I was thinking about a phrase that I first heard my Aunt Madeline say 20+ years ago…It is what it is. Within the last five years, this phrase has become fairly commonplace in both work and social settings. But is believing it potentially harmful and disabling? Let’s examine.
So What Does It Really Mean?
When I hear “It is what it is,” my mind immediately goes to the famous quote by Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Sometimes, I also think about the famous Will Rogers quote: “If you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”
There’s a theme here, and I’m not sure it’s a good one… It’s one of dejection and acceptance. That type of mentality doesn’t empower you to improve yourself or your life. It makes you feel like a victim.
Real Life Examples
Let’s say you are frustrated because you just can’t lose that extra weight you’ve been carrying around. Should you just give up and say, “It is what it is” (i.e. there’s really nothing I can do about it)? Or is the answer to seek professional help to create a personalized plan to lose the desired weight?
How about your perceived dead-end job? Are you locked into this profession for the rest of your life because it is what it is? Or is there a possibility that your professional skill-sets and passion may be better suited for a different employer or career choice?
Then there is the “Ground Hog Day” of your love life. You know, where you experience the same less than desirable outcomes in your relationships over and over and over again. Are you destined for a life-time of unfulfilling relationships because itjust is what it is? Or could it possibly be a question of changing your parameters to achieve a different end result?
The answers to these examples (at least to me) are obvious: If you are unhappy with your weight, develop a nutrition program and exercise. If you are unhappy with your career, find a job that better suits your strengths and passions. And if you are unhappy with your relationship prospects, then raise the bar for yourself and your “target market.”
So, Is “It Is What It Is?” Harmful?
Here’s my perspective … It doesn’t matter whether it’s a health, professional or personal matter. I truly believe that you have the power to influence — if not control — the outcome of these scenarios.
I don’t buy into the helplessness of it is what it is.
The human body is a highly complex and amazing piece of machinery that is seldom exercised to its fullest capacity. Additionally, the human body has a unique ability to transform itself, at any age. The secret to harnessing this awesomeness? Will power. And by that, I mean my friend, Will Mowrey, and his power principles. Let me explain.
The Story of Will Mowrey
Will Mowrey, one of my band of brothers, is truly an elite athlete-and an inspiration to us all, as he nears double nickels. Here’s a little background on Will.
At 18, Will was competing as a power lifter on a national level. At his peak performance, he was 5’10,” weighed 258 lbs. and could max bench 500 lbs., squat 700 lbs., and dead-lift 600 lbs. As an aside, Will used to rep 225 lbs. over 30 times. To put that into perspective, Kansas State’s Alex Barnes set a new record of 34 reps at 225 lbs at the 2019 NFL combine. These numbers alone are enough to put Will in a very select athletic category but it gets better.
In 2004, at age 40, Will decided that he wanted to lose weight and transform his body from a physical strength machine to an aerobically-conditioned machine. So he took up jogging, which morphed into cycling after he broke his ankle.
Will’s first foray into cycling was on an old, ill-fitted Walmart mountain bike. His early rides were only 10+ miles, and required multiple stops. But this didn’t deter Will in the least. As his passion for cycling grew, his mileage and speeds increased, along with a desire for better technology (which resulted in a numerous bike upgrades).
Fast forward to 2019 … on a recent solo ride, a 178 lb. Will rode his Tour de France-style road-racing bike 82 miles in just over four hours. For the last six years, he has averaged 10,000 miles per year (or 60,000 total miles), with approximately 700,000 feet of climbing, per year. That’s the equivalent of riding up Mount Everest (elevation 29,035 feet) 24 times in one year.
Will rides, on average, 300 days a year and typically logs 220+ miles per week. All of this data has been logged and can be found on a special cycling software program, Strava. The facts are in: Will’s athletic achievements put him in an elite “freak” athlete category by any measurement criteria.
