A Thousand Before and After Pictures

That picture to the right is one of my “before” pictures. photo

I took it about a year ago last March, and when I looked at it shortly after I snapped it, I thought, “Huh. That’s weird. I’m a lot fatter than I think I am.”

Like all “before” pictures, it took a while for me to realize that it’s supposed to be the “before” and not the “now” picture. But we all get there eventually in our heads.

If I snapped a picture today, it would look like this:


Not much of a difference. You wouldn’t see it. Though I’m eating clean, going to the gym daily, have lost some weight, and all that jazz. I’m also not nearly satisfied. And that’s when it came to me.

We Need a Thousand Before And After Pics

If you’ve ever succeeded at anything in life, there’s a real fork-in-the-road moment that comes shortly thereafter. You can either rest on those laurels, or you can push onward. When Julien and I got the New York Times Bestseller nod in 2009, I knew that it was a fluke and I barely acknowledged it. I certainly include that in my bio everywhere I can, but I’m on the path to writing more books, and I’d like another New York Times betseller. If I’d settled for that one “after” pic of hitting the list, I know that I wouldn’t be happy with my life.

I ran and completed a trail marathon back in 2004. And then I barely did anything with fitness from Jan 2005 until a year or so ago. I certainly rode that “after” pic of me crossing the marathon finish line for a long time.

Make Today “Before”

Take wherever you are right now in life and make that the before picture. Who knows? Maybe you just did that recently. That’s close enough.

Capture the “After” and Then…

Then, once you have your “after” moment, leave it an after for two or three days. And then take a new “before.” Whatever project you’re doing, whatever matters to your success, make a new “before” picture for that.

I obviously don’t mean simply fitness and health. I mean whatever. If you’re excited you’ve got your first 1000 readers on your blog, aim for 5000, or 10,000. Or aim for a new direction that adds to that previous success. Make another “race” to run and start with a “before” snapshot.

After is Too Tempting to Enshrine

I can tell you this: my “after” photo for my fitness will be taken several times. My “after” photo for my writing career will go a long way. My next big project is a “before” picture right now, and I really can’t wait to share that after picture, years down the road.

It’s your turn. What’s your before? What’s your after? Share with me.

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  • http://stevegarfield.com Steve Garfield

    You’re right! BEFORE:

    • http://doingthings.net/ Andrzej Tucholski

      Hello Steve! :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan


    • Heidi/FranticButFab

      Upvoted for tuxedo T-shirt ;)

  • http://doingthings.net/ Andrzej Tucholski

    I’ve just deleted fifth version of my comment so maybe it’s not exactly ready for being online. Keeping it short: painful yet extremely valuable and precise thought. Thanks!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Glad you’re on it. : )

  • http://skyler.me Skyler Sweet

    Selfies ftw! Keep evolving it will serve you! I have one Month to get abs… Wish me luck. Ill take the selfie, may only post the after but ill take both.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Know who says “selfies?” People worried that they take too many. Rock on! And get those abs! : )

  • http://hubze.com/ David Foster

    Great post Chris! I agree.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan


  • http://twitter.com/SenolTapirdamaz Senol Tapirdamaz

    1 year

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      And so to follow with the post, what’s your NEXT after pic going to be?

  • http://technologyinprevention.blogspot.com coyenator

    Thanks for this Chris. I work in social change and too often we wrestle with annual data .. and while we need this kind of data it is too-little-too-late much of the time to be meaningful and engaging in any real way in this in-the-moment real-time communications world. This notion of having more before/after pictures sparks a lot of curiosity. Now thinking … what would this look like for a community or perhaps a business? What images tell us we’re making progress toward the change we seek? Thinking ….

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      The trick of it, I think isn’t just which images, but when to stop making the “after” just a milestone.

      • http://technologyinprevention.blogspot.com coyenator

        Thanks for the reply Chris – interesting thought nudging more thinking of course – the way it should be :). When it comes to community change I was thinking those successive after images could become “check in” images e.g., how are we doing at maintaining or sustaining the changes we’ve accomplished? Now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose its the difference between a milestone and an outcome? Milestones mark progress or lack thereof.

