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Why You Should Never, Ever Give Up

I remember the very first time I wanted to give up.

The air was thick as mud and my olfactory nerves were being incessantly pounded by the smell of freshly cut grass with every breath I furiously fought for.

I thought I was dying, but in reality, I’d just never exercised before. I was fat, out of shape and my favorite meal was a bologna and cheese sandwich with a large bag of Doritos.

I’ll never forget the other kids running laps around me during my first ever football practice. I was ashamed, confused, and disappointed that I just wasn’t cut out for athletics as I’d began to believe before the practice had barely started.

I had to sit out the rest of the practice because I couldn’t catch my breath after one lap around the field. Once it was over, one of my football coaches approached my mother and said “Ms. Deen, I’m afraid little JC isn’t going to make it – he couldn’t even think about keeping up with his peers. We think he may have a bad case of asthma and you should probably have it checked out before he continues.”

I’ll never, ever forget it.

She stared him straight in the eyes and said “that’s bullsh*t – he’s just fat and out of shape. He doesn’t have asthma and he’ll be here every practice no matter what.”

I was only 10 years old.

As we approached the car, I was so excited to be done and seeking shelter from the pain and embarrassment. I remember sitting in the living room begging her to let me quit – it just wasn’t fun and all that running really hurt.

She said “no, you’ve started something and you’re going to finish it – even if you have to suck wind the rest of the season, you are not a quitter.”

A 10 year old boy really has no say with regards to these matters, so I ate my bologna sandwich, a few Doritos, and went to bed.

My First Lesson In Discipline

The next day, I woke up in dire pain. I’d never ran more than 50 yards in my life. My entire body ached and I was cursing this game of football under my breath all day long at school. All of my peers were excited for practice but I wanted to ditch it.

But guess what? Mother bear was my ride and she was sure I’d be there.


So I show up again at this dreaded practice field. We began the conditioning work and I remembered just how much I wanted to evaporate into thin air. My brain was constantly telling me I couldn’t do it – I didn’t have it in me.

Such atrocious thoughts persisted for about 2-3 weeks, but with every practice, the little voices inside my head dissipated. I began to keep up with the skinnier kids and actually started to develop some athleticism.

Over time, going to practice became fun. I even began to excel at something I’d never really attempted before. I was becoming quite the football player, even if I was only 10 years old!

Before I knew it, the season had ended, my pudgy figure had begun to transform, and I had a newfound confidence I’d never had before.

From this point on, athletics were a major part of my life. Day in and day out, I continued to push the limits. I competed in any sport I could and while I didn’t always excel (never fast enough for the track team, and couldn’t stay interested in baseball), I was always competitive nonetheless.

I learned through hard work and perseverance that you could overcome what sometimes seems to be the impossible.

The Reason I Continue to Succeed

It took me a while to figure it out, but one of my high school coaches said it best. “it’s okay to be less talented than someone else but never, ever let yourself be outworked.”

But in reality, there really is no such thing as talent. People just spend more time than others on whatever task at hand.

I used to get this all the time – in school, on the practice field, in my extracurricular activities. People would say, “oh, you were just born with this talent – it comes easier for you.”

I used to believe it, but then I began to think about what my coach was saying. I’d worked really hard for where I was and where I was going.

For those of you who are regular readers, if you’ve been here from the beginning, you know I started JCDFitness back in October of 2008. Re-reading some of my older articles makes me sick at my stomach. My writing style and ability has changed/improved drastically over the last 2 years.

Many might find it hard to believe, but I’d never written much more than a typical freshman English paper when I started this website. I knew nothing about writing style, or getting a message across through article form. All I knew is that I wanted to share my experiences about health and fitness.

So, without knowing much about what I was doing, I just started writing. I remember being so self-conscious about my writing – having my friends and mother proof-read each post for me so I wouldn’t feel like an idiot for publishing something that wasn’t perfect.

But over time, I started to get the hang of it. I’ll never claim myself to be a great writer but I do believe I’m a great communicator – something I’ve worked very hard at since I was young. My whole life has been about building relationships – writing is just one way I get to practice communicating.

So what’s the point?

I’m not really afraid to fail anymore. I’ll continue to use JCDFitness as an example, but I’ve many other ideas we could throw out there.

When I first began publishing, I was so afraid of what others would think, what they might say about me or my philosophy on fitness. But one day I woke up and stopped caring. The only way we learn is by doing and taking action.

I wrote a few articles that flopped. So what? I wrote some more that got attention.

Maybe I wrote some things that weren’t too politically correct? Maybe it lost me a few readers? Perhaps I stepped on a few toes?

Most people will pack up their bags at the very first piece of hate-mail they get. Goodness, I remember how emails poured in during class right after I published the first Clean Eating article. After reading some of the stuff I did, most people would’ve stopped publishing altogether.

