elitefts™ Sunday Edition

During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I was ranting about the abundance of “mediocre” that I have been witness to recently. The people who are happy with “just getting by” have never found a way to endear me. I was going on and on about this with a few other people when, out of nowhere, a “friend” on one of the social networks to which I subscribe offered me the following conversation:

Joseph Walraven
: Just wanted to say amen to your mediocrity comment in today's training log. I've had my moments of lackluster performance, and I'm sure at some point they may try to rise again. However, I've come to the realization that it takes as much or more energy to be mediocre as it does to be bad ass.

Harry Selkow: Big Joe! 
No kidding, brother. Today I saw more "almosts", "if-a's", "woulda's", and "could’ves." I say, yeah right! If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle. There are so many in my very own gym that are giving their very best of the middle of the road. The athletes, in turn, give about as colorful a performance as battleship gray. 
If you are going to just wake up and show up, then you might as well just throw up. 
I get up every morning with the morbid idea that this may be my last day on earth. If that was the situation, I'm going to bust balls and go out in a bloody, fiery, broken glass and twisted metal sort of way. I am going to give my people the very best I have. I'm going to give YOU, Joe, THE VERY BEST. Why? Because let the mediocre live their lives of quiet desperation.


Joseph Walraven:

 My choice to not be mediocre comes from a long, nasty road. My dad passed away 12 years ago—my last day of Christmas break during my freshman year of college. On the outside I put on a strong façade, and I carried on with life. Inside,on the other hand, I was a mad, depressed, and self-destructive kid. I made it through college, but I don't remember much of it. I drank like a fish and smoked a lot of dope. Chased a lot of ass. I thought I was living the good life, but in reality, I was wasting my life.

Thankfully, I had managed to somehow hold onto one of the best parts of my life: the girl that eventually agreed to be my wife. We were always on again and off again, but she convinced me to go on a mission trip to Romania. That time together solidified our relationship, and it helped me make up my mind to get my life in order.

After college I got my first job. It was a job I had always wanted, and I'd been involved with it all my life. So it was going to be awesome, right? Hell no. It was one of the worst jobs I've ever had. In the first six months that Tiffany and I were married, I was only home two weekends. I was pretty devastated that my dream job was really more like being on a chain gang. 
However, her parents stepped up and asked if we'd be willing to come work for them. Reluctantly, I said yes. Building materials and hardware were foreign territory to me, but I was willing to learn whatever I needed to in order to make it happen. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture (I majored in Landscape and Grounds Management), so I knew how to grow plants, not sell dead trees. During the first two weeks on the job, I swept the entire warehouse, scrubbed toilets, loaded customers, swept some more, groomed the gravel parking lot, washed trucks, mopped floors, learned to drive a forklift, swept some more...you get the idea. 
From there, I was given the task of labeling every single piece of lumber, plywood, and tile—anything we sold that was housed in the warehouse and lumberyard. I learned the differences in all the materials and what they were for, and I immersed myself in what we were doing. Eventually, I could rattle off just about any SKU and tell you what, where, and why it was so. Once that was finished, I started working more with stocking inventory, loading customers, and driving delivery trucks.

Then, in June of 2008, I got noticed by a customer. He asked where I trained. I said, "In the warehouse." Apparently racking and unracking two-by-fours, sheet rock, and plywood had been doing something to build my shoulders and arms. He invited me to start training with them. I figured that since my daughter had just been born, it was a good time to start trying to be healthy. Ronnie had trained with Jim Grizzard and Earl and Ann Leverett. Occasionally they would pop in and watch us train, and I loved when they would nonchalantly correct things I wasn't doing just right or tell me to add more weight because I was stronger than what I was doing. 
We trained three days a week: squats on Monday, bench on Wednesday, and deads on Friday. By Christmas of 2009, I had hit PRs of 505 pounds (with lifting straps), 405 pounds, and 450 pounds (on the deadlift, bench press, and squat, respectively), and I was still around 250 pounds. I also became a volunteer firefighter during the course of all of this. I loved the thrill of being in the gym, and it carried over into the fire service.

But then it happened. Like many people we know, I neglected training for several months. It's not that I wasn't training, but I was only going through the motions—being middle of the road. I got fatter and weaker, and I became mediocre again. I didn't feel like doing much of anything. My fire training suffered, and I would get winded just playing with my daughter. I also wasn't as productive at work. (I had since moved to lead salesman and was mostly standing still all day.) I was grumpy and dumpy—right back where I started a few years ago.

The year 2010 brought the conception of daughter number two...after many months of fertility treatments for my wife. It was a pretty sucky time dealing with the hormonal swings. Fortunately, in all of the melee, I got reunited with an old friend I had met in elementary school, Matt Middleton. We began really talking about training, and I was introduced to elitefts™. This all combined to light that fire again. I picked up on a lot of new concepts and began trying to implement them. 
Last October, I sold my dad's suburban. I had been holding onto it all these years, just like much of the anger and sadness I'd been holding inside over the loss of my dad. Drive it, fix it, drive it, fix it...it was a lot like me—big, strong, and broken. Nothing about it was going to change until I stopped settling for second best. When I sold it, I knew exactly what I needed to do with the funds. I wasn't going to take a vacation or buy another truck. Instead, I had one of my training friends build me a bench that was made for my arm length. Then, I called Matt Goodwin and ordered a power rack, an SS Yoke Bar, and a Swiss Bar. That was my turning point, where I began lifting myself to another level and out of the middle of the road.

Next weekend I will compete in my first meet. It's an SPF push/pull event. I wanted to do a full meet the first time around, but this one fits into my schedule. If all goes well, I'll make the 220-pound class. I'm stoked, to say the least! All this pain, sadness, daily life stuff, highs, lows, etc. have led up to this point. Also, my friend Ronnie, who is going through chemo for cancer, found on a lymph node in his neck. He looks like a bag of bones and can barely speak. I will be lifting for him. I hope he's able to make the two-hour drive from here to the meet and see me lift. There is no option left to be mediocre. Like you said, I could be in his shoes or in the grave like my dad. 
My dad was the best at what he did. I live four hours from my hometown, and I still meet people all over who speak his praise. This is because he refused to just cruise through life. He trained in his field constantly. He taught and passed on so that others could be successful in the same field. I know he lived each day like it was his last. He made sure he made an impact with every breath he took, and I know that I would want people to say the same thing about my life. In my interactions with customers, the fire department business, and training in the gym, I'm not on this earth to be battleship gray. I'm here to be OSHA Red.

Harry Selkow: Joe, 
this is BITCH'N. May I use your story in my special Sunday edition of If I Knew Then What I Know Now? I can take your name out (but I'd rather leave it in) if you find it too sensitive. This is the reason I keep doing what I do.

Joseph Walraven: That'd be amazing! And by all means, leave my name in. I have no shame.

Harry Selkow: Cool! Thank you.