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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Stop Working Out; Start Training

Working out is not equivalent to strength training. We explore the differences.

To build muscle and strength one has to put in focused time and effort to see results. Consistently lifting heavier loads for more repetitions pushes the body to adapt; to rebuild damaged muscles stronger than they were and to make the neurological changes increasing the efficiency of motor skills necessary to perform the movements.

The quality of commitment to these ends is a core factor in determining the level of success one reaches in their pursuit. The difference between working out and training may seem subtle, but the differences will become significant the deeper one goes.

“Training” immediately invokes a sense of purpose and intent. To be able to train, one must first have a purpose for their pursuit. This purpose must be something substantial – it must be tangible with clear definitions of success and failure. The training plan is directed at achieving this purpose. It would follow that there is something being trained for.

By making the mindset shift from “working out” to “training”, the individual trips to the gym and time spent under the bar are referred to as training sessions. They begin to be incremental steps in support a larger end goal. Training sessions become deliberate and goal oriented. The training sessions will carry a gravity and significance.

When adopting the mindset of training for strength, the pursuit of the goal becomes encompassing of factors outside of the gym as well, where real strength gains are made. A complete training plan will look at diet, sleep patterns, and habits amongst other things. There is nothing off limits that cannot be tweaked and improved upon to give an individual the advantage toward achieving their goal. Said another way the larger purpose is held paramount over the sacrifices that are needed to reach the set goal. To achieve anything, sacrifice is necessary.

When training, one will need to work on their weaknesses to build them into strengths. The uncomfortable and un-fun become required activities to fortify the body and mind. When simply working out, the individual’s strengths may continue to be exercised to the detriment of weaknesses as there is no larger reason to train them. There is no drive to muscle through the un-fun lifts. There will not be meaningful progress made.

Working out is viewed as an activity and therefore does not imply the breadth of scope nor the significance of purpose that training does. Lacking a plan, there may not be continuity between workouts; that is to say, they may be unfocused as there is no inherent structure to sequential workouts. The workouts are not compounding on each other, diminishing the potential for results.

As a tenet, strength must be held as a value to the individual, not a priority. Training will set the correct mindset to embrace the challenges and train weaknesses in support of the larger goal. Take control of the time and efforts put into strength training to maximize the results.

Stop working out. Start training.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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The Archetype of the Initiated

The archetype of the Initiated is a product of its tenets – strength, discipline, integrity, leadership.

There is an archetype of the Initiated. The associated qualities of the Initiated’s four tenets are manifested in the Initiated few. This Transmission describes the archetype and how each of the core tenets are interpreted in action. This will help identify our Initiated brothers and sisters as well as provide a model to those that are training to align with the tenets of strength, discipline, integrity, and leadership.

Strength

Strength may be the most deceiving tenet. Many may define strength by a physical feat; i.e., pounds lifted. The Initiated holds a far wider definition of strength that includes mental and emotional strength in addition to the more obvious physical strength.

Mental and Emotional Strength

The Initiated rely on themselves first and foremost. The mental strength and fortitude required to take ownership of their values is trained. Mental strength is held in the highest regard and is unwavering in the face of opposition. The Initiated advance their position when confronted by resistance and remain confident in situations of uncertainty.

Emotional strength is regarded equally to mental strength. Without such emotional strength, the Initiated would succumb to the weakness and impulsiveness of their emotions. It is understood that emotional response is not reliable; emotions cloud judgement and produce poor choices. The Initiated drive to logical responses in lieu of emotional outbursts.

Continued learning, analysis, and challenging one’s thoughts and beliefs is systemic to the development of the Initiated; it is the training regimen for mental and emotional strength. Independent study, reading, and journaling are all habits attributed to successes in improving current mental and emotional strength.

Both the emotional and mental strength are exemplified in the Initiated’s attitude and approach to problem solving. They are not victims and do not acknowledge thoughts of defeat. This strength is the foundation from which their world is perceived.

Physical Strength

The Initiated live, breathe, and eat strong mind, strong body. A strong body is the vehicle by which the other tenets of the Initiated are delivered. The body is the outward manifestation of the strength within.

Achieved through work like lifting weights, calisthenics, or chopping wood – the Initiated forge their physical strength in many ways. The physical struggle required to break down and rebuild muscle works to sharpen mental and emotional fortitude the same as it does to fortify the physical form. The reciprocal nature of physical and mental strength is understood and exploited to produce maximum effect. The Initiated recognizes and understands the power to be found in this relationship.

