I was a competitive strongman. I had gone from unathletic and fat, to lean and mean and fighting at 155 and 170 in combat sports. From there I wanted to be strong so I started lifting at home on the P90X program. I started looking for people who could inspire me and eventually landed at a strongman gym called Silverback Barbell. Here I got professional coaching for lifting and the sport of strongman. This is where my story really begins.
I didn’t believe in the program at first, but when I started seeing progress I dove right in. I was doing a linear strength program and I’d gotten to where every day in the gym I was doing workouts with a new personal best. I started learning from the other strongmen. I did some competitions just because “if you want to be a strongman you have to compete” and I learned a lot about how competitions were run and how the sport worked. Eventually I became competitive. In my last season I won first place in the semi pull and overhead log, I made second place in the competition overall, and I was ready to start competing outside the novice division.
It was the season right before my last one where I did my first semi pull at 35 thousand pounds. I’d been working very hard on log press and stones and I just knew I was ready for the semi, although I hadn’t pulled anything like that before. I didn’t do great but I also didn’t do terribly. I was frustrated because I didn’t do as well as I knew I could, and I knew where my mistakes were. I was sure I could do better if I could just do it over. I was really coming down on myself and I wasn’t even enjoying the rest of the guys doing their heats with the semi pull.
As I was sitting there evaluating why I was even competing, a guy and his son came running up to me. He said, “My son wants to give you a high five,” and the kid runs up all excited and says, “YOU JUST PULLED A SEMI!!” and high-fived me. He was so happy to meet me and high five me that I got all excited and put on a big grin and talked with the kid for a second.
When I first came to the strongman gym, I found people who were mentors. As I was training, these were the people that taught me. I grew my own strengths and then we became peers who sharpened each other. I measured myself against the people around me like we all do. What I failed to realize after my semi pull was that I had literally just pulled a semi. Not only that, but I outran a few other dudes who were determined to pull that semi faster than anyone else. All I could see was how I failed when other people around me were so great, but actually I did an amazing thing. I was one of those greats to that little boy and his dad. Who knows what he took from that day. Maybe he’ll be a competitive athlete or find great inspiration in athletes.
I have tried to always keep this lesson with me. You don’t want to be the greatest person in your group. Being around awesome people is what makes us great. We have to realize the impact of what we are doing and be fair with growth and criticism. When you work with great people it’s easy to feel like you are the weight holding people back, or you aren’t good enough to be in that group. We all have the potential to be great, we just need to get out of our way sometimes.