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Mistakes are part of the learning process. Granted, I hate when I mess up and it eats at me, but at the same time, I know that it's what it takes for me to learn. The most important thing for me is that I learn from my mistakes and that I don't continue to make the same mistakes. I suppose some people can learn things without making mistakes, but being a very hardheaded and stubborn person, I know that it’s just part of my process. So when I make a mistake or screw something up, I get very angry at myself and it continues to gnaw at me until I've figured it all out. I have to figure out why it happened in the first place and figure out ways to ensure that it never happens again. For as far back as I can remember, I've been this way. People used to criticize me for being so hard on myself, but that is a big part of my motivation to learn and not make that mistake again.

In powerlifting, I've made many, many, many mistakes, and I don't think anyone makes it to the top without making mistakes. Over the years though, I've seen mistakes break people down, and I've seen people not reach their potential because of fear of making mistakes. Mistakes are just part of life and learning. It isn't so horrible that you made a mistake. It only matters how you deal with that mistake. If you can learn from it, the mistake was a good thing. If you continue to keep making the same mistake, that's bad. If you're so afraid of making a mistake that you inhibit the learning process all together, that's a very bad thing.

I've seen people who appear to just blow off mistakes and then never make them again. I'm actually jealous of that because I've never been able to do that. Even if it appears that it isn't a big deal to me on the outside, it's eating me up on the inside and I can't wait for the next similar situation so that I can do things correctly without making that same mistake. I don't think that it’s important how anyone deals with the mistake as long as the end result is learning from it while never repeating it.

Thinking up this article was interesting for me because I realized some things about how I deal with mistakes. I've known that when I make a mistake it eats at me and it will be stuck in my brain until I know that I've mastered it. I hadn't realized that once this is done, I almost completely forget about it. I know that I've made tons of mistakes in lifting, but it was actually hard to remember them. I have all kind of memories of things I'm proud of and great accomplishments, but the mistakes I've made are apparently stored away deep down somewhere in my brain. I thought it would be easy to come up with the five worst mistakes I've made, but it was really difficult. I even called my training partners to help me remember some, but that just ended up being a conversation of all the good times and awesome things we've experienced in powerlifting. It seems they are like me and, once the mistake has been corrected, it's gone or stuck back in the subliminal parts of our brains. I think this proves that mistakes are nothing to fear or worry about. If you see that mistakes are just a chance to learn, in the long run, it will only be the successes or good times that you remember.

So looking back over my years of lifting, these are the five biggest mistakes I can remember. Some took me a while to learn from, and I made the same mistakes a few times before I did learn. Some I learned quickly and never made again. If I could remember all my mistakes, this list could be a half-mile long, but these are the five that I remember the most right now. Hopefully, these show that we all make mistakes and we all can learn from them. I mean if a stubborn SOB like me can learn, anyone can!

#1 Mistake: Pushing Past Limits

The first and probably the biggest mistake I made was not backing off right after I did my 1221-pound squat attempt. I bombed out of that meet because I didn't hit depth, but my strength was incredible at that time and I knew it. I immediately kicked up the intensity in my training and looked for another meet. I ended up pushing myself over the edge instead of just giving myself a few weeks off and letting my body recover. Working back into smart training to prepare for a new meet, I let my emotions get the best of me and I didn't use my brain. This is something I've struggled with throughout my lifting career. I tend to believe that I'm invincible and that I can handle anything, but the truth is that the human body has some limits no matter how much heart you have. I also believed that I could handle my sleep problems and depression no matter how hard I pushed it. I thought I could push myself as hard as I wanted and I would be strong enough to deal with all of it. In addition, at that time, I remember telling myself, "Just a few more months...I can handle it." It turns out that even I have my limits and that is something I think I'll always have to work on.

#2 Mistake: Changing My Attitude

There was one meet where I decided that I needed to be more relaxed when I deadlifted. I think I had a really smooth pull in the gym or something while I wasn't all pumped up and therefore thought that I should do it in the meet. So instead of my usual ramp up with rage, I actually was whistling a bit as I chalked up my hands. I was very confident and relaxed. As it turned out, I pulled like complete shit! When I went back to the warm-up room, I got the third degree from my teammates, who wanted to know what the hell I was thinking. To this day, I still get shit about that.

Immediately after the pull, I thought, "Well, there was a learning experience and I will never do that again." I learned not to change things up in the meet. Everyone lifts differently and has different styles. Some people can lift while calm and do amazing. Other people need to get pumped up and use their rage. Still others are somewhere in the middle. I need to be pumped up and use my rage, which is probably one of the big reasons why I'm a meet lifter, not a gym lifter (I don't always go crazy in the gym). It’s important to practice the meet in the gym and stick to your plan when you're in the meet.

