9 Useful Lessons in Life & Fitness Learned From Oliver Queen

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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?

The Wishing Game: A Simple Game With no ‘Happily Ever After’

The Wishing Game A Simple Game With no 'Happily Ever After'- the wishing game“I wish I had a better job.”

“I wish I was leaner.”

“I wish I was a ladies man.”

“I wish I had more money.”

“I wish I could live somewhere else”.

“I wish I was a better writer.”

“I wish I was more creative.”

“I wish my business was as profitable as ‘such & such’.”

“I wish I was as popular as ‘such & such’.”

“I wish I had more followers.”

At some point in time throughout my life, those exact words have blurted out of my mouth. Each time I’ve uttered such things, nothing manifested besides moments of self-defeatism, sadness, resentment towards others, and furthering myself from where I wanted to be in life.

At some point in time, you most likely have blurted out the phrase ‘I wish’. You most likely noticed that wishing didn’t propel you any closer to your goals than you initially were.

While on a date to go see ‘Into the Woods’ (an excellent musical I must admit), I was reminded that wishes don’t always equate to being ‘happily ever after’.

Each character in the movie is wishing for a different outcome. Once it arrives, each character expects everything to magically change for the better.

I suffered from this symptom for the majority of my life. However, each character and myself realizes that ‘happily ever after’ isn’t so happy after all. In fact, each character faces the consequences for their wishes and actions.

Cinderella realizes the royal life isn’t all its cracked up to be along with her Prince Charming not being so charming after all. The baker is worried that he’ll be a crappy father to his newborn, just as his father was. He also has to face the repercussions of handing over his ‘magic beans’ to Jack. Rapunzel is terrified of the outside world. The witch, with her reacquired youth realizes that she has lost most of her powers.

I thought life was going to magically change once I added 20 pounds of muscle—nothing happened besides needing to go shopping (self-doubt was still with me).

I thought life would change once I got to 10% bodyfat—it didn’t, I just developed some false bravado.

I thought life would change once I started to get published, it didn’t, I just wanted more & more (self-doubt was with me).

What does all of this mean?

These were all external scenarios. These goals allowed me to build up extra layers, but inside is where we grow as a person. Inside is where the healing takes place. Inside is where the mindset reshapes.

Those goals of losing fat, building muscle, writing a book, and starting a business can be life changing. But, often times, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to our desires. While I wanted to lose fat, what I really wanted was to feel more confident within my own skin and feel like I was someone.

Perhaps you want to lose fat or reach some arbitrary number. That number most likely isn’t what will change your life. What will change your life is the feeling of accomplishing that goal and the confidence in yourself.

A number is just a number.

numbers-the wishing game
Photo Credit: Curtis Gregory Perry via Compfight cc

A number won’t change us, but the process of reaching that number can change us if we are aligned with the correct intent.

When it comes to stating what we want, it’s imperative we make these declarations from a place of intent that comes from within and isn’t influenced by external forces.

Sometimes our wishes are not exactly ours, but it’s our ego telling us what we should want. It’s letting outside forces such as our peers, media, and conventional life expectations dictate to us. Letting our ego & external influences be the basis of our decision making isn’t ideal nor will it allow us to ever experience true happiness and be our unapologetic authentic selves.

Getting your wishes granted doesn’t lead to all your problems in life being smoothed over. Those rough patches are still present and the demons are still lurking.

Just because I was physically fit doesn’t mean that my self-confidence followed suit. Just because I was published doesn’t mean my self-doubt was erased. Your promotion, number of internet friends, nor clothes won’t heal your confidence or whatever else is brewing inside.

 The only way to heal a wound is to directly address it. There is no avoiding it or patching it up.

The wishing game can be fun and motivating, but be mindful of where those hopes and dreams are stemming from.

Are those wishes what you really want? Are you making those wishes in hopes of concealing a deeper wound? Are these wishes ego driven and stem from a place to prove a point to others or keep up with others? Are these wishes your families, friends, significant others, or influenced by the media?

