Lessons Learned Under the Bar Part 2

Here are four more lessons the iron is teaching. Are you listening yet?

Last week’s Transmission looked at three lessons the iron teaches on self-reliance, excuses, and discipline. It doesn’t end there. In its own ways, the iron teaches lessons that touch every corner of life. Here are four more lessons the barbell is teaching.

Growth

A barbell provides resistance. Through continuing to conquer the challenges of the iron, one begins to realize that only through overcoming challenge will one grow. A barbell that does not get heavier does not forge further strength. Continued strain against the weight forces the mind and body to either strengthen and overcome or get crushed.

Some avoid challenges in favor of comforts and content; however, there are no gains made in comfort – there is no drive for anything to change. Change is prompted by discomfort and is accomplished by the overcoming to regain balance. The Initiated individual understands this and continually seeks challenge. By continuing to seek out the challenges just as they continue to put plates onto the bar, one knows that they are growing and making progress toward a goal. Sore muscles are a reminder of the work put in just as the soreness and weariness that follows a challenge overcome signifies growth and progress made.

Time

Strength takes commitment and dedication; but it also just takes time. It does not come quickly nor easily. The path to the end is not a straight line. Career, stress, injury, etc. all impact performance in the gym and are a part of the game that must be endured. How one makes and protects the time to train and recover will correlate to their progress in the gym.

In today’s age of instant gratification and participation trophies, many don’t know failure. Many expect their successes to come faster than what may be reasonable. They expect some reward for simply showing up. There is no drive to put in the time needed to come out ahead. Strength does not play by these rules and neither does any other meaningful pursuit – there are no shortcuts. Repetition after repetition, session after session, one must approach challenges with intensity and purpose to cut one’s teeth and develop the skills needed to win.

Commitment

Gaining strength requires commitment to and belief in a plan of action. Commitment to a training block is needed to run the block through to the end and determine the validity or effectiveness of the block through analyzing results. If continually looking for the next best program or jumping from one training ideology to another, gains will be stunted and one will not be able to learn what does and does not work for them.

This is true of all things. If one continuously jumps from one pursuit to another, they are not allowing sufficient time to see one course of action through to the end. There is value missed – one will never learn how to close on a pursuit. There will remain some level of unfinished business if one does not commit to seeing things through to the end. 

Perspective

Stay after the weights long enough and one will eventually reach a level of strength at which the current weights lifted were unimaginable when first starting. As one has learned more about how to train, eat, sleep, lift, warm up, etc., they will begin to set their sights on higher weights – weights that were not in the realm of reality when first starting. Perspective shifts as experience is gained and ignorance wanes. 

Any new pursuit carries a learning curve. Through lifting one begins to understand that focused effort, education, and application will result in progress. One begins to gain clarity through the challenges they have overcome. This clarity builds with strength, as confidence and ability continue to build.


The barbell’s power is in its simplicity. With no purpose other than existing, it manages to command respect from those who understand its language. It tests and builds into strengths the same weaknesses it exposes. 

The iron shows a lifter what they choose to seek. 

Seek the truth.

Yours in strength,

Jersey

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Lessons Learned Under the Bar – Part 1

The iron is teaching lessons to those who know to listen.

The barbell is the most widely recognized tool for building strength. Spend enough time under the bar and one will get stronger. This is a known truth.

However, “stronger” means many things. One may read this to mean physical strength – the ability to lift more weight than previously able. While not incorrect, physical strength can be one of the smallest gains made in training. Through my years of powerlifting and strength training, my eyes were slowly opened to all of the other gains I had been making.

The barbell is an objective teacher; it has nothing to prove and no agenda to push. It is simply there to exist; to be an object to test the strength and resolve of those who wish to step up and conquer it. Simple.

In the relationship between barbell and lifter, only the lifter is able to adapt.

The barbell will expose one’s weaknesses and challenge them to overcome or quit.

To that end, here are some lessons the iron is teaching, if one learns to listen:

Self-Reliance

Lifting weights is the most individualized sports there is. The individual is both their team and opponent. The battle is between only the lifter and the barbell. For the seconds it takes to perform a lift, there is no one outside of the lifter that will effect the outcome. Pure self-reliance.

Outside of the gym, being self-reliant allows one to self-police one’s actions along their path. Without needing validation from others, one is able to choose the best course of action for themselves. The confidence to take action without needing permission from others increases effectiveness and efficiency in accomplishment of goals. Having the confidence in oneself to overcome the challenges that lay ahead allows one to attack said challenges with ferocity and focus. Self-reliance is critical to achieving what one sets out to do.

Excuses

One will quickly learn that excuses do not make gains in the gym. One can explain away poor training, poor diet, or poor sleep in any way they so choose; but in the end, the bar weight will not climb. Not only will excuses expose how mentally weak one is – with excuses, one will remain as physically competent as they had been before. If one finds a place to set blame outside of themselves for lackluster performance, they are wrong. Nothing outside of the confines of a squat rack matters when the bar is on one’s back.

