NO STRAIGHT ANSWERS • HEAD COACH XN'S BLOG

​Head Coach and Next Level founder Christian Matyi – a/k/a "XN" – gives notoriously complex answers to even the most simple of questions.  He'd always rather you "think more" than "know more." So you can only imagine what'll happen when there wasn't any question even asked . . . 

You never know what his many years of coaching will inspire him to claim as "relevant" to your progress. 

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Your desire for success, unto itself, is not enough.

He's got better abs than you.  

He's got better abs than you.  

Jeff Lindo has better abs than you.  

I mean, like, a lot better. 

Wanna know why?  I did too.  I always want to know what makes something exceptional, because if we know how to do something better, then maybe we can make better things ourselves.  It's no grand insight; it's pretty common actually.  We all generally want to know how to achieve better things for ourselves. 

So what is it that brings Jeff his exceptional success as a bodybuilder?  What helped him craft a physique that is not only iconic, but also one that you don't need to have an interest in the sport of bodybuilding to find fascinating as a creation?  

I had to know.

And so, while in the midst of a bodybuilding contest, I asked him to fashion me an answer.  I mean, I presumed that his answer would be easy to find in his head, considering he must use this quality on a daily basis.  Without the need to be coy, I approached the topic rather directly, asking Jeff to try to describe what it was that he has going for him that maybe others don't have in equal abundance which explain why his results so exceptional.

He paused; thought a moment.  He knew his answer had to be "good." 

Then, as if picking from a buffet of answers in his mind: 

"Desire," Jeff said.  

Then he grinned, proudly.  He had picked a winner; a quick, simplified little gem of an answer.  "When I want something, I want it  bad.  maybe more than others want it.  I want something all the way. And if other people say they want it, but aren't getting similar results, then it's maybe that they just don't want it bad enough."  

He grinned again.  His broad, striated chest rose upward.  Nailed it.  

And – okay – the answer makes sense.  I get what Jeff was saying.  But something wasn't quite connecting for me between this answer and what I knew of Jeff himself.  It was too . . . simple.  There – that's it!  The answer was just way too simple.  I mean, it's just a degree of desire?  We just have to want something bad enough?  Like, as if some of us are somehow deficit in our ability to crave things?  Those of us who can not achieve high standards lack greed?  

Being the coach that I am, I can never quite settle for a super-simplified explanation. When we settle for over simplification for the sake of personal comfort we diminish our opportunities to learn.  And I am all about learning.  Whether it's learning how to get shredded abs like Jeff's (and his bowling-ball shoulders, and his etched-stone legs, etc., etc, etc.), or learning the subtleties of the systems behind these results, I want to learn about all the gears that churn and grind to create a thing.  Especially when that thing is somehow exceptional.

No – this answer of "I have the desire"  didn't make complete sense.  At least not in it's simplified form.  "Desire" alone is not what makes someone a success.  Or at least that's not the full reason.

Unsimplifying Jeff.

Jeff Lindo belonged to an experimental team in The Next Level many years ago. It was a team comprised of athletes who each possessed exceptional ability in physique and strength sports.  And during that period was around the last time Jeff ever competed in bodybuilding. In fact, back then he was pretty uncertain whether he would ever resume the competitive practice again.  

Jeff works in a very time-consuming sales position that requires him to travel – a lot!  Meanwhile, Jeff has had a passion for golf that has been around a lot longer and more persistently than his interest in bodybuilding.  It's a passion so strong that Jeff currently competes as a professional golfer. Add being a young home-owner, a hope to one day find a family, and you can see how his bodybuilding seemed only a distraction in his life.  As high an aptitude as he has for the craft, pursuing bodybuilding competitively boiled down to a conflict of diminishing returns: while Jeff enjoyed the challenges, the victories, and the structure of the work, he needed to reserve more time and focus for all these other other areas of life.

Sounds pretty much like all of us.  Jeff may have better abs than us, but otherwise he's pretty similar.  

But it's often the coincidences we can't predict that determine our next adventures.  And Jeff was coincidentally surrounded by men and women new to the physique sports who wanted to begin competing.   Just  some friends and members of his gym with enthusiasm to enter bodybuilding competition.  These people were amped.  These people were excited.

These people had desire.  A lot of desire.

And we know that Jeff admires strong desire.

And all these newcomers to the sport drew knowledge and inspiration from Jeff's work.  So much so, they asked for help.  And all that desire ignited something in Jeff.  And he decided to try to return to the sport after many, many years of absence.  His mission in returning was to inspire, motivate and guide others.

