One thing that is for certain is that I have lived my life. If I had a dream, I went for it. When I was 21 years old, I was done with college football. I had been told by my college strength coach, Coach Mike Kent, that I should pursue Olympic Weightlifting. I did a little research and discovered that the Olympic Training Center was in Colorado Springs, CO. It seemed to me the best place to start my training, so I packed up my car with my belongings and set out for Colorado with $200 in my pocket. I had all the courage in the world, and I had no doubts what I was going to do. My mother told me before I left that she would see me in a month because no one believed that I would make it. I drove the 23 hour trek straight through. I was dead tired, but I was on a mission.
I had researched places in Colorado that taught Olympic Weightlifting. I discovered that the Olympian Wes Barnett coached at the World Gym in Colorado Springs. That was it! That is where I planned on starting my journey. When I arrived in Colorado Springs after the 23 hour car ride, I drove straight to the World Gym. I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to waste any time. I walked in, and a 6’1” blonde Russian girl named Anna greeted me. Instantly I was thinking that everyone must be an Olympian out here. I expressed to her my intentions, and to my surprise, Wes was teaching the Olympic lifters at that time. When I met him, I started pleading my case instantly. I told him that I had just driven across the country to train with him, and that I wouldn’t disappoint him if he took me on. He politely told me to calm down, and that he would love to train me. I nearly dropped to my knees in relief. I had a coach!
At that moment I realized that I needed a place to live and a job. As you can see, I hadn’t thought this through very much at all. It was at that moment, I met the owner of World Gym, Don Ramos. He was the most likeable man that I had ever met. We talked for about thirty minutes, and then to my surprise he offered me a job. He then introduced me to one of the personal trainers at the gym, Ryan Mitchell. Ryan invited me to be his roommate, and the rest is history! I had driven 23 hours, and within one hour of being in Colorado Springs, I had my coach, a job, and a place to live. I couldn’t believe it! I called my mom, and I told her that it was going to be a lot longer than a month before I moved home.
So what does this story all mean? I have lived a Black Sheep life. I have followed my heart and passion. I was invited to be an athlete at the Olympic Training Center a year and a half later, and I trained with some of the best Weightlifters in American History: Wes, Shane Hammons, Tom Gough, Pete Kelly, Andy Garcey, Jackie Berubee, and Tara Nott (Olympic Gold Medalist). I didn’t make it to the Olympics, but I tried. My father was diagnosed with stage IV Lung Cancer, so I eventually came home to be with him. My Olympic Dream was cut short, but the time with my dad was priceless. My journey didn’t stop when I came home. I then set out to become the best Powerlifter in the world. In the 2004, I accomplished that goal as well. While everyone else was settling down in their careers, I was chasing my dreams. I was chasing my passion! I wasn’t following the rules of society. I was making my own rules!
Living a Black Sheep Life has taught me a lot of lessons. I have made mistakes, but I have also done a lot of things right. The point of this article is to explain what it means to be “Black Sheep”, and to pass on the lessons that I have learned. Most of you reading this are Iron Gladiators that long for victory over the loaded barbell. I want to give insight to not only conquer the Barbell, but to conquer life as well.
1. Form a Melting Pot! My friend and co-host on the podcast Weightlifting Talk on Spreaker.com always preaches to formulate a melting pot when it comes to learning the Olympic lifts. The same can be said for Powerlifting or any of the strength sports. I have learned from everyone that I have been around. I learned Weightlifting from Wes, Dragomir Cioroslan, and my other teammates at the OTC. I continue to learn from Jon North, and Donnie Shankle. I have changed my whole coaching philosophy after meeting these two. In powerlifting I have learned an enormous amount from Louie Simmons, but I have used information from Jim Wendler, Ed Coan, Chris “Ox” Mason, Rick Hussey, Ernie Frantz, and Bill Crawford. I am continuing to learn from Dan Green, Chad Wesley Smith, Donnie Thompson, and the newer generation. The same can be said of strength and conditioning. I have learned from Coach Joe Kenn, Zach Even-Esh, Joe Defranco, Martin Rooney, Coach Mark Watts, and Coach Jonas Sahratian to name a few. My point is to never close your mind. I learn from my interns on a daily basis: Greg, Caleb, and Eze. I will never stop searching for a better way to prepare my athletes.
2. Recovery is the Magic! Everyone wants to lift weights, but no one wants to put in the time on recovery. Well I have news for you! You can lift all day long, and if you don’t have the proper recovery, nothing will happen. As a matter of fact, you will go backwards. Learn all you can about nutrition, soft tissue, and sleep. Here are some of the things that I believe are necessary: fish oil, Active Release Technique, Chiropractic, voodoo bands, lacrosse balls, and avoid inflammatory foods. I could easily write a book about recovery.
3. Live For Something Greater Than Yourself! I know that this is contrary to what society will say, but hey, I’m black sheep baby! The world will tell you that you deserve to be happy. I hear this all the time. My question is why does anyone deserve anything? I spent most of my athletic career chasing my dreams and neglecting the needs of my family and friends. I didn’t have to do that. You don’t have to be selfish. Don’t let anyone tell you that. I had the opportunity to affect lives, and I wasted it for most of my career. When I won my first World Championships in 2004, I had the attention of thousands of people. I could have done so much, but I didn’t. I just bathed in my own glory. I was on the cover of four magazines. I was getting a hundred emails per day from fans. I was on staff at EliteFTS.com with hundreds of thousands of readers. So many people reached out to me, and I did nothing. I recommend using your success to help others to influence others to strive for more.
In 2007, I started my final journey with Christ. I am not here to tell you what to do that is between you and God. I am just stating what happened to me. My outlook is completely different now. I am no longer first. As a matter of fact, I am about last. I put my God, my wife, my daughter, my family, and my friends first. I live my life to love. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals. Quite the opposite! I have goals, but they fit into my morals and virtues. I still want to compete at a high level in both Powerlifting and Weightlifting, but I want to use the attention that might come from competing to help and love others. I want to have a successful business by serving my customers and providing the best service in the world. The biggest things that have changed are my motives. I’m motivated to support and serve my wife and child. I am driven to motivate others to better their lives. I no longer am motivated to glorify myself. All this and guess what? Now I am happy! All that time living to make myself happy never brought me one day of happiness or joy. All it did was hurt everyone around me, and leave me in a sewer of depression.
These are some of my insights to you young Black Sheep. I’m still Black Sheep Baby! Nothing is more Black Sheep than following God, but hey, do what you want. My life is full of joy, love, and happiness. I still make mistakes like my last article, but the difference is that I can admit it, learn from it, and change. My life is one big journey. My goal is to love other more and more, and to be less like the old me as I go. Thank God for that because I would never have the family and friends that I do now if I were still the same man. I say go all out in life! Be a Black Sheep! Just live for something bigger than yourself.
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