9 Useful Lessons in Life & Fitness Learned From Oliver Queen

green arrow looking out-header

My name is Julian Hayes II. After five years of being a prisoner to my macros, ‘eating clean’, & missing out on valuable experiences & relationships, I’ve come to the fitness world with only one goal—to save other fitness enthusiasts from food guilt and other fitness problems. But to do so, I can’t be the guy I once was. I must be someone else. I must be something else.

As you can see, I’m quite the fanboy of the hit show ‘Arrow’. The beginning monologue shoots my nerd meter through the roof.

Arrow displays amazing action pieces, great dialogue, cool weaponry, and valuable fitness lessons.

Oliver Queen deals with stress in his every day life just as you and I do. He has family drama, villains, and a city to look over. We have work projects, cookies, and finding time to workout to look over. Juggling crime fighting with a personal life is just as tough as finding balance between our daily and fitness lives.

Let’s look at nine lessons in fitness learned from Oliver Queen becoming the Arrow.

Lesson #1- The old you must die in order to become someone greater

Just as a phoenix rises from the ashes and experiences a rebirth—you must rise to a stronger self. A symbolic ‘death’ of the old you is necessary for a emergence of the new self.

Before the island, Oliver’s life was nightclubs, creeping around with women and luxury. After the boat incident and daddy’s confessions—Oliver’s silver spoon lifestyle vanishes. To survive the island, Oliver evolves into a stronger version of himself.

Remove attachments to old beliefs and dogmas. Reflect, be objective, and realize a new pathway has opened.

Lesson #2- Your lowest moments are opportunities for your brightest moments

From the psychological torture of the island to Slade Wilson playing mindgames—Oliver has dealt with a plethora of low moments.

During those low moments, Oliver experienced major breakthroughs enabling him to save Starling City and grow as a person. Unfortunately, suffering and setbacks often serve as our best lessons. These low and dark moments can be blessings in disguise.

After these lessons, we gain clarity and drop the excess in our lives, which doesn’t serve our mission.

In the past, maybe you tried to lose 15lbs, but fell short. Take a moment and reflect on what went wrong with your past approach. Was it habits, mindset, friends, or even a fear of success or failure?

Lesson #3- You’re capable of more than you can ever imagine

Whether you’re trapped on an island or want to transform your body—all the strength you need for success is already inside of you.

It’s up to you to unleash it onto the world—by taking action (one step at a time). You’re good enough, you just need to believe it.

There will be temptations, challenges from all courses of life and you’ll feel like giving up at times. But, that’s expected.

If you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel you made progress (baby steps count), then you have nothing to worry about.

Lesson #4- Know what you’re fighting for

Oliver didn’t turn into The Arrow to just beat everyday people up and shoot arrows at strangers.

At first, it was fulfilling his father’s dying wish and eliminating names from his list of poisonous city figures. Later, his purpose became about honoring Tommys’ (his best friend) memory.

You might want a six pack, bulging biceps, a set of shoulders that would make Achilles jealous, sculpted legs, or head turning glutes. But, I challenge you to look deeper than superficial metrics.

Dig deeper into yourself and think about what leveling up your fitness will bring to your everyday life. Think about the confidence that will arrive allowing you to chase goals you’ve wanted. Think about how taking control of your health can alter your family tree of bad health issues.

No matter the goal, decide what your purpose is before entering the field.

Lesson #5- Decide on your weapon of choice and master it

Every hero has a signature weapon. For Oliver, it’s the bow & arrow. For you, it’s going to be your diet and working out.

oliver with arrow-weapon of choice, lesson 5
Choose your weapon wisely

Will your dietary weapon be intermittent fasting, carb backloading, or traditional breakfast with portioned meals just to name a few options?

Will your training weapon be full body splits. Upper/lower splits, or body part splits?

Choose your weapons based on personality, lifestyle, and personal interests. No matter the weapon, you must commit to honing your craft by practicing and paying attention to your daily habits.

Lesson #6- Your past doesn’t define you

This isn’t ‘Back to the Future’ nor is Kitty Pryde hanging around to take you back to the past. Your past is permanent and there’s no changing it. Focusing on the past makes you anxious, full of regret, and not focused on the present—which you can control.

Just as Oliver letting go of past events to become The Arrow was necessary, you must let go of any negative failures in the past to succeed.

Maybe you’ve dealt with food guilt, body image issues, or confidence issues. Maybe that last 12 week program you’ve tried didn’t turn out as anticipated. Maybe issues of weight have troubled you throughout your entire adulthood.

Just because you fell short or were a couch potato doesn’t mean you can’t become something else in the near future.

