Before I performed my first human flag, the move seemed like it was totally out of my reach—totally out of my world. I'd seen people do the move in photographs and videos, but never in real life. Then one day, I saw my brother, Danny Kavadlo, perform the human flag in the flesh, and that was all I needed.
At the time, Danny and I were employed at different New York City gyms, and had been practicing the flag move on our own. We'd discovered this amazing feat of strength online, and once we saw it, we committed ourselves to learning it come hell or high water.
Capturing the Flag
Since neither of us had access to a proper pole at our respective gyms, we used the side posts of the workout machines in our gyms. After a few weeks, Danny and I finally had our first opportunity to train together. I hadn't gotten very far on my own, but Danny was already attacking his human-flag training with great tenacity.
As I stood there silently one day, he walked over to a cable machine, grabbed its side post, and with this look of serious determination in his eyes, pressed himself up into a human flag.
Danny couldn't hold the position for very long that day, but it was long enough to ignite a fire deep inside me. It was one thing to know that some stranger on the internet could do a human flag; it was quite another to see my own flesh and blood do it before my eyes.
Once I saw Danny do the flag, I became more motivated to train than ever. He had shown me that this move wasn't out of reach, and it wasn't long before I did my first (but not last) human flag. (A similar thing happened the first time I saw someone do a muscle-up right in front of me. Once I saw him do it, it wasn't long before I could do it myself.)
See It, Then Be It
Danny and I now travel the globe teaching the human flag and other advanced calisthenics exercises to fitness trainers and enthusiasts, and we witness the same phenomenon at every workshop we teach. Whether it's the flag, the muscle-up, the pistol squat, or any of the other bodyweight skills we teach, there's always a steady stream of PRs throughout the weekend.
I'm sure my students benefit from my helping them understand the proper technique for an exercise. That's huge. But I think the main reason so many people accomplish multiple PRs at my workshops has to do with something bigger than my experience or coaching ability.
It seems to me that the number one factor behind these individual breakthroughs is the collective energy of the group. There is no form of motivation more powerful than watching another human being do the very thing that you are trying to accomplish. Seeing a "regular person" do something extraordinary has an uncanny way of making it seem achievable.
This is especially true if the person doing it is your friend, family member, or training partner. The feats professional athletes perform can appear superhuman at times. But when you watch a regular person do it—someone you know in everyday life—then it's easier to tell yourself, "If they can do it, I can do it!"
There's No Substitute for Real People
If you feel you don't have the motivation you need to advance your conditioning, find ways to inspire yourself. Attend a workshop. Organize a meetup at your local park. Hire a personal trainer to help push you during your workouts.
Whatever you do, you'll see that motivation that comes from the presence of other human beings—not from a saying on the wall, a video on the Internet, or even an article
So what are you waiting for? Get off your butt, find some people to train with, and do what you never thought you could!