Tag Archives: intelligence

The Smartest Guy in the Room (And That Room Is A Gym)

Every time I train, I’m the smartest guy in the gym.  By far.  It’s really not a debatable point.OK sure, so I train by myself in the basement, but my original assertion stands just fine on its own.

I’ve long tried to approach my gym training with a sense of purpose and direction about what I am looking to accomplish.  I’ve tried to be focused on the fact that I have my own goals and it doesn’t mean anything whatever everyone else’s goals are.  Isn’t that the point?

2013-09-20 19.35.16-1And in theory, this should all work out exceptionally well as the smartest guy in that room I use for my training.  Who else is there to distract me?  No one is coming up to chat with me.  There aren’t any charming young lasses batting their eyelashes in my general direction.  I don’t see someone else’s routine and think “Aww damn it all… I totally should be doing that.”

Hence, look at me!  Focused!  Driven!  Handsome and charismatic.  No seriously… look at me.  That’s a whole lot of sexy man right there and he wants to know how YOU doin’?  I mean… damn.

Umm… wait, where was I again?  Ahh yes, the distraction free life in my home gym.

Guess what?  In the last few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate how easily distractions can creep in anyway… and it’s all about the bench press.

The bench press is one of those lifts that, regardless of your lifting experience, you know what it is.  It’s sort of the strength benchmark for casual conversations with most people.  When people ask me about lifting and such, it’s not usually how much I squat and it’s not how much I deadlift (two lifts that I ‘m good at and care about for a multitude of reasons).

Nope… everyone wants to know “HOW MUCH YA BENCH???”

But beyond that, the bench press is also one of the classic “big lifts” for powerlifting (squat, bench and deadlift) and for most serious routines around.  It’s also a lift that is technically demanding, requires a lot of time to improve… and can screw up your shoulders.

As my shoulders of late have felt pummeled by this vaunted lift, the question finally hit me like a ton of bricks:

“OK, smartest guy in the room… why DO you bench press?”

I don’t ever plan on competing in powerlifting.

It seems to do me more harm than good.

But… but… how will I know how strong I am?

And that last point is when I realized why I still benched – because my benchmark (pun so FULLY intended) is a lift I can compare myself to others on.  Not a lift that I just need to get stronger at or which has excellent carry-over to other athletic pursuits… but one that I could relate to the strength of others.

That’s when the smartest guy in my home gym decided to make a change this past week and ditch the bench press.  Oh, fear not, fellow meatheads… I will be doing other kinds of compound pressing lifts that focus on the chest.  Just not regular straight bar bench press.

Even when you’re all alone… even when you think you have a firm grasp on your own individuality and why you do things… never forget how easy it is to let the slow creep of comparison invade.  Vigilance in repelling this interloper in the night is crucial.

Because even the smartest guy in the room can miss the whole damn point.

The Intelligence of Hard Work

Certain things in life will always stick out in your mind, irrespective of when they happened.  I’ve never been able to figure out why I remember certain things or events with the utmost clarity and yet can’t remember at all something from the day before.  Whatever flips that switch, I have no idea, but it would be cool to find out more about it.  In that vein, I always remember a conversation I had with a few guys in college, I think around my junior year.

I had the reputation for being the studious one and probably with good reason.  I never skipped a class in my entire college career… except for one time… and that was so I could do work for a different class.  It was just how I operated since I was very single-minded in my focus to get the best possible grades to help me get into the best possible law school.  Anyway, the topic of grades, studying and intelligence came up and two of these guys said to me, “You know, Kuz… it’s not that you’re really any smarter than either of us.  It’s just that you study more.  I’m sure if we studied that much we would do just as well.”

Even today, some 19 years later, that STILL makes me laugh and shake my head in disbelief, for the simple reason that it’s just a cop-out for being mediocre.

Sound harsh?  Perhaps… but it’s something I continue to see or hear about today in a variety of contexts.

“Well, I would look as good as Sally if I spent that much time in the gym and was that strict about my eating…”

“Sure, Larry is moving up in the company… but hell, I could do that if I was a workaholic like him…”

Now, if you are comfortable with who you are, please don’t let me try and convince you to be otherwise.  It’s really not my place and I’m a firm believer that each of us has the freedom to pursue whatever path in life brings us the greatest happiness and inner joy, provided that walking such path doesn’t harm others around you.

2010-08-04 20.25.02

But I can’t believe the extent to which people will shake off the commitment, drive and passion of others as being seemingly nothing and if they worked as hard as that person, they would be in the same place.  Here’s the problem with that thinking: If you don’t put in that work, you’re just not the same.  You’re not… and no amount of patting yourself on the back with notions of “If I only did X…” will change that… unless you starting doing whatever X may be.  This is a line of argument that places some vague, hazy notion of “potential” far above working to get someplace.  Potential… in the end… is more of a nice notion and all it means, in the end, is something great that has not been fulfilled as of yet.

Potential is a great thing to have… but only for a very, very small window.  Hanging onto potential too long just becomes a disappointing case of “What could have been…”

None of us has to be like gym rat and diet freak like Sally or work-’round-the-clock like Larry.  We each get our choices and if you choose a different path, more power to you.  I am in full support of that with all my heart.

But the point at which we seek to tear down those who have chosen their own path with notions that we could each reach that too it IF ONLY… then we not only discredit their passion (a horrible act in my book), but we also look to soothe ourselves with a balm of settling for mediocre and explaining it away as if it were acceptable because we could easily get to that place too.  That’s justifying something average.