Lesson #7- Be intentional with your goals

From street crime to corporate crime to Mirakuru induced maniacs (Slade Wilson)—Starling City is nuts. If Oliver tried to take on all these issues, he wouldn’t solve anything. It’s tough enough to succeed in one mission, yet along trying to solve all the world’s problems.

It’s impossible to conquer everything at once. Possessing this mindset leaves you empty handed and majoring in mediocrity.

Ambition is awesome, but choose your battles wisely. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Go after the goals with the highest yield in return. Oliver taking down the big shots essentially destroys the low-level crime (hence high yielding returns).

Focus on food choices, not meal timing nor the optimal post-workout window feeding time (hence a high yielding return)

Develop laser like focus and conquer one mission (i.e. fitness goal) at a time.

Lesson #8- You will encounter setbacks

From Malcolm Merlyn to Slade Wilson to Ra’s Al Ghul , Oliver has received his fair share of beatdowns. He hasn’t always made the correct decision nor executed plans with precision.

He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect.

No one is immune to setbacks. Setbacks will happen along your fitness journey. You might fall into a temporary funk and lose your mojo.

So what!

Life happens. Keep it moving.

If you’re challenging yourself to grow as an individual, you’re going to hit some bumpy roads. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure or aren’t capable.

Goals need to be challenging. Anything worthwhile in life takes effort and time. Fitness transformations are tough and require consistency (sorry to burst the bubbles of the 30-day get shred crowds).

The better you embrace setbacks, the more at peace you’ll be when they happen, thus enabling you to bounce back quicker.

Lesson #9- You can’t succeed alone

Of all the lessons, this is the most important. There comes a stopping point in every ones journey where growth plateaus. Without seeking reinforcements, you can’t move forward.

Without friends providing accountability and support, I would’ve waved the white flag by now .

Oliver couldn’t be the hero he is without Diggle and Felicity providing a shoulder to lean on.

oliver & diggle-lesson 9, everyone needs someone
Everyone needs someone

Your shoulders will only carry so much weight until they tip you over. When you start to drift into ‘hero mode’ and think you don’t need anyone, keep Bill Withers in mind. ( ‘We all need somebody to lean on’)

When it comes to fitness…
● Whom do you lean on for support?
● Who keeps you accountable?

Question for you to think about: Which of these lessons is lacking the most in your life at the moment? What are you going to do to change the situation?

Sink or Swim: How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success

Sink or Swim- How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success
Photo Credit: Saad Faruque via Compfight cc

Not everyone has the ability to draw. Not everyone has the ability to play an instrument. Not everyone has the ability to write.

Some of us aren’t meant to be creative. Some of us aren’t meant to be great communicators. Some of us aren’t meant to excel at fitness.

Throughout my childhood and even into adulthood, I had this propensity to believe I was either a natural for the activity or it just wasn’t meant for me.

Many of us have been told we’re not good at something and should go pursue something that comes easier to us.

Many people have quit on fitness by blaming their shortcomings on factors such as genetics, environments, athletic abilities, and other excuses.

In Dr. Carol Dwecks’ book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, she breaks down our mindsets into one of growth and one that is fixed. One mindset leads to an anything is possible attitude while the other places an invisible ceiling on ourselves.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Our mind is power. Our beliefs can be our worst enemy or our greatest asset. Our beliefs shape our behaviors (for better or worse).

Growth mindset– This mindset sees the world in abundance and believes there is enough of the pie for everyone to have. You see your fitness being in your hands and not someone else’s. You see yourself as the captain of your life trajectory. You realize that you and only you can stop yourself from being remarkable.

This person believes that intelligence can be developed and expanded upon.

This person embraces a challenge and doesn’t give up during tough moments. Mastery of their craft is developed through effort and consistency. They’re inspired by others work and successes, not jealous and bitter.

Fixed mindset– You either have it or you don’t. The outlook of the world is scarce. Success is due to being naturally gifted. This person avoids failure and setbacks like the plague to avoid looking weak and incapable.

There’s a glass ceiling on how smart you can become. This person blames genetics for their fitness shortcomings. It’s never their fault, but always someone else’s.

This person fails to take responsibility for their own actions and life. This mindset traps themselves within a box where they are forever stuck in neutral.

How do you see yourself when looking in the mirror

The people who are consistently told they’re naturals at their craft, or geniuses within their work are also the same type of people to fold up when the resistance hits.

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life” states Dr. Dweck. This view of yourself determines if you’ll become the person who owns their goals or if you’ll just become the person who always wishes and stays inside a comfort zone.

Dr. Dweck states “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Dr. Dweck states, “just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”

Many famous inventors, painters, and professional athletes weren’t born with amazing abilities, but instead put the work in each and everyday to develop their abilities.

