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without permission from the author.
Copyright © 2008 by Dave Tate.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
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except for the inclusion of quotations in a review.
Published by:
Elite Fitness Systems
138 Maple Street
London, OH 43140
Printed in the United States of America
Layout by E. Pirrung.
Cover Art by Ken Hicks
A special thank you goes to the following people who have
made this book possible: my family; my wife, Traci; my sons,
Blaine and Bryce; Bob Youngs; Mike Szudarek; Lawrence
Smith; Bob Ihlenfeldt; Jim Wendler; Erica Pirrung; and all the
staff, sponsors, and team of EliteFTS. Thank you.
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
I first met Dave Tate in 2005 at the APF Senior Nationals, a powerlifting meet in which I was competing. I remember this meet vividly
because it’s where I achieved my first 800-lb squat. At the time, Dave
was helping various lifters from Team Elite Fitness Systems, and
it was readily apparent to me that his business was growing. I was
impressed. His athletes were all wearing sponsored company gear.
EliteFTS.com, the company’s website, had become more refined
and by all accounts was generating incredible amounts of traffic. The
entire organization displayed a level of professionalism and sophistication not generally found in operations I’ve observed in the fitness
As a marketing professional, it occurred to me that I might be able
to help Dave’s company achieve even more effective levels of communication. When I returned to my office after the meet, I sent him an
email. Dave responded by telling me his business was growing so fast
that he was now in the process of evaluating his resources and future
plans, and he advised me to get back to him in about six months. In
the interim, I became a regular visitor to the site. I read his book and
his articles, and I spent some time familiarizing myself with his operation. When we next connected about a year later, Dave invited me
to his London, Ohio, headquarters to talk business. Our professional
relationship grew out of this meeting.
With the common bond of strength training and powerlifting, Dave and
I intuitively understood one another. I knew what Dave was trying to
accomplish with the company, and I could see that everyone in his opvii
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eration was just as committed to its success as he was. Elite Fitness
Systems is a company that’s truly run according to the values Dave
laid down for it at its inception. That’s a rare thing in the business
Walk through any bookstore and you’ll find thousands of self-help
books written by accomplished authors trying to navigate readers
through life’s whitewaters. They share their own experiences so readers can potentially learn a few tips to help them achieve their own
Dave’s groundbreaking first book, Under the Bar, breaks the mold of
the garden variety self-help manual. Instead of simply listing rules to
follow, he shows readers that they already have the tools they need
for success. They just need to know where to find them. Most outstanding athletes know how to set goals, train hard, and mentally focus to achieve higher levels of performance. What most people don’t
know is how to extend these principles to other areas of their lives in
order to be successful there as well.
In Under the Bar, Dave examines all of the major attributes needed for
success in the weight room—attitude, integrity, teamwork, and perseverance—and demonstrates how these points of personal achievement can be transferred to all areas of life. He also shares the many
excuses people use to avoid making the difficult decisions that are
often required for success.
As influential as Under the Bar has been in strength training and
personal growth circles, Raising the Bar promises to accomplish
even more. It’s a natural extension of the principles detailed in the
first book. This book is filled with real-world personal examples—from
Dave Tate
Dave and many others—of the application of these values to our everyday lives. If Under the Bar represents basic theory, Raising the Bar
will show you how it’s applied. Even if you fall flat on your face, there
are things that can be learned.
The book you’re reading right now is printed with blood, sweat, and
tears. There is failure, rejection, and soul-crippling fear. In each
case—whether discussing a personal relationship or a business decision—Dave Tate describes the issues involved, the available options,
and the intensity of feeling and conflicting emotions that inevitably
arose. By sticking to basic principles, he shows how it was possible to
overcome adversity, resolve conflicts, and rise to new heights.
Explaining Dave Tate is not easy. He is a dynamic and straight-talking
man. He’s also a proven leader and a successful businessman. As
with all of us, he is not without his faults. However, unlike others in his
position, he’s not shy about acknowledging these, nor does he try to
hide them.
In fact, one of the highlights of this book is Dave’s description of the
deep despair and helplessness that constantly gnawed at him as a result of one of his failed personal relationships. He felt so much dread
that he “thought [he] was looking into the gates of hell.” From this,
he learned that in stressful situations, a person’s mental attitude will
dictate whether he or she will emerge wiser and stronger or weaker
and defeated.
Dave’s own mental toughness—which has proven repeatedly that he
“walks the talk”—is testament to the fact that his lessons of life actually work. The many trainers and athletes he’s counseled over the
years—in addition to an international community of people who’ve
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read his articles and applied them to their own lives—have used
Dave’s advice to experience the rich, spiritual satisfaction that accompanies achievement.
Setting and achieving goals, developing lasting friendships and
harmonious family and business relationships, and cultivating an
inner harmony that brings peace of mind are possible using Dave’s
approach. In short, if you put Dave Tate’s philosophy into action, be
prepared for a changed life.
— Michael R. Szudarek
Dave Tate
Introduction: Blast and Dust............................................................... 1
Faith................................................................................................. 13
Intelligence....................................................................................... 23
Trials................................................................................................. 41
Benevolence..................................................................................... 49
Perspective....................................................................................... 61
Undaunted........................................................................................ 69
Conformity........................................................................................ 77
Weakness......................................................................................... 83
Rumors............................................................................................. 89
Perseverance................................................................................... 97
Balance.......................................................................................... 109
Experience..................................................................................... 121
Resourceful.................................................................................... 131
Pain................................................................................................ 137
Fear................................................................................................ 149
Passion........................................................................................... 157
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
Introduction: Blast and Dust
Were you fed through a bottle, or were you fed naturally? Did you eat
from plastic plates? Stand too close to the microwave? Did you grow
up in the ghetto? Are you a recovering drug addict? Is your life a living
hell? Are there things about yourself that you don’t like? Do you procrastinate? Are you jealous? Do you suffer from selfishness, obsessive behavior, mood swings, or low self-esteem? Are you a loner? Do
you keep to yourself? Or are you surrounded by so many people you
aren’t sure which ones are your friends?
Do you have a support network to call on during hard times? I’m not
talking about someone on the other end of the phone when you have
a flat tire. I’m talking about someone you’d call when times are so
hard that you don’t know if you’d be better off dead or alive. Do you
know who’ll be there for you? Will you be there for yourself to make
the right decisions based on what’s really best for you? Or are your
eyes swollen shut to what really makes you happy?
I don’t know you, but I do know that we all have our demons. We all
have our pasts that we don’t want to deal with, and we have things
that we’d rather forget. If we didn’t have these things, we wouldn’t be
alive. What I’m questioning here is whether you’re alive or just living.
Do your demons control you or do you control them? Are you sure?
Let me tell you about a little boy who had demons of his own. His demons were no worse or better than yours, but his eyes remained shut
tight to the effect they were having on his life. He used justification
and blame, tried to prove his worth, and looked for respect, accep
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tance, and significance. These are basic human needs. We’ll fill them
in however we can to gain what we’re seeking, even if it means living
a life with blinders on.
This boy grew up with learning disabilities that were embarrassing. He
was made fun of and excluded from most of the things that other kids
get to experience growing up. Teasing was a daily occurrence, and he
was filled with pain, guilt, and worthlessness. He didn’t develop physically because most of the time he spent on the playground was spent
alone. He wasn’t invited to play neighborhood games with any of the
other kids. Instead, he sat by a tree looking at cloud patterns. He tried
to see what animals the clouds resembled, and he wondered if there
was a heaven. He wondered what it would be like if there was. Would
it be better than being alone most of the time? Or would he die and
just spend more time alone?
If he ever was invited to play, the games were miserable ones like ball
tag. He was given the ball, tackled, and then beaten up. His childhood
memories are filled with incidents like the times he was lassoed with a
tetherball rope and then kicked and beaten. Things like this happened
One day, the neighborhood kids invited him to play baseball. He’ll remember that game for the rest of his life. He’d never played baseball
before but was elated when they asked him to play. They said they
needed one more to make the teams even, and he was more than
willing to be a part of the game.
He was given a nice looking, leather catcher’s mitt. It was all beat up,
smelled like oil, and felt great in his hand. He loved the smell of the
leather and oil. The sun was out, and it was a great day. The kids all
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got into position, and he was taught how to squat down and hold the
mitt so the pitcher had a target to hit. They threw him a few practice
pitches, and he caught them all. It felt really cool to have found something he seemed to be pretty good at.
After a few more practice tosses, the kids were ready to start the
game. Right before the first pitch, the batter said, “You didn’t really think we wanted you to play, did you?” He swung the bat and
smacked the kid right in the mouth, knocking his tooth out. The kid
wasn’t even sure that he’d felt it, but there was blood everywhere.
All he knew was that he had to get the hell out of there fast and get
When he made it home, he told his mother he’d taken the dog for a
walk. He said that he’d started running and the dog had dragged him
across the street. He said that he’d tripped and smashed his tooth on
the curb.
He spent the next few hours in the dentist’s chair having a partial tooth
bonded to the half tooth that remained. Every few years, the bonding
had to be redone. This served as a reminder. There was also a slight
color difference between the bonded side and the original side. To this
day, the tooth is symbolic of how the “stupid kid” of the neighborhood
grew up—battered, beaten down, worthless, alone, and depressed
with nothing to do but sit under a tree and wonder what was behind
the overcast clouds.
When the sun came out, his eyes were blinded to the beauty around
him because his focus was on the future. His eyes were always looking up, but the sun burned them. When this happened, he lost hope,
and the reality of depression pervaded his consciousness for yet
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another day. In time, he developed what he called a blast and dust
For the little boy, dust meant doing nothing (depression), and blast
was the hope for a better future (dreams). There was no middle
ground for him. He was either blasting away at how great the future
could be or sitting in the dust depressed about how badly his current
situation sucked.
When he was eleven, his uncle gave him his first weight set. Almost
immediately, he discovered that he didn’t need friends if he had his
weights. He trained for four hours a day every day, and all he could
think about was the next workout and how he’d be able to make
himself bigger and stronger. The weights didn’t make fun of him. They
didn’t exclude him, and they didn’t label him. He had control and could
punish himself for all of his faults. He blasted with the weights and
learned to disregard any negative remarks because they didn’t matter
to his training.
His athletic ability improved with time, and while he still didn’t know
the wrestling moves or football plays, he was able to kick the crap
out of everyone who used to make fun of him. His outward demeanor
changed. Outwardly, he adopted more of an aggressive “bad ass”
look. He built a coat of armor to keep people away from him so he
wouldn’t be beaten up or ridiculed anymore. He didn’t need friends or
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relationships. The weights gave him everything he needed. He only
wanted to be left alone to build the strongest body possible.
The stronger he became, the less crap he took. No longer was he the
“stupid learning disabled kid.” Now, people said, “Don’t mess with that
guy because he looks like he could rip your head off.” Given these two
options, he found the latter much more gratifying. It laid the groundwork for the rest of his life. The “stupid kid” was gone. An imposing
new persona emerged, wrapped in a suit of armor designed to keep
people out and away. He found the significance and acceptance that
he’d been seeking. The weights had saved him from a life of constant
The harder he worked, the stronger he became and the more attention he received for his size and strength. Both now exceeded those
of men far older than he was. He’d decided what he wanted out of life,
and training gave him the spirit to achieve things by being stronger.
This kid had never been asked to play Monopoly, Clue, Mouse Trap,
or any other game because he’d been labeled as stupid. Now, he
walked the halls of his school with authority and confidence. He’d
become the master of his own domain. Friends, however, remained
few and far between because he was still labeled as slow and stuck
in special education classes. The kids in these classes weren’t from
the same middle class neighborhood in which he lived, so he wasn’t
“allowed” to hang out with them. Time with them was limited to school
or after-school activities like football and wrestling.
Wrestling became his passion because the team was comprised of
kids who weren’t from his social class. Many were in his special education classes. The training was hard, individual, and intense. After
Raising the Bar
having his ass kicked every day for a year, the weights came into the
picture. Using his newfound strength, he didn’t lose a single match
for two years. The boy had also started participating in powerlifting
because he relished the competitive challenge of getting stronger.
He trained with a group of adults who took him under their collective
wings and taught him proper training techniques. They showed him
how to cycle his training programs for optimal results. As a result, he
built himself into one of the strongest teenagers in the country, breaking many state and national records in the process.
By contrast, he hated football with a passion. The coach called him
slow and screamed at him for not knowing the plays. You needed to
know the plays. You were also supposed to know what to do if a play
was changed at the line. When that happened, you figured out what to
do based on where the defender’s head went.
Not grasping this made the kid feel even more stupid. The coach
was on his ass every day and that made things infinitely worse. He
constantly thought about quitting. His weight training sessions were
the only thing helping him through this. He knew he’d be meeting his
training partners in the gym after practice because there was always
a meet coming up and that feeling of anticipation temporarily made
football tolerable.
On the blast and dust scale, wrestling and powerlifting were “blasting”
and schoolwork and football were “dust.” He saw no reason to spend
time with stuff that meant nothing to him. He wasn’t interested in
anything that wasn’t enhancing his life. Schoolwork and football made
him feel more like the “stupid kid” that the world had labeled him as.
Wrestling and powerlifting showed him success and the ability to see
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that, if he worked hard, he got want he wanted. And what he’d wanted
was for the abuse to stop.
There were eventually some decisions to be made. Weight training
had added significant mass to his physique, and there were weight
class issues to address. In football, he was a defensive end, but he
didn’t have the speed to be a good pass rusher. He needed to add
more weight to play defensive tackle, but this meant he’d have to
wrestle as a super heavyweight, which he didn’t want to do. Wrestling
all the fat guys took the fun out of the sport. To stay out of the super
heavyweight class, he’d only have to drop ten pounds, so the decision was easy. He stopped playing the sport he hated and went with
the sport he loved. Powerlifting remained a constant, the way it would
throughout his life. It went year-round and was always there.
This decision ate at him for weeks. The coach he considered the biggest asshole of all sat down with him and showed him a letter detailing the values and virtues of football. He told the boy that he really
cared. This was the most attention the coach had ever shown him,
and the kid was in disbelief. Even so, he still just wanted this coach to
go away. Every coach in the school had a word with the kid, trying like
hell to get him to play football. They all had something to say, but not
one of them listened.
Finally, he gave in to all their pressure and went back to playing
football. He never wrestled again. He did what he promised to do with
football, but powerlifting became his number one passion because it
still fulfilled his needs and kept him away from what had hurt him. He
was still a loner, but he was a strong one—by far the strongest in the
school. A balance was struck—he kept to himself, and the rest of the
world kept to itself.
Raising the Bar
His self-worth was measured under the bar. He built an increasingly
stronger suit of armor to keep from being hurt and to prevent people
from seeing him for what he truly felt he was—the stupid kid. This label never went away for him. The weights simply redefined it, retooling
him into the “stupid kid who no one wanted to mess with.” He needed
no one, and no one needed him. This was a perfect arrangement that
kept the exterior pain away. The interior pain, however, never left him.
It was suppressed and buried with half-truths and justifications.
He was getting stronger and spending less time in the dust phase.
Most of his time was spent blasting. Training was the final piece that
he’d needed to fill all the gaping voids in his life, and the goals that
he’d set could now be fulfilled by him and him alone.
The selfish nature he developed became a safety net. Nobody
messed with him, and he hid all his fears behind his strength, aggression, and intimidation. This was a way of life that could get him what
he wanted without having to expose who and what he thought he
really was. Ironically enough, he’d found his greatest strength, acceptance, and significance in avoidance.
As an adult, he would give motivational seminars on what it took to
be a better lifter. He’d show how to use these same qualities in life.
The entire time, however, he knew that everything was a half-truth
because he wasn’t happy with himself and he couldn’t figure out why.
When he was challenged, he always fell back on his basic model:
Dave Tate
To avoid confusion, he threw one hundred percent of himself into
everything, letting the rest fall where it would. He “fixed” his obsessive
behavior by putting all of his effort into the gym—training for meets,
going on diets, getting lean, or taking on some other drastic training
Meanwhile, the rest of his life was in the dust because overcoming
non-gym related adversity took everything he had. He’d been giving
his pursuit of happiness a Herculean effort, and he still hadn’t found it.
Blasting with everything he had left no time to focus on anything else.
If something didn’t involve training, he relegated it to the dust pile and
found something else to focus on. He called this “balance.” By placing one hundred percent of his focus on one thing and then the next,
he stayed in blast mode constantly. He did this to seek pleasure and
avoid pain.
This didn’t give him the pleasure he wanted, so he created new and
bigger blast goals. He told himself, “If I could just get this…If I could
just do that…In just one more year, I’ll be able to do this…” The obsession with these things never stopped, but happiness never came.
He thought this was because he hadn’t yet achieved his ultimate
goal—the one that would finally prove his worth for all time.
This was never about “the game.” To this day, this kid can’t tell you his
sporting stats. If you ask him about his income and business statistics,
he has to look them up. “The game” was never the point. It’s always
been about proving something.
In adulthood, most people would say that he’s proven everyone from
his youth wrong—that he’s no longer the “stupid kid” and that he’s
Raising the Bar
become a very successful man. To him, however, there was always
more to prove. But to who?
Thirty years later, I now understand that I was blind to things that
should have been important because I was trying to prove something
to myself. What I didn’t understand was that this something didn’t
need to be proved. It needed to be embraced. I was trying to prove
something that couldn’t be proven in the first place. I was looking for
the golden egg.
None of us can change the past. What we can do is look back and
learn from our mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I made was living my life according to the blast and dust scale. As my niece told me,
this is analogous to living a life of heaven and hell. Life is what happens in between the two.
When I take my scale and make a bell curve out of it, you’ll see the
greater meaning:
Dave Tate
My focus was on only twenty percent of what was going on in my life.
According to the Pareto Principle, you receive eighty percent of your
results from only twenty percent of the work that you put in. I felt that
this was an acceptable way for me to live my life. However, if this rule
is true, it applies to all the individual segments of the curve and not
the entire curve as a whole. So did I miss eighty percent of my life?
I ask myself these questions each and every day. Think of it this way.
If you always drive to work the same way every day, do you notice
the other cars on the road? Do you see the new paint job on the old
house around the corner? Did you notice the river you crossed? Or is
getting in the car and turning on the ignition all you ever remember?
I was disassociated from a large part of my life. Was it twenty percent? Eighty? Who knows? That’s not the important part. The thing to
remember about life is that it’s what happens between the bad times
and the great times.
Eighty percent of life involves learning how to master what’s here at
the moment. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for things in the
future or learn from the past, but you have to stop to smell the roses.
I do that now. There’s an entire world out there right in front of your
face. It’s not about what’s happened or what you strive to have. It’s
about learning to love what you do have and finding happiness within
yourself that’s not based on false justifications.
Staggering numbers of people fall to the far ends of this curve. They
look for happiness in depression, drug use, alcohol, other people,
work, overachievement, success, more money, status, and power. I’m
not saying that this is right or wrong, and I’m not making judgments
on whether it’s constructive or destructive. I’ve just found that there’s
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more to life than the things for which we strive. We need to stop and
take a look.
Striving for big goals is essential. However, learning to find happiness
in the process of achieving those goals is also important. Don’t let one
goal consume your entire life. If you do, you’ll be living life the way I
did. You’ll blast one hundred percent of the time, get burned out, do
nothing, and just sit idle until it’s time to blast again. Trust me on this
one. After living this way for thirty years, I can assure you that it will
not bring you the happiness you’re seeking.
In my first book, Under the Bar, I tried to explain the values I’ve
learned in the weight room and in sports. I know now that there were
a few I missed. These values have always been there, but in looking
back with an older, more experienced eye, I know there are ones that
I’d overlooked, taken for granted, or just never understood at all. As
coaches, athletes, and parents, we need to understand all the great
things that sports offer. We need to see not only the values that fill our
own gaps but the ones that build character, balance, and happiness.
Dave Tate
“It is inevitable that some defeat will enter even
the most victorious life. The human spirit is never
finished when it is defeated...it is finished when it
—Ben Stein
“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning
how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time.
If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go
on to win again, you are going to be a champion
—Wilma Rudolph
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition.
Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
—Marilyn vos Savant
Raising the Bar
“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard
work, determination, and dedication. Remember all
things are possible for those who believe.”
—Gail Devers
Dave Tate
faith |fāθ|
1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something: This restores
one’s faith in politicians.
2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
3. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith.
4. a strongly held belief or theory: The faith that life will expand until it
fills the universe.
School Days
It was a typical fall day. Leaves littered the ground, a cool breeze gently rattled through the trees, and billowing clouds sat high in a vast,
blue sky. The sun was weak, casting dappled light across the grass.
The school bell rang, marking the end of another day. I grabbed my
jacket and lunch pail and found my usual spot in the back of the line.
Released from our daily educational grind, I exited the back door with
the rest of the kids. Today would be unlike any other day. I took the
same path home as always. I walked the sidewalk from the school
and then cut through a series of yards until I reached my own.
As I made my way into the first yard, I noticed a few kids from my
neighborhood playing in one of the other yards a few houses up. This
was the yard that I needed to cut through to get home. I recognized
two of these kids. They were both three years older than me. I had
never seen the third one before.
Having been picked on and beaten up most of my childhood for being
learning disabled, I was used to the teasing and name calling from
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the two kids I knew. So, I kept to my route and tried to cut through the
yard where they were playing.
