What Really Matters

What Matters Most

What really matters in building a great life? Your individual answer will differ from others, but I believe it’s very useful to reflect on what really matters versus what does not. Not enough thought is given for reflection and meditation about the important matters of life. Moreover, so many of the negative experiences we have in life stem from focusing too much on things that do not truly matter the most. I can tell you from personal experience that when I have the most stress, I tend to be focusing on things that don’t truly matter, like what others think of me and so on. What follows is a list that I’ve compiled of things I believe are truly important versus things than are not important, but receive too much attention. This list is not complete and will likely never be, but my goal here is to provoke some thought about what really makes a good life, compared to what we think makes a good life.

Here’s What Matters:

 

What you can control

Meaningful relationships

Doing the best you can

Being resourceful

Being a good person

Reflecting on your life

Having a philosophy that serves you

Helping others where possible

Growing as a person

Contributing to something greater than yourself

Having thoughts and emotions that serve you

Fulfilling goals

Having a team of people you can rely on

Living according to your values

Finding internal strength

Taking care of your family

Finding purpose for your existence

Experiencing joy

Learning

Reading

Knowing what makes you feel good

Surrounding yourself with good people (the right people)

Having adequate financial resources

Adding value to others

 

What Doesn’t Matter:

 

Controlling others

Being powerful

Being rich

Being famous

Being liked by others

Adopting the values of others

Doing what others want of you (you’ll violate your own values)

Making others upset (it will happen because you have different values)

Being happy all the time (not possible)

Feeling upset once in a while (it’s normal)

Letting others down (you cannot control how others feel)

External events outside your control

Entertainment

Paying too much attention to emotions (They can deceive you)

Buying a House (it’s not a great investment)

Criticism from others

Staying in relationships that don’t serve you

By focusing on what really matters in life, we can avoid unnecessary stress and negative emotions. Staying focused on what matters will also steer our thinking and actions towards living a great life. How many of the things on the unimportant list are you guilty of thinking about too much? How has it impacted your life? Let me know what you think is important versus what is not by commenting below!

In health,

Sean

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Guard Your Mind

Volumes of literature have been written about the impact that your thoughts can have upon your life. Although you are not your thoughts, (you are the one producing them) you certainly can become what you think about most of the time. Our thoughts influence our moods and therefore our actions more than anything else. But where do our thoughts come from? How and why do we produce the thoughts we do? Certainly some ideas and notions just “pop” into our head—the product of billions of neurons in our brains making connections without us consciously trying to cultivate such thinking. These random thoughts serve as a great reminder that we are not our thoughts. Our brain is producing them but we get to decide whether we “listen” to them and subsequently if we act of them. I believe that given the fact the brain/mind produces thoughts, it can be likened to a factory. Think of it as sort of a mental factory if you will. How do factories work? They take raw ingredients or inputs and work to turn them into a more finished product. Therefore, it is fair to say that our minds produce thoughts largely in part to the input it receives. Which leads me to this point…

BEWARE OF WHAT YOU FEED YOUR MIND!

If you find yourself having predominantly negative, unproductive or sad thoughts, or, if you find yourself in the same situations you have been facing for sometime without progress, it may be useful to examine what ingredients are going into your mental factory. Consider the input that you are giving your brain day after day, year after year. How many hours of television, social media, or movies is your brain being “fed”? What type of media is it being fed? Dark fictional stories? Negative news programs? What people do you most associate with? Whose ideas do you let influence you? These are all questions that should be answered periodically. If your mind really is a factory, it would be wise to make sure the ingredients it uses are purely appropriate. Can you imagine trying to make a delicious chocolate bar with rocks and dirt? I firmly believe that is what most people are trying to achieve on a daily basis. They would like positive, happy thoughts and emotions—they want the chocolate bar. But they are baking with the wrong ingredients, which leads them to producing negative thoughts and emotions. If it’s true that you become what you think about most of the time, and I believe it is, it’s clear to see how important it is to give your brain the right inputs so that you may have happy, productive thoughts and actions.

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE THE BAD INGREDIENTS COME FROM

One of my favorite stories to listen to is businessman and author Jim Rohn speaking to a room of school children. He asked the kids, “What would happen if my worst enemy put sugar in my coffee?” The kids replied that he’d be okay. Jim goes on, “What would happen if my best friend accidentally put strychnine in my coffee?” “You’d be dead!” the kids said. Jim says, “That’s right! Lesson one: life is both sugar and strychnine and it doesn’t matter if it’s your worst enemy or you best friend that drops the poison in your coffee. And that brings us to the next lesson: watch your coffee!” I love this analogy because it’s so simple and easily understood. Even if the people you trust and love were accidentally putting negative ingredients into your mind, the outcome would be as if your enemy was doing it. It’s important to understand who and what is influencing us and that we constantly guard our mind against those who would do it harm, even inadvertently. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily cut people out of our life, although sometimes I firmly believe it is necessary. It would be wise to understand how our brains work and that our minds are constantly being fed information and opinion and images. Sometimes we are receiving information and ideas from people close to us, and those inputs are not serving us. Don’t just let anything into your mind without analyzing it first! It could be strychnine that is poisoning your thoughts without you even realizing it.