Outside of training, the same principles apply. Making excuses in any arena attempts to justify one’s poor choices or lack of action; attempting to remove fault from oneself. No reflection, learning, or growth can happen when one cannot first admit their faults. Justification of poor actions will remove any semblance of ownership.

Discipline

Building muscle and strength takes many years to achieve. It is a process of breaking down and rebuilding muscles over time. It is the product of many well-thought choices and a discipline to achieve.

There will be times when training is not fun and motivation will be low. Whether it be a training block that is going to hammer a weak lift or a nagging injury that one must work around, there will be opportunities to back off from one’s training. The discipline forged under the bar will keep focus and intensity on the task at hand. A true lifter shows up regardless, knowing full well that consistency in training is more important than finding the motivation to go to train.

Any pursuit one chases must be pursued with discipline if expecting progress to be made. Few worthwhile pursuits will come to fruition overnight. The truth of the matter is that nearly nothing happens as quickly as one may hope it to and, many times, progress is not linear. Discipline is the driving force to continue to show up and put the work in regardless of short term results. It replaces outcome-oriented thinking with long term planning.


Lifting weights is far larger than building muscle or improving health. Through the unique challenges afforded by the inherent simplicity of a barbell, one will reflect upon oneself. As stated earlier – in the relationship between barbell and lifter, only the lifter is able to adapt. The barbell serves to expose the weaknesses of the lifter.

Can one handle this truth? A strong individual can.

The iron teaches many lessons to those that learn to listen. Its lessons are sometimes harsh and are paid for in hard work and sweat.

Gain physical strength under the bar, but understand that there is more to be gained.

Yours in strength,

Jersey

Drop a like on this Transmission if you got something from it, or leave a comment if you have anything to add. I’m looking forward to hearing from the Initiated community.

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Speak the Initiated Language

The language influenced by the Initiated tenets says more than what is communicated by the words.

Language – the words and phrases used in communication have a circular relationship with one’s philosophy; one influences the other. How one assembles their thoughts and communicates them both displays and informs their outlook.

The Initiated language is a product of the Initiated tenets. Strength, discipline, integrity, and leadership bleed through the words spoken by those living these principles. The language can be characterized by a driving undertone of action, strength, and fairness.

Strength. Confidence.

If there were only two words to describe the idea of the Initiated language – it would be strength and confidence. As wide and ambiguous as this description may be, it is easy to spot when listening to such speech. Strong communication and confidence are closely related; building and reinforcing each other.

Strong and confident language can be displayed in many ways. Whether it be fair statements to communicate ideas or calmness and collectedness in a disagreement the underlying strength and confidence of the words are felt without having to be directly addressed. The language is utilitarian: it is efficient, direct, and clear in its purpose to communicate an idea. There is no need for exaggerations or hyperbole – the language communicates what is rather than what may be wanted.

Thoughts project ability rather than limitation – a sureness that resistance will be overcome. There is a confidence in the speaker’s abilities which will, in turn, strengthen such abilities when put into practice; not unlike a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Strong language does not include passive verbs like “waiting”. The Initiated language speaks of action and pursuing what is wanted or needed. Words of passivity are replaced with words of action and intention. The Initiated will pursue information or materials needed to complete their objectives – they do not wait for someone else to provide for them.

Strong and confident speaking is shown in a person’s ability to make statements and assemble arguments with efficient use of words. By explanation of the converse – a lack of confidence often results in an individual rambling and will result in a person providing unrelated details to the idea they are trying to explain.

Ownership.

As leaders and adopters of the concepts of Extreme Ownership, Initiated individuals assume responsibility and ownership of a situation without searching for a convenient place to shift blame. Statements made come from a place of responsibility and self-reflection on the role the individual played in allowing for the situation to unfold as it had. This will be immediately followed by actions that need to be taken to resolve the situation and further the actions that will be taken moving forward to ensure that this does not happen again.

Belief in these concepts are heard in the communication and recapitulation of events. When analyzing a loss, the analysis and discussion seek to find mistakes and shortcomings. One does not search for the faults of others but rather how they can take different actions moving forward to ensure that the lapse in leadership does not result in similar situations again. Responsibility is taken upon the individual to make the changes necessary to strengthen themselves and their team.

This section focuses on loss or unfavorable situations because this is when ownership is tested most – it is easy to take responsibility for a win. The key in a winning situation is to remain humble. The Initiated do not seek the approval or applause from others – they are able to provide that for themselves. A job well-done is gratification enough and the Initiated individual would rather pass that praise down to their team for they understand that without a strong team, a leader cannot achieve the successes they are celebrating.

Emotion.

Emotion is the antithesis to logic. A highly emotional situation rarely fosters sound decisions and communication. In speaking the Initiated language, an awareness and pursuit of emotional intelligence is key.

