Thoughts Are Not Enough

THE PROBLEM WITH POSITIVE THINKING

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith“ – The Book of Timothy.

Being both an athlete and an owner of a somewhat large business in the fitness industry, I have noticed much more talk about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking as it relates to fitness and sports. Of course, these concepts are nothing new, but they seem to have found new life in social media circles as of late. I’m happy to see that there is an increased focus on the power of thought and philosophy as it relates to physical performance and health. I do, however, become a little concerned when I see so many people post about thinking positive without talking about the other major factor in achievement and health, WORK. Thoughts alone are not enough. You still have to do the work to succeed. Positive thinking without hard work is delusion. It’s the same as walking into a garden and chanting, “There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” Guess what? There probably is weeds and they will take over the whole garden without working to rip them out.

In fact, not only does it take work, it takes massive action to achieve your desires and make sure the garden of your life is beautiful. What does that mean? It means that it usually takes even more work than you think it’s going to initially. So be prepared for that. Not only do you have to think positively that you can do something, you must be ready to work as if your life depends on it. I believe like the quote says, much of life is a battle. We all must battle everyday against the negative thoughts we have. We must battle against the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. We must battle against darkness in the world by becoming a beacon of light. But a battle takes work. Thinking you can win is not enough. You must begin the race by doing the work of taking the first step and then having the belief you can finish, and then following up to make sure you do. Optimism itself will not do. Positive thinking must lead you to take action for it to be useful.

The last key to making sure win the battle is keeping the faith in yourself and others. What good is it to fight for what you want if you let the fight change you into something you are not proud of? Look all around and you’ll find people who have been jaded and disillusioned because of their struggles in life. This is where positive thinking comes back into play. It takes both hard work and positive thinking, especially while the work is being done. Hard work has the potential to change us into worse versions of ourselves unless we have faith the work is worth it in the long run.

So remember, believe you can succeed, fight the fight to make success a reality and always keep faith in yourself and others that you can persevere and the struggle will be worth it. Remember too that few things worth having ever come easy. Positive thinking alone may only lead to disappointment without applying the massive action needed towards achieving your goals.

How I Turned Pro (In 5 Steps)

On the left: How I looked seven months prior to earning my Pro Card.
On the right: Earning IFBB Pro Card at the USA Championships.

It may or may not surprise you that one of my dreams as a kid was to be a professional in sports. I think that most kids, especially boys, share this dream. There were a few problems that I realized would keep me from fulfilling this dream. The first was that I have been plagued with severe asthma since I was one year old. I spent a great deal of my childhood in and out of hospitals and on various medications for breathing. Another obstacle that stood in the way of me becoming a professional athlete was that I was a small, skinny kid. My hand-eye coordination was great, and I was fast, but I lacked the mass for football and the endurance for most other sports. In my eighth grade year, I began lifting weights pretty seriously with my father and I was able to gain significant strength. Then, in ninth grade, I made the wrestling team. This sport actually suited me well because I was short and a little stalky. Not long into the season, however, I developed severe back and hip pain. I struggled with this pain for two years, all the while popping ibuprofen like candy.

After I graduated high school, I was misdiagnosed with RA, rheumatoid arthritis. I was prescribed Percocet, Darvocet, and a steroid to keep the pain under control. I nearly became addicted to these compounds. To say that I walked around like a stoned zombie would be accurate. Not only that, I stopped lifting weights. After losing lots of muscle tissue and feeling miserable most of the time, I decided to go back and see a specialist. This time, Holly, my girlfriend at the time and now my wife, went with me. The doctor properly diagnosed with with AS, ankylosing spondylitis, a form of reactive arthritis that attacks the joints and organs. People with this specific disease actually carry a genetic marker, HLA-B27. The recommendation of the doctor was that I stop exercising and begin immunosuppressive drugs along with chemotherapy drugs to lower my immune system and reduce the pain. After hearing this news, along with seeing how sickly the people in the waiting room were, I decided to completely ignore his advice and embark on a journey of health and wellness. No drugs. Lots of weight training and exercise. I would also try to identify foods that were making me feel bad. I knew that most autoimmune diseases are at least exacerbated by poor diets. This led me to becoming a personal trainer and opening my first full-service health club at 24 years old. In 2008 I competed in my first bodybuilding competition. I won my classes as a novice bantamweight and open lightweight. I did two more shows in 2009 and 2010. I won the lightweight class in both of those shows as well.

