, you have something nice to look at.” – Theo Maassen (Dutch comedian), criticizing a well known adage that suggests that looks aren’t important.

     



  • Negativity – Avoid or accept?

    I’ve talked about avoiding negativity -more specifically, ‘black holes’–  before, in several ways. Unbridled negativity is paralyzing. Deprecating yourself (or getting bashed on repeatedly by someone else) can set up a barrier between what you are and what you can be: a better, happier, stronger version of yourself. This train of thought has led some people to adopt a ‘cast out anyone who disagrees/criticizes’ mentality. This is really fucking stupid and has nothing to do with the ‘black holes’ I wrote about before. It has nothing to do with people who limit your growth, quite the contrary. Take a look at this picture I found on the Facebook page of Inspirational Cosmic Crystal Woo Energy and Healing Vibrations. (Yes, the page is as hilarious as it sounds.)

     

    Avoiding negativity? Or just taking the easy route to feel better about yourself?
    Avoiding negativity? Or just taking the easy route to feel better about yourself?

     

    Scepticism and criticism, even if they feel like ‘negativity’, can be useful when they are constructive, when they can be used emotionally or practically as a catalyst for the process you’re in, regardless whether it’s career, relationship or sports related.

    An ’emotional catalyst’ in this sense could be a negative emotion like guilt or anger to fuel your otherwise waning discipline. It could the feeling that you’re not working hard enough, after someone told you to do something you should be doing but aren’t. It could be a frustration that you let out to push yourself a little harder in the gym.

    If these are negative emotions, there’s a drawback. It can work wonders, or it can come back to haunt you. If someone tells you that you did something wrong and you feel guilty about it, that could be motivation to do better next time… But what if you fail again? Will it empower you or set you back? Guilt is generally not a productive emotion, unless perhaps you have wronged someone and there is a need to make amends, compensate someone or heal someone from the wound you inflicted. 

    Emotional catalysts caused by criticism CAN be constructive, but they can be harmful as well. Anger, guilt and fear (just like infatuation, a competitive state of mind or a sense of duty) can fuel progress or they can eat away at you and tear down everything you’ve carefully built up. Be mindful of this.

    A ‘practical catalyst’ is less complex. If I do a squat but I lean forward too much, my coach might tell me to drive through the heels, flex my abs harder, keep my chest up, push my hips forward or simply to stay more upright. That is constructive criticism with a practical application to improve myself. If a person tells me that I am really hypocritical because I go back on my word all the time when I always preach about the importance of honour, reliability and credibility, I’ll be happy to accept that criticism. The person is helping me by reminding me that I am doing something that is not fitting for the type of person I want to be.

    There is no need to always do whatever well intentioned people advise you, there’s no need to swallow all the bitterness that the critics shoot at you, but it is good to listen and assess at times.

    Don’t shut out all criticism or feedback that might be considered ‘negativity’. Realize when it is appropriate to accept and handle criticism like an adult with the intention to improve, and when to tell someone to fuck off.
    “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” – Winston Churchill

     

     



  • Coelho, his non-inspirational stuff and more practical alternatives

    I like motivational quotes, I really do. Some of them are really profound, insightful or even give practical pointers. Others, however, just weird me out. The latter category is awfully prevalent on social media.

    Some people love quoting Paulo Coelho’s pseudo-philosophical book ‘The Alchemist’. I read it and, despite a few interesting parts, was mostly really bored with it. One line from the book is quoted so much that it started to bother me a little though. The statement that “if you really want something, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it”.

    That seems odd to me. Does that mean that every starving kid in the world just doesn’t want to be fed badly enough? Isn’t it kind of a slap to the face of every person who has lost someone they loved, implying that perhaps they didn’t want their loved ones to live badly enough? How the hell does that quote even work? What happens if two people want the opposite thing? The person with more ‘want’ gets his way?

     

    Here's a profound statement for every manly man.
    More profound than The Alchemist.

     

    Am I too stupid to understand his work or is some of it really just a bunch of rah-rah fluff to make anxious, depressed and insecure people feel better about themselves?

    I’ll stick to Timothy Ferris’s stance on the matter;
    “For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”

    If you want to read stuff that I consider both inspirational as well as realistic, go read ‘Total Recall’, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger who used hard work and an inquenchable desire for success to garner numerous achievements in strength sports, bodybuilding, business, acting AND politics.

    Or try Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” about a guy who commits suicide after not being able to cope with lost love and the absurdity of life. You might cry over this one – I almost did. This book was strangely comforting, especially realizing that if you can relate to the main character’s feelings, you’re not alone.

