November 2011 issue Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness
My article entitled “Humility” in my Animal Instincts column is featured on page 34 of the November 2011 issue Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness. This magazine can be found in Barnes & Nobles.
One of the most important lessons learned from my career as a natural bodybuilder and one of the most important attributes of one who aspires to be a successful natural bodybuilder is humility. Early on when one becomes involved with this lifestyle it’s easy to become impressed with the strength gains, physique improvements or even success at the amateur level that one might experience. Unfortunately, this mindset often allows for complacency, which impedes progress.
Sometimes it takes a rude awakening, like stepping up to the pro level, in order to realize an important life lesson…you’re not that good!…regardless of how good you are, there’s always someone better! Think you are strong? There are plenty who are far stronger! Think you are lean? There is someone who makes your contest condition look like off-season!
Sometimes the best motivation a competitor can ever experience is getting his/her ass handed to them…I was certainly nothing special as an amateur, but this is exactly what happened to me when I first competed as a pro. I realized that I was going to have to work a lot harder and sacrifice a lot more if I ever wanted to succeed as a pro. Simply put, I need to take it to another level.
When you’re one of the only bodybuilders in your gym, it’s easy to attract attention and compliments that allow you to be impressed with yourself. Remind yourself who is out there. Do yourself a favor if you’re interested in improving…compare yourself to the best physiques out there, not the average individual in your hometown. When gym members compliment you, remember that they are not measuring you against the top physiques in the world. They’re comparing you to the average person in the gym they see. Looking good in clothing amongst the other people in your gym is far different than looking good while standing next to other top physique competitors who dedicate their lives to being their best onstage.
Instead of giving yourself credit for your accomplishments, spend more time focusing on your weak points and aspects of your physique or training methods that need improvement. Remind yourself that there is always someone out there training harder. Focus on what you have not accomplished yet…don’t admire what you did yesterday. Yesterday is gone…what are you doing today? What goals are you chasing after tomorrow?
Over the last several years that I have competed I have had my doses of humility. I trained with Brian Whitacre for 2 years. I watched Brian win almost every show as an amateur and then go on to win an overall in his first pro show. Brian and I trained and competed together numerous times, while becoming close friends. Coming back home from shows, Brian was always the one who won and I was the one who didn’t do as well. Brian went on to win 3 lightweight titles at the WNBF Pro World Championships, while I came home with several disappointing subpar placings. It was always a nice reminder to me, “You aren’t that good and you need to work a lot harder if you ever want to become better!”
After Brian’s departure Vaughan Twigger eventually become my new workout partner. As an amateur, I quickly realized the insane potential of this British phenom.Vaughanearned a pro card in 2006, tearing apart his competition. Since that time I have watched him grow like a weed. It seems like he gets bigger, stronger and leaner every week. I look back and realize that I was no where close to his level of development when I was that age! Every day I train with him, I am reminded by his freakish physique that I am still not that good! There are plenty more out there like him: Huge quads, cannon ball delts, triceps that look to be possessed by aliens, no waist, wide thick back, etc, etc. I look at my physique in comparison and am left to think, “You better work even harder!!! You better find a way to take it to another level or the judges aren’t even going to notice you on the stage!”
While the constant reminders of humility can be frustrating, you must learn to use them as motivation. When reminded that “You aren’t that good!” there are two choices: quit or work harder! I’m not a quitter! I also hate mediocrity, so I will do anything to be more than just an average bodybuilder who simply gets overlooked in the line-up. While I constantly remind myself of how good the competition is, I also continue to do two important things:
1) work as hard as I possibly can every day
2) maintain faith in my ability to continue improving my physique
Fortunately, there are plenty of stories of those who did not attain success right away, but rather had to persevere. As a former hockey player and lifetime hockey fan, the recent Stanley Cup Playoffs offer a great example of a humble hero, who always worked hard, never gave up and realized a life’s dream. Tim Thomas, goaltender for the Boston Bruins, not only led his team to a Stanley Cup, but also captured the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. While Thomas has reached the pinnacle of his career at age 37, having won the Stanley Cup, Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy, his road to NHL stardom was a long and arduous process. Thomas spent years shifting around the minor leagues, before ever making it in the NHL. He didn’t make it to the NHL until he was 28 years old and did not become the starting goaltender for the Bruins until he was 31.
While we all need reminders that we are not that good, we also need inspiration that enables us to believe we can become better, so that we never stop working towards our goals. Humility and perseverance work hand in hand in the success of many late-blooming stars. Athletes like Thomas remind us of that. Stay grounded, work hard and never lose sight of your goals!