The Initiated train; they do not work out. Strength training is approached with purpose. Whether it is training for competition or training for the rigors of the world, the Initiated train with both intent and intensity. The value of a strong, able body cannot be overvalued. The Initiated train their weaknesses until they become strengths. Training is not driven by ego or vanity – it is a means to effect more power into their challenges.

Discipline

As discussed in previous Transmissions, the Initiated forge bulletproof discipline that drives them to achieve. The Initiated have identified uncompromising values; their unnegotiable terms that they will not sacrifice. Things such as training, learning, and reflection are held to the utmost importance to the Initiated. When challenged to make sacrifice, these Principles are not to be bartered for time spent elsewhere.

The Initiated hold themselves to the highest standard of excellence and expect their output to be of a caliber acceptable to themselves; the job gets done right the first time. These qualities make the Initiated predictable, dependable, and reliable. They are trustworthy and understand the importance of such trust. These qualities are a source of pride and are protected. This builds the reputation of the Initiated individual.

The Initiated show up. They show up regularly, on time, prepared, and ready to perform. It is internalized that consistent moves made with intention will compound into large dividends. They are not afraid to put in the work for those things that they want and will stop at nothing short of achieving their goals. It is the reliance on themselves that drives the initiated to work harder, longer, and with more focus than their competition. The Initiated do not expect favors from anyone and know that for good luck to come, they must put in the work to make it so.

Integrity

The Initiated operate to a code; their own code. The philosophy of the Initiated includes the objective to be better and do better. This requires doing those things that must be done to do right by their peers.

Uncomfortable, hard, and challenging are acknowledged feelings but quickly set aside instead for actions of purpose, righteousness, and character. Integrity is upheld in the face of adversity as the Initiated knows what is right and takes actions toward that end.

Integrity rejects the easy way and the Initiated do not pursue the low-hanging fruit. These values are demanding and their ethos requires they rise to the occasion. These characteristics translate to all tasks and challenges placed before them. Challenges are faced head-on with no reserve.

Leadership

The Initiated are leaders in team settings, in their community, and to those not yet known to them. The strong values and the commitment and determination to live consistent with their values drives action. This action is often an unspoken inspiration to those around them. The Initiated influence their surroundings, commanding better performance from everyone they come in contact with simply by living to their values.

People respond to the values of the Initiated and the authenticity brought to the pursuit of their tenets place them in a position of influence and leadership to those around them.

The Initiated lead from any and all positions and can fall within any team setting to fill the roles required. It is not a hit to the ego of the Initaited if they are not a leader by title; rather the Initiated understand the power they have and can lead and influence from any position.

The Initiated understand the importance of trust in leadership and work to build a level of trust amongst their peers. They protect this gained trust and nurture it. It is this trust that makes them successful leaders.

The Archetype

The Initiated few can be identified from afar. They are the individuals who push themselves to be better. Each identified weakness becomes a priority to be addressed; each area of ignorance an opportunity to learn.

They speak a language of strength and action. They are confident in their abilities to learn, adapt, and overcome. As such, the Initiated carry themselves with a great deal of respect for themselves and their abilities.

The Initiated can identify those cut from the same cloth and they take care of their own.

Be the Initiated.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Thrive In Discomfort

The initiated do not avoid discomfort; rather, they seek it.

What is discomfort and what is its significance to people?

Discomfort is a feeling that goes hand in hand with challenge, unknown, and resistance. Discomfort is the antithesis of human nature. Humans seek comfort – it is the reason we live in houses, invented air conditioning, and go swimming when it’s hot. When humans feel uncomfortable, they want to change something to resolve that discomfort and return back to “normal”.

People have been developing products and services for years in an effort to address a point of potential discomfort for their customers. As this continues, it becomes increasingly easier to find fast and easy solutions to problems. This is not an issue in and of itself – specialization of products, trades, and skills have freed up the time of others to pursue different paths. The problem; however, is that it soon becomes too easy to seek comfort – and who wants to be uncomfortable?

Discomfort drives change and growth. The active avoidance of discomfort stunts the engagement of a person to the world around them. By hiring a handyman, a person loses the connection with their house. By taking their car to the mechanic for any unusual noise, they don’t understand the thing they rely on to get to and from their job each day. By choosing to sit in front of the television instead of getting in exercise, they lose their coordination and fitness.

Without feeling lacking there is no drive for a person to enact change.

Why would there be? If one is comfortable and happy, what reason would there be to step out of that comfort zone? It is the desire to resolve discomfort, to overcome a challenge, that is the drives a person to take action. Without this sense of discomfort, people become content and stagnant.