    I can also recommend Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek, where I got the above quote from. It’s not so much about actually achieving a 4-hour work week as it is about creating both the right mindset and the right circumstances (and smart marketing) to live the life you want.

     

    More practical than The Alchemist.
    More practical than The Alchemist.

     

     



  • Science based thinking – Truth or narrow-mindedness?

    Some will say that everything we do in the world of sports (or nutrition, medicine and more) has to be evidence based and supported by valid, large scale research. Others will say “fuck studies, personal experience says way more”. Although the latter train of thought is understandable (and I tend to lean towards it at times), there is one problem with it that many people don’t seem to understand. You cannot just extrapolate anecdotal ‘evidence’ to a group of people.

    Example:
    Jack says “I started losing weight when I started eating lots of strawberries.” and as a result, starts telling people who want to lose weight that they should eat truckloads of strawberries. Other people start eating lots of strawberries but they don’t lose weight at all.

    What went wrong here? Two things happened at the same time and Jack gave a wrong interpretation to it. What Jack failed to understand was that the strawberries didn’t cause any weight loss – the fact that he substituted strawberries for calorie-dense snacks like cupcakes and peanut butter sandwiches caused weight loss. He created a shortage of calories without realizing it. This is why scientific principles are important, to gather data and attach proper conclusions to it. If Jack wanted to give people proper advice, he would have done well to ask himself a few things like;

    • How does weight loss work?
    • Have there been other people that lost weight by eating strawberries?
    • What weight loss related mechanism could be influenced by eating strawberries?
    • What other factors could have caused my weight loss?
    • Etc.

    And there would be some testing, followed by larger scale testing, and at some point the conclusion would be drawn that ‘substituting low-calorie foods for calorie-dense foods will lower caloric intake, which may lead to a caloric deficit, which in turn will lead to weight loss’.

    That is why science is important, even though Jack’s results and methods are fine – for his particular situation.

     

    WHAT THE FUCK SCIENCE
    WHAT THE FUCK SCIENCE

     

    “But science is skewed, invalid, doesn’t take factor X into account, is corrupted, isn’t applicable to real life, blahblah.”
    Many people fail to understand that ‘science’ is not just some study. It’s a concept with a bunch of principles to get as close to the truth as we possibly can – even if it’s just an approximation of the truth and even if it’s ever changing because of new research methods or bigger, better studies. It’s true that one study may not be applicable to real life, another might be biased because of corporate funding and another might not take important factors into account. That is the reason why scientists have to keep each other in check, every study must be placed in the proper context and we always need a healthy dose of both scepticism and open-mindedness. We also need to stab internet journalists who take studies or statements out of context and try to be sensational by claiming that ‘chocolate is superfood’ and ‘high protein diets cause cancer’. They’re really not helping science nor the layperson trying to learn more about a certain subject.

    I see sort of an anti-science stance among many people who believe that ‘natural is better’ and ‘we should do everything like we did at the dawn of mankind’ (back when we didn’t grow older than 35), despite the fact that natural is not a synonym for good/bad/healthy/unhealthy or whatever. This is slightly disturbing because these people might be spreading (mis)information that is potentially harmful. One example would be that people refuse to have their kids vaccinated, which has lead to some outbreaks of diseases that are otherwise hardly present in Western countries. People seem to forget that we are dependent on science -which could be considered ‘unnatural’ I guess- for a better understanding of everything in this world, and through that, technological progress. Medicine, aerodynamics, psychology and sports performance are just a few of many fields where we have progressed greatly through science.

    However, like I said before, I tend to lean to ‘what works for a person’. I just don’t recommend things that are unsupported by science to clients or other people unless I explicitly state that it’s unsupported by science but that it MAY offer some benefits. If something works for me, I’ll do it despite what research says, even if it’s just a placebo effect, even if I’m just misinterpreting some mechanism behind the thing I do and even if the results are coming from a behavioral aspect rather than a physiological one. Still, in these matters I am cautious with what I recommend to others.

    A few examples:

    I occasionally use tiger balm when my muscles are tight or sore. It has been suggested that tiger balm doesn’t do much by itself, but that the massaging motion used when applying tiger balm is the thing that helps blood flow and relaxation. I frankly have no idea, but I was raised with the idea of using tiger balm or shiling oil whenever something hurts (Asian dad, that’s why) so as long as it feels good, I’ll do it.

