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Often overlooked or shunned outright, they’re usually there, but for most people, they lead to nowhere. Stairs have a thankless job nowadays. All you need to do is observe people’s behavior. Watch what most folks do when a flight of stairs is located right next to an escalator.

Inventor Elisha Otis started a company that in 1857 installed the first elevator for passengers*. In 1892, Jesse Reno obtained a patent for an escalator and partnered with Otis’ company in 1899 to create a commercial elevator**. Both the elevator and the escalator would go on to proliferate by the millions throughout the world. They’ve allowed mankind to construct spectacularly tall buildings, whose highest levels are readily accessible to anyone. Few would argue that it hasn’t been a net plus for society.

But there’s a flipside. Elevators, escalators, modern transportation, and office work have mitigated the need for people to be physically robust in any way. A lot of us are clunky, chunky, and totally out of shape, and taking a flight of stairs up one or two stories is, for many, a major physical undertaking to be avoided. But it’s not good to be physically weak and struggle in situations that require just modest strength and stamina.

Whenever you see a flight of stairs, see an opportunity. Get in the habit of bypassing the elevator or escalator whenever you can and take the stairs instead. It’ll keep your legs and hips strong and increase your heart rate a little. It’s a simple habit whose benefits add up in the long run. It requires no training, equipment, cost, or extra time. If something so easy feels hard to you, that should tell you something.

Sayonara until next time.

*www.champion-elevator.com, Elevator History: How Elevators Have Changed; www.elevators.com, A Brief History Of Elevators
**www.thoughtco.com, History of the Escalator

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Have you ever received an award for something? Was the occasion full of pomp and circumstance? Was there a glorious ceremony and massive audience applauding in adulation? Did you ascend the podium in regal garb and deliver a grandiloquent acceptance speech?

If you haven’t had that experience, it’s OK. Most of us receive an award only on rare occasions, if ever. And even then, it’s likely to be a more low-key affair. That said, awards and public recognition are nice, but what’s more important is achieving little victories for yourself once in a while. It’s not important for others to know about it. What matters is that you know you achieved something good and constructive.

A huge benefit of working out is the sense of victory you can attain. It’s hard to see yourself as a failure when you’re creating new challenges, hitting small milestones, and achieving big goals. It took me two and half years to achieve one of the goals I had in the gym, but along the way I never gave up and was always working on things that I knew would help me get me there. More than a feat of strength, I considered it a victory of willpower and persistence.

We all have a chance to achieve victory. Just keep in mind that a goal needs to be something that challenges you. You’re not going to feel victorious by achieving something that’s a cinch. It must be aspirational and require effort to accomplish. It needs to be a challenge you must overcome and not merely complete.

Victory is a powerful word. Implant it in your mind and let it echo. Then set a challenging goal, pursue it, and make victory a real thing for you. Those are your marching orders.

Sayonara until next time.

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Like the Great Sphinx, some things are meant to last forever. But there are other things that clearly need to be retired or upgraded.

It’s fascinating how some people hit a plateau early on that they never overcome. This is not meant to ridicule anyone, but we’ve all seen the forty-year-old man who dresses every day the same as when he was seventeen. There are middle-aged and even senior people who’ve barely, if ever, traveled beyond the borders of their state or province. Some of us know people who haven’t read a single book in years. These people get stuck for decades in a certain time, place, or frame of mind.

Don’t let it be you. Stagnation is one of the big challenges of life, and especially so once your youth is behind you. It’s important to pursue a new level and a next version of yourself. Think about things you can do to upgrade yourself and then do them.

You want to look and feel better? Then get yourself in shape. Be mindful of what and how much you eat and drink.

You want to get better at conversation? Then spend some money on books and read. Put yourself in the company of smart people and be a good listener.

You want to be more disciplined? Then put down the TV remote. Rethink the ways you spend your time.

There are many other opportunities to become better versions of ourselves. No matter how great we think we are, none of us are the Great Sphinx. Find some stagnant aspect of yourself that you’ve allowed to fester and upgrade it.

Sayonara until next time.

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I was at the gym last week and ran into a guy I know who started working out several days per week about a year ago. I’ve never asked him exactly how much weight he’s lost over that span, but he has slimmed down drastically by doing a lot of cardio work and some weight training.

