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In Praise of the Iron Gym

One of the greatest joys in the world is the iron gym.

What's an iron gym? It's hard to describe. It's easier to say what it's not.

An iron gym isn't a fancy fitness club. An iron gym doesn't offer jazzercise. An iron gym doesn't have wooden panelling and beautiful adornment. An iron gym doesn't have awesome, clean bathrooms. An iron gym's locker room is spartan, at best. An iron gym has mostly free weights, with very few machines. An iron gym isn't a place to mingle with the opposite sex. An iron gym doesn't offer yoga or other classes. An iron gym has no amenities, niceties, or anything like. An iron gym is usually obscure, with nothing special in real estate. It's often in a basement. An iron gym doesn't have a salesman to give you a tour of the place and show you around, doesn't ask for a one year commitment to join, or anything like that. An iron gym doesn't have fancy membership cards, swipe-in/swipe-out, or anything like that. You just show up and nobody hassles you.

So what's an iron gym? It's a spartan, bare bones place with free weights and a few very basic machines. It's often dirty and disorganized. There's no classes offered there. There's almost never women in an iron gym, if you go every day for an hour you'll maybe see a woman once a week. Maybe.

And I fucking love it. I love being at an iron gym. It's just a place to push iron. There's no posturing, no showing off, nothing like that. If you need a spot, someone will give you a spot. Everybody's cool. People don't talk too much, don't socialize too much. Nobody's doing business or trying to get a date or trying to move up the social hierarchy. There's just one thing there. Iron. And you lift and it's good.

Developing Willpower, by Jason Shen

Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:

Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall

Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…

It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.

I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.

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