Finding pleasure in the beneficial action

I hypothesized yesterday that a critical factor in Malcolm Gladwell’s success as a writer is the amount of pleasure he takes in the pursuit of interesting ideas. The reason is that what we take pleasure in we do often. What gets rewarded gets repeated. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the greatest body builders of all time. He won the Mr Olympia championship 7 times (the record is 8). He was absolutely jacked back in the day. 

How does someone get muscles that big? You’d need an ungodly amount of discipline. Unless… here’s what Schwarzenegger had to say in a 1977 interview: 

The greatest feeling you can get or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let’s say you’re training your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that’s what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute. It’s really tight; it’s like somebody blowing air into your muscle. It just blows up and it feels different.

It feels fantastic. It’s as satisfying to me as coming is. As having sex with a woman and coming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I’m getting the feeling of coming in the gym, I’m getting the feeling of coming at home, I’m getting the feeling of coming back stage when I pump up, when I pose in front of five thousand people I get the feeling. So I’m coming day and night. It’s terrific. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron

For young Arnold, lifting weights was as pleasurable as an orgasm. In that case, it kinda makes sense that he was as jacked as he was. 

If we want to get good at something, we had better do it a lot. If we want to do it a lot, it had better be pleasurable. The challenge, then, is to cultivate a sense of pleasure in the things that are good for us.