    When a common cold is starting, supposedly you can take a large dose of a zinc supplement and the symptoms will be less severe than normally. Some research has been done on this but it wasn’t very conclusive and it leaned towards ‘stop wasting your time with supplements and just be sick’. I did try it however (120-200mg of zinc spread out over two days, whereas I weigh 85kg/190lbs to 95kg/210 lbs) when my throat was sore a long time ago and I felt fine after half a day, contrary to normal colds where I would have a sore throat for 1-4 days followed by a few days of having a stuffy nose. A sore throat is always the first sign of common cold with me so whenever I feel it coming, I take a load of zinc and it seems to work everytime. I do not know if that is coincidence or there is another factor at play that I don’t know of, so I wouldn’t recommend this as some magical cure for the common cold or whatever, but I’ll use this trick myself anyway and I’ll tell people about it, at the same time recommending that they stay sceptical.

     

    Me doing a back bridge. Disclaimer: Any suspicious shape or bulge is solely the result of me wearing comfortable pants. I don't get excited over doing a back bridge.
    Me doing a back bridge. Disclaimer: Any suspicious shape or bulge is solely the result of me wearing remarkably comfortable pants. I don’t get excited over doing a back bridge.

     

    As far as I know, the back bridge is not a very common exercise in strength training. Some calisthenics coaches like Paul Wade and Al Kavadlo swear by it, but otherwise it’s usually considered an advanced gymnastics exercise with little use outside of gymnastics. I’ve never heard of any decent science to back up any benefits of the back bridge either. A few years ago, I taught myself the back bridge out of curiosity and was amazed at how nice it felt. It was a strange sort of exertion and relaxation at the same time and my back always felt awesome afterwards. I recently read up a bit on breathing exercises for relaxation through Elliot Hulse who wrote a lot on bio-energetics and other weird stuff, and I decided to mess around with it a bit. Long story short: Back bridges with long, deep breaths feel amazing. Are there legit risks involved in back bridges? Yes, so don’t be an idiot. Read up on it and decide for yourself whether you should be doing them or not.

    So should we disregard personal experience in favor of science? Hell no. Nor should we bash on science just because we’re too proud to admit that we might be proved wrong by science. I believe both have their place, and common sense is a powerful tool in using both to your advantage.

    If only common sense were a little more common.

     

     “Science knows it doesn’t know everything; otherwise, it’d stop. But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.” – Dara Ó Briain

     



  • Love, nightmares and hardcore athletes

    I’ve been having frequent nightmares for the last ten years or so, up to the point that they really mess with my head at times. I had one of those last night. Long story short; I hurt people and they left me. My best friend was there and despite me being mean to her, she still wanted to stick with me. It ended with me going into an uncontrollable rage, my best friend wondering why it happened and my mother answering: “He wants the world to be fair, but it isn’t and he can’t cope with that.”

    I know it’s really cool to spam Facebook and Instagram with inspirational, hardcore images and quotes about sacrifice and pain, all for the sake of achieving results in the gym, but despite me being a competitive athlete, I don’t consider myself ‘hardcore’ or anything like that. It’s true that I always say how much I want to prioritize my training, up to the point that when me and my girlfriend got together 5 weeks ago, my best friend lectured me about not messing up my training just so I could spend more time with my girlfriend. I laughed, of course I wouldn’t. When I was in the car with my weightlifting team and mentioned that I had a new girlfriend, they laughed and quoted another weightlifter who apparently said that “it was better not to have a girlfriend, since women just get in the way of your career anyway”. Obviously, I laughed again and said that it wouldn’t be an issue with me.

     

    Why this image was called "fitness inspirational quote" is beyond me. But yeah, appeal to someone's insecurity over a pretty image and I'm sure you'll be popular on the internet.
    Why this image was called “fitness inspirational quote” is beyond me. But yeah, appeal to someone’s insecurity over a pretty image and I’m sure you’ll be popular on the internet.

     

    Some people, usually not athletes, think that I’m a hardcore athlete because I will adapt my nutrition to specific goals, am more concerned with winning competitions than preventing injuries and will sometimes travel for hours or skip a party just so I can properly train. Recently I’ve been trying to make plans for the coming years on how to ensure my progress in lifting, and that might take money, energy and time that I can’t invest anywhere else.

