The Art of Consistency (And four things I sucked at without it)
Most of us have things we aspire to do or to be. We all have a dream. Where the difference between dreams and reality comes in is when you decide rather or not you’re going to take the active steps to make that dream a goal.
Dreams are just that; a fantasy. A hypothetical situation that occupies space in your head without ever developing any plan of action. “Gee, that’d be nice.”
Goals are a little different. Goals have a plan. The plan gets made, and you then execute that plan to the best of your ability.
So why isn’t everybody doing this? It seems pretty simple, right? Plan, execute, and reap the rewards of your hard labor.
That last sentence just answered the question for you: Hard. Labor. A LOT OF IT. And most likely for a LONG time.
How long? It depends on the goal. But as the saying goes, anything worth having isn’t going to be easy, and it probably isn’t going to be quick.
Of course, there’s a lot of trial and error involved, too. We have a sense of anxiety about facing our failures and owning them — so if we never bother trying to begin with, there’s no chance of failure. That’s (an all too common) recipe for a lackluster life.
But I think once a person gets in the mindset of associating “failure” with “learning opportunity”, they become unstoppable. Failure is something I embrace at this point. I seek it out, I analyze it, and I assess how to avoid it on my next attempt. But developing this mindset didn’t come easily.
I was contemplating this myself tonight during my workout. I’m a “people person” by nature, so having training partners is something that I really enjoy. Having somebody there to feed off and the sense of comradery is great; but when I’m on my own, I equally enjoy the meditative state one can sink into when it’s just you and the weight.
I found myself reflecting in between sets on all of the goals I’ve set for myself to accomplish in life so far. There are many, and they are all dauntingly ambitious in their own respect. I’m only human, and I’ll admit it freely; the goals I’ve set for myself can be so overwhelming at times. But I don’t let that deter me. I use it as fuel. I think. I plan. In fact, sometimes I think WAY too much.
“What is the most efficient way to meet these objectives?”, I asked myself, and it was at that point that I got smacked across the face with the proverbial bag of bricks with the obvious answer — one that has been right in front of me the whole time, one that I always knew all along in the back of my mind, but I guess I never really brought it to the forefront of my conscious: The most efficient way to meet these objectives is the same way I’ve met every other objective in my life. I put my nose down to the grindstone, I endure failure after failure, and I take myself from “sh*t” to “suck” to “good” all the way (eventually) to “great”.
But this gradual progression simply does not begin without putting yourself out there and simply getting started, as imperfect as that process may be for all of us at the beginning (and the middle, and the end, and everywhere in between. It’s never gonna be “perfect”. Because we can ALWAYS improve, learn, grow, and strive to perform better).
And that stuff does not happen overnight, let me tell you.
There’s only one way to get there, and it isn’t glamorous. It isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t a magic pill. It’s consistency. It’s embracing stoicism. It’s “loving the process”, as they say.
See, there are a lot of things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And by a long time, in some cases I mean decades. But even though the dream, the desire was there for decades, every time I finally decided to take action and turn that dream into a goal, I would make more progress in a matter of six months of doing, sucking, trying, failing, learning, and repeating, than I did for six years of sitting around and thinking about it.
1. Walking into the gym
I was 14 years old the first time I ever stepped into a weight room with my best friend, Steven Robinson. I still remember to this day how red-faced with embarrassment I was because I was so uncoordinated and weak that a 5-pound weight plate fell off one side of the barbell during my first set of standing bicep curls. I remember the humiliation I experienced, standing in front of my friend and our personal trainer during our complimentary session.
After that initial session, I went a few more times on my own; the gym closed down not too long after, and I didn’t up to another gym for two more years.
2. Professional wrestling
I was 21 years old the first time I ever stepped into a wrestling ring to train. The very first drill was shoulder rolls to the front, the left, and the back. I still remember to this day how red-faced with embarrassment I was because I was so uncoordinated that during my very first attempt, I proceeded to fall over on my back like a turtle stuck on its shell. I was mortified. I saw these other athletic, nimble kids doing these rolls, these flips that I had never even THOUGHT of doing, and I felt so defeated. “This shit is NOT for me. I thought this was supposed to be wrestling? This is like training to be a gymnast. I can’t do it”.
