34 Things I Learned in 2014

34 years ago, I was born.

baby-eric

I used to think that giving birth was no big deal, since we as a species (and all other species) have been doing it since forever.

But since the birth of my baby girl Livia, that mindset has changed.

Even though it’s been done trillions of times over since the beginning of time, giving birth is still a miracle.

How else could you describe the coming together of my simple sperm and wife’s ovum to eventually grow into this:

livia

Definitely a resemblance, no?

So that’s the #1 thing I learned in 2014 and that knowledge is such a blessing because now I have a different perspective including a greater appreciation for my fellow man and every other being on this planet because of it.

But wait – there’s more!

33 more, to be exact.

I’ve always wanted to do one of these lists, so why not today?

Heck, it’s my birthday, I can do what I want, so here we go: the top 34 things in no particular order that I learned in 2014 in fitness, MMA, business, life and anything else that comes to mind as I’m letting these thoughts flow from my brain.

1. See above.

2. Mobility is the most under-appreciated component of fitness and when focused on with a proper plan, can result in dramatic gains in every aspect of athletic performance.

The feedback I’ve received from followers of my Hip Flexibility Solution carved this out in stone as the results shared with me inclues increased strength, greater stamina, more speed and power, decreased pain and improvements in many different sport techniques such as throwing kicks, swinging a golf club, playing hockey and more.

3. You know the saying that we only use a small percentage of our brains?

Well, it’s bunk, since the brain is used in so many ways UNCONSCIOUSLY.

However, I assert that we only use a small percentage of our muscles properly and when we do learn proper activation and sequencing of muscles and movement patterns, a new level of performance awaits.

I learned this as I had a lesson with a skating coach and learned a new skating technique, which was totally different than my regular technique and required me to learn to use muscles previously dormant.

Once I got the muscles activated, I can skate a lot faster with a lot less effort.

4. In terms of your physique, heavy strength training is like putting money in the bank for a rainy day in that if you can’t train, you don’t all of a sudden get fat, whereas conditioning and hypertrophy training helps keep your interest rates low (low body fat %) but aren’t as permanent.

The reason why is because heavy strength training acts more on your nervous system, and neural pathways built over time do not disappear quickly if you suddenly stop exercising, which ensures you keep your muscle or it comes back quick.

neuromuscular

On the other hand, conditioning and hypertrophy training act more on the cellular system, which is more dynamic and requires more upkeep for maintenance and degrades quickly when the training stimulus is removed.

5. While you can do it all yourself, it’ll be a lot more work with more frustration and a there is a much lower ceiling on your results.

I lived by the “if you want it done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself” mantra for a long time but since letting go of this belief (which is still a work in progress), have found great people to work with who have helped me build my business bigger and made it more fun to boot.

Big shout out to my jack-of-all-trades Madalina for taking care of all of my customers and attacking every task and problem with optimism and skill, Gjorgji for chopping my videos up and making them look professional, Irshad and Nikola for making sure my sites are running smoothly and Neda for whipping up cool graphics whenever I need them done.

Also my Kyoudai MVDB and Josh for helping out – I’ll have more responsibilities coming your way soon. 😉

6. Getting organized is not just something to do because it’s good to be organized…

It’s good to do because without it, you’re stopping or at least slowing your progress towards your dreams.

Livia needs our time and attention and just adding these demands into our lives on top of what’s already there was not possible.

So, we were left with 3 options:

a) Take care of the baby and significantly sacrifice most other areas of our lives
b) Neglect the baby and maintain the status quo
c) Come up with solutions to take care of the important things in our lives AND Livia

We like the last option best, so we’ve had to re-organize ourselves, spend more time planning and ensure we execute on our plans.

One example – following a meal plan.

Before, we’d think of what to eat the day of or at most the night before and get everything we needed the next day.

Now, we’ve got the entire week scheduled and all groceries are purchased as far in advance as possible and we’re also ensuring that leftovers are there for the next day’s lunch.

Another example is shopping – now, we have one shopping day a week where we sit down, figure out what we need then go buy everything at once or order it online.

We’ve saved a ton of time doing this and now, we’re able to take care of the baby and the other important areas of our lives.

Of course, some things we’ve had to let go, but that’s just part of the transition from being a childless couple to becoming parents, but things like working out, eating well, reading, etc should be a part of EVERYONE’s lives, not just people without kids.

7. Use an anchor to get in the “zone”.

I recently took a workshop with a business coach and one of the tips he shared that I thought was awesome was the use of an anchor to get in the zone.

