Lifting and life can be horribly difficult at times. They can both beat us down and make us question ourselves. They can make us fearful of taking risks and make us want to play it safe. What is life or lifting without risk? Some would say life without risk is not living, and the same could be said for strength training. Strength is based on adaptation, and adaptation only occurs when we push past the normal stresses. The same holds true in life and self-improvement. Pushing ourselves further in the gym means taking risks, and pushing ourselves to lift more weight than we have ever have usually means taking big risks. If you want to grow as a person or lifter then sometimes you just have to put it all out there. With risk comes great knowledge and growth, in both strength and life.

Putting it all out there is a deep concept. It is much more than just taking a big lift or trying something new. I am talking about stuff so big that it can change your life — the stuff that takes time, hard work, and dedication. Stuff that will push you beyond where you have ever been. I am not talking about putting ten pounds on your bench, losing five pounds, or vowing to cuss less. I am talking about ambitious goals that take putting it all out there: I will qualify for a national competition, I will make the top ten list, I will become world-class, I will become an amazing partner, I will become a more optimistic person, I will conquer depression, or I will become a successful business owner. I am talking about goals that are beyond average and that will set you apart from the crowd. I am talking about goals that will teach you lessons that will spread throughout your life and change you as a person. These types of things are worth taking risks for.

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It is so easy to become complacent and content in life. I think there may be areas of life where this thinking isn’t so bad, but overall it is not good for us. When we become like this, we tend to stop taking risks and begin to fear change. Without risk, we are not growing like we should always be growing, and if you stop growing then aren’t you just dying? Why do we get so afraid of risk, anyway? Is it fear of losing what we have gained? Well, if we gained it once then we have the knowledge to gain it back, and what good are gains if we stop growing anyway?

meana chad squat

Other times people have nothing to begin with but still will not take a risk, which I think comes from a fear of failure. They feel like if they don’t try then they can’t fail. We should never fear failure because it is probably one of the best teachers we could ever have. If we learn from failure then it cannot be a failure. The lessons that taught me the most in my life always came from failure. They say that most successful businessmen fail at three businesses before they succeed with one. Every time we fail or mess something up, it is a chance to learn to do that thing better, and even more importantly it is a chance to learn about ourselves. It is a chance to learn what we are made of and who we are on the inside.

Risk has a way of throwing us into adversity and giving us new experiences. Adversity and experience are the greatest teachers if we are willing to listen. Do we let the negativity of it creep into our subconscious or do we block that out to see opportunity? How we handle these situations gives us great insight into things we need to work on. It can help us become more resilient for the next time something like this happens — and trust me, it will happen again. Putting it all out there and taking a risk helps us test ourselves. It helps us learn to dig deeper in ourselves and teaches us that we always have more. It is our choice to let it crush us or learn from it. Wars are never won without losing a few battles.

I have been fortunate in that, for some reason, I could always put it all out there when it came to lifting or other sporting endeavors. This ability taught me a lot in those areas and even spread to the rest of my life. Over this last year, though, I realized there were many other parts of my life outside lifting where I was not taking the risks I should have been — at least not to the level I could have been. You could say I was unconsciously half-assing it, but once I did realize this I made some major changes. I have been working on my sleep issues and everything that goes along with them for many, many years, but I was definitely not giving it my all. I was not putting it all out there, and because of that I had not made the progress I should have made with it. The level of progress I was making was equal to the risk I was taking. This had nothing to do with fear per se but more just that I had forgotten the importance of putting it all on the line.

If you want half-ass results then go at it half-assed. If you want to be successful then you've got to put it all on the line. You have to go all-in. I have made more progress with my sleep in the last year than in the previous five. I was open with my goals and the effort I was going to give. I felt I could conquer it but I knew for sure I was going to take it as far as I could. I was not afraid to tell the world what I was after and what I was going to accomplish. Yes, there was and still is a chance I could fail only to end up looking like an idiot. I truly believe in myself, though, so I have no time to worry about looking like an idiot. I am now approaching this problem of mine with the same attitude of putting it all on the line that I approached powerlifting with, and it shows in results.

squatting meana chad

Just walking through life and letting it happen to me is not how I want to live. Yeah, maybe something great might happen, but I am not going to sit around and wait to see if it does. I am going to keep taking risks and putting it on the line. I am going to fail sometimes and I am going to have setbacks, but I am not going to be afraid to try or live in complacency. We are humans and this means we will all screw up sometimes, but all that really matters is how we deal with it. We grow up with fairy tales but somehow we forget that in the middle of every fairy tale it is just shit! It takes going through that shit and putting it all on the line to reach the happily ever after. It takes believing in yourself and never quitting to get to that happy ending. Even then, it takes that same attitude to keep that happily ever after. How many classic movies are underdog stories? Without setbacks or failures, there is no underdog story. Setbacks just set the stage for great badass comebacks! These things are nothing more than opportunities to pull ourselves back up. To stand taller and stronger than we have ever stood.

As humans, we are inherently imperfect. We make mistakes. That is just part of life and is something we need to accept. I admit this is very, very difficult for me, and something I continue to work on. It is all good, though. There is greatness in accepting we are imperfect. There is freedom and clarity in understanding and embracing this concept. At the very same time, I will tell you to strive for perfection. How many things have been accomplished in this world that other people thought were impossible? I can say for a fact that there are a lot. We have no idea what we are capable of unless we go all-in and take the risk. You can never go wrong if you put your heart and will into something. Maybe you don’t reach as far as you wanted, but you will reach way further than you were reaching. You will discover your true self and learn more than you ever thought you could. The only way to really fail is to not try. To stay exactly where you are and never take that risk. This is where the shame lies. This is where you are just hiding from yourself and from your potential. We only have one life, so why not be the best you can with this one?

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I am not writing this article to try to be Tony Robbins and I am not hoping you will jump up to sprint out the door to the gym after you read this. I just hope people that read this take a few moments to think about their lives and what they are doing with them. Are you a passenger sitting quietly or are you grabbing the wheel and pressing the gas pedal? Yes, life can be hard and can beat us down. Yes, sometimes it can make us think we are trapped in feelings, like we are stuck. Yes, it is easy to just settle in and pull the covers over our head. This isn’t living, though, and it is certainly not what life is about. Sometimes we have to swallow the fear and take the risk to remember what life is about. Maybe it won’t always work out like we want but we will most definitely learn from the experience. We will walk away better people and more knowledgeable for the next time we put it all out there.

This should become a regular part of our lives: always learning, growing, and being willing to take a risk. This holds true in life and strength training. Don’t be afraid to set goals beyond what others think or to be open about those goals. You don't have to shout them from the mountaintops, but don’t be afraid to take that risk of putting them out there. Sometimes you have to follow your own heart, and no one can know what you are capable of more than yourself. It is a risk to do things different than others or to follow your own path, but this path leads to great rewards. That is the path that leads to great innovation and success. It is that path to becoming a great lifter and person. Don’t let life chain you down and make you feel you have to play it safe all the time. Be willing and strive to take risks in your life and in your training. At the very least you will learn great things and gain the confidence to keep trying until you reach your goals.