Being the first post of 2012 I wanted to set the tone for the rest of the year with a book review. While I read this book a month or so ago I wanted to save the review for today because I think that the message in it is especially appropriate today.

One of my favorite parts of having a Kindle is how you get books suggested for you based on past purchases. Since I buy a lot of training books and books on mindset/ self improvement I was not too surprised to see Mike Mahler’s new “self help” book on my suggestion list but I was a bit hesitant to buy it. I know Mike as a kettlebell expert but I was not too sure what he had to offer in the way of mindset advice.

However, I was finally curious enough to get the sample of the book and after reading the first chapter I was impressed. I got the whole book and quickly tore through it. I can now safely say that “Live Life Aggressively: What Self Help Gurus Should be Telling You” is now my favorite book on the subject of “self help” and one that I strongly recommend it if you want to understand the mindset it really takes to succeed.

Despite what the title may suggest, it has nothing to do with being outwardly aggressive or having a chip on your shoulder. Instead, Mike quickly and effectively challenges you to re-think how you approach life in general. From accepting your current job and financial situation to dealing with past traumas, Mike makes you really think about what you want out of life and how to go about taking it.

Personally, I found the message very refreshing. I have quickly grown tired of the positive attitude-goal setting-self affirmation b.s. promoted by so many self help gurus. Movies like The Secret, “pump you up” books/ seminars and “how does that make you feel” psychiatry always seemed disingenuous to me. Life, when lived aggressively, is hard and no amount of visualization, daily sayings or talking about feelings can get around that.

Most people seek “help” because they want to avoid pain and stress and a lot of people are more than willing to take your money to tell you what you want to hear. Mike, on the other hand, slaps you in the face by telling you things that you need to hear, especially a society raised to play it safe and to think that if it is hard or stressful it isn’t worth it.

For example, if you say you hate your job but don’t quit and follow your dreams then on some level you are exactly where you want to be. This is one message I can relate to 100%. Personally, I am amazingly lucky to be living my dream – but “luck” had nothing to do with the fact that I married the girl of my dreams, live in mountain biking heaven and make a living by helping riders all over the world. It took guts, tenacity and a lot of hard work to make it happen – which happen to be things that everyone can apply as well.

When I decided to start MTB Strength Training Systems I was managing a gym in Tyler Texas. I owned my house and was making a good salary – and hating it. Texas is known for many things but mountain biking is not one of them. After spending my time riding in Southern California and Hawaii I was burned out on the one trail in the area pretty quickly. Managing a gym meant I had to deal with all of the crap from unhappy customers and I was starting to look at them as the enemy instead of people I wanted help.

After going to my sisters wedding in Grand Junction Colorado I knew I wanted to move there and start training people again. However, the smart move would have been to either stay put and enjoy my 2 weeks of vacation each year or to make a long term plan and slowly work towards moving. Walking away from a well paying job when I had a wife and new born baby girl was not “smart” or “responsible”.

What’s more, I had been discouraged from going into the mountain bike strength training business by a very successful online business consultant since it was not a popular market. The money was in fat loss or muscle building, both markets I cared nothing about. However, I knew that something had to give so I quit my job, rented my house out and was in Grand Junction within a few months of deciding to make it happen, ready to create a niche if I had to.

After trying to make a go of working in a couple gyms I decided that I was over working for someone else and having to conform my training philosophy to them. I had dreamed of opening my own place and running it the way I wanted and so I found a space and signed a lease. I had 3 clients and did not really know how I was going to pay the rent but I knew that I would rather fail on my terms than succeed on someone else’s.

Fast forward 5 years and past countless struggles, set backs and moments of self-doubt and here I am – I have a successful online business and training facility, get to ride some of the best trails in the world whenever I want and gain immense satisfaction from helping countless riders through my blog, articles and training programs. I still have set backs and problems but in the end I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I tell you this not to impress you but to impress upon you that there is nothing special about me – or Mike, who has a very similar story to mine that he relates in the book – except that at some point we refused to be passive and take what life gave us. I am not exceptionally smart, my family is not wealthy and I had no “breaks” along the way. I simply think different than most people and luckily mindset is something that you can learn.

I think that Live Life Aggressively is one of the best books I have read in a long time. You can live life scared or you can live life aggressively – the choice is yours alone and after reading Mike’s new book hopefully you’ll have the perspective to stop being held back by your own mindset.

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