Knowing When Not to Grind

Goals are some of the most powerful fuels for progress in life, business, and training. But recognizing when a temporary pull-back may improve longevity or deliver better long-term results while minimizing potential negative side-effects is a skill that comes through practice and experience. Being a student of strength is a long game. 

“Warts and All” —My 2018 in Review

When commissioning a painting, Oliver Cromwell told the artist (Sir Peter Lely) to paint him “warts and all,” instead of in the more flattering style common in that day. You could call what Lely was offering the original “photoshop.” In today’s social media driven world—rife with filters and photoshop, and the tendency toward putting on a “flattering” face to our lives—we rarely see “warts and all.”

What “warts,” you ask? I failed to achieve one of my 2018 goals.

I started the year by telling you what I was going to be training for and how I planned on accomplishing my four major goals:

  1. Teaching at StrongFirst and FMS events,
  2. Successful completion of the SFL,
  3. Successful completion of the SFB, and
  4. Sinister.

StrongFirst-SFL-DeadliftSo how did it go? In my Quarterly Update article, I discussed my training leading into the SFL. But what happened since then? Out of the four goals, I succeeded at three of them. I was moving well and able to demonstrate and teach effectively. I achieved SFL and SFB. However, Sinister will not be happening this year.

Why not? I’ll let Kenny Rogers explain:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser”

Lyrics from The Gambler

Kenny had some wise advice there.

Knowing When Not to Grind

Now I know that one of the popular messages in life, work, and training is to “grind.” Embrace the grind. With pictures of one person digging a tunnel and walking away one strike from hitting gold and another person continuing the dig although they are several strikes from gold. The message—do not quit.

But there is a difference between quitting and knowing when to fold’em. And this comes from experience.

This is not to give people a pass on quitting everything they start, or at the first sign of difficulty. Far from it since I embrace persistence as a key attribute to success in life. As I have been saying: if I had a superpower it would be stubbornness—and stubbornness in its most elevated form is persistence. As Calvin Coolidge noted: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” 

Knowing when to hold’em and when to fold’em is a skill earned and learned through the practice of persistence. The key is to fold’em before “driving off the cliff” into personal ruin (in financial cases) or injury (in the case of training).

And that is why I bumped my Sinister goal to 2019. I recognized the need to fold’em and adjust my training instead of “grinding.”

What did I recognize? My training was too heavy, too often and my body was not happy. I have accumulated some mileage on my 47 trips around the sun. Some of that mileage was earned by not stopping when I should have stopped. Other parts were simply by “life happening” rather than by choice. But in the end, this mileage and my ability to listen to it now is a powerful tool.

Also realize that personal goals, while very important, are not mandates writ in stone. I joke at workshops all the time that unless you are getting paid to hit that next rep or set, you can stop. Know when to fold’em.

So moving into 2019, I do so with more earned knowledge and the persistence to adjust my training and achieve Sinister. I hope that 2018 was successful for you and wish you every success in 2019.

Here’s to a Strong 2019.

Achieve Sinister

Brainy Quotes: Calvin Coolidge

Brett Jones
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching—e-mail him for more info.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
Brett Jones on EmailBrett Jones on Twitter

12 thoughts on “Knowing When Not to Grind

  • Smart decisions keep us going for longer. Great wisdom to share, Brett.

    I too missed one of my two goals for 2018: Beast Tamer. I realized by August that I was more focused on Sinister and that meant that Beast Tamer was not going to happen (yet). So I dialed back my BT training and focused even more on Sinister to achieve that. Beast Tamer is back on the forefront, now for 2019.

    Happy & Strong New Year!

  • Funny how you see articles when you need them. Good to know I might be doing the right thing this time.

    Thanks Chief

  • Hello Sir!
    Great article – very honest

    Congrats on achieving 3 out of 4 goals. I think that is more than most can even dream of.

    I am looking forward to your next article regarding your closure comment:

    “So moving into 2019, I do so with more earned knowledge and the persistence to adjust my training and achieve Sinister”

    – What did you learn on the journey to achieve Sinister?
    – What is the minimum weekly dose for Sinister AFTER achieving Simple

    New Year Greetings to you and the rest of this great community

    /Martin Joe

    PS: Craig Marker if you’e reading this – what about a interview with Pavel T 😉

  • As always, great article Coach Brett!!! Sometimes is hard to recognise when to restart…

  • Heh, couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Jones wisely decided to omit the lyric expressing the sentiment that our best case scenario is to die in our sleep.

  • Excellent blog. One of the hardest things I have found as I age is to remember that I am not 25 anymore.
    When I think I am I am quickly reminded.

    There are a lot of things I want to do for a
    long time. I always have to remind myself that I want/need to move well the rest of my life. I want to be able to coach into my seventies. Is it worth a huge squat or any other lift to risk these things.

    Please everyone out there this is great advice. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT TODAY.

    Thanks Brett

    Ray McCarthy

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