    My thoughts drifted to the subject occasionally over the last few weeks, thinking about how far I wanted to go for my lifting career, and then two things happened. I saw the movie ‘The fault in our stars’ yesterday (watch it, trust me, it’s pretty intense and thought provoking) and I had the nightmare I mentioned. Not long after I woke up, I confirmed that my girlfriend was in fact there, realized that I had not done anything excruciatingly douchebaggy to my best friend, stood on the balcony, put on some music on my phone and stood there for… Probably close to an hour. There’s this cheesy saying that goes “Live everyday like it’s your last”. I always thought it was a silly saying, but after seeing ‘The fault in our stars’, where a teenage girl is dying from cancer, a question popped into my head. What if I heard today that I’d be dead tomorrow? Would I go to the gym to try and set a personal record while I still could or would I go to my parents instead, to tell them how proud I am to be their son? Would I worry about the amount of body fat I carry or would I be more concerned that perhaps I never made clear to my best friend that I appreciate her tenacity in trying to keep me from being a fucking idiot? Would I be frustrated over that lift I missed at my last competition that I can never re-do or would I be sad that I feel so blessed with having people like my girlfriend and my friends in my life but that I possibly never expressed it to them enough? Would I spend time on that day trying to impress as many people as I could with the weight I can lift overhead or would I spend that time hugging my little siblings and telling them to become go-getters and fight to make their lives as awesome as possible?

     

    The best thing about the movie was that at some point I heard more people crying in the movie theater than when I first saw The Lion King and Mufasa died. The difference being that the average age in the movie theater was 20 years higher now.
    The best thing about ‘The Fault in our stars’ was that at some point I heard more people crying in the movie theater than when I first saw The Lion King and Mufasa died. The difference being that the average age in the movie theater was 20 years higher now.

     

    I haven’t gotten a call from the man upstairs and as far as I know, I am in good health, so I’ll just keep on lifting and doing things I’m passionate about, but I have to remind myself that nothing is worth the regret I might feel if I choose to invest too much in lifting and too little in the people I care about.

    The world isn’t fair, it really isn’t. You get fucked over, people die, you hurt those you love and other shitty things will happen. There will probably be times where you have to be selfish and focus on matters at hand rather than on the people around you too much, but you better make up for lost time sooner or later. Telling people around you that you care, or even better, expressing it through your actions, can mean the world to others. Decide for yourself how much time and effort you are willing to spend on your sixpack or squat when there are people who would love just a bit of your time.

    This is not a recommendation to slack on your passions, far from it. It’s a reminder to dedicate part of your life to loving people and through that, becoming a better and happier person.

     

    “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” – Augustus Waters in ‘The fault in our stars’

     

     



  • 8 things I’ve learned in the first half of 2014

    1 – Apologizing for offending someone can be a blow to your own ego and I don’t believe offending someone is always a reason to apologize in the first place. That doesn’t mean that pride and stubbornness should prevent you from apologizing though. Besides the effect on relationships with others, apologizing for doing something that’s not congruent with what you stand for, can really make you feel better about yourself.

    2 – I used to have some back issues, that went away for the most part when I started lifting and moving around properly, but it plays up once in a while. I have recently concluded that my back has never, ever felt as good as after doing certain exercises – romanian deadlifts and incline batwings.

     

    Incline batwing. Basically a two-armed dumbbell row on an incline bench with extra focus on scapular protraction and retraction.

     

    3 – You always know less than you think you do. Keep learning.

    4 – About 80-90% of women have cellulite. Many of those women are troubled by this. In 26 years time, despite discussing women, their personalities and their looks with other men extensively (and of course being overly judgmental and sexist when doing so) and having heard men complain about women’s saggy boobs, lack of skill in bed, excessive nagging or unattractive faces… I have never, ever heard a man complain about a woman’s cellulite. Draw your own conclusions, ladies. (The ones that make you worry less about your cellulite and make you more secure about yourself, not the ones that make you insecure about your boobs or skills, please.)

     

    5 – Krista Bunni is utterly fascinating.

     

    6 – If you think you know yourself well and you have a Sartre-esque view on life where you trust that your good intentions will make everything fall into the right place, you are delusional and completely oblivious to the fact that the relationship between your thoughts and actions may be interpreted completely different by other people, thus messing with how people view you. Example: You always try to help people (behavior) because you want people to be happy (intention), yet people find you annoying as fuck because you keep trying to meddle in other people’s affairs. Of course, you say that it’s not your problem and that those people are just being ungrateful – they just don’t know/understand you. Even if it’s true, you can still mess up relationships this way.

    7 – Tiger balm and ballsacks don’t go well together. Trust me on this.

    8 – The method I use to deal with (and usually disregard) gossip and rumours is apparently pretty old. Greek wiseguy Epictetus already gave advice about it a very long time ago: “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.’”

     

    “Uncommon at best is he who hath not on occasion idled his time away on Youporn when duty required his full attention instead.” – William Shakespeare