The initiated must remember to seek out new challenges, find discomfort, and attack it head on for they know how much there is to learn about the world as well as themselves in going through struggle. The initiated person is not scared to marinate in discomfort for a while – it does not overcome them. They are willing to chew on a problem, analyze the situation, come up with a plan, and proceed with a solution.

The more this practice is repeated, the more confidence is built. Therefore when faced with future challenge, one can pull from this experience and confidence; it is a compounding skill. There is self-trust built in knowing they have developed skills and tools needed to come up with a plan and overcome any challenge unfortunate enough to cross their path.

On the flip side, a content, comfortable person becomes stagnant. They do not have the desire to seek out new challenges and instead live in their comfortable bubble, consuming, with no outlet for their energy and creativity. These people are content to be the same person for the rest of their lives, or so they think.

This is not the way. Stagnation will catch up with these people eventually and they will eventually look for change.

Familiar with the term “mid-life crisis”? A mid-life crisis is nothing more than a realization of such deep stagnation that a person must make a big, often irresponsible, gesture to feel like they are taking back control of their lives.

Life is the longest game you’re going to play; it is also a game where there is unlimited potential to grow and get better. Like anything else, it is all dependent upon the amount and quality of work put into it.

Go out and seek discomforts. Struggle to lift heavy weights, challenge your mind, ask questions. Be humbled by trying something new. Learning does not stop with the completion of formal schooling nor does achievement of goals mean the game is won.

Be engaged. Be active. Move. Learn new things.

Thrive in discomfort.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

Develop a Binary Mindset – An Argument Against “Shades of Gray”

Approaching decisions from a binary mindset promotes simplification and provides answers that can be acted upon.

For many years I have been told my thinking is binary, all or nothing, and that I don’t acknowledge all the shades of gray that exist in day-to-day life. For many years I have been left to figure out how I feel about this criticism. Is having this binary thought process – on/off, yes/no, right/wrong – an area for improvement? Should I acknowledge that there are shades of gray in everything?

Recently, my answer to these questions has come into focus. That answer is “NO”. I have decided to double down on this binary thought process, to continue to make binary decisions and put a period at the end of a sentence rather than leave an ellipsis.

To me, acknowledging a gray area is to acknowledge an uncertainty indicative of attempting to make a decision without full understanding of facts.

Adopting a binary thought process will set one up for success in a few ways:

  1. Setting up future binary decisions requires that no stone be left unturned throughout the decision-making process. If expectations of a binary resolution is set, the legwork must be done and the right questions asked in order to establish the best understanding of the question. From here one is able to form such a binary answer. A binary 1 or 0 does not have any understanding of “maybe”, “potentially”, or “what if”.
  2. A binary decision made is a question brought to closure. The lack of a binary decision leaves the question open to further examination, determination, analysis, and remains an open item detracting from the energy that can be put toward other things, namely, following the decided path to the end. A decision made with anything other than a firm “yes” or “no” is not concluded with a period; but rather a semicolon waiting for the rest of the decision to be made.
  3. When maintaining that a non-binary resolution is unacceptable, as is the case when rejecting the gray areas in favor of a binary answer, conversations are driven to either the desired “yes” or “no” OR an actionable, time bound path is defined by which this currently unresolved question is to be resolved. This provides a clear path to the next step; and at the end of the day, that is all a binary decision attempts to accomplish.

And this is all well and good when the correct answer is found the first time. How does this theory work out when it is later found out that that first decision, that initial “1” should have instead been a “0”?

Well, shit, you got it wrong. Nothing else to do but start back at the start of another process. In the simplest of instances, there is only one other alternative solution to the question at hand – the alternative to your first decision.

There is efficiency and simplicity in a binary decision and that’s where its power lies. A complex issue, when driven to a binary resolution, “1” or “0”, becomes a matter of choosing one path or another. Once a decision is made (and truly MADE) all of the focus can be put into exploring the path rather than considering what that other path may have been.

This binary mindset is not an excuse to be arrogant, as may happen if a person believes they are “right” and has the right answers. The purpose of the binary mindset is to simplify the thoughts and decisions and drive more action than theorizing. It is important to know that there is no way to be correct the first time, every time. The driving philosophy is to produce efficient, actionable resolutions based on the best information available. Know that there will be decisions made that are later found to be incorrect. In these instances a quick recovery, course correct, and new direction are all that is needed to right the ship.

Be cognizant of the times in which a question needs resolved. If there is uncertainty in the resolution, dig a level or two deeper and determine whether, with a few more minutes of research and thought, a gray area can be brought to a “1” or “0”, in true binary fashion.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey