It’s not often that you get to witness a truly motivational story first-hand (says the guy trying to live one), but that’s exactly what I got to see recently.

I met Junior Magana a few months ago…on the deadlift platform of course. The one thing that was apparent before I even met the man was that he was one hell of a hard worker. Hell, he’s louder in the gym than I am! We quickly developed a mutual respect and to be honest, I think we’re both kind of the same guy. We’re both extremely passionate about what we do, we both try to work harder than anyone else in the room (except when Junior’s there, I just give it to him because I am not going that far with this body!), and we both are more than a little sentimental.

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For the first few months that I knew him, he was in preparation for his next bodybuilding show. In that time, it became apparent what an epic quest this was for him to finally get first place or die trying. I know exactly how he felt from my quest to set powerlifting records with Parkinson’s. It was also easy to see how much respect he had from his fellow bodybuilders in our strongman / powerlifting gym. Witnessing the man’s dedication to his craft and seeing how very much it meant to him, I could tell there was a possible story brewing here. The deal was sealed when Junior spent the last few days before the biggest show of his life posting very heartfelt letters of appreciation to each of his closest family and friends. Not only can this bodybuilder hang with me on the deadlift platform, but he was a fellow wordsmith.

When the dust settled and a most worth hand was raised in victory, I asked him to be the first guest writer on this page. This blog is not just about my fight with Parkinson’s Disease. It is about finding inspiration and living as big as you possibly can. To that end, I’m proud to present:

CHASING PERFECTION: An impossible dream?

by Junior Magana

“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” – Vince Lomardi

If this quote doesn’t fire you up and make you want to be unbreakable, then maybe consider reading “The Man in the Arena,” an excerpt from the speech “Citizenship in a republic” by Theodore Roosevelt. These two pieces of literature (along with others) are the types of literature that allowed me to chase, and quite possibly find perfection on the bodybuilding stage.

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But my journey began long before this twenty-two week prep for the Central California Championship: a show I wasn’t even supposed to do. My journey began in the 80’s, picking peaches in many hot and dusty orchards in Linda, California. The only thing we knew was, “The harder you work, the more money you make.” So
we’d show up before the sun did and we were usually the last ones to leave. Trust me when I say this was absolutely not by choice. Not saying we were forced to stay, but it was sink or swim.

Fast forward 10 years and that mentality got me through high school with damn near a 4.0 GPA. “The harder I work, the better the grades!” Actually, that way of thinking was how I took on every job I’ve ever had: I just refused to be outworked. Why be outworked? Why let anybody else be better?Now don’t get me wrong, I was a hard worker because that’s how I was brought up. That’s all I knew. Deep down, I was the most insecure person out there. So insecure, I actually hated my shadow because I felt like it truly exposed who I was: a 6’2 150 pound skinny kid. As a matter of fact it took me years of “pound and ground” in my little home gym before I built enough courage (size) to join an actually gym.

As soon as I stepped into that gym, that “don’t you dare get outworked mentality” kicked in and within months I was one of the strongest guys there: unfortunately my older brothers joined the same gym at the same time and you guessed it…they were brought up the same way. So competing with them really kicked my body’s ass. After a few injuries I decided to go back to my first love: bodybuilding. Something I thought I could never do because of horrible genetics. I mean what kid didn’t look at the great “Arnold” and want to be built like that? In my opinion, at that time, that was “perfection.” I was convinced I could never attain that, but I knew I could put something pretty decent together.

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After multiple failed (second place is and always will be a fail) attempts and heartbreaks I wasn’t ready to quit, but I was second guessing this whole “bodybuilding” thing. Then one night, my wife read something that would just suffocate me and damn near cripple me: The Man in the Arena (If you haven’t read this and you’re passionate about anything, I highly recommend it. I believe it will change your life as it did mine). I asked her to read it again and I broke out in tears, and I still choke up every time I read this:

the_man_in_the_arenaI realized at that point that what I was after wasn’t a trophy. I realized that it was about doing everything humanly possible to chase and catch “perfection.” I knew now that chasing perfection was not as impossible as the great Vince Lombardi made it out to be. All I had to do was go back to my roots: outwork everybody! It was really that simple. I found my dream and I was going to outwork everybody
else who was chasing that same dream. Because if you’re truly passionate about something and you put everything into it, how can anybody be better at it than you, right?

So I set out on this 16 week journey which eventually turned into 22, but that’s a different story. I set out with two goals: “do not be outworked” and “become unbreakable!” What I didn’t notice was that I constantly told my kids why I was doing it: “your dad is working hard, not sleeping, not eating, but don’t feel sorry for me. This is my dream and I promise you, one day you will understand.” I’m not sure how many times I told them, but it was enough that the older boy (The Moose) had the “audacity (sense the sarcasm)” to say he’s been praying every single night for me to get first place. He said it one night at the dinner table as I sat there and watched them eat (I would constantly sit with them at the dinner table to make life feel as “normal” as possible).  My wife asked me to repeat what he said and my tears wouldn’t allow it. So I grabbed him and held him and said, “I’m going to do everything I can to make your prayers get answered!” At that moment I reminded myself that it was never about the trophies. It was always about dreaming. And dreaming so big that the whole world notices! And it all came together when my first born noticed and realized what can happen when you dream and work your ass off for that dream. That “working your ass off” ideology goes a very long way and it transcends any facet of life. So that’s another thing I highly recommend.

At that point with three weeks left I stopped feeling sorry for myself and realized “I didn’t leap for the landing…I did it for the experience.” So I was going to enjoy the rest of this journey as much as possible.  I can go into detail about how hard I worked with my 2.5 hours cardio, my 12 minute HIIT sessions with 405 on deadlifts, the diet, etc…But those are just miniscule details that can’t be put into words, because there are no words to describe that type of intensity. Just know that I kept telling myself, “If they’re not waking up at 2:59 am for 91 minutes of cardio…I’m going to make those sons of bitches pay!” And that’s exactly what I did.

And on that Saturday evening I made sure there was no doubt that the boy who prayed for me every night to win, got his prayers answered. That moment was captured in a photograph and it’s a moment that I will carry with me for the remainder of my life. A simple photograph of my oldest son, The Moose, covering
his face with his shirt as tears ran down his cheeks.

jr3So on September 19th, all the stars aligned and for a split second the man in the arena, who erred, who came short again and again, was able to prove the great Vince Lombardi wrong and was able to catch perfection.