Thomas Edison had plenty of assistants (around 30) to assist him on the invention of the light bulb. These assistants weren’t just undergrads or people looking for a simple paycheck, but instead were well trained scientist. Edison was far from a genius, but was an seeker of knowledge and this dedication to his craft became the sum of his inventions.

Many people claim to suck at fitness and blame their shortcomings with various excuses.

Many experts claimed Jackson Pollock lacked talent and potential and judging by his early work—no one would argue with that. However, by showing up daily and putting in the work, he became one of the greatest American painters of the twentieth century.

Your goals, whether fitness, artistic, or whatever else is the result of your dedication to the craft. As Twyla Tharp states in ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life’, “creativity isn’t a magical act of inspiration, but instead it’s the result of hard work and dedication.”

Muhammad Ali wasn’t a natural at boxing. According to boxing analyst he lacked the prototypical metrics that defined a great boxer. However, Ali possessed mental strength that was incomparable to anyone else.

Michael Jordan wasn’t a naturally gifted basketball player. But, he possessed one of the greatest work ethics in the history of sports. He was cut from his high school varsity team, didn’t go to the college of his choice, and he wasn’t even the 1st pick in the NBA draft.

Jordan was a basketball player at one point who had glaring weaknesses in his game. However, displaying the growth mindset, Jordan attacked his weaknesses (his defense, ball handling, and shooting) and turned those into some of his greatest strengths. Even at the peak of his game, Jordan consistently outworked everyone because he was always steadily trying to improve (no wonder everyone wanted to be like Mike).

fitness mindset
The greatest to ever play the game- Photo Credit: efraimb via Compfight cc

Wilma Rudolph, 3 time gold medal winner for sprints and relay in the 1960 Rome Olympics, wasn’t always the fastest woman alive. Born prematurely, consistently sick, and the twentieth of twenty-two children—her outlook wasn’t remarkable. At age 4, she contracted double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio—thus ending up with a paralyzed left leg. Of course, doctors gave her no chance of a normal life, but at age twelve she left the leg brace behind and started to walk normally.

From the examples above, natural talent and instant creativity isn’t a pre-requisite to becoming a master of ones craft.

Are you quick to label yourself and other people into a category? Do you use the excuse that this person is a artist, writer, marketer, or genetically gifted specimen to let yourself off the hook for not trying things or as a built up excuse for when things don’t pan out as expected?

If so, it’s imperative you release these fixed mindset traits and adopt a mindset of growth and abundance to succeed with your fitness mindset.

How to adopt a growth mindset

Our mindsets are just beliefs which will lead us on a path to happiness or misery. As Dr. Dweck states, a “mindset change isn’t about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s abut seeing things in a new way”.

At one point, I had a fixed mindset. I constantly needed to prove myself and if I failed…it meant I wasn’t smart enough, creative enough, or good looking enough. As for fitness, it meant I wasn’t lean enough, strong enough, or fast enough.

Just being aware of these mindsets will allow you to take the first step toward changing them. Once you have awareness, you can think and react in more positive ways.

A growth mindset doesn’t need a tank full of confidence to get started. “Sometimes you plunge into something because you’re not good at it You don’t think you’re already great at something to want to do it and to enjoy it” states Dr. Dweck.

All of us are born with a curious mind that continually seeks knowledge, but a fixed mindset unravels your mind from this state of curiosity and wonder.

Think about something you enjoyed, but then the difficulty rose and you wanted to quit or someone stated you weren’t good enough. For me, it was art and creativity, but the opinions I received as a child and expectations of the status quo took that away for 2 decades. For you, this could be fitness and chasing after your true passions.

However, never quit because the weight isn’t flying off quickly. Fitness is a skill that takes time to master.

Next time you catch the blues and want to quit your fitness goals, quit your book, quit your business, or quit pursuing your dreams—don’t forget the growth mindset.

Don’t forget about the many successes that came before you that implemented this and stayed persistent to become masters of their craft. It won’t happen tomorrow, or even next week, or maybe even in a year, but it’ll eventually happen if you approach the situation with the correct mindset.

Think abut the immense knowledge and experiences you’re accumulating along the process, the challenges you’re tearing down, and the obstacles that are trying to stop you. Let these become a positive burden.

Treat your journey like a folk tale, and tell yourself that you’ll have a great story to share with others years later who will travel down a similar path.

Pay no Attention to The Sideline Critics (A Polite Note From Those of us Trying to Level up Our Lives)

pay no attention to the sideline critics-sideline criticsOn any given Youtube video, Facebook post, Instagram share, or conversation with peers at work—you’ll hear someone share their criticism over a specific matter.

