Stop Trying To Keep Up With The Joneses

Once upon a time, I was a relatively strong dude. I bench pressed and chin-upped over 300lbs, front squatted over 400lbs and deadlifted over 500lbs – life was good (and here’s some proof because this is the internet after all):

These feats all occured while I was lifting at Cressey Performance for the majority of my training sessions, and while the programming was fantastic, I really attribute getting this strong to the amazing training environment that they foster there. When lifts like these are the norm among staff and clients, you quickly find yourself trying to keep up. These were Joneses of my lifting career and I constantly worked to keep up with them, loving every minute of it.

Then I got hired at a local gym and started lifting alone; I got weaker, much weaker – and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Nowadays, my front squat is about 70lbs less, my deadlift is about 50lbs less, and I’m committing internet suicide by confessing that my 1 rep max bench press isn’t much higher than 225lbs.

What gives?

I can only speak from my experience, but I feel that this will resonate with a lot of people: the goals that I was working towards weren’t my own, and I wasn’t having any fun pursuing them.

I’ll use someone I spoke with the other day as an example. This man has been in the iron game for a long time – longer than I’ve been alive, and he is a bench press junkie. If it were legally acceptable to marry it, I think that he would. Over the last few years though, he’s experienced a sharp decline in his strength and he’s constantly in pain. After hearing him talk about how much it hurts to bench, I asked him if he even liked doing.

His answer? Nope. Too painful.

Yet he persists, despite it not being in his best interest.

If he doesn’t like doing it AND it causes him pain, why does he do it?

This makes me wonder how many people out there are doing exercises that they hate and are chasing goals that they don’t even remotely want to accomplish, in some cases just to impress others or keep up with the Joneses. I’ll be brutally honest and say that before this epiphany, the only reason I wanted to be super strong was so that I could be a part of the cool club, and so that I could boast a high number if anyone asked how much I lifted it.

After getting away from the crowd and examining my own reasons and motivations for lifting, I was able to discover what my true goals in the gym were. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a simple man with simple needs. I want to be healthy, pain free, look good naked, and be able to accomplish some cool stuff in the gym – that’s it. Bench pressing 350lbs? That’s cool to watch, but I don’t care to work towards that, because it isn’t necessary for my goals. Hell, for the next year of my training I’m abandoning the barbell completely in the pursuit of other tools and pursuits.

If I like it, I do it. If I don’t, I won’t – this is the mantra that I live by.

This whole working out and training thing is ideally something that you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, so you had better like what you’re doing to a certain degree. Doing something just because some guru says that it’s absolutely necessary, even if you hate it, won’t do you a lick of good in the long run. This doesn’t apply to just lifting, but life as well.

You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.
– Chris Rock

Life is too short to fill it with things that don’t bring you joy. Follow the Joneses for too long and one day you might find yourself at the end of a road only to realize that it lead you to a place that you don’t want to be at all. That’s how some end up working a job that they hate to pay for the expensive gadgets and luxuries that help distract them from the fact that their life isn’t what they want it to be.

The great thing about goals is that no matter how goofy,wild or against the grain they may same to others, they are uniquely yours and yours alone, and no one can take them away from you – PURSUE THEM!

I challenge you all to look at the road you’re on and ask yourself some questions: Are your goals your goals? Is this where you want to go? Regardless if the answer is yes or no, I’d love it if you’d share your story & thoughts in the comment section below. If it’s too private and you want to keep it private or bounce ideas off someone, shoot me an e-mail and I’d be more than happy to be that dude:

Photo Credit: Allan Sanders

Never Miss A Post Again…

Sign up for one of the best fitness newsletters, ever. I'll send you nothing but practical and actionable content.


  1. Andrew says

    Another good read, Roger.

    I often need to ask myself, “why” I am doing something.

    I think far too often people chase goals that are not necessarily there own, but what other’s (perhaps training professionals) tell them they should be. Yes, the regular population can probably benefit from getting stronger. However, if you are regular guy weighing around 200lbs and already deadlift 2xbw, is there really any reason for you to chase a higher number? I mean if you truly love chasing numbers, go for it. However, if you don’t and weight training simply facilitates your other goals, you need to ask yourself how chasing a higher number will help.

