Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Maximum decisions

Now that it's been a few days since the seminar ended and I've been able to digest and inhale everything from the weekend, the thing that keeps echoing in my head over and over again was Ed Coan telling someone during the Q&A segment, in regards to maxing in the gym.....

"You only have so many big attempts in you over the course of your career.  Save em all for the meet."  

Now I could start going on and on about sub max programming and not maxing in the gym, but I think I've beat that horse to death 17 or 18 times over the last year.  I think it's pretty clear that my stance on training in the 90+% range has more drawbacks than benefits.  Especially if you do it for more than about 2 weeks.  So I don't feel like writing another blog post about that shit.

Rather, I thought about how that seamlessly flowed into so many aspects of everything we do.

Generally, over the course of your life, you will end up making possibly a dozen decisions, maybe less, that have significant and long lasting consequences or rewards.  

I'm not talking about making the decision to order that Pay-Per-View rather than save the $50 or the decision to switch to a cheaper dog food for the pooch.

I'm talking about decisions that echo and reverberate throughout the days of your existence.  "Max" decisions that change the course of what your life looks like, friends you make, loves lost and found.  Things that ink themselves onto the pages of the book that is our life.  Changing jobs, moving, getting married, getting divorced, coming to grips that you have an addiction, going back to college.  Other times, it's simply the words you let slip from your tongue.  Words are impatctful and powerful, yes indeed.  Acta non verba means "deeds, not words" but make no mistake...words matter.  They can move mountains, create wars, or declare peace.  The words you say to people are a representation of who you are, and what you are about.  People can and will hate or love you based on the words that you give them.  That is also a choice they make.

Unfortunately, often times you make "max" decisions without even knowing.  The butterfly effect for small decisions can still be dramatic and life changing.

Maybe that's what having a plan or a code is really all about.  To limit the number of small decisions that have "max effort" consequences.  Even then, inevitably you're not going to be able to dodge landmines forever. People will walk into your life and events will happen that change the landscape of what you perceived as your future very quickly.  Sometimes for the good, and sometimes well, for the not so good.

However for the most part, the life we etch out looks like that way because of the decisions and choices we make.  It's hard to put the onus on yourself for everything bad that happens to you, and oh so easy to accept that it was you that caused all the happiness.  But as I get older I realize so much of the joy or bereavement that envelopes our life is indeed causation from our own actions, choices, and decisions.  So many of our choices are often driven by things we want, or to appease the selfish nature we all have inside of us.  We want things we shouldn't have, or things we don't need, but nevertheless we want them because we covet or feel entitled to them.  These are the times when we tend to make max decisions when letting go of such things would be a better answer.

I was friends with some people who had a perfectly fine house, however they couldn't pass up the chance to grab a house that had been foreclosed upon for a steal.  So they bought it as well, and rented the other home out.  A few years later when the market went under and he lost his job, they ended up losing the new big house, and had to move back into the old one.  They also lost all of their savings trying to maintain both places.  That's a high level overview however, what cost them was greed.  Not being thankful for what it was they had right in front of them.  It wasn't enough.

"This looks better, and I really WANT that!"

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I guess overall what I'm getting at is, max attempts should be saved for the meets, and max choices should be made at appropriate times and in appropriate ways in your life.  This will always come back to ones own judgement and ability to stay true to the code you've carved out for yourself.  Eventually, over time, you'll know if that code is causing you to take max attempts at times in life when you could have spared yourself some misery.


  1. I don't know how it works out that your posts are always so relevant to my current state of affairs.

    I am currently studying for my medical school application test, but I have been struggling with the decision to even pursue medicine. I know I started back to pursue physical therapy, but I think I turned toward Medicine to impress others. Now, thanks to your writing, and Wendler's, I have realized that I shouldn't give a shit about what others think of me, and I should go after what I believe is the best route for me.

