33 Lessons I’ve Learned in 33 Years

Originally published by Sean Covell at libertyandpain.com:

 

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

– Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
– Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
– When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
– Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
– Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
– Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
– Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

– You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean

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Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends. 

What Really Matters

What Matters Most

What really matters in building a great life? Your individual answer will differ from others, but I believe it’s very useful to reflect on what really matters versus what does not. Not enough thought is given for reflection and meditation about the important matters of life. Moreover, so many of the negative experiences we have in life stem from focussing too much on things that do not truly matter the most in life. I can tell you from personal experience that when I have the most stress, I tend to be focussing on things that don’t truly matter like what others think of me and so on. What follows is a list that I’ve compiled of things I believe are truly important versus things than are not important, but receive too much attention. This list is not complete and will likely never be, but my goal here is to provoke some thought about what really makes a good life, compared to what we think makes a good life.

Here’s What Matters:

What you can control
Meaningful relationships
Doing the best you can
Being resourceful
Being a good person
Reflecting on your life
Having a philosophy that serves you
Helping others where possible
Growing as a person
Contributing to something greater than yourself
Having thoughts and emotions that serve you
Fulfilling goals
Having a team of people you can rely on
Living according to your values
Finding internal strength
Taking care of your family
Finding purpose for your existence
Experiencing joy
Learning
Reading
Knowing what makes you feel good
Surrounding yourself with good people (the right people)
Having adequate financial resources
Adding value to others

What Doesn’t Matter:

Controlling others
Being powerful
Being rich
Being famous
Being liked by others
Adopting the values of others
Doing what others want of you (you’ll violate your own values)
Making others upset (it will happen because you have different values)
Being happy all the time (not possible)
Feeling upset once in a while (it’s normal)
Letting others down (you cannot control how others feel)
External events outside your control
Entertainment
Paying too much attention to emotions (They can deceive you)
Buying a House (it’s not a great investment)
Criticism from others
Staying in relationships that don’t serve you

By focussing on what really matters in life, we can avoid unnecessary stress and negative emotions. Staying focussed on what matters will also steer our thinking and actions towards living a great life. How many of the things on the unimportant list are you guilty of thinking about too much? How has it impacted your life? Let me know what you think is important versus what is not by commenting below!

In health,

Sean

Living With Disabilities

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Living With Disabilities

I asked the question on social media, “What topic would you like to read about most?” The majority of people asked me to write about business, but there were a good number of respondents who requested I write about living with disabilities. I should note, I’m hesitant to state that I have a disability. There are so many millions around the world who have much more restrictive afflictions than me. I don’t consider my life to be restricted by my disability, however, that does not mean I do not have to cope with incredible discomfort, pain and mobility issues all the time because of auto-immune disease. Auto-immune diseases are very prevalent today. Over 24 million (or 7% of) Americans suffer from an immune system disorder and there are over 80 auto-immune diseases that have been identified, including Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I live with a form of reactive arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis in which my joints, my spine and hips in particular, are plagued with long term inflammation and pain. This disease can lead to fusion of the vertebrae as well as damage to the eyes, bowels and heart in some cases. Most people that live with this condition have terrible back pain, stiffness and fatigue almost every day. The limited mobility of many sufferers of this disease can lead to vascular disease and reduced life expectancy is severe cases.

 A man with spondylitis circa 1857

This disease, which I think is fair to call a disability, used to control my life. After my diagnosis, I used to take anti-inflammatories daily in addition to other painkillers. (An interesting side note, I did not do this before I was properly diagnosed. I used to just deal with the pain.) The quality of my life from medication had decreased significantly. I was depressed, I was angry and I felt like a zombie. Moreover, my pain did not lessen. My rheumatologist recommended I take immunosuppressant and chemotherapy drugs, and to never lift weights or work out with any sort of intensity. Based on how I was feeling just from painkillers and over the counter medications, I decided against taking these to further to modulate my immune system. To be frank, part of this decision was based on sitting in a waiting room full of people on these drugs who looked, tired and miserable. I decided I did not want to further alter my immune system and instead I turned my life’s work to exploring how to ease my pain with diet and exercise. Funny story, after the doctor suggested that I not engage in sports or lifting weights I told him that if I was going to be disabled, I at least wanted big muscles so I could push myself around or pull myself up if need be. Fast forward 14 years and I’m now a professional bodybuilder who still plays sports, plays with my kids, and obviously lifts weights. I still have pain and stiffness, but it is nowhere near what it used to be. My mobility is decent (could be better) and I have more than enough energy to get through the daily activities of life and the demands of physical training. I get questions on how I have been able to carry on a normal life without the aid of prescription drugs. I believe there are a few decisions I made that have allowed me to persist which I will share here.

