Are you feeling great today?

It doesn’t matter if you feel great. It matters that you have a routine.

You can do all the right things — eat well, sleep well, and train well — and on the day of competition you wake up and you don’t feel great. But it’s still just a feeling, a feeling you might be able to live with for a while.

Routines diminish the need to feel great.

This point gets hammered into track and field athletes all the time, and it gets hammered into swimmers and divers all the time. They don’t get the luxury of hiding behind teammates if they’re having a bad day. Their scores are there for everyone to see, with nobody else to blame.

So they do the same routine, day after day, the same way every time. It becomes a buffer against feelings.

You have to write your thesis, your capstone, do applications for graduate school, or study for your final exam. If you’re feeling great that day you’ll get them done.

If you have a routine, you’ll get them done regardless.


Is your complaint a want or a need?

The two most common complaints on a college campus are:

  1. There’s not enough parking.
  2. The food isn’t good enough.

University administrators tend to ignore these complaints, for good reason. Why?

  1. There’s actually plenty of parking, but some spots aren’t as close as we’d prefer. We’re just complaining about a five-minute walk.
  2. The food isn’t world-class, but it’s certainly good enough. When colleges invest in expensive food, they don’t invest in something else. When that something else is money for needy students, it becomes a social justice issue. Malcolm Gladwell recently took Bowdoin to task on this.

Most of our complaints are wants, disguised as needs. They warrant a conversation, they warrant understanding, but they probably don’t warrant significant action, because they’re not significant in the first place.

Significant numbers of students in the United States don’t have enough money to eat by the end of the semester. After the price of tuition, fees, and books, they rely on food banks and granola bars from health centers for sustenance. Some nights they don’t eat at all.

That’s a need.


Do you suffer from runner’s block?

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Before the 1940’s, the phrase didn’t even exist.

The reason there’s no such thing as writer’s block is that there’s no such thing as talker’s block. There’s no such thing as talker’s block because there’s no such thing as thinker’s block. Nobody has trouble talking or thinking, so why should it be difficult to put those words in writing?

It isn’t. There’s just a fear of writing poorly. If I can’t write well, I’m too scared to write at all.

Likewise, there’s no such thing as runner’s block. Starting a running program for the first time is extremely difficult, painful even. The novice assumes the pain is a sign that she’s not meant to run. But that’s silly, because we know that running is supposed to be difficult the first time, getting easier the more you do it.

There’s also no such thing as lifter’s block. An experienced powerlifter doesn’t get very sore after a day of heavy lifting — she’s too strong for that. The novice does, because she’s not as strong yet.

There’s certainly likes and dislikes, injuries, and exercises that will get you further towards your goal, and exercises that won’t. But no, there’s no block.

There’s just fear.

The myth that hard work pays off

“In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There’s the hub of the wheel, and there’s the revolving rim of the wheel. And if you’re attached to the rim of the wheel, let’s say fortune, you will be either above, going down, at the bottom, or coming up. But if you are at the hub, you’re in the same place all the time … And that’s following your bliss.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Hard work might pay off, and it might not. It doesn’t particularly matter either way.

Doing the work matters. If the work feels hard, and it feels like work, go find different work. Then it doesn’t matter if hard work pays off.

After finally getting playing time, starting, or winning a championship, a great many athletes realize those things never mattered in the first place.

Just do the work.

You don’t even want to get better

Coaches recruit tirelessly to find athletes motivated to get better. Of course the talent needs to be there, but since it’s nearly impossible for a coach to instill self-motivation, it’s better to recruit for it in the first place.

The same idea applies as we move up the chain of command.

Your boss is probably sitting on a pool of money right now, maybe thousands of dollars, reserved for your professional improvement. She knows you won’t ask to use that money, and she knows there’s no point in trying to motivate you to to want to use it. You either want to, or you don’t.

Add to that all the freely available knowledge we have today on the devices sitting in our pockets. That knowledge would have made you powerful beyond measure in earlier ages. Kings would have bowed before you.

But all you can think to do is binge watch Netflix? Com’on.

With information now abundant, motivation is the new scarce resource. Hire for that.

Can you cheat at Thanksgiving dinner?


Of course you can cheat at Thanksgiving dinner, but cheating isn’t even a productive way to think about it. Cheating implies you did something wrong. Doing something wrong implies you should be punished. Being punished implies shame.

You’re not supposed to be shamed on Thanksgiving. Instead, consider this idea from lifting and throws coach, Dan John:

“Absolute strength is the glass. Everything else is the liquid inside the glass. The bigger the glass, the more of everything else you can do.

Lifting weights is the quickest way to build strength. As your strength goes up, everything else can be expanded, too.


The more I teach this point and listen to the excellent feedback, the more I hear real world examples of this.

Recently, a woman told me her friends can’t make a mistake.

What? Well, what she told me was this: Since they were attacking fat loss with aerobic work and strict dieting, they didn’t have any wiggle room. The woman, who holds herself nearly year-round at a very impressive 19% bodyfat, told me she enjoys desserts, cocktails, BBQs and fine food. But, and this is a big but, she can also do 10 pull-ups. She is very strong in the weightroom. In other words, her glass is so big, she can afford to cheat a little here and there.

That made no sense to me. Then I watched her train and thought about some other women I work with. When she presses an impressive kettlebell overhead (half her bodyweight with one hand!), her entire system has to gather up resources and then adapt and recover from the effort. When little Edna at my gym thinks a five-pound dumbbell is heavy, she isn’t going to tax her body very hard.

Edna can’t eat cake.”

Photo by vxla

Getting athletes to care about nutrition



I hated wearing button-down shirts when I was in elementary school. Too impatient to undo each button after a long day sitting in the classroom, I would instead rip the entire shirt off when I got home. My mom hated it, but she had a trick to fix it.

“Garrett unbuttons his shirt when he gets home.”

Garrett was the cool kid down the street — two years older than me and better at sports. To my seven-year-old mind he may as well have been a god. My mom had no idea if Garrett unbuttoned his shirt when he got home, but she knew I’d more quickly follow his example than listen to her. She was right.

Last week I had a candid conversation with an athlete about grocery shopping. She’s living off-campus for the first time and thinking about how she should plan her lunches and dinners for the week. We exchanged ideas, comparing what foods we like and what strategies work well for each of us, but the particulars weren’t important. The point was that she was planning, and planning leads to healthier decisions on its own.

It helps that she’s considered one of the best athletes in Fredonia’s athletic department –through two years she already holds several records in her sport. She didn’t get that way because of nutrition, but that’s not the point either. Eating healthy is important, whether it helps you set records or not.

Telling this athlete’s story is more effective than a nutrition packet.

“Garrett unbuttons his shirt when he gets home,” will always beat, “Unbutton your shirt the right way.”