Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Call To Serve

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 
Martin Luther King Jr.


My value derives from my ability to serve others; coaches, athletes, administrators, students, and other human beings I encounter. The people who have helped shape me from a young boy into a young man served me and deserve the respect and appreciation. The best way I have discovered is to do this is to become the best version of myself through daily efforts to improve. Currently, I am reading a book a week and by my birthday (April 30th) I will have 15 books read. Challenging myself allows me to keep pushing the envelope. Otherwise, boredom creeps in and it’s ugly cousin depression takes over which has been a huge detriment in my life. Back to the people that served me and currently serve me.
These people from parents, mentors, friends, peers, coaches, and athletes deserve the very best from me. They have helped mold me and the talents, skills, abilities, and resources add up to something special only I can uniquely deliver. The light that shines out of me comes from these people that serve me. If I do not shine my light, that is the biggest disservice to these people and myself as well.
As I continue my journey to becoming better each day through challenges, the “end goal” is to be able to help people from the point in life they are at. So, let’s envision I am a “big wig” and have lots of influence and someone is in great need. This is the type of help I want to put into place. When someone has nothing else, nobody else, that is my cue to step in and help. From big challenges in life to small, my value resides in my ability to serve others.
Shine your light and keep hustling!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

They Did It

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

~Arnold H. Glasow

In August of 2013 I began as a "GA" for Dakota State University. I was the only strength coach but was considered a GA because of the masters program and money/reduced tuition I received. The primary teams I worked with were Football and Volleyball. These teams were marred with unsuccessful seasons. Football hadn't had a winning season since the mid 90's and the volleyball for almost 10 years.

The school had never had a strength and conditioning coach. I had never had this power either. I was fresh off an internship at the University of Northern Iowa with Jed Smith and Nick Davis (two mentors and role models I'll never forget). It was scary and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Am I ready? Is this what I really want to do with my life? All these questions continued. Not to mention, I was LIVING in the storage closet of the weight room to save money. This was not known to anyone else, save a few people. It was my choice but there were many trade-offs.

One of the biggest trade-offs/stresses was the constant "what-if" questions of people finding out. What if someone catches me sleeping here? What if the athletes find out? What if? Rarely did I have a restful nights sleep as stress was seemingly always high. I didn't go outside much as I was in the weight room literally all day and night. And when I wanted to go outside at night, I had to think of the repercussions of athletes seeing me walking back into the weight room at very odd hours of the night.

Eventually I moved out about a year later. I still don't have my own room with a door but I have a place that is my own. I don't stress when going to sleep that someone will find me. If I did, the mental hospital would be knocking at my door.

Fast forward to this past season for Football and Volleyball. I was hired as the first Strength and Conditioning Coach in Dakota State's history. Both teams were improving (physically but more importantly mentally) throughout the first year as a GA and now many things in my own life had changed for the better.

Football had their first winning season in 16 years. Volleyball had theirs in almost 10 years.

Was it ME? Did I do this? The answer is a big fat NO. I was a very small part. Outsiders will point to me as a big reason. Heck, even the athletes have done this. But I refer to Mark Watts when reflecting on this.

"If you credit your team's loss to the other team having more talent then you can't credit your team's win to the strength training program."

Why did both teams, the primary teams I spent the most time with have winning seasons for the first time in a decade? Millions of little reasons I can only assume. The athletes are the ones going out and performing. I give them the credit. Did I go out and score a touchdown? Did I hit the game winning kill? No, and I'll never take credit for the success of the teams I train.

THEY did it. I simply helped out a little each day.

Shine your Light

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons in Time

The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don't have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.
~ Chris Pine

18 months

It's been about 18 months since I started weightlifting (snatch and clean & jerk). It's also been about 18 months since deciding on becoming a Strength and Conditioning Coach. These two decisions are integral parts of my life now. 

If you are unfamiliar with weightlifting it involves two movements (snatch and the clean & jerk) where a barbell is hoisted above the head. The snatch consists of one movement while the clean & jerk has two components to it. This sport has a storied history and its roots date back to men competing to see who could pick up the heaviest objects. You have to be a little crazy to want to do this. Putting hundreds of pounds over your head is crazy in its own right but being excited about the opportunity to do it? That is what I feel when I approach the bar. But it wasn't always like that.