Head Down, Eyes Forward
As soon as I came into view, the name calling started. “Here comes
retard boy.” “Look, there’s Tater Tot.” I kept my head down and my
eyes looking forward, the same way I’d done many times before.
It started with tightness around my ankles. They’d tossed a tetherball
rope around my shins, the same way cowboys do when they’re roping
cattle. The ball whipped around my legs several times, coming to a
stop only when I fell to the ground. I tried to pull myself to my knees,
but they jerked the rope, causing me to fall flat, face first in the grass.
The battle had begun.
I tried to get up, but they pulled the rope and dragged me back down.
The pulling and dragging were constant. It didn’t stop. I flopped
around from my front to my back trying to get my legs free of the
ropes. As I fought, the other two kids jumped on me, kicking and
punching me with all they had. I have no idea how long this went on,
but there wasn’t a single spot on my body that hadn’t been punched
or kicked.
I remember looking up and seeing other kids standing off to the side
laughing and pointing. Slam! Someone pressed my face firmly into the
ground, hindering the scent of grass and mud that tried to fill my nostrils. Blood drained from my nose onto the grass, and a blue and white
striped, Puma tennis shoe kicked the side of my prone torso. There
were cheers in the background. I tried to cover up, but the Puma
raced toward me again, colliding with my nose this time. The taste of
my own blood filled my mouth.
Dave Tate
Then, something incredible happened. All the physical pain simply
stopped. I told myself that there was no way they’d see my pain.
There was no way they were going to know that they were hurting me.
There was no way in this world I was going to let them have an ounce
of satisfaction by showing them a single tear or by uttering a single cry
for help.
I found contentment in the pain, and I embraced it. I anticipated the
next punch and the next kick to see if they had the strength to hit and
kick harder than they had the time before.
As I withdrew myself, they became increasingly dissatisfied with how
things were going. The dragged me around the yard, hoping to spark
a reaction from me. My face rolled through dog shit, but I wasn’t going
to let them know that I was in any pain at all. All of it was held inside
me, and it became my power.
Blood, Sweat, and Grass
After what seemed to me like forever, they stopped. One of the onlookers came over and offered to help me up. I looked up at him with
blood, sweat, grass, and crap on my face and told him to get away
from me. I refused his help. I didn’t want his help to get up.
I pulled my knees to my chest and untied the rope from around my
ankles. I rolled onto my side, first putting one knee on the ground and
then the other. I placed one foot flat on the ground and pulled myself
up. I stood with pride, knowing that I’d displayed no pain and given
satisfaction to no one despite taking the worst beating of my life. The
physical pain was intense, but I was able to displace myself and make
it go away. The emotional pain, however, was a different story altogether.
Raising the Bar
I’m pausing at this point because I want you to think of some of the
bad things that have happened in your life. For me, when I think about
these things, I think of rage, vengeance, anger, and hate. I can’t
speak for you, but these are the emotions that come to my mind. I
hated those kids for what they’d done.
I’ve never forgotten that day, and I never will. I used to think of it as
the day the stupid learning disabled kid got what he deserved. They’d
absolutely beaten the crap out of me, and it made me think about how
helpless and worthless I was. I thought about how weak I was and
how I didn’t have the strength to fight back. I thought of the fear I felt
every time I saw those kids again and how afraid I was every time I
walked past that house.
Take a moment right now to think back to one of the worst things that
has ever happened in your life. Did someone close to you leave you
for another? Were you cheated on or betrayed? Did you suffer the
loss of a loved one? Were you beaten up like I was? Or worse?
We all have great pains that we suffer in our lives, and no one’s pain
is greater or worse than anyone else’s. We all have our horrific moments, and we’d all love to know why they happened to us. Why me?
What did I do to bring this on? We play the blame game, but we’ll
never get any answers to our questions because there aren’t any. The
answers we’re looking for aren’t found in the reasons why. They’re
found in our own fears.
Most of us try not to think back on these times because doing so
scares the crap out of us. I’ll bet that when I asked you to think back,
you didn’t, and if you did, you were emotionally detached. The pain
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we associate with these moments is usually just too much. However,
some important questions need to be asked. Is this pain influencing
your life today? Could these events still be causing pain in your life?
Or is this yet another issue you’re avoiding because you don’t want to
know the answer?
Are you guided by the way you think about these past experiences? If
so, is it in a positive way? Or are these things holding you back from
the life you really want? How could you know any of this if you’ve
never thought about it? Maybe it’s time to revisit some of these moments from a different perspective so that you can learn to overcome
Understand This
To do this, you have to understand one thing. The unfavorable, adverse, grim, and hurtful losses in our lives shape who we become,
and the excellent, fantastic, and awesome times are the rewards that
we receive for being who we are. Confused?
We all have good times, and we all have bad times. The key is to
understand how to use the bad times to help shape who you are in a
positive way. This is far easier than most of us think it is because it all
really boils down to how we decide to look back on these events.
I still have a hard time doing this sometimes, but I have yet to find
one bad experience that didn’t yield a positive outcome. This includes
even the very worst of my experiences. I’m able to see how each one
has shaped who I’ve become in either a negative or positive way. The
way events have affected me has always been based entirely upon
how I recall them.
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When I look back at these events and try to view them in a positive
light, my life is always enhanced. To put things in training terms, learning to remember them by viewing memories through a different prism
feels like a weighted vest has been unbuckled and thrown from my
body. By changing how I view things, my life has changed, and I’m in
a state of constant growth as a person.
When someone first suggested this, I thought it was bull. Stuff happens and we have to deal with it, right? Sometimes we’ll never know
why an event occurs. Sometimes we don’t need to know. I don’t know
a single person who’s had a golden life without pain. We all have it,
we’ve all had it, and we’ll all have more of it. This is life, so deal with it.
That’s what I would have said years ago, but what does “deal with it”
actually mean? For me, it meant pushing it inside, filing it away as bad
stuff that happened, and moving on. Then I’d forget about it. But do
we really forget? If you were hurt or scared as a result of something
happening, would you do that something again? What if it didn’t yield
the same result the second time around?
In powerlifting, missing a weight doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lift
that weight if we try it again. If we still can’t lift it, we can try it again
on another day. And if we still can’t lift it, we learn from it, get stronger,
and come back to do it on yet another day. This is how a lifter looks at
a challenge. The same is true for the negative events in our lives, except missed lifts won’t change how you look at life. They won’t shape
who you’ll become the way a traumatic life experience can.
It’s easy to find positives in slightly negative situations that have little
influence on who we’ll become. It’s another thing altogether to look
at extreme situations in this same light. The process, however, is the
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same. It’s exactly the same. It all comes down to how you decide to
look at it. I’m not saying this is easy because it hasn’t been easy for
me. It can take months or years to see positives, but I’m telling you
that they’re there. And if you’re willing to look for them, you’ll find
Extraordinary Resolve
Face down on the ground, my entire body covered in grass, mud,
crap, and blood, I found something in myself that I didn’t have the day
before. I found an extraordinary resolve, a drive and a will. I found
the faith to become stronger, regardless of the situation. With my face
in the mud, I found an iron will to not quit and to not give in, regardless of how many times I was kicked or hit. I found strength in myself
that I’ve carried throughout my life. This strength has given me faith
that no matter how bad situations get or how hard I’m hit, kicked, or
abused, I will untie the ropes and pull myself back to my feet stronger
than before.
That day, in a pile of crap, I discovered a piece of gold. Think about
this. If I can turn crap into gold, what can you do?
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
“There is no such [thing] as intelligence; one has
intelligence of this or that. One must have intelligence only for what one is doing.”
—Edgar Degas
“Wit is educated insolence.”
“We should take care not to make the intellect our
god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no
—Albert Einstein
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
in · tel · li · gence /ɪn´tlɪɛdЗəns/
1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms
of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts,
meanings, etc.
Who Are You?
Are you not good enough? Do you need special attention? Are you
behind the other kids? Go stand in the corner. Shut up idiot! Were
you an accident? Go out and play. Da-da-da-da-da Dave! Not on my
team! Come on, honey, it’s time to go to your learning disabled class.
Get out of the pool. We have to leave to see your tutor. Go AWAY!
GET OUT! You can’t do it! Leave us alone! Give me your milk! Pussy!
Wimp! Don’t sit there—sit back there. Those are my toys—don’t touch
them. Why don’t you just go away?!? You all can come in, but he has
to stay out. Sit down and be quiet. Here, practice these flash cards.
Get off MY swing! That’s MY ball! Dumbass! You are such a retard!
Go away!
Words like these made up my childhood. Being labeled with a learning disability was a nightmare. It led to a life of abuse and teasing and
of feeling insignificant. These things were bad enough to last me a
lifetime, but my mind is filled with other memories such as…
The Clouds
I spent the bulk of my childhood avoiding others and spending time by
myself, sitting under a tree staring up at the clouds. Minute by minute,
hour by hour, and day by day, I stared at the clouds. I spent months,
even years, looking to the sky and wondering why. Why am I the stu25
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pid kid? Why am I the one who can’t do a pull-up? Why do I have to
be the one with horrendous acne? What did I do to deserve this?
I thought about a lot of things sitting under that tree. Where did the
clouds stop? Where does space end? Is there really a God? What is
the purpose of the stars? How could I do this? How could I do that?
Why do we have two legs? What if?
Thinking like this went on for hours. I was never much for fantasy
or imagination. I’d just sit and think about why things were done the
way that they were. Why did one person look right when crossing the
street and then left while another person did things the opposite way?
Was it because they were right- or left-handed? Thoughts like these
occupied my days.
As I grew older and got more absorbed in weight training, I thought
a lot about why training was done the way that it was. What were the
advantages of doing things a certain way? What were the disadvantages? Why did people take certain things as givens when there may
be better ways to do them? This was how I escaped reality.
Milk Money
I loved chocolate milk when I was a kid. I’d sit at my desk, hungry
from skipping breakfast, waiting for lunch to come. On good days, I’d
get lucky and wind up at the back of the line when they called on us to
go to the cafeteria. Being last in line was where I wanted to be.
Nobody would be behind me making fun of me. Nobody would call me
stupid, flick the back of my ear with their fingers, or kick the sole of my
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shoe as I walked. At the back of the line, none of my classmates could
try to steal my milk money.
If I didn’t give it up, they’d punch me in the stomach. Because I loved
milk, everything came down to how badly I wanted it. Was having my
milk worth taking a shot in the gut and spending the next five minutes
trying to catch my breath? In the back of the line, the odds of this happening were much lower. This wasn’t always the case though. Sometimes a kid waited for me just to steal my money or hit me. Luckily for
me, teachers usually stayed in the back of the line, creating a safe
place. I’d find a place to sit in the cafeteria away from everyone else
so I didn’t have to deal with their comments.
After lunch, we went to the playground. Over time, I learned to keep
mostly to myself but not so much that teachers tried to make me go
places with the other kids. If I went and sat alone by myself, they’d
try to make me go and play with the others, which was the last thing
I wanted to do. I figured out that if I stayed on the far swing, I was left
completely alone. If I was alone by the playground set, it looked like I
was actually trying to do something.
Sometimes I’d try to hang out with the other kids from my neighborhood, but they all ignored me. One particular event stands out in my
mind. Another kid had a new video game, so a group of us went over
to his house to play it. Everyone else was invited in, but I was told
to go home. After this happened, I never tried to go anywhere with
a group again, opting instead to stay under a tree by the golf course
driving range where nobody could see me. I sat and watched the
clouds and wondered what was up there. I pondered all sorts of things
there. Where does space end? Why am I like I am? Why am I not like
all the others? What can I do to be accepted? Why don’t they want
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to be friends with me? What are the clouds made of anyway? How
much longer until the streetlights come on? Is there a God? If there is,
what’s his plan for me?
I enjoyed spending all this time alone because it gave me freedom
and kept me away from the abusive stuff of my life. I found the peace
and strength that I needed to make it from one day to the next. And I
needed this because I knew the next day would be the same as all the
When I made it to the fourth grade, the physical and mental abuse
got much worse. It became more and more intense each week. I had
no idea how to fight so I just did my best. I wasn’t the strongest or
most confident kid, so most of these fights took place on the ground
with me getting my ass beat. Sometimes I’d simply run away from the
mental abuse. I’ll remember some of these times for the rest of my
Most of the time, I walked home from school alone. I always hated
it when the corner attendant held us up for traffic. If I got ahead, the
other kids caught up to me. If they were ahead, I tried to slow my
pace so they crossed the street before me. This usually worked, but
sometimes I caught up with them, which is exactly what I didn’t want
to happen.
One day, a group of sixth graders caught up to me. I kept my head
down and my mouth shut like I always did. As we crossed the road,
one of these kids swiped my book bag and took off running. I really
didn’t care, but I didn’t want to have to explain where my bag was
when I got home, so I took off after the kid to get it back. The other
kids thought this was funny, and they ran along with me. I shouted for
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the kid to give my bag back as he turned the corner around the side of
a brick house.
I ran after him as fast as I could. As soon as I rounded the corner,
whack! I was smashed in the face with my bag. The impact knocked
me backward and to the ground. The four kids stood over me, taunting me. “What are you going to do now? What? Are you gonna cry?
Come on, let’s see you run away.” I’d learned from experience that if I
just looked down and avoided eye contact, they’d go away. It seemed
like forever, but they finally did, and I got up and went home.
If I really wanted to, I could write an entire book of stories just like this
one. I could easily do this because things like this made up so much
of my early childhood. This wouldn’t serve any purpose though. It
would depress me, piss me off, and take me back to a time over which
I have no control. It would show me something that I can’t change.
My childhood wasn’t positive because I felt like I was the “stupid” kid
who didn’t belong. I felt insignificant. My best friend was a tree, and
my visual projection system was the sky. I was always waiting for a
better time. I was looking for a better day—one where I’d find significance and acceptance.
People have asked me why I never said anything to my parents,
teachers, or someone else whom I trusted back then. To be honest,
I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid it would make things
worse. Maybe I didn’t want them to know. Maybe they could have
helped, but I didn’t see how at the time. It was my problem, and it
went on for so long that it simply became my way of life. I knew my
role, and I knew my place in the pecking order. I accepted this for
what it was. Maybe I didn’t say anything because I felt guilty or be29
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cause I was the “stupid” one who needed so much more time to do
things the “right way.”
Problem Solving
One thing really pissed me off. When I was asked to display problem
solving skills in math or other subjects, I’d always find the right answer
by doing things my own way. I’d inevitably be criticized because I
didn’t use the same steps as everyone else, but the answer would be
Take multiplication, for instance. If the problem was 9 x 8 and the
answer was 72, I was supposed to just know that it was 72 from the
tables they made us memorize. I couldn’t memorize all that stuff
though. I was terrible at it. I figured out that if I took the last number
and subtracted one (8 – 1 = 7) and then added back to it what it would
take to equal the first number (two), I would get the correct answer.
This worked for all the nines, which I had a hard time with. I could
never understand what difference my problem solving method made if
my answer was correct.
Another example was the way I figured out percentages. It was easier
for me to find sixty percent of 330 by taking 6 x 3, which equaled 18,
and then add a zero for the one hundred. I knew 180 was sixty percent of 300, so all I had left to do was figure out sixty percent of 30 by
taking 6 x 3 = 18 and adding it to the first number, which gave me 198.
I would talk this out in my head and then write the answer down. I
didn’t “get” the decimal point thing, nor did I “get” the formulas that
had to be used. Those were confusing to me. I understood my way,
though, and I found the right answers. I would fail tests because I
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didn’t show my work. Sometimes I was sent to the principal’s office for
cheating, and when I tried to explain how I got my answers, they didn’t
“get” what I was trying to tell them.
Things began to change as I moved from elementary to secondary
school. I went from having no friends to having “some” friends because I wasn’t the only learning disabled student. There were now
entire classes filled with kids tracked into the same class structure.
From these classes, I got to know some kids and formed some pretty
good relationships.
These kids may have gone through the same hell I did, and theoretically, we had something in common. We spent so much time together
in school that we got to know one another. When I wanted to hang out
with them on weekends or after school, I was always told I couldn’t
because they were from the wrong side of town. They weren’t allowed
to come to my house either, so my friendships were limited to school.
This made summers hell, and I always looked forward to the beginning of the school year so I could get back to a more comfortable life
where it wasn’t just me who was being made fun of—it was all of us.
I was finally part of a group, and it didn’t matter what the group was. I
had found a certain level of acceptance. My self-esteem was still low,
and I had no confidence at all, but I had some people I could have fun
with and relate to.
One of the special education teachers was a wrestling coach, and he
talked many of us into trying out for the wrestling team. If you read my
first book, Under the Bar, you’ll remember the story of Coach Mullen.
Raising the Bar
He got me into wrestling, and I loved the sport. The team was made
up of my classmates, and there weren’t any middle or upper middle
class kids who wrestled.
Wrestling was a way to learn how to defend myself so I wouldn’t get
my ass beat again. My physical skills sucked, but I got better and
stronger with each practice my first year. I didn’t win a single match,
but I had fun and began to develop self-esteem and confidence. This
helped with some of my classroom work but not too much.
The Weight Set
That Christmas, one of my uncles gave me my first weight set. I had
no idea at the time, but this would turn out to be a major turning point
in my life. The day after Christmas, I put the plastic, cement-filled
weights and bench together and took them to the basement. I had a
book on basic weight training, and I did every movement in the book
for three sets of ten repetitions. I did this every day.
Eventually, I started doing half the movements on one day and the
other half on the following day. There wasn’t any programming involved in this training. I just did everything and trained two or three
hours each day. I also started running to get into better shape. This
became my haven. I no longer had to go out and play and deal with
rejection. I could stay in the basement and get stronger and stronger
and never have to deal with being picked last. If I wasn’t there, they
couldn’t pick me last.
My body responded to this training, and I got stronger, bigger, and
faster. I’d take any money I made from mowing the lawn or money I
received from my allowance or for my lunch or birthday and spend it
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on magazines and books to learn how to train better. I never missed a
I trained as hard as I could, and I didn’t go to sleep until I felt I’d
“earned it.” If I didn’t feel like I’d done enough, I’d do five hundred
push-ups and five hundred sit-ups and then make a commitment to do
more the next day. I became obsessed with this.
The Results
The following football season, I went from being the kid they pushed
around to the one they feared. I still wasn’t a great player, and I didn’t
play much because I had problems with the playbook, but I didn’t
I liked drills such as “bull in the ring,” tackling drills, and driving the
sled. These let me take out all the frustration that I’d built up over the
years. I wanted to knock the crap out of anyone put in front of me, and
I found a way to use my hatred to my advantage. My strength was
now well beyond theirs. I could, would, and did begin to take it out on
everyone on the field. When they were hurt, too slow in getting up, or
bleeding with snot coming out of their noses, I loved it.
I made it through a season of dealing with the coach’s comments
about being slow and not knowing the plays. I never knew the people
we played against, but I knew the losers on my own team all too well.
Many of them were the same jerks I’d grown up with, and they were
no longer making fun of me. They were scared shitless of me, and I
loved it. I didn’t want their acceptance. Becoming the guy you didn’t
want to mess with gave me significance.
“Just leave me alone and let me train.” This became my creed.
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For the next two years, I didn’t lose a single wrestling match. In fact,
no match lasted longer than one minute. Wrestling was a huge passion of mine. I busted my ass all year working on my skills and drop
I trained with the weights, I ran, and I loved it. I loved everything about
the sport. I loved the smell of the gym, the smell of the mats, and
even the pain of running the stairs. I loved knowing that the harder I
worked, the better I’d get. I was convinced that nobody wanted it more
then I did—that nobody would be stronger or work harder.
I’d get passes to get out of study halls so I could run the stairs between classes. I’d go to practice, then home, and then I’d train some
more. It never stopped, and it paid off. I’d found something that gave
me significance. I didn’t know how or why, but I felt like somebody. I
felt like I’d become more than the “stupid kid.”
My grades still sucked, and kids still talked about me behind my back,
but nothing was said to my face anymore—ever. My gait changed.
I dressed in rock T-shirts and flannel shirts with cowboy boots. My
brow was angled aggressively, which was a way to get people to stop
making fun of me. This worked like a charm. I still didn’t have many
friends, but I didn’t care because friends only got in the way of my
training. They wouldn’t understand my passion for it. If people didn’t
like it, support it, or understand it, I didn’t need them in my life.
Training became my entire identity. It gave me confidence, protection,
acceptance, significance, self-respect, and everything I needed to be
ready to take on the world. Training was life. Everything in between
was just recovery.
Dave Tate
Under the Bar
In high school, between my junior and senior years, I felt like I needed
to make a choice between football and wrestling. As I said earlier, this
wasn’t a hard choice because I loved wrestling and I hated football.
Wrestling was an individual sport. The harder I worked, the more I got
out of it. I didn’t have to rely on anyone but myself. Football didn’t matter to me because no matter how hard I worked, the rest of the team
didn’t work as hard or have the same passion. To this day, I still have
a hard time understanding plays and reacting to the game.
I told my parents that I wanted to focus on wrestling and drop football
altogether. If I continued to play football, I’d have to gain more weight
to play defensive tackle. I wasn’t fast enough to play defensive end,
and I wasn’t good enough to play a skill position. Gaining weight
would put me in the super heavyweight class in wrestling, and that
wasn’t what I wanted.