For example, you might want to be a loving husband and father in your normal life, but when you step into the MMA gym, you know that same guy won’t get the results you’re after, so you want to invoke “warrior” mode.

A great way to do this is have some anchor, which could be a piece of clothing, ritual or routine that you attach warrior mode to.

For me and business, it’s the watch my wife gave me as a wedding gift.

I rarely wear it so now, when I put it on, I know it’s time to focus on business and forget all of the things trying to distract me.

And when I’m done working for the day, I take the watch off and can go into husband, daddy, friend, or workout mode – whatever is relevant at the time. [Can you think of something/somewhere to use this? Let me know in the Comments…]

8. Take time to explore your body.

Not just in movement, but also how it feels.

Squeeze different muscles, poke around, see how things feel.

Do movements you’ve never done before and don’t judge or criticize, just explore what you’ve got and you might surprise yourself with what you find.

9. Don’t believe anything until you’ve put it to the test in your own life.

The more un-tested beliefs we carry around as truth the more confusing our lives become and the less confident we are.

For example, I heard a couple of trainers tout their mobility method as the greatest thing since sliced (sprouted whole grain sourdough) bread.

The story was compelling but I decided to put it to the ultimate test – I dropped all other mobility work in favour of this method.

After 1 month of doing this, I found I was tighter in my hips than before and just felt ‘OK’.

So I’m back to my regular routine of activation, mobility, foam rolling, etc (HFS style work).

But if I didn’t put it to the test, because they were so convincing, the whole time it’d be in the back of my mind thinking that I’m missing out on something great and wasting my time with what I’m doing, which would erode the belief I have in my ways and take up valuable space in my brain.

This brings us to the next point…

10. Aim to make the gap between learning and application as small as possible.

The more you learn without actually applying, the more data you have to confuse you and take up brain space without tangible, concrete knowledge.

Learning is all in your head, knowledge occurs when you take your learning and apply it in the world and get feedback from your actions.

Here’s how you can apply this right now – unsubscribe from all but 1 or 2 fitness email lists.

Pick the 1 or 2 coaches you think provide the most value and listen and apply their advice.

Feel free to unsubscribe from mine if you want, no hard feelings – I’m in your corner and if you do, I know you’re taking steps in the right direction to achieve your goals.

11. Train the opposite of what you normally train once in a while.

If you box conventional, train southpaw.

If you always brush your teeth with your right hand, use your left.

bruce

These little things will ensure one side of your brain and body don’t get overdeveloped compared to the other and will help improve general communication between the 2 sides across something called the corpus callosum, which is the highway that connects the 2 sides of your brain.

More efficient communication between the 2 sides means improved coordination of your muscles, which will help in many areas in your sport and life.

12. If you sit a lot, do 5-10 reps of this every hour:

You’ll feel SO much better after.

If you can’t do it every hour, at least do it twice: before lunch and before you go home for the day.

It can be your anchor to getting OUT of work mode.

13. Measure twice, cut once.

I was installing quarter rounds on the main floor of my house and was getting frustrated, so I started cutting the pieces really quickly and kind of guessed the angle instead of bringing the piece back to the spot it would be installed and really figuring it out and marking it down.

This resulted in a lot of loud swearing and a throbbing vein in my forehead.

I’ve jumped into business partnerships without taking the time to properly vet them before and have wasted a lot of time because of it.

I’ve had numerous loaves of bread end up as dense, hard, crusty blobs because I rushed.

Now, I take a deep breath and consciously go about my day slower and more deliberate and find I’m actually faster and definitely more effective with a hell of a lot less frustration (and that vein hasn’t been so throbby).

14. Commit to completing ONE important thing a day to move you towards your goals and leave the rest as icing on the cake.

Far too often, my daily to-do-list looks like a grocery list for a family of 5.

At the end, I may have completed 1 or 2 things and been frustrated that I hadn’t done more.

Now, I ensure that I get ONE big thing done that I’ll feel good about that will get me to my goals and leave the rest to do if I feel like it.

15. Want to know a quick way to judge the  power of your punches or kicks? 

You can do this with me right now if you’ve got 30 seconds:

1. Get in your fight stance, close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
2. Now, pretend there’s a solid concrete pillar in front of you.
3. Finally, pretend that you’re throwing your strike against it.

The amount of cringing and/or hesitation you get from imagining your fist, foot or shin striking the pillar is directly correlated to the power of your strike.

Your unconscious mind knows exactly what will cause your body harm and will this is a way to bring the unconscious up.

Try it for various strikes and you’ll see which are more powerful.

