Getting to Carnegie Hall

There’s an old joke. A tourist in New York City stops a jazz musician and asks “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The jazz musician looks at him, thinks for a moment, and responds “Practice, man. Practice.”

Practice. My wife and I actually talked about this quite a bit last night. Practice and goals. Not specifically in the context of “health” or “weight loss”, mind. Our family has other goals as well, and I do talk about things other than weight loss in real life. But our conversation could just as easily have been about those things.

See, we’ve both been feeling frustrated by some of our goals. We’re trying to pay our student loans off early, for example. And that is a huge goal, because education is expensive. And we’ve made budgets, and set up plans, and made everything pretty and picture-perfect on paper. But, even though we’re making progress, it’s been slow and sporadic and we frequently fall off the wagon. Somewhere in that conversation, I heard myself say something like this: “It shouldn’t be hard. We don’t have to be good with our money all month. We just need to decide we’ll be good with it today. And then, tomorrow, we need to decide to be good with it today again.” Pop psychology, right? But, in my experience, it happens to be true.

It’s just not that simple – nothing ever is.  You need to do a few things, so you can get started.

First, you need to know what your end goal is. What do you want to achieve? Weight loss? The ability to run a marathon? More time with your family? Shredding on your guitar? Define it for yourself, and do it in as much detail as possible. For example, my current goal isn’t just “lose weight”. It’s “lose two hundred pounds as soon as possible without hurting myself”. It’s a solid, measurable goal, and you’ll need that for the next step.


Because the next step is to define how you’re going to get there. And if you don’t know everything you need to do to get there, define the things you do know. Details are key. For my weight loss goal, for example, I’m pretty specific: eat no more than 2400 calories per day. Walk at least five miles a day. Climb at least 20 flights of stairs a day. Each is a solid, measurable step that I can check in on with a yes/no question. Did I eat no more than 2400 calories today? did I walk five miles today? Did I climb 20 flights of stairs? Each yes I answer is a win.

Step three is follow through. And adjust your goals as needed. I wasn’t walking any five miles a day when I started – I managed three, tops. And I was aching from it. So I set a goal of four miles, and worked to it. Then I set a goal of five miles, and I’m hitting it. Each step of the way (so to speak), I pushed myself to do just a little more than I thought I could do, and then I eased up a little if it proved to be too much.

How do you lose weight? How do you get healthy? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is the same: Practice, man. Daily practice.


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