My parents didn’t agree with this decision, and they let me know they
were disappointed. In the weeks leading up to this decision, I had
coaches trying to convince me to play football. They all tried to make
it seem like playing football was in my best interest, but none of them
listened to how I actually felt or what I believed was best for me.
For weeks, the pressure didn’t stop, and I eventually couldn’t take it
anymore. As I said earlier, I never wrestled again after this. I don’t feel
as though I gave in to their pressure though. I just found something
else—powerlifting—that I liked more. Powerlifting was something I
could do year-round. I played football, but I never missed a training
session. It didn’t matter if these sessions conflicted with game days,
practices, or the off-season. I always had a meet to train for, and my
strength levels went through the roof. I ended up breaking several
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teenage Ohio state records as well as some national records. I loved
What mattered to me was that I’d become the strongest kid in school
by far and nobody messed with me. I stayed with the same girlfriend
throughout my high school years, and I never spent any real time with
friends. I didn’t interact with players on my team, and I kept all friendships at arm’s length because I didn’t want anything to interfere with
my training. Training was my therapy. It was my salvation and my
sanctuary from the real world. My time in the gym was living. Everything else was just recovery.
Fast Forward
As the years went by, my passion for powerlifting grew. I loved the
sport. More importantly, it gave me significance and acceptance, filling
major voids in my life. It also provided me with a way to solve all of my
problems—stronger, bigger, and faster.
Powerlifting was a way to avoid the bigger issues in my life by being selfish, aggressive, distant, and taking people for granted. These
negative qualities took me many years and a lot of pain and suffering
to discover. With every positive, there’s a negative. As I grew stronger
and more distant, I was rewarded instead of punished, and I never
saw the negative aspects of my actions.
Years later, I realized I had few people in my life that I could really
call friends. I’m not close to any of my family members, and I’d been
taking my wife for granted. The most important things in my life were
falling apart, and I knew it. I tried to fix them by building a bigger business and a stronger body. Bigger and stronger had always worked for
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me in the past, and I hoped these things would fix the problems that
had been developing. My past, however, was filled with rejection and
There comes a time when we see ourselves for who we really are and
not for who others think we are. Actually, I’ll amend that to say, “who
we think we are.” I had arrived at a point where I wasn’t who I thought
I was, and the pain of seeing this was the greatest pain I’ve ever endured in my life.
After thirty years, I was still the stupid kid putting up barriers to keep
from getting hurt. I was still building walls with my behavior to keep
people out and away so I could maintain my control. I was unhappy
and pissed off. I felt rejected and depressed most of the time. My own
behavior was creating my unhappiness, but as usual, I’d rather be
unhappy than hurt. This is hard to explain and even harder to justify
because I see it in a different way now. In the past, this was easy to
justify. To be honest, I’m just as confused in writing this as you may be
reading it.
When you think about it, it’s absurd to choose actions that make you
unhappy instead of happy. Why would anyone continue to keep doing
the same things knowing that the result will be the same? Why would
a person not want to be happy in life? I don’t know, but this was the
path I chose. I chose to exist as blast or dust rather than living my life.
Theoretically, my past put me in this position. We’re all influenced by
our environment in both positive and negative ways.
The “stupid” label may have put me in that position. My teachers,
parents, and friends may have put me there as well. Maybe we all
have free will, and I put myself there. Having gone through it, I know
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it doesn’t matter how I got there. It was what it was, and we can’t
change the past. It’s important to know your behaviors, both positive
and negative, but what we’re left with is today. Right now. This is all
we have.
If there are things that you don’t like when you look in the mirror, take
it one day at a time. Don’t be that person for the next hour and then
for the hour after that. If you need to, take it minute by minute. People
survive sometimes by taking things second by second. Take whatever
time interval you need but understand that we have the right and the
ability to change if our desire is there. If that desire isn’t there, you
don’t want to change or you don’t need to.
This is how things were for me for years, until desire came up and
kicked me in the gut so hard that I ended up hitting the lowest point
of my life. Once there, I found the desire to change the things I didn’t
want to see for what they really were.
Back in the Clouds
Every action has both positive and negative aspects to it. This is a fact
of nature. I want to reinforce the fact that I’ve used my past to influence my life in positive ways. As I told you earlier, I spent lots of time
alone staring at the clouds. You also know I was the “stupid” kid.
There are many types of intelligence. In our educational system, few
of these are actually recognized. I’ve been told that there are over fifty
different types of intelligence. In our current structure, a child with a
very high level of intelligence can be labeled “learning disabled.” Really, there are no “stupid” people. Each of us has our own unique balance of intelligence. Mine simply didn’t fit the standards of the social
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system or school system at the time, but it’s provided me with skills
that I now know have always been there.
Spending so much time sitting under a tree thinking has given me the
ability to think in ways that other people don’t see. I pick up on things.
I question things that others take as givens. These are skills I use
every day in my business, and I look at them as assets.
My spelling isn’t great. I can’t type internet code, I’m not good with
accounting, and my personnel skills need work. I do, however, have a
unique ability to think that sets me apart from the rest of the staff. I’m
very lucky to have the staff I do though. They’re all great, and they’re
all very smart. They’re all much better at what they do than I am, and
there’s no question in anyone’s mind that this is true. They all have
their own unique gifts, and when you blend us together, there’s a great
balance. This is why our company is successful. My ideas are worthless without having people who can implement them.
I was asked once how I come up with my ideas, solutions, and recommendations. The way I do this is to leave the office, get in my car, and
just drive. When this person asked me where I drive, I said that I drive
in the country. Then he asked me what I see, and I had to stop for a
minute because the answer hit me like a ton of bricks.
I see clouds.
Right then and there, I knew I wasn’t the stupid kid. I realized that I
had my own unique intelligence that may not necessarily be genetic.
Whatever the case, I can say with one hundred percent certainty that
my time spent alone under the tree staring at the clouds wasn’t a
curse. It was a gift. It just took me thirty years to see it.
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
“Reason does not work instinctively but requires
trial, practice, and instruction in order to gradually
progress from one level of insight to another.”
—Immanuel Kant
“A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man
made perfect without trials.”
—Chinese Proverbs
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
tri · al |’trī(ə)l|
1. a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or some
thing: Clinical trials must establish whether the new hip replacements
are working.
2. an athletic contest to test the ability of players eligible for selection to
a team
3. a person, thing, or situation that tests a person’s endurance or for bearance: the trials and tribulations of married life.
I never particularly liked math in high school. I wasn’t bad at it, I
guess, but it wasn’t my favorite subject. I did like the fact that I immediately knew where I stood with math. My ninth grade brain wanted at
least some things to be certain, and with math, you either got the right
answer or you didn’t. If your test paper came back with a lot of red
marks, your answers were wrong.
There was no arguing with the teacher either, and there were no
excuses that you could make. The numbers didn’t lie. If my answer
was wrong, it meant I didn’t understand the problem, used the wrong
formula, made a mistake in dividing or multiplying, or put my decimal
points in the wrong places. It was my fault if something was wrong,
and I’d have to reapply myself and do better the next time.
The Weight Room
This is how things work in the weight room, too. Mathematics is
comprised of abstract concepts like quantifying, reasoning, calcula43
Raising the Bar
tion, and measurement. These result in the theories and formulas
with which great thinkers have wrestled since the beginning of human
As the wrong answers on my test papers showed, math is subject to
rigorous proof, the application of systematic reasoning to avoid mistakes, and fallible intuition. In its most basic sense, math teaches us
that correct axioms correspond to reality. Wrong answers do not.
As I’m typing these words into my laptop, I can glance up and have a
look around my dimly lit 5,000 square-foot weight room. This place is
my dream come true. It’s my heaven on earth, filled with everything to
do with the world of lifting.
he walls are covered with thousands of photos from training sessions
and meets. The floors are pure, cold concrete and rubber mats. The
room is filled with power racks, monoracks, bench racks, monster leg
presses, glute ham raises, and thousands of pounds of iron and other
equipment. These are the steel walls where I can return time and time
again to build my strength, my body, my self-esteem, and my business.
I used to think the weight room was a place of refuge. It was a place
where I could escape from my issues and problems and concentrate
on improving my performance. When things went sour in my personal
relationships and my living nightmare began, I ran to the weight room
for solace. What I didn’t understand was that by running away to train,
I was running away from the real issues in my life that would keep
returning to make me unhappy and cause pain.
Dave Tate
I started looking at the weight room as the root cause of my avoidance
instead of a solution to my problems. There may have been some
truth to this. What I eventually learned, however, was that the gym
was not an escape from things. It was actually an entrance into the
world of reality as I knew it.
The weight room was the place where I found inspiration and motivation. It’s where I’ve had to deal with some of life’s biggest challenges,
and it’s where I’ve had some of my best training workouts, business
ideas, and negotiations. I’ve forged powerful friendships in the weight
room. I’ve held therapy sessions there. It’s where I’ve made my most
outstanding breakthroughs toward achieving my goals.
The weight room isn’t just a place to train. It’s a temple. It’s a Zenlike place on symbolically higher ground where we bring our hopes,
dreams, and aspirations. It’s where we commit to grueling personal
discipline and the continuous challenge to improve ourselves by putting five more pounds on the bar, performing one more rep, putting on
another pound of muscle mass, dropping another pound of body fat,
or understanding ourselves better. If we’re serious, it’s a way of life.
Trials Never End
The trials never end in the weight room. We’re perpetually testing
ourselves there. As soon as we reach one goal, there’s another more
difficult one to meet. Just like in the bare knuckle realm of mathematics, the numbers don’t lie. If your goal is to bench 350 lbs, 345 lbs
won’t cut it. There’s only one right answer—350. In the weight room,
we learn right from wrong and good from bad.
Raising the Bar
It’s a place where our determination to better ourselves teaches us
control and self-realization. Things in life might not always go our way,
but in the weight room, we train to shape the outcomes of our goals
the best we can.
With our programs and routines, we try to discover the right way to
train. We try to “turn the eye inward” and deepen our understanding of
what we’re doing. We emphasize daily practice and focus our concentration on the task at hand so we can come as close as possible to
achieving perfection. This means shutting out negative or extraneous
thoughts and controlling every aspect of the experience.
This is a difficult challenge, and there will be sacrifices, disappointments, anxiety, frustration, and injuries. If we survive, however, these
trials make us stronger, and they make us better as individuals. What
we learn in the weight room will prepare us for the body blows that life
will inevitably throw at us.
In the midst of one of my life’s most challenging times, I went to the
gym and I trained. I learned more about myself in that one day than
I had at any other time in my life. I was alone, doing one movement
after another, with an intensity of emotions building inside. These
emotions ranged from extreme anger to abject fear. I couldn’t tell you
how I trained or the weights that I used, but I worked so hard I had
tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t crying though. At first, these
were tears of rage and fear. Finally, they were tears of happiness.
I was finally happy because I’d come to the understanding that training wasn’t simply an escape. It wasn’t an impediment to solving my
problems. It was a necessary and fundamental part of my life that
made me who I was, who I am. I knew that all of the discipline and
Dave Tate
character building I’d endured and mastered in the weight room were
all I needed to get through this most recent crisis and anything else I
might ever have to face.
What the weight room taught me—and still teaches me—is that you
need the right attitude. However, having the right attitude is difficult.
You first need to understand yourself. Once you’ve accomplished that,
you need to take personal responsibility for your actions and the way
you want to live your life.
I’ve spoken to and read emails from people without a job or a dime
to their name. They move from place to place, but all they want to
know is how to improve their bench press. These situations may be
dysfunctional, but I see these people as hanging by the only thread
they have at the time. With luck, this one thread will lead to another,
and they’ll eventually get back on their feet. It’s a far darker thought to
imagine what might happen if they stop asking questions and abandon their training altogether.
Of course, trials will never end. Misfortune and adversity are inevitable
as long as people are alive. However, those of us who are serious in
the weight room know things that others don’t. There’s an understanding we share that penetrates deeper than surface reality.
When you’ve “been there and done that” for years in the weight room
overcoming adversity, you’ll find that you already possess the ability
to deal with life’s daily setbacks. With this understanding, we can live
fuller, richer lives and “be all we can be” as the saying goes. That’s the
goal, right?
Raising the Bar
Steel Walls
Maybe in time my “steel walls” will come down but only when I’m
dead and gone and a scrap yard melts them down so that they can be
crafted into someone else’s temple.
Dave Tate
“Poverty is the load of some, and wealth is the
load of others, perhaps the greater load of the
two. It may weigh them to perdition. Bear the load
of thy neighbor’s poverty, and let him bear with
thee the load of thy wealth. Thou lightens thy load
by lightening his.”
—Saint Aurelius Augustine (Augustine of Hippo)
“There is scarcely a man who is not conscious of
the benefits which his own mind has received from
the performance of single acts of benevolence.
How strange that so few of us try a course of the
same medicine!”
—John Frederick Boyes
“When my friends are blind of one eye, I look at
them in profile.”
—Joseph Joubert
“Carve your name on hearts and not on marble.”
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Raising the Bar
“Men are not only prone to forget benefits; they
even hate those who have obliged them and cease
to hate those who have injured them. The necessity of revenging an injury or of recompensing a
benefit seems a slavery to which they are unwilling
to submit.”
—Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld
Dave Tate
be · nev · o · lent /bə’nɛvələnt/
1. well meaning and kindly: a benevolent smile.
2. (of an organization) serving a charitable rather than a profit-making
purpose: a benevolent fund.
Hey Buck!
The kid wandered around the gym looking for something to do. He’d
messed around with his sand-filled, plastic weight set at home for a
few months, and he knew some movements, but now he was lost in
an array of steel and iron, the likes of which he’d never seen before.
Dirt and chalk were scattered all over the floor, and the lighting, such
as it was, came from dimmed fluorescent bulbs. The holes in the walls
were patched with tacked up pictures of lifters, bodybuilders, and football legends. The equipment was old and worn, the weights covered
in rust, and the clock on the wall hadn’t worked in years. The bass
sounds of ear splitting, heavy metal music blasted through speakers.
In between songs, you could hear the sounds of pain and exhaustion
from the lifters who toiled away as he watched. The kid was hit with
the smell of sweat, Icy Hot, and propane. When he walked into the
800 square-foot gym, the kid knew that he’d entered a world like no
The kid walked around the scattered plates on the floor thinking he
was in the wrong place. His father had set this up with a friend of his
so the kid could learn the way of the iron, but the friend wasn’t there.
The kid was on his own in a place filled with human beings bigger
than any he’d ever seen. There was, however, no turning back.
Raising the Bar
He’d been dropped off and would be picked up in two hours. With
nowhere else to go, he got on a bench and tried a few sets. The kid
knew the movement, but he’d only done it off milk crates on his bedroom floor. With the luxury of a real bench and a real barbell, he was
ready to get started. He began with the bar, knocking out a few sets of
ten, and then he moved up to 135 lbs. This wasn’t heavy for him, but it
felt considerably different compared to what he’d been doing at home.
He was sitting on the end of the bench, staring at the ground, when a
deep voice interrupted whatever he was thinking about.
“Hey, Buck, can I give you some advice?”
Looking up, the kid saw a mass of muscle and veins standing in front
of him. His first inclination was to tell this stranger his name wasn’t
“Buck,” but he wanted to hear what the man had to say.
“You need to get your body tight when you bench press and focus
on pushing your body away from the bar, not the bar away from your
For the next ten minutes, they worked on bench pressing, addressing
everything. The process of getting stronger was under way. The kid
was blown away by what had just taken place. There were many more
questions that he wanted to ask, but he was hesitant to press his luck.
So, he went back to his sets and kept pounding away. Set after set,
he worked on his bench. He would have done this all day if he hadn’t
heard still another voice from the gym.
“Hey, Buck, that’s enough. Move on to incline dumbbell presses.”
Dave Tate
These guys weren’t going to let the kid wander around the gym
without knowing what to do. He did what he was told and pressed the
dumbbells for multiple reps. After two sets, the monster came back.
“Listen, Buck, you want to press with more control. Don’t let the
weight control you. You have to take charge of the weights and handle
them with authority.”
It went on like this with each movement for the rest of the session.
They told the kid what to do and helped him along the way. Before
it ended, a few of the men came over and said that they trained on
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. and that
they’d be more than willing to help him out if he had any questions.
They spoke to the kid for awhile about their sport—powerlifting. He’d
never heard of such a thing before, but he was fascinated by the huge
weights these guys were lifting. He wanted to know more. He was
hesitant to say anything, but he pulled together enough courage to
“How can I get involved in this?”
These guys could easily have blown the young kid off, but they invited
him into their group instead. Over the next few years, he grew bigger
and stronger, and he surpassed them all as a lifter. These men, most
of them two and three times his age, gave him support, coaching, and
guidance. To this day, he remains grateful for the time they took to
make him better.
I went on to lift much bigger numbers than this, which is well-documented. I also became a coach, and I’ve never forgotten the people
Raising the Bar
who helped me get where I am today. I learned many lessons in those
first years, but the one that meant the most, and still does, was the
act of giving. Contribution is the only way I can pay back the people
who’ve helped me along the way, and I’ll always do my part to honor
the time they gave me.
Are you giving back for all the gifts that you’ve been given?
I can’t list the name of every person who’s helped me with tips, technical corrections, and spotting. There are too many to name. I’m not the
product of the books I’ve read or the videos and seminars I’ve seen.
I’m the product of the countless people who took the time to help me
even though they had better things to do.
While I’ve learned a lot from my own training, studies, colleges, and
seminars, this pales in comparison to the things I’ve learned from
people, sometimes random ones, who felt the need to help me excel.
The Price
How much did I pay for all this advice? Monetarily, not a dime. To this
day, however, I still owe these people for the gifts they’ve given me. I’ll
continue to try to pay them back for the rest of my life.
I owe it to them to give something back for what I was given. At the
same time, I enjoy helping others and seeing them learn from my
successes and my mistakes. I routinely spend days with interns, and
I ask nothing of them except that they remember the price they paid
when someone eventually asks them a question.
Dave Tate
Why? Why do I do this? I do it because it’s the right thing to do. How
can you live your life knowing you’ve been given all these gifts without
giving them back in the same way? Maybe you can do this. I can’t.
Why do people struggle to understand the differences between what’s
right and what’s wrong? When did simple things become so complicated? When did helping others become a bad thing? When did
caring for something or someone other than yourself become bad
The JM Press
A few years back, the owner of a personal training center would call
me quite frequently. This guy also happened to be a powerlifter. We
had some great conversations, and we managed to work through several of his training problems. I learned a lot from him about the effects
that certain supplements had on recovery.
I’d estimate we spent close to thirty hours on the phone in one year,
and his training took off. With some slight adjustments and his hard
work, he earned his first elite total in powerlifting. He called me from
the meet to tell me about it. I was very excited for him, but I made
sure to remind him that he was the one who did all the work and made
the corrections. All I really did was act as a sounding board. I wanted
him to take the credit. There was no need for him to thank me for all
the hard work that he’d done and the sacrifices that he’d made.
We lost touch after that meet. About a year later, his name came up
during a phone conversation with a customer who’d called in with a
quick training question. I was shocked by the story he told me.
Raising the Bar
The caller lived in the same town as the lifter I’d helped and contacted
him asking if he could teach the caller how to perform a JM press.
The guy agreed, and they made an appointment to meet at his studio.
When the caller arrived, he was told that the “session” would cost him
$60. After some “negotiation,” the caller didn’t pay, and he was never
shown how to perform a JM press.
The Reaction
When I first learned about this, it pissed me off because I’d spent so
much time talking to this lifter. I was upset that he wouldn’t spend sixty
seconds showing another lifter a single movement. This bothered me
for a couple of days, but then something finally dawned on me.
You don’t give gifts in order to receive something in return. You give
the gift because the act of giving is a gift in and of itself. After that,
things are out of your hands.
I did the right thing by helping this guy, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If people like him made me stop helping others, what good
would it do me? What difference could I make then? What if the guy
who’d showed me how to squat didn’t take the time to do so because
someone had let him down once? Where would I be now?
Cowboy Boots
When I was in high school and first getting into the sport, I trained with
a group of powerlifters who’d taken me under their wing. I remember
one day I was trying to deadlift 500 lbs for the first time. I got the bar
past my knees, but I started shaking when it got to about mid-thigh,
and I had to let go of it.
Dave Tate
I had no idea what was going on or why I started shaking. I thought I
was going to fall to the floor and have some sort of episode. One of
the guys I trained with was a cop, and this really pissed him off. He
grabbed my Dingos and tossed them out the door. They landed right
in the middle of Main Street.
Let me rewind a little bit here. I’m from a small town, and I was raised
in cowboy boots. My Dingos were not to be messed with. Hell, they
were the only shoes I had at the time. I didn’t own a pair of tennis
shoes until I was out of high school. The only sport shoes I wore
were intended for the sport I was playing. In other words, I had squat
shoes, bench shoes, and pulling shoes. I wore the Dingos everywhere
else, in every season, all year long. We never wore shorts no matter
how hot it was because you’d look like a fool wearing cowboy boots
and shorts, and you had to wear the boots. This was a small town hick
Main Street was the busiest street in town, and it wasn’t that small of
a town. I couldn’t just walk out into the street and get the boots because there were far too many cars in the way. I was pissed as hell,
but I knew I couldn’t kick the guy’s ass, so I did the next best thing.
I beat my head against the wall and tried to pull it again. And again
and again and again and again. Each time, the bar wouldn’t leave the
ground. I ended up not only pissed off but drained, tired, bootless, and
still not a 500-lb deadlifter.
