Do Your Best and Forget the Rest

Everyone who knows me knows that fitness has been a core part of my life for a long time. It’s been over ten years since I have been actively going to the gym. It is something that is part of my identity. For some people, it might seem like a purely superficial endeavor to look better in the mirror or get external validation from friends or prospective partners. While I can’t deny that initially, this was the source of some of my motivation, I have realized that fitness has given me much more meaning than just the superficial.

The Beginning

Growing up, I played many sports (baseball, basketball, football, and tennis) and was pretty athletic. Despite being physically active, I was on the chubbier side. Husky was the right term to describe me. Most of this was due to a poor diet of a lot of fast food. I indulged in too many of those drive-through trips to McDonalds. I also had a big sweet tooth and had to get my daily dose of Skittles or those soft chocolate chip cookies. I ate what most kids ate at that age, but genetically, I was predisposed to put on weight.

My eating habits would even get worse during high-stress moments. During my senior year of high school, I had pressure from applying to colleges to maintaining my GPA to be the highest in the class. I reached a peak weight of nearly 190 pounds, and at 5 foot 9.5 inches tall (yes, that half-inch matters!), it wasn’t pretty. I had three months until I would be a freshman in college, and I was motivated to make a change. 

At the time, the workout program P90X was getting popular. I made my parents buy me the P90X DVD set (they didn’t have streaming back in 2012). I worked out every day and changed my diet entirely. I religiously followed everything Tony Horton, the main P90X instructor, preached. I didn’t step inside a fast food joint the entire summer. I lost thirty pounds in these three months and entered freshman orientation with a newfound confidence. Until then, my identity and confidence were mainly tied to my performance at school and getting the best grades. Now, I realized I could channel this commitment and discipline to fitness.

Ego and Injuries

While I was in decent shape, I wanted to challenge myself and go further in my fitness journey. In college, I started going to the gym and getting more into compound lifts, the bench press being my favorite one. As a fairly competitive person, I naturally wanted to be the best. I tried to lift the most weight, comparing myself to the other people at the gym. This phase of ego-lifting ultimately resulted in various injuries like tearing my rotator cuff and getting quadriceps tendonitis. These setbacks hampered my fitness goals. I avoided doing compound lifts for a long time and mainly relied on calisthenic-based (body-weight exercises). My commitment level to fitness waned. I still went to the gym three or four times a week and ate healthy most of the time, but my goal was just to maintain my current fitness level.  

The Turning Point

For many years after college, I was still in this maintenance mode. I still hoped to take my fitness to new heights, so I started to do yoga a couple times a week to rehab some of these lingering injuries. 

During this time, I began seeing this girl that I really liked. While things seemed to be going well, surprisingly, she cut things off one day. This was hard for me to process at the time. A girl who seemed like she genuinely liked me seemingly randomly broke things off for reasons I didn’t feel were legitimate. What did that say about me? Was I not good enough? These are some of the questions that consumed me for a while. While before, I could rely on my career or grades as a sense of self-worth to overcome rejection, I didn’t have a sense of accomplishment in these things anymore. My career was going okay, but I wasn’t the best of the best. And I was well past college and high school for any of those accomplishments to matter anymore. I turned to fitness as a source of control.

I finally hired a personal trainer for the first time. I was fully committed to something again. I started doing compound lifts correctly, without ego-lifting, and with the proper form. I measured each meal with a food scale to get the calories I consumed. Then, over the year, I became the fittest I had ever been. 

Some would point to rejection as the impetus for me taking my fitness to a higher level. They might be right. Regardless of the motivation, fitness has better equipped me to handle rejection. Fitness is the one thing in my life that I have complete control over. I control how much I move. I control what goes into my body. On the other hand, I accept that there are other things in life that I can’t fully control, like the actions and emotions of others. Whether that is getting rejected romantically, a manager not giving me a promotion, or an investor not investing in my company, these uncontrollable outcomes do not define who I am.

Letting Go

I still go to the gym 6 or 7 times a week. My diet is relatively strict, but not to the level it was when I was at my peak physique. I am less intense than before about different fitness goals, like increasing my personal records on different lifts or doing a certain number of pull-ups. I have become satisfied with where I currently am. There was a time when fitness was my number one priority. However, it has taken a back seat to my current career pursuits.

Like any other investment, these 11 years have built a foundation where my baseline fitness level will always be at a level I am content with. Sometimes, it is hard to look back and realize how far I’ve come, as I always have an inner desire to get better and better. But I am proud of my progress, and while fitness will always be a part of my life, it doesn’t solely define who I am. 

Lasting Thoughts

Fitness is a process; it takes time, commitment, and discipline to fulfill your individual potential. It comes naturally for some; for others, it is much more of a struggle to progress. Everyone’s path is unique. My journey taught me the importance of focusing inward, emphasizing the effort put into the process rather than being ego-driven or proving others wrong. In life, we control the inputs to a process, and by nurturing these inputs, we unlock our true potential, whether in fitness, our relationships, or our careers. As Tony Horton wisely states, “Do your best and forget the rest.”