We learn a lot about life as we travel our health and fitness journeys. In this guest post, Christopher Walker tells us some life lessons he learned building a pull up bar. Christopher Walker is a new friend of mine that I connected with via my LinkedIn group, Health and Fitness Bloggers (which you should join if you are a HFB, btw, because it’s really starting to rock). This is a great post, and I’m honored that Christopher would write here at Project Whitespace. Be sure to check out Christopher’s new blog, NoGym, and subscribe. My intuition tells me he’s an up-an-coming health and fitness blogger, and you will want to be there from the start.
We all struggle, at one point or another in life, with purpose.
It’s a lifelong odyssey.
Even when we find our purpose – that path we are meant to follow – we find ourselves continually challenged to fulfill it.
As a 20-something year old man, purpose weighs on my mind daily. I’m at the point in life where it’s time to make some choices…big choices. Choices that will affect the rest of my life.
And this weighs on me sometimes.
Luckily, as a minimalist thinker, distillation has helped quell my apprehension time and time again. You see, when you take a complex situation and boil it down to its core you can usually find some universal truths… lessons that will help you in any situation in life.
And cognizance of these lessons will deliver meaning.
Case in point: I built (and then rebuilt) a pull-up bar in my yard last week.
Now at first glance, this probably doesn’t sound like anything special. Don’t underestimate the power that lies below the surface of simple situations.
I’ve been wanting to build the bar in the woods for some time now. Before now, I’ve had to drive to get to a park with a sturdy pull-up bar where I can perform my favorite exercise: the muscle up.
Rising gas costs and traffic are a pain, so I figured it was time to build something here. Off to Home Depot I went, bought some 4x4x10’s and a lead pipe along with several bags of concrete, and the project began.
Well, long story short, I messed it up.
The concrete didn’t set correctly and I didn’t use the proper bolts to hold the bar in place. I didn’t make sure it was level before pouring concrete and I failed to dig the holes far enough apart. The result: one goofy-looking pull-up bar that rocked back and forth when I used it.
Luckily I’ve got a dad.
He’s not just any old dad, either. He’s a born-and-raised dairy farmer turned weapons-system engineer who’s built everything from classic cars to computer motherboards with his bare hands. He’s the kind of guy who spends all weekend in the yard and the woods; he builds all sorts of contraptions and add-ons for our lawn mower and house. If you can get the parts & materials without having to break into a top-secret Chinese production facility under the dead of night, he can build anything you want.
He’s basically a super-dad.
He took one look at my sad excuse for a pull-up bar and said, “Let’s do this right.
So we did. And here’s what I learned… about building a homemade pull-up bar & about a meaningful life:
Life Lesson #1. Learn By Doing
Take action. Seriously, stop putting off that thing you’ve been wanting to learn. Just do it. Now. Who cares if you mess it up (as long as you’re not trying to free dive or cliff jump)? Theory means nothing if you don’t apply it.
Reading tons of books and blog posts, listening to podcasts and being inspired by awesome YouTube videos means nothing if you never go out and use that knowledge and inspiration. Live your life.
Sure, I royally screwed up the pull-up bar the first time. But you know what, I now know exactly how NOT to build a pull-up bar. I made mistakes and learned from them; and I won’t forget them.
Experience is salient. It sticks with you.
Life Lesson #2. Try and try again
“Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.”
- W.E. Hickson
Failure is a huge part of success. Learning from your mistakes and applying that knowledge to your second, third, or 100th attempt is paramount to your eventual triumph.
I could’ve just thrown in the towel and left that goofy-looking bar sitting in the yard. I would’ve looked out the window every day and it could’ve been a nice reminder of how I screwed something up. Instead, we rebuilt it. We tried again. And now it looks awesome and works like a charm.
Life Lesson #3. A Rock Solid Foundation Matters… A Lot
One of the big issues I had with my first bar was the fact that I poured the quick-dry concrete incorrectly. I followed the directions on the bags but, alas, it wasn’t correct.
The concrete was marketed as a pour-into-hole-then-just-add-water turnkey solution, which appealed to me, naturally. Little did I know, it’s pretty much the same as regular quikrete – it works best when premixed then poured.
So we did it right the second time.
And guess what, the bar doesn’t rock back and forth and I probably won’t feel the need to have my buddies sign an insurance waiver before they use it.