The cowboy boot bandit grabbed his bag and left in utter and absolute
disgust. As he walked out, he said, “Son, you better get your boots out
of the road, and you better hope you’re quick because you sure as
hell aren’t strong.”
Raising the Bar
I sat there for almost an hour waiting for traffic to die down so I could
bolt into the street and retrieve my Dingos. The whole time I waited, I
thought about how big of a pussy I was. I’ve never given up on a pull
since then. I’ve dropped a few, and I’ve torn hamstrings and strained
erectors, but I’ve never lost my boots again.
Ironically, the same guy who threw my Dingos into the street and
seemed like such a prick drove me to my first meet when my ride
bailed out at the last minute. Out of the twelve people I called, he was
the only one to say yes.
Late on a Friday night before a Saturday meet, I called and asked
him if he could drive me to the meet the next day. This wasn’t easy
because I didn’t know him very well, but I’d run out of options and really wanted to lift. He agreed without a second thought. He picked me
up first thing in the morning and drove me three hours to Zanesville,
Ohio, where the meet was being held.
We got back home at three the next morning, and he never once
held this against me or said a word about it. I found out later that he’d
taken a personal day from work to drive me to the meet. We spent the
entire ride talking about powerlifting. This was a 28-year-old elite lifter
cop and a 14-year-old kid who didn’t know anything, riding in a car
together for hours. I learned more about powerlifting that day than on
any other day in my life and that includes the present.
We trained together for many meets, and then I left for college. I never
kept in touch, and he’s no longer with us now. I often wonder where
my life would be right now if he’d said no. It’s scary to think about the
impact one action like this can have on someone. Maybe I wouldn’t
have lifted in that first meet. Maybe I never would have lifted in any
meet. Who knows?
Dave Tate
People like this are “difference makers,” but they’re run out of clubs
and gyms because they bend bars, use chalk, and lift heavy weights.
Hardcore gyms like the ones at which I’ve trained have been run out
of business by big chain operations. These all cater to the out-ofshape member who’ll come for a few weeks and then quit.
When was the last time that fat guy on the treadmill made a difference
in some kid’s life in the gym? When was the last time the tracksuit
wearing membership director changed the course of someone’s life?
This may not be fair, and I might be making assumptions here, but I
think you know what I mean. Just make sure you pull hard, or you will
lose your boots.
The Takeaway
In business and in life, you’ll meet people who don’t care about what
you’ve done in the past. They won’t care what you’ve lifted, where
you’ve trained, what titles you’ve won, or how much money you’ve
made. This can work against you because it can show your selfish
Nobody wants to associate with a selfish person. Nobody wants to do
business with a selfish person. If you’re selfish, people won’t trust you.
They’ll do their best to stay away from you. People will be attracted to
people who are human, giving, and supportive. They’ll be attracted to
those who sincerely care about making others better.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. What action are you
putting out there? What reaction do you really expect?
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
“You must look within for value but must look beyond for perspective.”
—Denis Waitley
“Wisdom is your perspective on life, your sense
of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each
other. It embraces judgment, discernment, and
comprehension. It is a gestalt or oneness and integrated wholeness.”
—Stephen R. Covey
“Reality is a question of perspective; the further
you get from the past, the more concrete and
plausible it seems—but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.”
—Salman Rushdie
Raising the Bar
“If you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, your
time will expand. You will gain a new perspective
that will allow you to accomplish much more.”
—Brian Koslow
Dave Tate
per · spec · tive /pər’spɛktɪv/
1. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of
view: Most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective.
2. true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of
proportion: We must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s
It was the summer of 1986. The bars were loaded, and we’d gathered in the gym for another training session. We were preparing for
a couple of meets at the end of the summer, and the schedule I was
on was working out great for me. My last meet was scheduled for the
week before I was to leave for college.
I had spent the previous few months breaking away from the older
guys who’d brought me into the sport. I had a few competitive years
under my belt, and I thought I could train with anyone as long as I had
some spotters. I’d also heard enough of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and
Jefferson Starship.
My new group consisted of lifters closer to my age. They were all new
to the sport, but they were excited to train and get stronger. I think
back on these sessions more than I do on any other training period
I’ve had since. We just killed it every time we were in the gym. We did
some solid powerlifting training, but we also did a ton of other stupid
stuff just to see if we could. These were by far the dumbest training
cycles I’ve ever done, but we all somehow got stronger.
Raising the Bar
I vividly remember all the pranks and laughs. I remember the straining and the personal records (PR’s) that were set every single day.
We were a group of misfits, but when we were all together, it worked.
Many of us had never participated in sports before, and our backgrounds varied wildly, but it simply worked.
Sometimes I have conversations with other lifters about the way
powerlifting attracts such an incredible diversity of people. It’s cool,
however, how we’re all the same when we’re in the gym. When I think
about this, it takes me back to the summer of 1986.
The Misfits
Let me introduce the misfits.
1. Larry: Larry impregnated his girlfriend in junior high and eventually dropped out of high school. When we trained together, Larry had
two kids, was unmarried, and lived at home with his girlfriend and
their children. He couldn’t hold a job to save his life, and he lived off
his girlfriend and parents. He’d also never participated in any sports.
To be honest with you, I’m not exactly sure how he came to be part
of our group. However, I do remember how he never gave up on a lift
and worked his ass off in the gym. He was never afraid to try bigger
weights, and if he missed, he’d never let it get to him. He learned from
things and moved on knowing he’d always get it again another day.
2. John: John was a second string, high school football player, who
was a great squatter for a kid his age and size. He worked his ass off,
but unlike Larry, he’d get really pissed off if he missed a weight, often
taking out his frustrations on the rest of the crew. John lived in his
father’s basement but hadn’t spoken to him in a year.
Dave Tate
3. Ron: Ron had just graduated from high school and was working
in a local factory. He also sold drugs on the side. He loved to train,
but he didn’t have the same desire as the rest of the crew. He was,
however, very strong compared to the others. He seemed to grow no
matter what he did, and he never really had to work hard for his gains.
I don’t remember what he’d squatted when he first came in, but it
couldn’t have been more than 450 lbs. In the last meet of the summer,
Ron squatted an easy 700 lbs! If he’d wanted to, he could have gone
far in the sport.
4. Joey: Joey was also from a broken home, and he’d dealt with
some drug issues in his past. He’d found the weights after high
school, and he loved lifting. In all the time I knew him, he was clean
and did everything right to get stronger. He read everything he could,
ate a clean diet, drank shakes, and never missed a workout. Joey was
by far the most serious lifter in the group. He worked his ass off and
made great gains that summer.
The meet came and went. We all broke PRs, and we all had a great
time. After that, we parted ways, and I went off to college. I didn’t stay
in touch with any of them after I left. I think I was so happy to finally
get out of town that I didn’t want to look back.
The Calls
After talking and thinking about how powerlifting attracts such a diversity of people, I thought about these misfits and decided to check
in with them. Twenty years later, I wondered what they’d been up to.
I was excited to relive those old workouts, stir up some of our memories, and see what they could recall from those times.
Raising the Bar
First, I tried to track down Joey. When I found someone who knew
where he was, I was very sad to find out he was in prison for selling
drugs. Through letters, I discovered that he’d never trained again after
that summer. He loved it, but after we’d all left, it just wasn’t the same
for him. He tried other training partners, but he couldn’t recapture the
feeling he’d had when he trained with us.
Next, I tried to contact Ron. After several calls, I eventually spoke to
his mother, who had no idea who I was. She told me that Ron had
killed himself in 1988. This was a difficult thing for me to accept because I thought Ron would have been the one to move on to a better
life than the one he’d had back then.
John was still around, but he’d moved out of the country. He now suffers from severe depression, and he hasn’t left his house in the past
Finally, I called Larry. After hearing about the other guys, I thought
for sure that Larry’s story wasn’t going to be good. Back then, Larry
had the deck stacked against him more than any of us. It took some
time to track him down, but I finally reached him in the Chicago area.
We spoke for well over an hour, and I was happy to hear that he still
trained hard all the time. He’d continued to compete in powerlifting
meets for a few years after I’d left, and he’d read the company’s website.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he’d gone back to get his GED
and then went on to get an associates degree. He now owns his own
software firm that’s doing very well and employs over fifty employees.
I asked Larry how he did all this, and his answer is the inspiration
behind this chapter.
Dave Tate
He said, “Dave, when I was in the gym training for those meets, I got
stronger. For the first time in my life, I got stronger. I figured if I could
do it physically, I could also do it in all areas of my life. So I started
When I think about Larry and those other guys, I realize that we all
had the same experience at the end of that summer, but we didn’t
all see it the same way. Some of us saw it as something to duplicate
while others saw it as the end of something that was fun but temporary. Larry saw it as a launching pad to bigger and better things.
The difference between these points of view is perspective. Are there
things in your life right now that you’re seeing with blinders on? Are
there things that might look different if you stepped back and looked
at them from a different perspective? Could the way you look at things
be the difference between where you are now and where you want to
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
“The Man who with undaunted toils / sails unknown seas to unknown soils / With various wonders feasts his Sight: What stranger wonders does
he write?”
—Benjamin Franklin
“A leader, once convinced a particular course of
action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the
going gets tough.”
—Ronald Reagan
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
un · daunt · ed /Λn’dɔntɪd, –’dɑn-/
1. not intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappoint-
ment: They were undaunted by the huge amount of work needed.
A Set of Squats
The weight on the barbell trembled as he stood up. The clattering of
iron on iron resounded across the weight room. His knees buckled,
his quads burned, and his lower back felt as though it might snap at
any moment. His lungs felt like they were being blown open with dry
ice as the blood vessels in his eyes began breaking under the strain.
As the spotter called this out, heads in the weight room turned. People
began looking at the power rack, where the squatter was ready to
descend for his next rep. The first two weren’t bad, but they’d taken a
lot more out of him than he thought they would.
He pushed his hips back and began his descent. He wasn’t focused
on work, family, his girlfriend, or school. All he cared about in the world
was pushing his knees out and his hips back. As he lowered the bar,
his blood pressure increased to a level that made him think his head
was about to burst. He knew from experience that this was the time to
really push his knees out because doing so would give him the extra
depth that he needed. After that, he’d explode with all he had back
into a standing position.
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With all the force he could muster, he reversed direction, pushing for
all he was worth as he tried to accelerate the weight as fast as possible. The harder he pushed, the more the weight seemed to push
back against him. The last few inches seemed to take forever, and he
thought there was no way he could do another two repetitions. He’d
finish this rep, rack the bar, and call it a day.
Something inside of him told him otherwise.
“No way! You have to do this! You have to push on when you don’t
think you can do it! You have to have more balls than this if you want
to get stronger. Anyone can work this hard! Anyone can get to the
point where they think they can go and stop... but you are not anyone.”
“Let’s go!”
He pulled in another big breath of air, pushed his torso into his lifting
belt, and descended again. This time his focus wasn’t on technique
and form. This time he was on autopilot. He was in a place few people
ever see and even fewer are capable of understanding.
Space and time are one in this place. Fear is unknown here, and failure is not an option. All of your training and strength brings you here,
and there’s nothing else involved but the movement. It’s the moment
when your spirit and your soul take over for your body, when practice
becomes reality and thousands of perfect reps pay off under adversity.
This is the moment of extraordinary resolve.
With practiced precision, he lowered the weight and thrust it back up
with the force of a battering ram. From the outside looking in, the lift
Dave Tate
was smooth and easy. To him, it felt like a completely different person
was lifting the weight. His strength and power had reached an entirely
different level. This was the level he strived for. He lived for this higher
level, and he’d gladly die for it, but he knew there was more…
An even higher level.
“THAT’S IT BABY! Rack it!” his spotter called out. As his training partner, the spotter knew when enough was enough. He knew when the
risk exceeded the benefit. The work was done, and it was unlikely that
one more rep was going to happen.
He pulled another big breath and pushed his torso against his belt
again. Blood drained from his nose. He tasted this as it flowed over
his lips and onto the floor. Pushing his hips back, he knew this
wouldn’t be easy, but he understood what was happening. He understood that all the reps he’d just done had put him in this position.
This was the rep that would separate him. It would make him different.
It was the rep that would test him for all he was worth and make him
stronger. This was where he was going to find out what he was made
of. He would decide if he’d complete this rep or not.
He hit the hole, flexing with everything he had. He wanted a fast rebound, but he realized this was not going to happen. He was going to
have to gut this one out. The weight moved slowly over the next few
inches. “This,” he thought, “is not going to happen.”
“PUSH! PUSH! PUSH! Head up!”
His spirit kicked in again, crying out to him. With everything he had,
the weight moved slowly inch by inch. It seemed like forever, but it
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kept moving and it finally reached the top. Once finished, he knew
he’d been to the edge. He’d given his all, and he’d won. It took everything he had and more, but he’d found the courage and strength to
push past his comfort zone. He’d pushed past the pain and the doubt,
and he now stood victorious.
Lat Pull-Downs
Tuesdays were not normal training days at Westside Barbell Club. We
used this as an extra workout day to work on weak points, perform
work we’d skipped the day before, or do recovery training. There was
usually a small group of three or four of us training, and the workouts
never took very long.
One particular Tuesday, my back was shot from the day before, and
all I wanted to do was some light sled dragging, reverse hyperextensions, and banded good mornings. Louie Simmons was part of the
group that day, and he was doing his usual Tuesday sled and band
movements. At one point, Louie and I were sitting in the back of the
gym. I sat on the belt squat machine, and Louie was sitting on a milk
crate by the reverse hyper.
As we sat there talking, Chuck Vogelpohl limped into the gym. Louie
and I looked at each other incredulously with a “what the hell?” look
on our faces. Chuck’s legs were wrapped from his knees to his groin
with bandages. When I say he limped in, I mean he barely limped in.
He actually came through the door bent over and then grabbed the
rail of the Tred Sled. He used this to help him walk to the dumbbells,
which he clung to until he got to the lat machine. The lat machine was
his destination.
Dave Tate
After I’d watched him struggle to get there for what seemed to be at
least five minutes, I had to ask:
“Chuck, what the hell did you do?”
In his typical fashion, he said he’d torn both hamstrings playing football the day before. That was it. No details. No small talk. He was
there to train, so who was I to hold him back?
I’d finished training for the day so I kicked back to watch this demonstration, knowing it was going to be something to behold. Louie
was thinking the same thing as he shifted position and made himself
more comfortable. What we both wanted to ask him was why in the
hell he was playing football six weeks before a meet, but we were too
amused watching him barely make it to the lat machine to say anything.
The lat machine had no bar on it. It was on the floor next to the machine.
This is when things got good. Chuck couldn’t bend over at all. He had
to slowly move one leg back a few inches at a time and then walk his
hands down the post of the lat machine. About halfway down, he bent
his right knee to the floor and then his left. Putting all of his weight
on his arms, he was able to shift his position so his hands were on
the seat of the lat machine. He leaned over, grabbed the lat bar, and
placed it on the seat. Very deliberately, he began to work himself back
up to the midpoint of the machine. He sat the lat bar on the knee support and then used his arms to pull his body up the machine until he
was standing again.
Raising the Bar
All told, it took him at least ten minutes to get the bar on the machine.
He then proceeded to do set after set of pull-downs. After watching this whole scene, I said, “Chuck, why didn’t you just ask me? I
would’ve put the bar on the machine for you.”
“I got it,” he replied.
He didn’t want or need my help. I knew this before I’d asked. I’ve
spent years doing seminars, and people have asked me what it was
like to train with Chuck Vogelpohl. I have yet to meet anyone who
hasn’t been impressed with his never say die attitude and his intensity.
This kind of thing is not something you can just get excited, motivated,
or psyched up to achieve. It’s built from the ground up in a gym with
two torn hamstrings with lat work to do.
This workout was not about training his lats. It was something he
knew he had to do, and nothing was going to stop him from doing it. It
had absolutely nothing to do with his lats.
What would you have done?
The Takeaway
If you take the lesson presented in this one set of five reps, you can
have everything you want in life. This ability is not exclusive to squatting or to athletes. We can all learn from this one set.
If you’re willing to carry the weight, feel the strain, push past the pain,
and give more of yourself than others expect of you, the world is
Dave Tate
“The survival of the fittest is the ageless law of
nature, but the fittest are rarely the strong. The fittest are those endowed with the qualifications for
adaptation, the ability to accept the inevitable and
conform to the unavoidable, to harmonize with
existing or changing conditions.”
“An experience, perceptual or conceptual, must
conform to reality in order to be true.”
—William James
“Be different: conform.”
“Wise men (should be) like coffers with double
bottom: Which when others look into, being
opened, they see not all that they hold.”
—Sir Walter Raleigh
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
con · form /kən’fɔrm/
1. comply with, abide by, obey, observe, follow, keep to, stick to, adhere
to, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, fall in with, respect, defer to;
satisfy, meet, fulfill: Visitors have to conform to our rules.
—Antonyms flout
2. follow convention, be conventional, fit in, adapt, adjust, follow the
crowd; comply, acquiesce, toe the line, follow the rules; submit, yield;
informal play it by the book, play by the rules: They refuse to con
—Antonyms rebel
Law #38 from the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Think as you like but behave like others.
If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only
want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way
to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in
and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.
Drugs, Thugs, and CEOs
In the gym, you could be training alongside ex-cons, drug dealers,
drywall hangers, bankers, business owners, CEOs, the unemployed,
lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, prison guards, bouncers, collectors,
thugs, porn stars, preachers, ministers, personal trainers, strength
Raising the Bar
coaches, welders, factory workers, and pharmacists. They can be
anyone and everyone. In the gym, the pursuit is the same.
I’ve trained with every one of these. Sometimes I’ve trained with them
all simultaneously as part of the same powerlifting team. We all had
different views and beliefs, but we were the same in the gym, training
for the same goal—to become better. Without being conscious of it,
we’d all conformed. We all wanted to be the best, regardless of the
differences between us.
I’ve trained with people I’ve despised. I didn’t respect what they did for
a living, or I disagreed with their beliefs. In the gym, however, I was
the first to spot them or to give them advice that would make them
Inside the walls of the gym, it wasn’t about our differences but our
similarities. We all wanted to get better. All of our differences were left
outside because they would only distract us from our shared purpose
and goal.
Social Order
People who brought their “crap” into the gym became outcasts. They
eventually faded away like all those who came before them. When
they tried to stand on their soapboxes and convince us they were better than the rest of us, they were chopped down quickly:
“So, what do you squat again?”
The lifts were all that mattered in the gym. Political agendas didn’t
mean anything. The lifts established the social order, and it was your
Dave Tate
responsibility to make the guy next to you better than you were. This
philosophy raised the team as a whole. You were only as good as
your weakest link.
I was a member of the Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio, for
close to twelve years, and I knew everyone who trained with me. I
knew where I stood in the social order. I knew what stayed in the gym,
and I knew what had to stay out. I knew my role and what I was there
to do. I was there to lift the biggest weights I could, but I was also
there to help coach and teach others to be better than I was. I was
there to teach them to be much better.
Conversely, their job was to make me better. We all conformed to this
very simple social order, and Westside became one of the strongest
gyms in the world. Getting everyone stronger was all that mattered.
I trained with a guy we called “Gritter.” For seven years, I had no idea
what his real name was or what he did for a living. In the gym one day,
I mentioned to another lifter that I needed a new central air system
installed in my house. He told me that Gritter owned a heating and
cooling company. I asked everyone in the morning group what his real
name was and no one knew.
It took me a week to find out, and I’d been training on the same team
with the guy for seven years! You see, it did not matter. In case you
were wondering, his name is Jeff Adams. If you ever need heating
and cooling work in the Dayton, Ohio, area, call him. He’s the best in
the area—another thing I had no idea about back then.
Raising the Bar
I’ve been asked this many times before. I know you’re wondering—
how can conformity lead to success? Everyone tells us that we have
to be different. They tell us that we have to set ourselves apart from
everyone else, that we shouldn’t be the same, and that we have to
aspire to be more than the group. Don’t get me wrong here—I agree
with these things. You need to be different to set yourself apart. The
key is to not be a hypocrite, a loudmouth, or someone who’s trying to
get attention for the sake of getting attention.
When you’re in a group setting, you don’t have to share all your values. You just need to share the ones you have in common with the
group. When you do this, people will like you. They’ll want to spend
more time with you and help you advance to the next level. They’ll be
the first to spot you in the gym, the first to buy your product or service,
and the first to sign up as a new client. Your beliefs won’t be changed
in any way. They’re simply shared with people who feel the same way.
In other words, don’t offer anything that could hurt you in the long run.
Some people would consider this to be selling out, but I don’t think it
is. It isn’t selling out when the same things happen in gyms and on
powerlifting teams every day. You sell out when you don’t show up
to do the work or when you don’t help others advance. Selling out is
turning your back on the group and jumping on your soapbox. Selling out is not being smart in the way you approach your interpersonal
relationships. You need to do this in accordance with your goals and
Selling out is an excuse made by those who could never afford to buy
in the first place.
Dave Tate
“Better to be a strong man with a weak point
than to be a weak man without a strong point. A
diamond with a flaw is more valuable than a brick
without a flaw.”
—William J. H. Boetcker
“The wise man always throws himself on the side
of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is
theirs to find his weak point.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Roughly speaking, any man with energy and
enthusiasm ought to be able to bring at least a
dozen others round to his opinion in the course of
a year no matter how absurd that opinion might
be. We see every day in politics, in business, in
social life, large masses of people brought to
embrace the most revolutionary ideas, sometimes
within a few days. It is all a question of getting
hold of them in the right way and working on their
weak points.”
