I’ve been working out regularly at Iron Tribe Fitness for a little over a year now, doing group workouts with lots of squats and cleans and pull-ups and burpees.

I started out doing three workouts per week. It was hellacious. I was grossly out of shape. I could barely run 400 meters without stopping.

Around 6 months ago, I switched from 3 days to week to 5 days per week. Every weekday morning at 5:45 or 6:30 am.

At this point, I’ve come to enjoy the workouts and even look forward to them. That’s insane to me. I HATED every minute of every workout when I started out, but slowly I got in better shape and began to like them.

Exercise is a Mind Game

While exercise is all about the body, it’s really a mind game. For the first 6 months, my only goal was to show up and do the workouts. It took an incredible amount of energy to simply get out of bed and go to the gym. Once the workout started, I would hear all these voices in my head. They would scream out, “You’re fat. You’re a loser. You can’t do this. Just quit and go get a Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit.”

While the workouts were physically difficult, the mind games were worse.

But I stuck with it. I asked my buddy Chop to stay on top of me, hold me accountable, and ask me the tough questions. (“Did you go to the gym today?”)

A Shift

This past weekend I came to a realization. For a long time my goal was to simply show up. Now showing up doesn’t take much effort anymore. It’s a habit. That alarm goes off at 5:15am, and I’m up and out of bed.

Things have shifted. Now I’m focused on how to get better at the workouts. How do I push myself and get stronger and faster?

I have a sneaky suspicion this will be arguably more difficult than the first year of working out. I’ve got the movements down. I’ve got a basic level of fitness. Now it’s time to crank it up a notch, and it’s a 100% mental game.

I watched an interview the other day with a CEO who hired an ex-Navy Seal to train him. The Seal had him do some pull-ups. He did maybe 15-20 total over a couple sets. He was done, finished, couldn’t possibly do any more. The Seal said, “Okay, now that you’ve done 20, let’s do 100 more.” It was so much more than he thought was possible, and yet he did it, proving that the body is capable of far more than we realize. It’s the MIND that tends to hold us back.

How Does That Relate to Music?

As I was thinking through all this, I realized that I’m giving half-hearted effort in almost every area of my life except for exercise. I’m all in with the workouts, but in every other area of my life — business, marriage, parenting, friendships, church, music — I’m far from “all in.”

I know all the movements. I know how to love my wife and engage my kids. I know the stuff I need to be working on to grow my business. It’s not new skills I need. I need an all-in mentality, a commitment to making the most of my life in each of these areas.

The truth is I hold back. I never give it my all. I always leave something in the tank, because if I give everything I have to something, and I fall short, I’ll be exposed as a fraud. Inadequate. If I go half-heartedly and fail, I can just blame it on the fact that I didn’t really try that hard. But try hard and fail? That’s out of the question…until now.

Isn’t it funny? In both scenarios I fail. Try hard, fail. Try half as hard, still fail. But only one scenario allows for growth. If I give everything I can to a goal, and I fail miserably, it won’t destroy me (as much as I may believe it will). No, instead I can simply analyze the failure and make a plan for improvement.

If I never give all of myself to something, I’ll never really see the need to improve. I’ll keep holding back and keep failing and keep leading a mediocre life.

Strong language? Yeah, it is. I’m not advocating beating yourself up and being irresponsible, but I bet there are areas of your life where you are holding back. Deep down you really want to go all in, but you hold back. What’s behind that?

I want to encourage you and me both to go all in more often. What do you have to lose?

Or maybe a better question: What do you have to gain?

Joe Gilder
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