Overcome the Impossible with Blind Determination

Tommy Leung wrote this on Jun 27, 2018
5 minute read

Pull-ups: a seemingly simple physical maneuver that befuddles many.

Perhaps the modern world has made life too easy.

We don’t have much reason to pull ourselves up and over anything.

We invented ramps. Stairs. Elevators. Escalators.

So pull-ups are now just a measure of strength, physical fitness, and health.

The inability to do a pull-up likely means you are out of shape. Maybe you’ve put on too many extras pounds. Maybe you have a strength and muscle imbalance. Maybe you are lacking in basic strength.

It seems reasonable that humans should be able to do at least 1 pull-up.

The schools I attended used to test for this in gym class. I was a chubby kid so I couldn’t muster a pull-up to save my life.

But I eventually worked my way to 1 pull-up and then multiple pull-ups.

I don’t remember how I did it. It was the blind determination of a teenage boy. I remember I had one of those door gyms. The pull-up bars you can just hang over a door frame.

I would practice and try every day. Progress seemed nonexistent in the beginning. But I persevered. Some kids could do it. So why not me?

This all happened during my teenage introduction to weight lifting.

I wanted to be strong. I’m not the biggest person around standing at a relatively average 5 feet 8 inches tall.

There was nothing I could do about my height but how strong I could be was something I could control.

So I read all I could about weight lifting. I learned from any and every source I could find. Then I did what I could with the resources I had.

The will of a teenage boy to be more attractive to the other sex is perhaps one of the greatest forces known to humankind.

There were secondary benefits too. I lived in a rough neighborhood. You don’t want to look weak. The weak and sickly get picked off. Lions do it to zebras. We do it to each other.

I also just wanted to be strong. And there was an unsaid competition with the other boys. Friends and classmates. We pushed each other.

Blind teenage determination can get you quite far.

We lose some of the motivation that can drive us when we are younger but we shouldn’t forget that sometimes the most effective way to get from point A to point B is blind determination.

I decided, in my mid 20’s, that I had a strength imbalance. I could easily do 50 or more push-ups but doing 10 pull-ups was pretty difficult and I couldn’t always do it.

So I went on a 3,000 in 30 program. I would do 100 pull-ups everyday for 30 days for a total of 3,000 pull-ups.

This was potentially more pull-ups than I had done in my entire life up to that point.

It was grueling. I sore after the first day but kept at it. On the second day, I did 100 more pull-ups while being sore.

At some point my hands would bleed from ripped skin. I got a paper towel from the bathroom to put between my hands and the pull-up bar and kept going.

Getting blood on the equipment would be inconsiderate.

It initially took me 30 minutes to do 100 pull-ups. By the 30th day I was able to squeeze it in under 20 minutes.

I would do sets of 1 or 2 pull-ups at a time until I got to 100.

What do you get out of this?

First, you can say you’ve done 3,000 pull-ups in 30 days. It’s a conversation piece if nothing else.

But more importantly, you learn much about yourself. You can quit at any time.

Doing 100 pull-ups on the first day was hard. My usual pull-up routine was an inverted pyramid. 6 reps then 5 reps then 4 reps then 3, 2, 1.

Getting to the second day takes mental toughness. You are sore. Probably more sore than you’ve ever been.

You can give up at any time on the second day. Why keep going? It’s hard. It hurts. You’re sore.

You win nothing by doing this. Other people at the gym have no idea what you are doing. They probably think you are crazy. Also you are using the pull-up bar for a long time.

It is much easier not do it.

And then when your hands bleed, why do you keep going? The bar is literally ripping skin off your hands. Giving up here is easy. You are literally bleeding. It is a great excuse and you’ll still have a great story.

Each one of us will have our own reasons. The teenage boy in me would have persevered because he wanted to attract and impress the girls.

The older me perseveres because he wants to prove—to himself—that he can make it through the hardships that are a fixture of life.

Potentially out of pure stubbornness. I said I was going to do this so I am going to do this no matter how hard it is. As long as I am not putting my health in serious danger then I will finish it.

Sometimes blind determination is what you need.

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

- John D Rockefeller