Courage, Desire, and Risk: A Weightlifter’s Tale

I am excited to bring you another excerpt from my upcoming book “Preparing For Battle”. This section is another one from my “Melting Pot” Chapter, and this section was my favorite because I had the opportunity to reflect upon the last year and a half. I was able to meet people like Christmas Abbott, Mike Bledsoe, Jon North, Donnie Shankle, Coach Pendlay, and so many more. I was excited to tell the story, and more importantly to explain how to meet new people, learn new things, and improve one’s life.

We started the official Online Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team coaching program this week, and we are humbled at the amount of people that have joined our team. I hope to teach you all about not only weightlifting, powerlifting, and strength, but I want to teach you all about Barbell Life. I want to teach you all to have the courage to succeed. I am so excited to be the coach of all of you, and I can assure you that Jon and the rest of the team are excited to have world-wide teammates. The Attitude Nation will take over the world of weightlifting one athlete at a time. August 30th and 31st will be the first Attitude Nation Weightlifting Competition brought to you by the Garage Games. More details will be released this week, so stay tuned. To find out more or to join our team, go to

Enjoy this section of my book:

Over the last year and a half, I have gotten to know some of the most interesting people in the world, and I am going to walk you through exactly how I met them. Hopefully, you will understand the melting pot process even more when I am done.

At the beginning of 2013, several people told me that the Muscle Driver Weightlifting Team had moved to Fort Mill, SC. At the time I wasn’t that familiar with the Cal Strength lifters, so like everyone else in the weightlifting world, I got on youtube and checked them out. Right away I was intrigued with the energy and personality of the entire team. I had waited my whole life for someone to show the world that side of Olympic weightlifting. Donnie Shankle, Jon North, Kevin Cornell, Jared Enderton, Spencer Mormon, and the rest of the gang had managed to bring the world of weightlifting alive. The passion, the pain, the happiness, and the excitement came through so clear, and right away I was brought back to my time at the Olympic Training Center.
I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it. I at least wanted to get to know Coach Pendlay, and of course I wanted to meet the wild man Jon North, and the mystery man Donnie Shankle. In February of 2013, I was taking part in a Perform Better Seminar in Charlotte, NC. I was with my incredible wife Emily Drew, and the infamous Preacher Sam “Weightlifting Talk” co-host. Charlotte is right above Fort Mill, SC, so I decided to take the group to watch the weightlifting team. We didn’t ask, call, or email! We just showed up, and luckily Coach Pendlay knew me from a crazy video that I made with me doing snatch and cleans with bands and chains. He also knew me from powerlifting videos and from my writings on Elite Fitness Systems. This is a lesson for everyone have a presence online with videos, blogs, vlogs, podcast, and all the social media outlets. I recommend starting as soon as possible. Find your niche, become the expert, and put out as much content as possible, and as often as possible. This is a major key to succeeding in today’s world.

Coach Pendlay allowed us to stay and watch. I felt like a young man as I was instantly transported to the Olympic Training Center in 1998. As I was watching “the lion killer” Donnie Shankle, and “the champ” Jon North, all I could see was “two-time Olympian” Wes Barnett, and “two-time Olympian” Shane Hamman lifting those amazing weights, talking junk, and competing with one another. However, you can’t compare the eras because Jon, Donnie, and the rest of the modern day crew is distinctively different. Personally I instantly loved the new age charisma, bar slamming, and excitement. They were pumping Rick Ross, dancing, and screaming like modern day gladiators. In my opinion, they had brought a whole new passion and excitement to a sport that was in desperate need of an awakening.

These guys were killing huge weights, and Jon even took a run at 170 kilos in the Snatch. After the session, Jon came over and introduced himself, and then surprisingly invited us out to dinner. Of course we took him up on his offer, and that night at dinner ended up being the best part of the seminar weekend. The best part was that the dinner was free as Jon paid for everyone. Jon North is one of the most genuine and generous guys that I have ever met. He makes an effort to talk to everyone that he comes into contact with, and is genuinely concerned with all of them. A lot of people classify him as arrogant and cocky because most of the videos that he has starred in present him that way. People need to remember that the videos are of him in training, and they don’t represent him as a friend or person. He lifts like that because that is the way he is able to overcome the mental aspects of weightlifting. I encourage everyone to never label people based on videos, movies, or magazines because only when you meet people do you ever truly get to know them.

When Jon got to know me, he decided that he wanted me to be a guest on his podcast Weightlifting Talk sometime. I told him that I would love to be on if ever invited me. That very Tuesday I received a call at 9:30a, and it was Jon inviting me to be on the show if I could be there by 11a. For all that know Jon, this is how he works. Now I could’ve said no because of the short notice, but instead I didn’t let a schedule stop me from making a life changing decision. I immediately got into the car, drove to the Muscle Driver office in Fort Mills, SC, and did the show. It was so much fun being on the show with Jon and Coach Pendlay. I learned so much from the both of them. Remember this lesson, never be too busy for opportunity. I see so many people with schedules and lists, and they are so tied up into those schedules and lists that they pass up opportunities for success and change. Mike Bledsoe of the famous podcast, Barbell Shrugged lives by the law of not committing. Never make a commitment so firm that it will stand in the way of improvement and opportunity.

Meeting Jon formed a partnership that lasts today as now I am the co-host on “Weightlifting Talk”. Also now I am his head coach, partner in his Level II and II Certifications, partner in our online Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team, and Jon is a lifelong friend. All of this happened because I was brave enough to stop into the Muscle Driver Weightlifting practice, and because I had the courage to drop everything and be on “Weightlifting Talk”. Great things in life only come with a bit of risk! Free your mind of fear, and then opportunity has a chance in your life!

