Benny's Adventures

5 Lessons I Learned About Success From the Gym

Lists are popular ways to convey sets of ideas in an attention-grabbing manner so I’ve given it a shot. I think it’ll also have the benefit of forcing me to improve my thought structure. With the way I’ve planned it out in my head I believe number 5 on the list will be the most important.


Throughout college I flirted with working out under encouraging pressure from my sophomore and junior year roommate. In my senior year I took a step further and enrolled in a weight training class. Looking back that’s where many of my ambitions in the gym developed. For example, my main goal has always been power. I don’t care to bulk or tone but I desire power to be able to dunk one day.

I’ve reached new heights, sustained injuries (and recovered), met interesting people, and learned about myself in ways I didn’t expect. In this post I’d like to share the insights that help in the gym and outside and solidify these realizations in my own mind.

1. Find your balance.

(Corollary: Don’t judge others negatively for their balance.)

Some people want to build their endurance. Some people like to bulk up. And many others are pursuing a variety of other goals. My goal is power and I learned many things from all sorts of people. Between observing people exercising, talking with people, taking a class, and lots of Googling I’ve created a balance in my workout and along those lines I am creating a balance in my life. I am similar to people but also different. This means I can have role models influence the way I lead my life but the finer details are under my control.

When you find your balance every day will be progress. Dreams aren’t achieved instantly but through deliberate habits built over weeks and months and setting up the right mix of personal tasks is the core of reaching dreams.

(Corollary: I don’t want to be negatively judged based only on difference. To earn that privilege I do not negatively judge others because they are different. Some people know better than me in some areas and I am more knowledgeable in some areas. See lesson 2 for the importance of this corollary.)

2. Learn from others.

(Corollary: If someone doesn’t know something, educate them if they are willing.)

Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” (according to Wikiquote (, anyway). Take this to heart. I learned about exercise quickly under the guidance of my roommate, weight training instructor, and after school I learned from people with more experience and knowledge than me. I’m acutely aware of this concept as an engineer: every bit of modern technology is an embodiment of Newton’s quote. It works for all aspects of life too! I’ve learned better ways to organize, better ways to study, better ways to work, even better ways to play games from other people. Always be open to lessons and constructive criticism.

(Corollary: You can lend your shoulders to someone else, too. This XKCD coming is closely related to what I am attempting to convey:
WIth that being said if you are dealing with an uninterested person I wouldn’t bother unless you are required to (such as if it is your job). There are better ways to spend your time and energy.)

3. Consistency is key.

(Corollary: If you don’t actually do something nothing will happen.)

Body development of any sort needs time to take hold. A beginner will see rapid gains at first but these will taper off and only hard work will keep the gains in strength, endurance, power, etc. coming.

This same idea works wonders for studying, work, cleaning, and anything else you can think of. Consistent studying intuitively leads to better understanding and consistent work leads to more work getting done. Keeping a dorm room, apartment, or house clean consistently makes a messy domicile a thing of the past. Good habits take time to build and require consistency to develop strong roots.

(Corollary: This corollary is axiomatic.)

4. If you are hurt, take the time to heal.

(Corollary: Don’t put yourself in a position to be hurt again.)

As I worked to increase my vertical I ran into trouble with my knees. I don’t think it was the exercise so much as playing basketball and ignoring a knee injury I sustained thinking I would just walk it off. It degenerated to a point I felt compelled to go to my doctor about it. Fortunately there were no signs of fracture or other serious conditions but I did need to back off for a while.

Even now I still have knee issues but I am taking the time to let myself heal and also working to strengthen core muscles and ligaments to improve my knee’s health.

I did, however, try to power through it for a while and boy did that HURT. It’s never a good idea to push through pain for no good reason. It happened with my body and it happened with my mind too. I hit some low points in school that I tried to power through when really what I needed to do is slow down and let myself heal. In particular rather than try to push through a period of time when I was figuring out where my academic ambitions were I tried to do everything and ended up sick, miserable, and unhappy.

Life finally got better when I admitted to myself that I am not invulnerable physically or mentally.

(Corollary: Part of the growth here is to not get hurt again. If I broke my leg I don’t intend to repeat what hurt me to begin with and that applies to any situation. I don’t intend to get overwhelmed to the point of depression, for example, realizing that I can have more success focusing on fewer goals than too many. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

As much strength as it takes to giving yourself time to heal it takes even more strength to not repeat any bad habits that could have lead to it (I’m more referencing mental trauma rather than physical here). It’s simple but even I lose sight of it in the heat of the moment. Emotions are very powerful.)

5. Working smart still involves working hard.

(Corollary: It’s okay to have inefficiencies.)

I’ve often heard the expression, “Work smart, not hard.” The idea seems to be that if I manage to work in just the right way I will achieve success without breaking a sweat.

After years of conscientious exercise though I claim that expression is bullshit. Here is the way I see it now: Working smart multiples the results of working hard. I can spend a year planning the perfect workout routine but if I don’t actually spend any time in the gym I have gained nothing. Similarly if I keep at a poor routine I will certainly see some gains but I’ll likely put myself at risk for injury and not take advantage of the potential I may have. As I work hard if I also work smart I can constantly be improving my rewards.

This does lead to the mathematical truth where you can achieve the same level of success with less work. You can choose that option but my preference is to try and improve myself and my output as much as possible.

Whether it’s at work or at home I need to work hard to make sure I get things done.

(Corollary: 100% efficiency is not required. I believe the common expression is, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It’s okay to have time to relax, read for pleasure, play video games, hang out with friends, and more. After all, research is building a case for willpower being a limited resource which means it needs time to recover. Leisure time and pleasure should be a part of the balance – a balance I mentioned in the first lesson)


Writing a list posed some interesting challenges. I had the obvious challenge of stating my thoughts and experience as concisely as possible. I also ran into cases where my thoughts seemed to make sense in my mind where the “flow” of connections can be less structured than in writing. I had to restructure my thoughts for clarity. It made for a better blog post and I feel more streamlined in my mind (which is a great feeling, by the way – I feel like I have really set the foundation with these lessons so that I can build on top of them).

11 November 2013 - Posted by | Miscellaneous

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