So, you’ve decided that you want to be a bodybuilder, and now’s the time to finally go for it. You broke up with your girlfriend, said goodbye to your gym buddies, and stuffed all of your clothes into a random assortment of smelly gym bags that had the bottoms lined with the remnants of chalk, protein powder, and supplement samples from the GNC, that you raided a solid six months ago by now.
Even though you’re the biggest guy in your gym, and you won the novice at your last local show, you’re no dummy, and you realize that it’s probably going to take a few weeks before someone recognizes your potential and slides a fat sponsorship check your way. That’s why you emptied all $342 dollars from your savings account, “borrowed” all of your little brothers coins and took them to CoinStar, sold your three foot Hookah, and got your parents, grandparents, and aunt to all pitch in a few dollars for gas money, a box of Quest protein bars, and two big bags of your favorite mix from MyOatmeal.com.
Now you’re set. You’ve loaded up your 96’ Oldsmobile Allero, programmed the GPS on your phone for Gold’s Venice, and are on the way to living the life, because you’ve got all your bases covered…right?
Maybe. Except for one minor detail. You don’t know shit. And one of the hidden secrets of the muscle game is that here, in our little world, it isn’t just the strong that survive. The road to the Mecca in bodybuilding is paved with the broken dreams of all the “strong” that have come before you. In order to not only survive, but also to thrive here on planet muscle means you have to understand the seven rules of success that govern the game and remember, fortune favors the brave, create your own ‘luck’.
The ‘Lucky’ Seven:
1.) Understand Your Value
This might be hard for you to grasp, so do me a favor. Sit down. Take a deep breath, and prepare for what I’m about to tell you.
Ready? You are not special. At the very best case scenario you are, just like each of us, a replaceable asset. There’s one simple tool that serves both the bodybuilder and the stock broker alike – they need to understand market value. Bodybuilders are like stocks. One second they’re hot. The next second they’re not. And being able to strike while the iron is hot – aka when your value is high – is the key to reaping financial success.
People will want to buy every piece of you they can get their hands on if they think you’re something special. So, if you have the opportunity, do the photo shoot, do the interview, take the supplement deal, take on the clients asking for your “expert service”, even if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing – most people don’t anyway. The point is that in bodybuilding opportunity only knocks once, and if you miss your shot, you could spend a lifetime waiting around for a second knock that’s never going to come.
2.) Get Your Edu-ma-cation On
Pick whatever stupid overused cliché you want: The more you know the more you grow, Educate and Dominate, the 3B Formula – Bodybuilding = Books + Barbells (actually I just made that one up). It really doesn’t matter because the message is all the same. The stupid meathead suffered the same fate as the Neanderthal millions of years ago – they all died out because they couldn’t compete with the new breed.
Today’s most successful athletes aren’t just athletes anymore, they’re also intelligent entrepreneurs. If you think you’re going to make it on your crazy quads and 700lb deadlift alone I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but an asteroid named reality is headed your way, and is going to wipe you out before you even know what hit you.
You have two choices here: Either learn, adapt, and grow with the times; or keep plodding along slow and steady until you get blasted, and drop out of sight like one of those ducks from Duck Hunt.
3.) Outlets, Plugs, and Power Strips Oh My!
Let’s play out a little scenario quickly. You have your TV, cable box, laptop, and cell phone with only one outlet in the room. They’re all equally important. They all need power, but only two can be plugged in at a time. What do you do? The survey says…Get a power strip! Now, suddenly everything is connected, everything is working, and all is right with the world. So what does any of that have to do with bodybuilding?
More connections make life easier. The more connected you can be, the more opportunities you’ll have to do the things you love. Learn to network, learn to make friends, come out of your cocoon, and transform into a social butterfly. Trust me, no one is going to come seek you out because they think you’re awesome. You’ve got to make some lasting connections.
4.) Keep a Steady Hand Grasshopper
One of the biggest keys to success both on and off the stage in bodybuilding is consistency. There’s nothing more frustrating to a fan than an athlete who’s maddeningly inconsistent. And there’s no bigger red flag to both businesses and consumers than a product they can’t rely on.
