I was going to write a short summary of my powerlifting meet yesterday, but instead, I think these keys are better used tapping out the lesson that I took away from it, namely, it is far better to fail greatly than to succeed at something that does not challenge you. It is that challenge that makes us grow and become more than what we were.
There are quite a few motivational quotes on my wall that I try to live by. The “Live Your Life” poem by Tecumseh and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley are two, but the one that really spoke to me at this meet was “The Man in the Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt. This speech excerpt was introduced to me recently by my friend Junior Magana, who’s success story I featured a few days ago as my first guest writer on this blog.
Of course, the end is what really applies to yesterday’s challenges. “…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ”
I could write about how this philosophy influenced the way that I approached this meet, selecting weights very aggressively and risking failure to give myself a chance to make some huge personal records, but today I would much rather write about the pride I feel in having passed that philosophy on to two great friends.
Tony and Logan both trusted me to train and prepare them for the meet yesterday which was their first competition,……ever. For the last two months, they trained together on the program that I have been following to get ready for my own meet coming up on November 7th. My training is hard. Many people say it is too hard and too heavy too often. In some ways, they are sometimes right, but my philosophy is that the training should prepare you, not to make every lift, but to be mentally and physically ready to win the painful battles that you must win in order to truly push your limits. Finishing off a true max effort deadlift is crushingly painful. To let a maximum weight squat push you all the way down into the hole and then fight through the sticking point as you desperately drive back up is more a test of willpower than the strength of your legs.
They came in with big goals and a willingness to endure pain and failure to get them. For Logan, a 1,000lb total in his first powerlifting meet. For Tony, a 455lb Deadlift that has been his nemesis for months. For weeks they endured weights that got heavier and heavier as the 17th approached. Though I would often tell them not to push all the way to failure, they often would. Heavy squats would crush them and deadlifts would deny them as if they were welded to the platform. But far more often, they would win those battles of iron.
They were making incredible gains on my accelerated peaking program when disaster struck. Right before they got to the 15 day taper program that would reduce their workload and let them recover for their competition they both became violently ill. They lost hard-earned gains in muscle and strength and in place of recovery, they got more fatigue. My coaching became solely focused on their mental states and convincing them that they could mentally and physically overcome this.
What we were rewarded with was not 9 out of 9 successful lifts and total fulfillment of every goal. To me, it was better and will last far longer than the results of this small unsanctioned meet. Our reward, (I include myself because I got as much from their performances as they did.) was the proof that iron sharpens iron. We learned the value of failure and hard work. When that soul-crushing weight was bearing down and their bodies were demanding that they quit, they responded, “NO”. I saw some very talented lifters have perfect days yesterday, but though I never saw them miss a lift, I never saw anguish on their faces either. I saw Logan’s face on a 410lb deadlift and I witnessed the war that Tony fought to finish a new personal record squat. They went to their limits and moved past them.
The point I’m trying to make is that because my guys had exposed themselves to the difficult and sometimes impossible demands of our program, they were not afraid to reach higher than many other lifters. They have grown comfortable out here off the path. What Tony and Logan now know, is that their limits are temporary and they can be conquered. Those who never strained, who’s voices were not worn as raw as their hands, they wonder today where their limit is. They wonder how much more they could have accomplished. They wonder if they will be able to succeed when the next test comes. My guys KNOW that if they are required to go beyond their limits,…they can.
Carpe Diem, Vitae Brevis means “seize the day, life is short”. Those who never test themselves for fear of failure may seize the day. Those who deny their evil little voices of common sense and stride off the beaten path to test themselves and destroy their limits, they Carpe Vitae. They seize the life.