He had just finished his last set on the chest press machine and was ready to get off. I glanced at how much weight he had the machine set to and told him not to get off yet. He knew instantly what that meant: I was going to make him do some more reps. Nevertheless, he was a good sport about it and allowed me to reset the weight higher.

On the first rep he reflexively protested, “This is too much!” I replied firmly, “You shall not lie to yourself.” Then he proceeded to complete 9 more reps, which clearly indicated that it was not too much.

I raised the weight again. He protested, “I’m spent!” Again, I replied, “You shall not lie to yourself.” I let him take another 45 seconds of rest, and when time was up, he started repping again. I had to spot him on the last 3 reps, but he still completed another 10. He ended up doing a third set of 10 reps on the chest press machine before I moved him over to the pec fly machine and had him complete 2 more sets of 10 reps. “This is too much” and “I’m spent” had been blatant falsehoods.

I have a feeling that the admonition, "You shall not lie to yourself," is something he won't forget. He had reserves of energy, stamina, and willpower that were lying dormant due to his belief in falsehoods. He was guilty of imposing imaginary limits on himself, but all he needed was help opening his hard head so he could move past his mental block.

Falsehoods are little stories, ideas, and assumptions in our heads, with little or no basis, that we latch onto and let hold us back from greatness. They’re powerful because we believe them, not because they are true.

Sayonara until next time.

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Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity introduced the concept of time dilation. The gist is that Person A, moving through space at a faster speed than Person B, will experience a slower, or shorter, lapse of time than Person B does. For instance, a time lapse of 15 minutes for Person B might be experienced as only 10 minutes by Person A. It all depends on how fast they’re moving relative to one another. In fact, the phenomenon of time dilation has been verified through experiments to be real.

And it’s not just weird physics. The same phenomenon applies in a real way to your health as well. Whether you are proactive or passive regarding your health outcomes, it will correlate to your fitness age. Physically moving more and faster than others will slow the passage of time in relation to your health. You and your cousin could both be 50 years old chronologically. But, if your cousin is a couch potato, whereas you're in the habit of exercising regularly, then your fitness age will be different. Your cousin might appear and feel 61, while you appear and feel 38. All else being equal, you’ll live peppier and longer.

Remember, it’s all relative, and that’s where your advantage lies. So many people have sedentary lifestyles that the bar for overperforming is quite low. If you’re exercising energetically for a mere 30 minutes several days a week, you’re ahead of the pack. While others are distracted, passive, and lackadaisical, you’ll look and feel young, stay sharp mentally, and gain that most precious of riches: time.

Sayonara until next time.

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Maybe you’ve been there before. You resolved to lose weight or get in shape in time for summer. Full of hope, you purchased a gym membership and started working out. After hitting the gym once or twice a week for a month, you checked the mirror. And what did you see? Nothing. There was no visible progress towards achieving the summertime body you lusted for. And then it dawned on you that there would be no instant gratification. Despondence kicked in. There was no one holding you accountable, and your motivation waned. After another week or so, you gave up altogether.

That scenario plays out quite often. In fact, within 6 months, about 50% of new gym members will have completely stopped going to the gym*. They lose their will and stand pat as established habits and negative emotions reassert themselves and bury their dreams.

What happened? There were likely several things going on, but one factor may have been a lack of milestones on the way to the goal. Milestones are simply little checkpoints, and every milestone set and reached builds your confidence and resilience. Granted, you probably already know that, but are you in the habit of doing it? Whether for exercise or anything else you’re working towards, do you have a written to-do list of milestones that you keep updated?

For example, if you want to lose 6 kg in 3 months, set a milestone to lose 2 kg by the end of the first month, and then 2 more by the end of the second month. After a month, you might not see any difference when you look in the mirror, but when you weigh yourself, you’ll know that you made real progress. Achieving milestones feeds your will to persist. And when you persist, the results will gradually begin to show in the mirror. So set milestones, hit them, affirm your confidence, and don’t ever give up.

Sayonara until next time.

