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Most people know that lifting is a very big part of my life and it has been since I was about 14 years old. For about 12 really great years during my powerlifting career, it was the main focus of my life. It will continue to be a part of my life until I can no longer lift, which will mean I'll be dead. I think that because of this, I have an innate ability and habit to compare life to lifting. I'm always amazed at how the two relate so well. Lessons I've learned in lifting help my life, and lessons I've learned in life help my lifting. I can't see having one without the other.

Recently, I had an accident with a power tool that sent me to the emergency room. It was another one of those moments in life that caused me to contemplate the similarities between life and lifting.

I've been working on a new paver patio in my backyard. Last Saturday, I got up early to continue working on it and then I headed to work. Doug (my granite and tile installation partner) and I got the old granite ripped out of this job and the counters set up for the new granite when it comes in. We finished up earlier than expected, so he came over to help me work on my patio. It was getting late in a very long day and we decided to call it quits because I was short about 15 pavers anyway. Ironically, a little while before we quit, I mentioned to Doug that I was exhausted and would probably end up cutting myself if I didn't stop soon. I have dealt with my sleep issues and exhaustion enough to know when I have gone too far.

Shortly after Doug left, my type A personality kicked in and pushed my better judgment out of the way. I figured that I could cut up a few more pavers and save some time working on Sunday. I marked my next paver and just threw it on the ground to cut it with my grinder. I just bent right over it and went to work. Somehow my grinder jumped straight up into my face. My first thought was, “F*&%! That hurt!” My second thought was, “I just got hit in the face with a grinder. This isn't going to be good!”

Immediately after this thought, a crimson river began flowing like the mighty Mississippi out of my face. I grabbed a glove and shoved it in my face. Then I figured that I should probably turn off my grinder, which was still going. The switch was stuck and I couldn't shut it off with one hand. I went to unplug it, but decided the hell with it. I just let my face bleed so that I had both hands to get my knife and force the switch off. Later, I found a piece of sand stuck in the switch. I'm not sure how that got there.


I felt like I should probably go see what kind of damage I had done to my face. Leaving a nice trail of blood, I went to the kitchen sink, but the blood wouldn't stop. I then just grabbed a handful of paper towels and headed to the bathroom. Once I got a look in the mirror, I figured that I had better get to the urgent care for some stitches and whatnot. I couldn't see exactly how bad it was through all the blood, but I knew that duct tape wasn't going to fix this one.

Driving a stick with one hand while trying to keep your nose attached (it felt like it was almost cut off) and stopping a river of blood is a bit tricky. Wouldn't ya know it, I kept getting red lights, too. I couldn't help but look at the cars next to me hoping for some crazy reactions, but no one looked over.

Once I got to the urgent care, I had to fill out the usual paper work (well, I guess it's usual because I've never been there before). While I was waiting to get in and see the doctor, I couldn't help but try to blow my nose. I would pull the towels away and, as soon as I did, the blood would start flowing. I would blow quickly and have a hand full of snotty blood. Then I would stuff the paper towels back in my face again. It was a fun bloody mess.

My shirt was full of blood and my hands were covered in it. They finally got me back and the nurse cleaned me up. The blood had started slowing down by this time. I was holding up my phone as she cleaned me so that I could see what kind of damage I had done. When the doctor walked in, she looked like she had seen a ghost. She pulled out her flashlight, looked at my face quickly and then said, “We aren't going to charge you, but you're going to the emergency room right now.” I said, "OK, so we're done here?”

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Once I got to the emergency room, of course I had to fill out more paperwork and answer more questions. I was also getting bored by this time and decided that I needed to amuse myself by messing with the hospital staff. The nurse was filling out her questionnaire on the computer. She asked me what my pain level was between a one and a 10. In a distressed voice, I asked her if 10 was the worst and highest level of pain. She said “yes” and then very calmly I said, “About a two!”

They eventually got me back to see the doctor. He looked at my face and said that he could fix me up just fine. I had cut the bridge of my nose completely through my nostril into my upper lip. I might have nicked the cartilage, but I didn't get into any bone. The doctor and I agreed that I was pretty lucky considering what could have happened.

At this point, I told the doctor that I was getting a bit lightheaded and asked him if he could get me a Coke. He said that he wanted me to lay down for a bit before he shot my nose up. So I was bored again and started sending pictures to people I knew. Luckily, my friends all have my messed up sense of humor, and I was actually laughing out loud in the emergency room from all the smart ass comments coming back to me.