Remaining level-headed and on topic regardless of the conversation is a strength and necessary skill to effectively communicate. Allowing emotion to bleed into language will change the words and phrasing diminishing the overall effectiveness of communication. This will diminish the impact and efficacy of the transmission of concepts from speaker to listener.

Maintaining control of communications and remaining centered leaves available all of the tools one has in their toolbox. The first person in a conversation to lose their composure will lose their position. Remaining centered supports one in their navigation of a conversation and having their tools available will support their arguments and ability to outwit their partner.


The Initiated language is more a philosophical concept than maybe a typical definition of language . The influence of the Initiated tenets informs much of the underlying concepts discussed above. Using language with undertones of strength, power, and responsibility will command respect from one’s peers and will further strengthen one’s own perspective of themselves and their abilities.

Speak the Initiated language – use it as a tool to reinforce the Initiated tenets as well as help communicate our tenets to those not yet Initiated.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Strategy and Tactics in Action

The follow on to our last Transmission – we explore the application and practice of strategic and tactical planning.

In the last Transmission, the concepts of strategy and tactics were discussed as the two necessary pieces of a bulletproof plan to success. This Transmission will describe how these concepts are applied in both a team and in an individual setting along with some suggestions for how one can maximize the effectiveness of each.

Team Setting

A team setting for purposes of this discussion implies that there are many people organized into some hierarchy to provide clear custody of responsibilities. By definition, the hierarchy will have higher and lower level members. As noted previously, the spectrum of responsibilities in strategic planning to tactical planning shifts from one to the other as one moves from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom – more on this later.

A large challenge to overcome in a team environment is the dispatch of information throughout each of the team members. Each team member must have an exposure to the larger strategy allowing each member to buy into the team’s mission as well as understand how their specific role feeds into the larger strategy of the team. This creates a sense of ownership and understanding amongst the team members and fosters collective strength in team values.

At the lowest levels of a team, there must be an expectation set of taking tactical action. These boots-on-the-ground members of the team are responsible for planning and executing their responsibilities as dictated by the larger team objectives. These members must be provided the latitude to make decisions to maximize efficiency and resource expenditure. To allow for success in these endeavors, these team members must be provided the understanding of how their decisions and actions will add or detract from the overall team mission which enforces the importance noted of each team member having exposure and visibility to the larger strategy at play.

Above the lowest-ranking team members are the tactical planners. These tacticians are responsible for putting the tactical plan together for their team and to disperse the specific tactical objectives to each of the subordinate team members. The responsibilities at this level are to bridge the gap between the strategy and the field conditions and to tie the tactical pursuits into the larger strategic pursuits. This level is responsible for overseeing and managing tactical resources both materially and in manpower.

At the highest level of the hierarchy, and subsequently the furthest removed from the tactics at the field level, are the strategic planners. The highest level of the hierarchy should refrain from dictating tactical approaches for that would violate the principles of decentralized command and result in sub-optimal tactical planning. This will not be due to lack of tactical abilities, but rather from lack of intimacy with field conditions and resources. It is not the job of strategists to think tactically. It is imperative that the strategic thinkers are thinking strategically while incorporating the feedback they are getting from their lower levels or field units.

Of course, this is an oversimplification for explanation of the concept and the success of a team depends on many other things. In the real world, a team will contend with disengaged members, personality clashes, etc.; however, I would posit that if a clear hierarchy and delegation of responsibilities is established and maintained early, engagement across the team will increase over the course of the mission.

For the Individual

As an individual, the same principles of strategy and tactics will apply toward a mission or goal; however, the application will look different. As there is no hierarchy to separate responsibilities, time intervals will serve to delineate the hierarchy described above.

As a single entity, the individual will be required to be both the strategic and tactical planner. Note; however, both roles cannot be filled at the same time for there are different goals to be met by each process. As described above, strategy comes to form in a general flow with a defined end goal. The boundaries and ground-rules are set within the strategy. The tactics are the specific moves that will carry the mission from one milestone to the next along the larger path of the strategy.

It is the time interval on which an individual plans tactically and strategically that will determine which form of reflection and pursuit one is working on at any given time. Strategy shall be set and reviewed on longer intervals in the magnitude of years where tactical planning is generally done on weekly and monthly intervals; depending on the overall scope and length of time of a particular mission.

This is shown in the construction of a 10 year goal. Such a goal will will be of significant enough scope that there will be intermediate milestones set to provide context and frame of reference for the rate of progress being made. Without such milestones, it will be more difficult to understand how one is tracking toward the larger goal.

Driving to these milestones will be the work of the individual tactics employed to address each challenge along the way. Without intermediate tactics, it will be hard to make a strategic plan that provides the flexibility to compensate for the conditions of life.

As a side note, if a 10 year plan does not require milestones and tactics, the goal is far too small in scope and the reader should ask themselves why this goal cannot be achieved in far less time.

Challenge yourself to pursue large goals both for yourself and with the teams you lead or influence. Commit to a goal that is just outside of your current comfort level, then put a plan together to crush it.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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