My mentors starting out were great teachers and men. They were fresh in the journey of becoming Strength and Conditioning Coaches but they were where I wanted to be. Teaching me how to train, they taught me things I still reflect on today. I went from squatting 300lbs and it being painful at the bottom (hip) to 4-6 weeks later hitting 429 pounds and eventually 450 pounds. They reinforced a drive I've always had to push the limits. They allowed me to shine my light by providing me with a stimulus in which to do so. While these increases in poundages were happening I also learned how to snatch and clean and jerk. My clean was more advanced than my snatch and jerk due to previous experience, however, I learned countless things throughout the process. 

1. Start where you are at not where you think you should be
Too many times we can get caught up comparing ourselves to people who are doing better than us in a given endeavor. It's vitally important to have goals and chunk them down but comparing yourself on a daily basis or habitually is a recipe for unneeded pain and anguish. Accept where you are, work ridiculously hard from that point, and be disciplined to stay the course.

2. Show up
There are days when we don't want to do what need to do. Even if these things are what we enjoy doing it can be a chore to go do them. Becoming aware of the times when it's necessary to back off and when to show up and grind through is a learning process. But it is a HUGE step in the direction of growth. 

3. Know when to stop
At a certain point progress halts. A variety of things could be the culprit but the important thing is to acknowledge. Do you need time off? Do you need to re-evaluate what you have been doing? Does a change need to be made? Putting everything on yourself instead of what you have been doing can derail you mentally. If you're working really hard and staying disciplined with great progress for a while but then a plateau occurs, it's probably not your effort. It's probably your method. And that's ok. 

4. Practice Gratitude
This is a new habit I have formed. Being undisciplined in this practice before allowed me to reflect on how well I did when I practiced this. Starting and ending the day with gratitude will take you to a whole new level. It puts things into perspective. It allows stress, momentarily to be pushed aside. And with much practice, a healthy alternative to brooding on what you don't have. 

5. Attack Weaknesses One at a Time
We all have amazing strengths that make us successful in many things. It's the weaknesses that we tend to focus on and for good reason. We want to improve! But focusing on what we don't have instead of what we do lends itself to a let down. We are not living in the now. Instead, KEEP your strengths and focus on 1 weakness at a time. Work hard at improving the weakness for 4-6 weeks and re-evaluate your progress. You'll be amazed.

6. Show Appreciation 
Appreciate yourself. Appreciate your loved ones. If you're lucky, these people will support you on your journey. 

7. Journal, Goal Writing, and Reading
Journal the days events, what you accomplished, and things you are grateful for (see #4). Successful people have goals. They also read their goals daily and visualize how to get there. Re-reading goals has been an integral part of reaching my goals. Chunking the goals down into achievable milestones and celebrating each while keeping the eye on the prize is an invaluable practice.

8. Think all you want, UNTIL the moment comes
It's easy to overthink things. Sometimes we are just going through how to do something, rehearsing if you will. But once the time comes to act there must be no thought. As Bruce Lee would say, no mind. In weightlifting it is once you step on the platform there is no thought, just swift and deliberate action.

9. Beginner's Mind: Be a White Belt
Whether you are an elite person in your field or just starting off, using the beginner's mind mentality will allow continual growth. You shut off learning when you think you know everything. Be a white belt and take it all in. You'll be surprised.

10. Do What You Love or Quit
If you don't love what you do you need to. It will take time. It may be the hardest thing you ever decide to do. But it will be worth it. Growth is impossible without getting uncomfortable. And that is what the Hero's Journey is all about. Remember we are living and not simply existing. Attack your dreamsI

In this non-inclusive list many things could be added but here at 10 lessons I've learned in the past 18 months. 

Remember to always shine your light!

Love what you do or quit!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Opportunities come every week if not every day. Some are more apparent than others. Some look more like challenges and steps backwards rather than an opportunity. Some occur after a change in status, relationship, or job. This change in status has inherent things associated with it. These things are challenges to see if you can cut it. Are you willing to do what it takes to take on this new thing? Challenges await you on your Hero’s Journey. 

When we ask for our dreams and work towards them, a lot of the time the dreams are manifested. But we give up or complain when the challenges associated with our dreams await us. Keep going! The challenges will always arise to see if you are truly worthy of the achievement associated with the dream. Your dreams are yours! Your challenges are yours! Just decide that the journey - The Hero’s Journey - is worth the pain of a few challenges. 

What is your why? 

It must be greater than the challenge.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Reaching The Threshold

Everyone who achieves success in a great venture, solves each problem as they came to it. They helped themselves. And they were helped through powers known and unknown to them at the time they set out on their voyage. They keep going regardless of the obstacles they met.