  2. Michelle says

    Very nice post that really resonated with me. I found myself asking the old “WHY” question of myself recently, and have really changed what I’m doing for my health and fitness–for now, at least. When I realized that I wasn’t having as much fun, and that I’d forgotten why I was even trying to deadlift more, etc etc…I decided to take a break from “lifting” and do more of the things that were bringing me joy at that moment. I am starting to miss it again! Which makes me happy. I want to get in there and enjoy the iron again 🙂

    • says

      Yo Michelle! I’m glad that you got something out of this post. Asking yourself “why” is one of the hardest things that you can do, but one of the most rewarding as well, especially if it ends up leading you in a direction that you otherwise wouldn’t have gone in.

  3. Clement says

    Well, well! Those are some really impressive numbers, there.

    There was a time when I, like you, didn’t know the difference between my goals and generic goals. I was advised to bulk and then cut to get the physique I’d always wanted. But in the end, all I found was that I grew bigger but softer. My goal was to look ripped and lean, but not big, but now I’d only succeeded in getting myself fatter and less conditioned than I liked.

    Now, I focus on getting my strength up. I follow a calorie-cycling programme, focused on eating more on training days and less on rest days. I do low-volume, high intensity lifting on the exercises that I want to improve on – the big, compound exercises – and I sprint and do conditioning because I feel that it’s FUN, being able to perform feats of strength, power and speed well and look better than I ever have.

    These are my goals – bodyweight and barbell strength. You’re right in saying that no one can tell you what it is that you should be doing. It’s your own goals and desires that should shape the way you train.

    • Dieter says

      Great article Rog, this really resonates with me. I, like many people in this iron game, originally lifting to look great naked. However, I’ve grown fatter than I wish, all in the pursuit of bigger numbers, something that I enjoy, but is not my number one goal. My number one priority is still to look great naked and your article is a great wake up call to continue chasing MY goal.

  4. Joey says

    Being a 6’4″-ish guy, I keep hearing from people how higher my lifts and size should be considering my height and “potential”.

    A good thing about training alone is that it’s completely distraction free.

    I like it.

    It lets me think about what I truly want.

    • says

      Damn skippy! I’ve enjoyed seeing your progress over the past several weeks, and knowing that these goals are entirely your own makes the pot even sweeter.

  5. says

    Great post mate.

    I’m actually chasing a bigger bench at the moment, not to keep up with the Jones’ (I train at home, and work in a gym where most people couldn’t give a shit about benching), but to prove to myself, for whatever sick reason, that I can (increase it).

    Also, I probably want a bigger chest and shoulders (though I don’t want to admit that to myself), and only having a bar and power rack at home (and a TRX), benching is one of the better ways to get there.

    Out of curiosity – what are you going to do training wise for the next year.

    • says

      Thanks, Nick.

      G’on and go that bench! I’m just glad that it’s your own goal and hasn’t been subliminally on ya.

      As for me, I’m going to limit myself to mainly bodyweight training and hand training with some dumbbell work mixed in there for poops and laughs, mainly because I find it fun. Lots of static stretching/mobility work as well as random fun stuff (throwing heavy balls, crawling & rolling, etc) I pretty much just want to drastically swap everything out and see where it takes me. The only goal that I have for myself by next May is a one-arm chin up, so anything beyond that is icing on the cake.

  6. says

    Dam boy that some serious weight you got on the trap bar! Cool looking blog you got here!

  7. says

    Yo Rog… awesome awesome stuff! I can totally relate to this. Not that I used to lift as much as you did, but I am guilty of having changed my goals ever too quickly just ‘cos I was motivated (read influenced) by someone else. Luckily a couple of years back I realized that I’m doing this for me and that these were ‘my goals’. That made a huge difference!

    Again… awesomely written post! Keep rockin.

    • says

      Hey Raj,

      I’m glad you liked the post, and I’m even more glad that you figured out what you wanted to start doing and set out to make it happen – that’s what life is all about, regardless of what it is that you’re doing.

  8. says

    This may be the first paradigm change that I have seen someone write about from going from working in a training facility (like Cressey’s) to working in the public sector and a very awesome one too. Life lessons sir.

    It is almost a form of trainer-client inception where the trainer implants his dreams within a dream within another dream into the client’s head. Sitting down and really figuring out what you want or letting your client figure out what he/she wants may be one of the MOST important steps to training since it should be done before you even lift a weight.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *