Take Hold Of The Flame

by Danny Kavadlo on July 18, 2017

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FREAKSHOW Danny Kavadlo

Recently I received an email from a friendly fitness follower. This is what he asked: “Hey, Danny, how do you stay so motivated?” Well thanks for asking! But the truth is: I don’t!

That’s right. I don’t.

There is a fire burning deep within me. It’s in you too! This fire makes me move, helps me survive the night and execute what I must. But this fire is not motivation. There are days when I wake up and I simply don’t know what the hell.

  • How am I going to pay my bills?
  • How can I be a better man?
  • A better trainer?
  • How am I going to feed my son and go on another day?
  • And those damn pull-ups…. When can I find the time?

To evoke the California thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, “How can I laugh tomorrow when I can’t even smile today?”

Sometimes I’m terrified—not motivated at all—but very afraid. Yet somehow, I keep a roof over my head. I work. I cook breakfast. I pay my bills and take my kid to school. And, yes, I do the damn pull-ups. But it has nothing to do with motivation.

The fire within is dedication.

If I waited for motivation to strike, I wouldn’t do much of anything. My mortgage would go unpaid. My bathroom would be filthy. I’d go days without showering. I certainly wouldn’t work out half as much as I want to or need to. It’s not that I’m lazy—it’s that I’m real and I acknowledge the fact that tasks take effort.

A fire burns deep within us all, but it’s not motivation. Take hold of the flame!

A fire burns deep within us all, but it’s not motivation. Take hold of the flame!

And I’m NOT sorry to admit, as I type these keys on a rainy Friday morning, that I’m not motivated at all. Instead, I’m accountable. I said I’d write this damn blog and I’m doing it, whether I feel like it or not.

The fire within is discipline. 

We live in the hash-tag generation, kids. Everything is #motivationmonday or #flexfriday. Well, Danny’s here to tell you that’s a bunch of jive! Do not wait for #motivationmonday! Do not wait for motivation any day!

These slogans are designed to inspire, which of course is a good thing. I’d never deny that. But motivation comes once in a blue moon. It’s the great, white whale of lore—an incredible beast to behold—but don’t base your life on trying to capture it, or your life may pass you by. Discipline is accessible every day, while motivation comes and goes.

A fire burns deep within us all, but it’s not motivation. Take hold of the flame and shout at the devil!

A fire burns deep within us all, but it’s not motivation. Take hold of the flame and shout at the devil!

You do the things you choose to do because you care. You do the work every day, whether you’re motivated or not, because it’s important to you. Be leery of #inspirational memes from people you never heard of (or even memes from me.)

The only truth is the truth that takes place in the real world. Virtual reality is not reality and social media is not social. Do not count on others to motivate you. Be determined and take care of what you must.

The fire within is determination.

Are you “motivated” to brush your teeth? Do you jump up and say “Hellyeah! It’s teeth time!” Or are you dedicated because it’s important for your quality of life? Are you “motivated” to pay your rent, or do you do it because you don’t want to live on the street and eat out of a trash can? Are you “motivated” to go to the DMV when you have to renew your license?

You see where I’m going with this, right? In the end, motivation is overrated. It’s an illusion. The fire within comes from you, not from any external force. It’s your own dedication, discipline and determination. And the flame is strong.

So stand up, calisthenics brothers and sisters, my family and friends! Be strong, and take hold of the flame!


Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s leading authorities on calisthenics, nutrition and personal training. He is the author of several best-selling Dragon Door titles including GET STRONG and STRENGTH RULES. Danny has been featured in the New York Times, Men’s Fitness, and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to Bodybuilding .com and TRAIN magazine. When not working one-on-one with clients in his native New York City, Danny travels the world as a Master Instructor in Dragon Door’s internationally acclaimed Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Find out more about Danny at www.DannyTheTrainer.com

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  • Danny,

    This is an epic post and it’s about so much more than just training! Lots of humility here as well, as it would be easy for you to fake the ‘you have it all figured out’ attitude as so many of us do.

    You and Al are inspirations and mentors to many (me included) but you’re never afraid to let the human side come through in your words. You keep it real. That’s rare.

    If this was you writing on an unmotivated day, I really look forward to the motivated day’s writing!

