“Be careful of success; it has a dark side.”- Robert Redford
It's hard to believe there could be a dark side to fitness transformation - but this can be one of the most sinister parts of getting in shape that can leave you discouraged and questioning yourself.
Recently, I’ve been digging into Gretzky the autobiography of the legendary hockey player, Wayne Gretzky.
In it, he shares his experience with the toxicity of other peoples’ beliefs – especially when it comes to watching talent and excellence. When Gretzky was 10 years old (and 4’4) he smashed 378 goals in 68 games, which broke the previous record by 238!
People were scratching their heads thinking, How could he do that?
Little did they know he had been skating since he was 2 ½ years old. So he had almost 8 years of experience on skates where most kids had maybe 3-4 years. And Gretzky would play on the ice before school… after school… and often played against older kids. This all accumulated into a huge advantage when he joined a hockey team.
Instead of investigating this though – people either idolized him, begging for autographs and hanging posters saying:
"See Wayne Gretzky, Ten-Year-Old Scoring Ace, Here Saturday."
Or they became jealous and the Gretzky-bashing came out in full force with parents of the other kids calling him a puck-hog... using stop-watches to track his time with the puck… and booing when his name was announced. One opposing coach even told him, “You won’t live to see Christmas, Gretzky”
(Interestingly it was always the parents. His teammates knew he went out of his way to pass the puck.)
“They’d see the numbers, the 378’s, and just refuse to believe they were real. ‘it’s got to be a fluke,’ they’d say, and they kept saying it.”- Wayne Gretzky
The Ugly Truth About Fitness Transformation
This ugly pattern of bashing excellence occurs subtly (and not so subtly) when people see someone develop an unbelievable level of athleticism… or transform their body… or clean up their nutrition… or accomplish a physical feat of endurance (especially if it’s not common for their age).
People are very quick to justify, bash or explain it away.
This means two things:
#1: If you are on the path of excellence, get ready
Because there will be people ready to criticize your hard work and effort (and there will be others who rally around you as well). You can be thrown off by this or you can anticipate it.
#2: Watch out for this tendency within yourself
When you see excellence in health and fitness, instead of explaining it away (or attacking it) - ask the golden question:
What can I learn from this person? What can I take away from them that would help me moving forward?
Some things may not be applicable but find out what is.
Sometimes a ritual… a belief… a system for exercise or nutrition can be used based on their example. And if you keep collecting these and embodying them – you can’t help but accumulate ‘hundreds of hours on the ice’ – like Gretzky did, which eventually builds into a huge advantage.