It’s Hardly Ever Comfortable

My life philosophy is to fail forward – keep pushing. Never, ever give up. As soon as you give up, you’re never going to get what you want.

In sales, the end goal is the close. One reason I am drawn to the professions I am (fitness, web design, and selling in general) is because they’re all results-driven. One way or another, you’re getting a result.

Regardless of the outcome (someone says no, tells you to jump off a bridge, buys from you, etc) you’re always getting a result. You always have something firm to base your next decision off of.

It’s like the guy who wants to ask a girl out. His fear of rejection keeps him tightly clutching his beer, sucked to his seat. The problem is he’ll never ever know anything if he doesn’t act. He’s so afraid of getting a “no” that he won’t rise up get what he really wants.

Now the chances are highly variable as to what the girl might say depending on his approach. But one thing is guaranteed – he will get a result because he took action. She will either say yes or no.

And regardless of her response, he can leave that bar knowing something. He’ll know that he needs to step up his confidence and approach more girls, or he will have the shot at taking this new girl out.

But without that first step, without having the balls to push for a result, you’re wallowing in mediocrity.

Why You Might Need To Suffer First

I hate to say it, but sometimes, suffering a few bad blows is what we really need. Sometimes, it’s that kick in the pants that gets us going again – striving for something bigger and better – reaching for the stars.

When I first moved to Nashville in 2007, my life took a turn for the worst. It seemed as if everything in my life had turned upside down. I worked a few odd jobs, and then eventually worked a corporate gig that landed me a few therapy sessions. I was depressed, and lacked direction.

It seemed life was crumbling around me. My health was horrid, I’d lost touch with some great people in my life and couldn’t maintain any relationships.

I think Tyler Durden said it best.   “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

I’d hit rock bottom.

But then one day I woke up. I realized that everything around me was, in some way, a reflection of how I viewed my situation.

There was only one way to change it and it began by taking personal action to fix what I could.

It was one step at a time.

First I got back into school. Second, I found a way to quit that horrible job. Then, I began rebuilding those old relationships.

Shortly thereafter, I began pouring myself into everything I loved. I made goals for JCDFitness, and decided to focus on improving my writing.

I then started to learn web development and design in my spare time (no sleep, lots of coffee). I began doing the things I loved again. But this time, it was without any fear or inhibition. I simply threw myself into what I wanted and trusted that it was going to work out.

I developed the mindset that I could have/do anything I wanted as long as I push and continued to push.

It’s like the saying goes, no risk, no reward – know risk, know reward.

But How Does This Apply To Fitness?

In many ways, actually. I am finding lots of people develop some fairly lofty goals when it comes to their personal aesthetic ideals.

The problem doesn’t lie within their ambitions; I feel it lies within their mindset and eventually their approach.

A common problem we all face is having the gumption to develop a plan, be realistic with time frames and then being objective enough to make changes when necessary (or when to leave stuff alone when nothing’s broken).

It’s not a matter of having what it takes – because I believe we can all achieve something worthwhile when it comes to strength and physique development. It’s more a matter of developing the mindset for success. Being resilient and never giving in.

Having goals and striving for more is what gives us life. I think Thomas Carlyle said it best here:

“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

Without a goal, you’ll never make any real progress.

Never, Ever Give Up

So my challenge to you is this.

If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, go find someone who can help and keep you accountable. Get so sick of your current situation that you make the changes you need to make. Get downright fed up with your lack of progress; hire a coach if you need to.

If you’re a young guy in dire need of building some muscle, remember to be patient. Realize that this journey is a marathon, and hardly a sprint. Your goals should revolve around getting strong and eating well. Your hormones will take care of the rest.

If you’ve been injured and coming back from a long layoff – realize that you’ve been in great shape before and it’s something you can invariably achieve again.

If you’re brand new to this fitness stuff, soak up the information here, as well as the information at, Alan,,, and Lyle

And finally – you know yourself best. Develop a plan and work that plan. Do not waiver. Never give up – continue pushing and fighting as if tomorrow will never come.

Image Credit: cfourcalvin

About the author

JC Deen

JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer out of Nashville, TN. Get more from JC here: Twitter | Facebook| JCD Fitness

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Leave a comment:

Zach - November 17, 2013

Great article man and I really mean that. I’m not known as an avid reader and usually browse over web pages that have anything longer than a few sentences but I was sucked in immediately by this article. Keep up the good work!

Graham - July 3, 2012

I’ve read this post just at the right time – time to take action! Thankyou

brianSan - April 10, 2012

great story man, it’s really helping me to keep my head up

Toni - September 26, 2011

This article reminds me of the scene in the movie, ‘Rudy’ when the guy who cleaned the football stadium (forgot his name) shouted in Rudy’s face saying, “the only one in this life you have to prove something to is yourself and if you haven’t done that by now…” That scene gave me chills b/c it’s so damn true. I used to be upset when someone did something I didn’t like; thinking I could control someone’s every move like The Wizard of Oz guy behind the curtain but duh! you can’t. You can only control yourself and how you react to it. That’s it. Once you wrap your head around that little nugget of wisdom, life gets considerably less stressful.