—Aleister Crowley
Raising the Bar
“After all, one knows one’s weak points so well that
it’s rather bewildering to have the critics overlook
them and invent others.”
—Edith Wharton
Dave Tate
weak · ness /’wiknɪs/
1. frailty, feebleness, enfeeblement, fragility, delicacy; infirmity,
sickness, sickliness, debility, incapacity, impotence, indisposition,
decrepitude, vulnerability: With old age came weakness.
2. fault, flaw, defect, deficiency, weak point, failing, shortcoming, weak
link, imperfection, Achilles heel, foible: He has worked on his weak nesses.
3. fondness, liking, partiality, preference, love, penchant, soft spot,
predilec tion, inclination, taste, eye; enthusiasm, appetite; susceptibil ity: A weakness for champagne.
4. timidity, cowardliness, pusillanimity; indecision, irresolution, ineffectu ality, ineptitude, impotence, meekness, powerlessness, ineffective ness: The president was accused of weakness.
5. untenability, implausibility, poverty, inadequacy, transparency; flimsi ness, hollowness: The weakness of this argument.
6. indistinctness, mutedness, faintness, feebleness, lowness; dimness,
paleness: The weakness of the sound.
The Mini-Max
One of the most frustrating things that can happen in the gym is hitting
a sticking point or mini-max. This is when your progress comes to a
stop. In order to advance and improve the lift, you have to find your
way around these.
Sticking points are a normal part of the process. It would be silly to
think you could keep adding five pounds per month to each lift. Sometimes you’ll advance quickly. Other times, you’ll advance at a more
moderate pace. Occasionally, however, you won’t advance at all.
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I know of three main ways to overcome sticking points in the weight
Mental: These fixes are highly specific and personal to the individual lifter. They can include prioritizing training, believing in
yourself, instilling discipline, and gaining a better understanding
of the training process. These can be addressed in a variety of
different ways.
Physical: Muscle imbalances and weak muscle groups can hold
lifters back in the weight room. Weak movement planes, weak
segments, or specific movement planes can also hold back lifters. Special exercises are performed in order to “bring up” weak
Technical: Proper form is vital to the execution of any lift. As you
advance in the sport, these technical issues become much more
important. At any professional level meet, the one thing that will
immediately stand out is the exceptional quality of the form practiced by world class lifters in every movement they execute. At
this level, if a weight moves just one inch in the wrong direction,
the lifter can and will miss a lift.
When you really think about it, most weak points involve a combination of all three things. When you’re looking to break through your
mini-maxes, all three must be addressed.
This may seem like pure program design information with no relevance to real world issues, but as you’ll see, nothing could be further
from the truth.
Dave Tate
The Board Room
In the “real world,” all business owners and their employees know that
there are times when their businesses will grow rapidly. There are also
times when the business will grow more slowly, stagnate, or even decline. If a business becomes stagnant or starts to decline, we need to
discover the cause(s) and then develop new systems to address the
underlying problem(s).
Applying the same philosophy behind breaking through sticking points
in the weight room, we have:
Mental: You need to determine how you see your business. Step
outside yourself and view things from a different perspective.
You need to believe that you can overcome the situation, and
you may need to either learn new skills or hire people with better
skills than your own.
Physical: You may need to change location, upgrade your brand,
or infuse your marketing with a fresher look and feel.
Technical: Your product or service may be out of date and badly
in need of an upgrade. Your business systems may need to be
readdressed and redeveloped.
The Bedroom
Finally, let’s apply this same scheme to your personal relationships:
Mental: Are you committed to the relationship? Are you happy?
Raising the Bar
Physical: Are you there? Do you and your partner spend time
with each other? The average, married couple is more like roommates than partners. Are you listening when the other person
speaks to you? When you’re with that person, are you mentally
there? Or are you somewhere else?
Technical: Do you have systems in place to determine who
handles the bills? Who does the laundry? Who puts the kids to
bed? Do you just wing it and hope for the best?
Books have been written on how to overcome sticking points. You can
use these same processes in all areas of your life. If you’re capable of
mastering these steps in one aspect of your life, you have the skills to
carry it over to other things.
It’s really not that hard if you set your ego aside and examine your
weaknesses honestly. We all have them, and we always will. When
you fix one weakness, another will emerge. This is how we grow. The
happiest and most successful people are the ones who probe for
weaknesses, discover what they are, and then come up with ways to
overcome them.
Weaknesses are clues to how we can become better. They should
be embraced and celebrated, not rationalized and blamed on others.
Excuses may temporarily get the monkey off your back, but you need
to remember that the root causes of your problems still exist, and they
always will until they’re overcome.
Dave Tate
“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long
as truth.”
—Will Rogers (1879–1935)
“Politics Getting Ready to Jell,” The Illiterate Digest, 1924
“Do not believe in anything simply because you
have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply
because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not
believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and
elders. Do not believe in traditions because they
have been handed down for many generations. But
after observation and analysis, when you find that
anything agrees with reason and is conducive to
the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it
and live up to it.”
—The Buddha
Raising the Bar
”A groundless rumor often covers a lot of
”A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of
thinner as it is spread.”
—Richard Armour
“A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around
some other way.”
—John Tudor
Dave Tate
ru · mor |’roōmər| (British rumour)
1. a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth:
They were investigating rumors of a massacre. | Rumor has it that he
will take a year off.
—verb (be rumored)
2. be circulated as an unverified account: [with clause] It’s rumored that
he lives on a houseboat. | [with infinitive] She is rumored to have
gone into hiding.
Who Cares?
Who cares what other people think? If you stick to what you believe
and you stay true to your vision, why would it matter what anyone
says about you, your lifting, your business, your school, your team,
or anything else? If you find yourself caring what other people think,
you may not be staying true to your vision. Instead, it’s possible that
you need the reassurance and respect of others to get what you really
I’ll put this into perspective. Let’s say your goal is to have the best
business in the world in your field. For the purposes of this discussion,
it doesn’t matter what field we’re talking about here. As you’re building your business, you start hearing rumors. Some of these rumors
are positive and truthful, but others are somewhat negative. Some of
these are outright lies and personal attacks.
Now, most people I know will get all pissed off about this and think
about retaliation: “How dare someone say I suck? How dare they say
my business sucks? What gives them the right?”
Raising the Bar
You spend the rest of the day with these rumors floating around in
your head. You even lose sleep over them because your mind is occupied with planning and strategizing your attack.
You figure you can call them, send them an email, see them in person, or post something on an internet forum. You may even consider
pulling someone else into the fray, telling a friend something that will
find its way back to the source.
Two days later, you start to cool off. Maybe you retaliated. Maybe you
didn’t. Either way, things are back to normal, and you’re finally concentrating on your own life again.
I want to know what happened to the two days you lost because you
were all pissed off and planning your attack. Where did they go?
They’re gone forever, that’s where.
Don’t you think you could have used this time a lot more productively
by working toward your original goals? Couldn’t you have used this
time to think about your business plan? Your training plan? Your life
plan? What about all the sleep you lost? Wouldn’t your training have
been better without having all this crap on your mind all day?
Even if you didn’t do anything to get back at this person, you’ve still
lost the battle. And this other person didn’t just win either. They did
something much, much worse. They derailed you from your original
purpose. You may only have lost one day, but one day, one minute,
or even one second can make a hell of a difference in your life. How
many times a year does this happen?
Dave Tate
You have a choice. You can either choose to follow your own path,
or you can choose to follow someone else’s path. Other people can’t
control how we feel. We get to decide that for ourselves. We decide
what our own reactions are going to be for any given stimulus. We
decide how to react. You can either blow things off or let them get to
you, but nobody has this power but you.
When you start to get stressed out, remember that you’re doing it
to yourself. When I get upset about various things—those damned
Yodas, for example—I try to take them out in the gym. Sometimes I
get all fired up about stories I hear regarding the hypocrisy practiced
by certain highly regarded coaches and trainers because I’m a big
believer in living what you preach.
If you’re going to tell someone how to get a big bench, you’d better
have a big bench yourself. If you’re going to tell someone how they
can develop 21-inch arms, you’d better have some jacked-up guns
yourself. Don’t write programs until you’ve used them successfully in
your own training. When I hear things to the contrary, it just kills me.
On one occasion, I called a friend and started ranting. After a few
minutes of listening, he asked me if I felt better. “Hell no,” I replied. “I
don’t feel better.” I went on for another five minutes, and he asked me
again if I felt better.
And then it hit me. He couldn’t have cared less about the whole deal.
He had things to do other than listen to me bitch about something that
wasn’t going to make any difference in his life. I thought about this,
and I was sorry that I had distracted him.
Raising the Bar
Do you see how this works? Do you see how it can spin out of control? One person does something stupid to set someone off and then
the other person gets worked up, causing stress and frustration for
everyone. What did I do wrong in this situation? I called someone else
and made things worse.
Things will always stop at some point, usually when someone quits
caring because they have more important things to do. I had the
chance to make this decision for myself. I could have moved on, but
I chose to let it affect me and I paid a price for it in frustration and
Who Said What?
Internet training forums are natural rumor mills. These forums can
potentially be great things, and many times they are. They provide a
community experience where people can exchange training information, stories, and experiences.
The value of such sharing can’t be measured, and some random forum post could provide some vital piece of training information you’ve
been missing for years. There could be someone out there who’s
figured out how to solve the same training problems you’re currently
having. If you find that person, your training could soar.
In theory, these forums are supposed to work like the warm-up room
at a powerlifting meet. They’re supposed to be set up like various lobbies, gyms, hotel rooms, bars, restaurants, or other spots where lifters
and coaches congregate. These places are where the real learning
happens. That sort of thing doesn’t come from books, journals, or
articles. It happens in real time, in real life.
Dave Tate
Forums can offer this same sort of resource, but they often don’t
because too many people get too bent out of shape over how others
feel. Most people would rather gossip than discuss training. I stopped
reading most of these forums years ago, but I know that many of the
strongest lifters and best coaches in the world have regularly posted
on forums. I would always ask them if they were ever asked any training questions. Their answers surprised me.
They told me they were never asked questions about training. Instead, everyone wanted to know what they thought about something
someone else did or their opinion about some powerlifting federation.
This is why these quality coaches and lifters leave these sites and
never post again. They have better things to do. When I ask them
whether they would have answered training questions if asked, they
invariably say yes. How does this happen?
It’s simple. Most people aren’t willing to view a situation from any
angle other than their own. They see a posting on the internet that
they may or may not agree with, and they’re compelled to create their
own post as a result. It devolves into a catfight, but there’s no real
debate happening. Neither poster has any idea where the other is
coming from. The rest of us look on in bemused amazement. It’s like a
bad reality TV show.
I’m not telling you to stop visiting internet forums. They can still be
great resources if you have the time. My purpose is to get you to open
your eyes so you can see these forums for what they really are. If you
get all fired up about something you’ve read in a forum, you’re only
making life better for the people who post there.
Everyone has a unique way of seeing the world. If we all understood
this about each other, we’d all be much happier. Because these mis95
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understandings have been happening since the dawn of time, however, this will likely never happen. All we can really do is decide how
things will affect us personally.
Will It Make a Difference?
I used to have a manager who was great at turning situations around
in record time. Working with him was a huge learning experience. He
was a phenomenal listener. If I bitched to him about a subordinate
staff member, he heard me out, asked some probing questions, and
did his best to understand the entire situation. He would then repeat
the story back to me in his own words and then ask me if he had said
everything right. I either confirmed this for him or filled in whatever
gaps he’d missed. If I had to fill in the gaps, he’d repeat the process,
telling me the entire story again and asking if he’d missed anything.
Every time we did this, he’d ask me the same question: “What are you
going to do about it?” I was responsible for fixing the problem. Often,
I didn’t want to fix anything at all, so he’d ask me another question:
“Why are you so upset about it?” He taught me that I was accountable
for fixing my own problems. If I didn’t want to be part of the solution, I
needed to shut up and live with it.
We all get fired up from time to time. I know for damn sure that I will.
It’s just a matter of remembering where we’re going and understanding whether this behavior will really help us get there or not.
Dave Tate
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common
than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not;
unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education
will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always
will solve the problems of the human race.”
—Calvin Coolidge
“What do you first do when you learn to swim?
You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you
have made all the mistakes you possibly can
without drowning—and some of them many times
over—what do you find? That you can swim?
Well, life is just the same as learning to swim! Do
not be afraid of making mistakes for there is no
other way of learning how to live!”
—Alfred Adler
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“The most essential factor is persistence—the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that
must inevitably come.”
—James Whitcomb Riley
Dave Tate
per · se · ver · ance
1. persistence, tenacity, determination, staying power, indefatigability,
steadfastness, purposefulness; patience, endurance, application,
diligence, dedication, commitment, doggedness, assiduity, tireless ness, stamina; intransigence, obstinacy; formal pertinacity: In a competitive environment, perseverance is an invaluable asset.
Never Give Up
Years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling to his
credit ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed in that, too,
and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless
He fell in love with a charming lady and became engaged—and she
died. He had a nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office
but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the vice presidency
and lost. Two years later, he was defeated in his run for senator. He
ran for office once more and was elected.
That man was Abraham Lincoln. It took Winston Churchill three years
to get through the eighth grade because he couldn’t pass English of
all things! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His now famous speech
consisted of only three words: “Never give up!”
The Old Alchemist (Burma/Myanmar)
Once upon a time, there was an old man whose daughter was mar99
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ried to a handsome young lad. The young couple led a happy life,
except for one problem—the new husband spent all of his time
dreaming of a way to turn dirt into gold. In those days, people who did
this were known as alchemists. Soon enough, he ran through all of his
inheritance, and the young wife had to struggle to buy food each day.
Desperate, she begged her husband to find a job.
“But I am on the verge of a breakthrough!” he insisted. “When I succeed in turning dirt into gold, we’ll be rich beyond our wildest dreams!”
Finally, the young wife went to her father about the problem. He was
surprised to learn that his son-in-law was an alchemist, but he promised to help his daughter, and he asked to see the young man the
next day. The young man arrived reluctantly, expecting a scolding.
To his surprise, his father-in-law confided in him, “When I was young,
I, too, was an alchemist!”
The father-in-law asked about the young man’s work, and the two of
them spent the whole afternoon in animated conversation. Finally, the
old man cried, “Why, you have done everything I did when I was your
age! You are surely on the verge of a breakthrough. But you need
one more ingredient in order to change dirt into gold, and I have only
recently discovered this secret.”
The old man paused. “I am too old to undertake the task,” he confessed. “It requires too much work.”
“I can do it, dear father!” cried the young man.
“Hmm, perhaps you can,” said the old man. He leaned over and
whispered, “The secret ingredient is a silver powder that grows on the
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back of banana leaves. You must plant the bananas yourself because
it’s important that you cast certain spells on the seeds. Then when the
plant grows, the powder on the leaves will become magical.”
“How much powder do we need?” the young man asked.
“Two pounds,” the old man replied.
The son-in-law thought out loud. “Why, that would require hundreds of
banana plants!”
“Yes,” the old man sighed. “That is why I cannot complete the work
“Do not fear!” said the young man. “I will!”
And so the old man taught his son-in-law the magic spells and loaned
him enough money to start the project.
The next day, the young man bought some land and cleared it. He
planted the banana seeds just as the old man had told him to do and
murmured over them the magic spells.
Each day, he examined the seedlings, keeping weeds and pests
away. When the plants bore fruit, he gently brushed the silver powder
from the banana leaves, but there was scarcely any powder on each
plant so the young man had to buy more land and cultivate more
It took several years, but finally the young man collected two pounds
of the magic dust. He rushed to his father-in-law’s house.
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“I have the magic powder!” he cried with excitement.
“Wonderful!” rejoiced the old man. “Now I can show you how to turn
dirt into gold! But first you must bring your wife here. We need her
The young man was puzzled but obeyed. When his wife appeared,
the old man asked his daughter, “While your husband was collecting
the banana powder, what did you do with the bananas?”
“Why I sold them,” the daughter said, “and that’s how we’ve earned a
“Did you save any money?” asked the father.
“Yes,” she replied.
“May I see it?” asked the old man.
So his daughter hurried home and returned with several bags. The
old man opened them, saw that they were full of gold, and poured the
coins on the floor. Then he took a handful of dirt and put it next to the
“You see,” he said, turning to his son-in-law, “you have changed dirt
into gold!”
In the Gym
As I read these passages, I think about all the trials I’ve suffered in my
life. I wonder where I developed the courage to get through them and
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defeat them. It could have come from my upbringing, my friends, my
neighbors, my teachers, my coaches, or from countless other mentors. Is this attribute a function of nurture or nature?
These abilities are developed through contact with all of these sources plus many, many more. It’s my time in the weight room, however,
that developed my desire and my ability to persevere. I have countless stories about trials, injuries, and sticking points that I had to overcome, but the one that comes to mind most of all is my first pectoral
In 1991, I tore my pectoral tendon from the bone and needed to have
it reattached. It was a clean tear, and surgery was my only option. After the procedure, the doctor told me my tear was the worst he’d ever
seen and that all of my tendons were frayed. This particular doctor
had been performing this same surgery for years.
He said it looked very bad and that it would only be a matter of time
before the tendons in the area tore as well. He told me to quit powerlifting and stay away from any heavy training for at least a year in order to let the tendons heal. He also said I’d never bench over 400 lbs
again because my tendons wouldn’t hold the weight. I had incurred
the injury with a miss at 540 lbs, so I was definitely not happy with
his recommendations. I spent the next day in the hospital depressed,
angry, and lost. I had no idea what I would do. Then something hit me.
If I wasn’t strong enough to bench the bar when the cast came off but
eventually did it, I’d have gotten stronger. If benching the bar turned
into benching 135 lbs, then I was stronger.
Only my mind knew how much weight I had on the bar. My muscles
didn’t. That, I figured, was why the doctor had told me I wouldn’t be
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able to bench 400 lbs again. What he didn’t understand, however, was
that I thought I was going to get 600 lbs, not the 500 lbs I already had
in the books. By my math, he was wrong by 100 lbs.
I knew I had to try to get back to where I was. At the time, very few
athletes had come back to the levels they’d attained after a pectoral
tear. I wanted to be the one who did it. I wouldn’t get any kind of an
award for doing it, but it became my driving force and my goal.
The Road
The road back was much harder than I thought it would be. I had
to learn a new way to bench press, placing more of the load on my
arms as opposed to my chest. I also had to deal with a long recovery
There were several times when I thought I’d torn the muscle again
only to find that I’d actually torn the scar tissue. This happed once
every six or eight weeks for the first few years, and it always set me
back to only benching the bar and doing rehabilitation work. Just
when I felt like I was making progress, my pectoral would pop again,
and I’d find myself right back at the beginning.
I also had to deal with training partners and teammates who made fun
of my courage. They threw tissues at me to wipe my tears if I didn’t
work up to heavy weights on certain days. This got to me. I’d be lying
if I said it didn’t. Some workouts made me want to quit. I remember
having two conversations with my wife about hanging it up. When all
was said and done though, I couldn’t walk away knowing I hadn’t tried
my best to come back.
Within six months, things started falling into place. My training went
well, and my strength was working its way back up nicely. I figured I
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was at a decent starting point to begin training for a meet, so I looked
for one to enter.
In the very next workout after having these thoughts, I was doing
close grip floor presses. My strength levels were good as I worked
up. My all-time best in this exercise was 450 lbs, and my best since
having surgery was 325 lbs. On this day, I hit 325 lbs for three reps
and then decided to jump to 365 lbs to see how it felt. It went up nicely
without any problems, so I tried 385 lbs. On the way down with this
weight, my pectoral popped again.
“Maybe the doctor was right,” I thought. “Maybe my tendons can’t
handle this.”
If this was going to be the case, I’d have to make my shoulders and
arms stronger so their muscles would take more of the load off my
tendons. I did more arm work and added an extra workout day for
shoulder movements. Six weeks later, I nailed 455 lbs on the floor
press. I knew I was ready for a meet.
I didn’t do well at my next meet. My squats were a disaster. During
warm-ups for the bench press, I worked up to 400 lbs, and my pectoral popped again. I had to pull out.
After this, I went back to the drawing board. I figured I had to learn
how to tuck my elbows even more than I’d been. I also wanted to
push the bar in more of a straight line so my elbows wouldn’t flare
when I benched. Flaring my elbows out put more stress on my pectoral tendons. I also decided to perform all of my bench training with a
close grip, using my bench grip only at the next meet.
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For six months, I trained for my next meet, the date of which was just
over fourteen months from my surgery. I popped my pectoral a few
times in training, but I managed to work around it and compete. I went
on to post a PR total and an easy 585-lb bench press.
The Fear
This probably sounds like a heartwarming story, and I’m sure it will
motivate and give hope to many lifters. The road to doing this was far
from easy though. I suffered many recurring injuries. I had to sit and
listen to all the critics who told me competing wasn’t a good idea. I
wanted to stop at times, but before I did, I always asked myself why.
I did many workouts I didn’t want to do. There were countless drives
to the gym where I thought about how easy it would be to just turn
around and go home. There were countless warm-ups where I felt like
crap, and I thought my pectoral was about to blow, but I kept going
even when I wanted to stop.
