What Going to the Gym Has Taught Me About Life

“You have to build calluses on your brain just like how you build calluses on your hands. Callus your mind through pain and suffering.”
—David Goggins

There’s an old gym adage that I’ve always believed in: no pain, no gain.

No, this doesn’t mean you should crush your fingers between two weights and lose a fingertip, like I did a few years ago. It refers to lactic acidosis, or the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause a burning sensation that is often very painful.

I tend to reach this lactate threshold fairly quickly and, while the science isn’t altogether clear on the role that lactate plays in muscle growth, I have always found it useful. Yeah, I know that’s “bro science” at its worst, but Dr. George Brooks, a professor of integrative biology of the University of California at Berkeley, backs me up — well, kind of.

“Lactate is not a waste product, and in fact, it is the most important [new glucose generator] in the body.”

In other words, Dr. Brooks is saying: “Dude, you gotta feel the burn to get the gainz [always with a ‘z’, my friends].”

But, on a serious note, if this notion of “no pain, no gain” works in the gym, why don’t more of us utilize it in our everyday lives? I asked myself this question recently after watching a video featuring David Goggins.

For those who don’t know who Goggins is, suffice it to say that he is the biggest badass on the planet. And he has a saying: “Embrace the suck.”

david-goggins-quotes-sucks
Photo from fearlessmotivation.com

Goggins believes that, just like in the gym, our greatest growth comes from welcoming pain into our lives. Rather than playing to our strengths, we should focus on our weaknesses, Goggins says.

“We’re not gonna triple down on our strengths. We’re not gonna do that crap. We’re gonna work on our weaknesses so we grow. We need friction to do that. Without friction, there’s no growth. Without friction, there’s confusion.”

I realize — and I can’t pinpoint why or when it first began — that I’ve spent too much time in my life seeking comfort. I don’t have a lot of real close friends, but the ones that I do have I’ve leaned on too heavily for support… only, recently, it hasn’t been working.

In retrospect, I think this is due to the fact that I know in my heart that only I can make the changes necessary for me to find happiness again — if, in fact, that’s even the goal. I’m not really sure it is for me.

John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”

I love that quote. And, in the same video I referenced earlier, Goggins gives his own unique take on it — which I found incredibly moving.

WARNING: Strong language.

Look, I’m not a religious guy, but I do believe that we should all strive to maximize our potential… and I know I haven’t. Being happy is not going to change that; family and friends are not going to change that.

Only I can.