The first thing I learned from Curtis Jackson III, a.k.a. 50 Cent, was to stay on my toes. He can change plans as fast as he spits lyrics, which I learned after signing on to work with him on his just-released fitness book, Formula 50.

After introductory phone conversations and emails, I was scheduled to meet 50 Cent in person for the first time at the G-Unit offices in Manhattan. I flew from Boise, Idaho, to New York City on a Tuesday afternoon. After spending time with 50 on Wednesday, I was set to make a short trip to Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday for the 2012 Arnold Sports Festival. The Arnold would begin in earnest the day after my scheduled meeting with the hip-hop star.

Early on Thursday morning, my iPhone buzzed. Rasheem was calling, although I had no idea who Rasheem was. "50 wants you to fly with him to L.A. tonight," he said. "Stand by for confirmation and details."

Seven hours later, I was waiting for 50 and his crew at an airfield 30 minutes outside New York. When 50 arrived, he was with Team Mayweather, led by Floyd Mayweather, Jr., his close friend of seven years. This was many months before their much-publicized Twitter meltdown, and two months before Floyd's victory over Miguel Cotto. The rapper and boxer were heading to L.A. for a press conference promoting the fight—having flown in from L.A. less than 24 hours earlier.

Getting High With 50 Cent

The pilot headed to the cockpit and the flight attendant made her way through a cabin filled with seven or eight guys wearing crooked baseball hats of various teams, jackets matching the hats, and immense gold wristwatches—gifts from Mayweather to his crew. As casually as I exit a driveway, we were off. "I'm going out to support Floyd," said 50, the outlines of buildings fading to specks of light through the window. "Boxing is a different excitement [from rap]. His passion for music is really what started the relationship."

On the other side of the aisle, 50's love of boxing runs deep. When he was a chubby kid, it was boxing, not music, that helped harden his body and sharpen his mind. In boxing, every chump's gunning for the champ, and the same holds true in the rap game. As 50 puts it, "Right now, some producer is telling some kid, 'That track was bangin', you next.' Challengers come from all corners, so you meet aggression with aggression."

Words Like Fists

What do the world's best-known rapper and the world's best fighter talk about during a cross-country flight? Sports and women are recurring subjects; in other words, they talk about what the rest of us talk about. With no bell telling him to stop, Mayweather displayed boundless energy; he bobbed and weaved around the plane like he was still in the ring, an effect heightened when 50 told him to show me the speed of his jab, which stopped at the tip of one of my whiskers before I could blink.

50 was more measured and introspective, holding the center of gravity. Over five hours, I learned about his workouts, but I gleaned something even more valuable: the angles this highly unconventional man has played to build both his body and his empire. Here are the nine rules that help him in all facets of life, including fitness:

1. Make Sure Your Enemies Fear You And Your Allies Respect You

At the time, 50 was slated to shoot "The Tomb" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone. Even though both icons are 30 years older than 50, he knew they wouldn't respect him if he showed up soft. "I can't be with those guys and look like I've been off to see the wizard," 50 told me. "You don't want those older guys looking like, 'You need some help?'"

What This Means For You

This approach is key to maximizing your trainer/client relationships, no matter which side of the divide you're on. As a client, if you show up on time, you're raring to go, and you don't punk out, your trainer will guide you through a better workout. As a trainer, you earn respect—and loyalty—by treating each and every client as a fitness peer, not just an hour's pay. In either case, preparation maximizes your return on investment.

2. Study The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Your Competition

The specifics were off the record, but 50 gave me a detailed breakdown of what he perceives to be the strengths and weaknesses of two other hip-hop moguls of his stature: Puffy and Jay-Z. I sensed neither animus nor admiration in his voice; he had simply studied the competition like a CEO scopes out other firms in the industry.

What This Means For You

Even if you're not a competitive person, someone else might be aiming to take what you think is yours. So be frank with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, because someone else might have already sized you up. If you're a bodybuilder or fitness competitor, the competition is the person you'll be standing next to on stage. If you're in a company, it's those against whom you'll be vying for a promotion—and so on. Know the competition like you know yourself.

"If you're a bodybuilder or fitness competitor, the competition is the person you'll be standing next to on stage, know the competition like you know yourself."

3. Your Biggest Enemy Is Your Comfort Zone. Destroy It

After launching the biggest-selling debut in rap history, 50 could have coasted. Success, acclaim, and wealth were guaranteed. But they were never going to be enough. 50 branched out into publishing, vitamin water, energy shots, headphones, and other ventures, but not as an endorser. He was an owner. He widened his circle to include the likes of writer Robert Greene, boxer Floyd, and even guru Deepak Chopra.

What This Means For You

So you achieved a goal. Great! Now don't get too comfortable. The real value of your goal isn't the goal itself, but rather the internal strength, discipline, and steely resolve you developed in the struggle to get there. Those tools are just begging for a new challenge—and they'll wither on the vine without one. Whether we're talking about new rep ranges, movements, or even entirely new workout philosophies, change does your body good.

