Liam Holyoak

This is where I write things.

Category: Self-Improvement (Page 1 of 4)

Daily Action.

Have you ever tried to recall where you learned something. Specifically a word. Words you know how to use in a sentence but couldn’t give someone the definition if they asked.

Do you really know what it means in that example? Or just how to use it. Knowing how to use something properly is knowing something, isn’t it? Or does true knowledge only come from an ability to teach or explain it.

Sometimes you just know things, and they need no explanation. I know that meditation makes me feel good. Sure, the science behind it is useful to learn about and know. From action, I know it helps me. I don’t need to be able to explain it.

Or do I? I’m not so sure. Maybe you can only be helpful, or an authority on something if you truly know it.

I tend to believe though that true knowledge comes from daily action, not what you can read about in a book. Not to discredit knowledge, I’m the first in line to read all about something. However,  the action,  is a much better way to learn.


I’m in the habit of coming home everyday and vegging out. I could just as easily get in the habit of coming home everyday and doing more work. Working towards the life I want for myself. I could do that. It won’t be the easiest thing in the world. But it will be worth it. It will be good. It won’t be easy. Is everything worth doing ever easy. I don’t think so. It just is. You do it because you have to. You just keep doing it because you have to keep doing it. You don’t have a choice because this thing is calling you and at a certain point you can’t ignore the call. You have to listen. If you ignore the calling for too long. It’ll move on to someone else. If you’re lucky it’ll stick around for a while, maybe until you listen. But until you act. Until you make a deal that you’ll get up every morning and put in the hours in front of your keyboard. Until you make that deal and stick to it. It could go away at any moment. So what are you waiting for. Turn the god damn TV off, put your phone away. Get to work. It’s calling you, at some point you’re going to have to pick up.

The First Step.

The first step is always the hardest part. The initial getting into it. I get excited about something and research the crap out of it. Then it takes a while, a while before I make the first leap and that step is scary and exciting and hard. The next day is a bit easier. By the end of the first week momentum is slowing a bit. The excitement is fading. You have to remind yourself why you started. But as long as you keep going your almost home free. By the end of the third week it will seem routine. You’ll see progress. Very slow progress. But you’ll see it there. Then in no time at all it’ll be this thing you’ve always done, that you can’t imagine yourself not doing.

But first, you have to take that first step. Then just keep stepping.

Morning Routines.

*Beep Beep* I roll over. Grab my phone and swipe to snooze. It’s 3:20 AM. I lay there, trying to talk myself into going back to sleep. Instead, I reach up and turn on my lamp. It’s cold. I don’t want to get up. Slowly I sit up, swing my legs to the edge of my bed, and I’m up. I try and tell myself I’ll be able to take a nap, or lay down for a minute after the gym. I never do, but maybe this negotiation helps. I put on my workout clothes and I’m out the door. It’s dark. No one is awake, the only things on the freeway are semi-trucks.

I’m almost to the gym by the time my car warms up. No turning back now.

Six months ago I wouldn’t have been here. Six months ago I would have snoozed until just before eight. Getting up just in time to make some coffee before I left for work.

Habits are a wild thing. I don’t want to get up at this early, I think about that every morning when my alarm goes off. I don’t have to get up that early. But I do. Despite the urging of my sleepy self to stay in bed a few more minutes. I get up. I get to the gym. I work out. When I get home I journal, mediate, and write a blog post. Some days the monster convinces me not to post it. Tells me it’s bad. I’ll offend someone. I’m not a real writer. But most days I beat that monster too. By the time I leave for work I feel like I’ve already slayed a few demons.

Now that, is the power of a morning routine. I don’t say this to brag or say look at me. Look at all the things I do before you even wake up. I’m saying this as a very normal guy, who didn’t have a great morning routine six months ago. And now I do.

I don’t want to do it every morning. But I do. Action comes before feeling. If I waited to do something because I felt like it I wouldn’t get anything done. I’d rarely even show up to work if I had to feel like it in order to act.

Acting, especially acting toward something that doesn’t have an immediate reward is hard. It’s really hard. There isn’t anything outside of you that is going to compel you to get up a few hours earlier to start the day for yourself.

