Friday, May 5, 2017

Desire, The Secret of Success - John McCallum (1967)

Originally Published in This Issue (April, 1967) 

Once upon a time there were three young men who had trained  together for a year and a half. Their progress had been good for a while, but lately their gains had stopped and they worried about it as young men will do. They got talking about it one night in the gym.

The first young man finished a set of curls and dropped the weight. "Man," he said. "That gets tiring." 

The other two agreed.

"It wouldn't be so bad," he said, "if anything happened." He flexed an arm and frowned at it. "But that rascal hasn't budged in the last six months." 

The other two agreed again.

The first young man collapsed on a bench. "We gotta be doing something wrong." 

They sat there for a while and thought about it. "I don't think so," said the second young man. "We're getting good instruction." 

"But we ain't getting no muscles," said the third young man. "Like something's goofy."

"Like what?" said the second young man. "We're doing the same exercises everybody does. Other guys make Mr. America on this program." 

The first young man walked over to a mirror and looked at himself. "I wouldn't care about Mr. America," he said. "I'd like to win any contest."

"How about Queen For a Day?" said the second young man. "You might do okay in that."

The first young man was too discouraged to argue about it. He walked glumly back to the bench. 'It don't make no sense," he said. "If the other guys make progress, then why don't we?"

"It's secrets," said the third young man. "They don't teach you all the secrets. They're afraid everybody'll get to look as good as they do."  

"I dunno," said the second young man. "Everybody says there ain't no secrets."

"Not everybody," said the third young man. He went to his locker and came back with a muscle magazine. "This outfit says there's lots of secrets and they got 'em all." He rifled through the pages. "They say their pupils get all the inside dope."

"I don't think so," said the second young man. He pointed to the gym owner's office. "He don't think too much of that bunch."

"Maybe he's jealous," said the third young man.

The second young man thought about it. "Look," he said. "Let's go ask him about this secrets bit. We oughta know about it if there are any."

They all agreed, so they got up and trooped into the gym owner's office.

The gym owner looked up when they entered and smiled pleasantly. "Evening fellas," he said. "You're not through already?"

"No," said the first young man. "Fact is we got a problem."

"We thought maybe you could help," said the second young man.

"Yeah," said the third young man. He held up the magazine. "Have you read this?"

The gym owner looked at it. "No," he said. "I haven't."

"There's something we wanta know about," said the third young man. "It's about secrets."

"Secrets?" said the gym owner. "What secrets?"

"I'll read it to you," said the third young man. "Listen." He cleared his throat and read. "Get the training secrets of the champions to shock-blast your body into thrilling mountains of sculptured steel!"

The gym owner sat very still for a moment while a glazed look came over his eyes. "Shock-blast?" he said.

"Right," said the third young man. "Shock-blast."

"Into thrilling mounds of what?"

"Mountains," said the third young man. "Of sculptured steel."

"How does that grab ya?" asked the first young man.

"Well," said the gym owner. "My first impulse is to throw up. However, if you . . ."

"Just a minute," interrupted the third young man. "What about the secrets?"

The gym owner rubbed his hand wearily across his forehead. "Fellas," he said. "There aren't any training secrets. That's just an advertising gimmick."

"You're sure?" said the third young man.


"Then how come we don't make progress anymore?"

"Yeah," said the second young man. "Like we been stopped for months now."

The gym owner thought about it a moment. "Fellas," he said. "I'm wrong. There is one secret."

The three young men exchanged I-told-you-so looks.

"Just one?" said the first young man.

"Just one," said the gym owner.

"What's that?"


The three young men looked wide-eyed at each other and then back to the gym owner.

"How's that, dad?" said the first young man.

"Desire," said the gym owner. "That's the one and only secret of success." He leaned forward in his chair. "The burning desire to build your body into what it can be. If you've got that desire you'll improve on any program. If you haven't got it, you'll bog down no matter what you do."

"Just a minute," said the second young man. "That can't be. We got lots of desire but we ain't improving at all."

"Right," said the third young man. "Like we're in a rut."

"Fellas," said the gym owner. "You're in a rut all right. But you haven't got the kind of desire I'm talking about. You just think you have. If you had it you wouldn't be in a rut."