    I just want to teach people to get stronger. I don't really know if a medical degree would help me in doing that. I guess on some level I believed I could help change the healthcare system, but after working in a hospital, and shadowing some doctors I think healthcare in this country is driven by insurance companies and not on making people healthier.

    I am still wrestling with my decision, but I think its wise to think about before making a huge investment that I may not be 100% on board with.

    Thanks for what you do Paul.

    1. TD - good luck with your decision. I am a (career) Athletic Therapist who also applied to med school (initially). I - like you - wanted to have a certain focus to my career. I can assure you that no matter what path you choose you will be able to have an effect that reflects your focus. Your personality and motivating interest will shine through regardless of which path you choose. And regardless of your path there will always be crap and roadblocks.

      Good luck.


  2. In the throws of a max decision right now...moving a thousand miles East to be closer to family. Maybe I'll have a better chance of shaking your hand some day.

    One of the presidents of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago once told me, "life is not lived by the dreams that we dream, but the decisions that we make." Been carrying that one around for over 20 years, and it always rings true.

    Thanks, Paul.

  3. I know this is your personal platform, but I would implore you to write only about lifting. This life stuff is shallow and comes across as self indulgent. It's almost like you're trying to become a guru or something when you're probably just oversharing. The powerlifting information here is the best on the web, but I hope no one takes this other stuff seriously.

    1. Yeah I don't really care if that's what you think. I get tons of e-mails from people about these kinds of posts, and that they can relate to the same struggles.

      I'm no guru, nor do I pretend to be one. I write because I enjoy it. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's not self indulgent. That's fucking hilarious.

      I really don't care what you hope people take seriously or not. They probably don't either.


    2. Paul - your lifting stuff is top notch, no doubt whatsoever. I'm 'in'. But if I am to be completely honest, it's your 'off topic' posts (life stuff if you will) that really keeps me coming back over and over again.

      I don't even always agree with you (well...99% of the time I do), but you are a gifted writer - so I plan to read whatever it is that inspires you to write.

      I imagine that you have a ton of 'lurkers' as well who never comment, but who are inspired and interested in your thoughts on various topics. Reading about training and only training gets...well...tiring.

      Thanks for all this FREE regularly updated content.


    3. thanks man, I always look forward to your comments. And not just because you agree, but because you appear to put some thought into them.

    4. Lots of us appreciate this stuff. Nowadays, and especially on the internet, finding someone who has anything meaningful to say is a challenge. The personal articles you put in are usually very well thought out and definitely worth the reading time.

      We all have our struggles, and learning to deal with them and helping other people is part of being a strong man.

      Maybe some of us should look up "shallow" in the dictionary.

      Anyways, thanks.

  4. Fuck that guy who said to only talk about powerlifting. Paul, as you know us regular readers enjoy all of your posts. Personally I like hearing your recap of going to meets and other events like this past weekend. I don't agree with you as much as our atheist buddy but I always enjoy your perspective.

    My training has been modified because of your blog as I use the 350 method in every training cycle now. My elbow heath is much better because I started doing 100 rep sets of biceps and triceps work.

    I can't say you saved my life or helped me to achieve some life long goal, but your positive attitude towards fatherhood and just being a better man reinforces my own desires to constantly improve as a person.

    I think that alone makes you awesome.

    Fuck that guy and thank you for sharing so much of yourself.


    1. LOL thanks man, and I'm glad you've benefited from my writing! that's why I do this!

  5. Paul, I want to say that I have been coming here on a regular (usually daily) basis for the past few months and while I initially came for the lifting stuff and ignored the personal stuff, I have to say I like both and they go well together.

    On a personal note, I was explaining to a group of people this very concept about considering the consequences before making big decisions and, to make a long story short, one person piped up and said, "Well, the grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, but remember, it is just as hard to mow" I say this because I see too many people making "max" decisions in their life without considering their consequences of that decision. As you mentioned above, people get caught up in greed or desire or whatever, which blinds their judgement, which has consequences that are usually undesirable.