The doctor came in and stuck the needle of numbing stuff in my nose, which, by the way, did have a nice sting to it. It also didn't taste very good but numbed my throat up nicely. Next, the tech came in to clean the wound. He had an Avengers scrub top on, so I had to show him my Hulk tattoo. As he was preparing to clean the wound, he explained everything that he was doing. At one point, he told me he would have to wear this protective gear so that he didn't get blood on him. I said (in my boredom), “Well, rumor has it if my blood gets on you, you become stronger.” He stopped, turned to me with a confused look on his face and said, “What? You mean if your blood gets on me then I will be stronger?” I said, “Yep, that's the rumor!”

There was a pause of silence and a classic look on his face. Somehow, I kept a straight, serious face. He finally said, "I think I'll go ahead and wear it.” I said, “OK, I'm just letting you know what they say, but it's your choice!”

He eventually started shooting this saline solution in the wound with his injector plunger thing. It was a bit annoying, and I had to try to time my breathing with the plunger so that I was exhaling when he was injecting. It helped keep the saline from running down my throat. By this point, I was becoming the emergency room entertainment of the night. People kept coming in to check it out and talk about it. One tech said, "That's going to be a badass scar. You need to be a Viking or evil bad guy in the movies or something."

The doctor then got called away for a car accident, but he finally got back to start sewing me up. Right after the first stitch, I said, “Oh, that one had a little on it.” The doctor said, "I'll shoot more numbing stuff." But I replied with, "Nah, it's no big deal. Just do your thing.”

I'm not very good with people in my face. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and irritated. I just close my eyes and start the small talk to amuse myself. One of the first things that I said was, “So doc, you look pretty young. How long have you been doing this?” I did eventually tell him that I was just messing with him and that I actually thought he did a really good job. At the end of the visit, a lady had me sign some more stuff and collected my co-pay. She asked how everything was, to which I replied that I was a little pissed off. Her eyes got big and she asked why. I said, "Because I broke my streak and now I have to start all over. That's like 30 years down the drain!" She chuckled and said, "Well, that was a really good streak."

Through most of something like this, you're just running on reaction, doing what you have to do, but at some point, you start to think about it. For me, while I was waiting for the doctor to sew me up, I thought about what a dumbass I was for letting this happen. I also remembered what I had said about screwing up and how if you can learn from it, it really isn't all that bad. So I began thinking about the whole day and what I should or could have done differently. Somewhere in these thoughts, I started comparing what had happened to lessons I've learned in lifting. Then I thought, wow! I could turn this whole experience into a powerlifting article! It's amazing how lifting mimics life and life mimics lifting.


My first realization was I need to remember that beating myself up won't solve anything or make anything better. In my life, I know that I've always had a tendency to beat myself up when I do something wrong or screw something up. It goes all the way back to my childhood. I absolutely hated messing up and it ate at me. If it's a work thing or some kind of physical thing, it will eat at me until I get a chance to do it again correctly. It's a much worse problem when it's personal or emotional and when it negatively affects someone else. In this case, it can get so bad that I just can't get passed it and that only ends up making the whole situation worse. The ironic thing is that I've never done that in lifting. In lifting, when I mess up, I just focus on why it happened and I fix it. In personal/emotional situations, everything gets clogged up and cloudy to the point where I can't function, but in lifting, it makes things clearer and motivates me to get passed it. This is something that I've thought a lot about the last few years.

In this situation, I could've easily gotten upset and beat myself up for being stupid. But the fact is we are all human and we all screw up sometimes. That's simply just a part of life. I knew that I was tired and I knew that I was getting lazy. I should have never just bent over with my face over the grinder cutting the paver like it wasn't any big thing. On the flip side, I've worked with grinders on stone for a long time, and I've never had a grinder kick up in my face. Doug has done this type of work way longer than me and he still can't figure out how it happened because he has never had one do that either. I've talked to a couple other stone guys who are all puzzled as well. Usually a grinder kicks forward or backward and that's part of what makes it so scary cutting up an expensive piece of rock. If it kicked up, that would have been fine because no damage would have happened to the stone, but if it binds or kicks, it usually does this forward or backward (depending on how you're holding it) where it will skip across the stone and do some real damage.

I always figured that I would cut my leg or hands, but I never figured that I would cut my face. In reality, yes, I was at fault, but part of this was a freak accident, too. I could beat myself up about it and let it turn into a negative thing, or I could see it for what it was and learn from it. It's always better to learn.

