The Tiger Woods story that inspires cold showers

I’m almost 100% certain this post’s content isn’t going to be about what my subject line made you think it is.

Let’s check back later and see if I’m right…

Down to last four holes at the 2001 Masters (which Tiger Woods would go on to win, completing the slam of holding all four major titles at once), some tool snapped a camera shudder at the top of his backswing.

Amazingly, Tiger pulled up mid swing.

But that wasn’t the best part.

After shooting the guy a 2-second death stare, he took a couple of breaths, then stepped up and crushed it 300+ yards straight down the middle.

Those stakes.

That pressure.

What do you want to bet most mere mortals would have taken the bait, and let the whole thing upend their concentration?

In this instance, and many others, Tiger was able to use what Stephen Covey calls “the pause button”.

Most of us are very Pavlovian in our responses (Pavlov was famous for training dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by associating that sound with chow time).

We’re conditioned to react to things in our environment.

Phone rings, we pick it up.

Stephen Covey’s pause button is about using the ‘space’ between stimulus and response to proactively choose our responses rather than merely reacting to things.

In our story today, the phone was ringing, but Tiger wasn’t home.

(He was too busy becoming a legend.)

What’s so useful about this particular skill?

Instead of being at the mercy of whatever direction the wind blows, or whipped around on a stormy sea of emotions, you can learn to be poised, clear-headed, and yes happy a high percentage of the time.

What could be better?

This is something I aspire to.

In fact, I deliberately train non-reactivity.

One of the ways you can do this is by means of physical challenges.

Basking in cold water is an example.  The way I see it, if you can allow cold water to rain on your bare skin for up to two minutes while staying relaxed and controlling your breathing (I’ve even started singing when I do this) then you’ve seeded the feeling on non-reactivity into your nervous system.

Give it a whirl.

At the end of your morning shower, turn the water temp as cold as possible.  Stay relaxed.  Try 30 seconds at first and work your way up.

(This has other health benefits, btw.  Improves circulation, reduces inflammation, boosts immunity and promotes hormonal health.)

Ok, one last thing before I go.

The #1 way to foster non-reactivity is by eating well, working out, and cleaning up your sleeping patterns.

If only I had a nickel for every time a client has commented on how all the little things that used to bother them now roll off their back.

(Ok so it wouldn’t be that much…but I’d have enough for an espresso…)

Get your state under control here:

http://www.conorkellypersonaltrainer.com

That does it for today.

All about that sweet, sweet ability to own your own emotional state.

Well?

What kind of story did you think this was gonna be?

😉

Happy Non-Reacting,

Conor Kelly

How I get travel perks and other neat stuff

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Check out Yours Muscularly striking the classic Ocean’s 11 pose in front of the fountains at The Bellagio.

I’ve been in Vegas since Wednesday for a seminar.

Anyway, here’s a little trick I learned a while back…

Whenever I check in at a hotel, I always get a free room upgrade.

This time was no different.

Here’s how I do it:

1. By ASKING.

2. By EXPECTING a yes.

I’ll usually come up with some dubious rationale for why.

In this case, I’m staying at Treasure Island.  It’s my first time here.  Most places if they’re reasonably decent want to make a good first impression so you’ll come back.

So I go:

“It’s my first time here!  Can you give me a free upgrade?”

That’s it.

But the key is in how I ask.  It’s not so much what I say, as what I’m saying without actually saying it.  Catch my drift?  That means my body language signals that I’m expecting the affirmative.

I hold eye contact.  I don’t flinch.  I breathe.

And I wait for a response.

Ok, back to this trip.  The clerk looks me over (he’s sizing me up), then he checks his computer.  He says, “Well, Mr. Kelly, we have a room on the 22nd floor with a view.  It’s larger and has two queen beds.  But it’s $50 extra per night.”

To which I reply: “Is there anything you can do for me?”

Again, eye contact.  Breathing.

It’s like playing Chicken.

He who blinks first, loses.

After giving me another long, pondering look, he says: “I can do that for you Mr. Kelly.  We hope you’ll enjoy your first stay with us.”

There you have it.

That’s how it’s done.

I figured this out about 10 years ago and literally have not been told ‘no’ by any hotel since.

Will this always work?

Of course not.

