If you’re not strong, you’re weak

At a certain point as a lifter and athlete, as a worker or professional, as a business owner or a husband, father, or lover, we will come to the choice of staying comfortable in being good enough in our current state, or choosing discomfort in trying to be more. Some people are satisfied with just doing enough and no more than that. We are not those people, though.

This drive we have for strength is a choice. At some point in our relationship with lifting, we chose strength. We didn’t choose maintenance, we didn’t choose just being healthy, and we didn’t choose mediocrity. We are not satisfied with simply maintaining what we have but instead work to become more than what we currently are. We made a choice not to be weak; we would be strong.

Whether we realize it or not, this separates us from the vast majority of the population—not just people that go to gyms, but the general untrained population as well. How many people spend weeks, months, and years training themselves to be better? How many people wake up every day and ask themselves, “am I stronger than I was yesterday?” Most do not.

– Alexander Cortes, “Strength is a Choice

Sure he’s talking about powerlifting, but strength is more than physical muscle. Making yourself better goes beyond iron.

Right or Kind? Pick one.

Someone posted a “game” on Facebook:

If you had to choose between being thought right or kind, which would you choose?

Was there ever a time in your life when the other was more important?

When did that change?

Now granted, it’s just a game. Nothing says you have to choose, or even play along. But thinking about it is a good exercise, for your mind and your morals.

First, when I read this I wondered what “right” meant. Nothing deep here, just does it mean that you are factually correct? or that you are morally good? Not sure it really matters for the exercise.

I recall being a teenager, being proud to be an asshole, and needed to be right, in the “correct” sense of the term. Of course, I still prefer to be correct (I have greater understanding and appreciation for the cost of lies, mistakes, etc.), but I do think now I prefer to be kind.

Is it because I’m growing older? Is it because I’m growing up?

Or maybe it’s because I see the world is being overrun by assholes?

I don’t know for sure why I’ve changed.

Maybe because more people are willing to listen to me because I’m kind, because I’m nice, because I’m not an asshole who is out to lecture with a “FUCK YOU!” attitude. I see more success in my life coming from my having been kind.

Or maybe I’m just tired, because trying to always be right is a lot of work. Being kind can be as simple and effortless as a smile.

I do like smiling at people. Just walking down the street or the hallway at work, looking at the people I’m passing, giving a genuine smile, looking them in the eye, and saying “Hello”. Not everyone gets it or reciprocates, which is fine. Those that do always bring a little joy back into my life tho — it’s nice to receive kindness. We never get if no one gives, and since we all like to get, that means we need to be the first to give.

That which is right, be it a factual truth or a moral truth, it will be there, evident and on its own. It doesn’t really need me – or you – to be right. It just is, and will be. But kindness, that’s something that comes from people. That’s something that doesn’t exist unless people are kind.

This isn’t to say I want to be wrong, and I will still strive to be right (correct, moral). But I guess if I have to choose? Kind. These days everyone wants to be right. Wouldn’t it be great if instead everyone wanted to be kind?

Feeling safe vs. Being safe

I could lay a strip of fabric across your shoulder while you drive a car. That might make you feel safe, since it would feel like a seat belt and look like a seat belt, but it wouldn’t actually make you safe because it’s not really a seat belt and will not work like one if the car crashed.

I could stamp the words “air bag” onto pieces of the car’s dashboard, but leave the space behind the dashboard empty. You’ll have an illusion of safety, but no real safety.

Seeing a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall is nice, but unless it’s the right type (e.g. ABC), full and functional (you did check the valve? you did inspect it at least yearly, right?) it won’t be much use when you need it.

I frequently see expressions of a “need to feel safe”. That this feeling trumps measures that actually provide true safety. I don’t understand this line of thinking because you’d rather have a measure that makes you feel safe but doesn’t actually make you safe, instead of a measure that actually would make you safe which would naturally also provide the feeling of safety (and the confidence of that knowledge). Both steps give you the feeling of safety, but only one actually makes you safe in the face of danger. Why choose the illusion over the reality?

This isn’t just about guns, so please don’t get hung up there. We could apply this to the TSA. We could apply this to “self defense” programs, including most martial arts. We can apply this to products in our homes. We can apply this to our homes and neighborhoods. We can apply this to laws and regulations. Really, it’s about a concept that can be applied throughout life. Step back and think about it. Be honest with yourself, and be willing to admit if you are holding on to an illusion. It’s good to follow dreams, but it can be unhealthy to cling to illusions.


10 lessons

Everyone likes to look at the changing of the calendar as a time to make some greater changes in their life.

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was a good list about not just life lessons, but if you really want to make some change in your life, pick just one of these and see how accepting it in your own life could make you better.

While I put a summary of the 10 lessons below (for my own posterity, should the linked-to site ever go away), you really should read the whole thing to understand where it’s coming from.

