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This is a long post. But it goes down smooth with your alcoholic refreshment of choice. Might I suggest Crown Royal in diet pepsi?

Gather round, kids. Grandpa Erdrick has another story to tell.

I'm a bodybuilder. Don't worry. Like all my frivolous tales that start-out seemingly unrelated to careers and job-searching, this story is relevant, too. I think… Let's see where it goes.

Missing the forest for the trees

I'm listening to an interview at www.t-nation.com, a site for athletes, and health and fitness enthusiasts. The interviewer, Chris Shugart, noted that while watching some professional bodybuilding training videos, he was appalled at the poor exercise technique used by the pros. “They're just SLINGING that weight! They're not even THINKING about form at all!”

Later however, Shugart realized, “You know, they might not be using textbook form, but they're using really heaving weights, training really hard. They're busting some ASS!” (Excuse me for shouting, but he really did shout that word, so for journalistic integrity, I'm just reporting as I heard it.)

Advancing civilization, but not advancing results?

Shugart's guest, John Berardi, adds a historical observation. (A history lesson? Groan. You have got to be kidding? No really, this is cool stuff, and is analogous to our efforts at understanding careers and job-search. Bear with me.)

Though people have weight-lifted for decades, only very recently has it been possible to read and discuss weight-training through a multitude of mediums. Go to a newsstand today, and you are confronted with an overwhelming choice of fitness periodicals. Go onto the internet today, and you are besieged by a staggering number of websites and discussion boards about exercise and nutrition.

For less than 10 years has it been possible for someone to learn from such a plethora of information sources. And because of the internet, it is now easy to discuss this information with others, and create more ideas.

Consequently, never before has there been so many “research experts” and “nutritional gurus” and “exercise masters.” Yet, despite everyone having this increased knowledge and access to worthwhile discussions, one thing is conspicuously missing.

RESULTS!

(History lesson is over! Wasn't so bad, eh? Now help yourself to an h'orderve.)

Rise of the 21st century armchair expert

Many of these “experts” have deplorable physiques. They scrupulously learn and share all this wonderful knowledge of how to be a stronger, better-looking athlete. Yet their bodies suck!

But a decade ago, it wasn't possible to get much valuable information on proper training and nutrition. Yet, people working out before that time got results! How do we explain that in spite of today's advanced knowledge of training, and access to superior nutritional products, many of us don't look nearly as good as our relatively ignorant and impoverished predecessors?

Berardi suggested that some of today's generation of information-savvy weight-lifters, “try to replace hard-lifting with the acquisition of knowledge.”

Some lifters become preoccupied with having “perfect” workouts and diets, and miss the big picture. They obsess over form on every single rep of every single lift, over the nutritional content of every scrap of food that enters their mouth, and analyze their workouts and diet in every possible way, to the point of analysis paralysis. In focusing on minutia, they miss the most important thing: all this rarefied analysis and great nutrition isn't going to garner any results if they're not working really hard in the gym.

Spending all this time on message-board discussions isn't building their bodies. Their bodies are built when they stand up, step away from their computers, walk into the gym and start busting their butts. No amount of enlightenment can replace hard work. And this message is coming from Berardi, a guy that makes a living conducting research, writing articles, and making presentations.

No more boring history sermons. We'll call it an anecdote instead, because everyone loves a story.

Berardi gives an interesting anecdote by way of analogy. He tells a story of Sinclair Lewis, the middle-class American satirist who, in 1930, was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

Lewis was to give a speech at a college to would-be writers and journalists. Lewis approaches the podium and asks, “How many people here are serious about becoming better writers? How many are interested in writing as a career? Please raise your hand.” Of course, everyone raises their hand.

Lewis pauses for a moment. Finally he says, “Then go home and write!” and he leaves the podium and building.

Milo Frank, author of How to Get Your Message Across in 30 Seconds or Less, really should have quoted this story in his book.

Lewis' message is thus: You don't become a great writer by attending lectures. You become a great writer by writing!

Reading – writing - doing

When I joined the Fool, I mostly lurked on the boards. Eventually I took the plunge, and discovered that I learned a lot more by contributing than just by reading. It confirmed Benjamin Franklin's quote, “learn as much by reading as by writing.”

Writing and reading is better than just reading. But Ben is in need of revision. It should be, “Learn as much by reading as by writing, and learn more still by doing."