In life, a solid foundation matters even more. Your foundation – your support network, morals, ethical code, religion, habits, and education – are what the rest of your life is built upon… so make sure you get these right before moving on to other things.
Life Lesson #4. Be Careful Where You Lay Your Roots
For real, it seems I did EVERYTHING wrong the first time. It turns out I ended up digging the post holes and setting my bar in the WORST part of the yard. It’s apparently the part that floods every time it rains. Idiot.
Anyways, we decided to dig it up and move it back into the woods to higher ground. Now it sits on a nice little patch of elevated pebbles, which also provides some padding when you drop down off the bar.
In life, be careful where you settle down. Because once the concrete sets, it takes a lot of digging to move.
Life Lesson #5. Let Other People Help You
Without my dad I would’ve struggled. I also could’ve just told him that, no I’m fine, I’ll figure it out by myself. Instead I let him help me and learned a lot about proper construction practices in the process.
And I apparently reflected enough upon the experience to write a post that will help others. So yeah, his help was worth the momentary embarrassment at my horrible craftsmanship.
In life, let other people help you – especially those who have plenty of experience in an area you don’t.
You can learn a lot from them and strengthen relationships in the process.
Life Lesson #6. Ensure Your Support System Is Level Before Setting It
Can you do pull-ups on a crooked pull-up bar? Yes. But over time, one side of your body is going to start getting stronger – you’re going to become imbalanced.
The same is true in life. Do not base your support network upon weak, unstable relationships. If you do, you risk consequences down the road.
Life Lesson #7. You Need The Correct Tools
I completely used the wrong tools the first time around. Yep, I hammered bolts into the posts. Boy, that was fun to try and undo.
I used a wide spade to dig the post holes instead of, yes… a post hole digger.
Hmm, I’m actually kind of embarrassed to be telling you this right now.
Moral of the story: when we used the correct tools, not only was the entire process simpler, but the job was completed correctly. And now we have a useable bar that won’t fall over if that fat squirrel who steals all the bird food decides he wants to hang out on it.
Life Lesson #8. Don’t Cut Corners
If you’re going to do something, crush it. Do it with everything you’ve got. Don’t screw around and make bad stuff, because it reflects poorly on you.
I’ll admit it, I thought I could build the bar without any help and without studying up on the correct techniques that would actually have made it work the first time. I’m a little stubborn. And like most guys, I don’t like to ask for directions.
But when it comes down to it, what if this wasn’t as petty of a project as a pull-up bar? What if this was a product that I was releasing on my website?
What if I released a half-assed product to my loyal readers, whom I absolutely love? Do you think they’d appreciate being sold a piece of crap? Nope.
And that would be horrible for the site and any hopes of having a business in the future. It’d be decimated. All because I was lazy and tried to save time and effort by cutting corners.
Don’t cut corners. Do it right… every time.
Life Lesson #9. Concrete Dries Quickly (But You Can Still Dig It Up)
We generally experience consequences for our actions almost immediately. The concrete sets. What’s done is done.
This is why doing things right the first time and really premeditating your actions is so important. However, in many cases, you can still dig up the concrete slabs. But it might require back-breaking effort.
It might even require a jack-hammer.
Don’t let it get to that point in the first place and you’ll be fine. But know, that no matter how bad things may seem, there’s always a way to right a wrong.
Life Lesson #10. Doing It Correctly In The Beginning Will Reap Benefits For Years To Come
Even though it took two tries, we now have a well-built, sturdy bar in the woods. And I’ll be able to use it for years as long as a tree doesn’t land on it.
And even then, since I now know how to build it, it can always be rebuilt.
The same is true in life. Set yourself up for continual success. Set up systems and relationships that will endure. Devote time to keeping them rock solid – because they will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Bonus Lesson: Be Open To The Lessons Around You
Many tasks in life seem meaningless… just another hoop to jump through.
Don’t think like that. Shift your worldview to one of abundance. There is an abundance of worth in every little thing we do. Every interaction.
Be conscious of it all because it’s all there. You just need to know where to look. Glean lessons from everything and you’ll be a more optimistic, positive, and wise individual because of it.
Have you ever found truths or lessons in ordinary everyday tasks in your own life? If so, let us know in the comments! Would love to hear them.
About the author: Christopher Walker is a writer, male model, and entrepreneur – completely addicted to creating awesome stuff. He is the Editor of NoGym and you can connect with him on Twitter @CTheFlow.