I have heard so many great things from Dave Tate, and The Void is definitely high on that list. Reading a recent post he made about The Void sent my mind racing with thoughts that have been spiraling around in my head for a few days now. I truly believe that every lifter should strive to experience and understand The Void. It is not an easy thing to do, though, and you will have to sacrifice in order to experience it. I know so many lifters that went through some very bad stuff that prepared them to reach The Void. Every one of them would say it was worth it though.

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There are so many top lifters who started lifting due to horrible experiences in their youth. They were bullied or never fit in. They felt small or fat. They never got picked for sports. Dave himself mentioned that the gym was the only place he could get away from feeling like he was worthless or a failure. I guess my story is similar in some ways and different in some ways. I definitely had some tough times as a kid. I was born severely pigeon-toed, which made me slow as hell, and I was subsequently always picked last for any sporting events. The word “tag” instantly gave me anxiety. I also had to wear stupid shoes for many, many years, which got me picked on, too. We moved a lot when I was young, and I got to experience a lot of teasing for various reasons. On top of this, I was extremely and painfully shy as a kid. Starting at new schools got to where it would put me in tears because of the anxiety it caused. Luckily for me, I had a pretty bad temper, which was a great defensive mechanism. In one kindergarten situation, they had to keep me in at recesses because I got in fights every time they let me out. I was actually pretty happy with this because I got to stay in with the teacher and play without anyone bothering me. As I got older, it was pretty clear to me I was an outcast, a misfit. I always had friends, but I kept it to a very small group, if not just one or two other kids. I hated school with a passion, and none of it made any sense to me. In fact, I still have very vivid memories of sitting at recess in first grade just watching the kids and trying to figure out why we treat each other so horribly. Not to say there were not times or schools where things were better, but even then, it never made much sense to me. Popular or not, it still confused me.

I look back now and understand that my anger was my first introduction to The Void. My temper is very intense, and even when I did not understand it, I knew I loved it. Once my rage kicked in, everything else in life faded away, and all that was left was that very moment in time. When it escalated to a fight, I could not have been happier because finally, everything made sense to me. All of the bullshit faded away, and it was just two (sometimes I tried to fight more for the challenge) people deciding who was tougher. Win or lose, it all made sense to me. Not to mention the rush of life and the invincibility of adrenaline that fighting brings. I have never felt any pain in a fight, emotional or physical. Kicked in the face or a crow bar to the head, it did not matter because all it did was make me feel better. I got to where I would put myself in situations with better odds of getting into a fight. My father did instill some pretty deep morals in me, so I could not start a fight for no reason, but if there was a reason, I was going to be the one who finished it. Even if I did lose, the other guy was gonna feel some serious pain. Once I got to high school, I discovered actual sports beyond just the neighborhood stuff. This was another place were things made sense to me. Well, at least once, I realized that team sports were not for me. Too few seemed to want to win as bad as I did. On the field, there was again nothing else except that time and place.

As a kid, I used to look through my father’s football and shot put yearbook pics. I remember watching strongman on TV with him. I wanted to be huge and strong. In the winters, when my dad’s work got slow, I would get to go to Vic Tanny (old training facility) with him. I still remember all of the chrome machines and dumbbells. I loved going with him and would ask if I could have a protein shake, too. I started lifting in eighth grade with my brother, who started for football. This lasted only a short while because he quit football and I quit lifting shortly after that. It was not until I did not make first string my freshman year of football that I really started lifting seriously. This time, I felt The Void and realized that it was a much better way to use my temper. I also found that it was a much deeper Void than I felt with sports. It was just me without teammates and without winning or losing. Just me, the weights, and how far I could push myself.

Some 33 years later, I am still lifting in The Void and have no plans of ever stopping or leaving. The Void is hard to explain, but every time I think or talk about it, I get a big grin on my face. The Void is nothing and everything all at once. It is something that comes on strong and pulls you in. It strips everything away, but if you stick with it and trust it, then it will give you more than you can imagine. The Void has the ability to close out the useless and unimportant while opening you up to the useful and important. If you have never experienced it, I am not sure you could fully understand. But if you let it, The Void will expand your whole world.

In my life, I have learned to find The Void in a lot of ways, but lifting has always been my favorite. When I am in intense training, all of the bull crap of life fades away. My mind is focused on nothing but that very singular task. There’s absolute focus on that one set, rep, weight, lift, etc. It is the clearest my mind ever gets. There is no room for any negative emotions, and all thoughts are positive. It is all about how I will accomplish the task at hand and just how far I am willing to go. My mind and body are one, and I am drawing all I can out of both of them. Any pain only makes me stronger and more focused. This is the world that makes sense to me, and it’s where things are as they should be. Even when I come out of The Void, I feel amazing. It is some kind of post-training euphoria. I know I have done something. I know I have pushed myself hard, and that was for a reason. I know that if I do everything else right, it will pay off with gains.

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It doesn’t really matter what brings us to The Void, although I think it may take some kind of nasty pain to bring most people to the point where they are ready to experience The Void. What is most important is what The Void can show or teach us. What I am getting at here is that most people never find The Void, yet others use The Void only as an escape or coping mechanism. The Void is a sensie that can show us so much if we are only willing to listen. I was first attracted to The Void because it took everything away. Better to say that it took away all of the crap and useless stuff while showing me how to put all of my focus on one thing. At first, this was fighting but eventually turned to lifting. As I progressed and stuck with The Void, I realized how important this time of singular focus was. How much it actually helped me with the rest of my life. I realized how much better I felt after time in The Void. I started to use The Void as a way to help to control my rage and even my depression. I used The Void a lot in my 20s, but I admit that my learning from The Void had halted while it became just a coping mechanism. This was not a bad thing, but it could have been better. As I entered powerlifting at the age of 29, I began to understand The Void more. I began to be more open to actually learning from it.

It was my decision to dedicate part of my life to powerlifting that really spurred me to look more at The Void. I realized that if I wanted to be one of the best powerlifters in the world, I could no longer go in with the idea of trying to kill myself each workout. Yes, this was great, and it allowed me to enter The Void five to six, maybe seven days a week. I had used it to keep my life somewhat stable and to keep me out of trouble. This was no longer gonna cut it though. I needed to remember my goal, and each session needed to be focused on that goal. I needed to start training and stop working out. The Void had taught me that there is an amazing return when you give everything to one thing, even when it is only an hour or two. This made me wonder what I could get if I gave more time than that. The Void taught me that many things in our lives are unimportant even though we give them great importance. It taught me that the things we often stress out about, we should not, as they are uncontrollable. That if we just put our energy in better places, we will be able to better handle whatever consequences come from them. It taught me to look through my life and to see the things that are really important. To give them the energy I have and not to waste it on the unimportant things. The Void taught me to take a step back when I get overwhelmed or stressed. It taught me that those emotions cloud my vision and that we see the clearest when we see nothing. The Void taught me that I have the power and that life is always filled with choices. It taught me that its own power actually comes from me. That I can always find it anywhere I look. I am The Void!

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. I can definitely push others through some serious training sessions, but I cannot make them experience The Void. I cannot make them learn from The Void. Just maybe I can guide them to the edge and encourage them just enough to jump off. Then, just maybe I can guide them through The Void so that they don’t get lost in it but rather learn from it. I can convince them to learn the lessons it can teach and to use them in every aspect of their lives. Listen to The Void, and I guarantee that you will perform better in your endeavors and in every other aspect of your life!