Life is about taking chances. It's about putting all your cards on the table, ignoring the risk, and seizing your own destiny. It's about seeing what you've got inside and what you're made of. If you live this life, the odds are you will not win every time. But when it is all said and done, that doesn't matter. What matters is that you laughed at the risk and seized the moment. In the long run, you won't ever remember the times it didn't workout; you will only remember the times of triumph and glory. As they say, glory last forever. It never leaves you.

At the last elitefts™ powerlifting experience seminar, a young man came up to me with a question right before the deadlift. He told me there was a total he wanted to hit there but he also had a deadlift he wanted to hit. I cannot remember the exact numbers and they really aren't important to this story. Basically, a 485-pound deadlift would give him his total, but he really wanted a 505 pull too. He was down to his last deadlift and wanted to know my opinion. We talked on it a bit and I tried to give him my thoughts, but it was his decision. My first thought was that its only 20 pounds — go for the bigger deadlift.

I did also explain that I've always been more about my total, so when it came to the deadlift I usually would pull what I needed to hit for the total I wanted (or to win the meet). I also explained that this is where you really check your heart and will. How bad do you want it and how confident are you in your own abilities? What is the bigger priority, the deadlift or the total? How would he feel if he smoked 485 and got his total? Would he then be pissed he didn't try 505? For that matter, whats the worst thing that could happen if he goes for it but misses? Lots of questions and lots of things to think about. For me, it has always been about going for it. I love to test myself. I am the most alive when the risk is the highest.

He decided to go for it — he took 505. Right there I was proud of him. It showed he had heart. I was right there with him, yelling the whole time. At this point in the story you are probably expecting some great amazing pull, but that's not what happened. His setup before the pull was not right and he hunched his back right away. He did give it a hell of a ride and he didn't quit; he pulled the shit out of it for a long time but was just in a really bad position. I was bummed for him, but still very proud because I believe he made the right choice. In my book, he showed heart and will. But life is not a fairytale and it doesn't always work out. The end result isn't even the most important part — it's how you choose to live your life that's important.

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I know, in my case, the times it didn't go well for me just fueled my fire. It made me want to work harder, smarter, and come back better then ever. I never wanted mediocrity and I knew I would have to take chances to exceed that. I think and hope this young man is the same way. I hope to see him do his next meet like an animal stronger then ever. I hope he kills the total he wants and puts up an even bigger deadlift. Fortune favors the bold!

This sport is hard and it has plenty of risks. You really only have so much time to put up your peak potential. We put so much stress on our bodies and leave ourselves so susceptible to injuries, it won't let you keep pushing at that level forever. You have to take chances and be confident in yourself to reach the highest levels. You also can't let any little failures stop you from seeing the big picture. When things go wrong, it's just a chance to learn something and to improve yourself. If you really want to learn something about yourself, put it all on the line.

Throughout my career I have put it all on the table and took major risks. I don't feel like am alone in this, either. Most top powerlifters have done similar things. When I think back, I don't remember all the failures, but I do remember the triumphs. Especially the ones when I had my back against the wall and it was do or die. The times it went wrong were just learning experiences or bad training days that eventually led to destroying big weights on the platform. They are actually positive things if you want them to be. They make you better and stronger if you look at them the right way. Really, I look at some of my failures as great experiences because I did go for them. I stood on the edge of greatness and failure without backing down. That's the heart of a warrior and that's what it takes to lift massive weights.

When I started powerlifting I was not on top. I was struggling to get stronger just like everyone in the beginning. I started lifting locally with lots of other lifters and met tons of great people along the way. So many of them never made it to the upper levels of powerlifting — in fact, very few ever did. Why did I and so many other didn't? I am no great genetic strength freak and I certainly have plenty of messed up things. I have horrible sleep issues, severe depression, and bipolar tendencies. I was never a superstar athlete and even though I was descent, I trained my ass off for that. The difference was mental — how I looked at things. It was what I expected from myself and how much I was willing to do to get where I wanted. I remember people being happy about ten-pound gains in a year on their bench or other lifts. I remember them being worried about going nine for nine in a meet. I remember them never wanting to miss a lift. They never went for it, and when they did it would crush them mentally. They didn't have the warrior mentality!

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Life is about testing yourself. It's about pushing your limits and doing everything you can to get better. It's about knowing you might lose a battle but still have a war to win. It's about knowing there is a good day to die as long as you die in battle. You have to push your body to make it grow and you have to push it hard to lift truly heavy weights. You have to get under weights that feel like they will crush you and you might have to get crushed before you're ever able to lift them. When my brother and I were riding dirt bikes, he used to tell me that if I wasn't wrecking, I wasn't pushing hard enough. If you're pushing your limits, you're going to wreck.

Now, I am not saying to be completely crazy and throw all caution to the wind. I am all for having a strong team to help spot and keep things somewhat under control. I am all for using safety straps or safety pins. There is a difference between pushing the limits and being just plan stupid. You need controlled craziness. You have to put it all on the line, but you can still be intelligent about how you do it.

If you want to be great and have glory that no one can ever take from you then you can't be afraid to put it on the line. Don't be afraid to miss a lift or go for it. Push the limits of what you think you're capable of — it's the only way to really know what you can do.