“Don’t believe your own bullshit.”

This is a direct quote from the brilliant strength training coach Dan John himself.

Dan said this to me during a personal interview when we were discussing personal trainers, building strength and achieving next-level type success in all walks of life. At first I was shocked.

I was thinking, what do you really mean?

Was he saying that MY KNOWLEDGE was basically bullshit?

Was he suggesting that I DON’T KNOW my profession inside out?

It took me a minute to process what he was saying but then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to admit what he was saying was absolutely dead on.

You see, everyone has gaps in their knowledge.

There is no such thing as perfect, but it’s very common for us to let our ego take center stage. In fact, it’s the natural response. Our ego protects us but it can also get us into trouble.

It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s absolutely true (especially when we’re talking about our profession). Rules, guidelines, advice, and even history are all tossed right out the window when YOU have decided that YOU are this super unique human being.

It’s a dangerous way of thinking.

Yes, we are all unique.

But, you are not unique in the sense that, “you are bigger than yourself.”

This type of thinking is dangerous because it can give you a sort of God complex where you develop your own set of magical rules and guidelines. If you start breaking rules that apply to other people and other coaches, you will encounter problems. If you think that things are only true for other people and you are the exception, you're headed for trouble.

This God-complex is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege and infallibility.

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And it happens to the best of us.

A typical thought in this scenario goes like this: 

I can get away with X, because… 

This “because” is the problem. Think about it like this:

You’re following a specific program and trying to get a desired result — single digit body fat, adding 35 kilos to your squat in a month, etc. But then you start thinking, “I’m different. I can get away with only following the program guidelines 70%, BECAUSE…my body will just magically adjust to the program anyway.”

Or maybe you think...

“I can get away with eating a huge surplus, BECAUSE…my body only will store muscles, not fat. My metabolism is just way different than everybody else.”

Or maybe...

“I don’t need to worry about injury prevention. That’s for old folks and yoga-fanatics. I can go straight to making big gains BECAUSE I’ve never been injured and THAT is proof of the fact that I’m an exception.”

And so on. Everybody does this, usually on a subconscious level. These are just a couple of examples of how your ego can justify your actions (or lack thereof). The same thing applies to everything in life.

Let me confess something to you. I’ve been there more times than I want to admit. In fact, this is the number one cause of every single one of my injuries. For example, I suffered a crippling back hernia in the middle of squatting. I’m talking about an injury so massive that the doctors didn’t know if I was ever going to walk right again.

Why did this happen?

Because I suddenly increased my squatting frequency without paying attention to the intensity considerations. This is Mickey Mouse, amateur-hour stuff — and it happened to me!

Here’s how my ego screwed me over:

I thought, “Well, I can squat as often and heavy as I want without problems. It’s been like this forever so I’m never going to get hurt.”

The only problem?


My ego didn’t let me consider that I had only been training regular squats sporadically in the period leading up to this new “smart” plan.
And here’s the real kicker: I would have never recommended this type of approach to my clients or the athletes I train but I thought I was different somehow. I thought I was the exception.

I have nobody to blame but myself.

I was carried out of my own gym by the medics and carted off to the emergency room. I ended up embarrassed, broken, and depressed and I spent my days folded up like a ragdoll in bed. Recovery was long and it was painful.

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So now, when I consider any training approach myself, the very first thing I ask myself is, “Would I recommend this to my clients?”

If the answer is no, and I still try to convince myself that I should do it or that I am somehow different, I know my ego is starting to get in the way.

Your ego can definitely help you accomplish big things. Any world-champion athlete, bodybuilder or powerlifter will tell you this. The ego helped them break through barriers and believe that they could accomplish amazing feats. It's a fine line.

The ego is a double-edged sword. It’s there to help you avoid becoming too passive and keeps you driven to succeed but the ego is also the first thing that can push you over the edge and deep into the abyss.

It can leave you crumpled up in a heap under the squat rack and cost you thousands in doctor’s bills and rehab and set your training back by years.

Dan John was right. You should never believe your own bullshit.

When you want to achieve big things, you need someone else besides your ego to keep you in check and on track to accomplishing your goals.

So here’s the question you need to ask yourself: How aware of your ego are you really?

Eirik is located in Norway, where he operates as a strength coach in his own gym facility. With an athletic background from team handball, and other sports, he has experience with several joint and muscle injuries. The most severe left him paralyzed on the floor, after a disc herniated during back squats. He specializes in training with and around injuries, and how to overcome the obstacles a training life will throw at you. He has published Norwegian books, manuals and training courses.

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