Impure Motivations & Legendary Outcomes
Posted by Michael Vacanti
My heart was racing.
And my hands were sweating.
I nervously took another step toward her front door.
With a bouquet of roses in my left hand, my eyes were fixated on the doorbell.
At 16 years old, this was nerve-racking stuff.
But let me be clear, this was not your ordinary boy meets girl, mini golf, ice cream, round 2nd base in your parent’s basement with a muted Ten Things I Hate About You playing in the background love story.
No no no.
You see, the high school sophomore version of Mike Vacanti was far more pathetic than that.
This was not a date.
This was a one-man hail mary effort, involving a ding-dong-ditch strategy and red roses, designed to win the heart of a girl who had me buried in the depths of the friend zone.
However, armed with blissful cluelessness, I pressed forward with my strategy: carefully placing the flowers between her front door and screen door, ringing the doorbell, and taking off in a dead sprint back to my crew of misfits – Tony and Arjun – who eagerly awaited my return in our getaway vehicle, my mother’s 1995 Ford Windstar…
A Selfish Narcissist Youtuber!
Mike Rashid posted a video a while back.
He and his crew got together to give water, Gatorade, and food to homeless people in Miami.
I scrolled the comments, you know, to see what the experts had to say.
That’s when I came across this:
“You are only feeding those people to make yourself look good for your vlog”
“If you weren’t filming it, you wouldn’t have even done this.”
I stared at the angry comment for a little while. Trying to digest its wisdom. And to be honest, thinking about whether or not I agreed with it.
That’s when it hit me… it doesn’t matter if I agree with it.
Five hundred fucking people who don’t have food or water are getting food and water.
End of the story.
I don’t care what the hell is driving this action, there is a reduction of suffering in our world as a result of it.
An Excruciating Childhood
Guess what: after we’re done trashing this beautiful planet we live on, we are going to need somewhere else to go.
Not you and me.
And not our kids or their kids, I don’t think.
But at some point, being a multi-planetary species is very likely to extend the survival of the human race.
What if I told you that some impure motivation – maybe, a massive chip on the shoulder of one brilliant South African – was helping us get there?
CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, recounts his childhood in Ashlee Vance’s biography:
“They got my best [expletive] friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that [expletive] hurt. For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the [expletive] out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.”
Yeah, yeah, Musk is a once in a lifetime prodigy.
And a rough childhood probably isn’t correlated with a 155+ IQ (estimate).
But that emotional trauma sure as hell can provide the motivation necessary for an all-time work ethic.
Look Hot In A Swimsuit This Summer!
I always hated sales pages that relied on sex or buyer insecurity.
In fact, I still do.
My current online coaching sales page, which I wrote many years go, hinges upon “being the best version of yourself in life” as the primary reason anyone should dial in their fitness game.
But let’s open our minds for a second.
Jenny is a 32 year-old mother of three. Two boys. One girl. Ages 11 months, three years, and six years.
She buys a $40 workout program called “get strong and fit for summer” that talks about feeling good in a bikini.
Jenny is your average non-fitness enthusiast.
She is not looking forward to wearing a two-piece on her family vacation the next year.
It is important to note, that at the moment, being active and physically productive from the ages of 66-90 are not top of mind for Jenny.
So, months go by. Jenny executes this training program, the one she bought in hopes of trimming down for vacation.
In the process, she falls in love with strength training.
It becomes a hobby. And then a habit. And then a component of her life.
So, while Jenny wasn’t initially trying to be more mobile and mentally sharp at her granddaughter’s wedding 48 years later, that is what happened .
Pretty hard to hate on the guy who sold her this reasonably priced, linear progression based, workout program chock full of compound moves and evidence based information — even if he was using summer vacation as a carrot – as that is the carrot he believed would move the most product.
Now, let me be clear, there is a huge caveat here.
Being motivated to look a certain way can and often does lead to obsessions, eating disorders, and a never ending game of moving the finish line further out in front of you.
There can and often are negative repercussions. So, I am not saying intention is irrelevant.
But I will make this statement. In a vacuum, where we have two options: be insecure and start lifting or don’t be insecure and don’t lift, there is more upside in the cumulative effect of the former .
A Brand New Lifter – Taking His Squat To The Next Level!
One of my online coaching clients, Joeri Daenen, detailed some of the motivators behind his fitness journey in a recent blog post. Which I would link you to, except it’s written in Danish.
He was kind enough to translate for me.
In it, Joeri jokes about fitness being his “mid life crisis” as he watches others collect rare gin and cruise the world on a Harley Davidson.
He admits that vanity and the thrill of seeing abs for the first time at age 41 is motivating. Not his entire motivation, as his long term health is also a key priority, but part of his motivation.
And this drive has resulted in benefits he recognizes daily: mental and physical strength, better sleep and improved focus, and of course, looking better. “A nice perk,” he calls it.
Oh, his squat has also improved drastically (1:10)
Why I Started Lifting Weights
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get the girl.
In fact, the old Ford Windstar only made it one block before Tony, Arjun, and I witnessed a gruesome t-bone car crash.
Luckily, no one was injured. But it was a mess. Both cars totaled.
And one car was left wrapped around a pole that happened to be located in Katie Gunderson’s neighbor’s front yard.
So, after dropping roses and a pathetic note off on this girl’s front step, I had to stand there with her father and talk to the police about how the accident unfolded.
But, despite how mortified I felt. And how cringy this story is with hindsight on our side.
All is not lost.
You see, in a brewing mix of adolescent confusion, female rejection, and a desperate desire to make a hockey team – I found a place that would change my life.
The Jefferson High School weight room.
And through AM skates, and lunch time workouts, and late night sprints on the track, working out to get girls changed into something entirely different.
I don’t remember when exactly the change occurred. Within a year or two, certainly. But my motivation for training became something else entirely.
It was competition with myself.
It was a love for the mental place that a grueling workout forced me to go.
It was lessons in work ethic and self-discipline that transcended the gym and trickled into school, work, and life.
And years later, it became my meal ticket for quitting my job and helping thousands of people become stronger and more healthy.
So, in closing, I’d like to use another analogy: if rejection and insecurity were the spark that lit a fire of mental and physical strength, that spread further into teaching the subject of fitness… are we really going to dwell on the dishonor of the flint and steel that made that spark?
Are we going to see hungry mouths being fed, and accuse a man of seeking validation?
See a strong, sharp old lady and get mad at an online trainer (if we even have those in 50 years!)?
Will we blame a dude who extends the lifespan of the human race for not getting over some childhood trauma?
Of course not.
My final advice:
Yes, do some soul searching, and try to understand what is driving you to do certain things. All well and good. But, don’t be cynical towards positive action even if driven by questionable motivations.
 Yeah, yeah. Not every time. But if we run Jenny through a sim, she lives longer and has more physical capability when strength training and proper diet are habits.
 No, there are not 3 options, it’s a vacuum. It’s my blog and that was my analogy, so leave your whiney comment somewhere else.
PS: I was serious about the white walkers. And on a scale of 1 to Davos after he finds Shireen’s wood stag in the snow, I’m pretty darn upset you haven’t subscribed yet.
PPS: I am, of course, speculating about Musk’s motivations. I just couldn’t find a good picture of me and gundo from back in high school, and I needed a cover photo.