Awesomeness. It’s a concept that you simply can't escape from these days no matter how hard you try. It has gone beyond a mere adjective to transcend into a mythical state of being to which all humans (especially guys) can't help but be drawn like moths to the flame.

Popular culture is awash in awesome—Dairy Queen ads, the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world, the strangely hypnotic Old Spice commercials. Seriously (or is that SRSLY?!). If we find out 25 years from now that watching those things turned half of the American population (the male half?) into Manchurian candidates, just remember you read it here first.

Language has become awesome, too. No one makes a simple mistake any more. Oh no, no, no…see, now we have epic fails. The mundane has become legendary and God only knows my nephews describe nearly anything they find even remotely cool as “beast.” Hell, I even have that ridiculous “Proud to Be Awesome” T-shirt. And hoo boy, do I enjoy the word “ginormous” a little more than any 30-year-old dude ever should.

You can even find a veritable Wonderland of Awesome right here at good ole’, most notably with a few of the high princes of awesome like Jim Wendler, Jason Pegg, Steve Pulcinella, and Vincent Dizenzo. And truthfully, I could go on and on.

There’s just one small problem with awesomeness my friends. When everything is “awesome,” nothing is. Think about that person in your office with the itchy trigger finger to click the little red exclamation mark indicating “high priority” on every single email. Importance gets drowned out when overused, and awesome, at its core, should be something more limited because it is (by definition,) something that inspires awe, something challenging to attain.

It should be more like how I’ve heard Dave Tate describe a true PR—it simply has to mean something and be the result of an enormous amount of work and sacrifice. No one gives a single damn about my totally sick PR on triceps kickbacks. No, really…I was shocked, too, but apparently it’s 100 percent true. Life is pretty wacky.

So how to sift through the awesome wheat from the worthless chaff in these days of awesome overload? Or for our gluten-avoiding Paleo friends, how to sift through the 90 percent lean grass-fed beef from the white glass of death known as skim milk? Like most things in life, sifting like this is fairly simple. It's just hard to do because it requires consistency, discipline, and a special mesh for critical thinking.

Something isn't awesome just because “famous guy X” says so: Let’s get this one out of the way early. I have an enormous amount of respect for guys like Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, and more coaches/lifters on elitfts™ than I can count. The fact that my house lacks its own devotional altar to 5/3/1 disappoints me daily. Because these guys have proven themselves over years…no...decades, I tend to give much more weight to their words than others'. But no one should just assume because Dave or Jim or anyone else said it that it’s a pure nugget of truth to be taken whole without an ounce of thought. That’s when potential knowledge becomes complete dogma and anyone who disagrees becomes a heretic.

Just...ugh. Think of the near religious debates we see all the time—Crossfit versus powerlifters versus bodybuilders versus triathletes. Republicans versus Democrats. Less filling versus tastes great. Pick your favorite.

But people continually deify anyone who they think is an expert, and we all become poorer for it. Hell, I'm fairly confident that if you told Dave Tate you just did everything he said because he said it without expending the mental energy to decide how it applied to you, he might slap you. And you would deserve it, too.

Jim Wendler actually made a good point on thinking for yourself on his website the other day in talking about the essentials of a lifter: “Open mind (with filter)—You have to be open to new ideas, but you have to also be wary of what you read. Usually an older, more experienced lifter can filter through some of the bullshit, but sometimes desperation can lead to some poor decisions. A lifter must have a core, a philosophy that he adheres to. He has to stand for something. Yet he also has to learn to open himself up to new ideas and be smart enough to place them into his training without upsetting his core beliefs.”

Be open to new ideas and don’t close yourself off by thinking that any one approach is utterly wrong or doesn't hold any merit at all. You don’t have to blindly adopt every new program that rolls down the road, but for the love of God don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and don’t assume everything that can be figured out has been.

Remember: Dave and Jim have achieved awesomeness through applying intelligence, experience, and passion to what they do…and earning respect each and every day.

