“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”
― Paulo Coelho
When I started lifting weights at fourteen years old I could barely bench press the bar. By “the bar” I mean the empty bar. 45 pounds. If I could bench it, it was with some “bro spotting”.
“All you man! You’re owning that bar!”
I was 5’9″ and 98 pounds of pure depression and self loathing. I do not believe my condition in that regard was unique to me as a teenager. Lots of young men struggle with puberty and trying to find balance in the early years of hormonal wreckage. Cracked voices, zit riddled faces, and an awkwardness with those of the opposite sex so horrifying that it can only be observed and not described, are often the things that make up our youth. These conditions often make for shaky confidence, to put it mildly.
For many males that hoist the iron, their genesis in the weight room started to help overcome these conditions. To combat them by putting on a shield of “armor” and add some confidence and stability to a shaky foundation.
I did not love the weights at first. I hated the soreness. I hated the gym and the effort I was being asked to give by my coach at the time. However as my strength increased and my body started to look more like that of a teenage dude instead of a teenage chic, my love for the iron grew. I learned to love the effort. I appreciated the struggle.
And boy did I struggle.
It took me almost two years from that point in order to hit a plate on each side. Yes, it took me damn near two years to bench press 135 pounds. And though progress in my later teenage years were far more substantial than my early years (I never had that “noob gain” phase like most guys do), I was certainly not a natural mutant or freak.
Since those early days I’ve close grip bench pressed 445 pounds, incline pressed 425 pounds, and doubled 315 pounds in the press behind the neck.
It took me more than two decades of struggle to climb to those numbers. Regardless of how they compare to anyone else’s, they are mine, and I’m proud of them. I put in a lot of time and effort to reach them. I do not apologize for not “measuring up” to what someone else can do. The only person I need to measure up to each day, and get better than, is the competition I see in the mirror. That guy needs to be better today, than he was yesterday. And tomorrow, he needs to be a little bit better than he was today.
Was my attitude always like this?
I went through many years of struggling with doubts and self loathing in regards to my lifting. I did in fact compare myself to other lifters I saw that were bigger and stronger than me. I would often times get depressed because I didn’t measure up to this guy, or that guy in that regard. A belief resonated constantly in me that I had been training too long and too hard to have such a modicum of results in return for my efforts. Especially compared to others I knew that either hadn’t been training as long, or that I saw weren’t working as hard as I was.
The reason these thoughts plagued me is because I had not come to the realization that I needed to understand the two most important concepts behind success in training.
Patience, and belief.
The four virtues of self-efficacy are courage, perseverance, persistence and patience.
Of those four, I believe that for the majority of us patience is the hardest to understand and accept.
Understanding patience is the first step in accepting it, and the difference in knowing something and understanding something, are two very different things.
Knowing is the act of having knowledge.
Be definition, knowing is the expertise and skill acquired by an individual through his experiences and education.
Understanding, by definition however, means a psychological process related to a person, object, situation, or messages which require an individual to think and use concepts to deal with. Understanding involves conceptualization and association.
“I know I have to be patient.”
I may “know” this….however I may not understand it. A lack of understanding means that I may not have any way to associate the time frame that is required for my dreams, goals, aspirations, etc, to come to fruition. It requires you to have an association with it personally somehow, through experience, and a deeper understanding of a process.
Understanding means you have a fundamentally deeper level or grasp of something, than knowledge.
You can’t take a class in college to obtain knowledge on how to be patient. Or understand what patience really is, because conceptually it means something different to everyone.
If I do not understand the process behind reaching my goals I will not come to an understanding of patience. I may whine and cry about how long it’s taking, or I may believe that I am in fact doing enough, and that my efforts feel as though they are in vain.
“I work hard! It’s not happening as fast as it should be! I’m obviously doing something wrong, or I’m not cut out for this.”
Even if you are working hard, and doing everything to the maximum of your genetic abilities, it still may take longer than you wish. The body can only move as fast as the physiological motor will allow. The “wanting” or “desire” of your mind cannot change that function. It can certainly fuel your efforts. However the fruits of your labor will always be limited to how fast your body can process all of the variables involved with training, diet, and recovery to make you bigger/stronger.
“I do everything right. I have sacrificed everything in my life to make this dream become a reality. I deserve to get what I want!”
I understand that. However the universe does not care about your sacrifices and wishes. There isn’t a God of powerlifting/bodybuilding/strongman/athletic-abilities that can acknowledge your sacrificial atonement and bless you with the abilities you so desperately desire.
The only thing you deserve is what you can earn or take, and retain as your own.
If the fulfillment of your aspirations and goals have not been realized, then the difficulties that are beset upon you, still need to be conquered.
To put it plainly, you still have work to do.
You still have more time to put in. Regardless of how you “feel” about it, those conditions still haven’t been met. That means you have NOT come to an understanding and association that more time and/or more effort is required. There’s simply no getting around that concept.