After 2010, Holly and I decided to focus on the business and start a family. I’m happy to say we have been very blessed with two kids and a successful chain of health clubs. In 2017, my wife Holly decided that she wanted to push herself to do a figure show. I researched a great deal to find her a coach that I thought would be a good fit and she took Holly on as a client. After two weeks of watching Holly’s body transform, I decided that I wanted to test the water again and see if I could make a return to the stage. I reached out to IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Jon De La Rosa, who has long been my favorite bodybuilder after watching him turn pro at the USAs in 2011. Honestly, I was nervous that he wouldn’t take me on as a client because I wasn’t in contest shape and I only had nine weeks to pull it all together. But on April 1st, 2017, after putting in the work and giving it our all, my wife and I competed together at the Governor’s Cup in Sacramento. She took second in her class in her very first show (and many had her winning the show). She look absolutely amazing and I knew that she had a bright future. I also won the lightweight Bodybuilding division and the new Classic Physique (classic bodybuilding) A Class, under 170 lbs. Right away my wife called her coach and told her she wanted to do the NPC USAs, just 13 weeks away! I agreed to continue on with her and compete then as well.

Long story short, Holly got sick and was forced to pull out of the show, but I was able to carry on and earn my Pro Card, becoming a professional athlete. My childhood dream had been fulfilled and the best part was that my kids and coach, (now one of my very best friends) Jon De La Rosa, were present to watch me earn pro status. So how did I do it? A weak, sickly kid with arthritis and asthma?

HOW I TURNED PRO IN FIVE STEPS:

  1. I first assembled a great team around me. I had my wife, kids, parents and my amazing coach. As Jim Collins says in the book Good to Great, “First figure out who belongs on the bus. Your team. Then you can figure out where the bus is going.” I didn’t know I’d be turning pro this year, but I assembled the right team to do so first.
  2. I trusted the people on my team. When push came to shove and I had to cut carbs, change my training style and add more cardio, I didn’t complain. I did the work as prescribed, knowing that my team cared about me and had that best plan for me. This is very difficult for most people and quite frankly, honest, caring coaches who are qualified and hungry to see others do well are very rare. So, I was lucky in a way.
  3. I believed in myself. If there is one trait that I have that has made me successful in any way, it is my capacity for faith, or belief, if you will. I have always had faith in myself, and those around me, that the best possible outcome will happen. I have never doubted my abilities. I don’t consider myself cocky, but I see obstacles as more of a challenge. Having beaten AS and asthma, I love a good challenge. A Napoleon Hill said, everyone has the capacity for faith, but most are using it in reverse gear and getting the things they don’t want in life, the things they fear. I agree. Have faith you can get what you want and then take massive action to get it.
  4. I had a clear vision of exactly what I wanted and desired. Clarity and focus are crucial to achieving anything. I firmly believe that most people don’t know what they want in life so they resign themselves to boring lives of quiet desperation. In the days leading up to the shows this season, I would meditate and read to control my mind and focus it on my outcome. I think that outcome-focused people avoid becoming problem-focused people. The biggest drug in the world isn’t in pill form. It is problems. We become addicted to our problems because we focus on them instead of what we actually want our outcome to be.
  5. I let fate take its course. This may sound counterintuitive considering the previous four steps, but the truth is that some things are outside our control. This is especially true in the bodybuilding world. It’s a subjective sport where opinions matter, not facts. While this may be difficult to handle, the truth is we live in a world where bad things happen to good people, the best don’t always win, and terrible things occur. Paying too much attention to things outside our control is a sure-fire way to depression and dissatisfaction. Instead, as the Stoics believed, I spent all the time and effort I could doing the things that were in my control and I let fate take it from there. That doesn’t mean settle, by the way. I’m simply saying that we should identify what we do have control over and what we don’t, and spend all of our energy on the things we CAN control!