I didn’t show back up to training for six months.
I was 21 years old the first time I asked one of my mentors in the gym, “if I competed in a bodybuilding contest, what’s the main area of my body I should focus on improving first?” The answer was pretty humbling: “Everything”. I didn’t bother aspiring to compete for another six years. “My body isn’t meant to compete in a show. Everyone is on steroids. Genetics. This. That. The other thing. Whatever I need to tell myself.”
I didn’t entertain the idea that I may be good enough to step on a bodybuilding stage for another 8 years.
4. Martial arts
I was 6 years old when I began training in the martial arts. I made it up to green belt, and at that point my family moved away from where we lived in Georgia back to Tennessee, forcing me to give up my pursuit of the black belt. Thoughts of finding a new school and starting over entered my head for years, decades even, but the same self-defeating voice quickly put the kabosh on any such aspirations: “You’re too old. These kids start when they’re 5 or 6 and don’t ever stop. You’ve let too much time pass by. Go get a real job.”
I wouldn’t step back into a martial arts gym for 22 years.
..It’s never too late:
… I was 28 years old when I was working at a Kay Jewelers in the mall, part time, trying to make some extra cash to pay off my car loan early. I saw a Martial Arts demonstration going on right outside of my store, and I became entranced. Customers were coming in, but they were invisible to me (this was really poor customer service on my part — sorry guys).
I might as well had been hypnotized by that demo — the nostalgia, the feeling of regret from not fulfilling one of the very first goals I had ever set for myself as a little boy: to earn a black belt. So I got a pamphlet, nicely designed with a class schedule for the rest of the year along with pricing. I set up a free trial class. And I damn near didn’t show up.
I fed myself all of the usual excuses not to do it. “What the hell are you doing? You are a grown man, you’re almost 30! This frivolous new hobby you’re considering taking up is like, 100 bucks a month! You have bills. You have a car payment. You have a mortgage to pay off. You have — ” it was right around that point that I put a muzzle on that internal dialogue once and for all.. and just did it. And I’ve been doing it for the past year. The owner of the school I joined, Justin Martin, is a fantastic human being and one of the best teachers I’ve ever met. The way he simplifies the most complicated of things is a gift that comes naturally to him.
And guess what? As of this writing, I’m a green belt again, soon to test for blue. Because I stopped thinking & I just did it.
Different martial art, same love for the process.
Remember how I said wrestling wasn’t for me? Yeah, it was. And it still is. I love professional wrestling & always will — and the fears I had to face in order to allow myself to physically train for it were some of the best life lessons I could have ever learned.
A great friend and mentor, Anthony, or as he’s known in the business, LT Falk, was my inside guide through this incredible, over the top world of big personalities and showmanship. He’s another great teacher that reaffirmed to me that I am, in fact, physically capable of performing this great art, and he held my hand for a long time, guiding me through training and many of my earlier matches, until I felt confident enough to go it alone.
I owe LT a lot, and words will never be enough to repay him for what’s he’s done for me — but none of it would’ve happened in the first place if I didn’t just stop “thinking” and start “doing” — consistently. Not one time, not two times, but consistently, for years.
Consistency took me from being a clumsy kid that couldn’t do a left shoulder roll to performing on WWE TV in front of a sold out crowd. One of the events I had the opportunity to work with them on was held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN — the same arena my mom took me to when I was 10 years old to see my very first WWE event live.
I remember telling my mom that night that I wanted to be on the other side of that guard rail some day. As I walked down the ramp that night, I looked up to the area where my mom and I were seated that night, and in that moment, I was letting 10 year old Zack know that we did it.
Bodybuilding was more of a fun “experiment” to me than it was a childhood dream like wrestling & martial arts were. I grew up on the badass action heroes of the 80’s & 90’s — Schwarzenegger, Van Damme & Stallone movies were the coolest thing I had ever seen. Robin Shou from the Mortal Kombat films is up there too — totally ripped, an incredible martial artist, and making light work of Shang Tsung & Shao Kahn? Take my money.
