February 11

Be Willing To Start With Zero


At the end of September 2016, as a part of my new health routine, I decided to start doing calisthenics. I felt it was important to add strength training to my regimen of walking and healthy eating.

The only piece of equipment I needed in addition to myself was a pull-up bar.

The Problem

I hadn’t done pull-ups since Airborne school in the US Army. Unfortunately, that was 5 years ago. Due to the fact I’m just not good at doing pull-ups, I’ve always opted to do other exercises like weighted pull-downs. Never really working on pull-ups specifically. Luckily, I still had the pull-up bar I bought while in the military.

The day of my first workout, I hung the pull-up bar on the door. Then, I lifted my legs off the ground and with every bit of strength I could muster I attempted to pull myself up several times. When I placed my feet back on the ground to take a rest, I had successfully completed ZERO repetitions of pull-ups.

After two sets of zero, I switched to chin-ups and it was more of the same.

In the military, I was able to do 10 to 15 repetitions at a time. During my first workout at the end of September in 2016, I couldn’t even do one. At the time of this post I’m now able to do 8 repetitions per set for both pull-ups and chin-ups. My goal is now 20 per set. It’s not an easy goal but I’m willing to work for it.

Now, how did I go from doing 0 pull-ups and chin-ups to 8 per set?

Simple. I didn’t quit and I kept trying.

Start With Zero

After failing my first attempts, I could have doubted myself and vowed never to do pull-ups again. It would have been easy to say, “Well, pull-ups and chin-ups just aren’t for me.” Honestly, no one was forcing me to do them and I didn’t have to keep trying, but I did.

I decided quitting would be too easy an escape. Also, I knew if I didn’t get pull-ups right my full body calisthenics workout would be missing something. So, in response to my failure, I went online and looked up, “how to do pull-ups starting with zero.”

As a result, I learned several tips and techniques and I started doing what’s called negatives. I learned every exercise has a negative motion. Negatives for pull-ups are done by stepping on a chair or small ladder and with your chest to the bar, slowly begin lowering yourself to the ground.

I did negatives daily and even though it was hard, the negatives built up my strength. In about 3 weeks I was able to do my first pull-up and chin-up. That’s right, it took about 21 days of consistent effort to get to my first pull-up in years.

Since then, I’ve been able to add several more pull-ups to the mix. Through consistency and diligence, I continue to improve.


Having a willingness to start with zero can be applied anywhere in your life. If your bank account is at zero, figure out how to earn one dollar. If you plan to start a business or a movement, figure out how to get your first customer or follower. At some point everyone starts with zero.

Starting with zero is not the bad part, ending with zero is. 

So, I’d like to make this very clear. I could have easily decided that I was just not able to do pull-ups. I could have never tried again and just skipped over the exercise and its benefits like I had been doing for years. But, I chose otherwise.

I wanted to see if I could actually do it and by proving it to myself, I’ve proven anyone can do it in any area of their life. There is nothing more special about me than you!

The most important thing about all of this was my willingness to be terrible.

“If you are willing to be terrible at something for a short period of time, you can be great at anything.” -Sinbad (Stand-Up Comedian)

To put it simply, I started and I was terrible. But, I chose not to remain that way. I worked at it daily until I was able to do one and I continued to get better from there.

Now, I’ve made it to good and as long as I stay consistent, I will get to great.

Let this be a lesson for anyone interested in becoming great at anything, especially when it comes to health. Be willing to be terrible and don’t be afraid to start with zero. 

Tell us about a situation when you were willing to be terrible. Comment below.


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