Heavy-Ass Weights

“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.” ― Ronnie Coleman

I love that quote. It applies to anything difficult people want to accomplish. Bodybuilding, losing weight, language learning, becoming an artist/actor/musician, changing your life, building a business, getting rich…

Everybody wants something, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.

This is going to be a tough love post. I’m going to pick on a reader for a minute, so bear with me. Of course, there’s a silver lining, which I’ll get to after the tough love part.

A reader wrote in recently with this:

I’ve started on my email list, and a few blog posts, worked on an e-book that’s not yet been posted, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I don’t have any audience or visits either. I share them on my Facebook, Twitter, but it doesn’t seem to come with a response.

Really? You say you’ve completed “a few blog posts” and worked on an e-book that isn’t published yet, and you’re surprised you’re not getting anywhere???

Try writing a few hundred blog posts first, then see if you’ve gotten anywhere.

Seriously, getting people to pay attention to your writing, it takes WORK and lots of it. You have to earn it.

There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence. Why should anyone pay attention to yours, especially when you’ve only put half-assed effort into it?

The world is filled with half-assed blogs and business ideas. It takes something special to stand out and grow a dedicated audience.

Not to pick on this reader too much. Honestly, I get emails along these lines every week, and it’s a pretty common mindset. People hope for all the results with hardly any of the effort.

I’m often asked how we built an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers.

There were strategies and tactics and lucky breaks, sure.

But here’s the biggest factor in our success: we just showed up every week, week-after-week, for years, even when no one was listening. We’ve published well over 500 blog posts over the past five years. And the audience grew, little-by-little.

I used to suffer from this horrible kind of know-it-all syndrome. It’s where you think being smart is the most important thing. You feel deserving because you know everything. You feel like your intelligence and knowledge alone should make you successful.

But success doesn’t come from knowledge alone. It comes from applied knowledge. Knowledge and ideas are just multipliers of execution.

I didn’t learn the value of hard work until later in life, and my situation reflected my lack of effort. I didn’t have the life I wanted because I skated by on intelligence, avoiding effort unless it was absolutely necessary.

There are plenty of reasons for not putting in the work. Laziness is often one of them. But this knowledge equals success syndrome is debilitating.

And if we dig a little deeper into this reader’s email, we get a glimpse of yet another powerful reason why people don’t put in the work:

I like writing, but to be honest sometimes I feel sad because there’s no one reading them, and it feels like a demotivation to me, and gets me wondering what step didn’t I do well enough?

It is demotivating and demoralizing to put content out week after week, that no one pays attention to. But this is where everyone starts. Those who succeed push through and keep writing even though no one is listening. You keep writing until you find your voice and until you figure out how to write things that are worthy of an audience.

The hard truth is, you have to work your ass off to learn to make yourself and your blog/podcast/business valuable to other people.

If no one is paying attention, try harder. Try something different. Once you make something useful enough for anyone to care about, you’ll know because you won’t have to work so hard to get the word out.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, turn things around by learning to love lifting heavy-ass weights. Take the focus off of the results and put it where it belongs: in the craft itself.

And that’s the silver lining. Learn to love lifting heavy-ass weights and the results will come.

But you can’t control when the results will come. It’s different for everybody, so don’t look for results after a couple of visits to the gym.

The next time you feel like you aren’t making any progress, or like no one is listening, look at the weight you’re lifting. Are you sweating? Are you spent at the end of every day? Are you adding more and more weight every week?

That’s how you measure progress when no one seems to be listening: by the intensity of the work you’re doing, the boundaries you’re stretching, the experiments you’re learning from.

everybody wants to be a bodybuilder nobody wants to lift this heavy ass weight

Image via US Pacific Fleet
Get the free guide to defining your audience
  • http://www.artfulpublications.com/ Meg Sylvia

    We all need some tough love sometimes, so thanks for the push, Corbett! I think most of realize, deep down, that it takes this kind of effort and perseverance to grow an audience. I think that this kind of perseverance requires us to face a lot of our (usually irrational) fears and push past them, but unfortunately too many of us retreat to our comfort zones. I love what you said about learning to love the process rather than simply longing for the results to arrive. I try to keep the Ray Lewis quote in mind- “Greatness is a lot of small things done well, day after day.”

    • Corbett Barr

      Great quote Meg! Glad you appreciate the tough love :)

  • http://embed.ly David Rouse

    Great piece about a better perspective and approach towards your goals. Great work! “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice everyday makes perfect.”

  • FellowHQ

    Love tough love.
    Perhaps your reader would benefit from thinking like a Stoic. Scene: Ancient Rome. Theatre. Problem: Actor with stage fright. Solution: Stop thinking about yourself and whether the audience is going to approve, applaud or even notice you. Focus entirely on giving the best performance you can, just that, being the very best that you can be. Lose yourself in that. And, at the end, eventually, as you come out of the deep place you’ve been, you’ll hear the applause because you’ve earned it by putting in a fantastic focused performance.

