00:05 Michael Vacanti: Hello and welcome to Episode 27 of the How to Become a Personal Trainer podcast. We are your hosts Michael Vacanti.
00:10 Jordan Syatt: My name’s Jordan Syatt, and, in this episode, we take a different direction, and we talk a lot about obsession, but probably not in the way you might think. We talk a lot about obsession and how to use obsession in a healthy way to achieve your goals and maybe eventually, help your clients reach theirs too. Enjoy.
00:39 Michael Vacanti: Hello Jordan.
00:40 Jordan Syatt: What’s going on Michael? How’re you doing today?
00:43 Michael Vacanti: Excellent. I think I just had the best week in the last nine years of my life.
00:47 Jordan Syatt: Geez. Why?
00:50 Michael Vacanti: I think it’s because of weight lifting and tracking macros. [laughter]
00:54 Jordan Syatt: And you’ve been meticulous with it?
00:57 Michael Vacanti: In all seriousness, I do think that’s why. I… Yeah, I was just dialed in all week for the first time, probably… Nine years ago was when I quit my accounting job.
01:11 Jordan Syatt: Right.
01:12 Michael Vacanti: And I’ll never forget that feeling of walking out of the office and feeling legitimately free from the chains of corporate America. And I feel like that feeling has been replicated here as a result of four upper body days and one lower body day. And actually planning out my food and tracking everyday, going to bed at about the same time, waking up early and doing work in the morning. I don’t know, I feel like I haven’t strung a week together like this in a decade.
01:44 Jordan Syatt: You are on the regimen?
01:45 Michael Vacanti: I’m finally, after 10 years, on the regimen. [laughter]
01:52 Jordan Syatt: That’s amazing. And, I’m assuming the environment where you are, sun everyday, walking outside barefoot helps too, but the regimen you’re on is just like… It’s amazing.
02:06 Michael Vacanti: There are so many things that are more outside of my control that are positively helping me, that I’m benefiting from: The time of year, the location, being in Minnesota, having nature, the people around me. Yeah, definitely. But, the decisions that I have made, and it’s really just a handful, it’s making the decision to get up early, making the decision to take every rep of every set seriously in my training, not be on Twitter, not be on YouTube, really lift like I care, and limiting caffeine to a reasonable amount, getting enough sleep and having my nutrition in a good place.
02:51 Jordan Syatt: So you haven’t been on your phone at all when you’re training?
02:54 Michael Vacanti: I’m taking notes on my training.
02:58 Jordan Syatt: Wow. You’re really… on the regimen. You’re on your phone and you’re like notes on your phone, taking out of how every set felt and everything?
03:07 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, I’m logging every set, and then I’m also… If there’s something… Like something felt weird, something felt good, go up next week, like light dialed form, I’m taking notes. And it’s not because I want any end result other than that feeling to bleed into other aspects of my life, which it has. It has, for whatever reason, made me more regimented with replying to client emails in a certain window of the day. It’s made me more regimented about stopping working at a certain time of day. Yeah, I feel really good.
03:47 Jordan Syatt: That’s huge, man. That’s great. I remember the last time I consistently had a work-out notebook, and every single set I would take a note of, “I felt like my foot was too externally rotated, that felt fast and explosive,” I’d write in all caps, “Great job, or like, “You suck terribly.” [laughter] But I had stacks on stacks on stacks on stacks of these just like journals, handwritten journals, or just my workouts for years. And by far, best time ever lifting, best my lifting ever was… Most progress I ever made.
04:28 Michael Vacanti: Absolutely. That’s awesome.
04:29 Jordan Syatt: Are you reviewing those notes, so week to week, like you’re gonna be looking back at the notes being like, “Okay, this is what I did last week”, like, “We’re trying to… ” Or is it more just the practice of it?
04:40 Michael Vacanti: It’s the practice of it, that would be good in a perfect world, but, the purpose isn’t to absolutely maximize strength or muscle gain or anything along those lines, it’s…
04:53 Jordan Syatt: Olympia 2021.
04:55 Michael Vacanti: I’m also five days in, so, who knows what next week’s podcast will sound like, but, for whatever reason, I think I fell into some kind of trap of thinking it was uncool to really care about my own fitness or thinking that because I could get away with half assing and maintaining a certain level of aesthetics and mobility and feeling okay, that, doing enough to get by was the right strategy. And the thing that I think people need to realize, coaches especially, is that, a lot of us coaches who got into fitness because we really like fitness, we don’t necessarily need to treat ourselves like we would coach a client.
05:52 Michael Vacanti: Right? I really enjoy working out, and so, programming myself some minimal effective dose just to get by, to make a lot of time for other things doesn’t necessarily make sense for me, and, for whatever reason, Sunday night, I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna go push, pull, leg, push, pull this week.” And, in here I just made macros, I was like, “This feels around maintenance, recomp-y, my volume’s going up, I’m taking things more seriously, I’ll probably lose a little fat, build a little muscle if I keep this up for any amount of time.” And yeah, it felt really good.
06:30 Jordan Syatt: It’s so funny, I was… Do you know who that Zach Even-Esh is?
06:34 Michael Vacanti: I know the name.
06:36 Jordan Syatt: I followed him from when I was in high school, and he’s a big… He’s like the ‘ Underground Strength coach ‘. He was huge back then. I think he still does have a pretty big presence, but I remember when I was in high school, it’s interesting to note the back and forth that I’ve had with the fitness industry. So when I was in high school, one of the things I loved about him was, he’s just a no-nonsense, no BS, you go in, you train hard kind of guy, and he’s big with wrestling, grappling high school wrestlers. It’s why I followed him, I wanted to improve my striking conditioning for wrestling. I actually applied for an internship with him, I emailed him and he said no. Either way, I remember one of the things I loved about him, and his emails, I used to get his emails all the time, was he would make fun of the very science-based end of the fitness industry. He’d be like, enough of the science nerds, just go in and train hard, and I loved that in high school.