In lifting, I've seen many lifters get bound up because of mistakes. For example, I've seen lifters miss their first lift and, in their eyes, you can just see that it's over. They are too caught up in it and can't let it go. It travels into their next two attempts. I've seen lifters bomb out of meets and they never really come back from it. Some will start opening with weights so light that it's a waste of a lift, or they become so worried about making a lift that they never really push themselves in training. I've seen lifters give up on powerlifting all together because they have too many bad meets or they don't meet the expectation they have for themselves.

One of the great things about lifting is that you always get another chance if you want it. There is always another meet or another training session. Sometimes in life, if you screw it up, you aren't going to get another chance. I've always had a reputation for missing my first or even second attempt but then coming back and smashing the third. I've bombed out of meets only to come back and kill it in my next meet. Nothing ever got me down in lifting (at least not for long), and I always saw each lift completely separate from the next. If I missed a lift, I just figured out why and didn't make that same mistake the next time. In my mind, missing a lift had nothing to do with the next one. Just because you missed a lift didn't mean that you would miss the next attempt. Hell, to me, it meant that I now had some practice with that weight, so I would have a better chance the next time.

As for bombing out in a meet, that wasn't any big deal to me. In my mind, it was all just a learning experience, and I knew that I wouldn't be perfect. I accepted that from the beginning. I had never been a natural or gifted athlete. I always had to work and learn to be good at something.


I admit that it took me awhile and I'm still learning, but in this case, lifting has taught me something that helps me in life. Never be OK with making mistakes and it's OK to get pissed off, but never beat yourself up about it in your lifting or in your life. Accept things for what they are, learn from them and move forward to be a better lifter and a better person.

I started thinking about how I had gotten lax about my grinder and how that relates to getting lax with training. I have a lot of experience with a grinder and it's actually my go-to tool for when shit doesn’t go right. Some people have duct tape or the BFH (big f*&king hammer) as their go-to fix all, but I have my grinder. Normally, I handle it and wield it like it’s nothing without any problems. It spins at 12,000 RPMs and can generate a great deal of force, so it deserves some respect. It taught me that it has enough force to punch me in the face and slice it open!

I think it's human nature for confidence to journey into arrogance when we do something long enough. Even when we try to remember to stay safe, we tend to start pushing the limits. It's the small mistakes or close calls that always bring us back to reality and to a more humble state. If we're lucky, we'll listen to those close calls and keep the major mistakes at bay.

In some respects, lifting is similar to life in this way. We often will get overconfident in our own strength and immortality. How many times have we all heard of or even been the person who gets hurt doing warm ups or working with light weight? We get arrogant about our strength and approach “light weights” like we don’t need to focus on what we're doing. It’s light so I won’t get hurt. Yeah, right. I know that I've been a victim of this thinking. I don’t recall ever getting hurt in the gym this way. I've been outside the gym lifting and throwing though. It’s the same principle. I thought I was so strong that I could just randomly do whatever I wanted. I should have taken into consideration not being warmed up and the technique I was using. My confidence had verged into the realm of arrogance, and I paid for it with injuries.

We do need a lot of confidence in lifting, but as soon as you apex into arrogance, things generally go bad. I also see this relating to our actual training. After training for so long, sometimes we get overconfident and we stop paying attention to it. We end up just doing what we feel like doing or simply following the same program too long. We begin to ignore the principles that got us to the strength level we're at, and we stop searching for new knowledge about strength training. We get comfortable and arrogant thinking that we already know it all.

I can tell you right now that we will never know it all about strength because it’s ever changing. As we reach new levels, new problems arise. We must stay true to the solid principles of strength training. Always find and fix your weakest link because no matter how strong you get, you will always have a weak link. We must be confident in our strength and what we have learned while always remaining humble. We must remain open to new knowledge and to the fact that we can still get strong(er). This accident was a good reminder that there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. There must be a balance.


As I mentioned earlier, before my accident, I knew that I was getting tired, and I knew that I wasn't making the safest choice. I let my type A personality take over and I just tried to get a little more work done. If I had listened to my body and used my brain a little more, this whole incident could've been avoided. This simple fact led me to a couple conclusions about life and training.

Our bodies will tell us very important information if we're just willing to listen. In this case, it wasn’t like my body just quit on me instantly. It gave me plenty of signs and warnings, but I chose to ignore them. In the gym when we're training, our bodies will also give us these same signs when they've had enough. It’s a necessity to push ourselves in the gym. That has to be done to get stronger. But there is a point of diminishing returns. There is a point of increased risk of injury and of creating bad habits. When you push your body to the point where technique is breaking down, you're increasing that risk of injury and, at the same time, you're now reinforcing bad habits. It is no longer worth continuing with that lift because any gains you could make will be overshadowed by the negative effects. Any positive return has been diminished.