In closing I’ll leave you with this Jim Rohn quote. It would do us all well to read it daily:

“Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.”

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.

50 Reasons To Be Proud

50 Things I Am Proud Of

Sometimes when you are battling with negative thoughts and problems in your life, it helps to remember all that you have accomplished and all the obstacles you have actually overcome. I’m making this list to remind myself of what I can do when I put my mind and body into action. I suggest that you take the time to do the same. You may just find that you are actually quite amazing if you would just see clearly. So here we go, 50 things I’m proud of.
I’m proud that:
1. I found and incredible woman to be my partner in life.
2. I have always been curious to found out what makes others successful.
3. I have learned a great deal and taken massive action towards reaching my goals.
4. I graduated college without debt.
5. My wife never stops trying in our relationship or business.
6. My children are so smart and well liked.
7. I have made incredible friends.
8.I became a professional athlete with the help of friends and family.
9.I was instilled with a sickening work ethic from my father.
10.My father made me write an essay ever day.
11. I have been able to read over 25 books a year for the last 5 years.
12. My wife and I have been able to travel and experience so much.
13. I have successful businesses that have made me a great deal of money.
14. I have been able to utilize reason and philosophy instead of drugs to get through problems.
15. My immediate family is very close.
16. I have been able to avoid medications for my autoimmune disease without side effects.
17. I’m still so in love with my beautiful wife.
18. My wife and rarely have disagreements or fights.
19. My family has multiple sources of income
20. I’ve made good investments decisions.
21. I’ve had the courage to try new things and learn from my mistakes.
22. My parents have stayed married longer than most couples do.
23. I have turned weak body parts into strong ones.
24. My kids are so loving and kind.
25. My wife and I have started our own traditions.
26.My wife has become an incredible athlete.
27. I have been able to build a company that people see as valuable.
28. I never let my mind focus on what I could not do.
29. I’ve been determined in various areas of my life and achieved what I set out to do.
30. My family comes together to help others.
31. I have been able to train myself to learn new skills and use those skills in the marketplace.
32. I have not let my genetics or disabilities hold me back from doing what I want.
33. I have a wife who makes me want to be a better man.
34. I have a relationship with more passion after 13 years than when it started.
35. I achieved millionaire status by age 25.
36. I’ve lived an incredible life.
37. My kids love learning and being creative.
38. I have surrounded myself with people who want me to do well.
39. My family is always willing to help others.
40. I have not been jaded about humanity despite seeing evil in others and myself.
41. Despite not liking school, I graduated college on the honor roll.
42. My sisters found good men to share their lives with.
43. My friends are all successful in many areas of their lives.
44. I have made an impact of others lives through sharing my knowledge.
45. I have been able to expand my businesses from one to many.
46. I have written extensively on various subjects.
47. I have been able to clear my mind from stress and anxiety with reason and philosophy.
48. I have read and studied history a great deal and have been able to apply its lessons.
49. I have free time to spend with those I love.
50. I have people who love me in my life.

What are you proud of? Let me know.

Sean

Words Can Kill

Words Matter

When tragedy strikes, especially ones caused by evil behavior like the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the initial reaction is to look for a motive. Most people are not murderous psychopaths, so our ability to understand why someone could hate their fellow man enough to indiscriminately kill and injure hundreds of them is limited. We understand the tools they use to kill so many, so it’s easy for us to target those tools and weapons. But weapons have no feelings. They have no motives. Law enforcement will attempt to figure out a motive, but I’m proposing that all this type of behavior begins early in life when we all form the beliefs, values and philosophy that forms who we become and how we act. I’m suggesting that something as simple as an “innocent” phrase can plant the seed of hatred towards others. After all, the one thing common in all mass murderers is a blatant disregard the value of human life. We know this is true because often times the killers commit suicide, showing they do not value even their own lives.

Below are common phrases that can be heard in nearly every culture and country on the planet that I believe contribute to the devaluation of human life and mankind as a whole. When reading the list, think to yourself how many times you’ve heard these phrases. Think also, whether you have ever uttered one. Who was around when you did so, or who were you speaking to? What did you mean by what you said? As we will see, words matter. More than you may know.

“Don’t trust anyone.” How many times have we all heard this phrase? Most of us began hearing it when we were children and it drilled into us a sense of fear and hatred towards humankind as a whole. If we can’t trust other people, how are we supposed to live? The answer is a life filled with fear, anxiety and paranoia that can push people over the edge.

“Don’t talk to strangers.” This is a difficult one to stop saying because we all want our kids and loved ones to be safe. However, while this phrase may have good intentions, when combined with the other phrases on this list can and most likely will lead to a hatred of others.