There were many, many days of ice packs and many nights of questioning whether I’d ever bench a PR again. There was also fear. The
fear was so bad at times that I didn’t know how to deal with it. I’d
unrack the weight and feel my pec begin to “knot up.” I’d lower the
weight anyway, but I was always afraid to jam the bar hard off my
chest, thinking the action of reversing it would be the thing that would
tear my pec for good.
One day, during a max effort reverse band press workout, I tried an
experiment. I decided to do the opposite of what I’d always done.
Instead of getting myself psyched up, I tried to psyche myself out. I
visualized and focused on what it would look and feel like to tear my
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pec during the lift. I saw the bar smashing my face as my pec tendon
blew off. I pictured blood all over the floor, and I envisioned my powerlifting days coming to an end. I scared the absolute crap out of myself
and then went to the bar to bench.
“I have to get this bar off me as fast as I can,” I thought as the bar
went down. As soon as it hit my chest, it rocketed back up in half
a second. I set a 60-lb PR that day, and I discovered how to turn a
weakness into a strength. Without consistently being there in that
position, I never would have figured this out. If I’d done what I wanted
to do and turned around on any of those drives to the gym, I would
have missed the lesson. I would never have known if I’d make it back
or not.
I’ve had many trials in my training, business, and personal life over
the years. These have required persistence, which is hard for me
because I don’t have much patience. I want answers now, not later. I
want the marketing in my business to work now. I don’t want to wait
for it to evolve. I want the revenues now, and I don’t want to have to
wait 60 days to see them.
These things stress me out more than they stress out most people.
When I find myself in these situations, however, I look back on that
585-lb bench press and what it took to do it. I think about what I
learned in the process. When you rush things in life, you miss other
things. You make mistakes, and you lose.
In business, it’s better to be right than to be first. In training, it’s better
to be at your strongest on the day of the meet as opposed to peaking
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six weeks out. Things take time to grow. It takes consistent pursuit
even when you don’t want to do anything. It takes will when you want
to quit. It takes desire when you’re tired. It takes persistence when
you feel you’ve done enough. It also takes faith in the work you’re
doing to know everything will work out in the end. It also takes faith to
realize you can still learn something of great value even if things don’t
work out.
The prize is always there if you’re willing to pay the price. But keep in
mind—very few people are. Are you willing to pay the price?
Dave Tate
“The more balanced our lives, the more serene we
—Ann Smith
“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel
the waves.”
—Frank Herbert
“You were intended not only to work but to rest,
laugh, play, and have proper leisure and enjoyment. To develop an all-around personality, you
must have interests outside of your regular vocation that will serve to balance your business
—Grenville Kleiser
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Dave Tate
bal · uh ns /’bæləns/
1. a state of equilibrium of equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
2. something used to produce equilibrium; counterpoise
3. mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judg ment, etc.
4. a state of bodily equilibrium: He lost his balance and fell down the
5. an instrument for determining weight, typically by the equilibrium of
a bar with a fulcrum at the center, from each end of which is sus-
pended a scale or pan, one holding an object of known weight, and
the other holding the object to be weighed.
6. the power or ability to decide an outcome by throwing one’s strength,
influence, support, or the like, to one side or the other.
Big Weights
In powerlifting, the objective is to lift the heaviest weight you can in
the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. These lifts differ in the
required technique involved, but each one is possessing of one similar
truth—you must have perfect technique and balance if you ever expect to achieve higher levels of success.
Your training must be well thought out and balanced in order to keep
all three lifts moving in the right direction. It also must be balanced
with proper recovery to allow for growth and increased strength.
In training, mis-loads will sometimes occur. These even happen in
competition. A mis-load is when more weight is added to one side of
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the bar than to the other. This is never expected by the lifter, and it’s
obviously not noticed by the people loading the bar. Even when you
repeatedly check the weights, this will still happen on occasion.
When the bar is mis-loaded, the weight is unbalanced, rendering
the lifter unable to properly perform the lift. There’s simply too much
weight on one side relative to the other. Since mis-loads aren’t the
fault of the lifter, he’s usually given a few minutes to regroup and then
he’s given another shot.
When you get a mis-load in life, however, you’re usually not given a
second shot. You can get as pissed off as you want, but you’ll eventually have to deal with the consequences because, in most cases, the
mis-load was your fault. There’s nobody to blame but yourself.
Blast and Dust
Let’s go back to the blast and dust model I talked about in the introduction to this book. On one end of the scale, you have dust and, on
the other, there’s blast.
Many times, this scale represents the reality of life. You go all out,
you burn out, and you go into dust mode until the next big challenge,
meet, sale, or whatever. Blast becomes your life, and dust becomes
your recovery. Everything in the middle is just a distraction. The stuff
in the middle is just the stuff that gives you the ability to get back into
blast mode.
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We all have to work to make a living. We have to pay our bills, run our
errands, and go to the store. But in the end, all this is just the crap that
gets in the way of what we’re really living for—the blast.
The “blast” is where you feel alive. It’s where you feel worthy, significant, and on top of the world. This is where you gain self-respect. It’s
where you get respect from your peers and where you receive compliments, and it makes you feel like you’re an amazing human being.
This is where you feel centered. It’s where you feel best about yourself.
I know this better than anyone because I’ve lived the blast and dust
model my entire life and reaped its benefits. I’ve built a physique and
developed strength that many would kill to have. I’ve built a successful business, I live in a nice house, I drive a nice car, I have a beautiful
wife and two kids, and I have money in the bank. I’m living the American dream. This model has worked for me. Through using it, I’ve been
able to get everything I’ve always wanted.
I’ve had some very hard times. This is dust. I’ve also had some great
times filled with great successes. This is blast. From the outside looking in, it may seem like I’m on top of the world. I look like I’m successful. I look like I have everything together. I appear to be centered,
lucky, and hard-working. You might see me and think I’m the happiest
man alive.
And you would be wrong.
I was definitely “centered.” Self-centered, that is. All I cared about
was what people and things could do for me. How would this or that
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help my business grow? What did I need to do to get myself bigger or
stronger? The cost of things didn’t matter. I was willing to pay whatever the price was as long as it didn’t go against my values.
This sounds noble, but it also leaves a hell of a lot of room to play. If
you asked an acquaintance what they thought about my first book,
Under the Bar, they’d say it looked like I had it together. If you asked
the people closest to me, they’d tell you Under the Bar was a nice
blueprint for how I should have been living. Someone actually told me
I was a hypocrite.
Values and standards are what we shoot for. They’re what we try to
uphold, and they’re what we try to be. We can’t possibly live up to
them all the time, no matter how hard we try. With acquaintances,
competitors, and distant friends who didn’t see me every day, my
values and standards were easy to uphold. With the people closest
to me, however, this wasn’t the case at all. I was extremely self-centered.
There’s a huge chasm between being balanced and being self-centered. I don’t care what anyone says—nobody gets anything on their
own. What you achieve in life takes more than just your own work.
There were other people along the way who taught you things and
gave you both positive and negative motivation. There were friends,
spouses, family members, and others who made some level of sacrifice on your behalf to help you become what you are. Some of us take
these sacrifices for granted. They figure people owe it to them for one
reason or another. Maybe we feel we’ve given back enough because
we’re bringing home a paycheck, putting food on the table, or calling
home once every couple of months.
Dave Tate
Here are some examples of mistakes I’ve made in the past. See if any
of them hit home with you. You may not be a lifter, but I think the concepts and mistakes I’m talking about are universal. Maybe they won’t
hit home with you because they didn’t hit home for me at first. However, try to look at these from another perspective—the other person’s.
A girlfriend asked me to go for a walk with her. It was a great
night out, and she wanted to spend some time together. I told
her I couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to screw up my squat
workout the next day.
During a period when I was putting in a lot of hours at work
and training three or four hours a day, my wife asked me to
set aside some time. She wanted to do things together like
go to dinner, the movies, or for walks. She simply wanted time
for us. Since we lived together and saw each other every day—usually for less than an hour—I didn’t have time for this
and told her to find some friends to hang out with.
I took my wife to a powerlifting meet. I wasn’t competing. As
soon as we got in the door, we found a seat. I sat with her for
five minutes and then headed off to the warm-up room where I
spent the rest of the day with lifters, leaving her on her own for
the entire day. Once, I just left her at the door and made her
find her own seat, not introducing her to anyone at the meet.
I told my wife I’d be home from the gym at a certain time, but I
didn’t get there until an hour and a half later because I’d been
sitting around talking with the other guys. By the time I made it
home, my kids were in bed. She’d taken care of their dinner
and baths by herself.
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When my first son was born, I had a hard time dealing with
him waking up and crying every two hours all night long be
cause I had a meet coming up. I slept in the spare bedroom as
a result.
I ran up huge credit card bills on powerlifting gear, equipment,
and supplements so I’d always have what I needed to compete and train. Meanwhile, we were counting quarters to buy
food at the grocery store.
When my wife would tell me she was unhappy, my idea of a
solution was to build a bigger business, buy her a better car, or
give her more freedom to work the hours she wanted.
When I took my wife to meet my family, I left her in the front
room with my parents while I went and searched the internet.
Whenever I was out of town, I never called home to check in
with my wife and kids because I always “had too much going
If a holiday fell on a training day, I’d always go to the gym first
and then go home to celebrate afterward. My kids would either
have to wait, or I’d miss seeing them open their gifts.
I never let anyone know what I was doing on a particular day. I
simply left in the morning and went about my business. I got
home when I got home.
I would walk into the office and never say a word to my staff.
Weeks had gone by where I didn’t even say hello to some of
them. In interviews, however, I always thanked them every time.
I’ve gone years without speaking to family members. There are
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people I consider great friends with whom I’ve gone just as
long not speaking.
I didn’t take care of my kids when my wife was sick, and she
didn’t know why.
I’d stand by and watch while my wife or my staff performed
heavy manual labor. I never offered to help because it might
screw up my next workout. I would do this despite the fact that
I squatted over 900 lbs and carried over 250 lbs of lean body
I never went to the park, the zoo, or other fun places because I
as either too sore or had a major training session the next day.
This list makes me sick. It makes me understand that I wasn’t the person I thought I was, and I certainly wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
You may see some of these things as unimportant and not mattering
very much, but that’s wrong. In reality, they’re big things if the other
person gets hurt.
Imagine that your new girlfriend takes you to a very large, family reunion. When you get there, she takes off to spend time with relatives
whom she hasn’t seen in a while, and you’re left alone with no idea
where she went. You spend the next six hours feeling very uncomfortable and out of place. Think about this for a minute, and take in how
you’d really feel.
What if you told your wife or girlfriend that she had to find some
friends if she wanted quality time? How would you feel if she took your
advice and found a new boyfriend or filed for divorce? What if someone you respected and cared about said that you were worthless?
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You may not be coming out and saying this to someone you care
about, but your actions could certainly be showing it.
What if you were having a great day, and you were about to attempt
a new max on the bench, but everyone you asked for a spot turned
you down because they were afraid to screw up their next set? How
do you feel when your boss blows right by your desk or workspace
and doesn’t even look your way? What if your wife or girlfriend wants
quality time with you? She wants you to hold her hand, hug her, and
tell her that you love her. But you blow her off figuring you’ve taken
care of everything by working your ass off and bringing home a check.
What if every time you wanted to have sex, she handed you a $20 bill
and told you to go to bed?
Now that we know what it means to be self-centered, let’s put some
thought into balance. You can’t lift a mis-loaded barbell. What do we
have to do to make sure it’s set up properly? First, the load needs
to be balanced. Look at the blast and dust scale again but as a bell
curve this time:
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There’s room for blast and dust in everyone’s life. We all need times
of achievement, and we all need times of depression and pain. That’s
life, and it’s what differentiates us from other species. However, balance—true balance—is found in the middle.
Let’s take this one step further and turn our bell curve into a barbell:
Instead of a straight line, we have loads on either side representing
blast and dust. These are life’s high and low points. They’ll carry more
weight because their pain is so great and their joy is at its highest
level. You can’t lift one side at a time and expect the bar to go up.
When you do that—when you lift at just one end—all you’re doing is
shifting more of the load to the other side.
To lift the weight, force must be applied to the middle of the bar. Anyone who has ever lifted weights knows this. Your body has to have a
solid base and a strong core, and the place where the barbell rests
needs to be balanced. With whatever lift you’re trying to perform, you
have to have one hand on each side of the barbell.
What falls right in the middle? Your head.
This illustration will show you where balance is centered. It also demonstrates what the most important aspects are in everything we do. If
your head—your mind, your thoughts, your life—is not in balance, the
amount you can lift in life will always be limited.
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Your body doesn’t know the difference between physical stress and
psychological stress. We’re not God. We’re no better than anyone
else, and we didn’t get to where we are on our own. People have
helped push, guide, and support us in getting to where we are now. If
you don’t think this is true, look again.
If you’re unbalanced, you may be able to slide by for many years. You
may even be able to do it for a lifetime. However, take if from someone who knows. It will catch up to you, and someday you’ll have to
discover your real priorities.
Take a good look in the mirror and think about what you see. Are you
really the person you think you are? Would others agree with you? Are
you willing to develop the strength to be the person you want to be?
Dave Tate
“The difference between school and life? In school,
you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In
life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
—Tom Bodett
“If you will call your troubles experiences and
remember that every experience develops some
latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and
happy however adverse your circumstances may
seem to be.”
—John Heywood
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
—Paulo Coelho
“Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.”
—Oscar Wilde
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“Experience is the best teacher, but the tuition is
—Norwegian Proverb
Dave Tate
ex · per · i · ence |ik’spiər i əns|
1. practical contact with and observation of facts or events: He had al
ready learned his lesson by painful experience. | He spoke from experience.
2. the knowledge or skill acquired by such means over a period of time,
esp. that gained in a particular profession by someone at work: older
men whose experience could be called upon | candidates with the
necessary experience.
3. an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone: For
the younger players it has been a learning experience.
—verb [trans]
1. encounter or undergo (an event or occurrence): The company is experiencing difficulties.
2. feel (an emotion): an opportunity to experience the excitement of
New York.
Experience Versus Education
The experience versus education debate is one that has cropped
up again and again in my life. People fall either to one side or the
other based on their background. Some people will tell you that you
can learn all you need to know by doing things in the real world. The
builder will tell you how many houses he’s built, the lifter will tell you
how many years he’s trained, and the ballplayer will tell you about his
career in the NFL.
By contrast, others will give you all the technical and scientific evidence regarding how things work. I recently watched a horse trainer—one who’s highly respected and regarded as one of the best in my
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state—roll his eyes at a “book smart” woman who was giving him the
science on why what he was doing wasn’t the best way.
I’ve seen this in the weight room in regards to programming. Across
the world, there are lifting clubs that produce very strong lifters, some
in great numbers. These clubs have been criticized for poor programming, and it’s been said repeatedly that their environments are why
they get the results they do. I disagree with this in some cases, but I
agree with it in others. Sometimes, the people with the best programming skills aren’t producing the strongest lifters.
The answer here is not on one side or the other but somewhere in the
middle. The best athlete isn’t the one who has all the answers. The
smartest athlete doesn’t always know how to implement his knowledge. The best in the world usually fall somewhere in the middle of
the two extremes.
Todd Brock
Todd Brock is a good friend of mine. At 275 lbs, he’s squatted 860 lbs.
At the time, this was a good squat, but it wasn’t the best in the world. I
also know a lifter who squatted 900 lbs in his first meet. He was still in
his early twenties when he did this. The difference between the two of
them is that Todd spent years trying to get his squat to 860 lbs, and he
never broke a PR by more than 20 or 30 lbs. He spent several years
dealing with countless sticking points trying to get his squat to go up.
The younger lifter “just” squatted 900 lbs like it was no big deal.
Todd had to earn every pound, and he learned a lot along the way.
The younger guy went on to have a great powerlifting career, but if I
wanted to know something about squatting, I’d go see Todd first.
Dave Tate
This same concept applies to just about everything else. The greatest
are great, but sometimes they don’t learn much along the way. People
who’ve had things come easily to them have never really had to learn
about how to apply themselves. They’ve never had to work around issues to get what they want. The ability to think is driven by education
coupled with experience.
Mike Szuderek
Mike Szudarek, another good friend of mine, once told me about a
lifter whose dedication to training and respect for people who trained
hard made a big impression on him. Mike’s first experience with lifting
in a “real” gym was at a place in Michigan called Centerline Powerhouse. This was in 1991, and the gym was located just north of 8 Mile
Road. If you’ve seen the movie 8 Mile, you’ll know exactly what kind
of place this was.
Several professional athletes trained at Centerline Powerhouse, including several professional bodybuilders and powerlifters. Everything
was very “underground,” and Mike really didn’t even know who these
guys were. It was dark and cold, and all he saw was some crazy
people lifting a lot of weight. Mike didn’t realize it at the time, but he
was part of an incredible era in lifting.
Before the 1992 Mr. Olympia, Mike was training with three or four
guys who were part of a group led by a very well-known lifter. We’ll
call this guy Bob. Mike barely weighed 200 lbs, and he’d just started
college. He didn’t know anything, and he couldn’t lift anything, but Bob
allowed Mike to train with the group as long as he pushed himself until
he puked. This is not an exaggeration.
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Bob told Mike some things he’ll never forget. He said he’d rather train
with a guy who’d gone from 15-inch arms to 17-inch arms than a guy
whose arms had reached 22-inches and stayed there. He said he’d
rather train with a guy whose bench had gone from 300 lbs to 350 lbs
in six months than a guy who benched 500 lbs but was doing 495 lbs
two years ago.
Bob said the best training partner he’d ever had was a guy who’d
competed in the NPC Nationals eleven years in a row. On his eleventh try, the guy placed fifth and received his first national trophy. According to Bob, this one fifth place award proved that the guy had put
in more hard work, blood, sweat, and grit than anyone Bob had ever
trained with.
Training with this guy motivated Bob more than training with other
professional bodybuilders. He said he got stronger and dieted harder
because his partner kept making progress and wouldn’t give up. The
guy even unscrewed one of the little plastic guys from the bottom of
his trophy, giving it to Bob because Bob hadn’t “given up on him.” This
little plastic piece meant more to Bob than anything else he’d ever
In 2007, I held a seminar at Total Performance Sports in Boston, Massachusetts. I brought Jim Wendler, Matt Kroczaleski, and Marc Bartley
with me to speak. At the time, I was dieting down to around 245 lbs,
and I was at about six percent body fat. My goal was to diet for a few
more weeks to see if I could get my body fat down to less than five
Marc, the 2004, 2005, and 2006 WPO Arnold Classic Powerlifting
Finals runner-up, is a heavier powerlifter. He’d been making fun of me
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all weekend. He eventually asked me something I’m sure he’s long
since forgotten. However, I haven’t forgotten it, and I think it will help
illustrate what this chapter is about.
Marc Bartley
Marc asked me how I’d done what I’d done and how I continued to do
it. He wasn’t asking for details, but he wanted to know why and how.
Where, he asked, did the discipline come from? I told Marc he could
do the same thing. I told him it would be easy for him. My own reasons for dieting involved challenging myself and improving my training. I knew doing the same would be easy for Marc, but I didn’t know
how soon it would be before he’d prove me right.
A few weeks later, on August 19, 2007, Marc was competing in a meet
in the 308-lb weight class. He was coming off a tough year of training, having dealt with a triceps surgery, a torn hamstring, and several
other minor pulls and strains. Despite all this, he’d found a way to pull
everything together and make it to this meet for his assault on a 1200lb squat.
Marc’s career best squat was 1124 lbs, which was accomplished in a
lighter weight class. So, 1200 lbs was well within the realm of possibility for him. He was called for depth on his first attempt, but he’d stood
up easily with the weight. I remember seeing everyone else squat
and wondering why I hadn’t seen Marc yet. I asked him what weight
he’d jumped to, and he responded by winking at me. I knew he’d gone
straight to 1200 lbs.
Soon after, Marc was called to the platform. He took the weight out of
the rack and began his descent. On his way down, he tore his quad127
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riceps muscle. I have this on video, and it’s one of the worst injuries
I’ve ever seen. I went to the back room where they were cutting his
suit off. He looked at me before being taken to the hospital and asked,
“How long will this one take?” I knew this wasn’t a good sign.
This story isn’t about Marc’s squat, his injury, or his comeback. I’ll
save those for another time and place. This is about Marc deciding
to drop weight and get back in shape while he was going through his
rehabilitation. I don’t know exactly what his body fat percentage was,
but I’m pretty sure it was over thirty percent. He weighed over 300 lbs
at the time. His goal was to diet down, get healthy, and then figure out
what weight class to compete in when he came back to powerlifting.
When he emailed me about my diet, he never asked what I thought.
He simply told me what he wanted to do and then asked me what the
best approach to doing it would be. I told Marc what I’d learned, and I
told him what he could expect. He then started working with nutritionist Shelby Starnes, and the weight started to come off. Eleven months
later, Marc’s training and diet had dramatically changed his physique,
but that’s not what this story is about.
The Call
Marc was eleven months into the diet, and he’d worked his way down
to around seven percent body fat. He wasn’t showing any signs of
slowing down either. He was doing three hours of cardio per day,
dieting, and running three businesses. He was completely locked in
on what he was doing, which is why I knew he’d be capable of doing
what he’d set out to do. This competitive mindset he has—this ability
to “lock in” —is both a blessing and a curse.