I made the decision to not let my disease or disability define me as a person. In fact, I rarely even think about my condition. Even when I’m feeling pain or stiffness, I focus on how to get myself into the physical state needed to accomplish what I need to get done. When I think about myself, I don’t think about a man with a disease. I refuse to give anything that much power over me.
I made the decision that I would exercise all the options within my control to ease my symptoms. I believe that we always have choices available to us. In fact, I believe that it’s not what happens to us in life that defines us. Rather, it is how we choose what to do about what happens that defines us. For me, I knew there were a number of choices available to me that I could control including, diet, physical therapy, supplementation and physical exercise.
I made the decision that I would always try to feel my best rather than focus on how bad I am feeling. I knew this meant that I had to go full tilt with my physical training because I always feel great when I am lifting weights and my muscles are pumped up. Lifting weights makes my body feel powerful and that gives me an emotional high. Motion is the root word of emotion. When I’m in motion, my emotions are positive and this allows me to think clearly. Even when I’m in pain, I make the decision to MOVE something. I have found there is always something I can do to feel better.
I became obsessed with researching ways to alleviate my symptoms. It’s the body that is responsible for all the healing that takes place. I knew that whatever was wrong with my immune system, at the end of the day I had to give the body what it needed to facilitate healing. This is why I consider myself fortunate. Despite my affliction, I still have the ability to aid my body in healing itself through movement, diet and supplementation. Others with disabilities do not have this option. By remembering this, I remain grateful. By the way, what has worked for me, may not work for you, but I suggest you research all options available to you. There are often more options than we can initially conceive.
I decided to never, ever, ever give up. Living with a disability or battling a disease is a scary proposition. When I was diagnosed I decided that my best option was to take action and try to heal myself to the best of my ability. I knew that I was going to deal with this disease for the rest of my life in one way or another. Given that prognosis, I believed this meant I had to fight daily to live the life I wanted, rather than become comfortable in a life I didn’t want. Somedays this battle is harder than others. I still deal with pain, stiffness, fatigue to a certain degree, but this simply means I have to take more action to achieve what I desire.
I decided that I could become a better person because of this disease. Having spondylitis has allowed me to learn a great deal about what I am capable of and what type of person I am. Sometimes we don’t really know who we are and what we are capable of until we are faced with incredible adversity. All growth comes from discomfort and perhaps the greatest discomfort in life is being afflicted with a disability. As strange as this sounds, I believe my disease has become an asset for me. It has forced me to examine my life in new ways. It has reminded me daily that I am mortal and I can be hurt. This alone has put much in perspective and inspired me to live better. Spondylitis has helped me to empathize with others in pain. It has also allowed me to meet and even help other that live with similar diseases. Lastly, I changed the direction of my life from entertainment and communication to health and fitness. This led me to become a personal trainer, bodybuilder and eventually open a successful health club chain that helps thousands get stronger daily.

This disability is something that I will live with forever, but it does not define who I am. Again, I am usually hesitant to even acknowledge that I have this affliction. Not that I want to live in denial, but I find it a waste of mental energy to even think about it. I have it. I can’t magically make it disappear. All I can do is what is in my control to design my life the way I want. So I focus on what I can control and try to keep my mind off of what I cannot. I think it is worth repeating what has worked for me may not work for you. There is no guarantee my current actions will even work for me in the future. Things change over time and I may have to adapt and evolve my methods for living. I suggest you research and find what works for you and decide to keep on taking action daily to design the life you like. That’s all we can really do! Life is a battle for us all, especially those living with disabilities. Keep on fighting and live and incredible life.

In Heath,

Sea

Forget About Body Fat Percentage!

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In the fitness world there is an obsession with knowing one’s body fat percentage or BF %. Of course, knowing your numbers in any aspect of life is certainly better than blindly walking through the world with your head buried in the sand. However, I’m going to comment on what I believe is an unnecessary fixation on the BF% number. First, most of what follows will be a commentary on athletes. If you do not train in the gym towards a goal, then yes, you should probably take a keen interest in what your body fat percentage is. Moreover, if you are sedentary and do not exercise, or you do but still have a large amount of body fat around your midsection, it’s likely that you have an unhealthy amount of visceral fat around your organs, which is very dangerous. If you need a kick in the pants to get up off the couch and get moving, go test your BF % and work to decrease it. Good. I’m glad that’s out of the way. Now we can move on.

Also, there is value in knowing what your lean body mass is. If you are eating one gram of protein and carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight, you’re likely taking in too many calories. A better formula would be to eat based on what your lean body mass is (total weight –bodyfat). So, if I weight 180 pounds, but my lean body mass is 165 pounds, I should be taking in nutrients based on 165 pounds. This is especially true is fat loss is your goal.

Okay, so you’ve gotten through the first part of this and you’re thinking “Sean, I do train hard and I’m an athlete. Don’t I need to know my BF %? “ My answer to that is no. Let me explain. As a trainer and health club owner, I see too many people become distracted by obtaining a lower BF % and I believe this is the wrong goal. For most cross fit athletes, MMA fighters and other professional sports, the amount of body fat one has is nearly irrelevant. What matters more is performance and the ability to produce on command. For this goal, you need to have a little body fat for the body to tap into for energy. If, on the other hand, an athlete becomes obsessed with some abstraction like BF%, his or her ability to perform will be hindered by an unneeded distraction about knowing a piece of information that will not help them.

It should also be noted that body types range widely between person to person. Some folks might walk around at 10% body fat and looked cut and jacked out of their mind simply because they hold fat in different places. I know guys with 15% body fat with incredible abs. The same goes for women. So, if your goal is purely aesthetic, and you train hard and are healthy, the mirror is a much better guide than a BF measurement. Again, some people are genetically predisposed to store more fat in their legs and glutes. Some people store it in their midsection. Where your body fat stores are has at least as much impact on how you look as BF %. Bottom line here, bodybuilders and physique competitors should let the mirror be their guide.

Another very important thing to remember about body fat testing is the inconstancy in which results occur. The method of testing- calipers, bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic tanks- they all produce different results. Most bioelectrical impedance machines, (the ones where you grab the metal parts and hold your arms out) are very unreliable and produce varying results hour to hour. This is especially true if you are well hydrated or have an increased intake in sodium. My wife and I just competed in a bodybuilding and physique show and our coached Jon and Swann DeLaRosa (www.JonDelarosa.com) (www.Swanndelarosa.com) kept our sodium intake high throughout the entire contest prep. About three weeks into the prep, one of my employees at the gym wanted to test Holly’s body fat and the result from the machine was so ridiculous that I made me laugh. It didn’t make her laugh thought. Despite having become significantly leaner, the machine had her at nearly 30 % body fat- overweight / obese. (@fitlilwifey) on Instagram if you want to see how she looked on stage.) (@libertyfreak for my photos). I reassured her not to worry and explained how the reading was off. But, Holly was nearly de-railed by a piece of false information. She should have trusted the mirror and herself. Calipers and hydro tanks are more accurate, however, it’s worth repeating that your BF% may not have any relevance to you depending on what your goals as an athlete are.

In closing, if you are an athlete, don’t focus on BF%. It’s a complete distraction to you and will hinder your ability to achieve your goals. If you are NOT an athlete and you know that you have a significant amount of fat to lose, or your gut is solid from too much visceral fat, then you should know your BF% number and work to decrease it via training hard and fueling your body with the proper nutrients based on your lean body mass, not your overall bodyweight. Again, the real takeaway here is that there is no cookie cutter approach or metric that can be applied to the whole population for anything in life. That includes ideal BF%, BMI, sodium intake, or anything else. Know thyself. Don’t be defined or distracted by a number!

 

 

In health,

Sean

20 Things Everyone Must Try

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20 Things Everyone Should Try:

Trying and experiencing new things is really what makes life incredible. While we all need some level of certainty in life, it’s the variety that truly makes it worth living. Here is a list of 20 things that I believe everyone should experience in their lifetime.