        On a personal level that would be like not regaining the weight lost .. not an easy thing to do in my experience. But soooo worth the effort. :) Appreciate the discussion and the post — Thx.

  • http://www.businessbanter.com/ Shameer Shah

    Hey Chris, that’s a great way to pull in the perspective rather than push out the inevitable, as in instead of climbing for more get comfortable with whatever you have.

    I have recently been researching, reading and watching stories about Olympic athletes and how they work so hard to be the No 1 in the world by getting that Gold medal. Once they’ve achieved that, they get comfortable but more importantly, knowing nothing gets bigger than an olympic gold they go into a ‘stale mate’ state – depression.

    I really like this post because I think sports people and athletes could actually benefit from looking at themselves over time!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      And then there’s Michael Phelps. How did he keep earning them?

      • http://www.businessbanter.com/ Shameer Shah

        Winning in one sport over and over is fine. But when refocusing to another sport, another achievement when they’ve passed they’re winning streak is when the ‘stale-mate’ kicks in. Many say, they don’t know where to turn next. The old saying, ‘been there, done that and now what?’

      • Heidi/FranticButFab

        My take (since I can’t actually read his mind :) — He wasn’t satisfied with only one gold medal, he wanted the record for most in one Olympics. Perhaps analogous to your goal to have more than one New York Times best seller?

  • Varadharajan K

    I think steve jobs said smthng about replacing the heaviness of achievements with the lightness of learning. so every time I achieve something that becomes a before and learning new things becomes after. Incidentally even before I heard this I have been so. so sticking on to it.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Love that. Very well stated. You certainly are a wealth of quotes and knowledge, sir. : )

  • http://www.TheBabyBoomerEntrepreneur.com Andrea J. Stenberg

    In my business the before was I didn’t know my target market, kept going after the bright shiny object and had sporadic income. The current after: I have a clear niche, I have the start of systems in place and my income is more predictable. My next “after” photo will be lots of systems in place, more income and an assistant to take over the stuff I hate.

    In the fitness world my before: in December I swam 12 lengths, had to rest (die) after every two and I couldn’t lift my arms the next day. My after: I swim 60 lengths hard and fast(ish), can do it again the next day and I’ve gone down 4 sizes in my bathing suit (and no, I’m not sharing photos! Ever!). My next after, swim 50 m in under 50 seconds.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Sounds super awesome! I love both storylines, Andrea. Just great to hear! : )

      • http://www.TheBabyBoomerEntrepreneur.com Andrea J. Stenberg

        Thanks Chris

  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    The message I get from this is that I have to refresh and look for new and better goals each time.

    I have seen how trying to focus on business my blog readers have dropped but it is tied to the fact that I am writing less.

    Looking at what next steps to take is probably the best approach like you said I have to put a big flag up and march to get to my goals.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Exactly, sir. And business pays more than readers. You know that.

  • Elizabeth

    Well written and motivational! Thank you for sharing your insight. I find myself stuck at a standstill with my business after relocating to the east coast from Colorado, and I appreciate the kick in the pants to make some changes.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      You can do it. You really can. Dig in. Find a new path.

  • http://twitter.com/littlepots Kris Pennella

    Part of your message above is also about the dangers of plateauing – physically or business wise.

    Right now I’m training to keep up with friend of mine who’s a marathoner – she’s a full minute ahead of me in mileage time and my goal is to able to run the last 5-6 miles with her to the finish line of the next race. Nothing but getting myself out the door with my running sneakers on will accomplish this.

    Business-wise, I’m always trying to look down the road and see where our revenue stream will be coming from, is there a conference we can speak at, some semblance of content planning, etc. Just coasting leaves me with a fear of not having a pay check in coming months.

    And of course growing readership on my blog – but isn’t that everyone’s goal around here :)

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Precisely, Kris. Exactly that. What you’ve laid out is the mindset. A way to avoid the plateau.

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Pretty clever post Chris. I really appreciate the before, now, future thrust of the concept. It creates an great case for benchmarking too, giving people something to compare their vision to that future reality.

    You might have even made the case for the concept of forecasting realities, e.g. if nothing changes, this is the future. If this changes, this is the future.