07:32 Jordan Syatt: Then when I got really into the science based end of the industry, I hated it. I was like, No, you do have to pay attention to the science. What are you doing? You can’t just disregard it. Now, I’m going back towards that being enough of the science and just go in and train hard. So when you’re talking about going in and focusing on working hard, the intensity with every rep, it’s like… And also, listen, it might not be on paper or scientifically the most science backed program, but you’re gonna get great results if you’re consistent with it and you work hard, and especially if you enjoy it, if you love it. You go in there, it’s like you might not give your client that type of a program but if that’s what you love, you know what to do to make it work.
08:20 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, absolutely. And I think I know him through you now that you explained his background. Dude, you’re 100% right on the love-hate relationship with science, because we can all choose our relationship with anything, but also because intuition precedes science. There haven’t been enough good enough studies, there’s a lot that science hasn’t gotten to yet and you can just look at… A common example is the golden era of bodybuilding in the 60s and 70s, those guys were ahead of the curve on a lot of their training methodologies without any science to back up what they were doing, it was based on just self-experimentation and intuition. It applies to nutrition for me too, I enjoy having a scoop of protein powder and three jelly sandwiches after my work out. [chuckle] Immediately, after my work out and would I ever tell a client they have to do that? Absolutely not. Because I don’t want to get someone who doesn’t love fitness into some weird all or nothing mindset where they have to check 72 boxes in a day, I want to give them the few things they need to do to see 90 plus percent of progress, so they can maintain that for the rest of their lives.
09:55 Michael Vacanti: Guess what? I love jelly sandwiches, and when I have 350 grams of carbs on a training day, I wake up, I have some coffee, I get a lot of water in me, have 25 grams of protein before my workout and then I have my pre-workout. I’m gonna dial in everything around there, because I love it, because I like routine, because I feel better after, because I like the taste of what I’m consuming. Does keeping fat under three grams in the post-workout meal really matter? Probably not. Would I rather have that fat at dinner time? Absolutely. I’m having fun with it while also keeping a real routine around my fitness for five days, and that has made me feel really good and made me happier and more productive in other areas of my life.
10:44 Jordan Syatt: Are you listening to music while you lift or podcasts or what?
10:48 Michael Vacanti: Dude, I love that you asked me that because that’s something I’ve thought about wanting to talk about. Recent, not recently, in the past few years, I’ve caught myself reading Twitter, listening to controversial YouTube arguments, consuming things while working out, kind of multi-tasking it. Or even educational podcasts, but consuming various things, and I’ve been listening to music and I’ve been listening to what I was listening to in 2011/2012 after I quit my job and loved those workouts. I’m putting myself back in that place, which is… I’m not going… So there’s two types of workout music I like. One is like a teenager that got dumped and now he’s got whatever, DMX or some kind of rock-breaking Benjamin and you’re just angry.
11:43 Jordan Syatt: Breaking Benjamin, yeah.
11:46 Michael Vacanti: PR in week over week and you’re just pissed. Eminem falls in that category for me. It’s not what I’m doing right now. I feel like I’m training for the love of the game, and it’s all kinda EDM type, that vibe.
12:00 Jordan Syatt: Got it.
12:00 Michael Vacanti: Which makes sense on a higher rep kinda pumpy type of training.
12:06 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I like that. I fell into that too, whether I was listening to podcasts or whatever it was, the issue was it’s hard to take a set too intensely, to a certain degree of intensity if you’re also trying to hear an argument or discussion, not to mention the emotional response, you have to that discussion, it’s like you can’t really focus on your set, not to mention keeping rest periods where they need to be because you wanna listen to the rest of the sentence or whatever is they’re saying. I really like phone, Do Not Disturb, get on some Eminem, breaking Benjamin, whatever it is and really… I remember, I’m just going back to my powerlifting heyday, I remember walking to the gym with breaking Benjamin playing, and I was on my college campus, I hated everybody, and just pumping myself up for this lift that I could not wait for is the thing that I look forward to all day and literally feeling me getting ready to just go bananas in the gym. Picturing you now get driving to the gym, getting ready, getting in the zone, really bringing an intensity to your training that I think as coaches we often… We lose throughout the years.
13:30 Jordan Syatt: Often… And I think it comes with… In a weird way, I think that comes along with such a focus on that science-based knowledge where it’s like, “Well, you know, you could do this, and you could do that, and realistically, it doesn’t matter as long you… ” I think it comes with that… The knowledge, which is all good to have, but when you know… It’s funny, I think the more into the grey area you get, that we all talk about, that’s so important to find, I think the less intense we often take things. So it’s like, “Well, you know, it’s… You have to find what works best for you,” and you could do this or you could do that. But when you get into your zone of like, “This is it, this is what I gotta do,” it’s like there’s a very dogmatic stance, even though you might know in your heart that’s not right for everybody when you can get in that place for you. I feel like that’s when the best workouts happen.
14:22 Michael Vacanti: Absolutely. That’s absolutely right. Could not agree more. Can you relate any of this to your daily jujitsu sessions right now?
14:35 Jordan Syatt: Man, my daily jujitsu sessions, today was the most intense one thus far. Today was the most intense I’ve trained in the little over a year of jujitsu I’ve been training, fought for 30 minutes straight.
14:48 Michael Vacanti: Oh my gosh.
14:49 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, I fought for 30 minutes straight.
14:51 Michael Vacanti: Against the same opponent, different opponents?
14:54 Jordan Syatt: So I had one opponent for the first 20 minutes, then I had another opponent for five minutes, then I went back to the first opponent for the last five minutes.
15:03 Michael Vacanti: He got a little break and then came back for you.
15:06 Jordan Syatt: Well, it’s sort of a break, ’cause it was actually the opposite of a break, mainly because the guy that I went to after the first opponent was a blue belt, and I’m a white. So I was going against a white belt for the first 20 minutes.
15:16 Michael Vacanti: No, no, no, I’m saying he got a break.