4. Don't Let The People Who Are Closest Take Advantage Of You

Karma doesn't always work in hip-hop. It's a well-known story that the people who have benefitted most from your success and generosity often cause major problems, like when guys 50 would bring on tour began disrupting his shows. "I made rules that I would accept no internal confrontation," he says. "I didn't care who threw the punch or what it was over. If you're in a fight, you're out of here. Sending someone who doesn't have a plan back to my neighborhood is like sending 'em to a gas chamber."

What This Means For You

As you achieve success, people will reach for your coattails. At first, you'll probably be eager to share what you've learned and earned, but always do so with care. Just because someone is a friend doesn't mean they'll be a good business partner, and vice versa. It's pretty easy for someone else acting a fool to start reflecting poorly on you, so be generous, but don't be an enabler. If someone is using you to raid your client list, exploit your expertise, or harvest your social media followers, cut 'em lose without hesitation.

5. Speak In The Language Of The Audience You Wish To Reach

On his first recordings, 50 often rapped about drugs and getting high—things he had actually no interest in himself. He had to speak a certain way to reach his audience. Similar to a songwriter like Randy Newman, he was portraying a segment of society—in this case, the streets—in the language of those who were living that life. "It's pretty tough to paint the American flag without using red," was the analogy 50 used.

What This Means For You

The proliferation of websites, blogs, and social media has created a flood of fitness advice and information. Some well-written stuff is junk, while some of the less-polished information is useful. So keep your bullshit meter in good working order, and never take anything on faith the first time you see or hear it. The process of building wisdom takes time. But remember that all things being equal, a researched, well-articulated presentation will always make the biggest impact.

6. Your Setbacks Make A Bigger Imprint Than Your Triumphs. Learn From Them So You Don't Repeat Them

For 50, the years he spent struggling loom larger than the years of monumental success. To him, this is human nature. "If I asked you the last time you cried, and that thought came to your mind, it might change the expression on your face," he said. "If I asked you the last time you laughed or smiled, you have probably done it since we have been here on the plane. But it won't take you to somewhere uncomfortable."

What This Means For You

If you've ever suffered an injury, or gotten really out of shape and ridiculed for it, don't try to forget it. That's part of who you are, just as much as your shining triumphs. If you're still struggling—like we all have—you can either wallow in grief, or channel that energy into making the most of the cards you're dealt.

7. Focus On Your Goals, But Don't Become Consumed Or You'll Miss Out On Life

"I am ambitious, and sometimes it feels like I'm running through a tunnel that never ends," says 50. "Sometimes I have tunnel vision. I just focus on something and work at it until I get it done. That can be good, but you can neglect other things that are important in your life."

What This Means For You

Immerse yourself in training and diet, but never to the detriment of everything else important in your life. Your training should enhance other aspects of your life, not replace them. If the latter is the case, it's time to take stock of your life and see what you're hiding from.

"Sometimes I have tunnel vision. I just focus on something and work at it until I get it done. That can be good, but you can neglect other things that are important in your life."

8. Stop Thinking In Terms Of Limits

"If I set my mind to something, I think I can do it," says 50, shuffling a deck of playing cards for no particular reason, as the flight attendant passes by. "Swear to God. I am so far away from where I started that I believe I can actually do anything. We can make a million dollars selling peanuts. Me and you. We can get '50 Cent Peanuts' for 25 cents and sell 'em for 50 cents apiece."

What This Means For You

Look at the transformation stories published on, and you'll see how an attitude like 50's has taken over the psyche of countless successful people. The unrecognizable before-and-after photographs say it all. No limits, no excuses.

9. Keep Everything In Perspective And The Focus Becomes Progress, Not Perfection

When we spoke, 50 had just returned from a four-day trip to East Africa on behalf of Street King, his energy shot. It's one thing to think in the abstract, and another to witness hunger firsthand. "In Kenya, we went to a school where the 500 kids were all orphaned, and 48 were already HIV positive. They got one meal a day: corn meal with protein powder dumped on it. You think, Damn, this is the worst thing I have ever seen. But the kids are so optimistic. You ask, "What are you going to be?' and it's, 'I'm going to be a teacher,' or 'I'm going to be a doctor.' You get back to the hotel from where they have nothing, and you think about where we came from."

What This Means For You

Appreciate the incredible opportunity you have to become fit. You have to prepare your meals, but many have no meals to prepare. It's hard to train before or after work, but many are out of work. Lifting weights takes effort, but some can't even lift their body from a wheelchair or bed. This is a privilege, so make the absolute most you can out of it. From that perspective, there are no failures—only opportunities.

About the Author

Jeff O'Connell

Jeff O'Connell

Jeff O'Connell is the editor-in-chief for Train ranked him 19th on its list of 50 influential people in the fitness world.

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