WHAT I’M DOING TO LEARN FROM THE PAST

 

It’s anniversary week in the iron jungles of MASSthetics.

 

Meaning that in two days on February 23rd 2017, MASSthetics will have been gallivanting about the internet for exactly one year. A milestone of which has caused me to pause and reflect on all that’s transpired over the past 12 months.

Because, to tell you the truth, it’s been without question the most transformative year of my life, and that’s something which I believe to be worth recapping with a blog post of it’s own.

Onward.

First of all, I cannot take credit for the inspiration of this post.

The idea to write a retrospective came from the collective blogs of my friend Jason Lengstorf, who casually swiped the thought from his childhood best friend, Nate Green.

What IS a retrospective?

A retrospective is a strategy that allows you to look back at a project, week, month or year, and assess how things went from the following angles.

1. What worked? What did I do right? What am I proud of?

2. What could have gone better? Where could I have improved? What didn’t happen?

3. Riffing off of #2, what am I going to do moving forward to improve? What steps am I going to take?

Three powerful questions, all of which filter into fostering a positive mindset, and plotting a course of action to keep marching forward.

To quote Jason:

“A retrospective creates a plan for learning from the past.”

Which is a damn good thing to get into the habit of doing.

So, let’s go.

My personal retrospective for 2016

All in all, 2016 was an incredible year for me, especially on a personal level. I was able to cross off two massive, long standing goals of mine, take trips to Austin (twice), New York City, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and I spent three months living in Greece. Being able to travel like so is something I’ve always craved, and this was finally the first year that I was able to do so with such freedom.

The writing of this marks the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was a freshly minted 19 year old. # That dream? # To travel. To experience new cultures. To dive into new environments. To taste new foods (of course). All while still earning an income and doing that which brings myself, and others value. # It hasn’t been an easy road getting here. Months of my life were spent working at Starbucks – a job that didn’t mesh with my values or goals in the slightest – and trying to figure out what the hell I was chasing. # I’ve lost friendships and turned down opportunities for new ones. And on the flip side, I've forged incredible new relationships with people dotted around the globe. # The relationship I was in for over 2 years was stretched, pushed, and tested one too many times. Because, to quote one of my favourite writers, Mark Manson: # "Love isn’t always enough." # And that's okay. Because, it was an incredible experience, and I was able to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. # Building MASSthetics has been a labour of love, a mentally exhausting passion project, and the focus of all my goddamn life-force rolled into one. # I’ve reached a point where I’m ready to take the plunge. To see if I can live up to the dream I've pictured so clearly, for so long. # I sold, passed on or parted ways with 90% of my belongings, my flights are booked and I’m en-route to stop number one. New York City. Which, seems like the most fitting city in the world in which to begin this journey. # The coming months are sure to be an adventure. I still have a business to build and take to new heights. I still have Nationals next July to improve for. I still have items to check off the list. # To those who have supported me, helped me grow, and allowed me the opportunity to chase what I’ve dreamt of, I cannot thank you enough. # You know who you are. # I cannot thank any of you enough for the support, encouragement and guidance. # If there's one if there's one thing I'd love for you to take away from this. It's that you you truly are capable of whatever you envision.

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Removed from the ability to, and joy of travel, here are the three big wins I want to focus on celebrating from 2016.

Big Win #1

After having it on my mind for a long, long time, I finally stopped “waiting for the right time,” and bit the bullet on competing in bodybuilding.

The thought of competing has been one that I’d bandied about for three, almost four years, without ever knuckling down and committing to doing so.

At the tail end of 2015, enough was enough. I stopped waffling, took a deep breath, and laid it in stone that I would compete in 2016.

Big Win #2

Expanding on the big win from above, when I was choosing my shows, I realized that I didn’t just want to compete for the sake of it. Coming from a background of competitive hockey, my fire was fuelled, and I wanted to win.

Thus, I set out with the intention to do a local show, qualify for provincials, compete at provincials, qualify for nationals, then compete at nationals.

A lofty goal considering I’d never stepped on stage before, and had only a vague idea of what I was getting myself into?

Perhaps.

Yet, all went exactly according to plan.

Well, almost. The only deviation from the above was that I passed on nationals last year, in favour of getting a solid off-season under me so that I could be more competitive on that stage. Not to mention the fact that after five and a half months of contest prep I was run into the ground, and the thought of extending that to six and a half months was not one that excited me in the slightest.

Big Win #3

Truthfully, this is my largest cause for celebration from the past year.

I was able to quit a job that wasn’t serving my long term vision, failed to leave me feeling fulfilled, and brought my little joy. Thanks to running on four to five hours of sleep for months on end (while prepping), and having no social life, within months of the birth of MASSthetics, I was able to take the leap, and strike out on my own.

There will be more on this front coming on Thursday, but for context you should know that my dream of running my own business and gaining total control over my life and time has been a goal older than my designs on competing.

I’m not perfect

After reading the above, it would be easy to say that 2016 was a perfect year, nothing went wrong, and that I’m a perfect human being.

This is far from the case.

Despite the successes of above, much was sacrificed on the quest to turn those dreams into a reality.

What follows are parts of my life that I let fall to the side, and a few opportunities for growth moving forward.

