The world doesn’t owe you an easy time

I’ve been hearing something lately that has really started to bug me. I’ve been hearing it and seeing it a lot – on podcasts, on social media – and it’s the saying that goes, “If it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ it’s a ‘no.'”

The intent behind this phrase is that you should say “no” if you are presented with an opportunity to do something or you are asked to do something and you are not gung ho about it – if your answer isn’t “hell yes, I want to do it.”

And it drives me nuts.

My wife and I were talking about this saying not too long ago, about how this mentality, on the surface, sounds right. You don’t want to get yourself into something that your heart is not into – that by doing this particular ask it would feel more like a burden to you rather than something you could throw your all and everything into.

The problem I have with this mindset is that it devalues the fact that life is not going to be easy all the time, life does not owe you a single thing, life does not owe you an always-exciting time, and that there is enormous value in hard work that may not always be fun and something that you want to do. Character is often best built in the instances where you don’t shout out “Hell yes, I want to do that,” when you’re asked, but you do it anyway.

The value of hard work can never be replaced, and hard work oftentimes isn’t fun or met with the mentality of “hell yes!” Ask any farmer if that’s the case. They do a ton of hard, grueling, taxing work that they probably don’t want to do, but they do it anyway, and the outcome of their work is that we have food on our tables.

We are often faced with times when we know we have to get a job or task done because it either needs to be done, or we know we’re going to come out the other side of it better for doing this work, or perhaps most importantly, it benefits others while we gain little in return. It’s called selflessness.

This notion of, if I’m asked to do something and my initial reaction isn’t “hell yes,” that it’s a “no,” is absurd to me. It screams of an entitlement culture in which you only do things that benefit yourself and your own agenda.

Apply this to fitness. At a macro level, absolutely, my mindset is “hell yes!” I want to go to the gym, I want to get better, I want to be fitter, I want to challenge my body in new and exciting and interesting ways.

But I don’t have that mentality every single day. There are some mornings when my alarm goes off and I hate the thought of getting out of bed. I don’t always wake up super stoked to go to the gym.

But I do it because hard work and consistency matter. Hard work done consistently over a long period of time will yield the results I want. I put in the hard work, and even though I might have a workout here and there were I’m dragging and my pre-workout isn’t phasing me and I can’t get the energy and motivation going and I don’t want to be there, I do it anyway because the outcome of it is far greater than the challenge that I’m going through in that moment.

And ultimately, I know I’m working towards being as fit and healthy as possible so that I can be there for my family for as long as I am able to affect. That’s what being a fit dad is all about.

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I won’t let my son beat me at soccer

As our children grow up and become more involved in sports and activities, we fathers face a challenging question: Do I let my kid beat me, or do I not take it easy on them and make them earn a victory?

It could be anything – basketball, video games, checkers, a race to the end of the block and back.

My 6-year-old son and I were recently playing soccer in our backyard, and after I beat him 10-2, he got upset and started to mope.

My response to him?

“We don’t get to win just because we want to. You have to earn it. If you don’t like how a certain situation happened, you have to work really hard to change it. If you want to beat me, son, you have to practice, work hard, and keep trying until it happens. But I’m not going to just let you win. That’s not how the world works.”

Look, my son and daughter will benefit from untold amounts of privilege as they grow up. We are an upper-middle class, white, Christian family. The odds are stacked in my kids’ favor – my son even more so than my daughter since he is a male. I understand and acknowledge this privilege, and as such, I want to make sure it does not create a false sense of entitlement with my kids.

There was a time when I would have let my son beat me at soccer. As he was learning to walk. As he was learning to kick a ball.

But not anymore.

Now that he is showing interest in playing soccer and basketball competitively (we just signed him up for his first semi-competitive team), I see it as my duty as his father to teach him that winning is earned and not given, and to win consistently, you’ve got to work at it. And to beat someone better than you, it takes a lot of practice and experience.

That championship trophy you want? Work for it. That scholarship you want. Go earn it. That promotion you want? Outwork your competition.

I let my 4-year-old daughter beat me at games and activities. She loves racing me up the stairs when its bedtime. She wins most nights. Most.

So many people love to bash the era we live in as one of participation trophies and “everybody gets a medal.” We can debate all we want about who’s to blame for this mentality (for the record, no kid playing tee-ball ever demanded a participation trophy. It’s the entitled parents that started that trend).

But for me, I will teach my children not to value these meaningless rewards. They will know and understand that in many situations in life, there are clear winners and losers. And to be a winner, you must earn it. You must beat someone out.

And to remain a winner, you must outwork your competition day-in and day-out and continue to get better, because there is always someone working to be the next winner.