6 Lessons from the Last 6 Years

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As a bright eyed 22 year old in June 2009, I began writing what I thought at the time was a business plan for Juggernaut Training Systems. The doors to that dream opened in September 2009 and as we pass our 6th Anniversary, I have learned many lessons about lifting, business and life and wanted to share some of the most important with you:

  1. Understanding Specificity

Before becoming a powerlifter, which most of you probably know me as, I was a pretty good shot putter. A pretty good shot putter, who should have been very good, but like many throwers who are good in the weight room, I got distracted from the real goal of throwing far by the immediate gratification of strength gains. Of course, being strong is important to throwing far (and performing well in most sports) but in hindsight, the way I went about becoming strong left much to be improved.

As a 22 year old shot putter, I was benching nearly 500 pounds (with a bounce), squatting about 700 and had a 35.5” vertical jump. These general indicators were on par with athletes going to the Olympics and throwing 22m/72’ but I was only throwing 19.5m/64’, what was the problem? I lacked specificity in my training and was spending too much of my energy developing general characteristics rather than on sport practice, technique and special strength.

Placing too much energy on lifting, which is GPP for the non-strength athlete, is a common problem that coaches and athletes make. It is simple to measure progress in the weightroom and it is fun to lift heavy but there is a point of diminishing returns to strength gains and taking a more submaximal approach to the weightroom while allowing yourself more energy to dedicate towards Special Strength Exercises and sport technique development will yield you greater long term success in your sport of choice.

During my shot put career and early coaching career, I was a heavy proponent of Westside methodologies for non-strength athletes and while I was successful and had success with many athletes, I have since come to understand that there is a better way. Charlie Francis likened the nervous system to a cup. A cup has finite capacity and every stress you impose upon the body will fill up your cup to varying degrees, with the larger stressors (heavier weights) filling them up more. Team sport athletes are not highly qualified enough lifters to warrant the use of exotic methods like bands or chains or true Maximal Effort strength work to improve strength (note: I don’t feel that much of this is necessary to develop World Class strength for powerlifting either), so why would you fill up their cup so much with general exercises? Lifting near limit weights and rotating exercises every week will impose great stress on the athlete and detract from their energy to develop more important qualities. Understand that their goal is becoming a better football player or wrestler or basketball player, not a better multi-ply powerlifter and create a plan specific to their needs.

  1. Care About What THE RIGHT People Think

I often see the advice to ‘not care what anyone thinks’…that’s dumb. You should definitely care what people think but you just need to make sure you’re caring about the right people’s opinions.

This doesn’t mean listening to the chirping of internet trolls who are trying to tear down positivity because of whatever shortcoming in their own lives, but it also doesn’t mean that you should surround yourself with ‘yes-men’.

As cliché as it may be, the idea that you are most like the 5 or 8 or 10 people you spend the most time with is certainly true, so take great care to decide who those people are. Surround yourself with people who push (or pull) you to be better, people of high character who will give you honest feedback and criticism about your decisions. Sometimes what ‘the right people’ think may not be easy to hear and it may not be something that you want to do, but if you are truly surrounding yourself with high quality people, then you need to take their advice into consideration.

I have been fortunate to be able to have a close inner circle of family and friends to support me and keep me accountable in life, lifting and business and I encourage you to try and find similar people (or at least person) in your life.

  1. Learn How To Breathe

This lesson has been both physical and emotional. Physically, the lessons about proper breathing and bracing that have been taught to me by Ryan Brown and Dr. Quinn Henoch have been invaluable. They were instrumental in rehabbing my 2 herniated discs and are one of the most important things that have driven my lifts up in the last 18 months. I’d highly encourage you to seek out their knowledge and see the benefits it can have for you.

When you own your own business, it is easy to become overwhelmed and I’ve certainly fallen victim to that over the last 6 years. There are going to be times that you need to be fully immersed in your work but you must strive to create some level of balance in your life, some time to breathe. For some of you that may mean, taking 15 minutes in the morning before you check your email to just sit in silence or read or whatever you enjoy for yourself. Take moments to breathe and enjoy life, yourself and those in your life, will thank you.