Growth Opportunity #1

My relationships.

I should specify by saying intimate and familial relationships.

Thanks to the business mastermind (courtesy of John Romaniello) that I’m a member of, and the fact that I work online, I was able to connect with and foster powerful friendships with amazing people all over the world.

It’s crazy to think that people I see less than a handful of times per year are some of my closest friends, but so it is.

Building MASSthetics, and competing laid claim to the bulk of my time, energy, and attention. As a result, I rarely saw my family for months (despite living in the same town), and the relationship I was in for the bulk of the year became stretched too thin to carry on.

The painful irony of this lies in the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without the help and constant support of both my family and then-girlfriend.

Growth Opportunity #2

Not only did I fail at devoting time to spend with those closest to me, but I threw the idea of taking time for myself out the window. Once more, the painful irony in this is that taking time for myself is something that I’ve always deeply valued.

  • I read fewer books “for fun.”
  • I watched fewer movies.
  • I stopped drinking wine.
  • I turned down a lot of invitations to do fun shit.

About the only thing I held onto was watching a couple episodes of Seinfeld two or three times per week (often when my brain became too fried to do anything else).

Growth Opportunity #3

In spite off all that I did do, I didn’t accomplish as many things as I wanted to.

There’s a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that this will be a recurring theme from year to year, but it stings nonetheless.

  • From a personal standpoint, I’ve been wanting to become conversational in Spanish (beyond meals and simple greetings) for years.
  • Boxing is something I want to try my hand at.
  • I want to build the habit of reading 2 books per month, consistently.
  • I want to devote more time to exploring my passion for coffee, and practice cooking new meals.

While I made half-hearted attempts sporadically throughout the year, I lacked the basal level of consistency that’s necessary to ingrain the above as habits.

2016 you’ve been great, and I’m glad I let you finish, but 2017 is going to blow you away

Here’s how I’m going to do just that.

Below are the three core actions steps that I’m going to take moving forward to ensure that no stone is left unturned, and 2017 knocks 2016 out of the park.

Action Step #1

Fuck the phone.

The current landscape of our social interactions is centred around the little computers we all carry around in our back pocket. While I love technology and owe nearly everything that I do to it’s development, it’s incredibly distracting, and detracts from interpersonal interactions and relationships.

My attempt to counteract the side effects in living in a social media and technology driven world, is that when I’m spending time with people (training, going to cafes, walks, movies, out for meals), the phone stays off (or at home).

Action Step #2

I’m bringing back “me time.”

I’m going to dedicate time each day to engage in activities that bring me joy. I’ll start with 30 minutes each day, and see how things progress from there.

It could be something as small as going out for espresso and leaving my phone and laptop behind, or even taking an entire day off to train, go on a mini-road trip, watch a movie, binge on Seinfeld, or read a book.

I suppose you could say that the underlying goal here is to not to spend the entire day working. Because what’s the point of having control over your time if you don’t use it to do the things you love most (such as sipping on espresso)?

Espresso, bubbly, and jamming on #MASSthetics.

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Action Step #3

I want need to travel more.

Despite the many amazing places I was able to visit this year, doing so only made me want to see more.

I’d be lying if I said that one of the largest motivators for building my own business wasn’t to be able travel wherever I want, whenever I want. Truthfully, that’s been a driving factor for me for years.

Freedom and control of my time is something I place an immense amount of value on, and being able to travel on a whim is the ultimate manifestation of making that a reality.

As it stands, I have short trips forthcoming to San Diego, Los Angeles, Mexico, and Edmonton (for nationals). On a longer timeline, similar to spending three months in Greece, I want to move abroad once more (but somewhere sunny this time around, like South America).

Every time I travel somewhere new, I learn more about myself. My perspective shifts, and I see things in a new light.

Travelling also represents an opportunity to create more time for myself, to do things that I enjoy. With so many new sights and experiences dotted around the world, it would be a shame to travel, but remain glued to my laptop.

What exactly am I going to do about it?

Thoughts, ideas, and grand plans are one thing (even when written for the whole internet to see).

But actions trump words, time and time again.

So, here’s what I’m going to do to ensure that I improve the quality of my relationships, spend more time with myself (heh), and travel more.

1. A la Nate Green, I’m going to go Nuclear Mode with my phone and laptop. No distractions, enforced restrictions, and a focus on productivity.

2. Each evening when I fill out a sticky note of what needs doing the following day, I’m going to include one to two things that are solely for me. Whether it’s watching a movie, going for a walk, or pushing the limits of my caffeine tolerance, there will be at least one thing that’s just for me.

3. For once, I’m going to be proactive about the trips I plan on taking (I usually leave booking flights until the 11th hour). Not only will this save me money by not waiting until the last minute to book flights, but having travel plans set months in advance will help guide my year, and ensure that I end up where I want to go.

And so it is.

PS. 4 out of 5 lifters will let their rationalization hamster run wild. Convincing themselves they’re making progress…yet you build no muscle, and burn no fat. The 5th lifter joined the MASSthetics Clan and put the information within the (free) Hypertrophy Handbook to good use. He no longer has to rationalize his progress. He simply is. Click here to become the 5th lifter, and let me know where to send the prestigious Hypertrophy Handbook.