W. Clement Stone

Bumps & Bruises

Prior to this week I was incapacitated by numbness and depression. The lack of feeling and apathy overtook me. The previous 6 weeks of training caught up to me and I had overreached. The typical effects of overreaching had hit me like a train moving at hundreds of miles per hour. 

Being a coach, my energy is highly contagious. Athletes feed off of my energy. They can immediately tell when I'm low and when I'm high. It puts a big damper on my feelings towards myself when I am in the numb and depressed state. My creativity is zapped and all I can think of doing is hiding. 

The previous 6 weeks of training was intense. I broke many personal records and challenged my own ideas of the limits. My strength, work capacity, and mental toughness drastically improved. And then the train hit me. Anxiety, depression, and fear drowned my days. I felt like staying in bed and avoiding things. After a period of time, a much needed visit from my loving mother, and a few organizational changes I started fresh. 

This week was wonderful. I felt like myself, waking up excited to attack the day. My coaching was much better. My training was better than ever as I had 5 PR's in one workout. Surprising myself on a lift by doing 20 more kilograms than previously.  

And that is the yin and yang of training. The give and take. Am I at the point where I NEED to overreach to break plateaus? I'm not sure. But there may be alternative ways to break plateaus not involving the symptoms of overreaching. Or maybe there aren't and that is the beauty of life. The ups and downs of training are indicative of life and if we can overcome these plateaus by going beyond what we have previously done there will be trade-offs. And right now it seems worth it. During the suck, it doesn't seem worth it. But maybe that is training. And maybe knowing is half the battle. Selecting training around a couple weeks where I am not obligated to do a lot of things may be an alternative.


1. To break plateaus you must work ridiculously hard
2. Before the reward of breaking the plateau there will be a huge drop-off 
3. Training is indicative of life 
4. Ask yourself - Is it worth it to grow stronger?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Realize Your Opportunity & Grab It

When you do what you fear most, then you can do anything.

~Stephen Richards

Jon Gordon's "The No Complaining Rule" outlines the importance of wordplay on success. His get to vs. have to is an important lesson.

Opportunity: Get to vs. Have to

You GET to do what you love to do. You GET to play the game you love.

If you don't love it you need to re-evaluate your values and what you want. Because it's going to take total commitment from every aspect of your life. Everything has a role in your journey. 

Discipline carries over. Discipline to floss your teeth. Discipline to clean your house. Discipline to plan your meals. Discipline to be on time. Discipline to follow your exercise/training program. It ALL carries over. Discipline is not a switch we can turn on and off. It must be cultivated.

You GET to train in the weight room. You GET to use ice baths, hot-tub, and sauna to recover. Most schools around here are not as lucky as we are.

Take advantage of your resources. Remember I am always here to talk to anyone who needs it. I live for you guys and your success is my success.

Do not cut corners. Do not give yourself a free pass. Be the change you want to see. Be the leader. Be the doer. Be the hero in your own story.

What would the Hero do is a question to reflect upon weekly. Would the hero take days off? Would the Hero cut corners? Would the Hero trade instant gratification in the form of drugs and alcohol, sleeping in and missing class, and being late to lifting, meetings, and class?

Or would the Hero inspire others? Would the Hero bring together a team and form something special? Maybe the Hero would leave a legacy out on the field each day. Each day in the weight room. Each day in the classroom.

You have a GREAT opportunity in front of you each day men.
I am not able to help but be EXCITED every morning when I wake up because I get to do what I love to do. And I hope everyone can feel that same feeling. I have faith in you.

Now go CRUSH IT!

As always,

Love What You Do or Quit & Shine Your Light

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Awareness & Remembering It All

I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes

~ Vladimir Nabokov

I remember everything 

I remember when I was chubby growing up

I remember watching the 1997 State Championship Basketball team from our town and looking up to everyone

I remember wishing one of them would mentor me - even though I didn't know what the meant

I remember when I was too scared to kiss the girl at recess in the 2nd grade with everyone watching.