    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      True, Rich. Benchmarking is definitely a fitting concept for this.

  • Michael Smolens

    Chris – have known you from the beginning, and love to share your journey with you. If, and when, you get ‘there’ – the concept of before and after disappears. It is really difficult to understand that unless you are there or know someone well who is. I would be happy to discuss this with you.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      It’s an interesting perspective. I feel I won’t be there until I’m dead, and only then, because I don’t get a next at bat.

  • Dave Crenshaw

    Very inspirational. I especially like: “Take wherever you are right now in life and make that the before picture.”

  • Jared Easley

    Incredible transformation! I am inspired. Congratulations Chris.

  • http://www.taniadakka.com Tania Dakka

    You are so amazing and inspiring. I love the taking of the before a few days after the after to make a new challenge. Sweet idea!

    Keep the motivation coming. I might try to catch up with you one day:)

  • http://www.alanhills.com/ alan hills

    Thanks Chris – great post. If we can be happy with who and where we are now, and at the same time be setting continuing growth goals for the future then I think that’s the best possible combination.

  • Tisha White

    Love the idea of before and after “pics” of yourself and your progress regarding projects, rather than just applying it to weight loss or makeovers, great way to expand this concept.

  • Joanne Sprott

    Your face is definitely narrower in the second shot, so, visible difference. As the movie American Beauty pointed out, once you’re “there,” you’re done. You may or may not go on living, but living is where we do the continuous experiment; souls get bored when they don’t have the next experience to play with. I definitely like the idea of ongoing before and after pics. Need to get my next before pic done…as in before I become a teacher again (not public school, but online).

  • http://www.AchieveTheGreenBeretWay.com/welcome Michael Martel

    Chris, big congrats on the weight loss. It took a picture for me a few years ago to make me realize that I had let myself go. I like your idea of before and after. We need yardsticks in our lives to at least let us know that we are moving forward (or backward). I guess my biggest befores is a picture of me as a single guy almost three decades ago and the family pictures we have now.

  • http://www.bendunay.com/ Ben Dunay

    Love this, Chris.

  • Sarah Antos

    A measurement of progress is always inspirational. Congrats on the healthier lifestyle.

  • http://www.friendsofsocialmedia.com Carolyn Wilson

    This is great. My word for the year is ‘momentum’, which is finally happening after some stagnant years. And your idea of before and after gives a person some perspective on how much they have achieved. Thanks, Chris.

  • http://nextforyourbusiness.com/ Sandy Gerber

    This was a very inspiring post! Thanks for sharing! We can never stop getting better, and tomorrow is always a new day. I especially appreciate how willing you and the community below is to sharing their vulnerabilities with regard to their past and future desires to change. I think it makes us human as personable brands online and able to connect with each other better.

  • Andrew Gilmore

    I agree, but for me sometimes it is hard to celebrate the successes because I’m always thinking about the next thing. Before I make something my “before” I neglect to let myself enjoy it!

  • Bill Hibbler

    I love the analogy, Chris. You made me realize the After pics on my wall have been there far too long. It’s been 7 years since my last book with Wiley and then there’s that weight that’s creeped back up. Time to get the ball rolling.

  • http://thecomicmuse.com/ Daniel McInerny

    Before? My fledgling children’s entertainment company. After? A full-fledged studio–producing books, apps, games, a more immersive web experience, full-cast audio stories, cartoons, film deal. The works. The “after” pic is only in my imagination right now, but that’s where projects must get started. Working this morning on what my next concrete steps of execution must be.

  • tanyageisler

    So so sooo good, Chris. Allow me to lend my voice to the HUZZAHs…for all that you have done for yourself AND for all that you inspire in us. HUZZAH.

    What I also appreciate with this before and after analogy is the practice or structure of pausing, i.e. taking the picture. (“Then, once you have your “after” moment, leave it an after for two or three days. And then take a new “before.”) In this pause, we are celebrating where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished and what is yet to be done. I say all the time the ego wants to want more than it wants to get…and so often we shoot past our goals in anticipation of the next. Pausing is critical…celebrating is critical. It conditions us for.so.much.more.

    Yeah. So so sooo good, Chris.

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