You already know the secret to success

If you're honest, some of this would help.

If you’re honest, some of this would help.

Sometimes, I look at my training logs to see what makes me stronger and faster. Other times, I just take a minute to sit and think about things that make me more creative or happier. Most times, I ignore all this because I’m an idiot. Here are a few revelations I’ve had in the last few years.

  • Drinking water constantly throughout jiu-jitsu classes makes me more alert, more active, improves my energy levels and helps my recovery afterwards.
  • The month when I did 100 press-ups a day saw me top out my highest bench press ever (110kg, which admittedly isn’t amazing).
  • If I write a list of things to do on a post-it or my mobile phone’s notebook setting, I will get them done with minimal procrastination.
  • If I buy a packet of Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells, regardless of how much I promise myself that I’m going to share them with other people or throw half of them away, I will eat the whole fucking packet that day. 

Guess what I did with all these nuggets of wisdom? Forgot to drink water, stopped doing press-ups, only used the post-its thing when work was getting genuinely insane, and ate a whole lot of Cherry Bakewells.

Until recently. Now I’m working on all of them. I’m a well-hydrated, monster-chested, list-checking beast. And I only walk down my supermarket’s cake aisle when I’m ready to make a commitment to eating six Cherry Bakewells.  Spoilers: this still happens sometimes.

If you’ve spent any time on an area of self-improvement, here’s the secret to success: you already know the secret to success. You know what works when you do it. If you’re honest, you know what the pros do that you won’t. You know that 6am is the only time that you’ll ever get to write, that if you promise yourself you’ll do it after work you’ll always find an excuse. You know that cooking your own meals on Sunday is a better fat-loss tool than any amount of miracle supplements you can buy. You know that practice is how you get good at anything. All the other stuff is silly bullshit you use to distract yourself from doing what actually works: the hidden strategies, the overcomplicated eating plans, the incomprehensible Russian periodised training programmes, the new productivity app. It’s all just overcomplication, when you aren’t doing the simple things that will make the most difference. It’s just a distraction. You know what will work, but you just aren’t doing it.

Change that. Start doing it. And it will work.

HOMEWORK: Sit down for five minutes and think about what you aren’t doing right now that has worked for you whenever you try it. Do that this week.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.


  • Oh man, this is so good! The part about the Cherry Bakewells, “I will eat the whole fucking packet that day,” made me spit out my coffee – hilarious! I’ve never had one of those before, but if you substituted them with a box of Swiss rolls, we’d be twins.

    A theme in my life has centered around the fascination about why people 1) know exactly what to do to become happier or to achieve a certain goal and 2) blatantly ignore the knowledge they have, and continue to complain about their current state of affairs. This aspect of psychology – sabotaging our success; not feeling worthy of the end result – is incredibly interesting. Many times it’s not as simple as “Just do it.” The person will do it for a month or two, and then snap back like that rubber band I talked about it. It’s such a mystery to me.

    • This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and all I can suggest is that it comes down to:

      1. The odds are stacked against you.
      2. Self-evaluation is difficult.

      To clarify this (and I am quite tired, so):

      1. There’s very little incentive for anyone who has the money and resources to influence your behaviour to help you genuinely improve your life. Most companies rely on perpetuating needs, sugar is a cheap, addictive ingredient, and content people don’t tend to buy as much. Massive effort by marketing and advertising is put into making people discontented and unhealthy – not because anyone’s evil, just because of how capitalism forces businesses to evolve.

      2. Sitting down to have a serious look at your own life isn’t something most people are comfortable with. Now, it’s easier than ever to avoid it – you’re never alone with a phone, and Flappy/Angry Birds is much more fun than coldly evaluating where your life might be going wrong.

      I’m not sure why people sometimes feel guilty about success – but I think that’s why it’s so easy to backslide. Everything is designed to make it easy for you to backslide.

  • I would have thought doing 100 push ups a day would lead to plateau effect on you bp weight. Not the case I see. Thanks for sharing. Interesting about water consumption and BJJ

    • It might as you get higher – I doubt it would get you to 140kg, for instance. I probably wasn’t doing enough assistance alongside 5/3/1 and pressups helped. I also think they’re generally pretty good for shoulder health, etc. Worth a go.

  • I am totally with you on having a weakness for sweets. Sometimes I have a craving for an entire blackforest chocolate cake, and no… I wouldn’t share it with my wife and child. Mine, Mine all Mine!
    Your blog here is terrific. I’ll be back for more.

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