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  • Writer's pictureKevin Mullins

Legos, Success, and Being Resilient

Today's post is centered around a personal story of success and failure, which I feel can help nail down the title of this post, and help you see what really matters in our story known as life. The end though, provides a new way to look at yourself and realization that you always have control.

Let's establish a truth before going anywhere with this post.

You will fail. It will hurt.

If you let it failure it will destroy you.


You remain resilient and allow your failures to build you, harden you, and intensify your desire to succeed.

You have to be willing to feel your pains, acknowledge your failures, and keep your feet moving forward as you learn your lessons, lick your wounds, and build a better self.

Failure Almost Destroyed Me

Recently, I competed in Season 2 of Men's Health Next Top Trainer. It's basically the Next Top Model of fitness, in which eight fitness professionals from around the nation are brought together to compete in a series of challenges to narrow down the field to just one.

While me making the field of eight is an awesome accomplishment that required one hell of an audition bit

It required me to overcome defeat from last year when I competed on Season 1.

That's right...I was on the show last year too. .

I was defeated, told that I wasn't good enough, that I had failed...on camera. Thousands of people around the nation watched the episodes and formed opinions on me based upon the thirty minutes of footage that I was involved in. A five minute bit with a towel as my implement and an inability to think outside of the box did me in, and laid a brick in my social legacy.

I became the "towel-guy".

I won't lie. I was crushed at first. I was so excited to be there, ready to win it all and throw my six pack and smile on a DVD cover. It wasn't meant to be.

Fast forward a year, a CSCS certification, the birth of this website, promotions at work, opportunities to write, a visit to Cressey Performance, and so much more, and there I stood in Columbus, Ohio ready to audition again.

And I nailed it.

Cue Season 2. I arrive in PA ready to rock this mofo out and run home with my trophy. I knew I put in the work, developed as a trainer and as a man, and rebuilt my body to be stronger, leaner, and more mobile. Hell, I even grew out a beard to prove I was a real man.

First episode, Andy Speer, last year's winner, arrived to put us through his Anarchy DVD workout. It was an absolute ass-kicker. I mean holy-ish...My shoulders were fried in the first three minutes. I was told I moved like a drunken goat.

And I was sent home again.

Clearly, I don't share this story in an effort to brag, because let's face it...I did worse in the second season than I did in the first. I was a contestant for all of twenty-four hours.

I share this story because the second one almost broke me. If it weren't for the life experiences I've had up to this point, and the foundation of family and friends around me I'm sure I would have done something irrational. I drove home so sad, so angry, and so ready to throw my hands up and say that my efforts to be a great trainer are in vain.

I felt a rejection that was so strong I can't describe it. It had become very unfamiliar to me...but it had been there before. I remember being cut from my high school baseball team during my senior year. I remember being laughed at when I asked a girl to homecoming in high the between classes.

I had failed in front of everyone before. I had been humiliated before. I had had my heart broken before. Yet, I was doing great in life and moving mountains. Clearly failure didn't stop me before...why now?

It took a day of being in my apartment alone watching Netflix and playing video games to clear my head. If I had survived pain before...I'd survive it again. By Wednesday I was back at work doing what I do.

Men's Health didn't define what I do as a coach in the gym, or the work I put into studying and becoming better. It didn't represent me as a man and what I stand for.

I stand for resiliency.

Resiliency and Fitness

Clients can become frustrated, and sometimes hopeless when it comes to weight loss goals. They've ate well, worked hard, and truly given effort towards their goals...why aren't they losing weight faster?

This moment requires unwavering grit, an unshakeable attitude. Quit now like so many before you and surely fail. Keep pushing, and crying, and working your ass off and MAYBE you'll get there.

Let's be honest, weight loss is so multifactorial that you can seemingly do everything right for months and see very little progress. You'll want to quit.

Those days when you are tired and you don't want to go to the gym, or cook your meal, or stay in and watch a movie instead of partying until 3am....those are the crucial days.

I tell clients...

"Everyone can work out when its 75 and sunny, they just got paid, and no one pissed them off. Everyone can work out when they've ate well, slept like a baby, and are fully hydrated, slightly caffeinated, and feeling a kick in the butt to throw some weights around".

That's the truth! Success isn't about who you are when everything is going your way. It's about who you are when life takes a proverbial shit and it starts stacking on top of you.

Are you going to run and hide in pain an embarassment?

Publically write off exercise as stupid and annoying?

Are you going to say stupid things like "ugh, I didn't get to the top of the food chain to eat leaves"

Or will you embrace that you could have done better, or that there are other things you can try, or that maybe...just need help?

Life is a Lego Set

I like to describe us as human beings as a lego set. We get a base, or a foundation, on which we can place any piece we want. That foundation is your ethics, character, goal-orientation, socio-economic status, so on and so on.

Some people get a bigger base because they're family has more money, more access, or quite possibly they simply recieved more love and support in the house hold as children. They have more places to put lego pieces to begin with.

Any stable structure is wider at it's bottom than it is at it's top. This wider base is your childhood. Everything from your home life, pop culture, sports, cars, friends, and the education you recieve will build this base. No matter how old you get you'll always have these experiences under you.

I know I still love me some Power Rangers, Cal Ripken at shortstop, and hate freezi-pops for always making me look like I made out with a rainbow.

As you grow older you begin to specialize, and your building slowly starts to narrow. You hate x, but you love y, so you only build yourself with things relevant to y.

World events, broken hearts, the loss of loved ones, your first job, sports memories, moments with your friends, getting your report card, getting into college, doing your first keg stand, etc. all build you upwards.

At some point in life someone, or something is going to kick the shit out of your tower and knock off some blocks. It'll appear that all is lost and that all is ruined. Yet, this moment provides an opportunity to redefine who you are, what you are about, and where you are going!

You'll pick up the pieces you want to keep, and put them back on your tower. Maybe this failure is a chance to re-invent yourself anyway. You didn't like the shape your legos were taking and so now you have a chance to call an audible.

Brick by Brick you'll rebuild, rebrand, and renew.

Don't let failure fail you!


Keep Reading with Kevin's book - Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint

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Elevate your Fitness Career...Daily


What they Say...

"365 Golden Nuggets of Wisdom" - Jonathan Goodman

"Little attention is paid usually to the "how to" of building a successful career. Thanks to Kevin, this void is now being filled."  - Simon Warwick

THIS book should be required reading for anyone hoping to make a career out of personal training. - Steven Head

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