15:17 Jordan Syatt: Oh he got a break. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, he got a break, and I went and got my ass kicked. I got choked out by a blue belt. [chuckle] But for me, the interesting thing about jujitsu for me right now is when I think when I first started, it was actually very much like that, it was very intense, very in my mind like, “Alright, let’s go.” But the better I’ve gotten at jujitsu, and the more I’ve learned, the more my coach has been like… This is probably the biggest distinction between jujitsu and wrestling, wrestling is very like, “Go, go, go,” and nose to the grindstone; technique is important, but not as important as long as you can brute strength and work your way through it. Jujitsu, if you do that, you’re gonna get caught in something. So in terms of actually during the session, I’m getting way better at being calm during the session, being more collected. But I will say I’m training jujitsu six times a week, I’m doing sprints twice a week, and I’m starting to lift two to three times a week.
16:17 Jordan Syatt: This training schedule is outrageously intense. And when I’m doing my sprints, or I’m doing my lifts, I’m putting Eminem on, I’m super-intense about it. My nutritionist dialed, I’ve lost eight pounds in eight weeks, my sleep is really good, everything is super, super-dialed to a point where it hasn’t been like that in literally years since before I started coaching Gary. So yeah, even though the intensity of the session isn’t the same as it would be in a powerlifting, body-building style workout, the intensity I’m bringing to my training overall and the mindset that I’m bringing to my training and the overall focus I have on my training being very unrelenting, just over the top, is something I haven’t had in years. And I’m super-excited that it’s… And I’ve been sustaining this for months now. And I’ve just noticed myself getting better and better and better and better. So yeah, feeling great. Super-excited about it.
17:18 Michael Vacanti: That’s amazing. And when you say, “intensity,” you can… Intensity can mean within a session, but intensity can also mean a macro degree of focus. Meaning is it 8:00 AM or 7:00 AM, it’s every single morning. Which puts a pillar in your schedule, which means you have to be in bed by a certain time if you want to perform reasonably the next morning, which means it makes your sleep schedule consistent, which gets you in a better routine. And I think back to what you’ve talked about with times with Gary where business was the very top, making content, helping people, but when that happens, and you don’t have as much of a pillar, things can begin to slide, which might benefit your business in the short run, but in the longer run is hurting you in other ways.
18:15 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s really being ruthlessly consistent with this schedule, is what it’s about, I guess, just consistent, consistent, consistent. And I think another thing I’ve noticed; when my business was number one, that was it above all else, above sleep, above nutrition, above working out, my business was number one above health and relationship, everything, when that was number one, I did things that were not good for me in many, many ways. And the one that I go to right now is putting up with people on social media who were just, in today’s words, we’ll call it toxic. People DM-ing me being super-rude and obnoxious. And now that I’m really focused on training, I’m really focused on nutrition, really focused on my relationship, it’s like I have no problem saying, “Fuck off.” It’s a great mindset for me to be in. It’s like, “You know what? If you’re not gonna serve me right now and what my goals are,” I’ve now gotten to a point where I’m like, “You know what? I’m not even… If this is gonna stress me out, it’s not worth it, not worth my time. I’m gonna focus on the people.
19:23 Michael Vacanti: And not even…
19:25 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
19:25 Michael Vacanti: Not even serve you, but actively bring you down, actively bring your mood down, actively like be a detour in your day.
19:35 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, 100%.
19:36 Michael Vacanti: Nice, man.
19:38 Jordan Syatt: So I think it’s a… We were talking about it on the phone yesterday, I think it’s an interesting topic to have a discussion around this idea of… With our clients in the fitness industry, we always, always, always, always err on the side of caution and really trying to take people away from this obsessive mindset with regard to training and nutrition because, in the wrong hands, it can be very detrimental, right? A very obsessive style of training, very obsessive style of eating, an overly focus on nutrition and calories. But for us, I think for coaches, when it is what we love, and we also have the understanding of sort of where that line is to draw…
20:33 Michael Vacanti: The knowledge.
20:34 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
20:35 Michael Vacanti: The knowledge needs to proceed any kind of like what could be perceived as obsessive behavior.
20:40 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
20:41 Michael Vacanti: Because without the knowledge then an obsessive behavior around nutrition is going to lead to, I don’t know, maybe a degree of impatience, “Why am I not losing weight fast enough? I’m gonna continue to reduce calories further and further.” And then I binge and it’s like, “Okay, well, now I need to take them even further to make up for that.” Knowing these pitfalls and these traps and just having enough knowledge to have proper expectations for one’s progress can let you go into another gear if you want to.
21:14 Jordan Syatt: One thing you’ve said consistently for a long time that has made sense to me is, you always get more excited either about making content, or coaching when you’re really focused on your training and nutrition. When you’re hyper-focused on it, it makes you more excited and makes you love what you do more. And I think I see a lot of coaches… One of the most common things they say is like, “Well, I just don’t know what to make content about.” It’s the most common thing that I hear, especially from a social media perspective, it’s like if you’re going to the gym and you’ve got… You’ve spent just an hour and a half designing your own workout program, you’re super excited about it, you’re being wicked intense with it, you’re focusing on it, you’re excited to see your progress, you’re keeping track of your nutrition, you’re noticing your body changes, you’re never for a lack of content, because you can… You’re always excited about what you’re doing, and from there you can just talk about that.
22:08 Michael Vacanti: Exactly. It’s… Can be the foundation of your content, that’s Gary’s document ‘Don’t Create,’ which was, I think maybe largely aimed at those types of questions, like what should I make? If you don’t… If you have no idea what to make, talk about what you’re doing right now, and then let your content grow from there.
22:32 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, yeah, it’s exactly right.