We can have an encyclopedic knowledge of anything, but it will serve no practical effect until we start practicing the process of putting it into action. I will never outdo the multitude of sage Ben Franklin quotes, but I have another personal quote I want to share. “Knowledge does not become wisdom until you learn how to apply it.”

Pay attention now, I'm about to say something on topic

So what does the foregoing have to do with excelling in your career and winning the job of your dreams? It means that we can't just read about doing it in the books of the great minds of our times. It means we can't just talk and write about doing it here, on these boards. We have to actually do it.

We cannot replace hard-work with the acquisition of knowledge. I admit that I fall prey to patting myself on the back for learning so much while not actually doing anything. The people I most admire are those that learn and take action, not those that learn and then just watch from the sidelines, contributing nothing.

Forgive me if I seem to try to garnish the obvious as some divine revelation. Forgive me if I seem to only talk a tautology. I have observed many knowledgeable people here, which leads me to suspect that any unfulfilled desires and goals that we have are probably due not to a lack of information, but to a lack of applying that information. We know what we need to do. But we're not consistently getting out there and busting our asses in the gym and workplace.

To paraphrase the chief editor of the T-Nation website, TC Luoma: “If we are unhappy in any way in your lives or chosen careers, and the prospects for natural change seem dim, we owe it to our goddam souls to change things. We need to figure out what it is we need to do, plan it out, and do it.

My gym and tennis role-models

I'm going to the gym tonight to find out if I can deadlift 400 lbs. Theoretically there's a reasonable probability that I can, since I've done 365 lbs for 3 reps. But I've never actually tried to do anything more. Baldguy13 over at weight-lifting fools just did it. I just thought, “What the hell? How come I've never even tried?”

I got a new motto from the fearlessly-aggressive 18-year old tennis player Alicia Molik. At the Australian Open last week, she was playing in by far the biggest matches of her young life, for her home country, against two of the best, most dangerous opponents in the world in Venus Williams and then Linsey Davenport. Molik's consistent willingness to take the chance of going for her shots, as hard as she could and as close to the lines as possible, had the media wondering how she managed to take those risks in such crucial moments.

The teenager simply said, “I do it because I believe in myself, in my game, in my shots. And my motto is, 'Don't die wondering.' Don't die wondering what I might have accomplished if I had tried.”

“Believe in yourself, and don't die wondering.” That's what I'll be telling myself tonight as I step up to that 400 lbs. And while I'm there, if I see a woman that I find oddly attractive, I'm going to tell her so. Well, not the “odd” part. Why not take a few risks and see what becomes of it? What's the worst that could happen? I'm going to be dead soon, anyways. Maybe right after attempting this lift!

Don't like sports analogies? How about poetry?

And if, in these tries, I fail at both? Who cares? Remember Dead Poet's Society. My favorite moment is when the boy decides to recite his poem to the girl he's in love with but that won't have hardly anything to do with him. She likes him, but feels a false sense of obligation to her jerk-boyfriend.

The boy travels to her high-school, and confronts her in the hallway. She is terrified that her boyfriend will kill him if he sees them together. He eschews the danger. “It doesn't matter. I have to tell you how I feel about you.” She runs away from him, into her classroom. He hesitates a moment, then goes in. He strides to her desk and begins reading his poem about her, right in front of all her classmates. She is of course mortified, and he is jeered at by her peers.

Afterward, he returns to his own group of friends. He looks utterly confident and is completely serene.

“Well!?” his friends ask as they jump around him.

“Well what?”

“What do you mean, well what?! Did you do it?! Did you read her your poem?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“… So what did she say?!”

“Nothing,” he replies, still completely beaming.

“Nothing?” the other boys ask, confused.

“And it doesn't matter. Because I did it.

(In the end, he wins the girl.)

No more analogies, just the straight dope

I've been out of touch with my target company since a couple of key contacts went away on business, and due to some other stuff that happened in this thing called “life” while I was making plans. But I'm not using anything as an excuse anymore. I'm getting back in the gym NOW, and back on the phone NOW, and back to busting my ass, NOW!

If not now, when? If not now, why?

I don't have to answer that, because my answer is NOW.

Reading books and participating on these message boards to build our knowledge and strategies and to share support is great and worthwhile. But it's only the means. It's time to get off my duff again and get out there!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a 400-pound bar waiting for me. I'm going to go have some fun now and see what comes of it. At least I won't die wondering.
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