But since we’re talking Vegas I’d place odds on a confident ask.

By the way, this is a power persuasion principle.

You can use it in all sorts of devious ways to get what your greedy little heart desires (and positively influence situations, too).  Just practice the habit of expecting a yes when you make a request and be sure your sub-communications match your words.

Be relaxed.

Wait it out.

What does this have to do with your fitness?

Part of what keeps deals like my mini Vegas caper from unraveling is having that good feeling in your body, deep down in your bones.

It’s the ultimate influence.

So start getting more of what you want, when you want it, here:

http://www.conorkellypersonaltrainer.com

Alright, that’s good for today.

I’ve got to head to the airport soon.

Catch you when I’m back in The 6.

Happy Persuading,

Conor Kelly

How to have more self-control

Jerry is a broker working on Bay Street.

His day typically starts at 5.30AM.  He sips a coffee and eats a Tim Horton’s breakfast bagel while he reads the Globe and Mail to get all the latest updates on what’s going on in the world.

Staying on top of events helps him better advise his clients, who trust him with millions of dollars.

He spends his day meeting with clients, taking phone calls, and watching the markets.  Some days the phone calls don’t stop.  He’ll either miss lunch, just have a latte instead, or have to be contented with whatever is being served in the food court that day.

Every day he makes more than a dozen decisions that could irrevocably affect the financial future of the people he represents.  Some days, Jerry doesn’t leave the office until 8PM or 9PM, and retreats to his appartment exhausted, stressed, and hungry.

He knows he needs to eat better.  His weight has crept up over the last few years.  He’s even gone as far as to see a nutritionist that created a simple-to-follow meal plan, which he has every intention of putting into practice.  Yet today he’s so tired, and so hungry.

On the way into the elevator at his building he meets a delivery guy who’s just delivered a freshly baked pizza to someone two floors above him.  The smell wafts in the air, to the point that he can almost taste it, “ooh that smells good.  Pepperoni or Italian sausage?”  He requests a business card from the delivery guy, goes upstairs, and orders his own pizza.

Timing is everything.

According to a recent New York Times article, this is what researchers discovered after considering more than 1,100 cases of prisoners in an Israeli prison going before a parole board.  They identified a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it had little to do with the ethnic background, crimes, or sentences of the prisoners.

It had everything to do with the timing.  For instance, prisoners who appeared before the parole board early in the morning were paroled about 70% of the time, while those appearing before the board late in the day received parole at a rate of less than 10%! 

Need a favor from someone?  Better ask first thing in the morning.

The study contributes to mounting evidence that we possess a finite store of mental energy for making decisions, one that gets depleted with use.  In other words, your willpower goes down the more decisions you make.  The parole board makes decisions all day long.  Whether it’s at the end of the day, or after several decisions, not paroling someone mostly maintains the status quo, which therefore makes it less of a decision.

The limited nature of our “decision making energy” has been amply demonstrated in studies that tested willpower before and after a series of decisions.

What scientists are now realizing is that the fall off in our ability to choose has a lot do with brain glucose levels. 

Need another favor from someone?  Better buy that person a meal – or least some gummy bears.

In the study above, our inmates received very preferential treatment right after lunch.

They arrived at the glucose connection through an apparently failed experiment.  Researchers wanted to prove the Mardi Gras theory.  It’s the idea that people could restrain themselves better if they over-indulged first.  If you’re like most of us, you may have tested that theory on yourself a few times already.

Participants in the study were given a delicious milkshake, then tested.  Indeed, with an instant sugar fix they outperformed the control.  The only problem was, the control group, which was given a flavorless white glop, showed just as much improvement on the second test!  How could this be?

One optimistic version of the story was that it’s the glucose support, not the taste, that contributes to improvements in self-control.  This was later confirmed when the study was repeated using sugar versus artificial sweeteners.  Even though the artificial sweeteners taste sweet, it was a clear win for sugar in the brain boosting department.

According to the writer:

“The discoveries about glucose help explain why dieting is a uniquely difficult test of self-control — and why even people with phenomenally strong willpower in the rest of their lives can have such a hard time losing weight. They start out the day with virtuous intentions, resisting croissants at breakfast and dessert at lunch, but each act of resistance further lowers their willpower. As their willpower weakens late in the day, they need to replenish it. But to resupply that energy, they need to give the body glucose.”