  • http://www.faqtube.tv Tom Martin

    Nice post and awesome quote. I made my blog public last week after years of not liftin’ no weights, and you guys have been part of my attitude change so a huge thanks to you three at Fizzle. Looking forward to getting some more heavy lifting in.

  • http://www.mandalamind.org/ Nicole Koch

    Thank you, Corbett.

  • http://slonestrength.com/ Chris Slone

    I love this….especially as someone working in the strength/fitness industry. I always tell my athletes/clients that you must “learn to love the grind”.

  • Carolyn Mycue

    I know I’m in the minority here when I say that part of me enjoys the obscurity. It’s providing me an opportunity to try different things and learn the technology and discover what feels most like “me”.

    Each step I take, I learn something more, which ends up shaping my work. It’s like I found a mysterious seed and planted it in an incubator: I have no idea what it will grow in to, but I continue to nurture it each day in hopes of one day finding out.

    Enjoy the digging. True happiness doesn’t come from our achievements. True happiness is the fragrance released when meaning blossoms. (haha! I just made that up! Move over, Leo! :))

    • Chase Reeves

      Last time i felt comfortable enough to blossom the fragrance released wasn’t so nice, Carolyn. But you’re right, it did make me happy :)

      • Carolyn Mycue

        lol! Oh Chase…

      • Mohammad Khan



  • http://www.michaelofei.com/ Michael Ofei

    Inspirational post Corbett! I’m at this stage right now. My goal is to show up everyday and write 500 words. I actually appreciate the fact that I don’t have an audience yet because it gives me time to refine my skills and find my voice.

  • Michael DeLuca

    Where you lift weights is just as important as the weights you lift. If your gym is empty, try hanging out at one with a crowd. Surround yourself with better, more advanced body builders. Get bigger and stronger in their gym before opening your own.

  • Omar Zenhom

    This post reminds me of why I love Corbett so much. This post also reminds me of Al Pacino. I call upon him every so often to give me this speech. “Life is a game of inches.” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSDhhZtRwFU

  • Faith Watson

    It’s excellent, Corbett, to remind us that we can’t control our outcomes, but only our input and effort–as well as our reactions. It’s important we accept the work, and try for enthusiasm and good intention whenever we can. If we’re in the business of creating or building something, we have to keep on keepin’ on, centered, with our vision and values intact. Or actually (since we’re sharing quotes today and I have a favorite Zen proverb on this topic) that goes for all of life: “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”

  • Chase Reeves

    In case you don’t know where the quote comes from, here’s the original video of the BEAST ronnie coleman in the gym… aint nothin to it but to do it.


    • jonathanmead

      Nuttin’ but a peanut… when you’re Ronnie freaking Coleman.

    • http://epiccreativestudio.com/ Torie

      Hilarious. I need some catch phrases to belt out to myself, for sure. Get motivated!

  • Hubert Sawyers

    This can never be stressed enough. I just finished listening to the year-end review podcast and you guys are right. You just have to do the work. Don’t focus on the results so much, because it distracts from your true mission.

    I don’t remember how I discovered you guys, but I’m glad I did. Salute!

  • http://pjrvs.com/ Paul Jarvis

    I could have written this (meant as a compliment). Well done, spot on, and 100% accurate!

  • InvincibleViolinist

    The unstated objective: the blogger is hoping to create a business somewhere down the line. There may well be better (and easier) ways to do that besides spending the next two years writing blog posts. Just a thought. Now if you enjoy writing blog posts (and hopefully you do), that’s something else again.

    • http://www.adventurous-soul.com/ Shayna

      Good point, but I think the principle of “putting in massive effort” still applies. My blog started to be profitable at 5 months (and almost 100 posts) – but it could’ve been even earlier if I had invested more effort in guest posting, partnering with people who already had lists, and actually talking with my target audience / potential customers instead of just “blogging at” them and hoping to be discovered.

      Whether you’re starting your business as a blog, or as a dropshipping e-commerce store, or as a consultant, whatever – tons of legwork is needed early on, often with few or rather discouraging results… until those infinitesimal bits of progress start to build up and then snowball into massive success.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Preach it Corbett! When you show up, add value and serve a specific audience, they WILL respond. There are no overnight successes, only those that were willing to grind it out day after day!

  • http://www.theunlost.com Therese

    True that — well said.

    My favorite part is the placement of the “Fizzle” logo on your image… haha ;-)

    • Chase Reeves

      Sex sells, Therese… sweaty, weight lifting black dudes do too… but mostly sex.

  • http://www.mymarchconsulting.com Kat Clowes

    This. THIS. I’m learning as I battle my fear of putting myself out there that the act of posting a blog post–regardless if anyone reads it or not–is, in itself, the success. Yes, it’s important that someone reads it. For now, while I’m establishing that audience, I’ve put myself in the mindset of the professional, establishing that habit of sitting down and doing the work. Every day, establishing that habit, that pattern, knowing that even if no one reads it, I did. I created it, I read it, I published it. That’s an accomplishment.

