Need Motivation? Look to Your Ancestors

Updated 27th Jan 2013: My Nan slipped away just after the new year. She was 93, the only grandparent I ever knew, and we were close.

At Christmas when I was a child she used to say to me with a smile and love in her eyes, “you don’t know how lucky you are.” It would be many years before I understood what this meant.

Life Motivation


There are few things that give me the same kick up the arse I need when I’m unmotivated or pessimistic about things than when reflecting on the lives that my Grandparents and Great-Grandparents led.

All the comforts of the 21st century make it easy to forget where we came from. Sometimes we just need an attitude shift, some reminder to put things in perspective.

Think back to when you were told stories of, or try to imagine the different lives yours would have had. Compare with how comfortably we are living now.

Anytime I think something’s tough I just think about my Grandfather and his father. Both coal miners. Neither of them saw daylight during winter. The area they worked and lived in is said to have been the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Mordor’ in The Lord of the Rings.

My grandmother, 92 this week, the youngest of 9 siblings, shared this great anecdote from her childhood.

“My father used to go into the mine with his bread and butter sandwiches everyday. When he came home, black as the ace of spades, he’d share a little piece of those soot-stained sandwiches he had saved us from his lunch. If we were lucky, they were banana sandwiches and those were the best banana sandwiches I ever tasted!”

That right there gives me the power to know I can do anything.

This is not extreme in any sense. I’m not trying to make them out to be heroes. That was just life, a life that was really not so long ago. I’m sure if you look into your family past, you will find examples not too far from this one. Anyone involved in one of the world wars, or any other war for that matter? Asked them what life was like at that time? We’re obviously genetically made of dealing with tougher stuff than the circumstances we’re used to currently living with.

Things in Perspective

I’m sick of hearing people give me chat about how they can’t do it. Frankly, to suggest it is down to the gods of genetics is just plain rude to all the obese people that worked hard and got slim, and all the skinny people that busted their nuts and packed on some lean muscle. Can’t is a load of horse-shit. The latest research backs this. Let’s be honest, these people can’t be bothered. If they took a moment to reflect on the lives of their ancestors, they would see they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. And I hope you have realized that you can too.

The “genetic argument” does not make the case for why we are helpless. Rather, it makes a truly compelling case for why our destiny is in our hands.

If you’ve tried in earnest before and failed, I’m not talking to you. I applaud your effort. If you’ve tried and not succeeded, all that says is the way you tried was not optimal. It does not say that powerful options and smart choices do not exist. They do. Let’s find them. Commit to designing your best life and commit to living it. I’ll help any way I can.

All the information you need is here, written out in great detail, but you’ve got to meet me halfway and bring the right attitude to the table.

In or out.

Either choose to make the change or don’t.

I’m good either way. Really it’s fine. But please don’t sit on the fence & complain. People don’t want to hear it. Especially this guy:


Thanks for reading.

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

I am the founder of, this is my sincere effort to build the best nutrition and training guides on the internet. Some readers hire me to coach them, which I've been doing online, via email, for the last six years. If you're interested in individualized, one-on-one nutrition and training coaching to help you crush your physique goals, let's start the conversation.

21 Comments on “Need Motivation? Look to Your Ancestors”

  1. Michael Arrieta says:

    Hi Andy, do you have a list of people out there who are like-minded giving advice like yours? There’s a lot of sources and yours is a no BS one – it’d be great to know off the bat who you’d recommend (obviously guys like Alan Aragon who you’ve worked with) and who to steer clear from (T-nation solid? Layne Norton?)

    1. Hi Michael, sure. I’ve got a list of recommendations here.

  2. Matt says:

    My great-grandad was in The Battle of The Somme for the whole thing. Unfortunately, what he went through there sent him to the bottle and he died from alcohol abuse just 5 years after he returned to England. Not sure what clearing up 1 million dead and injured would do to me, definitely gives me nothing to complain about with the situation I’m in now.

    1. There were many people that went and never fully returned, which if you read the accounts of the conditions, isn’t at all surprising.
      One thing I finished listening to recently is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast – the most recent episodes covering parts of the first world war. Very interesting.

  3. Jordan says:

    Hey Andy! Can you explain to me what might be the causes for my constant physical hunger lately? I been getting little sleep these past few days and eating at different times due to my schedule right now. I also been eating out the last 2 days for dinner. Can these be the causes for my late night and morning hunger? I am usually not hungry during late nights or mornings

    1. Probably sleep. Stress and boredom can both lead to thoughts of food and spike hunger also.

  4. Paloma says:

    Sorry for your loss 🙁
    We are very lucky to have been born in this time and in these wealthy parts of the world.
    My great-grandfather and his wife were stuck in Madrid during our Spanish Civil War. He spent all 3 years that the siege endured wandering along the streets for not to be killed as he was accused to support the other part (only because he was catholic and not republican). His wife had to struggle to feed their 3 little children (the oldest of them was my grandmother, she used to tell me that everybody had a very elegant physique those days, that nobody is genetically fat). They would eat whatever they could, bred rabbits at home and dream for a bone to make a broth.
    Short before the end of the siege he was caught and went to jail, died there very soon of tuberculosis. So my great-grandmother was widowed when she was only 30 years old.

  5. Why Training Hard, Rather Than Smart, Will Keep You Fat This New Year. | says:

    […] Motivation […]

  6. Christopher A. says:

    What are the rules to break fat/weight loss stalls? I’ve tried a few things. I’m losing motivation.

    1. 1. Adjustment of macros.
      2. General reduction of calorie intake.
      3. Diet Break.
      Those have got to be the top three.
      Cardio is in a distant fourth.

      1. Christopher A. says:

        5. Lose retained water.
        That seemed to help. And a 3wk (2+1wk) /total/ break.

        But I’m stressed on cut days and before workouts. I’m guessing either too low calorie or carb.

        How do you adjust macros?

        1. There is no simple answer to that Chris.

  7. よくある質問 | says:

    […] 投稿ナビゲーション ← 前へ 次へ → […]

  8. […] No. Man up. If your great-grandfather were here to see the comparative ‘life of plenty’ that you are living right now, what do you think he would say about this? More in this article. […]

  9. […] No. Man up. If your great-grandfather were here to see the comparative ‘life of plenty’ that you are living right now, what do you think he would say about this? More in this article. […]

  10. johntm says:

    >grandpa had to wake up early to milk cows before school and do farm work as a kid
    >other grandpa did similar
    >both fought in the military
    dammit, I just worked out. Now I want to go do some more because I feel like a pussy.

  11. Grandfather got his first job as a delivery boy aged 12. Rode his bike around doing deliveries 10 hours a day until he was 20 when he joined the Army and ended up serving as a paratrooper ultimately surviving the whole war.

    I can’t compete with that but I am damn well going to try.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Love stories like this.

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