Start the day doing things for you, to better yourself. Doing this has done wonders for me. I don’t have a six pack, a six figure income, or yacht anywhere. But I am happier, I’m better at my job. I am a better friend, a better son, and a better human because I start my day with challenging things that make be a better person. Those things aren’t the same for everyone, but I promise if you suffer through a few weeks and put yourself first every morning you’ll see the benefits. They’ll certainly be worth it.

The Resistance.

I’ve been reading War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Rereading it. Which is funny because I had been putting off reading it for so long. Yesterday I finally made myself start. I knew I’d been avoiding it for a reason. There are lessons in it that I needed to hear.

It’s funny how that happens. Humans are weird creatures. It seems we are constantly at opposition with the things we desire and dream for ourselves versus the things that are quick, easy, and gratifying in the moment.

Why do we do that?

I’m sure long ago there was a biological necessity. But that also doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe we are just weaker now than our ancestors were. People used to just get things done. You did what you had to do. You didn’t complain about it, well I’m sure some people did. Regardless, you just did. You knew in the end it was good for you. Even in the initial moments when you didn’t want to do it.

What has changed? Something has. It seems everyone is spending their time avoiding doing things they should actually be doing. I am certainly guilty of this.

Is it a Paradox of Choice type of thing going on. Do we have so many options that we are paralyzed to do something about it.

Maybe it is just “The Resistance” or something constantly fighting to maintain the status quo. I don’t really know. Somedays I win that fight, others I don’t. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. In a grander sense.

I grew up religious. I went to church every Sunday, youth activities during the week. An hour of my school day was spent at a church facility near the school.

Once I was in High School I rebelled against this pretty hard. Pretty much doing away with all believes I had in anything that wasn’t backed by science. I refused to believe in anything that wasn’t concrete.

In a sense though I’ve always been jealous of religious people, it seems insane to me to believe something so strongly. To devote yourself to it. It seems so powerful.

Recently I’ve realized I do believe in the mystical in some sense. It’s not something I just have faith in. It’s something I’ve felt. There is some magic to it, if you will.

I think most creative people could attest to this. It doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work. It quickly goes away if you lose momentum. But if you show up. You keep showing up. Piece after piece of awful writing. One day something else will be there. Guiding your fingers along the keys.

It’s not going to bring you fame or fortune. It won’t be this grandiose thing. It will be a whisper. A small idea. If you run with it, it can change things.

If you allow something beyond yourself to have a little control something amazing can be created.  If you just keep putting in the work. Someday you’ll be a part in creating something truly incredible.

But for now, it may just be a silly little piece. Same thing for tomorrow and the next day. I think that’s why you have to love the process. You have to love the doing. There are too many days where nothing good comes. If you don’t learn to love the process you’ll give up far too quickly.

Lessons from Lifting: Part 1

I only started lifting a little over two months ago. So the whole thing is very new to me. That being said I feel like I’ve already learned a lot of practical lessons that could be applied to many areas of my life. Here are a couple.

Failing: You’re going to fail. Somedays you just won’t be able to pull weight you normally do. It could be for myriad reasons. But you still have to show up. You have to put in your best effort. Even then you might fail. That’s okay. There’s always next time. And just because you failed doesn’t mean you wasted your time. You still got practice in and that will help you improve in the long run. I feel like this directly applies to writing as well. Most of the time I think what I write is dreadful, but I still post. I tell myself it’s good practice and I try again the next day.

Today I failed on every lift. It’s a Friday, my excuse was that I’m tired. But that brings me into my next point.

It’s a mind game: I went in today telling myself I was tired and was going to fail my lifts, and I did exactly that. Who knows what would have happened if I told myself I was tired, but I was going to succeed. Or that I was just going to go in and kick ass. I may not have failed. A lot of it is mental, of course you can’t mentally trick yourself into squatting 2X your bodyweight your first time in the gym. But, you can certainly fail from overthinking it.

Which rings true in many areas of life. If you go in with a shitty attitude, most likely that how things will end up. When you see everything through a negative lens, everything that happens is negative. This is a huge lesson I learned today, and I need to keep improving. Not only in the gym, but in all areas of my life.

No Zero Days

There’s this idea called ‘No Zero Days’, a few years ago someone posted on a subreddit called Get Disciplined, saying they were they didn’t care about themselves and couldn’t find a way to get themselves to do anything, there’s a lot more to it than that. Here’s a link to the post.