22:34 Michael Vacanti: But you’re 100% right. I have… I’m a better coach, I’m more engaged, I’m more interested when I am doing what many of my clients are doing simultaneously. And not only that, I brought this up to you on the phone yesterday. For example, here’s a nutrition example that it’s probably not completely necessary to track proteins, carbs, and fats, so long as your carbs and fats are in a reasonable range, having your protein and calories close is gonna be good enough. Assuming you’re not taking fats to zero or taking carbs to zero. But when I’m tracking and, on, say Monday, I was walking through the grocery store Monday afternoon, and I looked down at my app and I click it and I’m like, “Here’s how much of each thing I have left.” And I was like, “Okay, what should I make for dinner? What should I buy for dinner tonight so that I can get close on this?” And all these food options are running through my mind. And I’ve been big on some of the gut health stuff recently, so I was like, “What can I have with sauerkraut?” I was like, “I could have a broth with sauerkraut.” I was like, “I don’t really have the fats.” And I was like, “Well, I can have a chicken broth.” Long story short, I’m really deep in the weeds of thinking about a handful of specific foods I can make for certain situations.
24:00 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
24:02 Michael Vacanti: That is very useful advice for clients, for people who follow you on social media, for anything you wanna make content around. Now, one might argue, like a coach could argue, it’s too obsessive to try to track macros because you’re gonna be spending all your time thinking about what you can have for dinner and you know that’s not good. And for a lot of people, that’s not good. You don’t wanna spend 10 hours a day thinking about what you’re having for dinner, every day, but if what you may have otherwise been doing was reading political arguments on Twitter for three hours and getting yourself in a really bad mental place and a bad posture in a dark room and being unproductive and not feeling the best, or even just letting your mind wander to game planning, how you could survive a potential doomsday.
24:56 Michael Vacanti: Any kind of anxious, looking into the future, negative states of emotion, but instead you’re thinking about the chicken bourbon Apple has 13 protein and 5 fat, that’s really not bad, two of those could go nicely so… And you’re putting a meal together. That trade-off of where your mind is is an upgrade. And so… Yeah, that was a thought I had when I was like, “Am I being obsessive about this?” And then I was like, “Well, what would I be doing otherwise?” Many times.
25:28 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, that’s a good point in terms of like, choose your obsession. Right?
25:34 Michael Vacanti: Yeah.
25:34 Jordan Syatt: Are you gonna obsess over things you can control or obsess over things you can’t control. And I think right now, this is one of the biggest things, it’s like there’s so much nonsense going on in the world right now, there’s so much things that… I don’t even know if nonsense is the right word, but there’s just so much… I think the right word that I’m actually looking forward is just “blegh,” right? There’s just so much blegh [laughter] going on in the world right now, that like the vast majority of which you cannot control. And…
26:03 Michael Vacanti: A lot of uncertainty.
26:04 Jordan Syatt: Uncertainty, anxiety, fear, worry, hate, divisiveness, blegh, just all of it. It’s like you can either… And I think this is what really, for a while, put me in a very bad place mentally was just… Without even my being aware of it, I was just constantly focusing on things that I couldn’t control. Whether it was Twitter, Instagram, and granted, a lot of what I do is on social media, so I was on those platforms and sort of just getting sucked into this world of stuff I couldn’t control and it wasn’t… And then finally it got to the point where it was like, “Alright, I’m taking time away.” Like, even if this hurts my business, even if this… I’m gonna focus so intensely on Jiu-Jitsu. And that’s literally it, studying Jiu-Jitsu videos at night, doing sprints for my Jiu-Jitsu cardio, doing Jiu-Jitsu six days a week every single morning, no excuses, it’s happening. I’m gonna so intensely focus on this one thing, someone might say, “You know what? That’s not good for your joints,” or, “Maybe that’s a little bit too obsessive,” and I’m like, “Listen, I’m gonna choose what I’m obsessing over right now,” and I know for a fact that this obsession is better for me than an obsession that is bringing me down mentally, emotionally and that I have literally zero control over.
27:30 Michael Vacanti: I love that. Clip that. That was great. That… Really. It reminds me of someone who used to… An elder relative who used to tell me when I would leave the house to go to workout or go do something, “Don’t work too hard, don’t work too hard at the gym, you don’t wanna work too hard.” And I’d just be like, “Why not?”
27:54 Jordan Syatt: What do you want me to do? Watch ‘Hey Arnold!’ all day?
28:00 Michael Vacanti: And it came from a good place. But yeah, I love that, choose your obsession. Let me drill down on that for a second. So you have vastly increased the amount of both rolling and just kinda work, physical and mental, and studying work around Jiu-Jitsu that you’ve been doing, in terms of hours per week. And you said you were stepping back from social media, making the decision to step back a little bit from social media to do that. Well, you’ve clearly done that with your training. Has your content output actually gone down? Because I remember you making a post that you were gonna be taking a step back from Instagram, and then you fired off four feed posts the next day like a champ. [chuckle]
28:50 Jordan Syatt: Yeah. Kim Schlag made a super-funny comment to me. I said… Literally one day I’m taking time away from Instagram, and the next day I posted twice.
29:02 Jordan Syatt: It’s… Since that post, I mean, if you look through my feed, you’ll find time periods of two, three, four days in a row where I didn’t post on my feed. And that is unheard of in the context of the last four years.
29:18 Michael Vacanti: Got it.
29:19 Jordan Syatt: And as a result of that, I’ve spent way less time consuming, which is… That was really, I think, the major issue. I will say though…
29:27 Michael Vacanti: So your time producing content has maybe come down some, but your time consuming content has come down quite a bit?
29:35 Jordan Syatt: Yes. Yeah, a lot. Absolutely.
29:37 Michael Vacanti: Makes sense.
29:38 Jordan Syatt: I’ve also realized which platforms were causing me the most stress. So Instagram was the one causing me the most stress, I’ve since switched to TikTok, which has been exploding. And the thing about TikTok is making a video on TikTok is a fraction of the time it takes to make an Instagram post. So I’ve actually been… I’ve been posting on TikTok usually at least one to three times a day, it takes me about the time it would take to create one Instagram post, and the organic reach is way better. And comments aren’t highlighted on TikTok, so I’m not really worried about that. It’s very easy for me to scroll by a piece of content I don’t wanna see or might stress me out. My block finger has just been super-strong on TikTok. If I see any…
30:23 Michael Vacanti: Oh yeah?