  • http://www.thediscipleproject.net/ Paul Turner

    Love it! Love it!! Think of all the movies and plays you did not see with Philip Seymour Hoffman. All the stuff you did not see him in was his hard work where no came and no one bought a ticket. That was his hard work. To me, he was a name in the credits until I saw him in Twister in 96′. His earliest filmed work (according to IMBd) was in 91′ was as a voice on the telephone. If he had said, “Well, no one liked my voice and hasn’t offered me a starring role, I guess I’ll quit.” If he had done that, he would not have Capote, The Master, or even Mission Impossible III. Actors, writers, entrepreneurs; we all grind and grind some more until we can’t grind no more or until someone says, “Well, look at that!” Anonymity is the price we pay until we develop a habit of hard work, passion, and patience.

  • http://www.frictionlessliving.net/ Carl

    PURE GOLD Corbett!!

    We’re sold overnight success is easy for all of us and then get disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

    Blogging and writing is and always will be hard work. Some of us will be fortunate enough to make a full time living from it and some of us might not. However, the journey to refining our writing and message, finding our voice and being the best we can be is also rich reward in itself.

    If some of the really great writers gave up early on because no one was reading their work then many of the classics would never have been.

    Truly a great post and great reminder. You’ve earned your coffee today!

  • http://epiccreativestudio.com/ Torie

    Great post.

    “Knowledge equals success syndrome,” fear of judgement and perfection, and inability to push through are spot on.

    It is easy to be swayed by the supposed overnight success stories – “it’s easy, just do what I did!” When really you need to just put in the work; the long haul, sweaty work. Maybe you will get lucky, but don’t bet on it, plan on it, even think about it.

    Just drive the heck on.

  • David Gregory

    Great freakin post….except I can’t stop saying “ain’t nothin but a peanut”!

  • Corbett Barr

    That’s a great quote!

  • http://socialvalley.biz/ Adam Hathaway

    Wow Corbett this one paragraph sums up how the first 32 years of my life was lived:

    I didn’t learn the value of hard work until later in life, and my situation reflected my lack of effort. I didn’t have the life I wanted because I skated by on intelligence, avoiding effort unless it was absolutely necessary.

  • http://theonlinemarketingusccessgroup.com/ Bryan Naylor

    Great post Corbett… Many of the points you raise ring true as you’ve pointed out. , not only for getting your blogs read, but for anything else worth doing.

    My angle on this comes from more of a traditional martial arts background. Everyone starts out as a white belt, knowing very little. Over time, by putting in the time, the consistent effort, you reach a point where you can become a black belt.

    Many people want that black belt and think it’s the end of the journey. In reality, all the black belt means, is that you now know enough about the basics to “learn” your art. It’s not the destination at all, but rather the beginning of the true journey.

    Many of your points are no different. You write, you hone your craft, you lift the “heavy-ass weights” and one day, you earn the right to be read. Consistency, time and effort all play a factor. Once you earn the right to be read, you still need to lift the “heavy-add weights” to continue to earn your reader’s loyalty…

  • Erin Schneider

    Instead of finding it demotivating, I started my blog with the clear understanding that it is really meant to hold myself accountable on my journey in happiness. If not one other person reads it, at least I have it as a personal diary to motivate me. And you don’t HAVE to go in with that mindset, but develop it now! It takes work, just like making yourself happy takes work!

  • Heather

    I’ve just realised this too. Being smart I’m always looking for an easier way to do things, but sometimes it’s easier just to do the hard work.

  • http://www.blackrain79.com/ Nathan Williams

    This is such a great post. I have come back and read it several times since it was released. It wasn’t until today that I independently came to the same conclusion that you just have to learn to love lifting the heavy ass weights. I have been working on an insanely long book for over a year now that will change an entire industry. It has been such a sickening struggle though. I am starting to learn to just enjoy the pain. Plus it will be over one day, I don’t have to lift these heavy ass weights forever :)

  • Nick Robinson

    Well written, Corbett. Thats what I love about Fizzle, you guys are so real. No bullshit, (except for Chase of course, heheh, just kidding Chase!) just real good stuff.

    I’ll get my thing done, and you guys will have helped a ton when I’m properly on my path.


  • clare thwaites

    Excellent post Corbett – thank you :-) Really inspiring. There is a great little book I love called The Dip – basically saying that most people give up after the initial enthusiasm and energy for a new project has worn off and the day to day isn’t producing the spectacular results that were hoped for. But if you push through this then that’s where the real gold is and why there are so few people who actually get that far. Same in any industry – actors, musicians test pilots, bloggers, etc Obviously in some cases you need to know when to quit but you have to really try hard to put the effort in and do your research first. I love this quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t… You’re right”. :-)

Up Next:

Just Show Up

Everything changes when we stop thinking about how to get ahead or skip steps, and focus instead on building consistent, repetitive creative habits. Business builders early on in their career often think looking for shortcuts or figuring out the mistakes to avoid is the best way to be successful faster.

The Sparkline — a blog for independent creatives and entrepreneurs building matterful things.

% Stay inspired, productive + on track—get a weekly email from us. Short n’ meaty, built for speed. Get it Weekly