Someone responds explaining something that helped them. They call it No More Zero Days. A zero day is a day you do absolutely nothing, you don’t even get out of bed. At it’s very simplest you just have to do one thing to make it a non-zero days. When you are in the bouts of severe depression that’s a very tricky thing to do. But day by day as you get a little bit better at doing the everyday things they recommend the following guidelines. Exercise and books, forgiveness, and be grateful for the 3 you’s(present, past, and future).

I’ve always found the 3 you’s one to be the most difficult. Until recently I never pictured a future me. I mean an old me. It wasn’t a sad thing, it just seemed at some point I’d just disappear. I never pictured myself growing old. Since I started my medical transition I’ve found it a lot easier to look out for future me. Maybe I wasn’t ever able to picture it because I didn’t have a model for it. But now everyday this body of mine becomes a little bit more me and I want nothing more than to grow old in it. So I’m starting to look out for future me. I’m actually planning for a future. By taking care of myself now; mentally, physically, financially, creatively. It’s hard work. It’s not something I’ve spent much time focusing on until recently. But here goes, on the internet. I’m vowing to always look out for, and be grateful to the three me’s. Those people sure do matter a lot.

Memento Mori

That is a latin phrase, it translates to: Remember, you will die. It’s a phrase used often in philosophy specifically in Stoic philosophy. It may seem morbid but for me it is a very useful reminder.

This phrase reminds me to let go of the small things, like being cut off, or being stuck in traffic. It reminds me to express gratitude and love whenever I feel it. It’s a reminder to work my hardest. To make sure all the interactions I have are positive. To not allow anyone to be less than because they crossed my path. It’s a reminder that my time here is precious so don’t spoil it being angry, hateful, or jealous. It reminds me to place fear in the backseat, to step out of my comfort zone, and do things that are uncomfortable.

Someday I will die. So today, I will do my best to live.

Slow by Slow

     A friend told me once that her Grandfather always used to say “Slow by Slow”, it’s funny. She told me this and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It’s been a great reminder. When I am frustrated by my progress in the gym I tell myself “Slow by Slow”, when I am frustrated by the speed of my transition, or others reaction to it I tell myself “Slow by Slow”. In anything, I repeat that phrase. It reminds me that everything takes time. That even incremental amounts of progress are still progress. Things are changing. For the better. One day I’ll look back and realize how quickly everything happened. But when you are in the thick of it, it helps to remind yourself. “Slow by Slow”

I Suck

Every morning at 4:00 AM my alarm goes off. I don’t want to wake up. Just another hour. I don’t have to work until 8:00, why do I need to be up so early. So I snooze. Ten minutes later I repeat the same story. But this time I reach for lamp, switch off my fan, give my pup a kiss on the head and I get up. I roll out of bed, and try to stretch the sleep out of my muscles. It usually doesn’t work. I throw on workout clothes and I’m out the door before I have time to overthink my decision. I don’t want to work out, I don’t want to write, I don’t want to work. These things are constantly in my head. But I don’t listen to them. Most of the time anyway. I get to the gym and I get my ass kicked. I’m not fit, but I’m trying to be. Every workout is a struggle, but I do it. I get back home and I write, it’s hard, I don’t want to, I can’t focus. I’m making up problems in my head, checking my phone. But it’s six in the morning. No one is texting me. I just want a distraction. But I continue writing. Most days it sucks. Some days it doesn’t. Same goes for my meditation. Whatever book I decide to read that day. Most days everything sucks. I don’t mean that in a bad way though, because I get it done that’s the important part. While I’m doing it I always enjoy it. But if I were to look back at the end of the day it all sort of sucked. But it sucked less than it did the day before. Each day I’m sucking less. Maybe that’s not the best barometer to measure things of off but I do. Through meditation I have learned to not set the barometer to good or bad. I just set it to “do”. As long as I show up. As long as I do whatever thing it is that I am doing, I am improving. Even when it totally sucks.

There’s this massively underrated Netflix show called BoJack Horseman. If you haven’t watched it you should, I’m not going to give you a synopsis here but there is a line in it that I love. BoJack is out of shape and trying to run up this hill, an old baboon whizzes past him. He says this: “Every day it gets a little easier. But you have to do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”, that’s what I tell myself everyday. If I’m being really honest with you some days it doesn’t work. I give into the voice inside that tells me to sleep in, to not write, to just watch TV all day. But I’m getting better, I’m getting better at doing the hard part. And, It is getting easier.

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