Over the next 12 days, I’m going to write you a different kind of love letter: not my typical “do this exercise to lose weight”, but instead some hard lessons learned on the road to happiness. These are actionable suggestions wrapped in stories from my life. If I could wish one thing for you, my friend, it’s that you can benefit from these without going through the painful process I have in most cases. I usually have to learn things the hard way – but you don’t. These are my 12 Christmas Wishes for you.
My father-in-law is 75. He spent his life in a steel mill, raising 5 kids on a tiny salary and running a small farm in the Valley.
When he retired, he started working on old cars. Restoration is his vocation.
If you’ve ever heard Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time”–that’s Russ.
Russ doesn’t build “kit cars”. His Model A has been chopped down, souped up, and customized from head to toe. Most of the pieces don’t match the original design. He dropped a larger engine inside. He changed the original seat configuration. When he was younger (age 70) he used to spin the tires at the end of my driveway on his way to car shows.
He liked the shows because he liked to see the work of others. But he stayed away from the “polishers”–the guys who bought their cars premade, and just run them out of the garage for show. These are the guys who (like me) can barely change their own oil.
He doesn’t dislike their cars. He doesn’t think “the polishers” are bad people. He just knows there’s a difference between what he’s done–built a car–and what they did–bought a hobby.
Russ’ cars are awesome because he builds them with imperfect but continuous action.
He works a little bit every day. Usually less than hour.
Russ’ cars aren’t perfect. They don’t completely match the original specifications. But they run. They go fast. They look cool. His grandkids play in them. Neighbors complain about the noise–in short, all the reasons you really want to own a classic car.
Consistent, imperfect action is the recipe for success: in relationships, in fitness and in fast old cars.
I once wrote a book called “Two-Brain Business”. It’s the story of how Catalyst ran into serious trouble in 2009, and I slowly turned the business around. Thinking about Russ’ cars reminded me of how Two-Brain Business was published in the first place.
In a nutshell, I was invited to speak at an affiliate gathering in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I knew the other speakers (Ben Bergeron, and Forrest Walden) would have some good material. I put my top 20 blog posts from DontBuyAds.com into a self-publishing platform and shipped 30 copies of the resulting book to the gym. It was the cheapest way to print them. There were no page numbers or chapters; no table of contents. I’ve changed the cover since then, but nothing else. And it’s sold over 18,000 copies. In fact, it’s the bestselling fitness business book of all time.
There are only 30 reviews on Two-Brain Business. (You can read them here.) Most are five stars. But three buyers gave it mediocre reviews. Two were legitimate (“There is some good information in here, but you have to dig for it. The book is poorly organized with no table of contents, chapters, or index.”) One was a bit funny:
…but the important thing to realize is that none of my critics have ever published anything.
Two-Brain Business is wildly popular because it WORKS. The stories leave the reader with actionable lessons. While I think Two-Brain Business 2.0 is actually a far superior book because it provides step-by-step instructions, the original is more popular precisely BECAUSE of its rawness. It took years to write, because it took me years to fix the mistakes I’d made in my gym. But the successful gym Catalyst became–like the book–was the result of consistent, imperfect action.
Catalyst is not perfect. Our front desk is usually cluttered. Our heaters are louder than they should be. The ceilings are 14ft, not 15ft, so our rope is a foot short. But it’s incredibly fun; the hugs are genuine; and we make people fit and happy every single day.
My staff playbook doesn’t have a beautiful cover. There are no page numbers. But our coaches know what to do, and they do it consistently well.
My website isn’t artistic. But people can book a free No-Sweat Intro in two clicks or less.
At the SuperMeet on Saturday, no one will hit a world-record clean and jerk. But everyone will be cheered. Everyone will be warmly welcomed to the potluck later. Every. single. athlete will have a reason to smile; probably more than one.
Our top athletes aren’t “perfect movers” (whatever that is.) But they show up consistently, work hard consistently, and see steady progress.
Strive for excellence. But when you can’t be excellent, know this: you’re more than good enough already. Ship, publish, hit “send”. Consistent, imperfect action will carry you further than brief moments of perfection. You can polish the headlights again, or you can go out and spin the tires.