30:25 Jordan Syatt: Not even because of anybody who’s saying anything to me, but because on the explore page, on the ‘for you’ page, I’ll see something that immediately I’ll notice something, it doesn’t make me feel good, I block the account. Even if I don’t know them, it’s just I block it, I don’t wanna see that stuff.
30:39 Michael Vacanti: So it’s not gonna serve you that up again?
30:41 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, ’cause the algorithm will know, “Okay, he doesn’t like that type of content.”
30:46 Michael Vacanti: Smart.
30:47 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, so mainly I think TikTok and podcasts is where the majority of my time has been spent in terms of work, and that’s been amazing. So I don’t know if that… Yeah, that’s where I’ve been focusing right now. And also when I’m focusing more on what I can control, Jiu-Jitsu and all that stuff, it’s just… It’s super-gratifying to go in the next day, put it into practice, see it actually work. Sort of the same thing when you’re going to the gym; it’s super-gratifying when you put in several weeks at the gym, you see your strength going up, you can see the differences in the mirror, it’s the whole thing I talk about, action leads to motivate… Action leads to results, results lead to motivation, motivation leads to more action.
31:30 Michael Vacanti: It’s just when you obsess over something like that, and you see the results coming through, it’s like, man, you don’t wanna stop. It’s the most… It’s… I think it’s literally the single best thing you could do, especially in a time like right now when there’s so much blegh. It’s find something you can control, go all in on it, obsess over it, and go until you don’t wanna it do anymore, go until you don’t love it anymore. When you stop loving it, find something else to obsess over. But I’m really big into the obsessing over things that do good for you right now.
32:00 Michael Vacanti: I love that. Did you know in 2012 when I first started my business, before I had a website, before I had anything, I made business cards?
32:14 Jordan Syatt: Okay. [chuckle]
32:15 Michael Vacanti: Like people used to hand out to each other?
32:18 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, I had business cards and business pens. [chuckle]
32:20 Michael Vacanti: You had pens?
32:22 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
32:22 Michael Vacanti: On my business card, it said, “Mike Vacanti, On The Regimen, Owner and Founder,” and then on the backside it said… And there’s one of these sitting like in a random drawer in my parents kitchen still here, it says, “Change your body, change your life.” And what you were just describing about the process of improving at Jiu-Jitsu and how that’s motivating and makes you want to keep improving. That can be applied to anything in life. And the physical world is a great microcosm or a great representation that can almost serve as a base for us to apply those principles in business, in relationships, in personal finance, in habits, in any other area of our life, because the same qualities required to…
33:25 Michael Vacanti: The qualities aligned with this obsession that we are choosing for ourselves. You have to make sacrifices, you have to go to bed by a certain time, you have to have your nutrition in a reasonably good place. You have to… The hours of studying and being on the mat and doing sprints and all of these things are hard and everything else that goes into it, doing that version for other things in life makes you better in those areas of life. And I don’t think it’s necessarily that being really into your fitness makes you healthier, and therefore a healthier person can do things in other areas of life. I think it’s much more mental. It’s like I’m showing myself this blueprint here with fitness, and then it makes it for whatever reason apply to other parts of life.
34:19 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, I like that a lot. As you were talking, I was thinking back to something you said earlier about the family member of yours who was, out of a place of love, saying, “Don’t work too hard, don’t work too hard,” and I was thinking, at every point in my life that I’ve obsessed over something, I’ve never regretted it, ever. And there’s always been people saying, “Don’t do that.” So whether it was when I was in college and I was in my dorm room by myself reading Lyle McDonald or Alan Aragon or writing my art, whatever it was, or I’d be like, “Oh, come on stop working so hard. Don’t obsess over that. You’re being obsessive.”
35:01 Jordan Syatt: Or whether it was powerlifting when I was chasing my powerlifting goals. “Okay, you’re training too much, you never miss a workout. Come on. Da da da.” Whether it was “You’re signing on for literally three years straight every day with Gary, that’s insane, da da da, whatever it is.” Every step along the way, there have always been people saying, “Stop obsessing over it. Stop obsessing over it.” And I think it’s always come from a good place. I think every single time there’s been good intent behind it. But when I get to a point in which I stop obsessing over it and I look back on it, I never regret it. There’s never…
35:39 Jordan Syatt: Even during the times when I had an unhealthy relationship with food, like when I obsessed over food because of wrestling or the disordered relationship with food that I had as a result of it, I don’t regret it at all, because without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t be able to make the content that I make. I wouldn’t be able to relate to the people that I relate to. I think there is clearly a line that needs to be drawn here where obsession can go too far, clearly, not gonna say just obsession for the sake of obsession is a good thing.
36:12 Jordan Syatt: But I do think that maybe we should start taking a different look and looking through a different lens at obsession and understanding, you know what? I sort of look at it like programming, right? It’s like obsession for brief amounts of time, and brief is I think very dependent on what it is you’re doing and whatever it is, but it can depend on how long you need to spend on it, but brief periods of obsession can give you more experience, more results, more motivation than a lifetime of more of a lackadaisical approach.
36:52 Michael Vacanti: Absolutely, that’s true. I think the difference, like you talked about taking obsession too far, I think the difference between, for example, your “obsession” with Jiu-Jitsu right now compared to an obsession that led to a disordered relationship with food back in the day is knowledge. That’s the difference. One is an intelligent obsession, it’s coming from a place of control, it’s coming of a place of understanding what you’re doing and what the result will be, whereas when you were in high school, like younger, when… You obviously, if you would have known what you know now about nutrition and psychology, you wouldn’t have gone that route.
37:39 Jordan Syatt: Right, that’s exactly right. Yeah, I agree. And I also just think…
37:43 Michael Vacanti: And…
37:43 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, sorry, keep going.