So there it is, my long journey to becoming an IFBB Professional Classic Physique Bodybuilder. If I’m being honest, it’s still a little unreal. I’d like to thank all my family and friends again for their support. I’d like to thank my clubs, Fitness System, for being the best place to train in California. I’d urge anyone looking to have an incredible coach and human being in their life to look at http://www.jondelarosa.com to find out about his services.

And above all, I’d like to thank my wife Holly and kids for sticking with me through this journey. There will be more adventures to come.

In health,

Sean Covell IFBB PRO

Don’t Major in Minor Things

“I can’t get no satisfaction.”- The Rolling Stones

There is an area of my life where I am not satisfied. It’s true! Call me insatiable. Call me ungrateful. Call me whatever you like, just don’t call me comfortable, because I’m not. This area of my life nags at me for attention. It keeps me up at night. It forces my mind to work overtime on how to quash this unease. This dissatisfaction in my life has forced me to question why I have not paid more attention to it before. The answer I have arrived at is the purpose for this article.

The reason I believe that many experience dissatisfaction, sadness and a feeling of lack in their lives is because they focus on things that don’t matter rather than designing a life. In other words, if life was a university, they are majoring in minor things. Many are well versed in sports statistics, celebrity gossip, the new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and so on. I’d liken this type of trivia to pouring trash into your mind. The mind’s capacity for knowledge is so great, yet we fill it with information and stories that keep us from achieving our true potential. I think we are guilty of this to a certain degree. Why? I would suggest the answer lies in our human desire to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Trivia is fun, it’s exciting, it’s good in conversation. However, the pleasure gained from it is fleeting.

Disciplined thought and action on the other hand, will lead to long term pleasure and avoidance of many day to day pains that plague us. However, it’s not sexy. Talking about your disciplined routines and life goals at a party or family event will likely get you awkward stares, and rolling eyes. Thus, we go back to majoring in minor things–to avoid the social pain we might face. We all have the desire to be liked by others and our ability to do so determines a great deal of success. However, in our desire to be liked by others, the danger of being distracted by things that don’t matter becomes very real.

If you are not where you would like to be physically, financially, emotionally, it’s because you are not making that area of your life a priority–A MUST, if you will. You always get your MUSTS in life. You find a way to make them happen. But, if you are focusing on other areas instead, you are essentially HOPING for change without making those areas a priority above all else. So, be careful what information you pour into you mind. Choose you majors well and take massive action be sure that you are getting what you determine you MUST have. If it must happen, you will find a way. I have decided to refocus attention on those areas I believe are lacking. I hope you find the will to do the same.

In health,

Sean

Superhero Abilities

As an employer, investor, husband and father I’ve had enough experience in life and business to recognize there are certain traits that people possess which pretty much ensures success in whatever they do. Admittedly, there are other desirable traits and certainly most people do not possess every single trait I’m about to list. However, in my dealings with other business owners, athletes, investors, employees, coaches, you name it—just about every successful person has some of the following traits that allow them to achieve their desires. I’m going to refer to this list as Superhero Abilities. Please keep in mind that these abilities are in reach of everyone, not just the heroes of the screen and comics. So let’s begin…

Courage–I believe that courage is the most important trait that anyone can possess. Without courage, no other trait or ability matters. One must have the courage to begin a journey before he or she can employ any other abilities. Fear is what stops most people from achievements and fulfillment. Courage is what allows us to overcome fear and move forward despite the fear. I have found that courage can be developed through repeated action, and your successes will add to your courage. If you find yourself anxious or afraid, keep moving forward and focus on your achievements, not your failures. Courage is something we all possess, like muscles. Maybe it’s time to exercise it.

Faith—The capacity for faith, to see what is not there yet but what could be, is something that most children have. Yet, it seems to be beaten out of us as we get older. I think creativity is really just a form of faith. The creative person imagines what could be, and perhaps what should be instead of the status quo. This is really just another way of saying we believe in something that doesn’t exist yet or we just can’t see. That’s what faith truly is. We are all born with faith, but the best place to start building faith is in ourselves. We must believe in our own abilities, even though we may not see them yet.

