Norton: Shrug it off

A friend of mine has spent most of his life in a gym. He has gone from body building to power lifting and then back to body building. He is now in maintenance mode like many his age.

But even now, his shoulders are still very broad and sculpted. When I asked him what he has done over all these years to get that kind of definition and maintain it, he shared this, “I shrug it off.”

At first, I looked at him a bit puzzled. When I asked him to share more about, shrugging it off, and what that meant, I found his answer and philosophy interesting and worth sharing.

Since we were talking about shoulders and working out, I had assumed he meant that he did an exercise known as shoulder shrugs. This is an exercise where we pick up a barbell or dumbbells and raise our shoulders using only our shoulder muscles and not our arms. The move is basically exactly how it is stated, we shrug our shoulders.

He shared that he has always done a lot of shoulder shrugs over the years, and he was very committed to working through several exercises that developed his neck, shoulders and back.

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But then he shared something that he believed was necessary to provide his muscles the room to grow and become more defined, and that was equally, if not more important, than working out. He created the “space” in his body by removing the tension and stress that was holding him back. He shrugged them off.

It took time to realize that he was holding on to too much pain, baggage, anger. And although he came to recognize a few of those emotions were justified, when he learned how not to sweat the small stuff, and shrug off the nonsense, his body responded more favorably, his mind was at ease, and his soul found peace.

And then he connected the dots for me. “When I was carrying all that extra pain, baggage, and anger, and then tried to lift weights, I was trying to lift twice as much because I piled on all those extra burdens on top of the weights. My muscles were too constricted and not developing the way I needed or wanted them to grow. But when I removed the tensions and stressors, my muscles found the freedom they needed to grow. And you know what, that helped me grow as a person on the inside and on the outside.”

How many of us could benefit from shrugging it off more often? Not necessarily in the gym and doing shoulder shrugs, but in life by shrugging off the three N’s; nonsense, negativity and noise. What if we could not worry about what others say or think about us, and instead, just shrug it off? Robin Sharma says it this way: “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” He is absolutely right, sometimes hard to do, but once we get there, it gives us so much freedom.

Robert Elliott, in his book “Is It Worth Dying For?” said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff anyway.” This is what my friend Dan was talking about, not letting the “stuff” pile up on our shoulders, so much so that we have no room to grow.

Some of us have an easier time shrugging everything off. Like water off a duck’s back, comments and criticisms are quickly forgotten, stress and tensions released, and waiting to worry is a standard practice in life. Others of us need a little more encouragement, or some sage advice like I received from my buddy Dan.

Where do you find yourself shaking out on this one? Is it easy to shrug it off? Or are you carrying around too many extra and unnecessary cares and burdens with you? Either way, I would love to hear your story at, and when we can free ourselves up so that we can grow personally, professionally, and spiritually, it really will be a better than good year.

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