This weekend was a series of firsts for me. I spoke at my first national scientific conference and I competed in my first 3-Gun Nation match. I was anything but certain that I was prepared for either of these two experiences, but I took comfort in knowing that uncertainty itself is a potent driver of growth and progress. I’ll be honest: I didn’t always have this perspective when jumping into new experiences. In fact, I thought about competing in powerlifting for nearly a year before actually signing up for a meet. This change in my perspective in regards to uncertainty and failure is something I wish I would have had back in the day when I first started powerlifting.

RECENT: Fighting the Thanksgiving Fluff

At that time, I had been training for powerlifting for a while but had yet to actually do a meet. A large part of my inability to sign up for a meet resided in the facts that:

  1. I was fearful that I was unprepared for a competition.
  2. I was fearful that I wasn't strong enough.
  3. I was fearful that I would perform terribly.

Spoiler Alert: All my fears came to fruition when I jumped on the platform that day.

  1. I was unprepared (I didn’t follow a single command on my squats).
  2. I wasn’t strong enough (to lift the weights I selected on attempts).
  3. I performed terribly (I bombed out).

jenn meet

But that day I also learned something extremely important. I learned that I couldn't just try to be a powerlifter. I learned that to be a powerlifter, I was going to actually have to sign up and do a meet. If I wasn't going to do that, I had to accept that I wasn’t one. And I learned that I wasn’t going to figure out what I needed to do to improve as a lifter if I didn't test my abilities and face my failures. Like I said above, uncertainty and failure are potent drivers of progress.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” —Mark Manson

The quote above highlights what I think holds most people back from doing their first meet: the fear that they won’t be awesome when they step on the platform. I too allowed myself to be a casualty of that fear, and it only resulted in me postponing my first meet for the better part of a year. And in that time, where I daydreamed about being a successful powerlifter, I was holding myself back. By failing to act I was hindering my goals due to the fear that my first platform experience would suck. Ironically, my terrible platform performance turned out to be one of my most positive experiences in powerlifting. Why? Because I finally became a powerlifter. That step—although filled with failures—was positive, because it was my first step moving forward as an actual competitor.

I think a lot of lifters struggle with similar fears when they are going back and forth between deciding on whether or not they are ready to compete. But here is a secret: it’s impossible to ever be 100% prepared for something. Sure, you can get close. But, the further you postpone doing something, the longer you delay your own personal growth. The longer you avoid confronting that you might not be as good as you thought you were in practice, the longer you wait to find out your actual abilities. And guess what, finding out that you are not as good as you thought or hoped is a great thing! It’s what gets you back in the gym planning and training to be better.

My advice: Stop questioning if you are ready for your first meet and just sign up and do one! Like Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”