37:43 Michael Vacanti: No, just that’s, that’s the difference. For anyone who is listening to this and might not be comfortable with the word, that’s a difference, whether it’s intelligent obsession or whether it isn’t.
37:57 Jordan Syatt: Healthy obsession. [chuckle]
37:58 Michael Vacanti: Healthy obsession. [chuckle]
38:02 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, healthy knowledgeable obsession is probably the best way to look at it. And I’m also just sort of going back to the beginning of the discussion thinking about when you have so much order and you have so much focus on one thing that gives so much order to your day, the rest of the day becomes so much easier. I was literally thinking about this yesterday, and I was on a podcast and I used this example, imagine your day is this big block of playdough, just sort of like wettish clay, playdough, whatever it is, it’s just a big glob, and then you have your workout, my jujitsu, whatever it is, that starts to mold one little bit of it, maybe it takes up 90 minutes of your day between travel there, travel back, the workout, cool. It molds one part of it. And you take flossing, that’s like a small part of it. You take brushing your teeth, that’s a small part of it. You take making your bed, that’s a small part of it. You take going to bed by a certain time, that’s a small part of it. So, all of a sudden, you’re taking these very small parts of your day, and each small part starts molding that clay, that playdough into what could be your perfect day.
39:17 Jordan Syatt: And I think it’s these small little things over the course of the day that allow you to mold your day into what it would ideally look like. And not every minute is gonna be perfect, but if you don’t get the work out in, or if you don’t floss your teeth, you don’t make your bed, you’re missing integral components that can shape your day into what you would like it to look like.
39:43 Michael Vacanti: But even if you miss one of those things late in the day, here’s where the knowledge comes in.
39:48 Jordan Syatt: That’s right.
39:49 Michael Vacanti: You’re not done with the plan the next day.
39:52 Jordan Syatt: Yes. You get right back on it.
39:52 Michael Vacanti: You’re right back on and you’re gonna make that day perfect the next day or do the best you can given the circumstances. But I love that, especially because if you think about what the alternative could be to your first and second activity of the day and how that impacts the rest of your day.
40:12 Jordan Syatt: Yep.
40:13 Michael Vacanti: But if you think about some of the worst things… For me personally, I’m watching the show Shooter on Netflix…
40:20 Jordan Syatt: So good.
40:21 Michael Vacanti: Like an episode before bed, even half an episode, some nights…
40:25 Jordan Syatt: I don’t know how you do that.
40:26 Michael Vacanti: It’s weird apparently.
40:27 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
40:29 Michael Vacanti: I like watching…
40:29 Jordan Syatt: You watch half an episode.
40:31 Michael Vacanti: I like watching movies in chunks too. I don’t know. I really enjoy it. [chuckle] But when I open my computer to start doing emails, it’s still on Netflix, it’s still on Shooter, and the worst thing I could do when I first wake up is watch 25 minutes of that, because I’ve done that before. ‘Cause if I do that in the morning, then I might watch multiple episodes, then I… [chuckle] My head’s all over the place, it just… It’s not the right way to start the day. I don’t have any momentum. I’m using my freshest, best, a good caffeinated period towards mindless consuming. It just doesn’t line up. And so, if you’re thinking about that chunk of clay, really, if you’re trying to mold it into something, I think orderly, I think that was the right word, you’re really just kinda like making a weird smash part at the very top and it’s hard to get the whole thing in balance as a result of that.
41:29 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, yeah, I think that makes sense. I think what you said… Going to almost practical use of all this, I think what you said about… So I laid out like, this is what your ideal day will look like, and you’re like, but just because you might not have a good day, you’re gonna miss it, this is where the knowledge comes in, this is you get back on track the next day. That’s the difference between healthy obsession and unhealthy obsession.
41:57 Michael Vacanti: Yes, exactly.
41:57 Jordan Syatt: I think that literally is the nucleus of where you can decide, is this good for you or is this not… Are you approaching this from a good way or not a good way? From a healthy way or an unhealthy way? If you have a “bad day” and you are devastated, and it not only does it devastate you but it prevents you from getting back on track, you think all of your progress is ruined, you’re like it ruins your relationship with your family and your spouse and your kids and everything, that is an unhealthy obsession. If missing your workout causes you to blow up at your family because it’s just like, “Oh my god, I ruined all my progress,” this is an unhealthy obsession, that’s not okay. But when you can have that knowledge and experience to know, “Listen, ideally, yes, I would have gotten it in, but something happened, I’ll get back on track tomorrow and I’ll keep crushing it,” this is where you have that healthy obsession and that hyper-focus.
42:55 Jordan Syatt: I almost think of a… I don’t know him at all, I’ve never met him or spoken to him, I just like Jocko’s content, I just like Jocko and how he speaks and what he says, and I love that every day he wakes up and he puts the time he woke up on his Instagram and it’s like 4:00 AM, 4:30 AM every day, whatever it is. It’s just like, I think a lot of people might look at that and be like it’s an unhealthy obsession, but I’m like, I think… I don’t know how he is in his real life, but being that regimented, I would imagine, makes him so outrageously productive and puts him in such a good mindset that it’s just… It’s a very healthy way to go about it.
43:30 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, I don’t think you can do that from a bad place or do it unhealthily, or do it if you’re depriving yourself of sleep and be consistent for years and years on end.
43:39 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, exactly.
