Moderation Is Overrated

Everything In moderation – especially moderation

“Everything in moderation” is my least favorite phrase on the planet. Admittedly, I have a bit of an extreme personality. When it comes to doing something, I either do nothing, or I go all out. There’s very little middle ground.

I realize everyone is not like me, but I think it’s worth while noting that this concept of moderation has been so engrained in people’s minds that it’s the default “common sense” mindset – which in and of itself, means it should be questioned.


Why So Moderate?

Why be “moderate”?

If you’re going to do something – go balls out. Really go after it. If you’ve convinced yourself to be “moderate”, check yourself and make sure it’s not for these reasons:

Moderation is Easy

Moderation is easy. If you go to work out and decide instead of sprints or something intense, you’re going to take it easy and “jog for 10 minutes”, you can go as slow as possible.

If someone questions you on the actual value of the workout you’re doing, you can simply respond, “Oh, I was jogging – it was moderate.”


There’s no room for argument. Even if you suck, you still have  “defensible” argument.

It’s an easy choice.

Moderation Happens When You Don’t Know What You Want

If you don’t know what you want, it’s pretty easy to take things easy. If there’s no urgency and no goal to orient your behaviors around. It’s easy to be wishy washy and take whatever comes your way because you’re letting life happen to you.

You haven’t decided that you want X out of life and that you’re going to do whatever it takes to get it – so instead you let things fall as they may and keep ambling along moderately.

Moderation Makes Room For Failure

“I wasn’t really trying – I was being moderate.”

Being “moderate” makes room for failure. If you were actually honest and went after something as hard as you could and still failed, it hurts a lot more. You might be *gasp* embarrassed.

Being moderate is a way of preparing for failure before you actually do, so the impact doesn’t hurt so much. Unfortunately  by preparing for failure, you’re practically guaranteeing it’s going to happen.

This is a huge reason: they’re scared of failure.

You’re scared if you actually tried and gave it your all, you’d still fail (and everyone would point and laugh and think you’re stupid).

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. – Teddy Roosevelt.

(What’s even scarier still – if you go all out – you might actually succeed.)

Moderation is a Cop Out

Call it what it is. Most choices of ‘moderation” are a cop-out. A way to avoid pain and difficulty. When in reality, pain and difficulty are the only things that spur growth.

Pain & difficulty are not optional – they’re essential. No good story ever develops without pain & difficulty involved. Don’t try to “cheat” by being moderate. You only cheat yourself.

Crash Diets, Extremism & Burnouts

About the biggest proponent of “moderation’ is the idea that you’ll burn out if you go too hard for too long. Not to mention that extremism is has terrible associations with politics, religion, wars etc.

That’s not an invalid criticism.

However, no one ever talks about the dangers of moderating yourself into a standstill.

The one good thing about extremism is that you know what drives them. You know where they stand. You know what they’re going after.

In our quest for moderation, that element is often lost. Moderation isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but becoming so moderate that you don’t have any forward motion and you simply exist is. No action. No direction. No movement.

Sure, there’s dangers to going all out, but there are very real dangers to being moderate as well.

Guess What? If you’re in a bad place in your life, you’re not going to moderately change.

If you’re 400 pounds, you’re not going to “ease” down to half your body weight. Because if you’re 50, 100, 200 pounds overweight, something is wrong. Something needs to change – drastically.

And (honestly) eating, and exercise are the last things you need to worry about. You need to fix the mental game first.

Mindset –> Nutrition –> Exercise

Your steps might be small, but your mindset shift is huge. You might not start doing 3,000 burpees a day, but at the very least, you have to wage war on your mindset.

When people see people lose 15, 30, or 70 pounds on Impossible Abs in 3-6 months, they lash out with terms like “crash diet” insinutating that people are just going to rebound and gain all the weight back as soon as the course is over. I’m sure a small percentage of people do that, but Impossible Abs is less of a case of a crash diet, than it is a complete rewiring of how you think & interact with food & exercise.

The problem is most people only see the physical change. It’s not a crash diet – it’s an exercise on waging war on your mindset through an exercise and nutritional protocol.

People like Toyah, who’ve gone through Impossible Abs are different. Sure, they might be down 20-30-40 pounds, but mentally, they are not the same person they were.

That happens whenever you run a ultra, take cold showers or lose a bunch of weight. Your physical change is one small aspect of the mental & emotional changes you’ve undergone throughout the journey (this is why I talk so much about cold shower therapy and the benefits of it).

That’s what this whole site is about: understanding that who you are is not defined by where you are now. That you’re way more capable than you think you are – but you won’t get there by hoping to moderate yourself there. You have to really go after it.

In order to do that, there needs to be a realization that something needs to change. Drastically. An all-out war on this mindset that this current iteration of your choices is acceptable. If you need to completely change your life, you have to want it – bad.

Time For War

You probably have tried being “moderate” before. It might not have worked. If “moderation” is your code word for “nothing” then throw it out. Screw moderation. Screw conventional wisdom. Change your mindset.

In cold shower therapy, people ask “how cold is cold?” Can we just do “lukewarm” water to ease into it?

My answer: no you can not.

