I had to learn how to do a lot of things by myself when I was growing up. My mother is blind and my father drank a lot of Ten Penny. So I did my homework by myself, walked to school by myself, and learned to put on make-up by myself. (For your information, I scored ten out of ten on spelling tests on the regular, so I did okay.)


life lessons, big brothers, training lessons, lessons learned from brotherDuring my younger years, my brother Timmy hated the fact that I existed and reminded me frequently. When he was forced to let me tag along with him and his friends, he hung me up on a tree branch by my hoodie in the park and left me there. He hid under my bed, grabbed my foot when I walked by, and pretended to saw it off with an old butcher’s knife after I had seen a scary movie. Basically, he was an asshole.


Timmy is six years older than I am and by the time I was a teenager, his contempt for me disappeared. He became kind of a mentor. Even at that young age, he had insight that I still find valuable today. Since neither of us were athletes, the advice was given in a general context, but it’s come in handy in my training as well. I’ve built upon Timmy's lessons with other things I’ve learned along the way and I hope they will come in handy in your training.


Lesson #1: Who the F#ck are YOU?


The first thing I learned from my brother was to not listen to people just because they were in a position of authority, or thought they were. This concept is captured in the question I always consider when someone tells me what to do: “Who the f#ck are YOU?”


For example, let’s say I’m a member of a martial arts gym and the instructor tells me I have to compete when I don’t want to. First, I remember that I’m paying him, he’s not paying me. Second, I remember that I’m a grown-ass woman and I do whatever the f#ck I want to do. Third, the end. At the gym I attend, Titans Fitness Academy, we are encouraged to do whatever we want, so it works out well. Unfortunately for Timmy, I turned this around on him when he told me what to do as a young adult - so the joke’s on him.


This concept also works in reverse. If you find yourself outraged because someone isn’t doing what you’ve told him or her to do, ask yourself, “Who the f#ck am I?” Most likely, you’re in no position to be giving orders. Not really. Read on to learn how to never overestimate your importance.


Lesson #2: Never Overestimate Your Importance


life lessons, big brothers, training lessons, lessons learned from brotherSometimes when I got a little full of myself as a teenager or young adult, Timmy would mock me and refer to me as “Big Important Sally.” The general rule of thumb, according to him was to “never overestimate your importance.” This brings to mind reports of celebrities who when pulled over for drunken driving have asked policemen, “Do you know who I am?” Why yes, Reese Witherspoon, we do know who you are, your husband’s name is on this ticket here. Don’t drink and drive.


Some people, when they win impressive medals or titles or can bench four hundred pounds, begin to walk around with their chests puffed out and think they should be given special privileges. People around them will sometimes feed this perception and it begins to get out of control. What these people forget is there is always someone stronger, faster, or smarter, and even if there isn’t, they’re still no better than anyone else. It isn’t good for your soul to believe you’re superior to another person because you can do one or more things or have one or more things more than they do.


This concept also works in reverse. If you’re selling your soul to gain the attention or approval of someone because they’re good at jiu jitsu or MMA, you’re being stupid and you should stop it. See above for “Who the f#ck are YOU?”


Lesson #3: Why NOT Me?


I used to watch the opening dialogue between Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa online every morning. I loved their rapport. One morning, Kelly was telling Regis that she was going to be on the cover of a magazine. Regis commented that Kelly was pretty special now and wasn’t she lucky? Kelly replied, “Why not me?” Why shouldn’t she be on the cover of a magazine? Someone had to do it, so why not Kelly?


Some people see people doing things in life or in the gym and they think to themselves, “Oh, I can’t do that, I’m not strong/pretty/thin/smart/good enough to do something like that.” Well, someone has to do it, so why not you? I always think of this when I see someone doing something I’d like to do, like writing about training, and then I try to do it. Note: you are reading this article about training that I’ve written. See below - dream today, garbage tomorrow.


Lesson #4: Dream Today, Garbage Tomorrow


life lessons, big brothers, training lessons, lessons learned from brotherWhen I moved away from home when I was seventeen, all I had was a high school diploma and a welfare mentality. I never thought I was going to do anything with my life. I remember working at a grocery store deli making $4.35 per hour and being envious of my friend’s mother who had a sweet job cleaning at an office building. I wished I could clean a nice place like that. I didn’t think I even had what it took to work at a clothing store.


As time went on, I got more education, better jobs, and more confidence. I started lifting weights and thought that maybe someday I could leg press one hundred pounds. A couple years later, I could leg press more than eight plates. What’s that? Four hundred pounds? The lesson here is, the only person limiting what you can do is you. Take tiny steps and when you look back, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished. My dream of leg pressing one hundred pounds seems ridiculous now and who knows what’s to come next? Time will tell.


Lesson #5: This, Too, Shall Pass


Finally, the tried and true lesson: this too shall pass. When I’m sitting at home whining about an injury that is taking forever to heal, I always remind myself I’ve had worse injuries before that took forever to heal and if I just give it time, this will too. I just have to keep moving forward and do what I can to help the process along.


So if you’re sitting at home watching the Mundials, wishing you could be World Champion, and your boyfriend mocks you and says you can’t even get your triangle to work, stop for a minute and think:


  • Who the f#ck is he?
  • Why can’t you be world champion? Someone has to be.
  • Your dream today of mastering the triangle will be garbage tomorrow when you’ve moved on to bigger and better things.
  • Breaking up with that jerk will be painful at first, but that too shall pass.
  • Still, when you have that medal around your neck, remember - you’re no better than anyone else.


Keep training and stay alpha.


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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