What I Learned About Motivation From Baby Z.

When my little boy Z was a baby he was like a ninja crawling around on the ground.

When something caught his eye he would zip over to it to check it out and see what trouble he could cause with it, which always kept his mom and I on our toes.

However, the real problem was that he wouldn’t practice walking.

He could do it, he just had the problem that all toddlers have when learning to walk – it is a slow and cumbersome way to get around at first.

I mean, you can see how from his perspective walking was a disaster. All that falling over and now his mom and I could have time to stop him from making his way to something he shouldn’t be messing with.

Why screw around with that when crawling has been working just fine, thank you very much.

But then one day something happened that completely changed how he saw the world and walking suddenly became worth the trouble. And luckily, I was there to see it because it taught me a valuable lesson as well.

Z and I were hanging out in the backyard when he found a metal rod that that he grabbed and tried to crawl around with. The problem was that he already had something in the other hand and trying to crawl around with both hands full isn’t easy.

Then he tried a different strategy and stood up. He took a couple of steps and it was like a light bulb went off – you could see in his eyes that something had changed.

Standing also makes it easier to work on bikes.

He’d realized that when you walk you can easily carry something in both hands. You can literally double your carrying capacity for weapons or toys or whatever it is that you want to carry.

And this was worth dealing with the pain of the drawbacks of walking. I never saw him crawl again from that moment on. Once the shift had been made he never went back to using it.

That was a powerful lesson for me as well. To be there for that light bulb moment and to see how quickly and dramatically it changed his behavior really drove home the point for me that we have a huge capacity for change…but only if we really buy into why we need to do it.

It is the buy in that changes how you see the efforts and sacrifices you are making. Changing your behaviors without changing how you see those behaviors won’t last.

In Jiu-Jitsu see you see this from people who start out strong but after a few weeks they just can’t find the time and eventually give up. Once the initial motivation wore off they didn’t have the fuel they needed to keep things going.

But that’s the secret, though – that fuel has to come from how you see the world.

For example, most of us brush our teeth because we see the world in a way that motivates us to do it. No one wants bad breath and rotten teeth and so we perform the ritual of brushing our teeth a couple times a day.

However, most people just don’t see the world in a way that motivates them to take care of the rest of their body. Training BJJ or doing some strength and mobility training can be a frustrating pain in the butt, which is how they see it even when forcing themselves to do it.

No wonder most people don’t start or quit within a few months. This goes back to my post on The Importance of Being an Optmist for BJJ…if you don’t think that an activity is going to lead to something good then it is really hard to stick with it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You see, as humans we have a couple of cool super powers that we need to tap into if we want to live the lives we really want…or at least not quit BJJ.

The first is one I’ve touched on already, which is the ability to change your reality. The story you are telling yourself isn’t “real”, it is just a reflection of how you see the world. You can change that story and, as a result, your reality.

This is how people make lasting changes – they start to tell themselves a story that makes it impossible not to change. If you see yourself as the kind of person who doesn’t make excuses and appreciates how the process of training BJJ will help you then you have no choice but make time for it.

The second super power is the ability to manipulate the future. You can do things now that will pay off down the road, with Jiu-Jitsu and strength training as two of the best examples of this.

Sure, you won’t see results in the first workout or maybe even the first couple of weeks but in 6 months you’ll be a different person. 6 months will come and go either way, but you can do things today that will improve your future self out.

But, like I said, you have to be like Z and find the way of seeing that world that makes these choices self-evident. You can’t see the world the same way and just take on different habits, you have to change your perspective in a way that makes those habits easier to adopt.

And that’s really the hardest part. As a coach I wish I had something to tell you that would flip that switch for you, but the truth finding that switch is part of the journey.

Everyone has to find what motivates them to change but knowing that you can and then looking for the perspective that motivates that change is the first step.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

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Importance of Being An Optimist In BJJ

Want to know the #1 thing that can make a difference in your BJJ journey?

