I Need Some Problems

I’m the type of guy that tries to avoid problems as much as possible. If there’s a glass too close to the edge of a table, I’ll move it. If a parking spot is too tight, I’ll find another one. Stuff like that. I realized the other day though that this type of behavior may not be in my best interest. In fact, experiencing a problem or two on a regular basis may actually help with muscle growth. I came to that discovery while getting my hair cut believe it or not. Here’s what happened.

The other day I went to get my hair cut like I do every two weeks. I’ve gone to this one guy for over twenty years. His name is Joe and he used to own a barber shop right near a gym I worked at. Joe sold the shop a long time ago and now he’s pretty much retired, but he still takes a few people at his house to keep the trade alive. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Joe is an amazing guy! He’s a seventy-four-year-old man who’s worked hard all his life and made a decent living doing so. He came here from Italy when he was twenty years old and worked day and night cutting people’s hair to put food on the table. He has four children and four grandchildren and he could be coasting the rest of the way if he wanted to, but Joe feels the need to stay active… and staying active is exactly what he does!

Joe owns quite a bit of land – he has two houses on it, a barn, a huge vegetable garden and all kinds of vehicles – and he tends to all that property himself. Joe does second and third mortgages, has rental properties, trains at the local YMCA on a regular basis… and he cuts hair here and there.

Getting my hair cut is a ten-minute process that always takes an hour because we end up chatting. So there we were the other day talking about a house that Joe took over a few months ago, renovated and sold. I asked if he planned to relax for a bit and go on vacation now that he has some free time. Joe’s response: “You know, John Paul, I need some problems.”

After he uttered those words I felt the clouds part above me and trust me, it had nothing to do with the clippers! At that moment I had an epiphany: Perhaps having a few problems may be a good thing? Rather than shy away, let those pesky little problems wave their jaw in front you and then knock ’em out!

You see, stress is how you deal with a situation. One person may perceive a situation as the end of the world and their body responds accordingly by pouring out catabolic (muscle wasting) hormones like a fire hydrant. Someone else may view the same situation as a challenge and be driven to find a solution, which can increase levels of anabolic (muscle building) hormones.

So you can let a situation shrink your muscles or build them. It’s totally up to you! Alpha males are usually quite laid back and unless push comes to shove, they don’t allow many things to bother them. They enjoy all the fruits that life has to offer with no worries in the world and as a result, they stay strong and ahead of the pack. Think of Arnold in Pumping Iron.

Here are the two lessons I took from Joe during that moment:

1. Next time you’re faced with a stressful situation, try to look at it as a challenge rather than a threat. “There are no problems, only solutions!” That kind of thing. Use the situation to build your body rather than break it down.

2. Always work and remain active. If you retire completely from your occupation, your mind, body and spirit will soon retire as well. Anti-aging expert Dr. Charles Eugster believes that inactivity is a major cause of death and successful aging requires a healthy diet, exercise and work. Joe is living proof of that.

I’ve already seemed to change. Today there was a glass of water at the edge of the table and I walked right by it. Tomorrow if there’s a tight parking spot, well I’ll just squeeze myself into it because as far as I’m concerned, I could use a few problems!

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