PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDREW ZARAGOZA & KEVIN HORTON
MY NAME IS MARK BELL. AND IF I’M GOING TO TEACH YOU HOW TO LIFT, I MUST FIRST TEACH YOU HOW TO LIVE. ASSUMING YOU WANT TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL AND NOT BE A BUM ANYMORE. I'M HERE TO HELP YOU. LET'S START WITH A FEW DEFINITIONS:
- MOTIVATION: The reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.
- INSPIRATION: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.
- GOAL: The result or achievement toward which effort is directed.
- GREATNESS: You have to define for yourself.
At the end of the day, any measure of success is determined by quantifiable improvement. In order to be successful at anything, you must go from your current Point A to an improved Point B and have something to show for it. And in order to do that, you must first set a goal and work toward it each and every day.
Now, you might think this sounds daunting—that this labor of love will consume every hour of every day. But let’s start small. Yes, your goal might turn into a bit of a project. It might take years or a lifetime to come to term. But it might also manifest and start at a point that takes only 20 minutes a day. And if you ask me, that’s not a lot to ask in exchange for improvement.
Let’s talk about being great. A lot of people don’t have a definition for being great, which makes it easy to fall flat because you don’t have a clear picture of what it is that you want to do. But remember that nobody starts out being great. We start out naked, as fat, squishy tissue, not knowing what to do with our hands and feet. But we adapt and make progress over a long period of time.
Think about this: How long does it take you to learn to walk? It takes a lot of kids a year. So how long is it going to take you to make progress toward being wealthier or being in better shape? It’s going to take you some time, maybe even a few months or years. Obtaining strength and being a professional powerlifter and going the course that I went took decades.
BE GOOD BACK
Another important piece of the puzzle: Figure out why you want to be great and who you want to be great for. For me, it’s really simple. I like to be great to my family. If I start there, it makes it easy to branch out and be great to other people and really make an impact.
Mother Teresa once said: “The way to have the biggest impact on the world is to go home and love your family.” I thought, “Damn, that was a great quote.” And not just your immediate family, but friends, too. People who are good to you—be good back to them and that will start you down your path to success.
Along those same lines, Ed Coan, the greatest powerlifter of all time, shared this quote with me: “Be good to those who are good to you and don’t do anything else.” If you’re trying to please a lot of different people, you’re wasting your time. And at the same time, don’t neglect the people who are putting their time into you. It’s a lot easier to do things with people than to do things by yourself—you’re going to need some allies on your mission.
DON'T FEAR CHANGE
Also important to remember, because this is something that can take you down quick: All fear comes from picturing the future. If you’re going to bungee jump and you’re scared, you’re imagining what it’s going to be like to jump. But putting things off will increase that fear. That’s why you have to try to chip away at your goal each and every day.
I run into a lot of people who are at a crossroads in their life— they’re at a pivotal point and they’re scared to make the jump because what they’re thinking about doing next might be difficult. Making changes and doing things that maybe you don’t have a full understanding of is terrifying. So I always advise people that making a change may be scary, but staying the same is worse.
DON'T OVERTHINK IT
Another crippling thing is the act of overthinking. People tend to overthink. They have a goal, they’re fired up, they’re excited about something, and they think about it too much. You want to try to get yourself to think a lot less and do a lot more.
It’s also important that everyone understands that we all possess the ability to make progress and be better than we were yesterday. We all possess the ability to do a lot more. It may seem like you’re doing a lot now, but you can always do more.
If someone were to ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who’s probably the most popular person on the planet right now, “Can you do more? Can you train an extra 10 minutes? Can you do an extra rep, an extra set, can you lift more weight? Can you take another meeting during the week?” He’d probably say yes. With 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 365 days in a year, it’s impossible for it to be 100% all the time. He’s extremely busy, but I’m sure that he would also admit that he could do better, and be better, and improve his relationships, etc. Because we all possess the ability to make things a little bit better.
Rather than applying that to just The Rock, apply it to yourself. You can do more, you can take on more, you can change yourself, and you can change your life. But if you want more, you have to become more. And the way you’re going to become more successful is by being more successful. And the way you’re going to be more successful is by making improvements, and the way you’re going to make improvements is by chipping away at your goals each and every day.
I have defined greatness for myself through this quote my dad sent me: “Compassion is not measured by the number of people you’re helping but by the number of people who no longer need your help.” I live by that quote each and every day.
Here are the key guidelines that will help you get motivated, stay motivated, and ultimately become successful.
1. DEFINE GREATNESS
Ask yourself: What does being great mean to you? Consider who you want to be great to, and why. Michael Jordan had to redefine greatness because he was already great—he had already exceeded everyone’s expectations entering the NBA. He won a national championship with North Carolina, he was Rookie of the Year, he scored more than 30 points a game and was the most electrifying player anyone had seen in years. But the Detroit Pistons beat the crap out of him. They had “The Jordan Rules”—they were big and strong and bullied him physically on the court because he was skinny. He had to redefine what greatness meant to him—he had to kick everything up a notch by lifting more and getting bigger and stronger. For me, being great is defined by other people. Me achieving greatness means providing as much as I can to as many people as I can. Also, having an impact on people’s lives and teaching them things is cool, but if I can teach people things that can last forever, if I can teach you to not need me, then I’ve done my job. To me, being able to affect people that way is being great.
2. CHUMP CHANGE
Decide what you want to improve on and why you want to achieve it. You want to try to set long-term goals, but you also want to try to set short-term goals. Don’t be afraid to set goals that are sitting right in front of you. Don’t be afraid to set goals that are what I refer to as “chump change”—things that are easy to obtain.
3. MAKE A PLAN
In general terms, you’ll want to identify steps you can take every day to get you toward your goal. Once you’ve defined your goal it will be easier for you to determine the steps you’ll want to take every day to get there. In more specific terms, if you want to improve your fitness, you can exercise for 10 minutes more each day, or a whole additional day. If you want to become a better writer, maybe you read more or watch a YouTube video on how to write for a specific genre, or take a course on writing.
4. GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY
In order to get closer to your goal, you need to actually execute the steps to get there each and every day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed throughout the day and talk ourselves out of getting things done. We tell ourselves that it will be easier to not get certain things done, and this is a pitfall many people— including myself—fall into easily. For example, you start the day with three things you need to get done: go to the grocery store, train for 90 minutes, and finish your homework. It’s easy to convince yourself that you will go to the grocery store later or train harder tomorrow because you didn’t eat enough today. But then you end up having activity without any progress. Don’t talk yourself out of getting the things done that you need to get done just because it seems easier in the moment. This will cause anxiety because what should have been done yesterday has yet to be done today—it’s still in your future, and it’s a weight on your shoulders that can manifest into an ugly thing. You want to try to set your day up with a realistic to-do list so that things don’t keep carrying over to the next day. Make that phone call you’re supposed to make, e-mail that person you’re supposed to e-mail. You absolutely cannot cut corners and still achieve success.