True story: When I ran into one of my ex-boyfriends recently (he broke up with to ask the head cheerleader to the senior prom), his eyes were bugging out of his head when he looked at me, saying, “damn, if you had looked like THAT back in high school, I never would’ve dumped you for Casey.” To which I deadpanned, “who says I wouldn’t have dumped YOU?” Normally, I’m a nice person but I’ve been waiting twenty plus years to say that, lol.

    JC Deen - September 26, 2011

    haha, awesome story.

      Tae - June 5, 2015

      Hey Deen.. Your article really cheered me up. But there are something in me that is keeping me away from working out on my own.. I want to be a professional soccer player but my desire/drive is not strong enough to push myself to the limit.. I am already in college. Even though I train with my friends thinking that I am putting myself to the limit I still got rejected from the coach. Its weird, I have no hope but everyday I ask my self is I should give up but my mind always tell me not to give up.. I would deeply appriciate if you can send me an email regarding to what I am goibg through. We’ve gone through similar situation and I would like ti hear directly from you. Thanks

        JC Deen - June 8, 2015

        Professional sports is very competitive. Do you truly have what it takes to make it in terms of experience, and talent? if so, find a local coach to help.

Rob - April 19, 2011

This should be required reading. So many of us are looking for someone to blame. We make excuses. We have the power within us to live the life we want. We just have to really want it. We can be the difference maker for us.
Thanks for an awesome post. I’ll be sharing it.

Live it LOUD!

Yu Jin - April 18, 2011


Is awesome. I hope i was taught or educated like that when i was young. I never had anyone with or supported me. Now, this is a great article i can look through whenever i felt like giving up. Thanks man.

Hell yeah, I bookmarked this page.

Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana - April 15, 2011

I’m glad I convinced you to follow me 😉

Helga - April 13, 2011

Awesome article, as always, JC. This post definitely brought back some unwanted memories! :)

I had a similar experience when I was 10. My mom was in charge of the athletics team at the school I went to and at one of the senior school meets one of the 15 year olds had to pull out of the 1500m race so my mom asked me if I would do it. Now, even at that age I was a swimmer, not a runner, but I thought how hard can it be? and being the competitive beast that I am, I said ok. Of course the gun went off and I tried to keep up with these older girls and totally blew after the first 200m. After 1.5 laps I was almost a lap behind so I quit and ran off the track where our team was sitting. My mom said to me: “You said you would do it, you started it, now you finish it, no matter how long it takes you”. I finished that 1500m, bawling my eyes out for the rest of the race, made all the more humiliating because, as you do, everyone was clapping while I did it. I was mortified and just wanted to die. At the time I didn’t understand why she had made me do it, I think I sulked for at least a week, but once I got older, quitting was just never an option for me, whether it be in sport, life or anything else, well within reason of course. I’m never scared to quit a job – life’s too short to put up with shit!

The same can be said about my weight loss. I was at my wits end after having tried everything under the sun to lose weight. As a competitive athlete it was surreal to me that I could be training 15-17 hours a week and be 20-30kgs overweight. And then through pure chance I came across your website and my life changed forever!

You are a true motivator and a God-send! Keep doing what you’re doing because you ARE making a difference!

    JC Deen - April 13, 2011

    you sure know how to make someones day!

    I agree – like is way too short to deal with unnecessary BS. I’m so grateful to be of service!

Jon - April 13, 2011

Great article…always love to read what you’ve got to say

Melanie Thomassian - April 12, 2011

Hi JC,
I absolutely loved this article. You said so many things that I connect with, and teach my own readers. Just found your blog, really like what you’re doing here :-)

    JC Deen - April 12, 2011

    Great. Glad to have you here.

Andrew - April 12, 2011

I totally agree with the “sometimes, suffering a few bad blows is what we really need.”
in freshmen year high school, my physical education teacher always had us do pushups if we were late to class. I had to do 25, but I couldn’t even support my body enough to do 1. My whole class laughed at me, including the girl I had a huge crush on.
in sophomore year, my doctor told me I was officially obese and that I had a bad case of fatty liver and trigylcerides
In my Junior year, our class had to do fitness testing. I finished last out of 200 in pushups, running, and pullups
In my senior year, the only girlfriend I’ve had broke up with me over a skinnier, more fit guy
At the end of senior year, one of my buddies finally came up to me, punched me in the stomach and told me stop b*tching about everything and do something

today looks much different. I spend everyday improving myself so as to distance myself from the humiliation I received in high school.