Problem Solving Abilities—Life is a series of events which we interpret through our lens, or “blueprint” of how life should be. We all have expectations of how life should be and when life doesn’t equal those expectations, we get pain. When life goes the way we think it should, we get pleasure or happiness. What most of us realize very early in life, however, is life is filled with obstacles, incidents, and environments that we must figure out a solution for because what is happening in our lives is not something we necessarily like. Therefore, people in all occupations should become incredible problem solvers. The ability to solve problems not only brings personal fulfillment, it is also one of the most desirable traits that employers and partners look for in business. If you want to be highly sought after, become a great problem solver.

Reason—The ancient Greeks spoke of reason as the one tool that humans have over other animals. What is reason? As humans, we have the ability to examine our own thoughts, emotions and actions and decide whether what we are thinking, feeling or doing is serving us in our lives. While we cannot control what thoughts creep into our mind, we should all develop our ability to use reason as to how we will act in response to these thoughts. The ability to reason is what gives us power over ourselves. Humans are not subject to animal instinct if we use reason.

Negotiation—Much of our experience in life comes down to how we interact and engage with other people. I think that life is a fine balance of delivering value to others so that you can get what you want as well. Therefore, all of our interactions with others is a negotiation of sorts. We are always negotiating how we will spend our time, where we will go, what we want in return for our labor or investment. We are even in negotiation when we are trying to decide what to talk about with others. Indeed, the ability to negotiate is a very powerful ability. I strongly suggest you exercise your ability to negotiate. I think you will find it will serve you well.

Persistence—The ability to keep going, to get up after falling down, to keep on keeping on is an ability that cannot be overstated when talking about a successful life. As I have already pointed out, life will no doubt deal you a series of problems. Until you figure out how to solve them, the ability to persist is what will drive you forward toward your goals. It has been said that Thomas Edison tried and failed over 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light bulb. Without his persistence, and the persistence of other great people throughout history, where would we be today? Without persistence, where will you be?

Compassion—Seeing life from another human’s perspective is a vital skill to have in life. I believe we owe to it each other as humans to develop compassion for the human condition. This condition is one of nature, and nature is not always kind to living beings, just as living beings are not always kind to one another. Kindness and cooperation is how our species thrives. Without compassion for others, true cooperation is not possible. This is especially true in relationships. Develop a capacity for compassion and watch your life transform as you begin to focus on how to deliver value and kindness to others. If you can do this, I promise the rewards will come back to you in orders of magnitude.

Curiosity—In order to unlock the secrets of the universe we must be curious. Great inventors, scientists, and philosophers all have one thing in common—curiosity. They are all curious to find out “why”? Why does something work the way it does? Why does someone act the way they do? Those who ask “why” have begun the process of discovery. I think the “meaning of life” itself is to discover what we are capable of, what the universe is comprised of, how we can help others, how we can overcome obstacles. All of these discoveries start with curiosity. All learning comes from curiosity.

Hunger–What separates the truly great from the average? It can be summed up in one word: hunger. Those who truly excel in anything have one trait that others do not, the hunger to do better and become better. It’s really that simple. Hunger demands that we keep looking to find food. But the truly great don’t stop when they find the food. They stay hungry. They don’t settle. The never stop trying to become better. Hunger keeps the lion moving and taking action. Humans are not much different in this regard.

Discipline—This ability must be learned and developed if any of the other abilities mentioned are going to be utilized. The lack of self-discipline is the leading cause of failure in any endeavor. As the great philosopher Epictetus stated, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” Indeed you must become the master of yourself, your body and mind if you are going to be truly free. Therefore, discipline = freedom. By becoming the master of ourselves, we allow ourselves to develop these Superhero abilities.

Do you possess any of the above abilities? You may just be a superhero and not know it yet. Are there a few that you must have not discovered inside yourself yet? With a little patience, discipline and training, you can develop these abilities that will allow you to thrive. There’s only one thing left… what will your Superhero name be?

In health,

Sean