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.

The Community Code of Conduct (You In or Out?)

community code of conduct

My mission statement is crystal clear: I want to help a million people make a dent in the universe, live life on their own terms—while leveling up their fitness.

The art of fitness & life can be describe as “intelligent fitness with nuggets of wisdom in life, love, art, music, superheroes, and creativity all remixed together for an extraordinary experience.”

While I started this community, you’re the ones who are going to help me take this movement to another level. It’s not I, it’s US.

Our new take on fitness & life

We’re about achieving optimal health, challenging ourselves, striving for constant improvement (1% daily), and being confident—no matter the endeavor. We’re more than just a random fitness metric, a pretty face, and a sexy physique.

We’re all from different walks of life—but share a common bond for fitness and using it as our launching pad to making an impact on the world (no matter the size of the impact).

You landed here for a reason (whether you realize it or not).

That reason is because deep inside, you’ve felt an awakening (in Star Wars talk, you’ve felt a tremble in the force).

You want to be remarkable, influence those around you to be exceptional, live your life with intent & passion, make your mark in this world—while looking your best and being your most confident self.

Warning…before we go any further

Being remarkable, making our mark, and escaping mediocrity isn’t easy. Crossing over onto the realms of possibilities, accomplishing fitness goals, and being the best version of ourselves isn’t a overnight process or a formula that we can drink in a bottle.

You have to be willing to do the work. Me and others will be here to support you and give you a lift when you need to be picked up, but you have to make a promise to yourself to do your part.

If this sounds in alignment with what you stand for, then here is the code of conduct for the AFL community. These 18 principles provides the blueprint toward remarkability.

1. Live life on your own terms

“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.”- Bob Marley

People are quick to tell us how to live our lives or how we should be doing something, but who says you have to live this specific way just because everyone else is living that way. Challenge yourself to think outside the box.

If you want to travel and roam the world—do it. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about what you desire to do with your life.

2. Strength training is our foundation

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”- David Allan Coe

Strength training goes beyond just squatting and performing sets of push-ups for aesthetics.

Strength training enables our bodies to perform well, makes our bodies durable, and enhances our quality of life. Strength training increases our confidence and gives us the belief that we can conquer anything we put our minds too.

3. Embrace the journey

“All great achievements require time”.- Maya Angelou

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Michael Jordan wasn’t the greatest basketball player from day one. Prince wasn’t the amazingness that he is the first time he touched the mic and guitar. Michael Jackson didn’t wake up one morning and immediately moonwalk and sing across the living room.

Picasso wasn’t the painter we know him as when he took his first brush stroke. Hemingway didn’t write literary classics overnight. Arnold wasn’t the Terminator and Mr. Olympia straight out the gate.

Even I didn’t acquire my angelic songbird-esque voice and Usher-like moves over a course of days (ok..this one still isn’t true).

Nevertheless, the greatest creatives, artists, writers, athletes, scholars, and inventors didn’t happen overnight. Most likely, it didn’t happen in a week or a month. It instead took months and maybe years (depending on the goal) to make whatever the vision was a reality.

Neither will your fitness journey be instantaneous.

Be patient and embrace the journey as you go along the road of transforming your body, mind, soul, business, or whatever else you’re working on. Growth doesn’t happen by winning or reaching the finish line. Growth develops in the trenches of showing up each day and trudging along the process.

4. Change becomes a reality through our focus on habits & behaviors

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

To accomplish a fitness goal, creative goal, or relationship goal—it starts and ends with our approach. Anything can become a reality with enough time and effort. But, this ‘reality’ starts by taking one day at a time and striving to win that specific day.

You become what you repeatedly do.

5. Our self-worth isn’t dependent upon others opinion

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao-Tzu

As Eleanor Roosevelt beautifully states, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Our self-worth is ultimately in our hands. Our self-worth isn’t dependent upon how we look naked, how strong we are, what our job title is, how much money we have, or where we live.

6. Never stop seeking knowledge

“Never stop learning because life never stops teaching”- Unknown

always seek knowledge- code of conduct

No matter the stream or preference of distribution, we all should continually seek to educate ourselves through books, music, art, and learning from one another. Each and every day, life throws a new situation at us. These situations provide us opportunities to learn and grow from those experiences.

The day you decide to quit learning and seeking knowledge is the day that you also stop growing as a person and limit your potential. Never stop seeking a higher level of consciousness.

7. Value experiences over things

“Adventure is worthwhile.”- Aesop

One minute we’re here and the next we’ll be long gone. Our lives are finite. Each of our lives are a miracle and deserved to be lived to their utmost potential.

Gadgets, statuses, money, and other superficial metrics aren’t the meaning of a rich life. Life is about experiencing moments with the people you love, doing things you love, and trying whatever sparks your curiosity.

8. Everyone has creativity within them

“Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.” – Paulo Coelho

Every single last one of us has a unique superpower to share with the world. Creativity isn’t just for the painters, writers, or musicians. Creativity runs through all our veins. Creativity is about expression, not just about a title.

Some of us have recognized our unique superpower, while others haven’t awaken their unique power yet. To all of those who have unleashed their superpower onto the world—never let the flame die.

To those who are still waiting for permission, scared, or just need an awakening—It’s time.