Easy and common don't equal awesome: Just for the sake of research (admittedly really, really amateurish research), I did a quick search on #epic and #awesome on Twitter—just on those hash tags. They were used at least 75 times each in the span of ten minutes. Wait…what? Perhaps your lives are more exciting than mine, but I’m guessing that there weren’t 150 epically awesome events that occurred in the entire world in that span of time let alone occurred to people who were going to tweet about them. But I guess it’s possible. In that same ten minutes, I drank a glass of epically chilled water like a champ and then played Angry Birds like no other human to ever walk the earth (you had to be there).

The optimistic side of me hopes there are people truly having such over the top experiences right now. Honest. But come on. If everyone is having experiences that are “awesome” so frequently, apparently nirvana is something achieved as easily as picking up a pack of gum while checking out at the grocery store. I like me some gum…but I’ve never thought of chewing on Hubba-Bubba as some kind of life changing experience.

Continuously define your own awesome: It can be incredibly easy to get caught up in what is being hyped as the best just because of the hype. I do it. You do it. We really all do it. It’s just a question of how often and whether we exercise the self-awareness to catch ourselves.

For instance, I'm always amazed at the training dedication of the guys and gals here on elitefts™. It’s fairly mind-boggling to see how they train with such single minded focus, but they don’t quite get to a full level of awesome in comparison to those I put at the top of my personal pyramid. That place is reserved for people like Alwyn Cosgrove, Bob Youngs and a couple of loved ones near and dear to my heart who battled back from leukemia/lymphoma or any other horrible blood cancer. That’s a fight. That’s laying it all on the line and refusing to ever give up. That’s courage. That…is awesome. I will never see any powerlifting/Strongman/athletic training moment equal to any of that. Ever. But again that is just my own view, and what makes life so interesting is that everyone has his own.

I have very little doubt that you have something similar in your own life with which to define your own awesome. Maybe it’s purely about training. Maybe you like to write short stories. Hell, maybe you can whittle with the best of them. It really doesn’t matter if it's fantastic by my standards, only by your own. Personally, I think my little piece of heaven (the home gym I built in my basement) is pretty awesome.

And if you cave in on something you really, truly love just because someone else finds it lame? That does seem decidedly…well…you know…

So we looked at awesome, but what about things that should generally be considered non-awesome? One that always gets me is those who consistently describe themselves as awesome/elite but tend to be neither awesome nor elite.

This one sort of explains itself. If you have to talk about it all the time, are you really that awesome or are you trying to convince yourself? Shouldn’t who you are and what you do just speak for itself? I don’t mean to knock those who enjoy having a lot of fun talking ironically about their own awesomeness (seriously Steve Pulcinella’s log is always one of my favorite reads), but those who drink their own Kool-Aid…well…yeah. That’s who I mean. It always reminds me of (and I can't believe I'm going here) that Jennifer Lopez song “Jenny from the Block” that drove me nuts a few years ago. If you have to devote a song to how “real” you are, you are about as genuine as that shiny, glittery Rolex on sale out of a suitcase.

There is a big difference between constantly striving to attain your own awesomeness and announcing yourself “awesome.” Look carefully at Wendler’s writings. They are like a mythical quest to achieve awesomeness. He picks training activities based on how awesome they are. He seeks to engage in life pursuits that are awesome. Ever notice what he never does? He doesn’t endlessly write about how we should bask in his glorious awesomeness. He’s too busy trying to be awesome. That’s a key difference and something not to be missed. As much of a cliché as it may be, “awesome” really is a journey and not a destination.

To wrap it all up, as great as the pursuit of awesome or elite is, you need to develop and continuously fine tune your own awesome filter. There are just so many things out there competing for our collective attention and each is seeking to convince us that it is the biggest, brightest, and shiniest thing/product/program/concept. I will be the first to admit that my filter is still very much a work in progress, and I write everything here just as much for me as for anyone else reading it. The people I mentioned in this piece…I think they are all actually pretty awesome. Don’t take anything I’ve written here to suggest otherwise for even a moment. But until we think for ourselves on why, we succumb to being part of the aimlessly grazing herd. And you don’t need to be awesome sauce to know you don’t want that.