When I get stuck, here’s how I break through

The little group of Jamaican children kept glancing at me.

And pointing.

And giggling.

I was 17 at the time, and visiting Jamaica as part of a church group on a mission trip. We helped to convert an old warehouse into a church/school building, and it was the pre-teen future pupils who were getting such a kick out of me.

Finally, one ventured over.

“Are you Screech, from Saved By The Bell?” he asked.

So … I’ve never been the most athletic guy. It’s probably best I was homeschooled, or I would have spent a lot of time reading the stickers on the back of the locker doors.

I’ve accepted this as part of my identity for my entire life, but not anymore. I’m working out now, consistently, for the first time in my life, and seeing results.

But it’s slow going. Skinny guys don’t put on muscle easily, and it’s easy to stall out.

I’ve been stuck for a couple of months with my pull-ups. My goal was to do three sets of seven pull-ups, with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

No matter how hard I strained, I could only manage to get five reps on that last set. About halfway up on that sixth rep, my arms would just quit.

Workout after workout.

Finally, I realized that I needed to do something different. I decided to apply a technique called “greasing the groove.”

Instead of going all out on pull-ups twice a week, I started doing them every day. I’d do smaller, easier sets, spread out over several hours, whenever I took a pomodoro break during work.

Initially I shot for five sets of five, Monday through Friday.

My “real” workouts became more like a progress test, because I was working those muscles consistently throughout the week.

After a week of this, I was pretty sore. My performance during my workouts actually got worse initially, but I kept going.

Two weeks in, these daily sets got easier. I felt like I was hurling myself upwards. I could touch my chest to the bar–something I’ve never managed before.

And at the end of the second week, I eeked out a sixth rep on my third set.

Finally, after three weeks (and bumping my daily sets up to six reps each) I hit that seventh rep. Success!


This same approach–setting an achievable goal and then hitting it daily— has worked wonders for me in many other areas of my life when I’ve wanted to bust through a plateau.

Last year I wanted to get faster at writing, so I set a daily word count for myself and worked to hit that word count every day. I ended up blowing through the first draft of my manuscript in 30 days.

Right now, I’m working on improving my copywriting skills so I can write sales pages for my books that actually sell. I’m spending time each morning studying and copying (by hand) sales pages and ads from masters that are proven winners.

It sure sounds boring, doesn’t it?

And simple.

But most things that work are.