He goes on to say that people are then caught in a nutritional “catch-22”:  they need willpower to not eat, but not eating depletes willpower.

Bummer.

Not only that, but as the body uses up glucose, it seeks a quick way to replenish, leading to cravings for sugar.  Because people in self-control situations are using more glucose, it makes them even more susceptible to craving sweets.

We are the creators of our own appetite.

When you have intense cravings, it’s usually a sign that you’re not giving your body something that it needs.

So what can you do about it?  Simply limiting the number of decisions you make in a day doesn’t seem very practical.  Or does it?

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Don’t diet! I’ve always said any plan based on excessive deprivation is flawed.  I would say this latest article is more evidence that I might have something.  Diets are self-control killers and will eventually blow up in your face, as any former diet dropout knows.

If you thought you failed at dieting before, you now know that not only did you not fail, but in fact you’ve been genetically programmed not to succeed with diets!

But with no more hunger pangs, lightheadedness, lethargy, and general discontent, how will we know when we’re being good?

I guess all that’s left is to eat enough calories to support a healthy metabolism, learn to make better choices, and use how good you feel as a gauge.

  1. Smaller, more frequent meals, containing protein and low glycemic index carbs will keep the glucose levels steady, prevent excessive hunger and cravings, and give you the best possible opportunity to make better decisions as the day progresses.

According to the author: “The problem is that what we identify as sugar doesn’t help as much over the course of the day as the steadier supply of glucose we would get from eating proteins and other more nutritious foods.”

Say no more.  A wink is as good as a nudge to a blind bat, or something like that. 

  1. Plan ahead.  Let’s take this a step further.  In light of the above, I’ll suggest that planning and preparation are even more essential to success.  When you fail to plan, or prepare for the day or week ahead, you are deliberately placing yourself in a position where you’ll need to make many more tough choices throughout the day, thereby inducing a state of “decision fatigue” which leads to comparatively worse choices.

When your meals are planned there’s no need to think.  When you think less, you retain your self-control longer.  The longer you retain your self-control, the better your choices will be.

Make better choices by making FEWER choices.

I like it.

It’s a bit wordy to go on the back of a t-shirt though.

The good news is that if you make the right choice enough times it eventually becomes easier.  When less mental energy is expended with each decision, you increase your power to make supportive decisions in general.

Self-control is like a muscle; you’ve gotta flex it a few times before it gets stronger.

To Your Success,

Conor Kelly

Why goals are pointless unless you have this

Comedian Louis CK has a great bit about how people on airplanes are the worst.

“I had to wait 40 minutes on the runway.”

Really?  You left out the part where you flew through the air…like a BIRD.  What about the miracle of air travel we all take for granted?  Nowadays you can do New York to L.A. in 6 hours.  Once upon a time the same journey could take thirty years, and about half of you wouldn’t survive.

That’s one reason I like stand-up.

Nothing like a little pointed ridicule to remind us when we’re acting like attention deficit millennials who freak out in a brunch line.

Look, we all have problems.

But here’s a rule of human achievement too powerful to ignore:

Until we appreciate the good we have, we won’t get any more.

Think of a child.  You buy her a toy.  She turns it over in her little fingers a few times, then chucks it on the floor and demands new one.  How inclined are you to buy it for her?

The energy of GRATITUDE is a prerequisite for GAIN.

That’s why it’s pointless to have goals unless you start from a place of gratitude.

Want to be healthier?  Appreciate whatever health you have now.

One reason New Year’s Resolutions fail is they’re big lists of things we don’t like.  And often, we’ve been stewing in our resentment of these things for a long time.

But consider this…

It’s impossible to feel resentment AND gratitude simultaneously.

They’re incompatible.

Similarly, you can’t experience FEAR and ANGER when every cell in your body is vibrating at the frequency of LOVE.  Negative emotions are ancient brain states designed to protect you by keeping you ensnared in the known.  That’s why gratitude is a launching pad.  It puts you in a state that makes you more receptive.  It inspires right action.  And it acts as a beacon that draws in the abundance all around you.

So don’t make lists of goals…

Make lists of what you’re grateful for.

Do it daily.

