“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I said.
I’d just got done doing a set of pull-ups, somewhere between ten and fifteen.
Another guy at the gym approaches me for weightlifting advice.
“Here’s the thing. I want to get better at pull-ups, but I’m stuck. I’m only able to do three or four. Any tips?”
I honestly tried to think of some advanced answer, some golden nugget of wisdom, but I said:
You gotta do more pull-ups.
Were there some other exercises he could do that would help him do more pull-ups? Sure, but none of them would beat the act of trying to do more pull-ups.
He’d be stuck at three or four for a while. There’d be a breakthrough day where he banged out six or seven. Fast forward a year and he’d probably be able to do them in his sleep.
He knew that before he asked. He knew the same way aspiring writers know the answer to how to get good at writing, yet choose to ‘pick my brain’ instead. it happens a lot. And my answer is always the same.
Write your ass off, every day, for years at a time, and you’ll get good.
Yes, there are a bunch of writing techniques you can use to improve your style, but they’re useless without actually writing and I know that the lack of writing is their issue, not the lack of techniques in their repertoire.
They know that, too. You know the answer to getting good at whatever you want to get good at, but you look for tricks, secrets, magic answers, why?
Overcomplicating the process gives you an out. When what you need to do is simple, it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re just not doing it. But, if the process is complicated, you can justify why you’re not trying. Overcomplicating things also allows you to waste time planning.
You need to create plans to be successful. You can’t just start a business without knowing what product you’re going to sell or who you’re going to sell it to. You’re more efficient with your fitness if you know what workouts you’re going to do each day and what you’re supposed to eat. Planning, to an extent, is necessary.
But nine times out of ten, we use planning as an act of mental masturbation. It feels like you’re doing something when you’re not. In truth, your plans should lead to actions you can repeat over and over again.
You have your business plan and now you have to push your product daily to get sales. You have a loose idea of what you want to write about so you write every day. The best plans cover the core areas of what you need to do and that’s it. You’ll learn everything else along the way.
But, alas, we overcomplicate for one main reason above all.
It’s hard to admit the fact that you could have a much better life if you just did the work. Everything you want in life is right in front of you if you just executed, but you won’t. You’re wasting away with the simple answers right in front of your god damn face. Ouch.
What to do?
I already told you what to do.
I can’t stand behind you with my finger overlapping yours and pull the trigger for you.
Best advice I have: find a way to get into the act of what you’re doing as soon as possible with as little resistance as possible. You write a loose outline of your article, set a timer, open the document, and start clacking your fingers away.
I can’t make you practice, but I can tell you what will happen if you do.
I started writing almost seven years ago at this point. It’s kind of crazy to think of all the skills I’ve amassed over the years. Not only that, but all of the things I developed an intuitive and automatic ability to do.
I remember the first time I tried to set up a website. Horrible experience. Now I can maneuver through WordPress without thinking. I have a bunch of little rhetorical tricks I use in my writing. People always ask me where my voice comes from. I don’t know exactly where it comes from.
It just emerged overtime after lots of practice.
The evolution of my style wasn’t conscious. I learned the same basic blogging techniques a bunch of others have learned. There are people who’ve studied underneath the same mentors as me who have totally different styles.
You just need a basic framework to learn from and practice carries you the rest of the way. As hard as everything seems to you right now, it won’t be like that forever. There will be times where every day you’re working on getting good at something will feel painful and awkward, but eventually, you’ll be silky smooth.
No amount of jumping exercises will make me be able to leap like LeBron James, but outside of talents that require superhuman genetics or intelligence, everything is learnable. The further away the skill is from your natural talent base, the harder you’ll have to work, but you can still close the gap.
I study strength training, and I follow a guy named Mark Rippetoe who teaches people how to get big and lift heavy. People who are naturally thin, ectomorphs, often complain to him that they can’t get bigger.
He tells them to drink a gallon of whole milk every day along with lifting heavy five times a week. It’s simple, outlandish, yet effective. Given the right diet and fitness tweaks, you can create a crazy strong body.
I bring up bodybuilding because everything in life is like bodybuilding.
If you want to get motivated, read Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger — an autobiography about how created an amazing life by ‘getting his reps in.’
He wanted to be a world champion Body Builder, so he lifted like crazy, daily, for years, and became the world champion.
He wanted to be rich, so he decided to learn real estate. He browsed local properties every day. Looked at local listings every single day. He sought out experts in his area and talked to them constantly. He built a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio.
He wanted to be an actor so he took acting classes and worked on his craft constantly. There was a niche, action films, in movies for huge dudes that didn’t require a ton of acting talent. He got good enough act acting to land major roles and became the highest-paid actor in the world with the release of Terminator 2.
A young poor kid in Austria stumbled on a body-building magazine one day and told himself that if he did enough reps, he could get what he wanted. He did.
I always go back to his simple philosophy, the one I’ve just shared with you.
Before you look for more information, do the reps.
Before you want to make excuses about how hard the process is, do the reps.
When you’re wondering why you don’t have the life you want, think about the truth behind whatever it takes to get what you want, and do the fucking reps.