Excerpt from Raising The Bar by Dave Tate 




I’ve saved this for the final chapter because I think it’s the most important aspect of any and all success, whether it’s sports, business or relationships. This has been a very challenging chapter for me to write.


Passion, like love, is difficult to define. It’s hard to prove that it even exists. You’ll notice that I haven’t added a dictionary definition or quotes in this chapter. The reason for this is simple. Passion to one person is not the same as it is to another. It can be a very positive asset to have, but it can also be a curse. It’s a double-edged sword that can lead you to a wonderful, fulfilled life, or a life filled with distress.


In writing this book, I’ve relied on many people for support, references and ideas. These people helped guide me, they picked what stories to use, they explained why others should be pulled, and they provided reassurance that I was doing the right thing when some of the material got too personal or took me too far out of my comfort zone.


Not long into the writing of this book, I sent out the following email to a handful of people I trust and respect for their personal values as well as for their values in business and in training:


"If you think of a value I should hit, let me know."


Mike Szudarek sent me the following email the next day:


“There’s one that I thought of that I really believe is important, if not key. It’s passion. You can’t be successful at anything if you don’t like what you do. By the same token, you can’t be a great lifter if you aren’t passionate about it. I know this sounds obvious, but it isn’t.


See, with relationships, you can date someone, spend time together, get along and put effort into it, but you’ll never stay with that person unless you’re passionate about them. I’ve seen lifters flounder, then all of the sudden find an activity like triathlons or whatever and become incredible at it. Ironically enough, they’re usually better built for lifting. The only difference is that they’re passionate about the new thing.


In order to succeed professionally, you first have to ask yourself if you’re truly passionate about whatever business or job you’re in. If not, the first step is to find something you love doing. The other values essential for success will follow.


There are many people who lift weights because their friends do it, or because their father does it, and maybe they’re just mediocre. Is this really their passion? Don’t try to be successful at something unless you’re passionate about it. It’s impossible to do it any other way.


I know this sounds simple, but look around at all the people you come in contact with. Ask yourself if these people are passionate about what they do. If they’re not, why aren’t they? Tally up how many people are passionate and how many aren’t. I’ll bet you’ll find maybe one or two in ten actually are.


If you’re passionate about something, success is possible if you follow or have those other traits. If you’re not passionate, however, you’re done and dead before you ever get out of the gate. Even if you hit all of the other values success requires, you’ll never be all you can be.”


I agreed with all of this, and I already knew I’d cover passion in the final chapter of the book. I was really looking for more, though. After thinking about it for a few days, I sent this email back to Mike:


“I think I’ve got it. Define love. Better yet, prove to me that it exists. Show me the scientific proof. Passion is the same as love. It can’t be taught. It’s there or it isn’t. All we can do is tell people that it’s okay to run with it and trust it. Like love, it can and will misguide us because it’s so emotionally charged, but this is why it can make you happy.


This is the ultimate example of blast and dust. It’s heaven and hell. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. It’s also the ultimate risk, because you’re placing all your faith on your gut instincts, and only you can be responsible for the outcome. The gym can enhance this, but it has to be there before people even walk in the door. Despite everything, they still walk in and try to fill a void. Something brought them there in the first place. What was it? What was it that brought us there?”


Not long after I wrote that, I heard back from Mike. This exchange led to him becoming my sounding board for this chapter:


“Bingo! That’s perfect. It’s completely true, especially the emotional/misguided/risk part. That’s a billion percent true. If it works out, you’re on cloud nine kicking butt and taking names. If it fails, you’re depressed and you feel like nothing.”


This still wasn’t enough for me. I had to dig deeper. I had to try to find some sort of guiding force or common theme. Take, for example, two people who both have the same background and education. One is successful, and the other isn’t. Sure, it’s possible to say that one has more passion than the other, but is the level of passion not high enough with the unsuccessful one? Is there a scale of passion and success? How do you know if your passion is strong enough?


I sent Mike another email:


“Okay, we know a lot of lifters who aren’t successful, but why aren’t they? There has to be some value, or lack thereof, that’s holding them back. This may not be the same with all of them, but I’ll bet it’s the same thing with the majority of them. Also, why do some strength sports seem to have different demographics than others? In some, competitors are known for helping each other out at competitions, while in others, there’s no communication at all and lots of backstabbing. Why is this? This question has been driving me crazy for two days now.”