Don’t leave it to chance.  They’re YOUR thoughts, take responsibility for them.  Prime the pump and appreciate any time it feels right to do so.

Goals, and *what’s next* flashes are the natural offspring of this process.

One last anecdote: when I worked at Extreme Fitness, the cleaner was a Mexican guy called Carlos.  Every day Carlos came to work, he wore a beaming smile, and greeted everyone with an enthusiastic, “ehhh, Muchacho!”  Carlos had a lot of friends, and despite what we might consider his relatively humble position, a great life.  I once asked him why he was so happy.  He seemed puzzled.  “Life is BEAUTIFUL,” he said.  “I have my family.  I have a job – so many nice people here.  And I live in Canada, where it’s safe.”

Good share.

Make it a point to count your blessings on the regular…

Then, let goals be the sincere expression of living a life of gratitude.

Happy Appreciating,

Conor Kelly
conorkelly.com

5 Tips for how to be a more confident speaker

I’ll never forget the first public talk I ever gave.  It was right after I’d started my personal training business.  Someone said I should do public speaking to promote myself, and even though the idea terrified me, I decided to give it a try.

I scripted out a 45 minute presentation, and memorized the entire thing.  On the day, a grand total of 13 people showed up.  About 10 minutes into it, there’s a guy right in front row who starts dozing off.  But I got through it.  I can’t imagine it was a great talk, but the feedback was very positive.

A couple of month later, I did another one, and then another one, and pretty soon it turned out that it was something I have a talent for, and really enjoy doing.

Here are a few suggestions to help you become a more confident speaker:

(1) Don’t memorize.  I don’t recommend you memorize your speech like I did that first time.  Trying to remember lines can make you nervous and distract you from what you should be focused on, which is communicating your ideas.  However, I suggest you script and practice key parts like your intro, or any essential stories.  The intro in particular should be well planned, because your nerves will be the highest at the beginning.  Once you get past the first 5-10 minutes or so, you’ll start to settle in.

(2) Embrace your feelings.  Don’t try to fake being confident if you’re not.  It takes too much energy, and feels less authentic.  Remember, your audience is rooting for you to do well.  If you’re nervous, acknowledge it.  Fear and excitement are made of the same stuff.  So call it excitement.  For me, when I feel those butterflies, I know I’m ready.  It energizes me.  It raises my awareness, so I’m sharper.  So if you’re nervous, embrace the feeling.  Tell yourself, “perfect…that means I’m ready”.

(3) Honor your topic.  Once upon a time I’d organized a talk and registration was very low.  I was debating cancelling it.  So I went for a walk to clear my head, and when I came home, I picked a book from the shelf and opened it to a random page.  On that page was this line,

“A great speaker is someone with knowledge of a topic, and a burning desire to share it.”

I thought, I have so much knowledge on this topic, and I want to share it.  So I went ahead.

Since then, I make it a point to remind myself before each talk how excited I am about what I have to say.  Nerves come partly from focusing on the wrong thing: yourself.  Give your topic center stage.  Remember that you have valuable information to give.  Focus on that.

(4) Embody the experience.  On a recent episode of the voice, someone asked Pharrell Williams what he thinks about right before going on stage, and he said without hesitation, “how much fun I’m gonna have.”  As a general rule, if you’re not having fun, the audience isn’t either!  Audiences love to feel like the speaker is enjoying him or herself.  Your goal should be to embody whatever experience you want to convey.  If you want to inspire, YOU should be inspired!  If you want them to have fun, you should be having fun.

(5) Learn by DOING.  There aren’t short cuts.  If you want to be good, let alone great at speaking, you have to take every opportunity you can to SPEAK.  Joining a group like Toastmasters is good, mostly because it gets you up in front of people each week.

You learn through doing.

Finally, I’d just say, do your best to prepare, but when it’s your time to take to the front of the room, dismiss any care you might have about the outcome.  Have fun!  If you do that, and you learn from every experience, it won’t be long before you are a much more confident speaker.

Happy Speaking,

Conor Kelly

 

How to get more AC/DC into your nutrition program

Before I got into lifting weights, my one big obsession was playing guitar.

I had two electric guitars, a bass, and an acoustic. I was basically gonna be Slash from GNR, but without the top hat, or the cigarette dangling from my mouth.