    Keep doing your thing, the world is a better place with some Kavadlo wisdom in it.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      My friend Carl,
      Funny you should mention having it “all figured out.” Part of the reason I wrote this was because I was growing tired of seeing Instagram trainers half my age and one tenth my experience, posting as if they had all the wisdom in the world. No one has it all figured out! Like I said, there are days when I simply don’t know what the Hell! I mean those words and it’s important for us to know we’re all human, sometimes confused or unmotivated, all trying to survive the night and make a difference in this sometimes wicked world. It’s called having a soul. No one has it figured out, not even on #motivationmonday.
      Thanks for caring, brother. Stay strong,

  • You write excellent articles Danny.

    I believe the time to look over the horizon & formulate long term ambitions is when relaxed & happy. Between now & the completion of the ambition exists activity. When engaged in the training/practice/activity I resolve to think only of the rep in hand. Realizing that sometimes even the most motivated person can be daunted by the enormity of the task ahead, I develop habits which are like inertia – it’s more comfortable to continue doing them then not to bother. When circumstances interrupt my plans,a flexibility of thinking looks for alternatives. Isometrics can be done sitting on a train (or anywhere) & we all know that it’s only convention that prevents more people from practising some simple calisthenics on the street furniture. I’m mostly able to ignore convention & be laughed & stared at in order to catch some more reps. On days of abject laziness my daily minimum saves me from myself – 10 free squats whilst brushing teeth both ends of the day gives 140 a week. A 10 breath wrestlers bridge & 5 minute isometric hold of the powerlifters stretch at bedtime no matter what has made a big difference. Knowing that doing this daily minimum has improved my mobility & healed long term injuries had made it easier to persevere & build upon more often than not.

    Still regularly show people the Sunk Cost Fallacy Danny – the best article for living healthily ever written in my opinion.



    • Danny Kavadlo

      Wow Dan!
      So great to hear from you and THANKS for the kind words. You and I are a lot alike and I totally hear what you’re saying. Sometimes looking to far ahead is daunting as you said. It helps to be in the resent: one rep at a time, one set at a time, one rep at a time. Always great to hear from you my friend.
      Keep the dream alive,

  • James A. Steinhagen

    Great article Danny!

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Thanks James!

  • Jack Arnow

    Great article Danny, telling it like it is, from your heart! Hope to get together soon.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Thanks Jack! Always from the heart! Yes we got hang soon!

  • Edward Sullivan

    From our English class: Danny, we liked the article especially when you talk about accountability and discipline and how motivated, inspired people don’t give up. Every day we have an a opportunity to do what we like. Thanks again. Miriam and Edward

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Thanks Edward and Miriam.
      I appreciate your comment! Stay Strong!

  • Yup. I hardly ever “want” to work out. But then I visualize what I’ll look like in 10 years if I stop now, and I get my ass up and do it anyway. Motivation is overrated.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Het Daniel!
      How you been, man! Yup motivation is overrated. It’s all about action in the present!

      • I’ve been good, dude! And BTW the worst thing is sprinting – I’ve literally only wanted to sprint like once in my life. I hate it. But I visualize a sabertooth tiger is chasing after me and I just DO IT. ‘Cause our paleo ancestors didn’t have the luxury of sitting around on their couches all day.

        • Danny Kavadlo


  • Hoyos

    “Motivation” isn’t real. When you see a direct connection between an action and something you actually want, how hard is it to be motivated? Actually want, mind you, not think you want or should want. Danny actually wants to feed his kids, I’m sure he doesn’t even have to think about it.

    Don’t get me wrong, inspiration is real but if you have to psyche yourself up too much, you probably don’t even want it and that’s OK. Alternatively, it could be something you want, you’re just pushing way too hard too fast. #YOLO = #IToreMyACL

    Just chill and do what you enjoy and listen to your body. Stop trying to force nature.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Agreed–the thing is to do it even when you’re NOT psyched up!
      Keep the dream alive!