43:41 Michael Vacanti: I think you burn out when it is unhealthy. What you just described, that difference between healthy and unhealthy, which is… Part of it is when you make a mistake, that’s okay, and you get right back on track the next day. I think that that ties into our conversation about caring too much about what the evidence and what the science says, in that it almost creates a little bit of arrogance or a little bit of, I don’t know how exactly to describe it, as a coach who maybe at times, doesn’t care that much about your own fitness, you can rationalize several “mistakes” going off the plan you created for yourself. We’ll call it that. You can rationalize going off the plan you created for yourself multiple times a day, day after day, because you know that you could at any point be right back on track and you know that you can’t fuck this up. You know consistency over perfection. You know that you don’t need to be obsessive to see progress, but then you almost use that as an excuse to just, “I don’t… I’ll miss the workout today. It’s not even like a family event and everyone’s having pizza, and so I’ll have pizza too.” It’s more like, “Okay, we had a healthy dinner as a family, but I kinda wanna eat a whole Ben & Jerry’s right now, and it doesn’t work in my day, but I’ll get right back on track tomorrow.” [chuckle]
45:22 Jordan Syatt: I’ve seen that bleed into how people coach their clients as well. I’ve seen that misinterpretation of flexible dieting constantly where people get so wrapped up in the, “Oh, well, I can just get back on track,” that they never actually are on track. [chuckle] Yeah, right?
45:39 Michael Vacanti: Yeah.
45:41 Jordan Syatt: I think it’s such a good point. And I went through this myself. When I was high-level competing in powerlifting, I was super lean all the time, felt really good, it wasn’t really that difficult for me, but I was much more rigid and strict with my nutrition, I was on point, and then once it was over and I was like, “You know what, I’d rather have more pizza, whatever,” and I would. But there’s also the eating the pizza when I don’t need to, like going to Joe’s or whatever it is, just to grab a couple of slices of pepperoni when there’s literally zero reason to. And taking it to the point of just getting too, we could call it like getting too comfortable and not being regimented enough. There is a certain level of regimented, of being regimented that I think is essential for both happiness and progress, and I think if we go too far towards not being regimented at all because we always know, well, we can get back on track, then I think we end up losing out on a lot of the benefits of having a regimen.
46:47 Michael Vacanti: Absolutely, 100%. Things are too easy for most of us, and a little extra discomfort would benefit us in many areas of our life. It’s kind of the, I wouldn’t be shocked if part of the reason that I feel a little bit more clear and a little bit more motivated and maybe you work a little bit faster and more efficiently and I’m having a good week is because I’m a little bit hungry, and being just a little bit hungry creates a psychological hunger, creates a level of energy that having half of a pizza puts you in whatever the opposite of that, a more lethargic state, a more… If I’m gonna have three quarters of a box of Wheat Thins, I’m not gonna think my best or do my best work after that.
47:40 Jordan Syatt: Yeah. I think what happens is… So for example, like I’m doing my mini-cut right now, eight pounds down in eight weeks, super simple. We had the secret mission trip where we ate a lot more. I’ve had some time period off, but overall, average eight pounds down in eight weeks, like really good, slow and steady…
47:57 Michael Vacanti: Which is great!
47:58 Jordan Syatt: Sustainable. If I wasn’t on this mini-cut, it would… If I was just normal everyday life per usual, it’s much easier to have “treats” on a daily basis. And it’s not even just like one small thing, it’s like having dessert in large portions every day, and then all… Whatever it is. Or my girlfriend makes cookies and I have four of them. It’s like, alright, that was a little bit ridiculous. And now, for example, we’re… Do you ever watch the show 24, Jack Bauer?
48:33 Michael Vacanti: I haven’t.
48:34 Jordan Syatt: We’re watching that now, which is great, but… So last night, she was getting some sour strips, she was like, “Do you want some?” And I was like, “No, I’m on my mini-cut,” so I said no. And with all of the knowledge and experience that I have, it would have been very easy to fit that into my day. But just having the discipline to be on a program, I think that’s really also what it comes down to is get on a program. That’s really what I think I’m trying to say with this whole spiel is, get on a program. It’s…
49:06 Michael Vacanti: And follow it.
49:07 Jordan Syatt: And we make fitness programs for our clients, for people, for social media, but I think the people I consistently see not following a program are coaches. ‘Cause they know what to do, they know it’s easy to do it, they know all, but they’re not following one. Get on a program. Your results will be better, your clients will love hearing about it, your overall day and regimen will be better as a result of it. That’s really where I think I’m going with this is get on a program and follow it consistently. That’s like from my brain, alright, practical application side, what can people do? Follow a plan ruthlessly, consistently.
49:48 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, I love that. And it will help you more than you think. Especially if, in listening to this, you can relate to what Jordan and I are talking about, which is several years of not really being on a program.
50:06 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, [chuckle] that’s exactly right. I’m also thinking of other options maybe. So you have your workout program, if you… Maybe you wanna do a workout program, write one for yourself that you’re super excited about. Focus on what you wanna focus on. If you wanna get a weighted chin-up, do that. You wanna get a muscle-up, do that. You wanna get like… You wanna beat your mile time, whatever it is, you wanna do a handstand, write yourself a program you’re excited about and be unbelievably consistent with it, and track it and document it if you want. You could also do, I was thinking like, if you’ve never tracked your macros, ruthlessly, consistently for 30 days, track every single macro, every protein, every carb, every fat, track everything, and maybe document that for your audience, show them what it’s like to track every macro. I guarantee you your knowledge in that realm will be significantly greater by the end of those 30 days, you’ll come up with a lot of content ideas and you’ll be able to show your audience and your clients what that looks like. You might even be able to make a course out of that for your clients. You track your every macro for 30 days, make a mini-course around that to give all of your clients. A lot of good can come from these brief periods of obsession and from following a plan.
51:17 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, very well said. Do we have anything else we wanna hit on this?
51:26 Jordan Syatt: No, I think we went longer on it than I anticipated, to be honest. I didn’t know we’d riff on that for almost an hour. [chuckle]
51:32 Michael Vacanti: Yeah, our plan here was we had this concept and just riff on it. I think I hit everything that I was thinking about.
51:44 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, me too.
51:44 Michael Vacanti: I love that though. The practical application is get on a plan and consistently follow that plan.
51:51 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, get on a plan and be disciplined with it.
51:54 Michael Vacanti: A plan that excites you, too.
51:57 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, that’s huge.