Will Power (and Will’s Power)
So how does Will maintain an elite-level cycling performance regimen in his 50’s? What lessons can others learn from him and apply in their own lives?
Will adheres to a very strict set of principles; which he uses to guide his life both on and off the bike.
Will’s P-O-W-E-R principles include:
Plan: to define a way or approach to accomplish a goal(s).
Obsess: to be single-minded in focus or purpose.
Will: to impose your desires over an action or emotion.
Execute: to perform a task or action to the best of your ability.
Resilient: to adjust easily to difficulties or change.
Finding Your Own Will Power
I started this blog by saying the human body is an amazing and complex piece of machinery and has a unique ability to transform itself, at any age. It is my hope that this blog post both inspires you and motivates you to push yourself well-beyond your comfort zone, regardless of the endeavor, as my good friend Will Mowrey has demonstrated in his latest mastery of cycling.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a quote credited to Darwin P. Kingsley as it relates to will power …”You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do, except the limitations of your own mind.”
If you’re a competitive or professional athlete, you probably know a lot about goal setting (and achieving those goals). But if you’re not, I am going to share the life lessons I learned from a tremendous experience and privilege I had in my youth that set me on a path to successful goal setting and attainment.
I had the good fortune to participate in the Cumberland Valley High School football program under legendary head football coach Harry C. Chapman III. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Coach Chapman’s football program had an off-season workout component that would rival most 2019 major college football off-season conditioning programs.
The start of summer takes me back in time to the days spent taking part in Coach Chapman’s summer workout sessions with teammates in the CV gym and at the track. And when I go back in time, I hear the same voice in my head that I heard 40 years ago, calling out his go-to words of encouragement…Fellas, get your weights!
The following quote, credited to former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry, provides readers with insight into Coach Chapman’s off-season program philosophy “… I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on the field and be prepared to play a good game.” Coach Chapman’s off-season program emphasized the five following key goal-setting principles. Each one includes a “key takeaway” that you can use in your next goal setting exercise, whether that’s related to sports, business, a fight against cancer … or anything else in life.
Principal #1: Define Both Team and Individual Goals
Coach Chapman emphasized a team-first mentality, and the importance of individuals maximizing their athletic abilities for the betterment of the team. He would sit down with each player at the end of the school year and set specific strength, agility and conditioning exercise goals for their summer workout program.
Key takeaway #1: Have anyone responsible for achieving the desired goals participate in an exercise that sets both team and individual goals. This ensures buy-in, personal responsibility and accountability by all participants.
“You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” – a Zig Ziglar favorite quote of close high school friend and teammate #85 Edward “Spike” Zionkofski
Principal #2: Maintain Consistency and Dedication to Goals
Coach Chapman held morning and evening workout sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the summer. It was understood that players would attend one session a day. And the sessions weren’t easy: They began with a weight-lifting period–players recorded the weight and reps attempted for each exercise–followed by a circuit of timed agility exercise stations set up in the gymnasium. After the agility circuit, Coach Chapman would take the players to the track for stretching and a recorded distance and/or a speed workout.
Key takeaway #2: Have a regular routine that everyone follows. This ensures a consistent level of effort is directed toward achieving their goals over an extended period.
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter
Principal #3: Establish Benchmark Testing and Reporting Procedures
Coach Chapman would test and record key exercises (e.g., half squats, single and five rep bench, 40 yard dash, mile run etc.) for all players throughout the summer. To motivate and inspire players, he would post charts on the walls listing all players and their personal best for each recorded exercise. He also recorded new personal bests in his highly-sought-after “blue ink.” These methods encouraged players to continually strive to receive “blue ink” and a “good effort” acknowledgement from Coach Chapman.
Key takeaway #3: Have a method of regularly monitoring and tracking your progress. This ensures that you are taking the right steps to achieve your goals. If you determine you are not on the right track, you can modify your strategy or plan to ensure you achieve the desired results.