  • Dan Söderberg

    I know i fkn need it just like i need to eat drinkjust like i need to breath sure i force myself sometimes BUT I NEED TO MOVE i dont know if thats a different way to say kind of the same thing tgreat article

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Hey Dan
      Great to hear from you friend! Yes, we NEED to move. Sadly, this is often overlooked…. but not by US!
      Stay strong,

      • Dan Söderberg

        kavadlo bros matt red delta rebel possibly coach mr overcoming gravity himself should create the encyclopedia of calisthenics an overview i dont know if that ever be possible but it would be nice with one allpurpose book that said if you looking for strengh but on the otherhand if your looking for hypertrophy and discussions of methods

  • Matthew

    Great post Danny much needed, as I am struggling through some long term injuries, sometimes basic squats movements are so dam hard. I’ve always wondered what keeps me going.The fire within!! I realise now everyone struggles in their own way, and everyone is unique. I”ve never been motivated by you tube clips and social media. It seems like it has become a popularity contest on the net and how they can better each other. Thanks for keeping it real.

    • Hey hey hey, Matthew! PCC is returning to Australia for 2 events this November! Follow this link for info on all our upcoming events: https://www.dragondoor.com/workshops/pccworkshop/

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Hey Matthew,
      Keeping it real is all we got in this mad, mad world. Thanks for the support!
      Keep the dream alive,

  • Marcus

    Timely post Danny…
    If I waited until I felt like doing things, very little would get done.
    Instead, it’s 12pm time to do my practice.
    I don’t think about it, I just get up and do it.
    Sounds simple.
    It is.
    But that don’t mean it’s easy =)
    Thanks for the reminder!

    P.S. To quote Inky Johnson: “Commitment is staying true to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left.”

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Hey Marcus!
      So true: simple and easy are two very different things. That’s a great quote by the way! Thanks for sharing it!
      Talk soon my friend,

  • Dan Söderberg

    to me determination and dedication gets easier the more you apply it its the diffrence of like cleanin a rome that is cleaned every week compared to one who has not been clean for 18 years thing one do on regular basis grows on you so for me its a question to get those good habits created by my sweat going finally it comes natural to me so friends listen to danny and stay on that good track time will make it grow on you

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Agreed. Like with many things in life, when you incorporate them consistently, they become a part of you.

  • Paramesvara Dasa

    Great article, Danny. As always, your thoughts about exercise and life are great food for thought.

    One thing I wanted to add relates to the role inspiration can play. While I completely agree with you about the primacy of discipline and integrity in accomplishing an activity, it is my opinion that inspiration plays a necessary role in this process.

    For example, my primary mode of exercise is old school calisthenics. I don’t lift weights, do yoga, or engage in any of the other myriad exercise modalities that exist. I train calisthenics, and I train alone. I was inspired to do this through my discovery of CC 1 and then learning about you and your brother, among others. Since that time, my scope has broadened, but it was definitely that book (and you and Al) that lit the fuse.

    For some, the idea of training alone, using minimal-to-no equipment, and focusing on specific (and oftentimes difficult) goals measured in terms of increased reps/sets and improved efficiency is a complete and total turnoff. They are inspired by the barbell, bumper plates, chalk bag, and all the rest. They are inspired by exercising in a social setting (which I find to be inherently contradictory, because to me exercise is essentially anti-social. Whatever).

    Anyway, I realize this is a somewhat long-winded digression, but I felt compelled to present this idea. First comes the inspiration to follow a certain mode of expression, and then discipline drives us to continue on in this manner, regardless of our feelings. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Keep on keeping on; what you do inspires a lot of people and helps bolster their discipline. Cheers.

    • Danny Kavadlo

      Hello. It’s great to hear from you again. And I appreciate the long comment!!

      I agree about inspiration being important. However at the end of the day we can’t depend on anyone for anything… except ourselves! So while it’s great to be inspired by others, what is given can be taken away. The fire is within. Take hold if the flame!

      • Dan Söderberg

        enjoy inspiration when it comes but never rely on it

  • You write an awesome article Danny. My shoulder was badly injuried several years ago. Lazy workout!! Almost no workouts for 02 years. One day, I realized that I could not prevent my weight from continuously increasing.! I started to workout and workout. So far, I’m good and be able to do calisthenics =). Yep, motivation is overrated

  • Hoby Hittson

    F@&king word, bro!

    • Danny Kavadlo


  • Jason

    Damn, that was some good reading right there! Thank you for dropping some truth bombs on me!

  • Ansley Que

    This post is just LIT AF man

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