This must have struck a chord with Mike, because it wasn’t long at all before I received his response:


“Here’s my theory. Some sports are more accepted in the mainstream. Some guys can train at a commercial gym, while others can train alone. It doesn’t necessarily require crazy bars, monolifts, bands, chains or boxes. In some sports, it doesn’t matter as much if you have a bad workout, or you’re not into it that day. One strength sport is rooted in looking good. Let’s be honest here. A guy wants to get some beach muscles for the ladies. A few years later, he gets serious. After a few more years, he looks like he’s ready for GQ. Or one of the muscle magazines inspires him, and he enters a bodybuilding show for the hell of it and does well.


Self-improvement is the root of this, but it’s in a “Hey world look at me!” kind of way. Think about it. Some people in sports have huge egos. These egos are also why they won’t accept being a middle manager. They have to be a vice president, because the other people in the company can’t possibly be as smart as them, right?


Other strength sports are havens for misfits. You can take some dude with an entry-level job who’s been rejected his whole life, and he’d want to withdraw from society or from the mainstream. This isn’t so much about the sport itself, but about the personal comfort level of the person who gets involved. Think about it. Someone who doesn’t like to be around others and just wants to be left alone to do his work isn’t likely to want to oil up and go on stage. Meanwhile, someone who’s drawn to the challenge of being shredded won’t care about lifting stones or a clean and jerk. Some of these sports all become their own special kind of cult where you can be with people like yourself. It’s also a place to hide and withdraw from the real world. They have different internal motivations.


Guys are attracted to one sport because it's a 24/7 badge and visual indicator of how dedicated they are and how much they care about their body. Guys are attracted to other sports because it's a place to withdraw from the norm and be with others who share the same desires. This is no different from when a guy wonders if he should join a motorcycle gang or a fraternity.”


I replied:


“Yes, but why do they drift one way or the other? What makes people want to withdraw? For me, it was a lack of self-esteem and significance, but I found that in the gym. Could this be the reason for everyone else? I know everyone has a different story, but what’s the common theme? Or isn’t there one?”


We talked on the phone about this as well, going back and forth on different values and why we thought people drift toward bodybuilding, powerlifting, football, wrestling or other sports. While neither of us has formally studied the subject, we’ve spent more than fifty years combined around strength sports, and we’ve both known hundreds of lifters representing all disciplines. Each sport seems to draw a different personality type, but they also share many of the same traits, too.


We both know people in all sports who are very passionate about what they do. We know people who’ve been very successful. We also know others who’ve had success despite being nowhere near as passionate. Some people have been able to take this passion into other areas of their lives, while others we’ve known have managed to turn their lives into a living hell.


When we were finished, I was really no further along with this than when I’d started, but then it hit me. I knew what I needed to do to finish this book. I knew how I was going to explain the power of passion. I’m going to do it with a letter to my boys, who as of this writing are now four and six years of age. This letter is about what I feel is the most important value in life.




To My Boys,


Throughout your life, people are going to tell you what you can and can’t do. When you’re down, there will be people willing to lend you a hand. Some of these will be the first to push you back down as soon as they feel your position is better than theirs. There will be people you trust that will stab you in the back. Everyone will want to see you do well when you begin a project, but as you succeed, this number will drop drastically.


People will embrace you for your passion, but they’ll curse you for it, too. They’ll say you’re a “sellout,” that you no longer care, and that you’ve changed. You’ll find that everyone wants to be successful by having someone else do things for them. If you become successful on your own, they’ll say it’s not the work you did, but the fact that it “came easy” to you.


The fact of the matter is that you won’t be the one who changed. They will. You’ll know who did the work and who didn’t. You’ll know the pleasure and pain associated with following your passion.


How do I know this?


Because as a father, it’s my job to live, learn and pass this information on to you.


As you’ve read in this book, life is not easy for anyone. For one person to think their pain is greater than another’s is foolish. To feel that your pain alone is reason for others to step up and give you sympathy or charity is also foolish. To sit idle waiting for what you deserve will bring you a life of relying on others for success and happiness. Nobody cares about your problems, excuses or reasons why you can’t do something. People have their own problems to contend with, and believe me, your success isn’t among them.


This may sound like I’m painting a terrible world filled with uncertainty and unhappiness. Truth is, it can be. In reality, though, it doesn’t have to be.


You’ll experience pain, setbacks, and roadblocks you feel you can’t overcome. You’ll be tested in every conceivable way, and you’ll have times when you feel you’re all alone and that nobody else understands. You’ll have pain that you feel is the worst you could possibly ever have. Years later, you’ll think this pain is nothing compared to what you’re dealing with now.


This can either cut you to pieces and make life a living hell, or it can help you live a life of fulfillment and happiness.


This choice is yours!



