I'm really not one for flash or fancy when it comes to dress. Regardless of degrees or titles, I'm still that kid whose first home was a trailer in the backwoods of northeast Oklahoma. My favorite T-shirt, though, is one that I got from elitefts (of course!), and it's the one that has a quote from Napolean Hill that reads, “Growth only comes through continuous effort and struggle.” Think about that quote for a second. When you first hear it, it sounds like something hard and something a lifter would say about training. You only improve your bench press through continuous training—by struggling through every repetition in order to meet your goal.

I've only seen videos of the way John Meadows does his Mountain Dog Training, and I will say that continuous effort and struggle leads to amazing muscle growth. Shoot, I just saw a picture on Facebook of Dave Tate's eyes after a Mountain Dog session, all bloodshot to hell. That's another example of continuous growth and struggle. There's no doubt that John, and all of the people who train his way, see great muscular growth because of their continuous struggle session after session.


Yet, the reason this is my favorite shirt is because the message has multiple layers. Growth only comes through continuous struggle and effort. People don't make change willingly.  People will change to survive, to thrive. That's the only way that they will change. What is another word for change? Growth. Think of the greatest success stories you've heard. All of them basically sound the same. Someone starts out with nothing, but through struggle and determination, he works his way to the top. Most of the people who knew him back when he was starting out wouldn't recognize him through conversation alone. He grew and changed. He faced struggle and he overcame that struggle. He had to fight everyday for what he had—for every millimeter of progress. Nothing came easy, and he grew. Sometimes he fought to have a place to sleep or food to eat, but he never stopped fighting and he grew.  Sometimes he had to fight to get to the front of the line, to get nothing but a warm place to stand for a minute, but he never stopped fighting...and he grew. We've all heard the stories of the poor immigrant who came over here with two dollars in his pocket, facing a new culture with people and their prejudices. However, even without knowing the language, this person went on to build a million dollar empire. He certainly struggled to learn the language—to learn who was taking advantage of him, and he struggled to learn how business worked here. He also struggled to learn the laws and customs of our country, which was very different than his own...and he grew.

“Growth only comes through continuous effort and struggle.”

Growth, both physical and emotional growth, comes not from who has it easiest, but from who is willing to work the most. Growth comes to the one who is willing to do whatever it takes, fighting relentlessly to achieve his or her goals. Growth comes to those who will work with anyone who will help them achieve success, not just who they like the most or who is popular now. It will not come to those who look up the mountain and think, “Damn that's high.” It will come to those who look directly in front of them and think, “Just one step. Just one step at a time. I will not stop. I will make just one step at a time.” Think about it for a second. Whose story do we like to hear? The ones that involve the most recent line of the Ford family, or the kid who overcame dire circumstances to lead? We love those stories because we can see the struggle. We can see the effort, and we can see the growth in the end.


Here's the great thing about these stories: they aren't just stories about other people's growth. They are a blueprint for ourselves. We know that if we want to grow as they have, it won't be easy. It will require hard work, blood, sweat, and tears (if we want to be cliché). But it is in our control. If we want growth, if we want change, we can make that happen for ourselves. It won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. It will be hard, and there will be times when you will want to give up. However, you have to remember why you are doing it—not for fun but for growth. This is the blueprint that I used for my life. I knew the statistics of people like me—people with similar upbringings, and I knew what I didn't want to be. So, I paid my way through college (with the help of some loans), and I decided that I wanted to go into strength and conditioning without an athletic pedigree (powerlifing isn't an NCAA sport). I worked for free for two years before ever getting a paycheck. My first boss, Rick Perry (currently of The Chicago Bears), likes to tell the story about his alarm clock for me. I went to classes and worked in the weight room all day. Well, let me be honest. In reality, I skipped a lot of classes and worked in the weight room all day (which was all volunteer work). So, to be able to pay rent and buy groceries, I worked security at various clubs and bars at night. I would be at work by 5:15 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and I would work until 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. Then, I would go home and sleep for two hours until I had to get ready and be at the bar by 10 p.m. I would then work until 2 a.m. or so before going back to the weight room and sleeping on a blowup mattress until my alarm clock went off...which was Rick slamming a bumper plate down on the floor.

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I knew what I wanted to do. My goal was to be a strength coach and that experience was the way to get me there. As J.L. Holdsworth said in his article, "I knew I had to pay my dues and was willing to pay them in abundance to have a chance to do it." I saw other student assistants/interns come and go because the possible payoff wasn't worth the continuous effort to them. And w I also knew that it wouldn't be easy, I knew what I had to do if I wanted a chance at getting a job. I outlasted all of them and ended up getting a paid student assistant position (which was minimum wage and only paid for 10 hours of work a week even though I was putting in over 60). I know for a fact that I wasn't the only one who went through that program and made it. From that program alone came several people who are considered some of the top strength coaches out there—Zach Dechant of TCU and Andrew Paul who went on to be a strength coach and then physical therapist of what is now called Exos (formerly Athlete's Performance) both went through the program. Those who were willing to go through the struggle have made it, and those who thought it was unnecessarily hard didn't make it. No matter the purpose for the desired growth, be it physical or mental, the basics are the same. Growth only comes through continuous effort and struggle. If you are willing to embrace the struggle, that never-ending effort required to have a chance at reaching a speck of light at the end of a seemingly 200-mile long tunnel, the result is that you become Strong(er).

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