“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” – Scott Alexander

I still remember my coach’s face when he caught me and a teammate cheating reps during our workout.

It was a mix of disappointment and pure hell-fire anger.

Brad and I had cut our 3 sets of 10 reps short by a few here and there. Our coach had been watching us the entire time and waited until the whistle blew (signaling time to switch stations) before using us as an example to the rest of the ninth grade football team.

“Jake, did you and Brad complete every rep before stopping?”

I looked at Brad sheepishly, knowing we’d been busted. He looked back at me with an “oh sh*t” expression.

“No sir, we didn’t.” I had no excuses, no reasons other than we didn’t like backsquat and wanted to get through the workout faster. What happened next is still is one of my most embarrassing moments in my life – and one of the most important lessons I ever learned.

My coach went on to rip us for cheating ourselves. “What you do in here,” he said, pointing at the squat rack (and weight room in general), “you’ll do out there,” pointing to life beyond the fieldhouse. “If you cheat yourself here, you’ll cut corners out there. You’ll quit when things get difficult. You’ll look for the easy path instead of the right one. You’ll fail to reach your full potential.” His eyes cut through me with every word, like lasers honed in on their target.

And then he said the words that, as aspiring quarterback, I never forgot. “And you’ll never lead one of our teams on Friday nights.”

Coach turned his attention from drilling lasers through me to the rest of the team and continued. “But if you push through every one of those reps, you’ll push past the point of wanting to quit out there. If you fight for that last rep when you don’t want to do it, you’ll fight for that goal you want out there. And if you don’t cut corners or cheat yourself in here, you won’t do it out there. And long after football ends, you’ll be successful.”

I learned a very powerful lesson that day.

What happens in that weight room, when it’s just me vs. me, influences what happens in the rest of my life. If I make a habit of cheating myself in one area, you can bet it’ll bleed over into other areas of my life. If I keep cheating myself, I may look up one day and wonder how I got to where I am, but deep down, I’ll know it was the decision to cut corners and take the easy path. Because..

Competitors don’t cheat themselves.

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