by Johnny Pain

A powerful enough focus can make miniature the most massive of tasks. 

As a young boy in the eighties I was very active. I played outdoors every day of the year barring those that were rainy or snowy enough to warrant that I stay in. At the age of five I started playing organized soccer, followed by tee-ball, and then basketball, and eventually Lacrosse. Football, though my favorite sport at the time, came with too much risk of injury considering my family did not have health insurance and were financially what many would consider poor, so I never got to play in a uniform. Same thing with hockey; I loved it, but equipment and participation came with a heftier price tag than any of the other sports, so that one was left to the streets and the parking lots as well.

I had an insanely god appetite for a boy my age, accomplishing some impressive eating feats that always seem to come up now at family get-togethers, and which I now appreciate the significance of much more being a father to two little ones.

I continued on the path of becoming a star athlete and scholar right up until the seventh grade when two important things happened. The first was I benched all year in Lacrosse, the sport I had put my focus on by then. My lack of insurance coverage came up as an issue with the athletic organization, and despite being technically “allowed” to play in order to avoid discrimination, I was relegated to bench duty watching the younger brothers of kids who I was much better than participate in a game I loved. This destroyed any desire that I had to participate in organized sports again, as I knew that each year I’d be subjected to the same B.S.

The second important thing that happened that year was meeting my still good friend Ryan. We hit it off like crazy, but he was a horrible influence when it came to my academics. In sixth grade I had straight A pluses on everything. In seventh I skated by with C’s and D’s. My overall attitude towards school and academics began to suck, and little interested me other than hanging out and becoming an increasingly accomplished delinquent. With this came a lack of physical activity, which coupled with my love for Philadelphia junk fare, fat-fucked my young body with quickness.

Despite having been so skinny that I had to wear suspenders when I played tee-ball (a remedy designed by my coach to fix the problem of my pants falling down when I ran the bases) I was now a fat kid.

My fat stage lasted quite a few important teenage years. My overall attitude towards my Dad was shitty, and caused me to stop working with him in the plumbing and heating business, something that I’d enjoyed doing with him since I was five. I took a job out of necessity at a hardware store in my neighborhood that was as old and decrepit as the few customers that still came in after Home Depot opened up the street.

Little did I know that working there would serve as the impetus for virtually all of my accomplishments in my adult life.

One day, about a year into my stay at the store, a woman came in who announced that she and her husband were buying the place. She seemed very nice and made it clear that I wouldn’t lose my job, so all in all it seemed like a good thing. She later announced that she had four daughters, three of which would have cashier jobs there.

Shit hit the fan when I got hit like the thunderbolt from the Godfather when Michael sees Appollonia for the first time when I met her youngest daughter. At the time there was nothing that I wanted more than for her to like me. I vowed to become a “super man” who she’d be incapable of resisting on that day in December.

I knew I had to change my body, though I had NO idea how to go about it. The first adjustment I made was to quit drinking Dr. Pepper, which I had been consuming non stop for years, opting for Sprite instead (hey, it was clear so it had to be better, right?). This shows you just how clueless I was as to go about it.

I began eating low calorie versions of everything, buying turkey hot dogs and the like. I also began a vicious regimen of situps and calisthenics (when no one was looking of course). I read everything I could get my hands on and learned about things like energy balance, and aerobic vs. anaerobic activity for fat loss. I became obsessed with my mission and did not make a single decision on a daily basis that did not have my focused outcome in mind.

My knowledge and methods evolved as I learned, eventually my inquiries would direct me to a new friend who was a bodybuilder and showed me the ropes in the commercial gym. Through him I learned much about split training and basic nutrition, though my knack for acquiring and synthesizing information from a variety of sources had me designing his diet programs for him less than two months after we met.

I’m admittedly getting ahead of myself here. The most significant thing that I did in order to drop the pounds was walking. A whole lot of walking.

I worked a four-hour shift at the store after work, often with my “dream girl” behind the register up front. I shit you not; I did not stop walking the aisles as briskly as I could the entire time that I was there. Four hours of non-stop walking all while “hiding” my efforts from everyone up front and managing to direct the geriatric customers who came in to the appropriate product or make them keys. I was always asked why I was so sweaty to which I would make something up about unloading a truck order or something else. This didn’t stop at the store, I didn’t stop moving for the best part of three months, except to sleep (even then I would shake my arms and legs in bed until I fell asleep because of something I overheard a few women talking about that had been on Oprah, ha). All of this to become Superman for a girl who had little interest in me at the time outside of the dreaded “friend zone”.

Two of the aisles that I did my “secret” four hour cardio sessions in.

My hyper vigilance in my actions towards my desired outcome resulted in a loss of over eighty pounds in just shy of three months. I was far from where I wanted to be. I looked like shit as you can imagine, I was skinny fat at this point and was constantly told things like:

“Now that you’ve dropped the fat you should lift a little”

an exact quote from a family friend, this burning my ass considering I was spending $300 a month on supplements and working out in the gym six days per week.

The stretch of floor in the back room where I used to sneak away to do sets of push-ups.

I still had much to learn and much to do in order to evolve into the man-beast that writes this to you today, but no one can ever say that I did not take massive fucking action towards what I was after. Though I landed on a mark that was far away from where I wanted to be (largely due to my lack of knowledge of how to get there) I accomplished more in three months in terms of changing my body than most will do in their lifetime.

I’ve written at length about clarity and focus, this one is all about the magnitude of the action necessary in order to be where you want to be.

Obsession is more than a men’s fragrance. It is perhaps the most effective tool for human change in existence. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish will happen without a doubt if you place a necessary amount of emphasis on its completion for a period of time.

Next we’ll talk about the idea of “balance” and how it plays into this concept….

So what major life improvement are you obsessed with right now?


Johnny Pain is the man behind StrengthVillain.com as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at StrengthVillain.com or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at john@villainintl.com.

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain





4 Responses

  1. Cabrit0

    …and what happenend with the girl?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

    • That is an even better story. I’m saving that for the next podcast though.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

  2. d'Artagnan

    My major life improvement du jour is gaining size everywhere except my gut. Intense focus as opposed to obsession is probably the target, but I’m sure the next thread will explain that nicely. Nice post Johnny… Keep ’em coming. -d

    August 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  3. Vim

    My dad tells me im obsessed with training as though its a bad thing, and keeps trying to make me “get a balance”. When he stops telling me this – ill know im doing something wrong.

    People think im a bit boring because it was my birthday recently, and instead of going out and getting drunk (as is the custom in the UK whenever an event like a birthday, or the wind changing direction, occurs), i stayed in and broke my squat record. I know which id rather do a million times over.

    Awesome post as usual man.

    August 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

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