Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The company that you keep.....

So it felt good to get that 405 incline this week.  That's been a goal of mine for some time, and it always feels like you just banged your first hot chic all over again when you hit a meaningful goal after this many years under the bar.

At least for a while.

One of the best and worst things about being friends with a lot of freaky strong guys is that it motivates you constantly to get better, and at the same time makes your own accomplishments feel quite meaningless at times.

Seeing Sam Byrd crush some upper 700 raw squats is incredible to watch, and at the same time makes that 660 I'd like to hit this year seem pretty paltry.

If you're not careful, you can let this kind of thinking actually fuel a negative energy into your workouts and life that bring you down, rather than make you better.  It's up to you what to decide to do with that energy, and how you let it effect you.

That's right, it's UP TO YOU.

One thing people don't often realize is that they have all the power over their own emotions.  I know that seems like a Captain Obvious statement, but you can change how you handle stress, negativity, and positive energy in this very moment.  It's not something that takes time.  You can change those things on a daily basis.  It's no one else's fault for how you act when someone has wronged you.  As a human being you get all of the power over that.

There's going to be times in your life when you are put down, rejected, made fun of, back stabbed, heart broken, and demeaned.  The power you have is that you get to decide what you are going to do with that kind of energy when it's hurled your way.

Matt Kroc has talked several times about how after he tore his quad squatting 545x10 that someone wrote on a message board "stick a fork in this guy, he's done", and how it fueled him to get better and make that guy eat his words.  Matt went on to squat 1014 at the UPA Pro-Am that year.  All fueled by those words and by that negative energy.

In your personal life, this is much more difficult.  When I was 17 my 3 year relationship with a girl I loved very much ended when she left me for someone else.  Anyone who has loved and lost, knows how deep those wounds can be.  Rather than get drunk and "fuck and forget" a bunch of women, I went into my training and playing music.  Did I cry and hurt and all those normal things a human being dose?  Yes of course I did.  There's nothing "bitch" about that.  That's just being human.  And it's healthy.

However I took time out for myself, to let those wounds heal and think about the things I would want out of my next girlfriend.  And the ways I needed to get better in order to be a better dude to her as well.  A year and a half later I met my wife.  We celebrated 15 years of marriage together this past December.

I've been told by some people I got lucky.  Maybe.  I prefer to say that I was smart.  I could have easily went into a party mode for that year in a half, banged a bunch of chics and ended up missing out on my soulmate because I was in a bad place.  All fueled by negative energy.  But I made a good choice then, and I believe that choice is a big reason why I got "lucky".

You need to accept that there are going to be people you come across in life, that aren't going to like you.  But how you view those things is entirely up to you.

One of the things you need to understand about human nature, is that people don't really reject YOU.  They reject what you give them.  This is important to understand.  Whether it be by the chic at the bar you're trying to pick up on, your boss, a friend, or whatever.  People will reject what you give them, and sometimes that means they even reject your positive energy.  And you have ZERO control over them doing that, just as they have zero control over how you handle them doing so.

Using these moments to get better, whether that's in the gym, at work, or in your personal life is what will make you a stronger human being.  A better you.  Remember the saying that hard times don't build character, they reveal it.  Make sure you use those circumstances to reveal a better man.  Not a bitter asshole that thinks the world is out to get him.

When I was younger I would often be jealous or envious of a guy that was stronger or bigger than me.  I think it's natural to covet when you have deeply embedded insecurities.  Most people won't admit to these things, which is why they constantly fail to use negative energy to their favor.  Now that I'm older and secure in the man that I am, I see someone that blows my shit away and think "god damn that's awesome!"

This is a trait I acquired over time and experience.  And one I am thankful for.

It's important to keep things in perspective as to how they apply to your life.  I have worked for 23 years to get that 405 incline.  Some guys do that in a year, and some guys never do it.  It's not really about comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others.  It's about keeping things in perspective to your own individual journey.  In lifting and in life.

Try to use those times where you feel like the Tsunami of shit has just rolled in on you, and you feel like it can't be overcome, to try and get better.  Is it hard?  God damn right it is.  But I write this not as someone preaching to you, but as a reminder to myself as much as anything.  The last three weeks in both my personal and professional life has been tremendously hard.  But I am doing my best to try and get better from these experiences.

The one thing I remind myself of is this.  No matter what, eventually the wave subsides.  And what you are left with, are your actions during those times of troubles.  Were you stout?  Did you have integrity?  Or do you look back with regret?

If it's the latter, it can often linger for a long time, and you lose out on the good shit thinking about how poorly you handled those situations.  Remember that.

Appreciate the roses.  You don't get to smell em' at your own leisure too often.  When you're having to smell the cesspool, remember that no matter what it's temporary.

It is.  I swear that it is.


  1. Great post, Paul.

    Sometimes it's hard to think like this when you're deep in shit but it never pays to take the easy way out and be a bitter asshole.