Read that again. This is up to you. Nobody needs to come and save the day for you. Don’t expect anyone to. The day is created by your actions, and it’s your actions that move you forward or backward. I wrote earlier in this book about turning shit into gold. Your experiences will be defined in whatever way you want to define them. You can dwell on how bad things are, or you can find the lesson and move on.


So, where does this take us now? What is the purpose of this letter?


I want you to know and understand the number one quality I think you need for success and happiness, and that’s passion. This, however, is where things can get complicated.


Passion is what you feel for what you desire the most. It’s what you want to do with all your heart. Passion will drive you to work twice as hard as the next guy to accomplish your goal. Passion will make you immune to critics. It’ll provide you with a life of loving what you do.


Be careful, though. Passion can become so obsessive that you’ll cut off everyone you know, and you’ll be tempted to do things that go against your values. It will overtake your entire life to the point where you no longer know who you are. It can make you lose touch with reality, and it can destroy your life. The thing you desire most could very well be the same thing that ruins you.


Like they do with love, some people avoid passion for these reasons alone. Some people think it’s better not to take the risk, because all they can see is the pain of their potential failure. This is also why some people will fight you when you try to follow your passion. They won’t want to see you get hurt.


Life is a stopwatch that’s ticking backward toward death. I know this sounds grim, but we all get caught up in things that ruin and waste our precious and limited time here on earth. We obsess all day long about such small things in our lives. Did the dog crap yet? When will she call? Why is my computer broken? Why did I miss a workout? Why is my shirt ruined?


These things distract us from living our lives and being happy and normal. When you’re passionate about something, you’re able to separate things. It gives you a sanctuary in which to collect yourself.


I’ve always had the gym during tough times. When things have happened, I’ve gone within my “steel walls,” intuitively collected my thoughts, and found peace. This may happen for you through reading. Or snowboarding. Or playing golf. Who knows?


When you’re down and out, you can’t just decide to “go fishing” and expect the act of fishing to be your temple or your savior. Unless you’re passionate about fishing, it won’t work. Passion is the only thing that can simultaneously give you comfort and help you deal with reality.


As a parent, I’m fully aware that there may come a time where I’m the one standing in the way of your passion for the very reasons I’ve just presented. For parents, this is where things are very complicated. I will do my best for you because I don’t want you to experience the same pain I did, but I also need to remember that it was my mistakes, failures and pain that define who I am now.


Why should this be any different for you? This is a harsh reality, and it’s one that keeps me awake at night thinking about.

How will I protect you while not keeping you from embracing your passion?


Right now, one of you is into exercise, and the other is into video games. Will these things become your life’s passion? Or are these just phases that will go away with time? You’ve both been passionate about blankets, trains, race cars, drawing, running, swimming and many other things. As the years go by, there will be many other things. How am I to know what will become so engrained in your spirit that you feel it’s your calling in life to pursue? How will I know when this will happen? Will I support it? Or will I be a critic? Will I drive you toward it or try to pull you away?


I can’t get these questions out of my mind because I’m not you. I’m a part of you, and I want to see you get as much out of life as you can, but in reality, I’m not you. All I can do is offer some advice based on what I’ve found to be effective in my life. This is easy to say, but not so easy to do.


  1. Base your decisions on the values you respect the most.


  1. If you feel passionate about something, give it ALL YOU HAVE PLUS MORE. The “plus more” part will be easy because you’ll love what you do. If this doesn’t turn out to be what you expected, it won’t be because you didn’t give it your best shot.


  1. Experience as much as you can. Don't let others dictate your path in life. See what’s out there and determine things for yourself.


  1. Don’t ever feel like anyone owes you anything. The bottom line is that you get what you work for. You may not have the same tools or education as the next person, but this doesn’t mean you can’t still do it better. If you take pride in the work you do, you’ll never have regrets or need excuses.


  1. Don’t become so obsessed with your passion that you forget about the people around you. You can’t experience true happiness without sharing the experience and having others feel just as good about it as you do. There are many things you can do alone, but to succeed and have nobody to share it with is a life of selfishness and loneliness. Life is not what we get, but what we give. True passion is about giving, not taking. Think about it this way:



When things get really tough in life, and you’re really down and out, you don’t need to go get wasted or engage in other kinds of “escapes.” Passion is where you go to find relief and comfort and deal with your problems. It’s not where you go to escape them. If you alienate others with your passion, it won’t be your sanctuary anymore because it’ll be all you have. It won’t be special anymore.


As I sit here and watch you both sleep, I wonder what you’ll become. I wonder what gifts you have to offer the world, and whether I’ll be there to share in your experience. I pray every day that I am, but if for some reason I’m no longer part of your lives, I leave you these words:


"Find and share your passion."


And know I will be looking down, just as proud of you then as I am now.