  1. Do some sort of physical challenge– marathon, obstacle course, Iron Man, fitness competition, bodybuilding or physique show. Test yourself at least once in your life. Who knows? You may fall in love with it. You will surely appreciate your body and what it is capable of.
  2. Learn to shoot a gun, bow, or crossbow. Marksmanship is a very useful skill and may come in handy one day. Target shooting is even an Olympic sport. It’s much more difficult than it looks and it may put your outside your comfort zone and force you to grow as a person.
  3. Visit a foreign country where your native language is not widely spoken. Learning how to communicate with others from a completely different culture is a very fun and exhilarating experience. It will surely make you grow as a person and expand your understanding and compassion for others.
  4. Learn to drive a car. This may seem obvious, but the most recent generation has the least percentage of licensed drivers than the previous ones. With Uber, Lyft and even self-driving cars all around now, don’t let yourself lose out on one of the most important rites of passage an adult can have.
  5. Meditate every day for a month. Great leaders, historical contemplatives, and many successful business people all have one thing in common- they have some sort of reflection ritual in which they allow themselves to detach from their thoughts and analyze what they’ve done and where they are going. Call it prayer, reflection, meditation- all of them are practices that force one to calm the mind. Numerous studies show the health benefits from meditation.
  6. Practice a martial art. Not only is it physically demanding, marital arts can be an incredible practice for self-confidence, strategy and resilience. Knowing how to defend yourself and others is also very useful.
  7. Fall in love. You may have yet to truly fall in love with another. I suggest you allow yourself to experience what it feels like to put another’s needs, desires and hopes before your own. Falling in love is the greatest feeling in the world and though a though a relationship may not work out, the capacity to love is a huge part of what makes us human.
  8. Join a social club or gym. Get out of your house and go to a place where like-minded people are doing what you are doing. You will meet new people, make new friends and though cooperation you may even achieve great things…together.
  9. Stay a night in a very fancy and expensive hotel. If you have never done this, you will be amazed at the level of attention to every possible detail associated with your experience. From the architecture to the customer service, to the bar, to the bathroom- everything is focused on you. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need in life. Plus, you may meet exactly the right person you need in your life at that moment. You never know in a nice hotel.
  10. Get into a debate. How do you know what you believe is true or if it’s serving your well in life? You will only find out by having to defend those beliefs logically against someone else doing the same.   A healthy debate will sharpen your mind and increase your ability to communicate well with others.
  11. Take something that changes your mental state. It can be as simple as a glass of wine, a pre-workout drink or an herb…but… WARNING: don’t do something stupid or get addicted to something unhealthy or illegal. However, I believe it is very important to understand that there are different states of consciousness and how you act while experiencing them. Likewise it’s important to educate yourself on substances that alter your mental state and their effects on your body. More information is always better than ignorance. BE SMART!
  12. Perform for others on stage. I love the stage. I love delivering entertainment to others. This thought may scare you to death. Good. Get out of your comfort zone and experience what it’s like to perform on stage. You may love it. You may hate it. But hey, at least you did it.
  13. Hold a newborn baby. If you want an experience that takes your breath away and allows you to examine the beauty and fragility, hold a newborn baby and look into their eyes. It may be the most beautiful experience in your lifetime.
  14. Go to an art gallery. Experience the stories told by humans through their expression of making art. There is so much history, so much beauty, so much emotion. A good art gallery is an incredible adventure. Don’t miss out on it.
  15. Learn a choreographed dance. This is really just another way of making art, but the challenge of learning a dance is not only physical and mental, it can also be very emotional. It will give you a healthy respect for professional dancers and performers. Plus, it might be incredibly fun.
  16. Write a book, journal or blog. The written word is very powerful. It can be used to pass along stories, entertain and teach others, make something official- it is how many people best express their thoughts. Organizing your thoughts and writing them down makes the invisible visible- and that is something truly amazing.
  17. Start a side business or invest in a company. “Wages will make you a living. Profits will make you a fortune.” –Jim Rohn. Experiencing what it’s like to put your capital to use in the marketplace to deliver value to customers in the hope of returning a profit is probably the most stress-filled, anxiety-ridden experience you will ever face. There are so many variables. So many unknowns. So much riding on the line. I’ve heard that its like staring into a dark void and jumping in. But like Space Mountain in Disneyland, it’s the most exciting ride because it’s fast and you can’t see what’s coming. That’s the marketplace- and it’s responsible for nearly everything we have in our lives from food to technology.
  18. Give to charity. This is something that I feel has been somewhat overlooked in our society. Charity used to play a big part in communities, but now many look to the State to deliver services to the poor and disabled. They figure they are already being taxed for these services. While that may be true, I would argue there is nothing in life more satisfying that contributing beyond one’s self. Charity is an expression of your capacity to love others. It’s a vital part of our humanity.
  19. Handwrite a personal letter and mail it to someone. The handwritten letter, even the physical mail may seem out of style today, but I can assure you, there is something very, very special in receiving a handwritten letter from another. Try it. Though, if you haven’t physically written in a while, maybe work on your penmanship beforehand.
  20. Get a philosophy for your life. I believe how your life turns out has more to do with your personal philosophy than what happens externally to you. You may not be able to control external events, but having a strong personal philosophy will allow you to control what those things mean to you. Philosophy can help you understand yourself, others, history and the world around you. It can be used a set of rules for how to live and how to go after and get what you want in life. Think of philosophy as the set of the sail and you are the boat. Want to go further? You have to set a better sail, or refine your philosophy. Personally, I’ve been heavily influenced by the Stoics, Christian, Libertarians, Classic Liberalism, Austrian Economics, Humanism. I would say that from these schools of philosophy, I have developed my own philosophy- my own set of guidelines, rules and lenses for looking at the world and interpreting meaning. I can’t overstate the importance of having a strong philosophy in life. I will however offer a warning- test how useful your philosophy is by reflecting daily on your actions and thoughts. If you can sleep at night knowing that you have done your best to fill your potential and have not trampled the rights or property of others, your philosophy is likely working well for your. If not, it may be time to refine it. I personally have refined my philosophy at least 4 times in my life. I plan on doing it more as I grow as a person.

