In a life of elevated expectations and uncommon perspectives certain inherent differences between you and everybody else become abundantly obvious. In many matters that matter of fact and existence, people from the same place and background can often see the world in ways that are vastly dissimilar.

Over time, you come to realize that “everything is relative”. One man’s mountain apex in the clouds is the next man’s deepest valley—treasure vs trash, as they say, depending on the very particular perspective of those two dudes. For that reason, while I am confident in my tastes and expectations, proud of who I am and what I’m becoming, I do my best to take measures so as to not impose my particular standards on everyone else.

That’s always been an important balancing act… To reserve judgment on everyone but yourself. To be just one of the boys, while striving to live in a manner unbound by the ordinary. To have the humility to understand that you’re intrinsically no better than any human being on this planet, but to know that within you resides the soul of a king. Your metric for gauging success, happiness and every other virtue, vice or value is entirely individual—for you and only you to live with and live by.

As is so often the case, the gym is a perfect metaphor for this personal perspective. All of the factors within those walls, with weights in hand, are completely relative. What it is to “train hard” or to “be strong” are all in the eye of the beholder. And dependent on the conditional comparing and contrasting being applied in that instance. This too is a balancing act in terms of perspective… To not measure yourself against your peers, but instead your own ideal. To be aware of who you are and how far you’ve come, without ever settling. The goal must be to achieve the greatest incarnation of yourself, on that day, on your terms. Compare yourself to your best, to the best, and settling is no longer an option. Sure, I appreciate the progress I’ve made, doing it my way with the weights. But I’m never all too impressed with myself. With Levrone, Kaz, Flex or Arnold in your mind’s eye, you’re forever a work in progress. And that’s the whole idea.

The big fish in the small pond eventually outgrows the ecosystem in which it lives. Over time, the available algae and plankton are no longer enough to sustain him. At this point, he must traverse a treacherous tributary into a bigger body of water. Or die where he was born. For some fish, a regal existence within the confines of the small pond is enough. For others, knowledge that the sea exists will leave them forever longing to know if within them lies the capacity to eat like a whale. And it is worth the risk of starving, or being devoured by a shark, to find out.

I remember times in my life when my perspective on “success” was so varied, yet so simple. I had the self-assured audacity to dream of running my own enterprises, of having the finer things, of living life on my own terms. And I was constantly chipping away at it, doing whatever work I thought was necessary. At the same time, “success” on a practical level could once have been distilled down to the modest thought that Tara and I wouldn’t have to work on a Saturday night… Or that I would make enough money to get the bills paid with food in the fridge before the next direct deposit dropped. I had paycheck to paycheck pockets with private jet perspective. But that vivid vision of doing better and being more was a driving force during hard times. Some stressful days, it was all I had.

Our outlook ultimately determines our reality. How we perceive our life will dictate our happiness. As such, I’ve found my take on relativity to be less a theory. And more a fact of life. One you don’t need to be Einstein to understand. If the universe you care about ends at the stop sign at the end of your block, conquering the world is easy. If being the biggest dude at your neighborhood fitness center is your Olympia stage, then the Sandow statue is already yours. Remember, it is all in the eye of the beholder. Successful, rich, big, strong, happy, sexy, smart. These are all relative terms. One man’s dream woman is the next man’s bitter ex… One dude’s dream job, a cold yoke upon his neighbor’s neck, tethering him to the rocky soil… Your sound judgment, my gutless abandonment of all that I hold dear. Remember, it is all relative.