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Reps and Sets

I recently read an article about a book written by Arnold Schwarznegger called "Total Recall."  It talks about how Arnold turned his mind into a resolution fulfillment machine.   The idea is very similar to what we talk about at Grit.org in the fact that we have the capability to do and be whatever we choose.  We either make the choice to pursue our passions with vigor, or we form bad habits and make excuses later on why we didn't do or be what we dreamed about. Arnold is a man who literally fulfilled his whole checklist of dreams:

  • Immigrate to America

  • Move to California

  • Become Mr. Olympia Bodybuilder

  • Make A Million Dollars

  • Become the #1 Actor in the world

  • Get Elected for Governor of California

His secret? A little seed planted deep in his mind at 5 years old. His dad would make him do 1 or 2 sets of 5 push-ups to earn the right to eat breakfast or the right to play with his toys. His parents used this strategy to instill the concept that if Arnold wanted some reward he had to earn it through repetitions. He calls it "Reps & Sets": To get what you want, you practice one thing over and over until you get good at. Simple. Arnold used this concept of "Reps & Sets" for the rest of his life. To get more muscles than anyone he decided to just do more repetitions - more practice than anyone else. At one point he was working out 6 hours a day. He would do 500 sit-ups or 1000 calf raises a day. Ridiculous but effective. By age 25 he was the #1 bodybuilder of all time. Next he decided he wanted to become a millionaire before age 30 (he wasn't an actor yet). What did he do? Same thing, reps and sets. He just went out and practiced real estate until he had made his first million.  He would spend 8 hours a day walking the streets of Santa Monica looking at houses, apartment buildings, condos and talking to realtors and investors until he knew everything inside and out. He just out practiced everyone - out hustled them. He was a work horse. Next he wanted to become a Hollywood star. But his foreign accent was in the way. So he practiced with a speech coach 7 hours a day until he had toned down the accent. Eventually he made $29.5 million for Terminator 2, the highest ever at the time. Then at 40, he used reps and sets in politics despite the fact he started out knowing very little. That didn't deter him. He just spent 5 or 10 hours a day learning from a cabinet of political advisers until he felt confident he could govern the largest state in the USA. So his mentality was that if you want to get what you want out of life, then you have to put in more hours of practice and do more 'reps and sets.' It worked every time for Arnold.  Ignore all the books and articles falsely teaching you that you can just skip the hard work of practice.  It's a lie we all have fallen for at one time or another. Remember in most things there simply are no shortcuts. This weekend both of my boys football teams started the tournament for flag football.  As a coach for both of their teams and only getting about 3 hours per week to coach the kids, my job in practice is to get as many 'reps and sets' of our plays so that during the game they can execute them correctly.  It can be a challenge keeping a 6-12 year old completely engaged, but it makes for a great learning experience when they get to enjoy the spoils of hard work like the feeling of throwing or catching a touchdown pass.  And it capped off a great weekend when my wife and I took the boys to the Jaguars game and watched professional athletes that have perfected the 'reps and sets' of their craft.  So stop thinking about how much work it will take to live out your dreams - just jump in and the next thing you know you will have achieved them. Remember, the process of practicing can be fun. It's not all about finishing. It's like John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." Go hit the gym today, learn Russian, start a new internet business. Or really go all out and do all 3 of these at once. Find something super hard like learning calculus and do it just for fun to start rewiring your mind to love the 'burn'. Strike up a passionate affair with the challenging pain of mastering new skills. Remember the pain is temporary and the rewards for high skill levels in difficult fields are amazing.

The reward is what Socrates called 'The Good Life'. You will find what everyone wants: Health, Wealth, Love, & Higher Purpose.

Pictured below:  My family at the Jaguars game today (note:  word of caution on buying a jaguar jersey.  none of my boys' jerseys from last season are for a player still on the team....)


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