Take some time to think and ask yourself, “Is this what I really want and why do I want this?”

Are your recent wishes what you truly want or have you been wishing what you think you’re supposed to be wanting? If the latter, what are you going to do about it?

How to Develop a Passionate Love Affair With Exercise

love affair with exercise
photo credit: DSC_0043 via photopin (license)

When you think of exercise, do you think of meatheads, bros, frat guys excessively curling to impress the new sorority pledges, women sweating away on the elliptical, or fitness classes where you sweat till you drop?

Before re-framing my mindset, exercise was 100% focused on aesthetics.

Yet, I would often feel disconnected from my regimen and purpose of exercising. This disconnect was a byproduct of my approach and mindset toward exercise.

As Damon Young, author of ‘How to think about exercise’, explains throughout his book, exercise has the potential to affect vast arrays of our lives.

What is exercise and why is it important

Exercise provides us the opportunity to educate our body and mind simultaneously. Showing up at the gym 3 times a week isn’t just developing your body—it’s teaching you consistency and dedication. Exercise isn’t just delivering you a nice butt, toned legs, and a sculpted chest—it’s developing a refined version of yourself.

Ancient Greeks were adamant about incorporating exercise within their education. They developed ‘virtues’ while adding muscles. Aristotle called virtues a ‘state of character’, which consisted of habits, desires, and free rationality.

This was more than mental or physical ability. This required combining all attributes together into what Aristotle called ‘phronesis‘ (‘practical wisdom’). This thoughtful practice arose from a myriad of circumstances and you would learn as much with your hands as you would with your mind.

If the Greeks sought and viewed exercise as a way for a complete wholeness of life—then what’s stopping you from applying the same thought to your life?

An overlooked reason for not exercising

Whether it’s habits and behaviors, laziness and apathy, poor time management and lack of priority—we blame something or someone for our shortcomings. Instead of placing blame on one thing, understand there’s a disconnect between mind and body.

Dualism and fitness

To avoid jumping into a philosophical rabbit hole, lets summarize dualism as a division of two concepts opposed to each other (it’s one or the other). Dualism could be a “disconnect between the mind and the body, thinking and doing, spirit and flesh” as Young points out.

In today’s society, dualism is apparent in the workforce. Most jobs are sedentary based (mind) where movement (body) isn’t a focal point. While we are ultimately responsible for our own actions, dualism possesses an ability to drain our spirits.

Young states, “dualism doesn’t straightforwardly cause laziness, but it can kill off ambition: we become more likely to tolerate a partial life, in which we push our intellects but not our quadriceps or lungs.”

It’s easy to become consumed with our work, racing for promotions and put our health on pause in pursuit of ‘things & statuses’.

”Gym memberships go unused not always because we are lazy or forgetful, but because the fear of illness or injury has gone” states Young. The immediate threat at hand vanishes and we go back to pretending the issues are invisible.

Why only workout when there’s a problem? Why only workout when we let ourselves become overweight, or feel inclined to impress others?

Instead of operating with tunnel vision at ground zero—approach your fitness from 35,000 feet above and keep the big picture in mind.

Get lost in your thoughts to unlock golden ideas

Some call it day dreaming, others call it being in a ‘trance state’, and if you want to impress—you can call it ‘reverie’. The point being, exercise goes beyond boosting our moods and shaping us up—it sparks our creativity to new heights.

Darwin, a dedicated believer in the power of movement, took an extended walk daily (no matter the circumstances) to help flush his thoughts out.

Exercise opens your world up, frees your imagination, and leaves the narrowness of your thoughts behind.

love affair with exercise
The power of a solitary walk is incomparable.

Gain a sense of freedom and escape from the everyday life

Lifting a bar from the ground or from the rack brings about a ‘natural high’ or ‘thrill’ from accomplishing a tough feat.