The physiques on guys like this heavily influenced & inspired me from a very young age to attain a strong, ripped, athletic body. After about four years of heavy, consistent weight training, I had the “strong” part down for sure. I was able to bench press 315 lbs before I was old enough to buy alcohol. I loved walking around in a tight fitting t-shirt. Until I was in a situation where I needed to take that t-shirt off.
Unfortunately, the “athletic” and “ripped” departments were lagging pretty far behind. I’ve been cursed with love handles and a Hank Hill ass since I was a small boy, and because of this, I gave myself the old “it’s your genetics and you can’t do anything about it” talk and relegated myself to being the “strong-but-not-aesthetic” looking dude for many years.
Here’s where I really made a crucial mistake, and I want you to really let this part sink in so that you, too, can understand that your circumstances are not always as “set in stone” as you might think:
Strength came to me fairly quickly once I started training, so I figured that while strength was in my genetics, athleticism (See: my first pro-wrestling training experience) was not, nor was being “ripped” (See: Hank Hill’s ass), so based off of these “facts”, I continued to focus on my strengths (strength) and neglected my weaknesses (athleticism, low body fat levels).
.. Obviously, neglecting my weak points instead of prioritizing them only made this imbalance worse!
It took a while to figure this out (the hard way), but once I made the areas I lagged in the top priorities, I began to see improvements. It was a really tough thing for me to do psychologically, as I’m sure addressing your weak points might be for you too — because as human beings, we don’t like doing things that we aren’t good at. We hate being uncomfortable. That initial endorphin rush isn’t there.
For years, I’d “eat clean” for a month, lift up my shirt and still not see any ab definition, then immediately go back to 3am Steak & Shake four times a week. It’s a slippery slope when there is no immediate affirmation that what you’re doing is the right thing. But this is where discipline and the recurring theme of consistency comes into play once again. I made myself become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Embracing these past fears were the very fuel I used to tackle this new goal, because by this point, I knew that I needed to treat the process like one tough set, through showing up and getting the work done not just when I felt like it, but like the freakin’ post office — rain, sleet, or snow.
I became more athletic through pro-wrestling, I gradually became more lean through educating myself on and becoming more strict with my nutrition, and after several years of having visible abs year ‘round, I pulled the trigger and went into full blown competition mode for my first men’s physique contest.
As for walking into the gym, had I not eventually mustered up the grapefruits to eventually show my face again after a several year hiatus, it’s safe to say that none of the above would have ever taken place to begin with. Being physically fit is a prerequisite for living a healthy & vigorous life in the first place.
From a very young age, I knew that the key to living such a life, to having the raw potential to pursue all of my bold ambitions in the first place, was being physically fit through activity & proper nutrition. I didn’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle (still don’t — always learning), but I had a pretty good idea what it should look like, and I’ve been filling in the blanks ever since.
If I can do it, you can too. Complete your own life’s puzzle, fill in your blanks, make your life the life you’ve always dreamed of living — but remember two things:
- it doesn’t come easy.
- 2. it usually doesn’t come fast.
- 3. it doesn’t come without taking action. ..
— Bonus! —
The fifth thing I’ll suck at without consistency: This blog.
I am holding myself publicly accountable here. This is a platform that I plan to grow over time by bringing together a community of people that are able to mutually benefit themselves from the information they get from these posts.
That doesn’t happen without, you guessed it, consistency. So if there’s something you want me to cover, let me know in the comments section. If you got anything out of this at all, please leave a clap.
At a glance, posts like this may seem like a big “Look what I did” rant, but that’s the farthest thing from my intentions — I’ve already given myself plenty of pats on the back for getting as far as I have in all of these areas (there’s still a long way to go in all of them), and at this point, I’m putting things like this out there to show anyone else that may still be struggling to take this first step that their goals are 100% achievable.
The mind is your greatest weapon, and learning to focus it on things that matter to you is the greatest gift you can possibly give to yourself.