While the physical stuff is important, the #1 thing is actually your mindset. Until you get things straight between the ears the rest of the body doesn’t really matter.

Of course, this isn’t news to a lot of you. Most of us have heard this in some form or another during our BJJ journey, ranging from warnings about the ego to keeping the long term in mind when faced with setbacks.

But while we get bits and pieces of it, what exactly does this mindset look like? Can you define it in a way that makes it easy for anyone to start using it?

Luckily the answer is “yes”. Thanks to the science behind elite athletes and Navy SEALS we can define what this mindset is…and it may surprise you.

It all comes down to a simple question – are you a Pessimist or an Optimist?

That’s right, how you interpret things when the world gives you lemons is the #1 predictor of how likely you are to stick with something hard like BJJ.

However, far from the touchy-feely hippie stuff that usually goes with these terms, the way we’re talking about them has a concrete definition that can apply.

A Pessimist says:
This happens all the time
Things will never change
It is all my fault

An Optimist says:
This won’t last forever
There is a specific reason for what happened
It wasn’t my fault, I just made a mistake and can learn from it

In this context the terms make perfect sense – if you feel like things always suck, will never get better and you are a terrible person because of it then you’re motivation level isn’t going to be super high. I mean, who would want to stick with something hard if there isn’t any hope?

But if you feel like things will get better and you can learn from the experience to help you improve in the long run then you have some hope, which makes it much easier to stick with something.

An Optimist’s mindset is also closely related to the “Growth Mindset” needed to learn. If you see things as a puzzle to be solved rather than a situation to be endured then you will automatically start seeking ways to learn instead of excuses to make yourself feel better.

This also applies to starting a training program (had to tie it into the strength training stuff somehow, right?). Approaching a training program as an opportunity to learn more about how to use your body to its maximum potential is much more interesting than slogging through another workout because “you need to”.

On a side note, I got the idea for this article while reading the book Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. It’s a great book with lots of insights you can apply to BJJ and life.

Make sure you’re keeping the right mindset and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey more, which will make you more likely to stick with it. While it’s a tough journey, a little optimism can go a long way.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson
BJJ Strength Training

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Can 64% of your results really come from just 4% of your efforts?

The 80-20 Principles tells us that with anything in the world, it is the small causes that have big results. Also known as the Pareto Principle where it was first observed in the world of finance (named after the guy who first found that 80% of a nation’s wealth is held by 20% of the people), it has been shown to hold true in practically every facet of life.

Some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the mat.

Those who recognize this fact and take advantage of it have a huge leg up on everybody else. Perhaps the most popular example is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris where he showed that if you can find and focus on those small things that cause the big results you can slash you work and effort while greatly increasing your results.

Of course, this all has a lot of direct transfer to training as well (Tim even wrote a book called The 4-Hour Body based on applying the 80-20 Principle to training). The truth is that most of your potential results only come from a small handful of things you can do and that when you focus on them you can see better results in less time.

80-20 2While this isn’t groundbreaking information for a lot of people, I recently read something about the 80-20 Principle that really changed my perspective on it. Namely, the 80-20 Principle is subject to the 80-20 Principle.

In other words, once you figure out what the top 20% is that causes 80% of the results you can then turn the 80-20 Principle on that top 20% and it still holds true.

The top 20 % of the top 20 % counts for 80% of 80% of your results.

If you are a bit confused you are not alone, it took this example for me to get it…

Let’s say that 20% of the roads in your town carry 80% of the traffic. If you then looked at the top 20% of those roads – or 4% of the total roads in your town – you would find that they carry 80% of the 80%, or 64% of all traffic.

That’s right, only 4% of the roads in your town carry 64% of all the traffic. Now, the numbers may not work out to exactly 80-20 every time – sometimes it is 70-30 or even 95-5 – but the principle of small things causing big results holds true.

The more you dig down into the top 20% of the top 20% the better you can leverage your time into results.