Really awesome article, JC- with all the crap I got piling up in life, it really helps me push on.

    JC Deen - April 12, 2011

    thanks for sharing. your best friend socking you in the stomach is probably the best thing that could’ve happened to you at the time.

    While we cannot control every circumstance, we can control our emotions. it’s not always easy but our emotional state is what allows us to make the decisions we need to make. I lift my glass to you, sir.

Markus - April 12, 2011

That was a really great article. I can relate to the situation you were in when you moved to Nashville, because I’m in a similar situation right now. But like Sly Stallone says in Rocky 6 “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward”. It think this sums up the article really good :-)

    JC Deen - April 12, 2011

    I feel for you. Just know that everything is going to change for the better when you decide to accept what’s going on and take that first step forward. Will it happen overnight? Nope, but positive things will happen when you decide to make it so.

Ty - April 11, 2011

“But then one day I woke up. I realized that everything around me was, in some way, a reflection of how I viewed my situation.”

Pretty insightful. It’s amazing how our own view points can be our own worse enemy. Some people look at me and think I have it made; yet I look at myself and see plenty room for improvement. Perhaps the difference between moving further away from our goals, or closer towards them, is simply how we’ve decided to view them.

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    yea, I completely agree with you. I have so many friends emailing and calling after they’ve seen what I’ve been up to and all I can think of is how am I gonna hit my next benchmark.

Bryan - April 11, 2011

Keep this sagely advice coming. Many will benefit from your straight forward mentality and rational philosophy. Thank you for sharing your story and keeping yourself in this blog more so then selling out and forgetting why you honestly got in it.

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    no problem. I am in this for the long-haul. JCDFItness is one of my primary outlets and I’m thankful to have such a wonderful readership to share my experiences with.

Gayla - April 11, 2011

Fantastic post! Thanks!

Mama Deen - April 11, 2011

This a true story, I needed a kick in the butt too….

Mama Deen

McB - April 11, 2011

Hmmmm. So, when you landed on your butt in Nashville, it was a bit like being on your butt on the football field. I bet your mother’s voice was somewhere in your head saying, “that’s bullsh*t ……”. I’d get up too! Your “voice” is always clearly evident in your writing – making you a good teacher, because you’re authentic. You happen to write about fitness, but you message about life. To quote another sage, Steven Tyler; “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” So, if you’re going for the ride, you might as well drive, right?

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    I am speechless after this comment. thank you so much.

BrianS - April 11, 2011

Good stuff as usual JC.
I absolutely agree with the idea that building muscle/losing fat should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint. I think the same could be said for many things in life.
I also like the “no/know risk, no/know reward saying.” Seems like it would make a good t-shirt :-)
Thanks for all you do.

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    great t-shirt idea. perhaps, I’ll make it so one day.

    I live my life ever day weighing the risks. one thing I always say before I do something I’m nervous about is “will I care/is this gonna matter 6 months from now?” usually, that determines whether or not I take that risk.

Ronak R. Patel - April 11, 2011

Hey JC! I’ve been mulling over a question for a while and I wanted to see what your take on it was. This article essentially prompted me to ask because it is an amazing motivational read to say the least.

At the moment, I have finished my final semester of Uni but there’s still 4 weeks left until my grad ceremony. I figured this is the perfect month to focus my time on my health and fitness goals and finally push through my semester long plateau since school is officially out of the equation. While I still spend hours everyday looking for full-time positions for after graduation, I have come upon a great deal of free time and one of my newfound passions is playing baskeball. A lot of basketball.

So after that intro, my question really revolves around how can I prime my body the right way so that I don’t 1) get burned out mentally and physically by playing up to 6 hours of pick up basketball a day (not everyday though) and 2) maintaining my LBM/strength in my lifts at the same time? I still want to keep up my 3 day RPT M-W-Sat. split if possible but I know that it’s very hard to maintain high levels of cardio and strength training at the same time. Hopefully there’s a nice middle ground here, but if not, feel free to snap me out of my delusions.

Since I spend so much time at the gym and ever since I started IF a year ago, eating anytime before, during or after working out doesn’t really cross my mind. What are your thoughts on how my nutrition should be shaped for the next month so I can get the best results from what I’m putting my body through?

Thank you once again and as always, keep up the great and inspiring work!!!

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    Well, in order to maintain your strength, I’d make sure you’re eating very well around your workouts (weights and basketball). Other than eating well around workouts, my suggestion is to hit your protein targets, overall kcal goals and sleep well.

    Enjoy doing something you like. If you notice recovery suffering, maybe cut the playing back just a little.

Tim - April 11, 2011

Awesome article and maaaad timely.

We can all learn a little somethin’ from Tyler Durden….

    JC Deen - April 11, 2011

    we sure can. I am a life-long member…

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