“When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.” –Terry Bradshaw
Principal #4: Create a Culture That Fosters Competition and Teamwork
Coach Chapman used to get really fired up when he was testing/recording players, especially when a player was attempting a new personal best. His enthusiasm was contagious, and often resulted in a crowd of teammates gathering around to encourage the player to succeed. Call it motivation, fear of embarrassment, or a sense of pride, but you always felt compelled to give it your all; and more importantly, to not let your teammates down.
Key takeaway #4: Establish a positive and competitive environment that fosters peak individual performance and team unity. This ensures a “team first” mindset and mentality for any team, group or organization
“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan
Principal #5: Persevere, Persevere, Persevere
Coach Chapman’s football program emphasized the importance of perseverance in all activities, both on the football field and in the classroom. This phrasing–along with persistence, mental toughness, hard work and overcoming adversity–were commonly-repeated themes that you heard when you were in the presence of Coach Chapman.
Key takeaway #5: Have the physical and mental toughness, as well as intestinal fortitude, to overcome the challenges that occur in football, the classroom or in life. In summary, I have found that very little is given to us in life, and most successes are the result of hard work, persistence and perseverance.
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”- John Wooden
Coach Harry C. Chapman III’s goal-setting principles and coaching philosophy has had a positive impact throughout my life and for that I am truly grateful. I believe that Coach Chapman’s goal setting principles can be used by anyone to help ensure that they not only meet–but exceed–their desired life goals.
A special thanks to my close grade school friends and teammates #13 Harry C. “Four” Chapman IV and #72 Brian “Bull” Bullock for their contributions to the creation of this blog.
I would also like to acknowledge the countless hours the early 1980’s CV Football Coaching Staff — Coach Harry Chapman, Coach Butch Bricker, Coach Bob Crobak, Coach Ron Audo, Coach Joe Correal, Coach Tom Uhrich and Coach Jim Hess — invested in teaching young men how to compete and conduct themselves both on and off the football field.
“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.” – Hippocrates
As you may or may not know, February is National Cancer Prevention Month. What I like about this particular campaign, is that it focuses on prevention in addition to awareness.
Keeping in mind that cancer prevention is possible by making simple lifestyle adjustments, I’ve thankfully been able to gain focus on getting my health in check for February and for the rest of the year.
Here are 3 things I would recommend to do to create good exercise habits for the rest of 2017 in honor of Cancer Prevention month:
Challenge Yourself to Daily 30 Min Exercise Take 30 minutes each day to get the body moving and blood pumping. It doesn’t have to be extreme and there’s no need for a gym membership. You just need to get up and get outside for some physical activity. On the days when you are not feeling up to a challenge, step it up with some bike riding, running or weights. The important part is to just keep your body in motion.
Evaluating and Optimizing your Diet: The key here is balance. So, plan on incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet and limit processed foods and red meats. With the reports linking red meat consumption to colon cancer, this should be a no-brainer. Boosting your nutrition habits will help fortify your immune system and cut the risk of cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Carrying around excess weight is not only bad for your joints and can place strain on your cardiovascular system; it has also been linked to different types of cancers. Keeping your weight at a solid and steady level will not only prevent chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, it can also help prevent against types of cancer. As a bonus, if you follow the first two steps, maintaining a good weight shouldn’t be hard.
The American Institute for Cancer Research has estimated that about one-third of the most common cancers in the US could be prevented by simply exercising, eating better and keeping your weight in check. Read more at American Cancer Society: Weight and Cancer .
For those of us who have made resolutions for 2017 to get healthy, this is great source of motivation to keep going. And for those of us who have had trouble keeping our resolutions, this is the perfect time to give ourselves a second chance.
Just remember, it’s never too late to change your habits and yourself for the better.
Please feel free to share your own story or leave some kind words of encouragement in the comments section below.
I hope the rest of 2017 and beyond, finds you healthy and happy.
” Inspirational for any and all that are dealing with cancer. ”-Tina Johnson