The enemy of patience – Entitlement
A jigsaw puzzle will never put itself together for you, no matter how long you work on it. The pieces will only be put in place by the hand that picks them up, figures out where they are supposed to go, and places them there. Some people put these pieces together faster than others, and some people put them together slower than others. Some people never finish putting together the puzzle at all, and simply resign themselves to being “wishful” or an “I once…” person. “I once thought about finishing that jigsaw puzzle….but then it got to be more tedious than I felt like the effort was worth.”
As the saying goes, you can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first.
Entitlement is quite often the enemy that unstitches our efforts to eventually develop an understanding of patience.
When one finally understands that something will take time, and develops an association with that concept, then being patient becomes accepted.
The great thing about understanding patience in one area is that it often transcends into other areas of your life seamlessly. Then you find that the ability to deal with and weather storms, plateaus, and setbacks effectively becomes a part of who you are. You grok patience. You accept it as part of the journey because you eventually understood what it meant. It isn’t just about a time frame alone, but about doing the right things over and over again in that time frame.
That is the only way that our goals and dreams can manifest themselves into our reality.
A major key facet in understanding patience is to appreciate every step forward, no matter how insignificant it may appear. Inching forward is still better than not moving at all. Learn how to appreciate every small step forward/ After all, you just got a little bit closer to your goal. Even the smallest of goals attained add up to very big things over time.
Think in terms of creating the single best moments that you can. Not the best week, or month, or year. Because none of those things are promised to us. Just the here and now. By focusing on the here and the now, patience will eventually be something understood and accepted. Eventually, you’ll realize that you’ve traveled very far from where you first started. And the “time” associated with that journey will never been a part of the burden.
“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”
― Yann Martel
All of us sling the iron because we want so desperately to become something more. There’s no getting around that. We desire to become a better/bigger/enhanced version of what we currently are physically. This is in fact, why we do the things we do in and out of the gym.
When I was trying to “understand” patience and long periods of stagnation or regression would occur, I would often immerse myself into those pools of despondency I wrote of earlier. Sometimes succumbing to the belief that I would never ever “measure up” to anything I felt was worthy of being called strong or muscular. Often times the worst thing about the present is that it always feels so permanent; so lasting.
But if you take just a moment of proper reflection, you will realize, it never is. The only constant is change.
If you keep applying enough force, eventually the pendulum will swing back in the other direction, and momentum can be seized. If you immerse yourself in all the things you need to do to improve, it will eventually happen. It just may not happen at the rate that keeps a smile on your face.
As I noted about patience, it’s up to us to make the best of the present in order to inch forward.
When you waste that time in the doldrums of disbelief then your gifts go unappreciated, and belief is snuffed out.
“I took my bench from 300 to 315. It’s not elite, but….”
Always be proud of your accomplishments. You worked for them. Believe in yourself and your ability to get to that next level. If you don’t believe you can, no one else will believe for you. And even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. They aren’t the one who has to put in the work. So it’s up to you to take it upon yourself to instill the unyielding belief that you are a force to be reckoned with. You have to make the decision to stop dwindling in the darkness of self doubt.
There has to come a point in your mind, a moment where you indubitably believe…..you UNDERSTAND, that you can. That you will. That all doubt has been eviscerated and replaced with that of determination and unwavering perseverance. Doubt has to be conquered so that belief can begin its reign.
“I hope” is replaced by “I will.”
“I might” is replaced by “I can.”
Since this is for JTS, then their motto is very fitting for understanding this mindset.
However, without understanding that patience and belief work hand in hand with each other, you might eventually find yourself in those awful places of doubt and despondency. Perhaps you already have at times.
You must understand that the journey you are on is in fact a marathon, and not a sprint. Even the most elite of lifters struggle for years, and often decades at a time to climb up to the next rung on the ladder. The first time Andy Bolton stepped foot in a gym he deadlifted 600 pounds. He didn’t pull his 1,000 world record deadlifting until 20 years later.
Here are some undeniable facts about every training journey that has endured a significant test of time.
There will be times of struggle. You may go long periods without much to show in the way of progress. You must hold steadfast to the belief that they will pass, and that you will eventually push through them.
There will be times of doubt. You must fight this off with the force of 10,000 Vikings. It is imperative that you find a way to stay positive and hold on to the belief that nothing will stop you from attaining the things you desire most.
Every lifter worth his salt, that has paid his dues and put in his time share similar stories of struggle and doubt. However the ones that survive those times long enough will also be able to share with you that the two words written about here, will serve you better than any two other words you will ever need on your journey to becoming what you envision. Patience, and belief.
Accept the process.
Believe with an undying will.
You will arrive. It will happen.
“Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering.”
― Santosh KalwarPaul Carter works as the president, general manager, and CEO of the blog Lift-Run-Bang.com. He is the author of Strength, Life, Legacy and competes as a raw (rare-no belt or wraps) powerlifter. Website, Facebook, Twitter