Ryan Murphy: The Power of Routines (and Being Able to Roll with the Punches)

Michael Butler
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“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

  • Mike Tyson, boxer
  • “Mine was a well-thought-out tactical plan, then I got hit.”
  • Rocky Marciano, boxer
  • “We can’t even see the punch coming, never mind be prepared for it.”
  • Pete Holmes, comedian and actor

I love this quote from Holmes. He made it when he was sharing the story of his book, You Are Okay.

I like how he’s framing being punched as just a natural part of life. Just something that happens no matter how careful you are. This kind of perspective makes you think differently about things that come up.

So all of a sudden, if you’re planning for a big launch of a new thing you’ve been working on, and the big launch doesn’t work out because something totally unexpected happens, then “punch in the face” is a good thing.

Don’t plan for perfect conditions.

Make your routines flexible enough to roll with the punches.

You’ve likely heard the idea of setting goals that are smaller and more manageable for yourself. Certainly, easier said than done. To proceed, you need to identify small and realistic achievable goals along the way that will keep you going. If you need a little help with knowing what those goals are, Ryan Murphy of Squad Fitness can help.

  • Losing too much weight too quickly is a recipe for failure, so think of using exercise and nutrition as tools for progress and not the final solution.
  • Listen to your body. If it’s sore, give it a rest. You’ll be less likely to skip a workout and more likely to stick with it.
  • Being flexible with exercise also helps you stick with it. If you’ve set a goal for 7 days a week, that’s great. But if you’re not feeling well one day and want to rest, go ahead and skip the workout. Then come back to it the following day.
  • Being flexible with eating better helps you keep it up as well. Listen to you body and your mind.

Have basic contingencies for the important stuff .

Have a contingency plan for the little stuff too. Murphy related this to improv comedy classes: “If it’s a choice between improvising and being totally lost those two things are 180 degrees apart,” he said. “Number one, you have to be prepared, which takes practice and sort of burrowing into a good beginning, middle, and end.”

He compared having a contingency plan for dealing with all kinds of variables to being a musician who can play all kinds of different instruments. “I’m really good at telling that story and making it funny or I’ll play the guitar or sing or whatever,” he said. “I’m not all of those things but I can be any of those things with three days of practice.”

Keep your plans and routines simple to avoid disruption .

The most successful people are the ones that never worry about the unexpected. They have routines that they follow each day because they aren’t working from a detailed list. They know that they are doing the right things for their health and careers. As long as they are working on the right things, they have the ability to roll with the punches.

For example, if you have a 90 day plan and everything is going well, you know that you’ll get results within this time frame. If there is something that comes out of left field – an unexpected obstacle or setback – you can check with your schedule, and make the proper changes.

Your plans should be process-focused and not result-focused .

You should have a daily routine and a weekly routine. Both of these routines should be process-focused instead of result-focused. This sounds great in theory, but it’s really hard to do.

Here’s why: when you finish a task, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. This reward makes you want to do that same task again. Combine that with the psychology of loss aversion, and you have yourself a sticky habit. The loss aversion tendency explains that people are more likely to take action to prevent losing something good than to gain something rewarding.

This also explains why it’s easier to keep the chain going than to get it started. Even though you know that it will feel good to start exercising, you may avoid it to continue doing other things that are comfortable, such as sleeping late and sitting on the couch watching TV. Once you get the chain going, however, you’re likely to maintain it because you don’t want to experience the feeling of self-defeat that comes from skipping a day.

The way to get started is to focus on building a new habit of getting one thing done a day. It might be hard to get started, so do what you can to make it as easy as possible.

Take a big breath and take things one at a time.

My name is Ryan Murphy. I’m a competitive rock climber and training for the World Cup circuit. I had a pretty hectic start to the year with High School Graduation and being a senior (which I am still not sure how I survived).

Anyway, rock climbing is really my life. I love climbing and I would do it over everything. I can’t imagine a life without climbing in it.

Although it may have felt like it took you ages to get there, you’ve finally become a teenager! And fresh from the celebration of your 13th birthday, here you are ready to tackle all of the exciting things that come with your getting older. As you grow older, you begin to get a better idea of who you are. The teenage years are a time when you start to develop opinions about what you like and dislike. For some it’s music, for a few others it’s sports, and some are interested in the opposite sex. The possibilities are endless. Although it may feel like you’re the only one growing up, you are definitely not. Your friends and even your siblings are all going through the same experiences.

Prepare for adversity by chasing it each day .

Hollywood writer Ryan Murphy once said the following:

“Life is all about sticky habits. You do the same thing every day, and at the end of your life, it’s what you’ve done every single goddamn day.”

In other words, Murphy believes that habits are the key to a productive and successful life. As he said in an interview for a software company:

“I know that the routine stuff is going to work out fine for me. So if a studio gives me notes, I’m like, ‘Yes, okay. Are you going to pay me to write this?’ Because the work is going to get done. I won’t leave the house. I will perfect it.”

Murphy’s belief in a daily routine, and his ability to accept criticism and stay focused on the work, goes back to his college years at Carnegie Mellon University. At the time, he was a stage actor who’d taken a directing class and loved it. His interest in directing led to an opportunity to make a student film off-campus. It was a huge break for a student project.

Avoid the urge to go full-blown “woe is me.”

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Sure, Murphy’s story is a Cinderella tale. But the lessons it teaches us are just as valuable: No matter what comes your way, keep your eye on your goals. If you’re facing a set-back, a good attitude is almost as important as talent. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

As Murphy says, he had no idea that he’d ever become a successful singer.

But he knew that he loved singing, and he did it anyway. Now he’s selling out venues like the Wiltern, working with huge stars like Katy Perry, and gaining fans by the millions. What can you learn from his rise to fame? Keep following your dreams, and do the work to get the results you want.