I met Dan John at a conference, at which he was speaking, and I was sponsoring. He came up to the booth after giving his talk to say hello. He wanted to introduce himself. He didn’t need to introduce himself. Like I didn’t know who Dan John was. Please.
We chatted a bit, until I offered one of my books, which he inquired about, and watched as he sunk back into the crowd. I remember at that point thinking, Well, darn. Dan John just went away with the first book I ever wrote. That sucks.
A few hours later, to my surprise, he returned to lavish praise upon my little book. Apparently, he didn’t find nearly as much to criticize about my work as I thought he would. This stuck a puzzled look on my face. He actually liked it?, I thought. Maybe I am worthy.
That night, we took to drinking whisky, and have been friends ever since.
Dan John owes nothing, but gives everything. He’s helped my career more than anyone, and for no reason that I can really figure out. He’s just a nice guy, who I just happened to meet, and who just happened to like my book.
I’ve since developed a deep and meaningful friendship with the man, and every time we talk, I glean insights and knowledge about what it means to be an effective person–a good person, an honorable person. These lessons extend beyond the weight room. They carry over, so to speak.
Here are some of the highlights.
9 Invaluable Lessons on Lifting and Life from Dan John
1) Know What to Measure
“Life is more than goals,” Dan told us, on a recent episode of The Pat Flynn Show.
You don’t want to become a person who’s achieved everything but has nothing. Don’t be a successful loser.
Instead, take stock over the whole of your life–work, rest, play, and pray (meditate)–your family, your friends, your community, all of it. Know what compromises to make, and what “successes” to leave on the table.
2) The Fundamentals are Fundamental
Commit yourself to a mastery over the fundamentals. Don’t fool yourself into thinking variety is progress. Push, pull, hinge, squat, carry. Stretch what’s tight. Strengthen what’s weak.
3) Enjoy the Buffet of Life
Generalism (the thesis of my upcoming book) is a concept Dan John strongly subscribes to. Learn as much as you can, about whatever interests you. Avoid pigeon-holding yourself by becoming a specialist.
(Note: Dan will be returning to The Pat Flynn Show next week to expand on the concept of generalism, offering his top book and movie recommendations. Subscribe here so you don’t miss it.)
4) Make Other People Happy
“You’ll never make yourself happy,” I heard Dan John say recently. “So focus on making other people happy.”
5) Teach Your Kids the World is a Wonderful Place
Speaking of knowing what to measure, Dan made a striking point in our conversation when it comes to kids, a subject I approach with much trepidation, being relatively inexperienced in the matter.
He said, “If you’re kids at 18 are eager to move out and venture excitedly into world, you’ve done a good job. You’ve taught them the world is a wonderful place.”
6) The More Structure You Put On Things, The More Messed Up You Make It
“My best coaching is when I show my athletes something, they do it, then show me what they did, and about half the time I’ll go, that’s a whole lot better than what I was thinking.” In other words, don’t put too many restrictions in place. Structure can block imagination.
Let things happen. Don’t over-instruct.
Text messages are convenient, but calling makes it personal. If you want to talk to someone, dial their number.
8) Little and Often Over the Long Haul
Frequency is key. So forget the “all or nothing” mindset, and commit to “always something.”
9) If It’s Important, Do It Everyday
Read These Books, Okay?
Dan wrote the best starting guide on kettlebells yet with The Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge.