“Don’t follow your passion; bring it with you.” — Mike Rowe
Last week I was listening to Ted Radio Hour and Mike Rowe was being interviewed. I used to love Mike's show Dirty Jobs, and I often thought that, with the amount of human sweat I touch daily, I should be on the show. Outside of Dirty Jobs, Mike has been very active in educating people about working in the trades. Clearly, he has a passion for helping people get jobs and live “the American dream.” The same day that I was listening to the interview with Mike Rowe, one of my friends posted a link to a website on Facebook about “the American dream." It was one of those tests, so I took it and found that I don’t live the American dream. Basically, my life has been pretty easy. I grew up very average without any major challenges. Is this a fair way to assess a person? I can tell you that I have no idea.
elitefts used to host Learn to Train (LTT) seminars. These were awesome events, and I remember Casey Williams and I discussing whether or not he should attend one. At the time, Casey had some sponsors and really wanted to join Team elitefts. I knew that if Casey spent some time at these, he would be invited to join the team. I have no doubt that his decision to attend changed his life significantly, and it all began with Casey investing $400 into a seminar.
At the same LTT that Casey decided to attend, I had the opportunity to sit with Matt Kroczaleski and talk over coffee. Matt had a very hard upbringing and faced many challenges throughout his life. We spoke about raising children, as I was about to have my first child. I didn't know if I would be a good father, and I had no idea what being a good father meant (I now think it means to be prepared to never eat a meal without being interrupted). We kept returning to the same theme. How do we teach our children about struggle without forcing struggle upon them for no reason? I still don’t have the answer, even though I have some thoughts as a father, a coach, and a human.
Let’s return to Mike’s quote, which is how I began this article. After listening to Mike’s Ted Talk interview, I'm convinced that his point is that instead of chasing your passion around, just find something to do and do it with passion. Take this to your athletes. How many of your athletes truly have a passion for training? My guess is that most don't. But we still ask them to bring passion to lifting every day. Do we do the same when our athletic director asks us for a 25-page report on how training went for our teams this year? As a profession, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we're doing what we're asking others to do.
But this goes against everything we say about chasing our passion, right? No! I was speaking to Tim Beltz yesterday about coaching. Tim is a strength coach at the University of Pittsburgh and he has been there for about 20 years. We were talking about how much the job has changed over the years. We used to be “weight coaches.” The coaches sent their athletes to us and we made them stronger. If we got a new job, the athletic director would tell the football coach to find a new “weight coach” and the cycle continued. Then sometime in the 1990s, some wild MLB teams hired strength coaches. Most coaches still don't want to make their athletes too bulky. Then sports like lacrosse really started growing and they had lots of money, so, of course, they needed strength coaches for those sports. More and more, we're seeing schools with one strength coach per sport. The strength coach could be running GPS data or heart rate data, or, if you're Ryan Horn, measuring thumbnail growth rates so that you can find out how much calcium each athlete is wasting in growing nails instead of using it in contractile properties. I'm kind of kidding about what Ryan is measuring.
Clearly, the profession has changed a lot in the last 25 years. It will continue to change. When I entered the profession, lifting was my passion. Now, education is my passion. Did I change my passion, or did I move my passion? Again, I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that if I didn't evolve, I wouldn't still be in this profession.
A few years ago, I wrote an article titled "Rules for Being a Strength Coach." This seems to be one of my more popular articles, and most of the feedback I receive is about rule #1 — never hit snooze. It's a simple rule but bears repeating. Do you wake up with the same intent on self-improvement each and every day? I promise you that I do! There are days when I think to myself, "I'd rather not do what I have to do today," but that is the soft and easy way out! I remind myself to bring my passion. One of the great minds of our profession, Ethan Reeves, once spoke about how much he likes toothaches because they remind him that he is still alive. Twice a year I visit the dentist and I love it because it reminds me of Ethan. Am I bringing the same passion to that day as I am to my max squat day?
I implore you to do as Mike Rowe says and bring your passion with you. Find your passion in all that you do. As Tim Kontos always reminds me, eat your frog.