It's not like the "Old Jeff" was a slouch, but he can't hold a candle to the current version.

His results, on that mission, were far better than his performance years ago.  When he was younger, he gained pro status as a bodybuilder and had a remarkable physique.  But this Jeff – motivated by the benevolence of guidance and mentorship – produced a physique that kicked the Old Jeff's ass.  

And this was a huge, glaring clue for me.  What made Jeff's results better were not simply his desire.  Sure, desire was there again, but something new was happening – something in addition to desire.

Now, Jeff is a directed and disciplined person by nature.  He is remarkably consistent in everything he does.   He is almost a hard-ass in some respects.  His personality is warm and even playful, but when it comes to work, well, he is profoundly self-asserting.  Pragmatic and methodical, this is hardly the type of man I would describe as led by fits of desire.  No, the Jeff we know is different then a "wanting machine" as I know him. 

Now add to this his sense of helping his friends.  He literally restructured his life just to support the work of his peers.  Did he truly "want" them to win so bad he made new sacrifices?  And wouldn't all those differing wants overwhelm a system of methodical work?

Nothing in the story of Jeff describes a man led by want.  These killer abs he has didn't seem to emerge from a narrative of unquenchable desire.  Deconstructing Jeff's approach revealed that his simple answer, while relevant, was only the tip of the iceberg.

Recalling desire: the factor X to progressive success

While Jeff has a desire for getting what he wants, what really seems to work for his progress is the way Jeff methodically re-invigorates his desire.  Jeff keeps desire alive.  He is able to recall the power of a desire on command, at will, with such force that it feels almost like it was when it was first new.  Regardless of whether he is otherwise bogged with life details, of if he is in the midst of conflicts and confusion, or when his schedule is overwhelmed, he can expediently pull up the desire which motivates him to also stay on course of his work.  At just about any point he wants, Jeff can recall the feelings of passionate desire at their fullest force.

So, maybe it's not not that Jeff has "more" desire than any of us, or that he feels it better than we do.  It's that Jeff has a very well-returns to that point better than most can.  Jeff's special edge comes not from how badly he wants things, but rather how remarkably loyal he is to his own objectives.

In specific terms: Jeff's special success quality is a remarkably evolved sense of loyalty.

Think about it.  Jeff is so loyal to his decision to compete that he restructures his very life to ensure the tasks get done.  He makes grand change to accommodate what needs to be done to achieve the goal.

When it came to becoming a mentor for others, again Jeff went far out of his way to stay loyal to their needs.  Discussions and guidance; endless phone calls; training sessions and written suggestions; Jeff was far more loyal even than what you'd expect from a paid service!

In his job, he travels frequently, yet does the work he needs.  He does not let his performance slide, and in fact has been promoted not too long ago.  The loyalty shows in his decision to do his job well.

He has this same profound loyalty to his family, in his relationships – heck, even to his lawn!

Most people are so comfortable with abandoning their goals and desires, they don’t even notice when they do it!

No matter what, Jeff is loyal.  

Most especially, Jeff is loyal to himself. 

And there lies the edge.  We all feel our desires, but how often do we let the power of those desires die out once a new flame is sparked elsewhere?  We all set goals, but how often do we abandon them when we feel distracted by other demands?  Most people are so comfortable with abandoning their goals and desires, they don't even notice when they do it!   It's amazing how disloyal we can be to ourselves.

Jeff's cutting edge is his well-practiced loyalty to that which he desires.  He is selective, of course – I mean, you can't be loyal to every little desire you have without causing major conflict.  But it is loyalty to his own desires that allows Jeff to recall the power of the desire on command.  That emotional inspiration is never far behind.  It's like staying loyal to tending a fire; if you are disciplined in tending that fire, and loyal to it staying lit, then that fire will always warm you and light your surroundings.

The rest of us don't quite tend to that fire of desire to finish a goal quite as loyally as Jeff.

A practice we can all evolve: A case for frivolous pursuits. 

Loyalty practice is a strange one, because in order to practice loyalty to our objectives, we require a degree of loyalty.  It is strangely paradoxical.  But it is not impossible.  

Developing the character trait of strong loyalty to objectives is something that can be practiced and mastered, so long as there is a proper structure to learn it.  It is literally like working out; just the decision to get abs doesn't make the abs appear, nor does the desire to have them, nor does just one or two workouts.  Persistence with working out is what brings the results.  So too with training one's sense to loyalty to themselves.

