Every day try to do one thing you couldn’t do yesterday.
21 years ago I couldn't do a single pull-up.
Shit, 3 years ago I still couldn't.
But the experience 21 years ago was awful. I was a freshman in high school and we had to do a “fitness test”. This involved all sorts of ick. The worst was the fat test. All of us had to stand around a pool in our school issued speedos and get pinched with those body fat calipers. Why would kids get subjected to this?
We also had to see how many pull-ups we could do. I could do zero. I wasn't alone. Still, I'm not entirely sure what lesson I was being taught by making a 13 year old try to do a single pull-up and failing in front of a bunch of people.
I tell that story because it really etched into my brain my complete inability to do a pull-up.
Even after that experience and years of playing sports and exercising, I still reached my 30s and I still couldn't do a friggin pull-up.
But something changed it all.
I started recording my workouts.
And pull-ups were one of those exercises. When I started, I couldn't do a single one, but I used a chair to lighten the weight of my legs so I could do some pull-ups at a lighter weight. And I'd record the number.
For every single workout I did, I'd try to beat the numbers from the previous workout. I'd try and do one more pull up than the last set I had recorded, or one more push-up, or add an extra 5 pounds to an exercise.
It wasn't easy. I definitely couldn't always accomplish one more. Some days I completely failed and did even less than the last time.
But I kept trying.
And before I knew it, I didn't need the chair anymore.
Today, I can do dozens and dozens of pull ups. My 13 year old self is insanely proud.
When I workout these days, I can't help but see how powerful it is to record what I did today and try to just one up myself tomorrow by something small.
As I look back on my life, I see how the 'one upping myself by just a little bit' behavior had been so important in getting better and stronger in other things too.
13 years ago, I had a job I didn't like. So every single day I tried to create some kind of software project or business. This wasn't something I was trained to do, or something I even felt naturally great at, but every single day I tried to create something. Having that type of habit eventually got me a better position at the company I was at, and better projects. Then I got a job that gave me more freedom. Then I started my own company. Then I started another one.
All because I just keep trying to do something I couldn't accomplish yesterday.
It wasn't easy. It was a struggle. Often, I failed and thought I'd finally reached the limit of who I am. But I was always wrong.
P.S. You should get my next post: here.