Technique is also a great point when it comes to listening to our bodies. I often talk about how when babies first learn to walk, they have amazing squat technique, but somewhere in our aging, we forget this. I suspect that it's mostly from poor coaching and bad knowledge from books and magazines. It's natural for us to squat correctly, but most people fight it. It's somewhat ironic though that I have a much easier time teaching women to squat than men. They pick it up much easier and more quickly. Maybe it's because they aren't around lifting and macho bullshit, so it's easier to get them to just listen to their bodies.

The human body is capable of some amazing things, and part of being a powerlifter is to make it do amazing things in the world of strength. So we push it and ask it to do things that it wasn't designed to necessarily do. This is part of the sport, and our bodies won't always be happy with us. There is a time and place to push, and there is a time and place to listen. Knowing the time and place isn't something that can be learned over night, but it's an endeavor that is worthwhile and necessary for becoming insanely strong. Listening to your body in life and in training will greatly improve both.

This experience has also reminded me about the importance of patience. With my personality, once I get an idea in my head, I can't wait to start and finish it. I forget that sometimes the journey is the most important part. I was lucky in lifting because I knew from the beginning that it was going to take years to achieve the things I wanted. I was in a rush to get there, but I just accepted that it would take a long time. This allowed me to enjoy the journey more, and I can tell you that the journey was one of the best ones in my life. I have so many great friends because of it, and I actually became a part of more families because of it. I have so many amazing stories and memories from lifting that I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was an amazing journey from the first day I picked up a weight and it will continue until I die. I enjoy every time I get to train. Of course, there are bad days, but a bad day training is definitely better than most of the other stuff I do in my life.


I feel like I need to take this approach more in my life. For instance, rushing on the patio isn't going to make much difference. If I get it done today or in a month from now, nothing will change, but if I can enjoy the journey more, I'll probably be in a much better mood. I know that if I did, I would've stopped for the evening and not got punched in the face with a grinder. I'm not saying that there aren't things in life that need to be rushed, but I think too often we try to rush what doesn't have to be rushed. In training, most of us want to get as strong as possible as quickly as possible, and that's a good, aggressive thing. I'm just saying that it isn't worth it to sacrifice all the amazing parts of the journey because no matter how you look at it, it takes years to get to the highest levels.

One of my last thoughts about getting drilled in the face with a grinder is how I think it's a good thing to test ourselves. This may be macho Neanderthal thinking, but part of me was proud about how I handled this incident. I mean I took a 12-amp grinder with a five-inch diamond blade spinning at 10,500 RPMs to the face and I didn't flinch. Physically, I probably should've flinched out of the way of the grinder, but mentally I didn't flinch. I stayed calm, cool and collected. I did everything I needed to do while staying relaxed about it (even laughing).

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Other than dealing with my disorders, life has been pretty boring lately, and it's nice to know that I'm still one tough SOB who can handle any situation. It seems to me that testing ourselves is part of human nature and I think it's good for our souls. I feel this way about lifting, too. Hell, for a powerlifter, that's part of the reason why we do it—to test ourselves.

One of the best ways for a lifter to test himself is to compete. Put it all on the line in front of judges and competition. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only way to really know how much you can lift. It's a good idea to do this in training from time to time also. Whatever your main lift is for the day, just give yourself three lifts to accomplish the weight that you want. Test yourself and see if you can accomplish that. It will add a little fire to your training that day and it will help you get stronger mentally for the meet.

I'm also a big fan of doing partial lifts and just going as heavy as possible—a quarter squat, a rack pull or a high board bench. Load the f'ing bar up and just keep going until you can't do anymore. Get used to pushing your own limits and handling heavier weights. Testing ourselves is a good thing. What's the point of working so hard in life and training if you're never tested to see if you're really getting better? Whether it's an emergency or accident in life or you needed a PR in a meet to win, being tested is that chance to step up and say, "I got this." Keep in mind, I don't recommend facial mutilation as a test, but hey, if it happens, you have to step up.

So I was being stupid and lazy, which led to a freak accident. These things happen. It's just life. The important thing is to learn from it and become a better person. I feel lucky because it could have easily been much worse. I also feel lucky because I got a bit of a wake-up call that has helped me remember some important lessons for life and for my training. Plus, I have a pretty cool facial scar now. To be honest, I always thought that facial scars looked tough!

In life and in training, you can never give up. Things will rarely be perfect, and we all will make mistakes. That's the simple truth. The mistakes don't have to define you as long as you learn from them and become better for it. Pain is temporary, chicks dig scars and glory lasts forever!