#3 Mistake: Cutting Corners in Rehab

I've made this mistake multiple times, but I think that I may have finally learned my lesson. Most of my major injuries have always been muscle tears, and at this point, I've had lots of experience with them. I have tears in both biceps, a torn hamstring, a torn pec, a torn hip flexor and a torn triceps. The biceps, pec and hamstring have all been torn multiple times and this has been because I always come back to soon.

As I wrote earlier, I have a bit of a complex and think that I'm Superman and that I can get through anything or deal with anything. Well, with my initial tears in the bicep, pec and hamstring, I did good rehabilitation. I dropped the weights down and didn't do things that kept irritating my injuries. I regularly iced, stretched and did what modalities I could. I used all the things I learned back when I worked in physical therapy. The real mistake for me was the first moment I was able to lift somewhat heavy without any pain, I figured that I was good to go. I learned the hard way that this isn't a good idea because that day I tore everything again when I went for a max lift.

I don't even remember how many small tears I have in my biceps. I tore my hamstring three times in a matter of like six weeks. I tore my pec three times also in about six weeks. Both of these occurred when I was trying to prepare for a meet, only one of which was even worth it (I will write about this more in a minute). What did I learn from all these multiple tears? I learned that I'm not Superman all the time and that I'm sick of tearing muscles (especially multiple times). Now, when I think I can go full blast, I start a three-week countdown until I actually let myself go full blast. I used this idea with my triceps and hip flexor. It worked out pretty well because they healed up great and have been fine ever since.

#4 Mistake: Placing Too Much on the Line

My third mistake leads me into my fourth—I put too much on the line for meets that don't really matter so much in the big picture.

There are meets that are worth putting it all on the line for, such as world championships or any of the really big meets. I think it's worth putting it all on the line for world records. In powerlifting, we really never know how long we have because injuries or health issues can catch us at any time. If you have the chance to put up huge numbers or win the big meet, to me, it's worth any risk. Other times though, it’s not worth the risk of injury or even messing up your training for a big meet.

I made this mistake with a local meet put on for one of the high schools. A friend was running it and asked me to compete in it. I knew that all his kids were excited to see me lift, and I thought it might be a good experience for them. I decided to do it raw just because it was a high school thing and it only took a little time to train raw. In training, about six weeks out, I tore my pec. It wasn't a bad tear and I did back off some, but I knew the meet was coming up. A few weeks after that, it felt pretty good, so I decided to test it in the gym, which of course ended with it being torn even worse. It still wasn't too bad though.

At this point, I figured OK, no heavy benching until the meet. It felt fine on the day of the competition, and I opened with an easy 500 pounds. I didn't have any problems, and I was already thinking about 600 with the half reverse grip I was using at the time. My next attempt was 550, which felt light, and after my pause, I went to slam it up only to tear the shit out of it. Now, I had half a pec and all because I decided to do a small, local meet when I should have been smart enough to back out of it (I'm confident everyone would have understood). I even could have just squatted and deadlifted.

I truly believe that confidence and invisibility are necessities for being a top lifter, but there also needs to be some reality at times. The ironic thing was I've always been really good about sticking with my training or plan in the past. I've done news interviews during recovery days because I wasn't scheduled to lift heavy that day. I've visited gyms where everyone wants me to lift heavy, but if it isn't a scheduled heavy training day, I won't do it no matter how much I want to. Sometimes it's better to live to fight another day. This is another mistake that I struggle with, but I've gotten much better at it over the years.

#5 Mistake: Re-Adjusting Under the Bar

Of all the mistakes I've made, this is my favorite. I'm sure some people will think it's messed up that it’s my favorite, but in my mind, it shows how much confidence I have in my own lifting ability and the place I take myself to when I lift.

It was the AWPC Worlds in Chicago, and I upped my squat world record to like 1014 pounds or something on my second attempt. I was looking for a lot more though and I called for 1052 pounds. It was an easy pick up and the weight felt light. As I started my descent, I pushed my feet out so far that my left foot rolled out over my high top vans. I was on the side of the shoe instead of the sole of it. I thought, "No problem, I got this. All I need to do is pull my leg back in and get back on the sole of the shoe.” I proceeded to do this because I wanted that squat. I was probably about two-thirds of the way down, and I pulled my leg in hard. This led to my knee crashing in and the rest of my body quickly following it to the floor. Luckily, I spend a lot of time stretching, and the only real damage I did was to strain my medial collateral ligament. For the rest of the meet, it felt like I had a softball in my knee. Despite that, I still added to my AWPC bench and total world records.

It wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but it’s a mistake I can live with because I know I would do it all over again. It was the worlds, and for a world record, like I said, sometimes you have to put it all on the line. Maybe it would've been smarter to squat on the side of my shoe instead or just racked the weight and called for a fourth attempt. It’s hard for me to have any negative thoughts under the bar though. It's always thoughts that will accomplish it no matter what it takes.

To make a mistake is human. To learn from that mistake is intelligence.

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