Which is why it is usually good to start with something you enjoy, then transforming it into a project that requires consistent attendance over a short time span.  Jeff appreciates the muscular aesthetic, and loves heavy lifting, so using the practice of bodybuilding to train his loyalty to a project was a no-brainer.

Sure it looks frivolous.  That's because it is.  But also, it's not.

Sure it looks frivolous.  That's because it is.  But also, it's not.

Make sure it is something you truly enjoy; something that fills you with fun, or relaxation, or inspires you, or somehow gets you excited.  And we all have stuff we "like" and things we get into.  If you love fantasy, maybe you make the goal to finish a book of fiction in a set time span. If you love nature, maybe the goal is to grow plants over a summer.  And if you love lifting weights, maybe it is stepping into a competition.  

By keeping the project closely associated to something you like,  there's a higher chance you won't abandon it, or at least will stress abandoning it when things get challenging.  Because they will get challenging.  Life will interrupt your little loyalty practice constantly.  Work will overwhelm you; family will need you; bills and chores and al the normal bits of life will conspire to limit your ability to stay loyal.  So therefore, making it something you truly like will help you fight back and remain consistent with the responsibilities of this choice.

And this is a case for what some might snobbily regard as "frivolous pursuits."  Many don't think they need abs like Jeff's – or any of his muscles.  In fact, some would say the whole damn pursuit seems a huge waste of time that could be employed "more usefully" elsewhere.  

But we have already seen how Jeff's pursuit of bodybuilding success trains within him a sense of loyalty to his objectives.  And that loyalty to his desires in turn allows him to earn money, be there for his family, help his friends, pay his bills, and generally make life a little better.  So, ironically, that practice which seems frivolous is actually like "training" for one of the most crucial elements for success in Jeff's life or anyone else's!

It's a small case for the frivolous pursuits; they can often train us to remain loyal to our goals.  Because frivolity is often the first thing to go when we are confronted with life's demands, remaining loyal to a frivolous goal strengthens our ability to stay loyal under fire.  Then we take this ability with us into the "big important" stuff of life.

Looks like working on a killer body can have far more relevant impact than just frivolous vanity. 

Humbling and motivating

Seeing Jeff's chiseled, lean muscle, and knowing the qualities of his personality that helped him create that shape, really made me think about my own loyalty to myself.  How can we not, when confronted with something excellent?  

Humbling for this coach.  But remarkable all the same.

Humbling for this coach.  But remarkable all the same.

How many books have I not finished reading?  How many home tidying chores do I put off perpetually?  How many projects have I abandoned rather than remain loyal to? 

It's remarkably humbling when you have to give yourself a grade for how loyal you are to yourself.  Especially when you get a physical example thrust right into your face like Jeff's remarkable physique work; a shape that is truly a rare thing seen on this planet. 

I imagine by this point (if you're still reading) you're kind of evaluating your own self-loyalty as well. What have you left behind? What did you start with enthusiasm and then abandon with neglect?  When did you feel a fire in the bell, but then just let that fire snuff out?

Life gets busy, priorities change, and the demands of all the "important stuff" constantly shift. There's always a "good reason" to abandon something that we previously felt a deep desire to achieve.  But the ability to remain loyal to your desires, no matter how frivolous they may seem – even in spite of shifting priorities and demands – strengthens in you a remarkable trait essential to success.  That's what allows Jeff to craft something that is remarkably rare to see on this planet.  So maybe you can too.

This is not to say everyone should try to enter a bodybuilding contest just to develop stronger loyalty to their goals.  It's just to say that we should all take up a practice from time to time to help strengthen our ability to stay loyal to goals.  Even if that practice is something that seems a little frivolous on the surface; just pick up a project, a craft, a practice, or a goal based on something you enjoy, and then try to remain loyal to it for an extended period of time, regardless of the pressures of life.  When you do, you will be practicing a skill that will help you sustain your work in other areas.

Loyalty to a desire is more important then the desire itself. Loyalty to the goal is more important than the goal itself.

Which is probably the most important lesson to be learned symbolically through the wide lats and giant arms Jeff brings into competition. This iconic shape that Jeff crafts is a living testimony to the idea of being loyal to yourself, even and especially when life offers very good excuses to abandon a project. 

Loyalty to a desire is more important then the desire itself. Loyalty to the goal is more important than the goal itself. For it is this loyalty that brings a success.

In fact, it was this loyalty that won Jeff the whole contest.

Looks like he has damn good abs after all.