In December of 2013 the biggest weightlifting event in America’s history took place at the American Open in Dallas, TX. My wife and I almost stayed at home to save some money, but at the last second, we decided to drive from North Carolina to Dallas, TX just to be a part of the epic event. That decision ended up being one of the biggest decisions in our life because at this event I met lifelong friends, made lifelong business connections, and took part in one of the biggest moments in history for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Jon and I were able to set up a table for our podcast right outside the venue, so we had a prime spot to attract all the celebrities. I met two people that weekend that I will call friends for the rest of my life, Mike Bledsoe and Christmas Abbott.

Mike Bledsoe is one of the hosts on Barbell Shrugged. I am sure that a lot of you listen or watch their podcast. Mike and I instantly became friends. I guess that you could say that there was a little bromance going on, but I still hate that word. It kind of freaks me out! Since meeting, we have podcasted together, made three DVDs together, and now I am his coach as well. It feels like that I am becoming a coach to the stars. I am with the guys at Barbell Shrugged so much that it feels like their podcast is the sister podcast of Weightlifting Talk. I have learned more about business from these young guys than any book that I have ever read. Their passion in life is to provide information to the fitness world improving people’s lives in every area. Their mission is the same as mine, but their direction is slightly different. I love how these guys are so open to give out information to their friends and followers. They are not afraid to give tips to people in their own industry because they know that there is a massive pool of people that need help. The more people like me that they teach means more people getting the help and information that they deserve.

I also met the one and only Christmas Abbott. As we all know, Christmas is the famous Nascar Pit Crew Member, elite CrossFit Start, Nationally ranked Weightlifter, and sports model. Is she edgy? Absolutely! But she is also an amazing person with a big heart, and she loves God. That makes her awesome in my book. My wife and Christmas became friends right off the bat, and we actually had the honor of celebrating her birthday with her, her boyfriend Josh, and the Barbell Shrugged Crew. It was a great time getting to know her, and I promise that there is a lot more to her than tattoos and good looks. She truly cares about people, and she wants to help as many as she can in her lifetime.

I had the chance to meet these people simply because I took a calculated risk, and it paid off. My wife Drew and I made the decision to go to Dallas, TX because we knew that hundreds of people that we were wanting to get to know would be there. We knew that it would cost a lot of money in gas, hotel, and food, but that decision has paid us back twenty times over. I learned more in one weekend than the four years that I spent in college. I met contacts that have literally changed my life forever. I am not saying to take risks just to take risks. I am saying to take calculated risks that have more chance of a pay off than failure.

Meeting Coach Pendlay, Donnie Shankle, and Jon North didn’t just lead to lifelong friendships, but it led to a whole new outlook on the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Coach Pendlay and Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics are two of the best programmers in the business. I have learned the majority of my skills from these two men. I absolutely love Coach Pendlay’s Bulgarian-ish approach to programming which is quite different from the percentage work that I performed during my competitive days. I also love the conjugate method used my both Coach Pendlay and Coach Everett. By conjugate, I mean that they use variations of the main lifts, snatch and clean & jerk, to keep the body from adapting to only completing the original lifts. They use hang clean/snatches, clean and snatch off blocks, and complexes in their programs. I used the same methods during my powerlifting days, and the conjugate system always worked for me.

Donnie Shankle has taught me about his philosophy that I talked about in chapter six with the Shankle outline. He also taught me his views of train, eat, or sleep. There is no other option for real weightlifters. If you are beat down and can’t train, eat and go to bed, so you can train tomorrow. Being around Donnie itself is truly inspiring. Watching a guy that is so committed to the task of making the Olympics is a perfect example of the American Dream. This guy is fully committed to risk his body and life in his quest of eternal glory. If you have a goal that is worth having, then you have a goal worth dying for!

My own athlete, Jon North, has been a huge influence on the way I teach the Olympic lifts. He has simplified the start, the second pull, the finish, and the third pull with names like horses out of the gate, superman pull, Tyson hips, arched angel, and Ali feet. I recommend everyone to take his seminars and read his blogs if they want to know more about the sport of weightlifting. Probably the two biggest things that I have learned to love about his technique are the superman pull and Tyson Hips. The superman pull is Jon’s label for the delayed double knee bend which is the most efficient use of the hamstrings. By staying over the bar and getting the knees back at the last moment, causes the hamstrings to totally be lengthened causing a rubber band like explosion during the double knee band process. I went into more detail about this technique in Chapter 3. Tyson Hips refers to the upper cut of the hips during the bar body contact. The biggest difference here is his elbows back technique. During his bar body contact, Jon rows the bar into his hips causing an elbows back situation. This technique causes much more of an impact exploding the bar to its peak. I have included a pic below to show both techniques.

Jon North technique

Notice how Jon continues to push the knees back when the bar passes the knees. Also notice his elbow position when the bar meets the body in Pendlay Position 1. I recommend taking a seminar if one is held near you. I believe that Jon practices the most efficient technique in the United States if not the world.

As you can see, the willingness to take calculated risks, and my willingness to seize opportunity led me to all new worlds in 2013. I hope that you will look at the key points, apply them to your lives, and have the courage to reach for big things in your life. I will close by listing the key points below:

• Have courage to seek opportunities like when I visited the Muscle Driver Weightlifting Team unannounced.
• Never make a commitment so firm that it will stand in the way of improvement and opportunity.
• Great things in life only come with a bit of risk! Free your mind of fear, and then opportunity has a chance in your life!
• I am saying to take calculated risks that have more chance of a pay off than failure.
• If you have a goal that is worth having, then you have a goal worth dying for!

To learn more about our Learn 2 Lift Seminars being held throughout the United States, go to To join the online team, go to

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