My first guitar teacher, Jean-Marc, taught me the pentatonic scale, and many others, both minor and major. He made me practice each one hundreds of times until they were hardwired into my brain.

In the beginning, I really resisted. Running scales felt repetitive and boring, like homework.

I’d be like, ‘I don’t want to learn scales. When are we gonna play some AC/DC?’

I knew I could crank out a decent rendition of *Back in Black*. But I’d really hear it from Jean-Marc if I didn’t practice my scales. Because HE knew, if I nailed the basics, I could play anything. He was right. I went on to win awards for both rock and classical performances. I was voted Best in Music at my high school graduation.

When I started coaching people on nutrition, I found the process was very much the same.

The #1 complaint I’d get is ‘not enough variety’. But until you establish the habits that are the foundation for your success, narrowing it to 1-3 options for each meal is the way to go.

It simplifies everything. Meal prep. Grocery shopping. You learn to identify portion sizes. You discover what foods you like that also work best with your plan. You find a system that’s effective, and also easy to stick to.

People always want new or different. That’s what’s exciting. But the truth is, when you really break it down, success is routine and boring. It’s mechanical. It’s doing the right things well, and doing them repeatedly. In my experience, people who need a lot of variety from the word ‘go’ rarely develop the consistency to make the right nutrition a habit. But when you understand the basics, trying new things becomes second nature. You’re just expanding your repertoire.

Once I had every scale known to music at my fingertips, not only could I play AC/DC with more accuracy, but I could easily pull off new musical genres whenever I felt like it. If I’d never invested the time to “get my reps in” and play scales, I wouldn’t have accomplished most of what I did as a musician.

Get your reps in too. Learn the basics of whatever you want to be good at, and do it a thousand times over. Stick with simple, straightforward and repetitive until you get it right.

Once you master the basics, branching out is a logical next step you can enjoy without compromising your results.

Happy Transforming,

Conor Kelly

The bloodsport of writing

One of the best examples I know of suffering for your art is Virgil’s famous poem, the Aeneid.

He started writing it in 29 B.C., and continued until 19 B.C. – and still wasn’t finished.

That’s an average of a line per day over eleven years.

Some days were good.  Words flowed, and well-formed ideas leapt onto the page.  Other days he sat and stared as doubt and self-condemnation welled up inside him.  He was never happy with the end result, and agonized over every line until his death, upon which he left instructions for the manuscript to be burned.

Bit dramatic for my tastes.

But I am tempted to hurl my laptop from the balcony on occasion.

I emerge from some writing sessions like Jean Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport, with the emotional equivalent of broken ribs and a giant cut that swells my eye shut.  Or like the guy whose face is the slow-motion close-up of a foot entering and permanently disfiguring it.

I’m deliberate about every comma, every break in the text.  Even then, when I finally push ‘send’, my finger hovers reluctantly above the button.  It’s as though my child is leaving the safety of the nest for the first time, “She’s too young!  She’s not ready!!”

Maybe some people feel 100% confident about their writing.

I guess that’s not me.

Anyway, the point is getting fit’s like that too.

It’s non-linear.  I’ve never met anyone who lost exactly two pounds per week for 26 weeks.  Instead, there are fits and starts.  For some people, the engine of transformation comes roaring to life in the first month, only to sputter and fall silent in the next.  For others, nothing visible happens until one day – months later – the fat falls from their flesh as though it were well-cooked steak.

Most folks land somewhere in the middle.

It’s an awkward (and often messy) beginner’s dance between progress and plateau.

All of this offends our aesthetic sense.

But thinking you need to be perfect is a trap.

If I needed to draft elegant prose every time I sat at my desk, you’d never hear from me.  But I write every day.  How?  I embrace ENTROPY.  It’s the principle that everything in the universe tends toward chaos.  Or, in my layman’s interpretation, the energy you put into something becomes a lower, less-organized form, but is never wasted…

Perfect is the enemy of good.

It’s action that counts.

If you’re not having the occasional meltdown, you’re not trying hard enough.

For all his hysterics, Virgil created works that endure two millennia later.

So borrow a page from his parchment, give yourself permission to fail, and be bold enough to take your best shot.

Happy Mess-Making,

Conor Kelly
conorkelly.com