What this means for us as BJJ practitioners is that if you don’t have a ton of time to train then you better be focusing on that top 20% of things you can do with your time…or better yet the top 20% of the top 20%.

But this is where a lot of us get lost. Because so many people don’t understand the power of the 80-20 Principle they don’t understand that not every hour of training is created equal.

Some things you can do are much more productive than others.

And some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the mat (think stretching and mobility training for example).

Things like mobility training, strength training with an eye on the movement patterns you need on the mat and cardio training that focuses on the real energy systems demands of rolling deliver far more bang-for-the-buck than another mindless hour spent on “cardio training”, researching techniques on YouTube or beating the hell out of yourself in a CrossFit class.

When you tap into that top 20% of the top 20% you can have your life and your body back while rolling better than ever on the mats.

And this principle becomes even more important the more time you spend on the mats.

It gets tricky because it starts to become more of a juggling act as training time competes with mat time and other social/ family plans. Making sure you are doing the best with the time you have is crucial to making sure you stay rolling strong.

If you have any questions or thoughts about the 80-20 Principle and how it applies to training, rolling or even life please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear them.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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Goodbye to a dear friend…my first training journal.

As much as I hate to do it I have to say good-bye to a dear friend this week. This friend has been my constant companion on my BJJ journey for over a year and I’m really sad to see them go. Luckily, though, I already have another one to take their place.

The “friend” I am referring to is my Jiu-Jitsu Log training journal. As you can see it has been well used over the last 14 months of training and I can honestly say it has made a bigger impact on my BJJ than just about anything else.

I first read about the Jiu-Jitsu Log and the idea of keeping a training journal in the book Zen Jiu-Jitsu: How to Improve Your Game 100% in 30 Days. Like most white belts I was looking for any edge I could find to speed up my learning curve and this book was a gold mine of tips that I recommend to every new white belt I talk to.

Having nothing to do with techniques, it instead focused on the habits that would make the strongest foundation for you to learn techniques from. While I am simplifying things a lot, it broke down to 3 steps:

1) Figure out what you need to work on.

2) Develop a plan to drill and practice those techniques.

3) Keep a training journal to force you to be mindful about your practice.

The key to the whole thing was being mindful when you are rolling and drilling and while you could do it without it, the training journal makes the whole process so much easier.

For starters, if you know you are going to have to write something down in your journal you will start to pay a bit more attention when you train and drill. Sitting down and drawing a blank about what you worked on that day isn’t a good sign about your level of mindfulness.

Second, the act of writing some key points down about a technique you learned or some refinements you made to a technique you already knew will literally activate the brains subconscious memory. This means that you are able to impress the memory of those techniques and lessons deeper than if you didn’t write if down in a training journal.

The truth is that 5-10 minutes after class writing some things down in your journal is worth far more than an hour of watching techniques on YouTube. And that, my friend, is the key to speeding up your learning curve in BJJ.

Now, a quick word on what to look for in a journal. I personally feel that there is a lot of value in actually writing your notes in a journal rather than using an app on your phone and typing them in. Again, the brain makes a connection with the act of physical writing it doesn’t with typing and this is one case where low-tech trumps high-tech methods.

You can get a simple spiral bound note book and use it to keep track of:

– The date

– Who taught

– What drills you did

– The techniques you learned/ practiced

– Who else was in class (this is especially helpful in learning new people’s names)

As you can guess, I personally use and recommend The Jiu-Jitsu Journal. I have no affiliation with them, I just found their journal to be really easy to keep track of things and plus it just feels cool pulling out a journal made for BJJ.

Whatever you end up using, make sure you are keeping a training journal. I’ve logged almost every class, seminar and private lesson I did over the last year in this one and I plan on filling up this new one even faster.

So how about you? Do you keep a training journal and have any tips on using them or what to keep track of? I’d love to hear your thoughts, just leave a comment below this post.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

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