  1. Your thoughts create your reality.
  2. You will regret the chances you didn’t take.
  3. Change is the only constant thing in life.
  4. What you resist persists.
  5. You judge others for the deficiencies you haven’t yet accepted in yourself.
  6. You have far less control over the behavior of others than you think.
  7. You are what’s on the inside.
  8. You can’t force love in relationships.
  9. Sometimes the only healthy option is to move on.
  10. Life as you know it doesn’t last forever.

For that matter, check out their whole website. It’s got a lot of good food for thought.

Being wrong can be right

The hallmark of a strong individual is not in being flawless and passing blame, but in being able to admit when they are wrong and taking the necessary actions to correct the problem. These are our greatest innovators, thinkers, and leaders. People who are not only able to realize and admit when they are wrong, but who are also always mindful that they could be wrong about something are the ones who lead us into prosperity. No true advancement ever came from being wrong but sticking with your guns anyways. That’s called ego, and it is a major bane on our society.

From “It’s OK to be wrong” by Stephen Carter.

Mr. Carter makes a fine point. We’ve become a society where being wrong is bad. Where it’s bad to admit mistakes, because either there’s the (mistaken) thought that it shows weakness, or because you were less than perfect it’s now time to crucify you.

Why do we do this?

If Thomas Alva Edison said things like:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”

That means the man was wrong far more than he was right. And we embrace Edison.

Why don’t we do this with ourselves?

Why don’t we do this with politicians?

We don’t want to be wrong; it’s a human trait to desire to be right. It takes a humble person to admit their wrong, and it takes a strong person to not chastise another for being wrong. If you do not have an environment that allows people to be wrong, they will struggle and fight to always be right — even if they are wrong, even if it flies in the face of all logic, reason, and even emotion.

We as a society need to often consider that we could be wrong. We need to challenge what we think we know, and we need to understand that this isn’t a bad thing, but very much a good thing, a march towards progress. In doing so, we have to have empathy. We are all wrong at various times and no one wants to feel bad about it, so we need to be understanding when other people are wrong and encourage them in a positive way to understand that it was a mistake, and we all make mistakes. There’s no need to be rude or mean about it, even in the face of extreme ignorance. We want people to feel good about being wrong in that it is not a bad thing, but a learning opportunity.

We also need politicians that don’t feel like it will be the end of their career to admit that they made a mistake. Do you want a person who is willing to admit they were wrong and change towards the right direction, or do you want someone who will keep it full steam ahead and never even remotely admit they’re wrong? This is very dangerous for our society. A strong and caring leader will admit to their flaws and mistakes, and we need to encourage this by looking inward at ourselves. It’s also perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t know.”

I am fortunate at this stage of my life and career that I know enough to know what I don’t know — which is a lot. Basically, I know what I know, and that means I don’t know everything else, but also I know that what I know I might not know as well as I think I know, or know at all. I know people hate hearing “I don’t know” as an answer to their questions, and I know they hate hearing that I made mistakes. I do my best to know what I can, and I do my best to not make mistakes. But I’m human — you’re human — and the sooner we all admit to it and act like it, the better off we’ll all be. Because to say you don’t know is at least honest, instead of doubling-down on being wrong.

This isn’t to say we should aim low and accept being wrong. What it is saying is we need to accept that being wrong happens, no one is immune to it, and building an environment that understands this and allows people to learn and grow and deal with being wrong in a healthy manner, that would be better.

Always more than you

We all like to feel better, to feel bigger, to feel superior. It’s human. It’s some way of saying that we have some worth, some merit, and that we’re not at the bottom… that we’re not last… that we don’t suck. We compare ourselves to others, and we like to put ourselves above others.

Stupid tea party morans.

Fucking liberals.

Yeah… “my superiority” was trotted out a lot the past some months, moreso than usual.

Here’s a lesson:

Be humble, there will always be somebody stronger than you.

Steve Fredine

It doesn’t matter that he’s talking about powerlifting. Because there will always be someone bigger, better, faster, stronger, smarter, richer, whatever-er than you, and then that means YOU are the stupid fucking moran.

Hell, there’s much that Steve learned that apply to life (and powerlifting):

  • Less is more
  • Put your life on the line on max effort day
  • Eat and get rest
  • Be open-minded
  • If it works, figure out the why later
  • If it doesn’t work, don’t do it
  • Be patient with the uninformed
  • Be smart, but not anal
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Give back
  • Be focused, but keep a sense of humor
  • Train weaknesses
  • Train for chaos
  • A totally safe exercise is probably useless
  • Be patient
  • Be persistent
  • Be creative
  • Talk is cheap
  • Don’t worry about the other guy
  • Be humble
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff

Who knew iron could teach you so much. But you know… 200 pounds is always 200 pounds.

