The Non-Negotiables | Jim Steel

“Let’s talk about intensity and discipline,” Randy said. Randy
and his 16-year-old nephew Bobby were fishing at a farm pond located
on the outskirts of rural Bayville, Maryland. They had met earlier at
the gym for a session of training on the heavy bag, and Randy said
that he wanted to wet a line, and Bobby was all for it. They hadn’t
caught any fish yet, but that wasn’t important. More than anything,
just being outdoors helped them wind down from a tough training

Bobby looked over
Randy, and Randy had that “look” in his eyes that Bobby had come
to know as a serious look, and he knew that something good was going
to come out of his Uncle’s mouth. “First off, what separates
folks that get sorta big and strong and those that get really
big and strong is intensity and discipline.”

“What do you mean by
intensity?” Bobby asked.

Randy cast a plastic
worm towards a stump and looked at Bobby. “To me it means that you
go into a different state of mind when you enter the gym. When
everyone else is fooling around and looking at their phones and
bullshitting, you are focused on what you have to get done that day.
You are there to make gains, not for social hour. There is plenty of
time for talking the rest of the day. You will be there for an hour
and you have to ask yourself: Can I focus for a freaking hour?

“You need to be all
business when you are training. Look, some people don’t want you to
succeed. It makes them feel worse about themselves when you do, and
it makes them feel good about themselves when you fail. It’s sick,
but it’s the truth. So don’t be tempted to be ‘normal’ like all of
those losers. People may think that you’re being a jerk when you just
nod your head at them instead of stopping to talk, but at this same
time next year, they will look the same but you will be bigger and
stronger. And then when the set begins, you block everything else out
and you squeeze everything that you possibly can out of each
repetition. Every rep, every set is done that way, as hard as you can
and with every ounce of effort that you can muster.

“I have always been a
guy who didn’t care about what other people thought about me. If
everyone was standing around, laughing and messing around, I just
looked at them with disdain and got my ass back to work. My buddies
thought that I was crazy, but I was making gains while they didn’t
get bigger or stronger.”

Bobby said, “I get
that in football practice when I’m trying to pay attention and keep
my focus. I snap at my teammates sometimes when they aren’t as
serious about football than I am.”

“So, here is the deal
with stuff like that,” Randy said. “All those guys who are
fooling around will either join you or get left behind. And it’s
better to start young being intense and focused than wait and try to
learn how to be like that later.”

“What else about
intensity?” Bobby asked.

Randy said, “Well,
it’s not just in the gym where you have to be intense. Intensity is
also pure devotion to your craft. To me, intensity begins when you
are by yourself, let’s say at home lying in bed at night. Since I
tell you ahead of time what exercise you have to do the next day, you
need to visualize the workouts that you will be doing before you go
to sleep.”

“Visualize?” Bobby

“Yep. See yourself,
in your mind, performing the exercises that you will be doing the
next day. See it all, the bar on the rack with the weight on it, see
it like a movie. See yourself getting the grip on the bar, feel the
way the knurling feels on your hands, feel the bar on your back. See
yourself burying a heavy weight, see the bar move fast out of the
bottom like there is smoke coming off of it. See it all with every
exercise! If you see, even one time, that the set doesn’t go
perfectly as you’d like, start it all over again, until the movie is
perfect in your mind. And it doesn’t have to be just in your bed at
night, you can do it between classes, during lunch break, or your
walk downtown in the morning. Do it whenever you have a few moments
in your day. It works.”

“What about
discipline?” Bobby asked.

“I’ll explain it this
way,” Randy said. “Discipline is doing things that you know you
should do when you may not want to do it. It is training when
everybody is partying. It’s turning down a date with the hottest girl
in school because you are due to be at the gym for a squat workout.
It’s eating what you are supposed to eat when everyone else is having
pizza and beer. It’s a total focus on your goals, sometimes to the
detriment of other, easier things in your life.

“Motivation wanes
over time, and then people start missing workouts. But when you have
discipline, it becomes something that you have to do. I like to call
them non-negotiables, things that you must do every day and there is
no negotiation with yourself over it. They must be done. So if you
are supposed to get up and run and it’s pouring rain and freezing
cold, you run in the pouring rain and freezing cold.”

“What are your
non-negotiables, Uncle Randy?”

“I have to train
everyday, I have to write at least 100 words everyday, I have to get
up at 5:00 AM every morning.”

“Why do you get up so
early?” Bobby wondered.

Randy said, “It’s
part of the discipline, being up before anyone else. It’s quiet.
and I can get my training in and be done with it for the day. It
makes me feel great when I do that, and gives me energy throughout
the day. I like knowing that I worked hard already and all the
citizens are just waking up to have their coffee and doughnuts.”

“I love it,
non-negotiables,” Bobby said.

“What are yours going
to be?” Randy asked.

“I was just thinking
about that,” Bobby said. “How about, “Train everyday, read at
least a chapter of a book every day, write in my training diary every
day and never miss a training session?”

“Those are great, “
Randy said, “make sure you stick with them, no matter what.”

Bobby replied,“I
will. I love the discipline that I have in my life already, and the
non-negotiables reinforce the discipline even more.”

“Good,” Randy said,
“And with intensity, you already have it in your training, and all
you need to do is now apply it to other aspects in your life.”

“I think it’s time
for dinner, Big Boy,” said Randy reeling in his line.“I guess we
wont be having fish for dinner. Let’s go down to the docks and get
some Blue Crabs and I’ll steam them up.”

“Steak too?” Bobby
asked. Randy smiled, knowing that Bobby always had to have his red
meat. “Yes, and plenty of milk, also.”

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