I am completely intrigued by the power of the human mind and spirit and the power of our thought process and how we perceive our world. It makes sense since I enjoy listening to philosophers, motivational speakers, successful people telling their stories, and these types of things. I always come away with some great mind-expanding thoughts, no matter if I agree or not.

Just the other day, I was listening to a motivational speech that got me going. I spent days thinking about the parts I agreed with and even more days on the ones I disagreed with. It ended up clarifying some of my thoughts about strength sports and where many athletes need assistance. It is clear to me that an evolution of the thought process and the perception of what training should be is how lifters and strength athletes progress to the higher levels.

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This particular motivational speech reminded me of the progression I saw in powerlifters as I progressed and as I moved up the ranks of the powerlifting world, I noticed changes in the lifters. Not just how physically strong they were, but how they thought and how they approached the sport and their training. I always enjoyed being around athletes and lifters, but being around top strength athletes was a whole new level.

There is this constant respect given and this willingness to continue learning. It is a confidence without any arrogance. I have heard some of the best lifters in the world admit they feel like they still have so much to learn about strength and saw for myself how dedicated they are to continually learn. They have developed a thought process that allows them to still have newbie eagerness to learn and the experienced skill to weed through the bullshit.

I am reminded of when my thought process took a major step forward without me even realizing it. My lifting background goes back to a young age before powerlifting. It began to help build strength for football and throwing (shot put and discus), which I was training for. I also had many years working in and around physical therapy before I found powerlifting at the age of 27.

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By this time, I had already learned a lot and had let go of many bad habits. The main one of these was wanting to do everything on my own, which made me free to take credit for all my success and full blame when I failed. I quickly realized I did not know enough when I started competing in powerlifting and began seeking knowledge.

As everyone probably already knows, Dave Tate and elitefts were on the top of my list. I had lots of ideas about training and stuff I wanted to try, but to be honest, I looked around to see no one doing anything like what I was thinking. I was also struggling with how to set up a program using them or how I could put them all together. Keep in mind; I had no contact with any high-level lifters at the time.

During my first seminar, I could not believe I was hearing things so similar to what I had wanted to try. It was a real wake-up call for me. It taught me to have more confidence in my ideas, my thought process, and myself. Conventional wisdom can be good, but just because the masses do it does not mean it is the best way. Why follow mediocrity when you want to be great?

It also helped reinforce the idea that it is OK to seek knowledge and help and to treat those people and their knowledge with respect. It does not mean you have to agree with everything, but take the time to listen and think. I did not realize at the time, but that first seminar was a big change in my thought process, and it gave me tools to continue to improve on it.

Hard work and busting your ass was the main focus of this particular motivational speech. Growing up in the blue-collar middle class in the Midwest, I heard a lot about this. I was raised to take pride in working my fingers to the bone and to take pride in being one of the hardest workers. It was ingrained in me that if you want something, you’re gonna have to work for it, to the point I never wanted anyone to give me anything; instead, I wanted to earn it. If I ever came up short, it just meant I had to work harder. I think I grew up in a time where most of America had this type of mentality. This was America, and if you wanted to be successful, you just had to work hard.

I still take pride in this today, but I have to admit, I think there is a limit to this kind of thinking. Lots of motivational speeches seem to include people talking about how hard they worked to accomplish their deeds, how many hours there are in a day and that sleep is lazy or shit like that, and about how they outworked everyone else.

This gets on my nerves a bit. For every super successful guy giving a speech, there are probably hundreds of people working just as hard as them who never made it to that level. There can only be one world record holder, and you’re seriously telling me it was just because they outworked everyone else? I don’t buy that for one minute. I know for a fact when I broke world records, there were lots of guys working just as hard as me, especially if the standard given definition of working hard means working physically hard.

What is working your ass off anyway? Why do so many people take such pride in it? I continue to find it funny how people claim to be such hard workers when they love what they are doing. In the speech, I have mentioned he talked about how hard he worked, but so many other times, I have heard this same person talk about how much they loved doing what they did.

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In my own instance, I bust my ass in the gym and I train physically very hard to the point of exhaustion. At the same time, I love to train and I love to push myself in training. So really, how hard am I working when I love doing it? How hard is it to put forth effort into something you love? Personally, I think this is a good thing. We should all find stuff we love and strive to be the best we can be at it. All I am saying is that maybe we need to change our perspective on hard work and how hard we should work.

I can go on and on about this and many other motivational speeches. I can find good and bad in almost all of them. I can go on about busting your ass and hard work. The fact is, it’s all relative. More important than all this motivational shit is that motivation is fleeting because it is basically an emotion. At best, motivation is an action of an emotion.

What I want athletes and lifters to understand is that the common ground of the most successful strength athletes is a thought process and way of looking at things (perspective). People always ask me how I am able to push myself so hard in the gym. Easy, I love to train, and it does not feel like work to me. I can’t imagine wanting to be the best or putting so much effort into it if I did not love it. We must remember perspective, though. Training is just a small portion of being a strength athlete.

For example, most athletes probably spend more time on meal prep and eating than they do in the actual gym, not to mention making money to get that food. For me, it is all this other stuff that is like work, and it takes much more sacrifice than the actual lifting in the gym. Getting enough sleep, doing recovery, eating, meal prepping, stretching, modalities, and not doing all the other things you love because they get in the way of being a high-level strength athlete.

Most, if not all, top strength athletes see that being successful is not just one thing, but instead, an intertwined web of so many other things. We must realize it is not only about training our bodies to grow but also our minds, thought process, and perspectives.

I am no better than lifters that have not achieved world records. The lifters that beat my world records are no better than me. I did not achieve my success because I outworked everyone under me. There were plenty of lifters working just as hard as I was. You do have to work hard to be successful.

It is more about where you choose to put that hard work. I chose something I loved while understanding there was still going to be a lot I did not love so much, and that stuff still needed to be done. I was successful because I understood the whole picture and how everything was connected. I fully admit there was some luck in the way things fell into place, which allowed me to understand this.

I succeeded because I did the work in all the right places. Sometimes it was hard work in places I did not want, and at other times, it was easy work in areas I wanted.