Be Happier

Going through email this morning, I got sent the following article about 9 Daily Habits That Will Make You Happier.

Seems a little self-helpy, but there’s some solid things in here. The one that stood out to me?

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can’t read minds, you don’t really know the “why” behind the “what” that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people’s weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

Recently I’ve been dealing with some difficult people going through some difficult times, and I know if they tried this it would have saved them much grief.

I try to do this, but I can step back and see I don’t try enough. I will work on that about myself. I know it will not only save me a lot of grief, but it helps the relationship too.

Coloring YOUR perceptions

The other morning in traffic I saw a truck with one of those “Keep honking — I’m reloading” bumper stickers.

I don’t remember where I saw this, but someone in the gun community postulated these stickers were bad and should be removed and never used because they reflected badly upon the rest of us gun owners.

Now, let’s ignore the irony of a gun-owner suggesting a ban on things that look bad, and step back to look at a greater issue.

We are becoming a society in which we let the actions of a few determine and set our perceptions of the whole. In this case, that one bumper sticker being extrapolated into all gun owners are violent road-raging jerks, or all truck drivers are also gun owners and thus also jerks, etc.. In part, it’s due to the fact that the few tend to get the most visibility. You get one guy that goes on a rampage with a gun and he gets all the media frenzy. But we don’t see nor hear about the millions of gun owners that didn’t kill anyone on that same day. One person’s actions somehow outweigh the actions of millions, and color the outside world’s perception of the greater group.

Think about that for a moment.

It doesn’t matter what grouping you talk about, what persuasion you have, or what group you belong to. If you’re Christian, atheist, Muslim, Jew, straight, gay, white, black, Asian, gun-owner, gun-banner, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Anarchist, or even just your family (because we all have that one weird relative), whatever…. Do you feel it’s right when some singular fringe member of YOUR grouping acts in a manner you don’t approve of and perhaps not indicative of the greater group, then the outside world extrapolate that one person’s ill-actions (stupidity?) to the rest of your group? to you yourself? I would reason you wouldn’t find that right nor just and fair.

So perhaps what we need to do is stop this extrapolation ourselves. That is, if you see one person acting in a “bad” way, don’t think their behavior is indicative of the group but rather, just this particular person. Don’t allow that bumper sticker to set your perceptions of all gun owners, just that particular person. I think this is a better approach, because it requires us to change ourselves and hopefully improve ourselves and how we perceive the world and the people within it.

Extraordinary Resolve

Regular readers know — I hate squatting.

I don’t hate it so much these days, but it’s still #4 on my ranking of the 4 main lifts. Why do I keep doing it? Because I’m supposed to. I know I won’t get stronger, I won’t get better, and I’m generally a wuss, if I don’t squat.

I still have some deeper fears about squatting, ingrained from my youth. Injury of course, or just that I’ll get down in the hole and fail and won’t be able to get out of the hole. I guess to some extent, squatting intimidates me.

Some make it metaphorical, in terms of what squatting teaches you. That all this heavy weight can be on your shoulders, and it can press you down, it will press you down, it will hurt like hell and it will do all it can to keep you down in that hole. But you prove your mettle by pressing back up and getting out of that hole… and perhaps, doing it again, over and over, until you are stronger. Eventually the weight isn’t so heavy, and you’re able to handle more, to do more, and you are stronger and better for it. Yes it will be scary, yes you will have fear, but it’s up to you how you want to address it. And so, there’s physical, but also the metaphysical that comes from squatting heavy weights.

Recently I’ve found myself squatting heavier than I ever have. I will not lie — it scares me. I am closing in on squatting 300# as a work weight, and while on the one hand I’m really excited about breaking a barrier I’ve never broken before, I’m also afraid I’m going to hurt myself… or at least, that I won’t get back up. That I won’t be as strong as I want to be, and the weight will get me down. The weight will win. While I know to not let it, I cannot deny the little demon gnawing inside me does exist and eats at me. My challenge is to control him, my challenge is to beat him.

So while I’ve been squatting — especially since my current routine has me squatting a lot more (the 5×10 assistance work)… it’s caused me to have to find some extraordinary resolve within me to keep going. That I will not quit. That the only reason I stop is because my body truly gave out and couldn’t give any more. Not because I pussed out, not because I gave into that little demon. I do look at it purely physically, but I also look at it philosophically because I know if I can handle this, I can handle anything. That will be stronger physically, but also mentally — everything else in life is pretty easy by comparison. All I have to do is resolve to do it.

But just as I think I have it… I realize how far I have to go. Dave Tate, founder and CEO of EliteFTS.com write about where “ER” really comes from.

After reading that, while I’m working to improve myself… I can see how far I really have to go.

But perhaps now when I’m down in that hole I’ll remember to think:

“Chest Up.” “Chest Up.” “Head Up.” “Head Up.”

 and from that, I can find greater strength.