Tag Archives: perseverance

In The Grind

I’ve known a few different people in my life who have been stuck in health situations you wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Situations that would make even the most stouthearted people you’ve known droop their heads in despair.  There is nothing pretty, glamorous or glitzy to be found for someone pushing through those kinds of life moments – not surprising, of course.  They don’t do jazzy MTV reality shows about people battling leukemia.

But when I’ve looked at the way they’ve braved their way through those situations, I’ve always come away with a mixed bag of feelings that take me some time to sort out.  There is the inevitable sadness and questioning of why something so awful could possibly happen to someone so good.  There is the fleeting feelings of “Will they get better? Will they pull through?”  I feel really thankful that any of these notions (at least for me) were, in fact, fleeting and quickly replaced with a determined answer of “Damn straight they’ll get better.”

The most profound feeling I tend to have is a blended sense of pride in the dignity with which they carried themselves, admiration for their bravery and a very dedicated notion that I have absolutely nothing to complain about in my own life.  I mean, how could I?  Even the worst moments of my day are so thin and pale compared to even some of the best parts of their day.  The worst day you could possibly have in the office will simply melt in the face of the best day of someone with chemo.  It makes you get your mind right… and quickly.

Now here is what I find amazing about those in that fight: the people outside of the fight will see their courage, bravery and utter determination to fight through someone awful.  There is incredible heroism in it all.  But you know what?  Anyone going through that fight never sees it that way until maybe much, much later, when they have pulled through and the dust has settled… and probably not even then.

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When they are in the grind, there is nothing heroic to feel in that moment.  Just a push to get better.  A push to not feel like everything is crashing down.  A push for the next moment to feel better than the last one.  How heroic would you feel if you were stuck in a moment like that?  Not very.

It is only to those who stand outside and watch with terror and awe that it can be that way.

But this is why it’s so important to understand this feeling of pushing through those dark moments: When we have our own difficult journeys or life challenges, most of us will never feel as if there is some noble purpose to it all.  We are hyper-fixated on the fact that the moments sucks, we hate it and we just want to be through with it as fast as possible.  However, if we can have just a flash of inspiration in those dark times, a point of self-realization that our moment is actually an opportunity for us to show our mettle… then we have something good and real, even when stuck in the muck.

It reminds me of something I read recently where we shouldn’t pray for help, but should pray for challenges with which to prove ourselves.  Clearly no one is going to pray for a grave disease or the loss of a job or something like that.  Let’s not turn this into some kind of insane gauntlet of masochistic self-discovery.  But the perseverance of those who have gone through REAL hardships and have come through with grace and class have shown me that as bad as I may feel in the grind, there is always, always, always potential meaning to it for me.

The part that requires strength is accepting that fact, even when I am on my knees, broken and wishing it would all end.  That’s why the inspiration of those I’ve seen push through it before drive me.  And fight on, I will.

Antonio Banderas – World’s Greatest Strength Coach

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Antonio Banderas. Acclaimed actor. Handsome fella. Totally sweet name that is ridiculously fun to say. Great accent. World’s greatest strength coach.

Wait… what?

Oh you read that right. World’s greatest strength coach.  Oh you want me to actually explain that to you?  Really?  Man, we are getting soft as a society when I have to spoon-feed y’all the obvious… but I will indulge your need to be coddle just this one time.

A few years back I was watching one of the various news magazine programs like 60 Minutes or Dateline: NBC and Mr. Banderas was on being interviewed.  He’s actually a pretty interesting, thoughtful guy, but it was one thing he said that really caught me and stuck with me until today.  I cannot find the exact quote, but to paraphrase he said (and please imagine it in his kick-ass Spanish accent), “People today seem to live their lives where they expect to have this kind of orgasmic joy in every single moment.  That if they are not happy every single moment, something is wrong.  I want to actually have moments of up’s and also the downs and the sadness.  That’s part of life and I think not having those sad moments makes you worse off as a human being.”

And yes, he really did use the word “orgasmic” when describing the kind of joy some people feel they should have every day in every moment they experience.

Every person who engages in strength training I think can actually benefit from the point he is making.  Lifting in the gym is never going to be that kind of “orgasmic” experience where every single repetition feels like you could hold the world like Atlas.  You won’t set PRs every single session and sometimes, you will actually do worse than you did before.  Sometimes you will be flat or tired or unfocused.  It simply is going to happen.  If you somehow expect this to be otherwise, then you are in for an utterly frustrating training career and please accept my sympathies now… except if you truly felt this way, I’m really not going to be sympathetic to your plight.

There is actually true value to those low moments where you push through and find out about yourself.  OK, so you didn’t crush out a 10 lb. personal record.  Did you still push yourself as best you could despite feel off or like crap?  How will you plan going forward?  Will you be thoughtful about why things went poorly and try to address those things you have some control over?  Or will you curl up in the fetal position so you can rock back and forth while muttering, “Can’t be happening… can’t be happening… find my happy place… happy place…”?

Nobody wants the moments of coming up short, but since you are going to have them anyway, it’s best to get at least something positive out of them.

That’s what Antonio Banderas would do… he’s the world’s greatest strength coach.