So there it is. 20 Things I believe every one who is capable should do. What’s on your list? Let me know. I’m curious to experience new things and grow!

 

In health,

Sean

Be Negative!

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The Importance of Thinking Negative

Despite popular belief amongst my family, friends and employees, I am not a very positive person. Actually, I don’t believe in positive thinking–believing that everything will always work out because you want it to be a certain way. No, the truth is that you don’t get what you want in life. You get what you tolerate. You get your standards. Bad stuff happens all the time, even to good people. That’s the way of the universe. Don’t ask me why. I wasn’t included in the board meeting during the master plan to create this reality. I have a belief that nature is clueless and could care less about your desires. You operate in nature, not the other way around. Sure, you can alter nature slightly, using your mind and body to invent and create things that improve your standard of living, but I think it’s always best to be mindful of the reality of nature. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquake, fires, accidents– these are all a natural part of life. No amount of positive thinking is going to make all that go away.

So do we walk around moping all the time and murmuring about how hard life is? Absolutely not! Though I don’t believe in positive thinking, I do believe in accurate thinking–seeing things as they are, but not worse than what they are. For some odd reason, humans have the tendency to create stories about occurrences in everyday life that lead to the conclusion that all hell will break lose, or that no one will love us, or we will never be enough. Accurate thinking, or what the Stoics called Reason, is a tool unique to humans and we can use it to examine the world around us, and make choices that positively affect our lives. Conversely, only thinking about things in a positive way hinders us from being able to correctly identify obstacles and formulate plans to overcome them using reason. What I’m contending here is that seeing the downside to a plan, being able to negatively visualize an outcome is an incredible tool for preventing pain and can actually help you grow as a person. Moreover, not being blindsided by some negative event may allow you to maintain tranquility. I believe the ability to identify possible problems is a crucial part to survival.

Is the glass half full or half empty? This question missed the entire point. Reason would tell us that the glass is filled to half of its capacity. The glass is halfway filled up. This type of thinking is not new. In fact, it’s thousands of years old. The school of philosophy called Stoicism and it’s teachers spoke about using reason to control your emotions and maintain tranquility. Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also suggested that we use negative visualization as not only a way to identify possible problems before hand, but also to better appreciate the things and people we have in our lives. Here, these philosophers argued that in addition to seeing things as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be, we should also envision the worst-case scenario on occasion. Why? Suppose that in your interactions with others, you envision that this is the last time you might see them because something terrible will happen to you or them. How will you treat them? Will you yell and roll your eyes at them like some of us do? What are the thoughts that will enter your head? Will they be thoughts of malice and hate? Or will they perhaps be thoughts of regret? Regret that you didn’t make more of the time you had together.  What of your possessions?  By imagining you may lose them all, you may develop a better appreciation for what your already have rather than seeking pleasure in acquiring new things.