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I must say that I’m guilty of this one. Part of the reason for it is that I’ve had experiences, which reinforced a belief that others are not reliable. The truth however, is that by uttering this phrase, I’m simply choosing to focus on negative experiences involving others rather than all the benefits I have received in my life from humans cooperating with each other. The truth is, if you are reading this, it’s because of the incredible capacity for humans to cooperate and create new things for the purpose of increasing the standard of living for everyone.

“You’re all alone in this world and then you die alone.” This is just patently false, but I continue to hear it. If you feel alone, again you are choosing to focus on negative human interactions in your life rather than ones that have brought you joy, income, housing, food or just about anything else in the modern world. You are not alone. Others have been through what you have. Others feel what you feel. It took me a while to realize this truth, but once I did, hundreds of opportunities opened up to me in my life.

“People suck.” Except for you, right? I think this is probably one of the most common negative phrases I encounter. Sure some people suck. Sometimes we suck. Generic, ignorant statements like this do more to create a philosophy of hatred in people than almost anything else I can think of. Be very careful when uttering phrases like this, even if you’re just kidding around. Others who may be in your presence, who look up to you may not understand that. You just may be a cause of their distrust and possible hatred towards mankind.

“You can’t depend on anyone but yourself.” This is much like the “do it yourself” phrase that is so prevalent. Both statements are patently falsely and serve only to reinforce a philosophy of hate.

“Human nature is evil.” Sure. It is also kind, selfless, caring, greedy. It’s all those things and more. It just depends what you choose to see and focus on.

“Mankind is dangerous.” This is true, but nature itself is dangerous for all living things. Anything mortal faces constant danger from its environment.

“Rich people are evil and greedy.” You can replace the word rich with whatever you like—whites, Jews, bankers, business owners… It doesn’t really matter. What you’re doing by perpetuating these types of slurs is to create a lack of harmony between groups of people. In reality, there are no groups of people. There are just people. Any person is capable of certain behaviors or characteristics. The color of the person, their financial situation, their sexuality, all of that has no bearing on who they are as a person. The only thing that truly matters is the set of beliefs and philosophy they live and act by.

“Marry inside your own race.” This may seem like an “old school” belief, but it’s still found in the world today. I’ll say it again, your race has no bearing on who you are as a person. Your philosophy and values do. These phrases are so destructive, especially to impressionable young people. They serve to create discord and fear towards those we see as “different.”

“They are not like us.” Really? Do “they” eat, sleep, work, bleed, love and die? Oh! Then they really are more like us than you think.

Most of us have heard or even uttered some of these phrases. Let me pose a question: what good has it done? Another question: what harm has it done? The harm is unknown because everything we see and hear affects us to a degree. This is especially true among young people who are just beginning to develop their philosophy for how to live. Let me be clear, saying these phrases doesn’t not make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you hate people. It only means that you hold certain beliefs that cause your to be distrustful of other people. My request is only that you not let your distrust of others plant the seed of hatred of mankind in others. We cannot always know how our words affect others. Let our words be those of harmony, love and strength rather than hatred, violence and fear.

What You May Be Lacking

What’s the most important thing in life? Money? Family? Love? I’ve often said in my writings that personal philosophy—a set of guiding principles—is the biggest determining factor in the quality of your life. I’ve said this for years, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized what truly underpins the development of philosophy and fulfillment. I have had more personal development this year than in the last 10 years. After really focusing on why, I’ve come to the realization that I discovered the most important thing in life, and took advantage of it. So what is it?

The most important thing in life is the relationships we develop with others. Simply put, our associations with others develops in us our philosophy, sense of fulfillment, joy, frustration, depression, ecstasy, anxiety, fear—nearly every emotion we experience as humans stems from our interactions with other people. Humans are social creatures. The reason we have survived so long as a species against larger, more powerful creatures, against the forces of nature, against disease, is because of cooperation and the development of language and communication. We tell stories and write about our experiences and discoveries so that other generations may learn. The length of human existence will depend largely on the harmonious relationships that can be sustained.

This is also the case with all our individual lives. The quality and harmony of the relationships we build will affect the quality of our lives more than any other aspect of life. This year I have been lucky enough to develop incredible strong relationships with people that have solidified my faith in others and myself. These relationships have also led to incredible experiences that have helped transform my philosophy towards life. All of this has led to an increase in fulfillment in my day-to-day experiences because I am grateful most of the time. Before I focused more on expectation. Today I focus more on appreciation. And that has made all the difference.

So, my advice would be to get out in the world and develop quality relationships that serve you and shape you into the person you’d like to be. Look for honest, gracious and humble people that you admire. Look for mentors you can learn from. Don’t just look in your local area. Relationships can by built across the world today, something not possible even just a few decades ago. Look for people you can be in harmony with, so that you may work together to build something greater than yourselves.

P.S. Don’t allow just anyone into your life. Make sure they have your best interest at heart. Even if you’ve known someone for years, make sure they fit your criteria for a harmonious relationship.

In Health,

Sean

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