16. If you’ve had an injury that caused a movement compensation, once the tissues are healed, you must REPROGRAM yourself.

Otherwise, you might actually experience pain without any tissue problems, because it’s conditioned into your neuromuscular system (like Pavlov’s dogs – where the bell=saliva, or in this case, a certain movement=pain).

To do this, determine what movements you compensate in and perform them deliberately, slowly and while breathing deeply over and over the way they should be performed.

I had a buggered left knee for a bit and on the fifth stair before the landing I always hesitated and felt a bit of pain in the knee.

This continued for a few weeks after I knew I was healed.

So I went up and down the stairs over and over and counted the 5 stairs each step, so my brain knew what was coming and I broke this pain-cycle within 10 minutes of up and down and haven’t felt it since.

17. If you spar on a regular basis, for some of the sessions, pretend you’re someone else.

It could be Mike Tyson.

Or Jon Jones.

Or Bruce Lee.

Or Muhammad Ali.

To make this even more powerful, watch a lot of video of whoever you want to be in the week leading up to the sparring so that their style embeds itself into your unconscious.

You might just find you quickly teach yourself some new, effective techniques and ways of fighting.

Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to float like a butterfly and sting like Bruce Lee.

18. Asking for help is a skill that you must learn and apply.

Like I mentioned in point 5, it’s not as much fun or effective to do it all by yourself.

The other reason why this has been an issue for me is because I’ve never been good at asking for help.

Which is why right now, I’m asking YOU for help.

You see, I wanted to write 34 points here because it’s my 34th birthday.

But I don’t feel like writing anymore and want to go hang out with my daughter.

So I need YOU to help me complete this list.

So, I want to hear just ONE thing you learned in 2014 that you can share to help me complete this list.

Before posting yours, read through the comments below and use the next # on the list until we get to 34.

We might get a few duplicates since other people may be writing their comment at the same time, but that’s cool, that way we’ll just get more sharing. 🙂

Thanks in advance for helping me finish this list and I look forward to reading what you learned in 2014.

– E

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edMichele HensleyKlesSandy RasmussenTim Recent comment authors
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ed
ed

I struggle with paralysis through analysis. Just do it as they say. If I’m not sure of som for hething, I have learned to ask for help

Michele Hensley
Michele Hensley

Thank you so much. Your instruction is so helpful.

Kles
Kles

#23 The key to succes is letting go of your attechment to succes.
The moment all kinds of mental blocks created by expectations and fear of failure dissapear, you will have far more succes.
I even entered my final exams for math without studying, while I failed 80% of all previous exams.
I expect graduating was impossible, so I didn’t try to prepare and watched a roberto duran highlight 20 times instead 🙂
I let go, and I totally killed it!
I had a great score, with less effort, at a harder exam!

My Kung-Fu-practicing-English-teacher-Half-God-Stoic-Tutor (no joke) told me a year before, but I just wouldn’t trust him (see #9).

Sometimes, you just have to let go, roll with the punches, and see what happens.

Sandy Rasmussen
Sandy Rasmussen

Having the committment to do what you want not just follow the pack. We went camping for the first time and used my brothers equipment as we joined him. We felt (although not intended by him) that we were abliged to do what he wanted instead of breaking away for ourselves. So we have decided to take control.

Tim
Tim

Know when to cut your losses. Whether it is a bad investment, business partnership, a project that no longer benefits you, or an intimate relationship, staying on a sinking ship does more harm than good. It breeds negativity, resentment, and a toxic environment. Drop the weight, clean up what’s left over, and you’ll feel like you’ve been reborn.

George W. Vogel
George W. Vogel

Accept the advice of those who have already found success in their endeavors whether in fitness, business, and living.

Steve K
Steve K

#21 Don’t spread yourself to thin.. Meaning don’t have so many interests and jobs that you really don’t make significant, if any, gains in any one of them! I had 4 different jobs last year and there was just not enough time in the week to really focus and make any gains in any one particular one, let alone fit in a workout of take a class sometime. I scaled back and turned my focus back to ONE career and work the others minimally. Hoping this works out better in the long run.

Vince
Vince

On point 17, I did this before one of my fights, watching the beginning of Mike Tysons movie and was thinking like that for my fight and leading up to it. I had a mean stare down at the beginning and knew I had won the fight when my opponent looked away.

I came away with a 30 second knockout.

Last year I learnt that being comfortable and complacent is death. It may be easy, but it’s not fulfilling

Vince
Vince

Oh and of course, happy birthday Eric!

