Self-improvement is masturbation

I pulled myself out of bed on the 26th with thoughts of improvement and New Year's promises. I had been crushing my training & eating as of late, and yesterday, I decided to abandon it. I ate way too much and drank beyond my means and was feeling it. I fired up my espresso machine and reflected.

A prominent fictional figure was quoted as saying, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction… “

Is this accurate? Is self-improvement just masturbation?

Yes. Tyler was right.


As I see it, self-improvement is just self-gratification. The hope of improving upon physical, mental or emotional traits by making a New Year’s promise is jerking off, and while pleasurable, a waste of time. New Year's promises are a tactic to protect our fragile ego from our own shortcomings. It is very difficult to come to grips that same lack of progress we made in 2010 is going to haunt us in 2011. So we take the opportunity to make steadfast promises at begin each year so we can begin the fight with a feeling of renewal, optimism. Nothing wrong with starting on the right foot.

“I am getting in shape this year” is probably the most common New Year's promise, followed closely by learning to speak a foreign language and meeting someone special.

*If you are involved with running a gym you start hearing these sentiments as early as Thanksgiving. The prospective client that shows up in November and December asking questions and telling you they are getting ready to start January 1. They are always "getting ready to get ready" to start. They always have an excuse why they can't start today and rarely ever come back.

If I had to bet, I would wager that 99% of New Year's resolution get abandoned within the first 3 days of the New Year. This leaves .9% of the population an additional day or two to think about their promise before leaving it behind for greener pastures.

Since 99.9% of people do fail, what could they do different?

Could there be a secret to keeping and fulfilling promises?

Yes. Don’t make them. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

And since we agreed, “Self-improvement is masturbation", this leaves us with self-destruction…

Take a page from Fight Club and shoe companies and realize self-destruction and a break to build mentality are most powerful allies.

Cultivate mental and physical toughness by hammering ourselves on the anvil of hard training and venturing the road less traveled. By traversing difficult terrain we find ourselves in that break to create mindset. Instead of making a promise and wishing to better ourselves, turn in the opposite direction.

Every time I walked on the field or in to the gym I have a singular goal to get better. I never wanted to just hit the gym for a “workout”, it was always a specific task, “get stronger…get faster…increase flexibility…get healthy”. In actuality, it should have been "today at the gym, I am going to make myself worse."

However, I knew I did not get stronger in the weight room. My job was to break my muscles down so when I went home I could rest, eat and recover. The adaptation of strength, muscle and endurance are a result of hard training and proper recovery.

I recently wrote a lengthy piece on Regeneration because it is so important. If you do not do the little things to increase recovery, the ability to get bigger and stronger is slowed to a stand still. However, for full recovery to be necessary and effective we need to break ourselves.

Ask these questions…

What are the tasks you will employe to destroy your fragile self?

How will you build to break?

For me...

I have one painful goal for 2011…to increase flexibility. And I know increased flexibility only comes with constant vigilance and discomfort. So in addition to my normal training I will supplement yoga and martial arts, and hopefully a smaller version of myself. By increasing strength and adding new elements of flexibility and movement I begin my path of self destruction.



John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.

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Posted in FAQ, Lifting Weights, Mental, Talk to Me Johnnie | 20 Comments

20 Responses to Self-improvement is masturbation

  1. Corey

    Here’s to you being a mobility ninja, John. You will do it.

  2. C. Lake

    Maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer…. Maybe self-destruction is the answer.

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  6. Finally, someone got that part right. I have been explaining the “self-improvement is masturbation” deal for a decade.

    Most are too thick to figure it out. i had honestly lost hope.

    And now, after all this time. Talk To Me Johnnie has decided to unwrap the few mysteries of the world. I can see big things in your future. Time travel? Yes. Unlocking the unused 90% of our brains? Yes.

    The new leader of Project Mayhem? Yes.

  7. Coldsnap

    Hey now, my new years resolution last year was to get back into the gym and into shape. A year later I now compete in Olympic Weightlifting meets locally and looking to expand nationally next year. So some of us do have iron will.

    Ohhhh you are the one. I left room for you in the .01% of people that actually make good on their New Year’s promise.

    One questions…how many promises have you made and broken before making good on this one?


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  9. Flexibility? Yoga? You know what I am going to put in my mouth in the new year? A hobo’s dick cheese. My New Year’s resolution is to meet foreign language speaking tourists who work out a lot and who dress in traditional Bavarian lederhosen. I guarantee at least one of those resolutions will be kept. Danger!

    This message was brought to you by Four Locos

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  15. If you think that all there is to self-improvement is desperately making poorly contructed goals for the new year, then IMHO you are perhaps not very well informed about “self improvement”.

    At the same time, I really like the TAKE MASSIVE ACTION orientation that your post appears to advocate.

    To your profound personal development,


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  19. Andrew

    Can you go more in depth on the question,” How will you build to break?”


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