elitefts™ Sunday edition

Make Yourself Valuable

Life in Corporate America

Times are tough in corporate America these days. Besides generally being a bunch of pasty skinny-fat sissies and/or assholes whose idea of a hardcore workout is 15 minutes on a rowing machine or jumping around in front of their TV mimicking some idiot on a DVD, the white-collar world now shares many similarities with what has happened in the manufacturing sector over the last couple decades:

·       Asia has captured a significant and growing share of corporate support service activity (information technology, human resources, accounting, finance, etc), resulting in jobs transferring out and away

·       The push toward automation and process-centered organizations has led to increased dependence on technology, further diminishing the value of humans and eliminating jobs

·       Historically cheap costs of capital combined with more efficient flows of funds and information have resulted in companies being bought and sold at a rapid pace, which results in incredible uncertainty as employees deal with the accompanying restructuring, layoffs, relocations and culture shifts

This sounds like a depressing scenario and it is. But, take that gun barrel out of your mouth. There are ways to survive and thrive that just so happen to mirror the training life of a competitive strength athlete.

What to Do

In the training world, a competitive athlete constantly strives for PRs. Doing something better today than he or she did in the past is the goal. Sometimes the measurement is relative to pounds and sometimes it is relative to a ranked placing in competition. Weaknesses are identified and strengthened. New skills are learned. Enemies are crushed.

The corporate world is no different. Today, you compete not only against the peers you see every day, but against computers, freelancers and potential replacements on other continents. Beating this competition requires that you constantly improve your skills and make yourself valuable to the organization.

From a functional standpoint, this means elevating the game of everyone around you and is similar to the value of training in a crew that trains well together. Specifically, this means being the group that solves problems and does not push paper. Don’t just forward e-mails and problems to others. Collaborate across functions until a resolution is found. Yes, it is bullshit sometimes and can seem like hand-holding. But, every time your function solves a problem, it becomes more valuable. I’ve seen it happen many times over. Entire departments become viewed as leaders, are given more responsibility and inhabit the short lists when promotions present themselves. Conversely, I’ve seen whole groups become marginalized to the point of being irrelevant.

One example came when a former employer tried to outsource accounts payable. The transition period wasn’t even completed before management realized what a critical function the group played and how well it was being done by local people who knew the business and how to communicate with suppliers. Outsourcing was immediately canceled and domestic jobs were saved. Moral of the story: if your group provides superior service, it will be harder to outsource and you will keep getting the paycheck that makes those strippers pretend to be interested in you. If the department at risk had a history of being sloppy and service levels overseas were not noticeably worse, all of those people would have been out on the streets looking for work.

From an individual standpoint, things are easier because you have more control. Obviously, Step one is to show up every day and do the work. This is no different than training. Step two then becomes to work harder, smarter, and more efficient than those around you to ensure you are not the slowest zebra that gets eaten by the lions. This is also no different than training when you have a goal of beating those you compete against in meets. Make no mistake; I am not talking about kissing ass, being fake and becoming what some may call a sell-out. I’m talking about improving your skills and being the one who finds solutions to problems so that your work output makes you more valuable per dollar of pay than anyone around you or who could replace you. I’m talking about providing financial security for your family. These are far from the acts of a sell-out. This is where job security is taken off the table and the balance shifts to those above you on the totem pole thinking of ways to keep you happy and retained.

That could mean pursuing an advanced degree in the evenings. It could mean taking that lateral job move because it expands your knowledge base across multiple functions. Or, it may just mean hopping off the internet during the day and seeking out people who can advise you on solving lingering problems you or your department may have. People F$^#ING LOVE to talk about what they do and why they are so great at it. You may be surprised at how receptive those around you are at answering what you think are mundane questions.

In short, treat your career like a high level competitor treats training. You should always strive to keep your training crew (i.e. department / function) operating at a high level. Getting in the gym and getting the work is the most basic action. Determining the best way to gain ground or stay ahead of the competition is where the real effort lies. Once complacency sets it, competitors pass you by and you are unemployed lion food with no money for strippers.


Training has been boring lately. As mentioned in last month’s installment, I have been stuck training in a commercial gym until the garage gym is up and running in the new house. I’m getting the work in just fine. My strength levels are OK, and I fully intend to hit PRs in the next meet. Competition plans have been pushed back from April to June, so I have some time before the real training cycle begins. While basic movements have been fine in the short term, I am greatly looking forward to getting my SS Yoke Bar, chains, Swiss Bar, etc., out of storage and into my hands again.

So, instead of talking training templates, I’ll take a couple minutes and rail on the state of the general public in gyms. I know this topic has been beaten like a dead horse in our community (powerlifters and strength athletes) many times before, but after not having trained commercially in many years, I am shocked by what I’m seeing. Curling in the squat rack, 130 pound dudes in Under Armor, texting while curling, and similar newb foibles are nothing compared to the real problem at hand. I’m not talking about those harmless forms of douchery.

I am talking about the fundamental lack of understanding by the vast majority of the training population about how to make themselves stronger, faster, healthier, more awesome human beings. I’m talking about the people who are in the gym 4-5 times a week doing aimless, pointless and utterly unproductive activities. In some ways, I feel sympathy for them because they are obviously putting in the time and, in some cases, tremendous amounts of work. Quality training methods are just not well-known across our society and these well-meaning people end up wasting hundreds of hours on zero improvement. It is a sad reminder of the importance, whenever possible, to follow the elitefts™  primary aim to lead, learn and pass on. Mostly though, I just want to beat them over the head with a hardcover copy of Starting Strength.

 Gym Pic of the Day – Commercial Edition

My last gym picture showed the flat bench press at my current commercial gym, along with an analysis of why it was the worst bench ever devised. This month I give you...the commercial gym power rack. It is big, sturdy and has band pegs. Unfortunately, there is an offshoot of the deadlift platform inside the power rack that makes unracking the bar downright dangerous.

The genius who installed the rack set the platform so that, while in proper position to take the bar out, the front half of your feet hang off the end of the four-inch elevation. And, you need to be in proper position because the j-hooks are excessively deep and require a quarter-squat to get the bar out. So, no use of band pegs or safety squat pins inside the rack. Fortunately, there is a platform off the front of the rack, allowing proper squatting, so it’s not that big of a deal. It is just baffling that you have a piece of equipment and nobody employed to help people get healthier have not recognized any of this as an issue.

Looking Ahead

The current plan calls for a June meet, so I should finally get to map out the training cycle. The garage gym will be up and running by then as well. However, I may need to frequent the county club facility from time to time strictly for the entertainment value.