During the summer of 2012, I was talking to the father of two of my schoolmates. We were discussing my recent decision to not pursue team sports and to instead focus on powerlifting. I was very young at the time—about 13 years old. He said, “Why did you choose powerlifting over all the other sports? Say, why not cycling?" For anyone who has ever tried to answer that question, you know that it isn't exactly easy. And I really didn't have an answer.

Flash-forward to the summer of 2013: I had just turned 15 years old, and I had already competed in two powerlifting meets and was training for my third. One morning, after I had just finished a brutal bench session put together by my coach Josh Bryant, I began listening to a Kai Greene interview on Good Morning New York. When Kai Greene was asked why he became a bodybuilder he replied with:

Interestingly enough, at the root of my sport is the idea of personal development—self-development. One thing that I think is emotionally worthy about what I do is that we recognize your personal power—your ability to create the thing that you are looking to do. And my body, my physique when I step on stage, is a manifestation of those thoughts.

That's when it finally dawned on me...for me, lifting is just as much spiritual as it is physical. I haven’t lifted for a long time, probably for about two years now, but I know that this is something I will be doing for the rest of my life. I love everything that lifting has to offer. Lifting taught me to face struggles head-on and to challenge them with confidence, and it shows me that I can dominate them. Lifting has also taught me that you either get the lift or you don't, and it has taught me about dedication and discipline—everything required to be successful.

One example of this is my bench. I am trained by Josh Bryant, the king of raw bench press. Yet, in November of 2012, I hit a 155-pound paused bench at a 183-pound bodyweight. Then, in March of 2013, I hit a 175-pound bench at 201 pounds. This November, I hope to hit around a 190- to a 200-pound press at a bodyweight of 190 pounds. I have friends that have made three times the progress that I have made on their bench, but it doesn’t bother me. All I can do is work hard, follow my program, and forget the rest. Hopefully, I won’t be a horrible presser forever. Josh says that younger kids sometimes have trouble developing upper body strength. (I hope). Regardless, my pull and squat are doing great, and I am on track right now to pull 500 pounds in a meet before I turn 16. I am also on track to hit a 450 (plus)-pound knee wrap squat before I turn 16. The point is that you need to put in the work and give it time. Progress doesn’t come overnight.

Perhaps my favorite part of powerlifting is the journey itself and watching myself grow physically. I appreciate how that also represents me becoming a man of character. The barbell’s extrinsic force on me makes me grow stronger, but it is also through the struggle of becoming a powerlifter that I learn life’s virtues and lessons.

At the root of my sport lies the idea of overcoming a struggle. Overcoming the struggle using hard work and dedication. There is just something beautiful about battling with a barbell day in and day out, knowing that the barbell will kick your butt...

For me, this journey is about becoming the strongest version of myself—both physically and mentally.