51:57 Michael Vacanti: Whether it’s an end result that excites you or a process that excites you, it has some kind of enjoyment baked into it. Something that I’ve done this week while I’m working out is also jotting down any thoughts I have that I feel like are almost like personal life rules, but just when something hits me out of the cosmos and comes into my brain and I’m like, “That’s true, I know that to be true.” Creating something is better than consuming something on average. Or if you’re consuming, consume with precision and be very meticulous about what you’re consuming. Don’t just consume mindlessly. Any of these thoughts that come to you? No caffeine afternoon for me. I know you’re not as affected with your sleep by caffeine, but I’m trying to keep daily caffeine under 300 milligrams, I’m trying to keep it stacked earlier in the day. But these thoughts or truths that you think will help you better follow the program, better move towards the person you want to be, write those down and keep a list for yourself because I think that will help too.
53:07 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, I like that. And just to really hammer home again is doing something that you think you can really enjoy. So my mind, whenever I think of a program is I’ve always been… I’ve always more enjoyed performance-based programs. So sort of I’m thinking if I was like, “Well, I don’t know what I might enjoy, what program to follow,” immediately I think of trying in eight weeks, do an eight-week program specifically designed to increase your box jump, to try and jump higher. That for me is fun. That’s a very unique style of training program to write. It’s a very fun program to write, and a very fun program to execute plyometrics style training is a really fun, enjoyable, for me, style of programming to do and to see the progress in, whether it’s like, “Cool, you have like a 30-incher, and then you go to 31 and a half. And every time you retest it, there’s like, you get nervous and you get excited about it, you don’t wanna fall.
54:04 Jordan Syatt: But whether maybe it’s a box jump, maybe it’s a broad jump, broad jump being a little bit more safe, you don’t have to worry about hitting anything or falling down very much. Muscle-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dead lifts, going for something for time, seeing how many kettlebell swings you can get in 10 minutes. Like pick up that 16, 20, 24-kilogram and seeing how many you can get in 10 minutes, that’s gonna be a brutal, brutal frickin’ challenge. And program for that. Don’t just program 10 minutes of kettlebell swings a day. Program intelligently. What might that look like?
54:37 Jordan Syatt: Cool, so you know you wanna do 10 minutes of kettlebell swings with a 20-kilogram kettlebell. Cool, so maybe you know you’re gonna have to have some max effort dead lift days. You know you’re gonna have to have… Maybe it would be a good idea to kettlebell swing at the 32-kilogram to make that 20-kilogram seem a little bit lighter. You like think about it and sit down and write a tremendous program that you’re super excited to execute and obsess over and track your progress. And that’s fun. That’s super, super… That’s why one of the reasons you’re a coach is ’cause doing that is fun.
55:08 Michael Vacanti: I love the specific concrete example. And for anyone that that just appealed to, do that. Go for one of those performance-based goals. I have, since high school, I’ve been motivated not at all by performance. In fact, [chuckle] this is pure aesthetics for me, but the fun part of it is I’m trying to re-comp. It’s dumb to try to re-comp, right? If you’re like… [chuckle] It doesn’t make sense, but I’m not doing this for evidence-based reasons, I’m not doing this for what makes the most sense, I’m doing it because I’m having a lot of fun, I’m really enjoying it. I’m fortunate that I feel like I have a good “relationship” with my physical body, my… I’m not self-conscious about my body, I’m not doing this for any reason other than it seems fun. So if you’re already pretty lean and maybe insecure, I wouldn’t go the aesthetics route, just pick your goals intelligently. But Jordan just threw out the performance-based and I was like, “That sounds great for other people, but I don’t wanna do that.” I wanna go get a pump and a tan.
56:26 Jordan Syatt: I’m not nearly as versed in the aesthetic realm as you are, but I would imagine taking measurements of your arms or your glutes or whatever it is, watching them grow, keeping track of your weight, watching that drop, whatever it is. I think there’s a lot of…
56:41 Michael Vacanti: And you know what?
56:42 Jordan Syatt: Yeah.
56:43 Michael Vacanti: I don’t even take it that far because that would make me unhealthily obsessed.
56:48 Jordan Syatt: Got it, got it, got it.
56:49 Michael Vacanti: I just keep… I stay around maintenance, go real high protein, stack protein and carbs around my workouts and I’m doing a lot of eight to 10 rep range, increasing volume over time. I like the maxim that if you’re in the right rep ranges, or even if you’re not, strength and muscle gain are gonna be correlated, if your food’s in a good place, sleep’s in a good place. And so the only real metrics I’m tracking are like… I’m not even tracking weight. I’m just looking in the mirror, day five, so… But I’m tracking strength because I have the best mental relationship with, okay, if I’m adding… Right now it’s adding weight to workout over workout, but it’ll get to the point where if I’m adding rep workout over workout, then I know I’m making progress in the right direction and great.
57:33 Jordan Syatt: If you… And this is where that knowledge comes in, right? It’s like you know that if your macros are on point and you’re getting stronger consistently, you’re adding a rep with the same weight, whatever it is, you know just logically, you’re gonna be gaining more muscle and losing more body… You know that. Someone who doesn’t have that knowledge will be questioning, “Is it working? I don’t know if it’s working. My strength was down today in this one lift, maybe I need to change the program entirely.” It’s like they second guess everything, so… And then they program hop and they never are consistent with it. And this comes down to just, again, that ruthless consistency based on the foundation of the knowledge. It’s like obsession without the foundation of knowledge becomes unhealthy. Knowledge is the base with obsession on top of it, that’s I think a recipe for success.
58:26 Michael Vacanti: Becomes a catalyst for your entire life.
58:29 Jordan Syatt: Yeah, yeah, I love that. I think that’s a good place to call it.
58:32 Michael Vacanti: I agree. That was fun.
58:34 Jordan Syatt: Thank you. Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed it. If you do, please leave a five-star review. Huge thank you to everyone who’s already done that and especially the written responses. We really enjoy seeing those. So thank you.
58:44 Michael Vacanti: Love reading those. Thanks for listening. See you next week.