“You can train with the hope that your ego will be satisfied with your physical appearance in a mirror 90 days from now. Or you can train to improve today.”
It’s what celebrity trainer and creator the #1 home fitness program, Tony Horton, told me about being present. The truth is I need to show up more. Both in the gym and in my relationships. If I’m not making daily deposits in my health or with my family, I’m just hoping they’ll turn out great. That hope is not something I can afford.
If you’ve been breathing since 2003 you’ve been exposed to Tony’s energizing and motivating P90X commercials. P90X is a fitness blue-print: if you do the workouts and eat healthy you’ll get results. What attracted me to P90X is the pragmatic approach to diet and exercise. There are no magical shortcuts. You’re eating fruits, nuts, grains, whole foods, and vegetables. No microwaved dinners filled with sodium, just very sensible advice. The science behind it is muscle confusion, so my muscles never get used to the same workouts. Halfway through the program myself, I was in better shape in 45 days that I ever was in 16 years of working out in a gym.
I recently caught up with Tony to understand the patterns he’s uncovered that help people achieve more. I was fascinated by his latest book, The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life. His book teaches you the mindset you need to stay disciplined and consistent. Rather than telling you his workouts will make you look good (which they will), he gets you to dig deeper and figure out why you want to get healthy. It is compelling because he ties improving our health to improved performance in all other areas of our lives.
Talking with Tony is like getting a vitamin B shot, not only do you feel healthier, you are pumped with a renewed fearless energy. Tony takes the fear out of failure which has permeated in both his personal and professional life, but things weren’t always that way.
In the beginning of his training career, Tony never had a mentor. His strategy to improve was to try new things that would address his weaknesses. He explains, “I knew intuitively that if I focused on things that I was unfamiliar with, if I was working on my weaknesses, that I was building my repertoire a little bit.”
Tony shared that the tipping point in his life was when he changed his own narrative. Tony admittedly lived many years where he was not present most of the time, and he would say “no” to almost everything and everyone. He had the constant “what if” playing on a virtuous loop in his head which caused him to be afraid of failure because didn’t want to embarrass himself.
It was then when he entrenched himself with the work of self-help gurus like Tony Robbins, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Deepak Chopra. He applied the lessons that made sense to him which ignited his personal growth.
“If you're stuck and you think you're going to improve your life based on what you already know you're fooling yourself,” he said.
Tony explains, “I learned to take a step back to assess life especially when potential failure would present itself. I would ask myself if my life was going to get smaller or if it was going to grow? Am I okay with not being perfect? Am I ok with attempting to be present for the journey and not attached to the outcome? The answer was always yes, so I always opened up the door to try again. I fell down and struggled, but each time I got up and it was a little bit better, improving my confidence. Each time I accepted the imperfection but used it as fuel to become better. Now I'm in a place where I'm content and pretty happy.”
“Failing doesn’t equal failures; they are lessons and stories to tell. If you look at it that way you won't let failure kill your ambition,” Tony says.
So how does Tony continue to live his life with this “no fear of failure” mentality? He reports, “I don’t assume or pretend to know everything, and I continue to say yes to more things that used to scare me. “
His openness to try new things would soon pay off. After training Harlan Goodman, an executive in the music business, Tony got an interesting phone call. The voice on the other end said, “I’m Tom Petty, I’m a friend of Harlan’s and I’d love to talk to you about a program.” Tony knew training a rock star was both an opportunity to feed himself and a potential bridge to a high-profile clientele. He said yes and crushed it! After working with Tom he also trained other high profile clients such as Billy Idol, Sean Connery, and Shirley MacLaine.
Based on all the people he’s trained, I asked Tony what the difference was between someone like Jeremy Yost who transformed his life and lost 180 pounds (doing P90X) compared to someone who struggles to reach their full potential.
“It’s deep and it’s personal. Some folks just never get to rock bottom. They hover above it and that’s okay for them.”
Tony explains, “Armageddon wouldn't get them to make a dietary shift or move physically. Some people get to rock bottom and are on the brink of total disaster. They can’t survive anymore, and they need to do something to get out of the fear, depression, anxiety, or sadness. How did Jeremy get there and others can’t? That problem I haven’t solved yet.”
Whether it is fitness or any area of our lives, once we have the self-awareness that we’re hovering over rock bottom, then and only then is when we can begin to change.
Tony’s life improved when he made a decision to make a change. That mindset helped him overcome his fear of failure while he was constantly working on his weaknesses to get better.
I concluded the interview with Tony in a pensive state and while I care about my health and fitness and got a rush from Tony’s B5 energy, what I was feeling was truly deeper. “What is it in my life that I’ve been delaying to change or improve?” I knew however, choosing to answer that question meant remembering Tony’s catchphrase to “Do my best and forget about the rest”, and not attaching myself to the outcome.
You can listen to the full interview with Tony Horton here.