    One thing i always tell myself is "sure i'm pissed off now, but will i remember this in ten years?". Invariably the answer is "no" so i just get the hell on with life and stop whining.

    One of the best pieces of advice i've ever had was "nobody deserves anything". You have what you have because of YOU. End of story. If you're not happy, change something or shut up.


  2. One motto I used to use quite often is "it aint cancer, bitch". I need to start using it again more often.

  3. Great article Paul,

    Im lucky enough to have a good wife, our first baby on the way, and not hate my job. Whenever life gives me shit I always try to think of that.

  4. I really enjoy these posts, you give good training advice but I think you excel at fueling introspection.

    I feel you on the being around and friends with alot of strong dudes can sometimes make it hard to take pride in your own accomplishments. Been training out of Dynamo fitness Jay Nera and Willie Albert's gym here in Ottawa (Canada) also home of Kade Weber. Being around and coached by two of the best raw lifters in the country provides a great source of knowledge and inspiration sometimes though it can make your own accomplishments feel small and insignificant. Keeping that shit on the positive is pretty essential.

    Quick question actually, I remember you mentioning you had some tendinitis in your elbows and that it has gotten better. What did you do to fix it? Do you wear the inzer sleeves you have because of that? I have some bicep tendinitis mine originates in my shoulder but it's been wreaking havoc up and down my arm when it's inflamed just looking for ideas.

    Thanks for another awesome post!

  5. Jason - The elbow sleeves all the time. I would wear em about half the time before and that was a mistake. I wear em for every pressing session now. That an also concentrating on lots and lots of curls. Light for like 4-5 sets of 20. When I say light, I mean like 70-75 pound barbell curls and 30 pound db curls for 5 sets of 20. Helps a ton.

  6. hmmm i rarely curl anymore I'll have to make an effort to throw them in more frequently. Thanks!

  7. Paul,

    I think what Shelby Starnes wrote on his facebook compliments what you've just wrote.

    "It cracks me up how tough people think they are because they train with weights and follow a strict diet.

    "Hardcore", as they call it.

    Hardcore is being a single mother and working 2 or 3 jobs to support your kids.
    ... Hardcore is fighting a life-threating illness.
    Hardcore is losing your legs in a war.

    Bodybuilding is a luxury, not a badge of honor."

    And it's right, whatever it is what we're doing whether in our jobs or lifting, it is a luxury that many people don't have.

    Anyway, similar to your "it ain't cancer, bitch" phrase, I have one too lol it's "if people survived the Holocaust...(insert difficult situation here"

  8. I hate that term, especially when it applies to lifting. "Hardcore". JFC.

  9. Awesome post Paul! One of the key tenets I listen to is that life is dynamic. Whatever is today won't be tomorrow. Great stuff!

  10. Like the perspective and Will's comment is great.


  11. Pretty sure Shelby Starnes jacked my shit off youtube in a comment I wrote under a bodybuilding video where everyone was creaming their pants at the 'sacrifice' the pros make. Shit is a joke. Motherfuckers get doped up on pharmaceuticals and over eat like gluttons until they have to diet down on calories that would feed an entire 3rd world family for a week. What a fucking joke.

  12. Hey Paul, in this post you mention playing music, what did/do you play?


  13. I have played the drums for 30 years. there's not really anything I can't play. I have also sang for about 8 but I'm super rusty in that regard. Singing is a lot like lifting, it's part of your body and if you don't practice on a regular basis you lose a lot of your ability.

  14. Cool, I started playing electric guitar about 15 years ago, I wanted to learn it after hearing the first Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath albums back when I was a teenager. I still love those bands, even though my musical tastes have evolved in a lot of different directions. These days I even listen to some country music!
    Were you ever in a band? Are there any recordings of you available?

  15. Yeah I played in bands for years. I have lots of old recordings but mostly on cassette tape and I'm not sure where they all are.

  16. Well if you ever decide to dig out some of your old stuff I'd love to hear it!

  17. LOL I would to, but I don't think I even have a tape player in my house. Not to mention transferring it over to CD.

  18. Inspirational. long time lurker.

    Paul I would just like to say that your the only lifter I enjoy reading daily, I love seeing your progress & especially the hard work and dedication. That 405 incline bench was amazing, great job. Your determination makes me want to train my hardest every damn session. This is coming from a 20 year old student who has been sick this whole damn week and has has made a new PR every session.


  19. Thanks Jeremy. It's awesome that I can give anyone any inspiration in any regard right now.

    So thank you.

  20. I would also like to say that this post (and the Man Card ones) have inspired me as well. LIFT-RUN-BANG-INSPIRE.

  21. Great article Paul. Thank you for sharing it. Congrats on the 405 incline!


    1. Thanks K, but that incline happened a month and a half ago!!! :P

      Thanks for the props.