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He was so “locked in” to the experience of everything that he was
bound and determined to take it all the way. That’s what this story is
When you have a mindset to “lock in,” you’ve found a place that ninety
percent of the world will never see. This is what you need to be a
great athlete, coach, father, husband, wife, or business owner. Anyone can take things to the point just before “locking in” and then walk
away. People like Marc get to that point, lock things in, and then say,
“Give me all you’ve got.”
I spoke to Marc’s wife and told her how his mind works. I told her we
needed to find a way for Marc to set an end date. With powerlifting,
the end date is always the meet. In Marc’s case this time around,
there wasn’t any date set, and he was ready to simply keep on rolling. He had, however, mentioned doing a bodybuilding show, which
prompted the call from his wife.
She wasn’t happy about this because she’s not a fan of bodybuilding.
I reminded her that Marc was in “locked in” mode, and that doing a
bodybuilding show would give him an end date. I told her she had to
let things play out. She ended up giving Marc the support he needed,
and he placed second in the 2008 South Carolina Excalibur show in
the light heavyweight class. He weighed 194 lbs.
Marc lost well over 100 lbs during this process, and that’s part of what
he took away from it. He now knows what it feels, tastes, and looks
like to drop 100 lbs and take second in a bodybuilding show. He also
knows what it feels, tastes, and looks like to squat 1150 lbs. How may
people do you know who have this kind of experience?
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The Takeaway
Marc did all of this while running and growing three businesses. He
also managed to maintain a healthy relationship with his girlfriend,
who agreed to become his wife two weeks after the show. Marc has
an intense desire to experience what he’s trying to learn. He’d originally wanted to learn how to get stronger, and he took that drive to the
platform in his powerlifting career. This drive to experience his education is what separates Marc from the rest.
After his show, I asked Marc what the most important thing he’d taken
from the experience was. He told me he’d learned more about himself
than at any other time in his life. Education can teach us “how,” but
experience tells us “why.” When you put this together with “who,” the
only other factor involved is “when.” If you’re a powerlifter who wants
to drop weight, who has more credibility? Jenny Craig or Marc Bartley?
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“Seek not my soul, the life of the immortals; but
enjoy to the full the resources that are within thy
“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually, or morally, in a very restricted circle of their
potential being. They make use of a very small
portion of their possible consciousness and of their
soul’s resources in general, much like a man who,
out of his whole bodily organism, should get into
a habit of using and moving only his little finger.
Great emergencies and crises show us how much
greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.”
—William James
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Dave Tate
re · source · ful
1. able to meet situations; empowered
2. capable of devising ways and means
Jason Pegg
Jason Pegg had no idea what life had in store for him when he enlisted in the United States Army in Muncie, Indiana, in 2001. He’d
been making money as a corrections officer, bartender, and bouncer,
but he wanted to pursue a different career path. After September 11,
2001, Jason wanted to do his part for his country, and he knew that
joining the army would help him pay for college. So, at the age of 21,
he signed up.
Jason served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, earning the rank of sergeant. He was deployed three times into
Afghanistan and Iraq, seeing combat for a period totaling 24 months.
A Bad Day
Memorial Day of 2005 turned out to be an unlucky one for Jason. He’d
been part of a security outfit assigned to protect a medical/civilian assistance program team that was bringing health care to a small village
in eastern Afghanistan. After administering to almost eight hundred
people in two days, the group was heading to another town when
Jason’s vehicle was hit by an IED—a roadside bomb—detonated by
insurgents who’d been hiding in nearby weeds. The explosion was
powerful. Warheads from two, 107-mm rockets were rigged to detonate 22 lbs of explosives and shrapnel over a wide radius.
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The pressure from the blast and the flying shrapnel tore off part of
Jason’s left elbow and fractured all three bones in his arm. The blast
hadn’t killed anyone, but the injuries it caused were severe. Another
soldier suffered brain injuries, and a third soldier lost an eye.
A Black Hawk Medevac helicopter took the injured soldiers to a field
station for immediate medical treatment and stabilization. They were
then taken to a base in Kandahar. Jason lost so much blood that he
needed three transfusions to keep him alive. That night, a transport
took him to Landstuhl, Germany, for four days of trauma treatment.
He was then brought to Walter Reed National Army Medical Center in
Washington, DC.
A Long Recovery
Jason spent the next year and a half at Walter Reed, first as an inpatient receiving restorative surgery and occupational therapy and
then for outpatient treatment. His weight dropped from 310 lbs to 230
lbs. After his sudden weight loss and months of immobility, his deteriorating fitness level caused him to tire quickly. When he was released
from the hospital, he could only walk a few hundred feet before needing to sit down and gather more energy to continue.
With the help of his wife Dannielle and his young son Gunnar, Jason
began to bulk up and regain his strength. He had to come to terms
with the fact that the flexibility and range of motion in his left arm
would be limited after having several surgeries. He still didn’t have
any feeling in his left hand.
Jason had been a competitive powerlifter since the age of thirteen.
After almost losing an arm, most people would give up such a strenu134
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ous sport in favor of something less demanding, but this wasn’t what
Jason had in mind. He was extremely realistic about his situation,
but he was also resourceful enough to consider what he could and
couldn’t do. He had his own ideas about what was worth striving to
achieve and where he wanted to concentrate his energies.
Like most wounded soldiers, Jason’s goal, at first, was to recover one
hundred percent of his previous abilities. As time passed though, he
understood that this wasn’t an option.
Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, he began to consider what he might be able to accomplish. He wasn’t an amputee like
so many others at Walter Reed. Many of these amputee soldiers were
as cheerful and upbeat as they could be, and they’d even do tricks
in their wheelchairs. Jason realized he was lucky to be alive and that
there were many soldiers who were a lot worse off than he was.
These sobering thoughts put him back on the road to recovery. They
made him eager to challenge himself to see what he could do. He
knew that many of his present difficulties would improve as he healed
and that physical activity would enhance his overall well-being. At age
27, the Army rated Jason at fifty percent disabled, retiring him from
the military. His new goals were twofold—to continue weight training
and support his family comfortably.
Back in the Weight Room
In resuming powerlifting, Jason knew he was unlikely to bench press
over 155 lbs, let alone compete again. However, instead of giving up,
he concentrated his energies on what he could still do well—squatting
and deadlifting.
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When he first went back in the weight room, Jason couldn’t squat 315
lbs with the safety squat bar, and he didn’t have the mobility to use a
regular bar. Yet, with his one good arm and his laser-like focus, he put
everything he had into attaining the biggest squat possible.
Of course, there were plenty of people who told him all the reasons
why he shouldn’t or couldn’t pursue these goals, but Jason ignored
them all.
His arm was still weak, and he couldn’t really do any upper body
exercises. He wasn’t able to press anything, and his arm still caused
significant problems with his lifts. He was determined, however, to be
competitive in the other two events.
Jason’s lifting goals are significant. He wants to squat 100 lbs and
deadlift 700 lbs in competition. He’s already accomplished both in the
gym. He trains in the evenings three days a week and sometimes on
Where There’s a Will
Jason works as a factory representative selling construction equipment to rental agencies. His territory ranges all the way down to
southern Indiana. He and Dannielle have since had another son,
Corban, who as of this writing is ten months old.
He tries to surround himself with positive thinking people like his
weightlifting buddies. He says his wife refuses to let him slack off,
frequently reminding him that the world isn’t going to feel sorry for him
and that he’d better learn to do things for himself.
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Jason refused to sit on the sidelines. He’s a man of action, and like all
men of action, he figured out a way to meet his situation head on, not
allowing something like losing the use of his arm stand in his way.
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Dave Tate
“Evil being the root of mystery, pain is the root of
—Simone Weil, 1910–1943
French philosopher, mystic
“The violence and obscenity are left unadulterated,
as manifestation of the mystery and pain which
ever accompanies the act of creation.”
—Anais Nin, 1914–1977
French-born American novelist, dancer
“There are two big forces at work, external and
internal. We have very little control over external
forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness, and pain. What really matters is the
internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.”
—Leo Buscaglia
American expert on love, lecturer, author
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“Nothing begins and nothing ends that is not paid
with moan; for we are born in others pain and
perish in our own.”
—Francis Thompson, 1859–1907
British poet
Dave Tate
pain |pān|
1. physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury: She’s in
great pain. | those who suffer from back pain.
2. a feeling of marked discomfort in a particular part of the body: He
had severe pains in his stomach. | chest pains.
3. mental suffering or distress: the pain of loss.
4. (also pain in the neck or vulgar slang pain in the ass) [in sing. ] infor mal an annoying or tedious person or thing: She’s a pain.
Personal note: I wrote the following during one of the lowest points in
my life. People have suggested leaving this material out of the book,
but I think we learn the most about life from our failures. Against the
wishes of many of my advisors, I’m keeping this chapter in.
Journal Entry
The last few days have been pure hell on me, and the storm keeps
brewing. My greatest fear in life has arrived, and I had no idea it was
coming. I have no idea what to do. I suppose the best way to write
about this is to leave out the cause and look at the effect.
Writing that the last few days have been “hell” is an understatement.
I’m in the worst hell I’ve ever known, and I don’t know what to do or
where to turn. The pain runs so deep, and the depression is so fierce.
I’m wracked with guilt, worry, loneliness, emptiness, sorrow, and
remorse. My head won’t stop pounding, and my nerves are in a state
that I’ve never known before. I’m not sure what’s happening beyond
this mental pain that simply won’t stop.
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A few hours ago, my arms began to go numb and my upper back
was in knots. Spasms ran up the back of my neck, making my head
feel like it was in a vise. My entire world is closing in on me. All of my
dreams are gone. My purpose is gone. My reason to live…
All I remember is that something wasn’t right. I got in my car and
drove to the hospital. On the way there, I was unable to see and think
through the tears caused by my physical and mental pain. The drive
seemed to take a lifetime, and I found myself in the emergency room
parking lot with no idea what was going on.
The mental strain I was under was enormous, and the guilt I felt was
beyond my comprehension. I tried to get out of the car, but I couldn’t
move my legs because the feeling of pins and needles ran from my
toes up to my knees. I was filled with pain, worthlessness, and emptiness. I had no self-esteem whatsoever at that moment, and I hated
the person I saw looking back at me in the rearview mirror.
I pulled out my phone, thinking I’d call the emergency room to come
out and get me. I wondered if there was someone else I could call.
After going through my list of contacts, I realized there was nobody I
could call if I needed help. I have people in my life, but I had no idea
who I could call in worst case scenarios like this one. Nobody in my
life, or so I thought, cared, and it was my actions that had caused this.
The pain in my upper back grew so intense that it forced me to pull my
head up to seek relief.
As I looked up, I saw the same familiar clouds I used to spend hours
staring at as a kid, and I started wondering what death would be like.
Would I be alone? Would I be in heaven or hell? Would the pain go
away? Would I be free of the constant pressure in my head? Would
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I be free of this? Would I be free from that? Would I be able to leave
my past behind me and find true happiness? Could I be the person I
wanted to be? If I died, would I even be a person? What was there?
Whatever was there simply had to be better than what I was living for
the past few days.
I decided not to go into the hospital, hoping I would die in the parking
lot and finally be free. I was okay with this, and I sat in my car for two
hours waiting to die. After that, I figured this wasn’t going to happen
easily, just as nothing else in my life has ever happened easily. I was
going to have to find a way to do this on my own.
I spent the next few hours on the internet trying to find the best way to
be “free.” I found many options, but all of them had survival rates that I
wasn’t happy with. Knowing myself, I knew it wouldn’t work according
to plan. Nothing ever does. I could try to smash my car into a tree, but
I’d survive. I could try to overdose or gas myself, but I’d end up living
the rest of my life brain dead. I could try to hang myself, but the noose
would break.
I came to the conclusion that my best option was to blow my head off.
So I went to WalMart to see if I could buy something to do the job. I
knew I wouldn’t be able to buy a gun, and I didn’t have time to borrow
one, but I figured there had to be something I could find.
I sat in the parking lot too depressed to even go into the store. It hit
me that I was totally messed up at this point, and I drove back to the
hospital. I sat in the parking lot for another hour, but I was afraid to go
in. What would I tell them? I wanted to die, but I sucked so bad at it
that I couldn’t do it myself.
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I made a call to a friend of mine and asked him how you know when
you’d hit rock bottom. I explained my situation, and he told me I wasn’t
even close to rock bottom yet. Things would get worse!
“It’ll get worse?” I asked in astonishment. “I already want to die!”
“You haven’t done it yet, have you?” he replied. “Then you’re not at
your all-time low. If you were at rock bottom, you’d be dead. The question is, why aren’t you dead yet?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do,” he said. “It’s because you want to survive. So do it. You have
time to figure out how to live. Just turn the car on and drive away, taking one minute at a time.”
I knew from talking to him that I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know
who I was anymore. I’m not sure I ever knew who I really was in the
first place. All I knew at the time was the pain, and it wasn’t stopping.
I knew I didn’t want to die, but I had to figure out the rest for myself.
I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I wanted to survive and I
knew that as long as I kept taking one breath at a time, I wouldn’t die.
One breath turned into one minute. A minute turned into an hour and
then an hour turned into a week.
Did I really hit rock bottom? Who can answer this for anyone? All I
know is that I thought dying was an acceptable option, and I found
comfort in that. I’d never been that low before, and I’d never experienced so much pain in my life. Sitting in that parking lot, I was the
same boy from my past wondering what life would be like outside of
myself. I wondered what life would be like if I could be free of who I
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really was. The pain didn’t come in avoidance of knowing who I was.
It came from taking a close look at myself and not liking what I’d seen.
The pain was not avoidance. It was acknowledgement.
After the pain and the decision to survive, I made a change that day. I
changed. I no longer wanted to live life chained, carrying a heavy suit
of armor. I embarked on a journey of self-discovery filled with even
more pain as each layer was peeled away. Each brick fell, and the
armor was taken off one piece at a time.
I’m not writing this to scare you or impress you. I’m not writing it to
make you feel sorry for the kid with no friends who grew into an adult
who hid his true self. I’m telling you this to impress upon you that we
all have hard times. We’ll all have some very hard times, filled with
obstacles, adversity, and pain.
The cause of the pain is irrelevant. It’s our reaction to it that makes
us a spectacular species. We have to ability to choose, seek out why,
and find ways to change and create the life we really want. If we’re
willing to look, we have the tools to be happy. Sometimes these tools
seem very far away, and we look to others for happiness. We think
material things or more money will make us happy. We think we’d be
happy if others would change. If…, if…, if…, if….you fill in the blanks.
Yes, there are times when we all need help, but we usually just need
to look at ourselves in the mirror in order to change. Look beyond the
eyes looking back and look into your heart.
In powerlifting, as with any other sport, we all live with pain. I’ve suffered more injuries than just about anyone I’ve ever met. I thought
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many of these injuries would put me out of the sport for good. As
athletes, however, we know there are always ways around injuries if
we have enough desire and enough will.
A guy named John is a perfect example of what I’m talking about
here. John was a powerlifter who first started the sport seven years
ago. His goal since then was to bench press 400 lbs. He trained hard
and did all the right things, moving up to 315 lbs very quickly and feeling good about himself. Once he’d benched 315 lbs, he knew 400 lbs
was no more than a year or so away.
Driving home from the gym one day, John’s car was struck by another
car. In the accident, John broke his arm in two places. He spent the
next year trying to get his arm back to normal, and he had a very hard
time bench pressing more than 225 lbs. With time and an iron will, he
managed to work himself back up to a 315-lb bench. A year after the
accident, he felt he was back on track.
A month later, he tore his pectoral while performing some special
exercises. This wasn’t a mild tear either. It would require surgery, and
it set him back again. John was not to be dissuaded though. He never
missed a session despite everything that had happened, and he kept
coming into the gym with his iron will. He’d work his one good arm
and his legs. Within six months, he was benching close to 275 lbs. His
condition began to improve, and after focusing on his bench training
again, he had his bench up to 365 lbs within a year.
John took some downtime after this cycle to rest and recover. Getting
to 365 lbs had beaten him up. Around this same time, his father got
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sick. John stopped training altogether to take care of him for the next
year. He eventually lost his father, which crushed him. A month later,
John made his way back to the gym with a renewed focus, quickly
working his way back up to a 315-lb bench.
After four months, he was up to 375 lbs. He then decided to try 405
lbs to see how it felt. On his first attempt, he tore his triceps about
halfway down. I’ll never forget what he told me after that.
“You know,” he said, “maybe I just wasn’t made to bench 405 lbs.”
I didn’t think of it at the time, but now I see the significance of how he
felt. John was as ready to quit on his goal as I was to quit on mine. As
lifters, we’ve all been in the same spot as John, but also as lifters, we
know what to say and what to do.
I told John not to worry. I told him to get his triceps fixed and to take
things a day at a time. The future would be what he wanted it to be.
At the time, he needed to do what he needed to do in order to get
himself back on track. He didn’t need to break his personal record. He
needed to find a way to survive.
This is the creed we live by as athletes. I can’t count the number of
times I’ve heard lifters ask, “How long will this one take?” as they’re
being carted off to the operating room with serious injuries. This is
the attitude that most athletes bring to their sport, and it’s why you
see great lifts and great plays made on television every night. These
magic moments don’t happen in the best of times. They happen during adversity. Think of it this way—we all know that when you strain
in the gym, you get stronger. If a weight is light and easy, you don’t
strain. Why should life be any different?
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John eventually came back to bench 500 lbs, and I honestly think it
was because he grew stronger from each adversity he faced. The
last thing you want to hear when you’re at your lowest point is to keep
your head up. You don’t want to hear that things happen for a reason,
that things will be okay, or that you can “beat this” if you stay strong.
It’s all bull, and you know it.
When you’re at rock bottom, you don’t want to hear that stuff. What do
they know about your pain as they stand there all happy and content?
They don’t know anything about what you’re going through. Remember though, you’ve said the same things to other people because
you’ve been there.
Just take the first baby step and decide to survive. Embrace the pain
for what it is. We’re given this emotion for a reason, otherwise we
wouldn’t have it. Understand why you have pain, and figure out what
you can learn from it.
You may have to change. You may not have to change. It all depends
on how bad the pain is, but if you find yourself dealing with the same
pains over and over again, there’s only one person to blame. You’ll
find him in the mirror.
Matt Dimel
I first met Matt Dimel at the Mountaineer Cup powerlifting meet in
1988. Matt was a back spotter at the meet, and he offered me some
great tips while I was on the platform. At the time, Matt was one of
the best super heavyweight lifters in the world, and one of the best
squatters who’d ever lived. Between the bench press and the deadlift,
I asked Matt for some training advice in the warm-up room. He sat
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down with me for close to a half hour, and he answered every question I asked. Before I left, he gave me his phone number and told me
to call him if I had any more questions.
Over the next few years, I called Matt several times and traveled to
Columbus, Ohio, frequently to train with him. He was one of the main
reasons I moved to Columbus after graduating from the University
of Toledo. I looked up to Matt because of his considerable training
knowledge and experience in the gym. He was a great lifter, but he
also knew how to coach other lifters and make them better. He had
one of the best training bellows I’ve ever heard, and it was always a
great session when Matt was there.
When I moved to Columbus, Matt took the time to show me around
the town. He helped get me on my feet, and he bought me more than
a few meals. Matt knew we were barely making ends meet, but he
didn’t want me to ever feel like I shouldn’t come to breakfast with the
guys because I couldn’t afford it. Matt, over the years, became more
than just a training partner. He became a friend.
I used to drive to Louie Simmons’ house every Sunday morning,
and from there, we’d pick up Matt, drive to breakfast, and then go to
the gym for our Sunday dynamic bench session. This was probably
Louie’s way of making sure we all made it to the workout, but I didn’t
mind. I always looked forward to the jokes, the training information,
and the drama we’d have each trip. These trips were like clockwork
every Sunday. We’d train at the same time, in the same place, with
the same people, and for the same sets and reps. These were great
training sessions.
One Sunday, as I got into Louie’s Trooper, Louie turned and said,
“Matt died yesterday.” At first, I thought he was joking, but I realized
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that he wasn’t. I was shocked, but I felt worse for Louie because he’d
known and trained with Matt for close to three decades. I honestly
didn’t know what to say. I was sitting next to someone who had to feel
like he’d just lost a son. To this day, I don’t remember a word that was
said as we drove to breakfast and then sat there and ate with one
empty seat.
I think I only ate one slice of toast. Seven or eight of the strongest lifters in the world sat silent, and not one of us knew what to say. I think
we all would rather have gone home and simply called it a day. Matt
was like family to us, and his loss hurt. It hurt bad. No death comes
without peripheral pain, but Matt was in the prime of his life. Now, he
was gone. Just one week prior, he’d pulled a PR out of the power rack
in the deadlift. Now, he was gone.
We all somehow managed to make it to the gym. We probably just did
it out of habit. As we piled into the gym, put on our Jack’s Blue Heat,
and started to warm up, somebody said something about sending a
“Roll Call to Matt.” We put on AC/DC’s Back in Black, and the entire
dynamic of the gym changed. I don’t think anyone slacked off on a
single rep. Every set was performed with everything we had. There
was no way the barbells could have moved faster that day. The air
seemed thinner, the music louder, the bars more flimsy, the chalk
damper, and the weights lighter. Matt may have been gone, but he
wasn’t far away.
Our pain became his final gift to us.