The point of this exercise is to remind us that eventually there will be a last time for something. Our time is limited and that what is makes it special. Pretending that every time you kiss your wife or kids is the last time may sound depressing, but let me suggest that engaging in this practice radically changes the way you act towards people. By constantly reminding ourselves that our lives are on loan to us and that everything we have will come to and end, we can become driven to do the things that really matter. Also, the way we act towards others will become more positive because few want our last memory of something to be negative-so we being to cherish the relationships that mean something to us even more. Thinking about the negative in this situation can actually cause us to become happier and more fulfilled.

In conclusion, being constantly cheery while ignoring problems is no way to go through life. Happiness is not necessarily our default emotion. Our brains were not designed to make us happy. They certainly can, but their primary purpose is to evaluate the world around us and help us identify obstacles and the solutions to them. Our brains are wired for survival, not necessarily joy. So, if you don’t wake up happy or walk around with a permanent smile, don’t worry. You’re not abnormal. Just be sure that you see things as they are but not worse than what they are. Walking into your garden and chanting “there’s no weeds” will not make the weeds go away. But by thinking “positively” and ignoring them, they might just grow right up over your feet. See things as they really are, not better than they are, not worse than they are. Once you know the reality, you can begin to improve it. And remember too, that we all fated with a death sentence. We all have very limited time. So spend it wisely!

In Health,

Sean

Beating the Winter Blues

Beating Back Winter Blues With Heavy Metal

If there is anything I have learned, it’s the time between Halloween and New Years Eve can be a devastating time of the year for many people. The stress of the Holidays, the sugary sweets, the financial burden of buying others presents and especially the lack of vitamin D from sunlight- all of which can lead to negative emotional and physical states. I’ve always joked that if only we could skip the Holidays, there would be no need for New Years Resolutions because most of those resolutions are to fix what went wrong during the holidays. So, let this year be different. “How?”, you ask. Well, let me suggest that between now and the New Years, you make an effort to train your body like you’ve never done before. We will call this “heavy metal therapy”. The reason for that is because this holidays we are going to use the iron, (weights) in a way that drives us into the New Year with incredible momentum, strength and endurance.

Now, for this heavy metal therapy to be effective, it is important to remember that old habits must be broken. It was old habits that got us in the predicament we are now, therefore, we are going to start off by skipping the treadmill altogether. In fact, all of our cardio is going to be interval training with body weight or weights. We are going to focus instead on big, heavy lifts that stimulate muscle growth, burn fat and cause our bodies to produce more hormones that keep up feeling young and healthy. The main lifts we are going to incorporate to our weekly training us as follows:

-Deadlifts (rack pulls if you lower back doesn’t allow deadlifts)
-Bench press (seated machine or hammer strength press if shoulder injuries are present)
-Squat (leg press is lower back has problems)
-Pull ups (assisted if necessary)
-Dumbbell shoulder press

These movements incorporate many muscle groups to execute the lift properly. This will elevate your metabolism and begin to train

So here’s the plan; we are going to do each of these exercises twice a week throughout the winter months. The rep range is going to be between 5 and 8 reps (after proper warm up). Each repetition should feel somewhat heavy. You get to pick whatever accessory exercises you like, such as bicep curls, leg extensions, planks and shoulder later raise, but the focus is going to be these Big Lifts. Each workout should consist of 5 sets of these main exercises. Be sure to hit each twice a week for throughout winter, allowing the extra Holiday food to fuel your strength gains. Also, try to track the progression in weights week after week. You should find yourself mastering these lifts the more you do them and also begin to notice significant strength gains and hypertrophy in your muscles. Finish off every workout with 15 minutes of interval training(30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) with the following:

-farmers walks
-burpees
-jump rope
-push up to plank movements
-medicine ball clean and jerks.
-kettle bell swings

Last, try to get as much sunlight as possible so that your body can manufacture Vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is a very real thing that occurs when people suffer a lack of Vitamin D in their diets as well as lack of sunlight during the winter months. Too little Vitamin D can cause a variety of issues including, depression, compromised immune function, joint pain, asthma, decreased cognition and even increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. I personally supplement 5,000 IU of Vitamin D an K2 daily during the winter to ensure my body is operating properly. If you live in an area that still receives direct sunlight during the winter, get outside!

So there it is- an out of the box, heavy metal recipe to beat back the winter blues. Let’s change what the Holidays mean for our bodies this year. It doesn’t have to be a winter of discontent to quote Charles Dickens. Rather, it can be a time when you really learn about your body and what it is capable of doing. Your New Years Resolutions don’t need to be actions to repair yourself from the Holidays, but rather to propel your new self into the New Year. Happy Holidays from my family to yours!   We are eternally grateful for you and family. From our family to yours,
Happy, Healthy, Heavy Holidays!

How I Turned Pro (in 5 Steps)

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On the left: How I looked seven months prior to earning my Pro Card.
On the right: Earning IFBB Pro Card at the USA Championships.

It may or may not surprise you that one of my dreams as a kid was to be a professional in sports. I think that most kids, especially boys, share this dream. There were a few problems that I realized would keep me from fulfilling this dream. The first was that I have been plagued with severe asthma since I was one year old. I spent a great deal of my childhood in and out of hospitals and on various medications for breathing. Another obstacle that stood in the way of me becoming a professional athlete was that I was a small, skinny kid. My hand-eye coordination was great, and I was fast, but I lacked the mass for football and the endurance for most other sports. In my eighth grade year, I began lifting weights pretty seriously with my father and I was able to gain significant strength. Then, in ninth grade, I made the wrestling team. This sport actually suited me well because I was short and a little stalky. Not long into the season, however, I developed severe back and hip pain. I struggled with this pain for two years, all the while popping ibuprofen like candy.

After I graduated high school, I was misdiagnosed with RA, rheumatoid arthritis. I was prescribed Percocet, Darvocet, and a steroid to keep the pain under control. I nearly became addicted to these compounds. To say that I walked around like a stoned zombie would be accurate. Not only that, I stopped lifting weights. After losing lots of muscle tissue and feeling miserable most of the time, I decided to go back and see a specialist. This time, Holly, my girlfriend at the time and now my wife, went with me. The doctor properly diagnosed with with AS, ankylosing spondylitis, a form of reactive arthritis that attacks the joints and organs. People with this specific disease actually carry a genetic marker, HLA-B27. The recommendation of the doctor was that I stop exercising and being immunosuppressive drugs along with chemotherapy drugs to lower my immune system and reduce the pain. After hearing this news, along with seeing how sickly the people in the waiting room were, I decided to completely ignore his advice and embark on a journey of health and wellness. No drugs. Lots of weight training and exercise. I would also try to identify foods that were making me feel bad. I knew that most autoimmune diseases are at least exacerbated by poor diets. This led me to becoming a personal trainer and open my first full-service health club at 24 years old. In 2008 I competed in my first bodybuilding competition. I won my class as a bantamweight and lightweight open. I did two more shows in 2009 and 2010. I won the lightweight class in both of those shows as well.

After 2010, Holly and I decided to focus on the business and start a family. I’m happy to say we have been very blessed with two kids and a successful chain of health clubs. This year, 2017 my wife Holly decided that she wanted to push herself to do a figure show. I researched a great deal to find her a coach that I thought would be a good fit and came across Swann DeLaRosa, a top five Figure Olympian. After two weeks of watching Holly’s body transform, I decided that I wanted to test the water again and see if I could make a return to the stage. Swann’s husband, Jonathan has long been my favorite bodybuilder after watching him turn pro at the USAs in 2011. Honestly, I was nervous that he wouldn’t take my on as a client because I wasn’t in contest shape and I only had nine weeks to pull it all together. But on April 1st, 2017 after putting in the work and giving it our all, my wife and I competed together at the Governor’s Cup in Sacramento. She took second in her class in her very first show (and many had her winning the show). She look absolutely amazing and I knew that she had a bright future. I also won the lightweight bodybuilding division and the new classic physique (classic bodybuilding) A class under 170 lbs. Right away my wife called Swann and told her she wanted to do the USAs, just 13 weeks away! Long story short, Holly got sick and was forced to pull out of the show, but I was able to carry on and earn my pro card, becoming a professional athlete. My childhood dream had been fulfilled and the best part was that my kids and coach, (now one of my very best friends) Jon DeLaRosa were present to watch me earn pro status. So how did I do it? A weak, sickly kid with arthritis and asthma? Well, it’s been one week after stepping of the stage of the USAs and I think I know how I was able to make a comeback to the bodybuilding stage and turn pro all within 7 months.

HOW I TURNED PRO IN FIVE STEPS:

I first assembled a great team around me. I had my wife, parents and two amazing, coaches Jon and Swann. As Jim Collins says in the book Good to Great, “First figure out who belongs on the bus. Your team. Then you can figure out where the bus is going.” I didn’t know I’d be turning pro this year, but I assembled the right team to do so first.
I trusted the people on my team. When push came to shove and had to cut carbs, change my training style and add more cardio, I didn’t complain. I did the work as prescribed knowing that my team cared about me and had that best plan for me. This is very difficult for most people and frankly, honest, caring coaches who are qualified and hungry to see others do well are very rare. So, I was lucky in a way.
I believed in myself. If there is one trait that I have that has made me successful in any way, it is my capacity for faith, or belief, if you will. I have always had faith in myself and those around me, that the best possible outcome will happen. I have never doubted my abilities. I don’t consider myself cocky, but I see obstacles as more of a challenge. Having beat AS and asthma, I love a good challenge. A Napoleon Hill said, everyone has the capacity for faith, but most are using it in reverse gear and getting the things they don’t want in life, the things they fear. I agree. Have faith you can get what you want and then take massive action to get it.
I had a clear vision of exactly what I wanted and desired. Clarity and focus are crucial to achieving anything. I firmly believe that most people don’t know what they want in life so they resign themselves to boring lives of quiet desperation. In the days leading up to the shows this season, I would meditate and read to control my mind and focus it on my outcome. I think that outcome-focused people avoid becoming problem-focused people. The biggest drug in the world isn’t in pill form. It is problems. We become addicted to our problems because we focus on them instead of what we actually want our outcome to be.
I let fate take its course. This may sound counterintuitive considering the previous four steps, but the truth is that some things are outside our control. This is especially true in the bodybuilding world. It’s a subjective sport where opinions matter, not facts. While this may be difficult to handle, the truth is we live in a world where bad things happen to good people, the best don’t always win and terrible things occur. Paying too much attention to things outside our control is a sure-fire way to depression and dissatisfaction. Instead, as the Stoics believed, I spent all the time and effort I could doing the things that were in my control and I let fate take it from there. That doesn’t mean settle by the way. I’m simply saying that we should identify what we have control over and what we don’t and spend all of our energy on the things we CAN control!

So there it is, my long journey to becoming an IFBB Professional Classic Physique Bodybuilder. If I’m being honest, it’s still a little unreal. I’d like to thank all my family and friend agains for their support. I’d like to thanks my clubs Fitness System for being the best place to train in California. I’d urge anyone looking to have an incredible coach and human being in their life to look at http://www.jondelarosa.com and http://www.swanndelarosa.com and find out about their services. I’m honored to call them both some of my closest friends.

And above all, I’d like to thank my wife Holly and kids for sticking with me through this journey. There will be more adventures to come.

In health,

Sean Covell IFBB PRO

An Epic Battle

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Every single day you are engaged in an epic battle.  It’s really one for the ages and you’re fighting a foe that is nearly invisible.  Impossible to kill.  Once you think he is dead,  he comes right back to life like something from a horror movie.  Don’t believe me?  Let me enlighten you…

There is a little voice inside your head trying to convince you not to do something you know to be good. “Don’t workout” it says. “Don’t take a cold shower,” the voice shouts. “Don’t bend down to pick that trash up, you’re tired and it’s not even yours,” it murmurs. Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s a battle that we all face daily. In fact, it’s really a negotiation. We all negotiate with our mind every single day of our lives. “I really don’t want to go do that, but I really should.” “Well, we could do this, but I’d rather do that because it’s easier and I’m scared.” The voice never ends. It never stops. It’s the voice that keeps you safe, but simultaneously keeps you from reaching your potential. I’m going to offer some advice…don’t negotiate with your mind.

If you embark on the journey of negotiating with your mind, you will end up with analysis paralysis and accomplish nothing. Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” (or just don’t do it) is particularly helpful here. If something that needs to be done, or needs to be left alone, I suggest against negotiating with your mind. Instead, trust your instinct. Trust what you know to be true in your heart. Don’t eat that meal. Don’t drink that extra drink. Do that extra rep in the weight room. Bend down and pick up the trash. Play with your family. Visit your relatives. Do you very best. And remember, the path of least resistance makes all rivers and most people crooked. Don’t negotiate with the voice in your head. Take control of it and make it work for you.