*Source: 51 Gym Membership Statistics: 2020/2021 Data, Trends & Predictions, comparecamp.com

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There's nothing wrong with being average, yet average people often put great effort into trying to convince the world they're exceptional. Designer clothes, makeup, cosmetic surgery, and even premium automobiles are a few of the surface treatments people display. And while it's certainly good to take some pride in one's appearance, if one's habits are no better than average, then the outcomes one gets will be average. 

A facade, or an embellished outward display, is not substance. Substance comes from habits that produce authentic outcomes in your life. Painting stripes on a house cat won't make it behave like a tiger. And you can't authentically demonstrate substance that you have not invested time, money, and effort into acquiring. Mediocrity will reveal itself as the truth, which is apparent from your habits and the outcomes thereof. 

If you experience feelings of mediocrity, understand that a lot of other people do as well. Also understand that if you're habitually spending hours of your day consuming social media, TV, or video games, or getting high and drunk, then you cannot and will not be anything other than average. 

It's easy to overcome mediocrity. Perhaps what's hard is your head! If you know good and well what your poor habits are, then confront them. 

Your allocation of time matters when it comes to becoming your best self. You can choose to stop binging on distractions and start binging on books, exercise, and courses. Take up constructive activities that build your mind and body. Pursue new experiences. Upgrade your habits and you'll upgrade your substance. 

Sayonara until next time.

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Keeping yourself in shape requires mindset and movement. Mindset comes first, but results won’t come until you start moving. Movement is essential to achieve any fitness goals you have. Movement is a principle, one that also applies to the achievement of all your aspirations.

Move towards your aspirations in the same way that plants do. Plants aspire to obtain sunlight, and each day when the sun comes out, they physically move, or bend, towards it. This movement, called phototropism, overcomes the force of gravity to produce the plant growth we see in nature. In the same way, moving will generate momentum for you to defy the gravitational pull towards mediocrity and grow in the direction of your aspirations.

You can and should gather information and weigh your options, but do not ceaselessly ponder, doubt, and procrastinate. Instead, train your mind to resist the idea of Can’t and its close cousin Too. You’ll only become invested in your own stagnation. Can’t afford it. Can’t make time. Too uncomfortable. Too complicated. These are the kinds of beliefs that only zap your impulse to move. They reveal what your paradigm is: you’re not good enough.

You cannot know everything ahead of time, no matter how much research you do. You must choose a path and get moving. You’ll gain insights and learn lessons as you move. Some of what you believed to be true at the outset will prove to be false or inapplicable to your circumstances, and you will need to correct course. That is part of the learning curve. But learning is never a loss, so choose to move and improve.

Sayonara until next time.

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Maybe you should be more selfish. 

Selfishness is not necessarily bad. It depends on how you define it. Let’s define selfishness as time spent solely on your own improvement for reasons that have nothing to do with other people’s wants or demands on you. In other words, it's time spent to level yourself up for your own reasons. Working on your physical fitness is a good example. You do it for your own improvement, and any benefit to others is merely a by-product. 

Little of the average person’s daily routine is selfish as defined here. Most of it comprises activities to meet (1) external demands and (2) personal needs that have nothing to do with improving oneself. Working, doing chores, eating, spending time with friends and family, and relaxing are some examples. Those are not bad or unproductive uses of time, but they are not done with the express purpose of leveling oneself up. 

Based on data from working-age people aged 15 to 64 in 33 countries, the OECD created a breakdown of how people spend their 24 hours each day. On average, sleep consumes 8 hours and 27 minutes. External demands (work, family, etc.) on time and purely leisure activities consume another 14 hours and 39 minutes. Meanwhile, selfish activities such as exercise and education get a mere 48 minutes of our time. (Data source: OECD Time Use Database) There’s a good chance you spend more time than that stuck in traffic every day. 

So, excluding sleep, people are spending a puny 5% of their time solely on their own improvement for reasons that have nothing to do with other people’s wants or demands on them. Keep in mind that the other 95% of one’s time cannot be recaptured once it passes. That is why managing your priorities is vital. Imagine the transformation you could experience in your life by doubling your time investment in selfishness from 5% to 10%. You’d still be giving 90% of your time to everyone and everything else, and there is nothing selfish about that. 

Sayonara until next time.

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The first time I set foot in a gym was shortly after I turned 45 years old.
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