You gain some pride. Philosopher David Hume defines pride as “pleasure in oneself”. He splits pride into two parts: the cause of the pleasure, and the object we attribute it to. Hume states “with pride, the object is ourselves. We can never see nor touch this ‘self’, but we do have an idea of it.”

Example for exercise: having muscular glutes. I get pleasure from these because they suggest power, speed, and great fitness. These, in turn, promise more pleasure for me because: increase desirability with the ladies (ladies love a nice set of glutes), better biomarkers of health, and so forth.

As Young states, “we can also find pleasure in the promise of pleasure.” Pleasure isn’t random, it’s based on whatever we value. Pleasure transports psychologically.

A sense of beauty adds to the equation

There aren’t many things in this world that match the beauty and fascinating capabilities of the human body. When you see a body that is proportionate and flowing gracefully—it’s mesmerizing.

This proportion of sorts gives off an allure of strength, speed, skill, and sexual attractiveness.

Muscles aren’t the true beauty of this equation. The true beauty is what our bodies are capable of and their complex makeup. Muscles are the icing on the cake (some attractive icing though).

How much muscle is good enough? How much weight is good enough? What’s an attractive weight and frame? These are questions for you to decide.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Allow yourself to enjoy the process of chasing a goal and cherish the gift of movement.

Let’s take Young’s advice about muscles and “see them as aesthetic achievements, not existential props”.

A little piece of humble pie never hurts

Pride helps you continue along your journey, while humility doesn’t let you stray too far away from yourself. Humility makes you aware and honest with yourself.

Displaying humility is helpful because it allows us to approach fitness and challenges in life with an eager willingness due to understanding we’re not perfect, invincible, and can only do so much.

This doesn’t diminish us, but instead allows us to go after new challenges and dreams without fear paralyzing us.

It’s okay to experience some discomfort

From learning the guitar, to painting a masterpiece, to asking that beautiful girl out for dinner, to starting a business—there’s discomfort at every corner in life.

Exercise isn’t any different. Exercise builds your tolerance up and helps you embrace discomforting situations.

Lifting weights, holding a pose in yoga, or sprinting steep hills are tough. But, as Billy Ocean reminds us, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

Discomfort will test our values: our perception to what is worthwhile in and out of the gym, and will expose us to what we’re willing to endure in order to reach our goals and fulfill our dreams.

Consistency is sexy and essential

Before Haruki Murakami was a daily exerciser and successful author—he was a chain smoking bar owner with a crappy diet. His body & mind wasn’t connected and it showed.

Only once he connected body & mind, did his career and life turn around for the better. As he says, “If I wanted to have a long life as a novelist, I needed to find a way to keep fit and maintain a healthy weight.”

This marriage of daily exercise (body) & work (life) helped him stay away from terrible foods and feel refreshed when it came time to write.

It doesn’t matter what your exercise outlet is, it matters that you stay consistent training your body so your mind will keep thriving.

A sense of wholeness

The Sanskrit word ‘samadhi‘ is a tranquil state of oneness, common to many mystical states.

As Young states, “Increased sensitivity to ones body is also a mental exercise”. Becoming aware heightens our sensations and provides a richer and clearer conception of ourselves.

Using exercise as a form of meditation will bring a sense of wholeness to your life. This happens by altering your attitude, relieving the anxieties of everyday life, and bringing a sense of clarity and calmness.

Striving for a perky butt or a chiseled chest is great, but that’s only the muscular aspect of the equation. Without the psychological component included, you’ll have a new body, but still possess the same issues and psyche as before.

The big picture and sendoff

Exercise can and should be an intellectual adventure that is fun and fulfilling. Young puts it eloquently saying, “to exercise intelligently is to develop an unusual fullness of character within the usual circumstances. It’s movement, change, transformation: you just become it. The ‘it’ is entirely up to each one of us.”

 It’s something that doesn’t feel forced or dreaded, but something that is instead seen as enhancing and beneficial to all facets of your life.