I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a fan of self-help books. Neither is the American strength coach and kettlebell expert Mike Mahler, so it’s a bit surprising that he has written one. But he’s adamant that Live Life Aggressively! What Self-Help Gurus Should Be Telling You isn’t like other books in the genre.
‘This book was not written with the goal of making you feel warm and fuzzy,’ cautions Ken Blackburn, leading kettlebell instructor and friend of Mahler’s, in the introduction - and you could probably have guessed that just by reading the cover. But, as Mahler points out, ‘while aggressive can mean violent, it also means to move forward with strong intent and purpose.’
And that’s what this book is all about. It’s the paperback equivalent of Mahler putting an arm around you (or, in some instances, grabbing you by the lapels and giving you a good shake) and urging you to chase your dreams.
Mahler wants you to take a long hard look at yourself. He wants you to confront weaknesses, stop seeking approval and make sure that fear of failure isn’t preventing you from taking risks. And you accept what he says because it’s written with a frankness that makes it feel like he’s a friend talking to you over a pint, or a protein shake. He’s open about the personal and financial problems he encountered before finding success with his fitness business and this encourages you to be honest with your own self-assessment.
If, like Mahler and me, you’re also not a fan of self-help books you may choose to apply his advice to training rather than to life. When he says, ‘Do not be afraid to be vulnerable and imperfect’, he’s imploring you to tackle the unfamiliar, try new exercises and take yourself out of your comfort zone. But if you apply his lessons only to what you do in the gym, he thinks you’re missing out. ‘Growth requires letting go of that in which we used to so firmly believe,’ he says. ‘Some people dismiss ideas and opportunities on the spot, out of fear that openness to new ideas and opportunities will irrevocably change them.’
The quotes from experts, such as nutritionist Michael Pollan, at the beginning of each chapter are an interesting touch and the references and reading list allows you to do your own research. In the meantime, we’ve picked out five pearls of Mahler wisdom to get you thinking.
Why people fail
‘The main reasons people fail to succeed? Lack of self-responsibility and self-awareness. You have to take charge of your life and take responsibility for your success. It’s not anyone else’s job but your own to be successful. As long as you rely on other people and relinquish responsibility, you won’t experience success.’
The need for suffering
‘Suffering, no matter how moderate or severe, is a part of achieving any meaningful goal. There’s no way to avoid it and never has been. Suffering is a critical component of life and success.’
Why you need to act now
‘If you think you have all the time in the world to pursue your goals, think again. The reality is the clock is ticking fast, and if you don’t take action now, you probably never will.’
The danger of resisting change
‘Growth requires letting go of that in which we used to believe so firmly. Once we become comfortable within the constructs of what we think we are, it’s difficult to let go, even if we don’t like the construct.’
Mahler’s final word
‘You know what you need to do if you are willing to be honest with yourself. Stop lying to yourself and take charge of your life. The timing will never be perfect. The stars are not going to align and carve an easy path for you. Doing more research will not help. Waiting to get approval from others will not help. You are in the ring of life alone, and you have to fight the good fight and be consumed by the process. The clock is ticking and you are running out of time. Each day you delay is another day wasted. Each day you accept a life of mediocrity is another day wasted.’
Live Life Aggressively! What Self-Help Gurus Should Be Telling You is available from amazon.co.uk. (opens in new tab)
For more tips from industry experts, pick up a copy of Men's Fitness. Subscribe now and get five issues for £5 (opens in new tab)
Jon Lipsey worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Jon was deputy editor and editor from 2007 to 2013. He returned as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2019. He also co-founded IronLife Media (opens in new tab) and the New Body Plan (opens in new tab).
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, the latest gear and more.
Thank you for signing up to Coach. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.