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At age 41, Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf while wearing handcuffs.
At age 60, he repeated this feat, this time handcuffed and towing a 1,000 pound boat.
At age 70, he swam 1.5 miles just off the coast of California from Queen’s Way Bridge to Long Beach Harbor towing 70 row boats with one person in each boat. Again, he did this while handcuffed.
Jack LaLanne was a tank.
From looking at his list of physical accomplishments, you might think that he was “naturally gifted” and was simply born to be an incredible athlete. But once you pull back the curtain and take a closer look at his daily life, you see that he wasn’t born an athlete, but rather he molded himself into one through his daily habits.
Starting in his early 20’s, Jack woke up every day at 4 AM. He lifted weights each morning for 1.5 – 2 hours. He ate 10 raw vegetables per day. He continued this regimen well into his 90’s.
His accomplishments weren’t born from innate talent. They were born from his mindset, habits and grit.
Mindset, Habits, and Grit
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, often says “If someone that looks like you has done it, then you can do it.”
He means that if anyone who has had a similar upbringing as you, with similar opportunities and similar potential has achieved incredible feats, then you can too.
Sure, you can’t change your natural IQ or even the circumstances you were born into. You can’t change who your parents are or what type of upbringing you had. You can’t change a lot of things.
But you can change your work ethic. You can change your daily habits. You can certainly change your mindset.
At 5’6″, Jack LaLanne was below average height for a male. He would have struggled to make it as a basketball or football player, which is why he focused all his energy on what he could do really well.
He became an impeccable weightlifter, honed his swimming skills, mastered his diet, and consistently woke up early. He focused on what he could control and dedicated himself to incremental improvement each day.
In the book Mindset, Carol Dweck explains the difference between a growth and fixed mindset.
People with fixed mindsets believe they’re either born with or without certain skills. They believe their health and wealth is outside of their control and that they can’t change the cards they’re dealt.
Conversely, people with growth mindsets believe they can impact their health and wealth. They believe hard work can improve their circumstances.
Jack fully embraced the growth mindset. He believed that he could improve his health and wealth through effort. This was the first major advantage he possessed. Once he had his mind made up that he could do something, he used two powerful tools to help him rack up accomplishments: grit and daily habits.
Daily habits are what allowed Jack to get into a routine of waking up early, lifting, and eating right every single day. He didn’t need to motivate himself each morning; his daily habits made motivation unnecessary. His mind and body simply became accustomed to lifting weights and eating healthy all the time.
“How do you build up your bank account? By putting something in it everyday. Your health account is no different. What I do today, I am wearing tomorrow. If I put inferior foods in my body today, I’m going to be inferior tomorrow, it’s that simple.”
Lastly, Jack used good ‘ol fashioned grit to get what he wanted out of life. He never made excuses for why he couldn’t work out on any given day. He once said,
“If you can’t use your legs, you can sit in a chair and you can do curls, you can do presses, you can do stretches. There are all kinds of things you can do. Or maybe you can’t use your upper body but you can work your legs.”
He always believed there was something he could do to put in work.
Applying Jack’s Wisdom to my Own Life
Just reading Jack’s list of accomplishments makes me hyped. Learning about his daily routine and observing his mindset towards life makes me want to get out and do more with my own life. In particular, there are three lessons I have learned from Jack that I plan on applying to my own life:
1. All great things start with mindset. I was already familiar with the mindset research by Carol Dweck, but to read about someone like Jack who fully embodied the growth mindset is an inspiration. This is the mindset that explains why Jack believed he could tow 70 row boats filled with people for 1.5 miles at age 70.
I plan on applying this growth mindset to all areas of my life – namely fitness, finance, and learning. I first have to genuinely believe I can get in better shape, save more money, and learn new skills before I can take the necessary actions to do so.
2. Daily habits are everything. Jack demonstrated that despite being naturally short and skinny, he could transform his body through daily practice. He eliminated the need for motivation by conditioning his body to crave exercise and specific foods. This idea applies to all areas of life.
That thing I want – higher income, more knowledge, better fitness, better relationships – will only come through daily practice. It’s not enough to want to improve in an area. I must set up habits that force improvement.
3. Identify what I can control, be gritty, and forget the rest. Jack identified specific areas where he could be great – swimming and fitness – and ignored everything else. Through focusing all his energy on what he could control, he was able to accomplish incredible physical feats.
I plan on applying this idea to my finances in particular. I can’t control market returns or other outside forces. But I can control my income, my spending, and my asset allocation. That’s where I plan on focusing my energy and grit.
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