Your time is now. Someone in the world needs you and is waiting for your superpower.

9. There isn’t a one size fits all nutrition plan

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”- Chinese Proverb

Just as each of our bodies have the essential components (brain, heart, lungs, liver, various arteries & vessels)—each of our bodies are coded slightly different thus making us unique.

Your nutrition is the same way. The fundamentals are there: eat whole nutrient dense foods and less processed foods. Some of us like breakfast, some us can do without. Some prefer jasmine rice, while others might prefer sweet potatoes (both are delicious and great selections). Some prefer to eat 5 meals a day and others prefer 3 meals.

All of us operate and have different needs and situations in life, thus it’s foolish to think that we could all ever fit under one giant umbrella of a generic nutrition template.

Take care of your fundamentals (90%) and work the other (10%) into your life as you deem appropriate. Always eat for you—not your friends plan, not my plan, your girlfriends, nor any celebrities plan.

10. Setbacks can be blessings in disguise

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

Often times, it’s from our greatest falls and bumps along the journey that teaches us our greatest lessons. Rather it’s fitness, our creative work, or relationships that went south—those experiences have valuable lessons designed to make us stronger in the long run.

Failure isn’t a thing unless you allow it to be. Failure only becomes your reality when you decide to wave the white flag and not pick yourself off the ground from the latest setback.

11. Excuses sound best to those who make them

“Excuses are like male nipples. They are completely useless”- Don Calame

Our fitness goals and life is 100% in our hands. We take responsibility for our own actions. We won’t blame our boss, neighbors, family, friends, significant other, or anyone else for our problems nor shortcomings.

12. Anything is possible with belief

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

Before you think about jumping aboard that fat loss program, or writing that book, or starting a business, or putting yourself out there to be judged—you need to have some belief.

The impossible becomes the possible once you start to believe.

13. Life is the ultimate choose your own adventure

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”- Dr. Seuss

Life is meant to be one giant exploration of discovery and experiments. Keep an open mind as you go out to venture the world and you might find just what you need in the unlikeliest of places.

We possess the ability to mold our fitness, our work, and our relationships to our liking. You are in control of which path you’ll take and where the story is going to unfold next.

14. Unconditionally love yourself

“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself—no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are—completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit—not because you think someone else wants you to be different.”- Stacey Charter

Before you seek love in this world, or try to change this world, or try to lose bodyfat—you must love yourself unapologetically for who you are in this current moment.

Be in love with what you stand for, your dreams, your likes & dislikes, and don’t apologize for being you. No need to pretend.  Throw the mask away.

15. Fitness is mind, body, spirit, & emotion

“It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”- Epictetus

I learned this one the hard way. I figured once I obtained a certain bodyfat % and strength number—the world and my problems would wash away.

I was wrong.

Fitness isn’t just about how much you lift, or how big your arms are, or how toned your legs are. That’s only one aspect of the equation. Besides the body component, fitness entails a mental, spiritual, and emotional aspect.

Challenge your brain daily with tasks such as reading, thinking over difficult problems, or learning a new skill.

Become spiritually healthy by giving gratitude each day for what you have, where you are, and the amazingness that is life.

Become emotionally healthy by surrounding yourself with people who inspire you, bring out the best version of you, and make you feel great about life. Avoid the energy vampires, the doom & gloom crowd, and anyone who makes you feel anxious or uneasy.

16. Be the superhero of your own journey

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee

Take off the mask and stop molding yourself into someone who you think people want you to be. No need to keep wasting energy toward work or anything in life that isn’t meaningful. No need to keep making yourself miserable eating according to someone else’s plan.

There’s no reason to live vicariously through other people’s fitness and daily lives.

You’re going to become the hero of your own tale. No more hero worship or telling yourself you can never be this person or do ‘this activity’. Screw that nonsense, that person can’t be you (even on their best day).

me as spiderman- code of conduct
It’s true…. I sometimes swing from buildings in addition to deadlifting, writing, & dancing awkwardly.

17. Dream big

“Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.”- Tupac Shakur

I’m a supreme optimist and dreamer, sometimes it’s annoying to my friends and confusing to those without a vision or hope. LL Cool J told us in ‘Hey Lover’ to, “keep the dream alive until the right time.”

Well…that time is now. There isn’t a better time than now to get to working on those dreams. Apologize to no one for your dreams.

Stay persistent and consistent with your daily efforts and those dreams will become your everyday life.

Keep your tunnel vision to what you want and you’ll have that fitness goal, creative goal, or whatever goal you’re going after.

18. Make a dent in the universe

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”- Robert F. Kennedy

No matter how small or large the impact or task, we all have a duty to make a mark in this world. We all will leave a legacy and make our impact felt.

Whatever keeps you up at night, or brings a strong passion out of you—use that to help steer you in the direction to making your mark.

Take that small, but crucial first step and lets make a dent in the universe!

Stay awesome,


P.S…There’s a downloadable high-resolution poster with these 18 codes by clicking on the image. As a member of this remarkable community, this is my gift to you. Do whatever you want with it. Print it off, place it somewhere cool, hang it on the fridge, or share it with one person who you know will embrace these principles.

Code of Conduct Poster