People get excited over the Big Ramy’s of the world because they love looking at them and playing the ‘What If’ game: What if he figures it out? What if he comes in sliced? What if he was a little bit fuller? What if, What if, What if…
Meanwhile, the Dexter Jacksons of the world don’t get anyone excited because all they do is consistently show up and – to quote Rich Piana – “Kill Shit”. Whatever niche you carve out for yourself, it’s absolutely imperative that you find a way to hit your mark consistently. Rain, sleet, hail, or snow…you need to deliver.
5.) “Blue Magic is a brand name…as much of a brand name as Pepsi”
There’s a scene in the movie American Gangster where Denzel Washington is talking to Cuba Gooding Jr. about the importance of his brand. And although you might not be looking to get into the international drug trafficking industry – or maybe you are, who knows? – the message still holds serve. Establishing yourself as a brand is crucial to your success.
The Gift, The Big Nasty, The Shadow, The Welsh Dragon – You get the point. There’s an automatic light bulb that goes off in your head when you hear those names, and for good reason. Not only are they all great athletes in their own right, but they also have a unique image that defines their personal brand.
Blood & Guts, black and white pictures, and heavy training will forever be synonymous with the name Dorian Yates. Why? Because that entire package is the brand he built around himself as the primary commodity. Even at fifty years old, and nearly two decades removed from the stage, that aura and mystique that surrounded him are still as predominant as ever.
Find something that’s your thing, whatever it is that defines you, and stick with it. That’s how you establish a brand. You’re going to start out small, like a seed. But eventually that seed will take root, grow into a twig, and if you’re lucky that twig will grow into a Redwood. But neither you nor your brand will ever grow or go anywhere if you don’t do the dirty work first.
6.) “Just Win Baby”
Rule six might seem like it’s just restating the obvious, but it bears repeating anyway. Whatever it is that you’re going to do, you’ve got to produce.
If you want to be an athlete you’re going to have to put some W’s on your resume. No one is looking to hitch their wagon to the lovable loser. If you want to be a writer, then that means that you have to have the wheels spinning and cranking out constant content. Or maybe you decide that you want to toss your hat into the field full of underqualified and over glorified contest prep coaches – eventually, no matter how great your spiel is, you’re going to have to be able to get someone in the best shape of their life while making them think they couldn’t have done it without you.
The bodybuilding industry, just like every other avenue in life, is full of bullshit artist. Yes, people do fake it till’ they make. But that success is short lived, and we’re trying to establish the path to longevity here, so that means you need to be able to get results over time. Even Charlie Sheen can manage to put together a few stable, sober, and coherent hours once in a while, but nobody’s going to be confusing him with a guy like Robert Deniro who’s been the model of consistency, and routinely great for decades.
7.) To He Who Has The Huevos Goes The Spoils
If there’s one thing that’s been proven over and over again in both history and in bodybuilding it’s that in order to accomplish something great, at some point, you’re going to have to take some risk.
Entering into anything new is scary. By nature humans like to seek out things that are in their comfort zone. But the thing about bodybuilding that anyone who’s ever stepped into a gym, prepared for a show, or even just dieted their ass off for the sake of looking great can attest to – it’s that our greatest gains are always made from a place of discomfort. Adding that extra weight to the bar, digging deep and grinding out those last blood curdling reps when everything inside you screams to stop, dragging your tired, depleted, miserable body out of bed to drudge through another painfully boring early morning date with your new side-piece named StepMill – those are all places where misery exists and personal milestones are made. They’re places we don’t want to go, but need to become intimately familiar with if we ever hope to reach in and tap that well of success that lies deep inside ourselves.
Your moment, more than likely won’t come in the gym. Instead it’ll come in the form of a choice, a choice that will lead you down one of two paths. Path one will be well paved, well lit, and full of road signs to point you in the right direction. The catch is that it’s going to be loaded with bumper to bumper traffic because 99% of people are going to choose path one.
On the other hand, path two is a bumpy gravel road with no street lights, no road signs, and is going to appear like something that both Lewis and Clark would’ve looked at and thought “Fuck it. Looks too Risky”. But this is exactly the road you need to take. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get there, or even that you’ll survive the journey for all that matter, but for those brave enough to try, push past the discomfort, and put their Huevos to the test – those are the people that go onto to make their dreams become reality.
So there you have it – Seven Lucky Rules of success to help guide you through the game. Are they a flawless, full proof blueprint to success? Nope. Not at all. But they are a place to start formulating a plan of attack for you if you’re going to make your mark on this wild world that we call bodybuilding.