Rhetorical Fitness

Jay Baby Orator.jpg

This is me, orating in front of my older siblings. According to my mother, I was orating before I was walking. I’m a rhetorical guy by nature, more than I’m a fitness guy.

As someone known mostly for writing books on persuasion, this Time Barrier quest may seem more than a little off brand to put it mildly. Some of my colleagues have not put it mildly. “Extremely late midlife crisis,” one said. “Geezercake exhibitionism,” said a writer especially fond of figures. And, just today, “Manic.”

But I consider running my age to be a form of persuasion, and not just self persuasion. People constantly asked me how to get motivated for exercise and good nutrition. By “motivation” they really mean persuasion.

So here are two persuasive devices from the ancient and modern art of rhetoric, and how they can help you get fit. I’ll be covering more in the weeks to come.


One trick of persuasion is to present only one choice. People don’t usually like choices as much as they think they do. “So here’s what we’re going to do” is a great line for closing a sale. If someone opposes your choice, say, “Okay, let’s tweak it.” In other words, let’s do it my way only slightly differently. Once you commit to working out in the morning, don’t make any more choices. Get up and push play. Then do as you’re told.


In argument, if something isn’t in your favor, redefine it. And, lo, inheritance taxes become “death taxes.” Pretty sneaky. But it’s great if you do it to yourself. To get myself up at 4 a.m., I declared my own time zone called Jaylight Savings. At 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, your laziest Londoner has already been up and at ’em. People cross time zones without a problem, but getting up earlier seems like impossible. So redefine your habit as a time zone.

As part of my persuasion-fitness harmony, I’m also seeing how rhetorical devices work in person to person sales. So I’ve become a coach with Beachbody, pushing nutrition and exercise products. I use the stuff, and I’m not in it for the money. But it’s fascinating to see how the devices I’ve been teaching the corporate world work with people’s bodies. And, sometimes, don’t work.

More on that, too, later.