"But we got desire," insisted the second young man. "We wouldn't be training if we didn't."

"You got some desire," said the gym owner. "But not enough," he shifted around in his chair. "You see, fellas," he said, "anyone can build up as much as you have. Most trainees do. But if you want to progress on to much more you've got to make sacrifices and you've got to put out. That's where the kind of desire I'm talking about comes in."

The second young man opened his mouth to speak but the gym owner beat him to it.

"Take the simple matter of actually lifting the weights. You know you got to work up into heavy poundages to make good progress, but you just can't do it without desire." He looked at the second young man. "How much are you using in the curl?"

"Eighty pounds," said the second young man. "For five reps."

"That's not enough."

The young man looked hurt. "It's not so bad."

"It's lousy," said the gym owner. "Look." He rummaged around in his desk drawer and pulled out a photograph. "You see this kid?"

The young man looked at the picture.

"He uses seventy pounds for five reps in the curl," said the gym owner. He pointed at the second young man. "That's ten pounds less than you use, and this kid's only eleven years old." 

The second young man blinked. "What's his name? Robin?"  

"His name's Drew Nosworthy," said the gym owner. "He lives in Long Beach."  

The young men looked at the picture again. "Eleven?"

"Eleven," said the gym owner. "Eleven years old and he lifts practically as much as you do."

The young men were quiet for a moment so the gym owner continued. "There's no use kidding yourself you're going to make progress if you're using weights an eleven year old kid can lift. You got to lift heavy and you got to have a consuming desire to do it."

The young men looked sheepish. "Maybe we ain't been trying hard enough."

"There's no maybe about it," said the gym owner. "You haven't been trying anywhere near hard enough. You got to whip up your desire to lift weights like your life depended on it."

"What about for gaining weight?" asked the third young man. "Like I don't care about being Batman, I just wanta gain weight."

"Same thing," said the gym owner. "Gaining weight takes desire. Especially if you want to gain a lot of weight."

He studied the young men. "I told you guys about weight gaining supplements. Are you taking them?"

"Sure," said the second young man. "Most of the time."

"Most of the time isn't enough," said the gym owner. "You gotta take them all the time."

He leaned forward and tapped his finger on the desk. "I told you fellas about the "Get Big Drink". You're supposed to be drinking two quarts of it. Are you?"

"Sometimes," said the first young man.

"Two quarts?"

"I guess not," said the first young man. "That's a lot to drink."

"I know it's a lot to drink," said the gym owner. "It's supposed to be a lot. But you won't gain fast without it and don't kid yourselves you will."

"It's a nuisance to mix," said the second young man. "You gotta admit."

"Sure it's a nuisance," said the gym owner. "For that matter lifting weights is a nuisance. Gaining weight's gotta be worth it to you. That's where desire comes in again. You gotta have enough desire to overcome the petty nuisances. You gotta have enough desire so that building a herculean body is the most important thing in the world to you. Then you'll make the progress you want."

"Like it's our own fault, you mean?" said the second young man. "We don't gain cause we don't want to badly enough?"

"Right" said the gym owner.

"So what do we do?" said the third young man.

The gym owner stood up and stretched. "I'll tell you what to do, fellas. Give it up for tonight. Go home and get a good night's sleep." He sat down again. "But think about it during your days off. Whip up your desire. Make up your mind that when you come back you're going to work out like never before. Make up your mind that you're going to start lifting man-sized weights. Make up your mind that you're going to start taking all the supplements and take them regularly. Make up your mind that you're going to improve and keep on improving till you've got the body you want."

The three young men were quiet for a moment and then they thanked him and turned to go. They were going out the door when the third young man hurried back and held the muscle magazine gingerly above the waste basket. "Do you mind?"

"Not at all," said the gym owner. "Toss 'er in."

The third young man dropped the magazine into the waste basket and walked out the door, closing it softly behind him.   



Anonymous said...

I wonder what the Master Blaster's reaction to this article was.

giveitaname said...

Hahaha . . . so did I! McCallum's got too much class to come right out and say it, but anyone reading the article knows where he's directing the complaint. It comes up quite often in this Keys series, and I don't think it was just the Strength & Health party line he was following at the time.

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