  1. Know That You Don’t Know It All

One of the things I enjoy most about Juggernaut is being able to provide a wide array of information from various fields and experts. I know that I’m not a physical therapist or a weightlifter or a nutrition expert and I have no issue putting my ego aside to be able to lift up those who are experts in those fields. Being able to set aside your ego and listen to other people with other backgrounds is going to help make you a better coach, athlete, businessman (or woman) and just a more well-rounded and interesting person.

If you’re a powerlifter, take some time to listen to a CrossFit coach about work capacity. If you’re a weightlifter, take some time to listen to a nutrition expert about fueling performance and cutting weight. If you’re a CrossFitter, take some time to listen to a bodybuilder about building muscle. If you’re a gym owner, listen to a writer. Know that you don’t know it all and that if you can learn one thing from someone outside of your field, that is valuable.

  1. Consistency is King

Five years of good training trumps ebbing and flowing between great training, injuries and off-time. Posting 2 good pieces of content each week will be better than having 5 new pieces one week and nothing the next.

I have a tendency to spread myself thin (figuratively obviously) between different projects and struggle to put the consistent effort towards each aspect of my life and work that deserves it. One of the most valuable tools to help me stay consistent and something that will likely help you too, is better planning. When I take the time at the start of a project, whether that be a training block or a month of JTS content to plan out each day’s efforts, I’m immensely more successful.

Whether its training, nutrition, business or school, create a plan for yourself and execute that plan with consistency. Your results will thank you.

  1. Have The Courage To Be Great

This idea stemmed from a 2014 Seminar in Sydney Australia with Brandon Lilly and Dr. Mike Israetel. As we were wrapping up a long day of coaching, there was one young man sitting in the front row who had been exceptionally attentive and excited about everything throughout the whole day. He wasn’t the strongest or most talented attendee that day, but it was clear he was truly passionate about learning and improving.

So we asked him, “What is your goal? Why do you do this?”

The question seemed to shock him, and he meekly responded after some silence that it was “because I want to be good at something,” but it was clear that there was more to it than that.

After some goading from Brandon and Dr. Mike he told us his real aim: “I want to be great.”

The vocalization of this seemed jarring to him, getting him (and us) a little choked up, as he continued to tell us about his history and his future plans – he was getting ready to begin a PhD program.

Why was the idea of vocalizing the goal “I want to be great” such a difficult task for him? Why is it such a difficult idea for so many of us? Especially considering that it is something that so many of us truly and deeply want.

Setting goals opens us up to two possibilities:  success and failure. Setting big goals, great goals, set us up for greater success and the possibility of greater failure.

The fear of failure paralyzes us from becoming truly great. You need to be courageous to overcome this fear and embrace the pursuit of greatness.

When you vocalize a goal, something to aspire to, whether it is in sports, business or any other aspect of your life, there will be doubters, there will be people who tell you it can’t be done, that you aren’t capable of it, that you are wasting your time.

They are afraid to take a risk themselves, they are afraid of your motivation, and they are afraid to admit that they want something greater for themselves.

There seems to be an epidemic of apathy in our current culture. It is perceived to be cool to not try hard, to not care. That is a road to mediocrity and discontent. The people who pretend who look down on you for your work ethic wish that they had your courage to pursue greatness.

I have lofty goals in business and in lifting, and I know there are people who think that I’m foolish for pursuing them, that I’m not talented enough to achieve them, and that I will fail. I know that there is a chance that I may fall short of my goals and fail, but I know that if I do, it will never be because I didn’t work hard enough. It doesn’t take any special talent to work hard. I’ll be the first to admit that failure is terrifying to me, but what is far more terrifying is the fear of mediocrity, the fear of never trying and the fear of living a life of regret.

I’ve loved the last years of Juggernaut and I hope that you’ve learned something or been inspired by our work. I’m looking forward to the next years and lessons it has to offer about life, business and lifting.

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