It occurred to me the other day that many of the men that we admire or respect could, in many ways, be considered bat-s*** insane by “normal” standards.
Take powerlifters, for instance. Are powerlifters crazy? Is there something wrong with us because we want to lift weights at levels that most people would consider insane? Do we put ourselves through brutal, mind-breaking, body-shattering workouts because there is something wrong with us?
In my opinion, yes.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because putting yourself through that kind of lunacy builds strength and character and willpower like nothing else can.
Men like me love the way it makes us feel to subject ourselves to the fire of that kind of crucible, because the results make all of the pain and suffering worthwhile. And make no mistake- there is pain. There is suffering. The older I get, the harder it is to recover from that pain- but I put myself through it anyway. That kind of masochism could, in theory, be considered a legitimate form of insanity.
Many young men who would otherwise consider becoming acolytes of the Iron God will enter the gym and find themselves confronted by the sight of a big burly bloke lifting absurdly heavy weights, grunting, sweating, walking around with a face that says “get in my way and I will wrap a barbell around your throat until I kill you to death”, and generally acting like an enraged gorilla in the middle of a territorial display.
Finding this sort of thing to be overly intimidating, those men then abandon their quest for personal improvement and go to the machines- that was me about ten years ago. Or they stick to using the treadmills, exercise bikes, and rowing machines- also me, not that long ago. In the worst case, they get frightened off and leave the gym entirely, thus ensuring that they will never see gains, never experience serious muscle growth, and never achieve their goals. They do this because they are scared off by what it takes to be truly strong, and yet truly humble.
To those men, I can only present the perspective of a world-class powerlifter named George Leeman.
What George Leeman describes in the video above is the same range of emotions experienced by every man who has ever been bitten by the iron bug. Once you take up powerlifting, doing anything else makes almost no damn sense.
As he points out, every great lifter has some deep sense of dissatisfaction that drives him. There is a hidden source of motivation that defines such men, that makes them stay on a path that most would abandon because it is too hard and too painful. There is an elemental force, a burning rage that defies easy description, a hunger that forces such men to develop an iron will inside of themselves, to match the strength of the iron that they are lifting.
Once you dedicate yourself to the iron– and by this I mean that you show up, every single week, every single time, and give it your all even though you’re tired and you’re hurt and you want to be anywhere else- you will find a source of strength that you probably never even knew existed.
That is what the iron does to men. The Iron God accepts no excuses and scorns mental weakness. He respects only strength and courage in the face of adversity. He rewards the faithful with gifts of strength and willpower and humility that are the foundations upon which a man can build his life.
As Vox Day pointed out when he comprehensively destroyed John Scalzi’s pretensions of superiority over his critics, the iron helps the weak learn to be strong- and it helps the strong learn to be humble.
And make no mistake- humility is very important in the gym. I am one of the strongest men at my gym, overall, but that is not a source of pride for me because I know that I’m not as strong as I could be. No one at my gym squats or deadlifts more than I do, that I know of- but there are several guys there who can bench more than I can*.
I will be the first to admit that my bench press sucks ass compared to my other lifts- I can deadlift more than twice what I can bench. I’m working on it, and it is improving, but I’m fighting against years of accumulated injuries in both shoulders and- let’s face it- fear. A man who is not humble enough to recognise problems with his form and technique is condemned to repeat the same mistakes that keep him weak, even though he might seem very strong compared to others around him.
Of course, everything that I have written above applies equally to any other walk of life. Self-improvement has to come from within first, and it has to start with a deep dissatisfaction with some aspect of your life that can only be addressed through pain and sacrifice. There are no shortcuts to self-improvement.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to deadlift 405lbs or become a millionaire or bang hard 10s within an hour of meeting them in a nightclub- you have to put in the work. And you have to be humble enough to recognise when you’re failing, for whatever reason, to meet your goals; you have to take a step back, check what you’re doing wrong, and start over if need be with a new approach and a new attitude. You have to be willing to fail, over and over again if need be, in order to chase success.
In today’s world, this is exactly what most men don’t want to hear- they want the easy way out. They want a pill or a supplement or a magic shortcut that will get them to where they want to be, without first putting in the work.
To such men, I can only make a series of rude and unfriendly gestures; I know what it is I want, and I am willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get it. So do the men that I admire and respect the most; they put in the hard work and grind through the pain and suffering that they must endure to reach their goals, and they are the best at what they do as a result.
Join me- join us– on that road. Or get the hell out of the way. Your choice.
*By this I mean guys who actually bench with a full range of motion- all the way down to the chest, without bouncing the bar, and back up again. I hate it when I see these bench bros who load a bar with 4 plates, unrack the bar, bend their arms maybe 30 degrees- with a spotter standing over them- and slam the bar back up while pretending that they’ve accomplished something worthwhile.