Criticism, in the correct context, serves as a great tool to help us grow as individuals and reach our desired goals. This type of criticism is deemed constructive, which is always a valuable metric.

However, the majority of criticism that we encounter is the polar opposite of constructive criticism. Today’s criticism is basically messages of hate, insecurity, and jealously.

The Sideline Critics DNA

There are two types of critics. One type criticizes and takes action toward the issue (succeed or fail, this person at least tried). The other type criticizes and sits on the sideline—offering no value besides creating extra noise. This type of critic is lazy and runs their mouth just for the sake of talking.

The sideline critic is the type of person who comments on Youtube with hateful comments such as “his music sucks, he should quit”, or “she’s fat, but I guess her singing is ok”.

The sideline critic appears in the fitness space with comments such as “why is he working out like that”, or “why does she eat this way, when there’s a better way to eat”.

The sideline critic has balls of steel behind the pc screen and talks behind people’s back.

Why you should pay the sideline critics no attention

It’s easy for the sideline critic to criticize someone who is trying to make a change in this world because they only give lip service about making a difference. It’s easy for them to call people’s clothes ugly when they only wear what society tells them is cool.

It’s easy to criticize someone for following their dreams when they are only making excuses for why they aren’t following theirs. It’s easy to criticize someones fitness decisions when they’re doing nothing besides going to work, then heading home to watch the latest TV shows.

It’s easy to criticize someones creativity when they don’t attempt to do anything creative.

It’s easy to make fun of someone’s diet or efforts toward living a healthier lifestyle when they don’t attempt to try themselves (deep down, they want to try, but are afraid of being vulnerable and risking failure).

It’s easy to be a critic about people’s relationships when the strongest ones they have is with a television and a gaming system. It’s easy to criticize someone else’s music when they’re not creating any themselves. It’s easy for them to turn into the next Roger Ebert when they’re not making movies.

everyone thinks they're a critic- sideline critics
Everyone wants to be a critic- Photo Credit: MikePfunn via Compfight cc

It’s easy for the sideline critic to call someone crazy and delusional when they stay safe and warm inside their bubbly comfort zone. It’s easy for them to label someone a subpar guitar player when the only guitar playing they attempted was from a gaming system.

It’s easy to laugh at someone at the gym, when they only pretend to workout and half ass everything. It’s easy for them to laugh at their co-workers for falling for the latest snake oil fitness product when they don’t attempt to give fitness a chance (at least those people were trying).

It’s easy to say this guy gives awful advice when they’re a complete mute about the topic on hand.

It’s easy to criticize from above when you aren’t getting your hands dirty and actually trying to make a change.

In their eyes, their books, workouts, advice, music ,and ideas are perfect.


Because they’re still in their head. Their ideas are vacationing in fantasy land (the only place where perfectionism exist).

A challenge for you to rise above the critics

There’s a lot of criticism being dished out, but what the hell are they doing to help the situation?

Will you let their noise stop you? Or will you continue to roll your sleeves up, get some dirt under your nails, and keep moving forward with your goals.

 Think about the courage it takes to walk into the gym and feel lost, yet continue to workout. Think about the courage it takes to venture into uncharted territories with your work, yet continue towards building your dream career. Think about the courage it takes to chase after a goal, when everyone is in the other corner shouting for you to quit.

Don’t let the sideline critics stop you from making your dent in the universe and building the body you want.

Here’s a message you can tell the sideline critics

Dear sideline critics & all others who like to criticize but take no action,

While we may at times make the wrong decisions or the unpopular choice, we’re nevertheless still sticking our necks out there, taking chances, striving to become the healthiest versions of ourselves, and trying to make our dent in the universe.

So, if you don’t mind, we are asking politely ‘that you stop your complaining’.

Keep your hateful comments to yourself if you don’t have a better idea—we don’t need your insecure manifestations. Keep your opinions to yourself if you’re not willing to attempt anything.

If you’re not going to say anything of value, or contribute positively, or share a solution, or criticize in a objective manner—then ‘stop your complaining’.

Start a revolution. Start working out. Start making healthier food decisions. Start writing that book. Start playing the guitar. Start writing. Start painting. Start going after the things you want, instead of only settling & making excuses.

Once you start to do this, you’ll understand that it takes hard work, courage, vulnerability, and lots of gusto to put yourself out there for the whole world to see and judge you.

Until you start to do this—please keep your mouth shut. Some of us have work to do.


A person trying to level up their fitness and make their unique dent in the universe.

P.S. If you’re currently being affected by the sideline critics, I challenge you to immediately make a declaration of “no more”. No more of letting critics hold you back from your fitness goals or any other goals in life. Your goals deserve your full attention—not the sideline critics.