November 13, 2005 is a day that I will never forget. I was competing at the IPA nationals in York, Pennsylvania, and on my opening squat attempt, I lost my balance. As I stepped back, the barbell shifted to the side and crushed me to the ground. My right patella tendon was fully ruptured, my kneecap was broken in three places, and my right ankle was fractured. Looking back, I now know there were numerous reasons for this incident.

First of all, my mind was not on the business at hand. I knew my rack height was too low but thought, “It’s only 820 lbs. I’ll change it on my second attempt.” I remember seeing blood splatter on the carpet and thinking, “I wonder why they didn’t clean that up.” I was thinking of a million things except actually squatting the weight. The back spotter didn’t help matters, as he was in the typical IPA back spotting position of the thumb and forefinger upright row attempt.

But looking back at the incident, I now realize that the ball was set in motion for the injury that morning in the lobby of the motel. That morning I ran into Louie Simmons, and he asked if I was lifting. I responded by saying, “Yeah, I'm going to see what I can rip off today.” Louie cringed and said, “Don’t say that.” But I just laughed it off and later said to my wife, “What’s his problem. I always joke about getting hurt. That’s what I’m known for.”

“I always joke about getting hurt.” Over the years, just about every conversation I’ve had has revolved around me getting hurt. I joke about it, talk about it, think about it, and dwell on it constantly. Even when I look over my training logs (I’ve kept detailed journals of every workout and every supplement and how I’ve felt since my first day in the gym), it seems the main theme is “my hamstring hurt, my peck hurt, my back hurt” etc. In fact over the last ten years, I can’t remember one single solitary meet where I could train all three lifts the last three weeks before the contest because of some type of pull or tear. Now, some of these injuries were just typical powerlifting related misfortunes, but in really analyzing the situation, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve actually been guilty of talking myself into many of these injuries.

Where your mind takes you, the body follows. How many of us take the time to train our thought life? We spend hours at the gym, we spend thousands of dollars on food and supplements, and some of us may even invest in massage and chiropractic work, but how many of us take the time and effort to purposely train our thoughts and tongues into positive actions? How many times throughout the day do you make it a point to dwell on positive thoughts? Do you say to yourself, “I feel great,” or do you say, “My fucking groin is killing me. How will I squat this weekend?”

If we are always concentrating on the negative, how in the world can we ever expect to get anything positive? I don’t want to turn this article into a Joel Olsteiin sermon, but I truly believe my thoughts and words have been two of the most damaging things that have negatively affected my lifting career.

While negative thinking can cause problems, I believe positive thinking can cure problems. I’m a huge fan of individuals who are successful. Every book I read is a biography of someone who has reached the zenith of his career in their particular endeavor. One guy who I really have come to admire is Donald Trump. I don’t know anything about the art of the deal nor do I pretend to understand his investment portfolio, but what I’m a fan of is that every time I hear this man speak, all I ever hear him say is that anything he’s involved with is the best, the most spectacular, the top of the line. He could be talking about taking a crap, and he would say, “It’s the best crap in the entire world.” Is it any wonder why everything he touches turns to gold?

How does your conversation compare? Do you ever say and truly believe that you’re feeling great, that you’re going to succeed, or that you’re on the right track? Or is your conversation and thought life full of doubt and negativity? In my case, when another lifter asks how I’m doing, I usually respond with a comment like, “I’m stiff and sore.” Geeze. I wonder why I’m always stiff and sore. Could it be that my mind and tongue have convinced my body to feel like crap? Perhaps being more like Trump will actually have a positive affect on my lifting and my health.

Obviously, I will never be seen as an all-time great powerlifter. However, I think I’ve developed a reputation in this sport of a guy who trains really hard (although not always smart), trains through injuries, and has a “never say die” attitude. However, in my mind, all that hard work, all those hours in the gym, and all that money spent on food and supplements has in many cases been ruined by a simple throw away line like, “Today is deadlift day. I wonder if my hamstring will rip off.” How many times over the years has my throw away line become a reality and in a split second six months of training has been flushed down the toilet? I can’t even count how many times I’ve commented on my tight pecks only to have one pop while benching. Do you think that’s a coincidence? I sure don’t. Is that anyway to succeed? Don’t you think that by dwelling on the negative, I have actually sealed my fate into one of failure?

Please be aware of what you’re saying and what you’re thinking. A simple joke can set into motion an injury that could set you back for weeks. Constantly dwelling on feeling crappy will assure yourself that you will continue to feel crappy. I’m not saying lie to your self. I’m suggesting keeping your mouth shut. If a negative thought jumps in, keep it in your head and turn it into a positive thought. Don’t get drawn into the “woe is me” conversations of most powerlifters.

One of my closest friends in powerlifting is John Bott. We speak on the phone often, but our conversation usually ends up with us joking about this injury or that injury. We dwell on how crappy our elbows or groins feel or any one of a hundred other dings and pulls. Is it any wonder why we are always hurt? Is it any wonder why we never fully lift to our potential? Perhaps if we just said, “Everything feels great, and I’m strong as hell,” and left it at that, we might start to see some changes.

I’m not trying to say that positive thoughts or words will make you a world class lifter. I could tell myself that I’m as strong as Ed Coan from now until the day I die, and I will still never be like Ed. I’m saying that negative thoughts can severely damage any plans you have for a big total on the platform. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “I hope everything holds together today” only to rip a quad or groin or peck. How many times have you joked about bombing in a meet only to hear those dreaded words, “Come on folks, get behind him. He needs this lift to stay in the meet.” Do you think the jokes may have actually caused that dreaded reality?

Training hard and eating well are, of course, the most important aspects of lifting. However, I’m convinced that the outrageous numbers and incredible lifts we are seeing today are not so much the results of extreme gear or slack judging but more the result of guys believing these numbers are possible. Once Steve Goggins squatted 1100 lbs, many guys thought, “If he can do it so can I.” The same applies to the bench numbers. It’s only a matter of time before the deadlift numbers go up as well after seeing Andy Bolton pull 1003 lbs. What’s the lesson that can be learned from this? Maybe we all need to start believing that we will be healthy and strong instead of dwelling on what ails us.

I have learned many things over my career in powerlifting, but the most important lesson I’ve learned took me nearly twenty-five years to understand and only now have I tried to practice it. Guard what you say and control what you think. Negative thoughts can kill all your hard work, and constantly harping on feeling crappy will assure that you will remain that way. Take some time throughout the day to dwell on how great you feel. If you hurt, don’t give into it. Think positively or you could be like me and end up with a career full of injuries and regrets.