I remember being rejected in 4th grade by my biggest crush

I remember being made fun of for being chubby

I remember looking at myself in the mirror and wondering if I'd ever not be fat

I remember crying after basketball games even if we won because of the way I played

I remember never being satisfied and never patting myself on the back

I remember being so terribly unconfident 

I remember having terrible self-esteem

I remember terribly overthinking EVERYTHING

I remember in high school working hard at weights and basketball as my body changed

I remember losing all those games my freshman year

I remember a fellow athlete who ribbed on people ask me if I had a lisp

I remember people doubting me

I remember people calling me a "Try Hard"

I remember being different

I remember hurting people

I remember being selfish

I remember the pain I caused

I remember treating women poorly

I remember being callus and mean towards my mother - someone who is an angel  among us

I remember disliking my father tremendously

I remember learning to love my father

I remember rejection

I remember when I decided NOT to go out for Football

I remember when I DID go out for Football

I remember playing basketball in college and a former rival was on the team

I remember him never respecting me as a player and his smug attitude

I remember not being "cool"

I remember not giving a fuck

I remember getting lost in drugs and documentaries

I remember making the decision at the stoplight in Rochester that "I AM going to lose 30lbs and have abs" 

I remember working my ass off doing interval training up to 12mph with an incline 2-3 days a week

I remember dunking it consistently for the first time

I remember learning how to train after just doing what I knew previously

I remember bawling my eyes out in my driveway as I talked to my Mom about the next step

I remember how she supported me even though my path wasn't as clear cut as her other children

I remember being in a new place in Winona and feeling excited, nervous, and overwhelmed

I remember right before a girl I was seeing and took a liking too cut off all communication abruptly

I remember meeting a girl afterwards and enjoying her company (still friends : )

I remember meeting a friend that will always be close to my heart

I remember pouring out to him on our countless barefoot walks

I remember exploring my mind and expanding it more than I could ever imagine

I remember committing to be a Strength & Conditioning Coach

I remember ALL of the people who helped me become a better coach at Winona State

I remember ALL of the talks we had in the offices

I remember ALL of the effort put forth by them for me

I remember being scared and leaving to University of Northern Iowa

I remember being in the dogma of Bulgarian Training

I remember OVER-training - UNDER-recovering and frying my nervous system

I remember learning so much from the Strength Coaches at Northern Iowa

I remember being nervous about the next step and where/if it would happen

I remember receiving the call from Dakota State University and accepting the Graduate Assistantship

I remember being scared shitless of being THE GUY

I remember the struggles of building a culture, getting teams to buy in, and being organized

I remember committing to living in the weight room closet

I remember the sacrifices 

I remember the air mattress puncturing and sleeping on the concrete floor for 2 nights

I remember sneaking a twin mattress in so I could get some sleep

I remember the constant angst about someone finding out - even though most probably had an inkling

I remember feeling proud about the sacrifices

I remember my brother dying 1 month into starting the job

I remember feeling stressed prior to the accident - And suddenly everything was put into perspective

I remember squatting 460lbs and then 470lbs for PR's - all while living in the weight room - I said it gave me +5 Strength. The gallon whole milk and rice didn't hurt either

I remember the pain of being away from the girl I deeply cared about

I remember the feelings of reuniting

I remember the pain of her leaving

I remember the pain of knowing she was with someone else

I remember the pain and confusion associated with her new "boyfriend"

I remember wondering (ego) why I was never Facebook official

I remember not giving a fuck, again

I remember when I realized my ego felt accepted when she accepted me and rejected when it was over. And that was why I was feeling so shitty

I remember that love is not ownership

I remember that love is boundless

I remember that my ego has wants and needs to - but that I don't have to succumb to its pressures

I remember feeling so relieved after moving out of the weight room and sleeping in an apartment - A shitty apartment that feels like a CASTLE to me

I remember the athletes who tell me I make a difference and are the reason they are better

I remember the athlete who was much like me in terms of confidence - And coaching him through it

I remember accepting the position as the first Head Strength & Conditioning Coach in Dakota State University's history

I remember it all. 

I'm filled with so much gratitude. Nothing can quantify how grateful I am for all the experiences in life. I love them all. They have shaped me into the person I am. The perspective of pain, loss, growth, acceptance, and love have taught me tremendously. I am so fucking grateful I get to do what I LOVE. The BEST part is waking up EXCITED to do what I love to do. Life isn't about being happy. It's about being excited to wake up in the morning. Because if you can do that, you'll be happy most of the time.

And through it all - Depression, Thoughts of Ending it all, Intense Love, Rejection, Failures, and HUGE breakthroughs - I am completely accepting of it all. 

And paraphrasing Elliott Hulse says, "Sometimes, I even ask for hardships because I know at the other side is greatness."

Shine On and Crush It

As Always,

Love What You Do Or Quit

PS: This song is incredibly inspiring to me because I know the man and am glad to call him a friend. I know some of the struggles of his life, the process to take action towards his dreams, and his continued work towards being the strongest version of himself. Check it out!