Dave Tate
“Some people are afraid of what they might find
if they try to analyze themselves too much, but
you have to crawl into your wounds to discover
where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the
cleansing can begin.”
—Tori Amos
“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
—Bertrand Russell
“What man does not understand, he fears; and
what he fears, he tends to destroy.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the
judgment that something else is more important
than fear.”
—Ambrose Redmoon
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Dave Tate
fear |fi(ə)r|
1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or
some thing is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat: Drivers are
threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabbie’s murder. | fear of
increasing unemployment. | He is prey to irrational fears.
2. archaic, a mixed feeling of dread and reverence: the love and fear of
3. (fear for) a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or
the safety and well-being of someone: Police launched a search for
the family amid fears for their safety.
4. the likelihood of something unwelcome happening: She could
observe the other guests without too much fear of attracting
Slough of Despondency
In April 2008, I was weighed down by troubles with a personal relationship. This really brought me down. My emotional state at the time
was nearly incapacitating, and it was all I could do to soldier on with
both the business and my training. I was really, really depressed. Like
the pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress, I was going through the Slough of
Years ago, I watched an interview with author and philosopher, Mortimer Adler. He observed that, as we go through life, “all of us are
going to get a good dose of pain at one time or another.” The question
becomes one of how we deal with this when it happens.
I’m sure you’ve realized by now that I’m a strong advocate of positive
thinking. I believe the power of a person’s will can accomplish great
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things. At the very least, I’ve always believed that most adversity in
life can be overcome by taking charge of events and making whatever
changes are necessary to eliminate negative consequences.
Of course, this method is contingent upon an ability to distance
yourself emotionally from problems in order to solve them rationally.
Understandably, this isn’t always easy to do because human beings
are a complex fusion of powerful emotions. These emotions combine
inside of us with the ability to reason, but it’s often unclear which side
will predominate in all situations.
Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes, and you have little or no
control over much of it. You can be swallowed up in an earthquake
or caught in a fire. You can develop a terminal illness, be thrown into
prison unjustly, or be executed by a political tyrant. You can be born
into a family with abusive parents who can leave you physically and
emotionally scarred for years to come.
There’s little we can do about events that are beyond our control, but
we can learn from them, become stronger, and go on to prevail another day—even if prevailing simply means learning what not to do.
Most things happen to us in life because of the choices we make,
not because of unforeseen misfortunes. Which career path do I want
to follow? Whom do I want to marry? Do I want to invest money in a
business or in the stock market? Do I want to train hard? All of these
decisions will have a major impact on our lives. At the time we make
them, we think the decisions we make are the right ones. In hindsight,
however, we’ll find out that many are wrong, and that’s where the
trouble begins.
Dave Tate
When the inevitable problems arise, most people react by assigning
blame. They’ll point the finger at other people or outside events. This
is a copout, and it’s a poor attempt at trying to deflect personal responsibility by exercising self-deception.
If our poor choices result in trouble for ourselves, assigning the blame
in another direction is dishonest. It rarely works, because underneath
everything we still know that we’re at fault.
As I said earlier, my past feelings of depression involved a relationship. This was the first time in my life that I faced a situation in which
the outcome was uncertain because I had no control over the other
person’s behavior. In the past, I’d always been able to control events
and my responses to them.
These feelings of uncertainty and unknown consequences filled me
with fear. I dreaded the outcome. I felt helpless because I believed I
was powerless to influence events. I felt like I was facing certain death
without knowing when or how the final hour would come.
We’ve all heard the line from the psalm a thousand times—“Yea
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
evil.” In my case, the evil I had to confront was uncertainty. Despite
everything I’d ever been through in life, this was the biggest obstacle
I’d ever had to face. To me, uncertainty felt like a death sentence.
What could I do? There was a persistent, gnawing pain in the pit of
my stomach. I was waiting on someone else’s decision, so the result
was constantly in doubt. I felt like a dead man walking, going through
the motions of my daily life, my heart not in any of them. The more I
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brooded about things, the worse they became. I felt entirely hopeless
in the presence of my uncertainty.
We can struggle with our other enemies—pain, suffering, disease, or
injury—but strength and courage can’t always overcome fear, especially when you feel like you’ve been handed an emotional death
sentence. In desperation, I sought the counsel of others. It helped to
unload my burden on people who could commiserate with me, offer
suggestions, or help provide a sense of direction. As I said before, I
felt as though I was looking into the gates of hell, and I needed all the
support I could get.
After weeks of stumbling around in a trance, I finally came to a resolution that pulled me out of the abyss. Up to that point, it seemed like
my entire life had been spent overcoming difficulties. I dealt with bullies, I rose above low expectations, and I’d rebounded from business
failures. Having come this far in life, I wasn’t about to admit failure.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said seventy-five years ago, the only
thing I had to fear was fear itself. I was paralyzed by fear because
I knew I couldn’t control events. This was my Achilles’ heel. It was
my ultimate test. Once I understood the fact that my depression was
caused by my fear of a negative outcome and an emotional meltdown,
I was finally able to free myself of its grip.
I learned a valuable lesson over these difficult weeks. In many unpleasant situations, a person’s ability to break the hold that his emotions have over his thoughts will dictate how he will emerge—either
wiser and stronger or weaker and defeated. As the weeks went by, I
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achieved perhaps my most important personal victory. I had defeated
uncertainty, the last obstacle that could hold me back in life.
I understood then that I had within me the power to blast out all
thoughts of defeat in order to lift myself above most difficult situations,
including this one. Once I’d realized I could conquer my fears, I knew
I had more power over my emotions than I’d thought previously. I realized that no matter how bad a situation might get, I could control how
I reacted, accepted, and dealt with uncertainty. No matter how events
unfold, I know I’m still alive and that life will go on.
Once I was able to control my emotions and keep them from consuming me, I literally bounced back to my normal disposition and my daily
activities. The difficulties in the personal relationship dissolved, and it
was restored to its former strength and then some.
I’m telling you all of this because I’d be a hypocrite if I tried to pretend
that I “have it all figured out.” I’ve always been about personal growth,
personal responsibility, and achievement. Through lessons I’ve
learned from lifting, I believe my purpose in life is to help turn underperformers into overachievers. My goal is to take average talents and
make them extraordinary, to build confidence and character, and to
make the strong stronger.
Based on my experiences, I know that if you can control your fears,
separate perception and emotion from reality, trust yourself, develop
self-discipline, and make the necessary sacrifices, you can achieve
anything you desire. Believe it.
Raising the Bar
Dave Tate
I’ve saved this for the final chapter because I think it’s the most important aspect of any and all success, whether it’s sports, business, or relationships. This has been a very challenging chapter for me to write.
Passion, like love, is difficult to define. It’s hard to prove that it even
exists. You’ll notice that I haven’t added a dictionary definition or
quotes in this chapter. The reason for this is simple. Passion to one
person is not the same as it is to another. It can be a very positive asset to have, but it can also be a curse. It’s a double-edged sword that
can lead you to a wonderful, fulfilled life or a life filled with distress.
In writing this book, I’ve relied on many people for support, references,
and ideas. These people helped guide me, they picked what stories
to use, they explained why others should be pulled, and they provided
reassurance that I was doing the right thing when some of the material got too personal or took me too far out of my comfort zone.
Not long into the writing of this book, I sent out the following email to a
handful of people I trust and respect for their personal values as well
as for their values in business and in training:
“If you think of a value I should hit, let me know.”
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Mike Szudarek sent me the following email the next day:
“There’s one I thought of that I really believe is important, if not key.
It’s passion. You can’t be successful at anything if you don’t like what
you do. By the same token, you can’t be a great lifter if you aren’t passionate about it. I know this sounds obvious, but it isn’t.
See, with relationships, you can date someone, spend time together,
get along, and put effort into it, but you’ll never stay with that person
unless you’re passionate about them. I’ve seen lifters flounder and
then, all of a sudden, find an activity like triathlons or whatever and
become incredible at it. Ironically enough, they’re usually better built
for lifting. The only difference is that they’re passionate about the new
In order to succeed professionally, you first have to ask yourself if
you’re truly passionate about whatever business or job you’re in. If
not, the first step is to find something you love doing. The other values
essential for success will follow.
There are many people who lift weights because their friends do it or
because their father does it and maybe they’re just mediocre. Is this
really their passion? Don’t try to be successful at something unless
you’re passionate about it. It’s impossible to do it any other way.
I know that this sounds simple but look around at all the people you
come in contact with. Ask yourself if these people are passionate
about what they do. If they’re not, why aren’t they? Tally up how many
people are passionate and how many aren’t. I’ll bet you’ll find maybe
one or two in ten actually are.
Dave Tate
If you’re passionate about something, success is possible if you follow
or have those other traits. If you’re not passionate, however, you’re
done and dead before you ever get out of the gate. Even if you hit all
of the other values that success requires, you’ll never be all you can
I agreed with all of this, and I already knew I’d cover passion in the
final chapter of the book. I was really looking for more though. After
thinking about it for a few days, I sent this email back to Mike:
“I think I’ve got it. Define love. Better yet, prove to me that it exists.
Show me the scientific proof. Passion is the same as love. It can’t be
taught. It’s there or it isn’t. All we can do is tell people that it’s okay to
run with it and trust it. Like love, it can and will misguide us because
it’s so emotionally charged, but this is why it can make you happy.
This is the ultimate example of blast and dust. It’s heaven and hell.
What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. It’s also the ultimate
risk because you’re placing all your faith on your gut instincts and only
you can be responsible for the outcome. The gym can enhance this,
but it has to be there before people even walk in the door. Despite
everything, they still walk in and try to fill a void. Something brought
them there in the first place. What was it? What was it that brought us
Not long after I wrote that, I heard back from Mike. This exchange led
to him becoming my sounding board for this chapter:
“Bingo! That’s perfect. It’s completely true, especially the emotional/
misguided/risk part. That’s a billion percent true. If it works out, you’re
on cloud nine kicking butt and taking names. If it fails, you’re depressed and you feel like nothing.”
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This still wasn’t enough for me. I had to dig deeper. I had to try to find
some sort of guiding force or common theme.
For example, take two people who both have the same background
and education. One is successful and the other isn’t. Sure, it’s possible to say that one has more passion than the other, but is the level of
passion not high enough with the unsuccessful one? Is there a scale
of passion and success? How do you know if your passion is strong
I sent Mike another email:
“Okay, we know a lot of lifters who aren’t successful, but why aren’t
they? There has to be some value, or lack thereof, that’s holding
them back. This may not be the same with all of them, but I’ll bet it’s
the same thing with the majority of them. Also, why do some strength
sports seem to have different demographics than others? In some,
competitors are known for helping each other out at competitions
while in others, there’s no communication at all and lots of backstabbing. Why is this? This question has been driving me crazy for two
days now.”
This must have struck a chord with Mike because it wasn’t long at all
before I received his response:
“Here’s my theory. Some sports are more accepted in the mainstream.
Some guys can train at a commercial gym while others can train
alone. It doesn’t necessarily require crazy bars, monolifts, bands,
chains, or boxes. In some sports, it doesn’t matter as much if you
have a bad workout or you’re not into it that day. One strength sport
is rooted in looking good. Let’s be honest here. A guy wants to get
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some beach muscles for the ladies. A few years later, he gets serious.
After a few more years, he looks like he’s ready for GQ. Or one of the
muscle magazines inspires him, and he enters a bodybuilding show
for the hell of it and does well.
Self-improvement is the root of this, but it’s in a “Hey world look at
me!” kind of way. Think about it. Some people in sports have huge
egos. These egos are also why they won’t accept being a middle
manager. They have to be a vice president because the other people
in the company can’t possibly be as smart as them, right?
Other strength sports are havens for misfits. You can take some dude
with an entry-level job who’s been rejected his whole life and he’d
want to withdraw from society or from the mainstream. This isn’t so
much about the sport itself but about the personal comfort level of the
person who gets involved.
Think about it. Someone who doesn’t like to be around others and just
wants to be left alone to do his work isn’t likely to want to oil up and go
on stage. Meanwhile, someone who’s drawn to the challenge of being
shredded won’t care about lifting stones or a clean and jerk. Some of
these sports all become their own special kind of cult where you can
be with people like yourself. It’s also a place to hide and withdraw
from the real world. They have different internal motivations.
Guys are attracted to one sport because it’s a 24/7 badge and visual
indicator of how dedicated they are and how much they care about
their body. Guys are attracted to other sports because it’s a place to
withdraw from the norm and be with others who share the same desires. This is no different from when a guy wonders if he should join a
motorcycle gang or a fraternity.”
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I replied:
“Yes, but why do they drift one way or the other? What makes people
want to withdraw? For me, it was a lack of self-esteem and significance, but I found that in the gym.
Could this be the reason for everyone else? I know everyone has a
different story, but what’s the common theme? Or isn’t there one?”
We talked on the phone about this as well, going back and forth on
different values and why we thought people drift toward bodybuilding, powerlifting, football, wrestling, or other sports. While neither of
us has formally studied the subject, we’ve spent more than fifty years
combined around strength sports, and we’ve both known hundreds of
lifters representing all disciplines. Each sport seems to draw a different personality type, but they also share many of the same traits, too.
We both know people in all sports who are very passionate about
what they do. We know people who’ve been very successful. We also
know others who’ve had success despite being nowhere near as passionate. Some people have been able to take this passion into other
areas of their lives while others we’ve known have managed to turn
their lives into a living hell.
When we were finished, I was really no further along with this than
when I’d started but then it hit me. I knew what I needed to do to finish
this book. I knew how I was going to explain the power of passion. I’m
going to do it with a letter to my boys, who as of this writing are now
four and six years of age.
This letter is about what I feel is the most important value in life.
Dave Tate
To My Boys,
Throughout your life, people are going to tell you what you can and
can’t do. When you’re down, there will be people willing to lend you a
hand. Some of them will be the first to push you back down as soon
as they feel your position is better than theirs. There will be people
you trust who will stab you in the back. Everyone will want to see you
do well when you begin a project, but as you succeed, this number
will drop drastically.
People will embrace you for your passion, but they’ll curse you for it,
too. They’ll say you’re a “sellout,” that you no longer care, and that
you’ve changed. You’ll find that everyone wants to be successful by
having someone else do things for them. If you become successful on
your own, they’ll say it’s not the work that you did but the fact that it
“came easy” to you.
The fact of the matter is that you won’t be the one who changed. They
will. You’ll know who did the work and who didn’t. You’ll know the
pleasure and pain associated with following your passion.
How do I know this? Because as a father, it’s my job to live, learn, and
pass this information on to you.
As you’ve read in this book, life is not easy for anyone. For one person to think their pain is greater than another’s is foolish. To feel that
your pain alone is reason for others to step up and give you sympathy or charity is also foolish. Sitting idle waiting for what you deserve
will bring you a life of relying on others for success and happiness.
Nobody cares about your problems, excuses, or reasons why you
can’t do something. People have their own problems to contend with.
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Believe me—your success isn’t among them. This may sound like I’m
painting a terrible world filled with uncertainty and unhappiness. Truth
is, it can be. In reality, though, it doesn’t have to be.
You’ll experience pain, setbacks, and roadblocks that you feel you
can’t overcome. You’ll be tested in every conceivable way, and you’ll
have times when you feel that you’re all alone and that nobody else
understands. You’ll have pain that you feel is the worst you could possibly ever have. Years later, you’ll think this pain is nothing compared
to what you’re dealing with now.
This can either cut you to pieces and make life a living hell or it can
help you live a life of fulfillment and happiness. The choice is yours!
Read that again. This is up to you. Nobody needs to come and save
the day for you. Don’t expect anyone to do that.
The day is created by your actions, and it’s your actions that move
you forward or backward. I wrote earlier in this book about turning
crap into gold. Your experiences will be defined in whatever way you
want to define them. You can dwell on how bad things are, or you can
find the lesson and move on.
So, where does this take us now? What is the purpose of this letter?
I want you to know and understand the number one quality I think you
need for success and happiness and that’s passion. However, this is
where things can get complicated.
Passion is what you feel for what you desire the most. It’s what you
want to do with all your heart. Passion will drive you to work twice as
hard as the next guy to accomplish your goal. Passion will make you
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immune to critics. It’ll provide you with a life of loving what you do. Be
careful though. Passion can become so obsessive that you’ll cut off
everyone you know, and you’ll be tempted to do things that go against
your values. It will overtake your entire life to the point where you no
longer know who you are. It can make you lose touch with reality, and
it can destroy your life. The thing you desire most could very well be
the same thing that ruins you.
Like they do with love, some people avoid passion for these reasons
alone. Some people think it’s better not to take the risk because all
they can see is the pain of their potential failure. This is also why
some people will fight you when you try to follow your passion. They
won’t want to see you get hurt.
Life is a stopwatch that’s ticking backward toward death. I know this
sounds grim, but we all get caught up in things that ruin and waste our
precious and limited time here on earth. We obsess all day long about
such small things in our lives. Did the dog crap yet? When will she
call? Why is my computer broken? Why did I miss a workout? Why is
my shirt ruined? These things distract us from living our lives and from
being happy and normal. When you’re passionate about something,
you’re able to separate things. It gives you a sanctuary in which to collect yourself.
I’ve always had the gym during tough times. When things have happened, I’ve gone within my “steel walls,” intuitively collected my
thoughts, and found peace. This may happen for you through reading.
Or snowboarding. Or playing golf. Who knows?
When you’re down and out, you can’t just decide to “go fishing” and
expect the act of fishing to be your temple or your savior. Unless
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you’re passionate about fishing, it won’t work. Passion is the only
thing that can simultaneously give you comfort and help you deal with
As a parent, I’m fully aware that there may come a time where I’m the
one standing in the way of your passion for the very reasons I’ve just
presented. For parents, this is where things are very complicated. I
will do my best for you because I don’t want you to experience the
same pain that I did, but I also need to remember that it was my mistakes, failures, and pain that define who I am now. Why should this be
any different for you? This is a harsh reality, and it’s one that keeps
me awake at night. How will I protect you while at the same time not
keep you from embracing your passion?
Right now, one of you is into exercise and the other is into video
games. Will these things become your life’s passion? Or are these
just phases that will go away with time? You’ve both been passionate about blankets, trains, race cars, drawing, running, swimming,
and many other things. As the years go by, there will be many other
things. How am I to know what will become so engrained in your spirit
that you feel it’s your calling in life to pursue? How will I know when
this will happen? Will I support it? Or will I be a critic? Will I drive you
toward it or try to pull you away?
I can’t get these questions out of my mind because I’m not you. I’m a
part of you, and I want to see you get as much out of life as you can,
but in reality, I’m not you. All I can do is offer some advice based on
what I’ve found to be effective in my life. This is easy to say but not so
easy to do.
1. Base your decisions on the values you respect the most.
Dave Tate
2. If you feel passionate about something, give it all you have plus
more. The “plus more” part will be easy because you’ll love what you
do. If this doesn’t turn out to be what you expected, it won’t be because you didn’t give it your best shot.
3. Experience as much as you can. Don’t let others dictate your path
in life. See what’s out there and determine things for yourself.
4. Don’t ever feel like anyone owes you anything. The bottom line is
that you get what you work for. You may not have the same tools or
education as the next person, but this doesn’t mean you can’t still do
it better. If you take pride in the work you do, you’ll never have regrets
or need excuses.
5. Don’t become so obsessed with your passion that you forget about
the people around you. You can’t experience true happiness without
sharing the experience and having others feel just as good about it as
you do. There are many things you can do alone, but to succeed and
have nobody to share it with is a life of selfishness and loneliness. Life
is not what we get but what we give. True passion is about giving, not
Think about it this way—when things get really tough in life and you’re
really down and out, you don’t need to get wasted or engage in other
kinds of “escapes.” Passion is where you go to find relief and comfort
and deal with your problems. It’s not where you go to escape them. If
you alienate others with your passion, it won’t be your sanctuary anymore because it’ll be all that you have. It won’t be special anymore.
As I sit here and watch you both sleep, I wonder what you’ll become. I
wonder what gifts you have to offer the world and whether I’ll be there
Raising the Bar
to share in your experience. I pray every day that I am, but if for some
reason I’m no longer part of your lives, I leave you these words—“Find
and share your passion.”
And know I will be looking down, just as proud of you then as I am
Dave Tate
About the Author
Dave Tate is the founder and CEO
of Elite Fitness Systems, a company dedicated to providing strength
coaches, athletes, and trainers with
the highest-quality equipment, personalized service, and extensive
knowledge needed to advance their
training programs.
He has been involved with powerlifting for more than two and a half
decades as a world-class participant, coach, and consultant. He has
logged more than 10,000 hours of personal training and strength consulting sessions with professional, elite, and novice athletes as well
as with professional and university strength coaches. He holds Elite
status in powerlifting (in three weight classes) with best lifts of a 935lb squat, a 740-lb deadlift, a 610-lb bench press, and a 2,205-lb total.
Through Elite Fitness Systems, Dave has conducted hundreds of
influential seminars and clinics nationwide for gyms, training centers,
schools and universities. He has written more than 100 articles on
strength training for magazines and web sites, including Powerlifting
USA, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health and T-Nation.com. This athleteentrepreneur earned a Lifetime Achievement award in 2005 from the
Society for Weight Training Specialists. As a business adviser, motivational speaker and author, he shows how athletic disciplines teach
valuable lessons for overall achievement.
Dave lives with his family in London, Ohio.