The one book I’m guaranteed to re-read every year is The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. The lessons from this book and Stoicism in general are so simple and applicable to every aspect of life that I can’t help but feel mentally energized every time I read it.
The idea of turning every negative situation into a positive experience makes me feel unbreakable. I like that feeling.
But I also often feel frustrated. So much so that I felt compelled to write about it at length. In the spirit of Stoicism, I’ve been focusing on turning my feelings of frustration into those of fascination.
What does this mean? It means every time something frustrates you, use is as motivation to do better. As a challenge to avoid this roadblock next time. As fuel to stoke your fire and prove others wrong when they doubt you.
I got this idea from Dr. Robert Gilbert, a professor of sports psychology at Montclair State University. I love the idea that failure should be fascinating, because it’s the best teacher you’ll ever have.
Write a blog that no one read (I have, I called that 2011 to 2014)? Write about something different next time.
Bomb an interview or presentation (been there, done that)? Next time, spend more time practicing what you’re going to say.
Lose a client (yep, and seemingly always at the worst time)? Focus on doing a better job with your existing ones. You’ll probably get two more clients via referrals.
Specific to strength training, Greg Robins taught me the importance of exercises that put you in a position where it’s easy to fail. These exercises then teach you how to reflexively avoid these positions so when things get hairy under heavy weight, you can overcome less-than-perfect positioning.
At a recent Cressey Sports Performance women’s powerlifting team workout, we were working on squats to the safety pins. One of our lifters seemed especially frustrated that she kept falling forward off the pins. I explained to her that rather than get pissed off, focus on what she’s doing on the way DOWN that makes her fall forward on the way UP. She NEEDED to fail at this exercise to improve her technique. Rather than get frustrated, she needed to get fascinated.
We use exercises like this all the time with our powerlifters. Purposefully putting yourself in a disadvantageous position builds the awareness needed to do the right thing at the right time in each lift.
If your elbows flare too early off the chest, try Spoto Presses or Concentric Pause Presses:
Trouble keeping the bar close to you when you deadlift? Band-distracted deadlifts pull you into a poor position to emphasize what you need to do to stay in a good position:
There’s so little to be learned from success. And I guarantee that behind every major success, whether in business, athletics, fitness, whatever, there’s a laundry list of failures that taught that successful person how do to better next time.
Is it OK to get pissed off, drop a few F-bombs and express your frustration? Of course. But if that disables you from getting back on track, you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. You can always start over and you can always do better next time.
The next time you get frustrated at your current situation, ask yourself, what can I learn from this? How can I apply what I learned here to the next time I get in this same scenario? Failure is inevitable, but your reaction to it is 100 percent in your control. Will you get frustrated? Or fascinated?