Stop Telling People to Do Hard and Uncomfortable Things

I used to be the coach that tried to convince people to do hard and uncomfortable things.  I would motivate enough to get people moving towards that goal and I always have led by example.  However, most people do not last long enough in the sport of powerlifting to get anything out of hard and uncomfortable.  This has been something that I have been reflecting upon quite a bit and putting into perspective in my own life.

I have always credited sports with helping me to build the tools necessary for thriving as an adult.  Coming from a home filled with emotional and physical abuse as well as neglect and abandonment, I was more likely to be a suicidal drug addict than a highly educated and resilient man.

I stumbled upon the way with violent behavior that got me into some serious trouble.  Being federally indicted, fired from a job, with a newborn baby at home is as hard and uncomfortable as it gets.  I was able to get moving and start a business, and I got back into school earning my undergraduate degree as well as a graduate degree.  

I always credited sports with giving the tools necessary to overcome difficulties in my life, but I am not sure that is actually true.  Sports was a huge outlet for me and it allowed me to build the self-esteem that was being demolished at home.  However, I was good at sports.  If I wasn’t I am not so sure that they would have built my self-esteem.  

I had all this built up rage and aggression that sports allowed me to unleash in positive ways, but I wonder where it would have gone if I wasn’t good at sports and didn’t stick with them.  The gap between soccer ending and mma beginning is when I was arrested multiple times for violent crimes.  My guess is that I would be in prison.

Being good at sports gave me the drive and motivation, but also, I gave meaning to sport through seeing a way out of my abusive home.  I could handle hard and uncomfortable on the field because I was motivated through being good and had a strong meaning behind participating.

My life prepared me for hard and comfortable well before I showed my ability to endure in sports.  My whole life was hard and uncomfortable.  Being startled awake by my father in a drunken rage in the middle of the night when we were sleeping on the floor, then going to the school the next day tired and pretending to be happy.

Having back pain by being thrown into a counter by a grown man and whiplash occurring but biting down on my lip to walk around like I was fine and still perform in practice.  Back pain from lifting doesn’t carry the emotional burden of your father causing it while calling you a “pussy” and your inner voice trying its hardest to convince yourself that you matter.

I can show up every day for training and have my whole life because I need that structure.  Most of us that come from chaotic backgrounds feel the same way.  We can push harder and longer because we have an “edge” that was sharpened from the traumatic upbringings that we had.

Hard and uncomfortable is not grinding out a weight that you are scared of.  It is showing up and giving your best effort no matter what life circumstances throw at you.  People are going to stick with competing and giving their all when they are good at it, or just truly love it.  Beyond that it needs to fit into their lives where it is appropriate.

Long term athletic development programs (LTAD) do not encourage moving athletes along unless they are emotionally ready.  Sharing someone else’s fucking motivational quote is not preparing anyone for anything.  A bunch of fucking dorks that have never really experienced hard and uncomfortable are not the mentors to seek out in this regard.  Instead, we try to encourage people to be uncomfortable, when they are not ready for it, and then they beat themselves up when they don’t succeed, and they see the highlight reel of social media.

Then when progress stalls, they quit because they truly aren’t capable of hard and uncomfortable.  Hard and uncomfortable is not seeing the progress you expect while ignoring the insecurities that exist in your unconscious brain.  For me, it wasn’t unconscious as I had my father telling me how worthless I was constantly.  He prepared me to keep moving forward and to not quit.  I can show up and endure anything, but I struggle with relationships, and I struggle to even take a day off of training, or to just have fun.  This has never been about fun to me, but about my struggles.

I think it is imperative that sports start as fun before they are competitive.  This is true for adults starting powerlifting.  I think people should wait to compete.  I think coaches need to stop treating these people like athletes, they are not athletes.  This includes telling people to do hard and uncomfortable things.

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