It’s cold shower therapy. Not “kinda-chilly-shower-therapy.” Cold shower therapy. As in freezing cold – as in “water-so-cold-they-shipped-it-directly-from-antarctica-because-it-was-too-cold-for-the-effing-penguins-to-take-cold.

But whyyyyyyyyyy can’t I take a warm shower? Not a hot one, but just something that’s lukewarm?

Do you want lukewarm water? Is that how you’re going to live your life? Luke warm? Not hot? Not cold? Just “meh?”

Afraid to jump in and go balls out? Not even for a measly 5 minutes of your day? A whole .3% of your day? Point 3 percent?

If so, you’ve got bigger problems than cold water.

“Wow, he’s so moderate”, – said no one ever.

Screw this lukewarm crap.

Screw moderation.

Pick a side. It’s time for war.

Moderation Is Overrated Video


photo credit: Scott Ableman

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  1. Colin says

    Agree with some of this but not all of it – I can run 15 miles – but if I do that every day then I’ll just get injured and not be able to run at all for 3 months. You have to be smart as well.

    • Luci says

      Have you tried runnning 15 miles a day? Did you get injured? Did you make it running for your life where the option of stoping is NOt an option?

  2. Paarkhi Parekh says

    Beautifully Said, Moderation sets you back from achieving your goal and makes you content (which is bad when you a have goal to achieve)

  3. Jeff Lucas says

    Love the blog! This doesn’t just apply to what you do, but what you don’t do. When Hannibal invaded Italy, he trashed every Roman army thrown at him until Fabian engaged him by refusing to fight head on. He was defeated by a man who was more dedicated to what he believed in than Hannibal, even though Fabian was under pressure to take immediate action. Standing and taking the fire is a big part of making this work.

  4. says

    Dead on, Joel. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. No half-assing it.

    Mike Rayburn, a musician/comedian/motivational speaker has a really good keynote called “What If?” One of his three big points talks about the value of setting unobtainable goals. He says don’t start with the possible, start with the impossible–the dream goal.

    You tell yourself, “I know this is nuts, but I’m going to….” Fill in the blanks, and write it down. Then figure out what the first step is and do it, however small, within 24 hours, if not right away.

    Because you’ve put yourself in the mindset of an extraordinary goal, you become aware of opportunities toward completing the goal that you might have otherwise missed had you not committed to the big goal in the first place.

  5. says

    Great Post Joel. Anyone, anywhere achieving great things – achieving the seemingly impossible are not doing it with moderation. Thank You.

  6. Dan says

    Joel I like your philosophies, but you’re leaving out some key points that I think make up the whole picture. Let me make a disclaimer; I love your blog and in no way do I intend this post to be insulting.

    There are more important things in life than taking cold showers or completing an iron man. While both undoubtably impressive, and beneficial to your state of mental fortitude; neither will make an unhappy person happy, a lonely person less lonely, or help a sinner become a saint.

    My point is that you are spot on in the being successful, mental toughness, breaking your physical/mental barriers area. However, most of what you talk about does not truly have an end result.

    Yeah you run an ultra marathon barefoot, cool. Now what? What was the point? The ultimate feeling of achievement is meaning. I would highly recommend a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” written by Viktor Frankl in which the author chronicles his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II.

    It’s a real eye opener. Without true meaning (which you will come to find out is “other” focused) your a hamster on a wheel. Your running but going nowhere, and accomplishing nothing. There is a reason the definition of healthy includes physical, mental, and spiritual well being.

    Love your blog it’s motivating, just something to think on.

    • says

      Also, it’s worth noting – I don’t say anywhere that I have the answers. I’m not a “life coach” and I’m not trying to “make an unhappy person happy, a lonely person less lonely, or help a sinner become a saint.” I’m sharing my story of finding my limits as a human being & trying to get others to do the same (my preferred method is through physical challenges).

      As to a couple of your points:

      “There is a reason the definition of healthy includes physical, mental, and spiritual well being.” <– I would say every activity I've done on the blog has contributed to an increase in all 3 of those categories. If you think physical challenges are purely physical, I would strongly, strongly disagree with you.

      "Your running but going nowhere, and accomplishing nothing." <– I think my lazy, out of shape, fire-from-UPS-self from 3 years ago would disagree with you pretty strongly about this as well. I'm not trying to be combative at all, but I think if you look back through the story of the blog, you’d get a very different impression.

      • Dan says

        I’ve read everything you cited.

        I don’t disagree about the benefits of pushing yourself past your perceived physical limits (which like you stated are actually mental limits) on your overall health and confidence. Or that achieving something so far out of your comfort zone it would be labelled “impossible” makes you mentally stronger, more confident, more resilient ect. Actually like I said I agree with all of the things you write and they are extremely motivating and inspirational.

        Nor was I critiquing how you write your blog, which I know from following it that you are not very fond of. I wasn’t asking you to switch your focus to being a life coach. You took my post as an attack on your blog which it wasn’t.

        I was just trying to give you something to think on, and recommend a reading that I thought you would find inspirational. I did say your blog’s philosophy is a little one dimensional, but that’s just my random guy opinion and your not a life coach.

        On one final note, I only take the time to write all this because I love your blog and appreciate you sharing your motivation.


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