Two Life Lessons Learned from Gladiators

I’m always searching for ways to improve my workouts and get in better shape. I just didn’t realize that search would end up teaching me two critical life lessons.

Here’s what happened…

On my last trip to Texas I asked my 50+ year old brother-in-law how he stays in shape because he looks like he’s 35 years old. He told me he runs 2 miles to an outdoor workout station and does three sets of pull-ups, pushups and dips. Then he runs 2 miles back home.

I like that workout approach and figured I’d try it for myself so when I got back to NYC I did just that.

I ran 2 miles then went to an outdoor workout station along the East River to start on my upper body exercises. When I arrived I instantly noticed something about the guys in the area. I couldn’t quite place it but then I eventually realized they could all be American Gladiators or on the cover of Men’s Fitness. They were different ages, ethnicity and heights but all were absolutely ripped. Pretty sure their ears even had a 12-pack.

That gave me a eureka moment…. Clearly I am in the right place if I want to look like these guys do. By being around them the standards for my body physique immediately increased. I’ll start with my brother-in-law’s routine then slowly add in stuff I see these Gladiators doing. Then, voila, I’ll be a Gladiator to.

So the first lesson?

Find those who are already where you want to be then copy what they do

  • The fastest way to results is to borrow a success roadmap from someone who is already where you want to be

But that’s easier said than done as I would soon find out. I consider myself an athletic guy but it became apparent very quickly that it would take some time to transform into Joe the Gladiator.


Because I suck at pull-ups. By suck I mean I did…like four before I started pretending that my hands were too sweaty to keep going. I’d wipe my hands on my shirt and just shake my head “damn you sweaty hands” meanwhile my biceps ache and the Gladiators roamed all around me.

And that’s just my first set! I had two more to go. And, at this point, I could either do more pushups (much easier for me) or force myself to get back up there and embarrass  myself by doing one or, perhaps, two pull-ups per set.

It took some Eminem to motivate me but I eventually got up there and blocked out everything else. I did a whopping 2 pull-ups on my second set and 2 more on my third set. Then, I got the hell out of there.

Second lesson?

Force yourself to do the uncomfortable (even if it’s initially embarrassing)

  • Trains your body and mind to get used to that activity so you can get better

I know I’ll never get better with pull-ups if I don’t force myself though the beginner challenges. It sucks, really sucks, feeling so inadequate when those around me are accomplishing much more but I know that if I keep their company and push myself past my comfort level I will soon become Joe the Gladiator.



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How to Deal with Life’s Problems

Today my dad had quadruple bypass surgery.

All indications are that things went well and he’s recovering according to schedule. I believe that there’s a lesson to be learned in any situation – especially difficult ones like when your dad has major, open-heart surgery.

In fact, I believe the only way to live life is to reshape the bad stuff into something that empowers us.

The alternative is scary and dark and toxic. That is “well, shit, this happened to me. Why does it always happen to me? I can’t believe it. I hate it. Here’s the problem in detail…” That’s an endless cycle of gross toxicity. Don’t go there.

When I come across bad stuff whether it’s business or personal, I try to identify a lesson. And, how I can apply that lesson to help myself and others.

Sometimes it’s not easy. But it’s necessary.

So, what’s the lesson I’m taking away from it?

It’s a reminder that life is precious.

I’m going to die.

You’re going to die.

Not to be morbid but that’s just a fact. It’s a fate we both share.

Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and forget to appreciate what I have in my life. Sometimes I forget to enjoy the journey because I’m so focused on the destination.

Have you been guilty of that too?

This is a reminder to enjoy the journey.

It’s a reminder to smile more on the journey. To laugh more. To be emotionally present more. To communicate more. To give more and to love more.

And for me personally it’s also a reminder to continue to live MY life. Not someone else’s life. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to live a life dictated by what happens to me. I will continue to design my life – not have circumstance design me.

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Joe Fairless