K R
K R

#21: You only need to get strong ENOUGH! I know this one sounds weird, but it has been an interesting thing for me to learn this year. There is a diminishing return with strength training because the stress of pushing more weight can increase the risk of injury due to the increased stresses on the body and the increased healing needs of the body. So you have to weigh the trade offs. If you are where you need to be with strength, it may pay off more to simply maintain that level of strength and then work on conditioning and technique.

Pam Adam
Pam Adam

I learned that there are exercises I can do to improve the flexibility of my hips which would be good because I sometimes have pain in them and I know it isn’t arthritis.

Happy Birthday Eric. I like what you are doing and the attitude you have and try to pass on to us.

Charlie
Charlie

Two things that have been helpful for me: 1. Strive to “respond consciously.” When responding to outside stimulus, whether it’s a person or a situation, I’ve found there are two levels of response – what pops into your head first, followed by the actual outward response you choose based on conscious thought. The conscious thought part isn’t necessarily automatic, but you can train yourself to interrupt habitual responses (like snapping at someone who pushes your buttons) and replace them with a response that you consciously choose. The first step is recognizing when you responding “automatically” (without thinking) to a certain input, and deciding that you want to change it. I’ve found this can help a lot when dealing with stressful people/situations. 2. Instead of visualizing results, visualize the work. I’ve read a lot of stuff over the years about visualizing success, winning, performing your best, etc. Then I watched my… Read more »

K R
K R

#20: More isn’t always better–appropriate is ALWAYS better! You have to do what’s appropriate for you and your goals, not just what is the latest trend or what your buddy or your ‘hero’ is doing. They aren’t you and therefore, what they are doing may actually hurt you instead of help you. So if you aren’t getting results, don’t always assume that you need more training. You may just need more appropriate training for your needs. Trying to copy others instead of doing what is appropriate for you, only leads to injury and frustration.

foksieloy
foksieloy

19. Persist. If you fail, pick your self up, don’t dwell on it, and try again. Success is just behind the corner.

Kathy
Kathy

I have a couple of suggestions: As a corollary to #8 (Explore your body), you can further develop your form by paying attention to where your weight is supported through your joints and bones. Feel where your weight is in your feet: To the right? Left? Front? Back? What happens if you shift your weight over your arches? What about your ankle joints? Is your weight going thru the joint or around it? What about your knee joints (remember the joint is not the kneecap). Notice how much more stable you are when you place your weight behind and above your kneecap. Do the same for your hip joints; they are located several inches behind your hip flexors and more internally than the outside head of your femur (trochanter). In addition to #11 (Train the opposite), you could learn something completely different to engage different parts of your body/mind. Say… Read more »

Yos
Yos

#19: Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.

Mark
Mark

Train/exercise for the long term. You can only get so strong, for example I can do one arm push ups.How much stronger do I need to be? After a point, exercise by applying technique, you gain in 2 ways which is a more effective use of time, (I practice building skills). You need to be fit at 60 and beyond, not to peak then let it all go.

linda
linda

Use the medical doctors sparingly…they are educated BUT some are determined to not hear what you are trying to tell them and leave you to find out on your own what helps your particular need.

Ingeborg Sander
Ingeborg Sander

7 to 8 hours of sleep each night is absolutely essential, especially as we get older, in order to maintain hormonal balance.

James Theros
James Theros

I learned the importance of setting a “real” goal (one that you have a burning desire to accomplish and not just a “it would be nice to…”) has to be followed with (or preceded by) proper research and preparation and then it has to be written down and planned out if you want to actually insure its accomplishment. I also learned that I’ve known this for most of my life but failed to achieve a couple of specific goals because I left out one or two of those steps, thinking they weren’t that important. Well, they are 😉

Myles Edwards
Myles Edwards

Happy Birthday, Eric. You are now, finally, less than half as old as me.

Decades ago, one of my mentors, Herb Shepherd, told me, “The best part is finishing.” This has shown up in many areas of my life. Sometimes, I have had to make up some way points to create “Finishes.” While we can all enjoy the process, completing a process goal with good form, honest effort, and consciousness of the moment has terrific, immediate rewards.

I nominate , “The best part is finishing.” as #34, Myles

Ste McCann
Ste McCann

I learnt to he less selfish. To put others first listen to others more and I became a better person for it and my training improved for it

shawn
shawn

After tearing my acl/meniscus this year, ive learned that mobility means EVERYTHING to me. Once you’ve lost it, your quality of life drops dramatically. Injury prevention and durability has moved from the bottom of my to do list to the top. The “it wont happen to me attitude” has been replaced.

mary-love
mary-love

don’t fret over past mistakes. there are in the past,leave them there