I don’t come at any of this from a place of cockiness or arrogance – just from knowing that nothing good is achieved or worthwhile without some hard work to get there.  I am far from perfect and would never, ever describe myself as the purest paragon never-ending, ceaseless hard work… but I do work pretty hard for what I believe in.

Remember… the crime is not in picking your own path, but in making that of another who pursues theirs with drive seem like something anyone could do.  I’ve caught myself in this trap a few times before, but with some awareness now, I will battle hard never to do it again.

“We could get your grades, Kuz, if we just studied as much as you do…”  But they didn’t.  And hard work is an intelligence all its own.

On Being Smart and Pacing Your Passion

So I am doing my utmost right now to actually be smart. I know, I know… why start something so radically different for myself now? Isn’t it a little late to show up to that party?  Probably, but I’m also a crazy dreamer.

My decision to engage the rational and logical parts of my brain for a change (as opposed to the parts enamored with XBox, muscle cars and the supreme hilarity of Tosh.0) stems from a bit of a setback in my training program.  A few weeks back I was absolutely ROLLING.  Things seemed so free and easy and new records (at least on several on my important lifts) were coming almost every week.

Heck, I even was able to reach one of my all-time goals of hitting a 500 lb. squat.  I have video of it, but I am debating about putting it up just yet.  Why?  Because once I finish the set and realize what I just accomplished, I lose my collective mind like an utter fool.  In a positive way.

Ahh… but what cometh before the fall, my children?  Pride, of course.  I just hit a 500 lb squat!  Who knows what mountain was there to conquer next and yield to my steely will and chiseled handsomeness?  So I kept pushing at the same pace… umm… and I decided I should try to get ready for soccer… and I started sprinting a few times a week… and hey, wouldn’t it be great to be a little leaner too?  Yeah, yeah… throw that into the mix… plus the utter hectic pace of work.

Whether you realize it or not, everything I just outlined is a recipe, but not a recipe for some kind of completely decadent pumpkin cheesecake of goodness.  Oh, tut-tut my friends.  That would be crazy talk.  No, this recipe would be more like a steaming 5 lb. ball of rat poop.  Deelish, n’est-ce pas?

That’s when my lifts were going down instead of up.  And while I mean that in terms of overall performance, I also mean it like “I tried squatting that weight and on my 2nd rep, the weight went down but… uhh… it didn’t go back up.  Yeah, not so much.”

And that’s when the conundrum of this site’s very motto… “Relentlessly push yourself forward”… found itself a wee bit out of sync with how I was feeling.

And therein lies the issue for so many people with passion for something: how do you sometimes pace your passion?  This is a real sticky wicket for a lot of people who are all about weight training (especially guys who have an easy time letting ego, pride and machismo get in the way of using an ounce of simple common sense).  We can be excellent at going at something full bore, but what about then easing off the throttle and collecting yourself for the next round of fun?  Hmm.  Maybe not my best quality for sure.

What's that body?  You have something important to tell me?

What it really got down to was a lack of listening to the signals my body was giving me loud and clear to chill the hell out.

Our passions move us. Drive us. Give us the chance to risk big, fail big and (hopefully) win bigger than we could ever imagine. They should… no… must be celebrated and cherished.

But it’s also OK to give them a few moments of respite so they can soak up their energy anew and burn oh-so-brightly again.  They won’t hold it against you.

You Are What You Think

Like most people who get together with school friends they don’t get the chance to see often enough, I often like to ask “Hey, who else have you kept in touch with?  How are they doing?”  I was catching up in just such a fashion not too long ago with a very good friend from law school.  Our conversation then basically became a catching-up session within a catching-up session.  Umm… huh?  Read on.

I asked him if he ran into anyone from law school and he mentioned he had recently run into a woman we both knew from school.  He said it was pretty funny because she said to him,

You know, I will never forget something Kevin said in law school.  A bunch of us were talking about what you look for in someone else when dating and I said I preferred dating men who were smarter than me.  And Kevin says, “Well, that would never work for me… I don’t know anyone smarter than I am.”

My buddy and I agreed that this story was absolutely fantastic… but partially because I 100% remember that conversation and that’s not at all what I said. HA!

University of Connecticut School of Law What I actually said was that my view of people in law school was that I never viewed my classmates as being smarter than me.  Sounds just as bad, doesn’t it?  Ahh, but what is missing is the second half of my statement and this is absolutely critical:

I didn’t think I was the necessarily THE smartest, but I refused to operate on the assumption that anyone was smarter than me.  They might have been better at some things, but I was also better at other things and so I would put myself on par with anyone.

I’m a fairly humble person, so nothing about this is being arrogant or cocky… rather, it’s a notion that in life, if you walk around thinking everyone is better than you or smarter than you or whatever… guess what?  They definitely will be.  You have just voluntarily placed yourself smack-dab in the middle of a foregone conclusion or self-fulfilling prophecy.

The converse is that while thinking you are just as good as anyone else doesn’t mean you automatically will be, at a minimum you’ve given yourself a fighting chance if nothing else.  So why close yourself off before you even get started?  That always struck me as an awful way of thinking.

Be bold and don’t sell yourself short.  That’s how paragons of good-looks like myself get by… obviously.