Doug Fioranelli, a contributer to Onnit and owner of RISE ABOVE PERFORMANCE TRAINING recently wrote a piece on The 10 Paths Along The Road To Mastery.

This got me to thinking about my own path. Where was I? How did I get here? And what do I want to accomplish?

1. Dare to Rise Above Average

Starting from a young age I was competitive. I started out a chubby kid and my older brother was skinny and athletic. I, too, was athletic but at a disadvantage with the extra weight. We both excelled but my body was always on my mind and pushed me to “Rise Above Average”.

In my present work as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Dakota State University, this path is evident as well. I started out as an intern at Winona State University with a love of training. I was learning to love coaching and asked a lot of questions and spent a lot of time under the bar. One of my mentors, Zach Fears used to say “Why Be Normal” and I remind myself “I’d rather die than be mediocre”.

One of the best things I do is “Act As If“. By acting as if you are changing the game. Act as if you are the leader, CEO, and/or Mom/Dad. What would that person do?

2. Realize Your Strengths

Going back to my youth, I can distinctly remember the 1997 Caledonia Boys Basketball Undefeated season. They were gods in our hometown. The games they played were the best entertainment in a 100 mile radius and they could have challenged any team in the state on any level. I remember a home game sitting with my parents. I could go to that bleacher in the old gym right now and find the spot. Andy Foster had just had a monster two-hand dunk and the crowd went crazy. I thought, “I wish I could talk to those guys”. That thought dawns on me frequently and is the driving force in why I do what I do. Simon Sinek wrote the book Start With Why and this is my WHY. I didn’t know what a mentor was at that time, I was 8 years old. I did now that I could learn a lot from them. That is what I wanted. I wanted to spend time around them because they were doing what I dreamed of doing.

My WHY is to help the athletes I serve to become the best version’s of themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually all while teaching them how to continue far past their time with me. And it all started with that monster dunk.

3. Set Goals

In 2013, as an intern I underwent squatting every day—a variation at least (5x week) while snatching and clean and jerking. Zach Fears advised I do it and I said sure why not?

I set the goal to squat 405. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would but it was challenging. I still have the video here. It was a struggle but I did it. On to the next one. I have consistently set higher training goals and now I my bests are 125kg (275lbs) snatch and 151kg clean and jerk (332lbs).

At the start of the year I set the goals to Front Squat 400lbs and Back Squat 500lbs. A few weeks ago I did them in consecutive days. It wasn’t planned but the goals were imprinted in my mind. And I put in the work to get there.


4. Commit To Your Dreams No Matter What

In the summer of 2012 I was at Basic Training in Fort Benning as an 11B-Infantry soldier. Freedom is what I value the most and that was a place where most freedom’s were stripped.

I remember talking to my brother on the phone and that I would write to as many Division I Strength and Conditioning Programs about my interest in their internship program. That didn’t happen, however. But it is something I look back on and it started my intensity for this profession. That is when I knew what I wanted to do. And that January is when I started to get serious about it. Ever since then, from my time at Winona State to Northern Iowa to my current University, Dakota State I have been committed to my dreams.

5. Plan Your Attack And Take Action

Courage is the antidote to fear. We just need to exercise the courage muscle every day and frequently. It gets stronger with repetitive use, much like the body does with squatting every day. Without using courage often, it atrophies like our muscles do with inactivity.

That is one part of the equation. The other is the planning. Sun Tzu’s final notes in his first chapter in the Art of War titled Laying Plans says the following:

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all!

It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

Planning is essential to mastery. Not planning is an essential part of failure. I’ve been on both sides of the coin but learning from the times of being improperly prepared has allowed me to become a better, more organized leader.

6. Seek Help

Throughout my time as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach I have often sought counsel from my mentors. It is imperative I do this as it aids in my learning. Being the only coach here, it is necessary to get another coach’s perspective.

7. Find The Lesson In Everything

This is one of the key mantra’s in my life. It’s something I stress to the athletes I serve. It’s one of the most important things in life. If we can find a lesson in everything we can become better people. When we become better people we can help others. And when we help others the circle is formed and expanded.

8. Pay It Forward

This goes well with finding the lesson in everything. When you are doing well pay it forward. When things aren’t going your way, don’t sulk, complain or make excuses—be kind. My firm belief is we are all one. I am you and you are me. When I pay it forward I am being kind to myself. And when I don’t I am being hurtful to myself.

9. Deal With Adversity

The barbell is a manufactured form of adversity but an extremely valuable tool. When you are tired, beaten down, and sore the barbell is still waiting for you. Conquering fear comes with courage. And sometimes the barbell beats you. You have two choices. Become scared of that weight or as Donny Shankle would say (literally or metaphorically with his stare), “Pick up that barbell and make sure it knows who’s boss.”

Once you let fear and adversity beat you, you’re done, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. I’ve found that deep breathing, learning the lesson in the failure, and setting goals to conquer that weight on the barbell to be helpful in dealing with adversity. This applies to everything in life. The barbell just happens to be an amazing tool and metaphor.

10. Never Be Completely Satisfied

Doug Fioranelli closes with this. It’s similar to setting goals. Set Goal-Work Hard-Reach Goal-Set New Goal-Work Harder-Reach New Goal-Repeat.

Once you are satisfied you are dead. It’s a disease that afflicts many. Don’t be one of the weak. Don’t be the guy in his 40’s who says to the younger guy, “Wait till you get to my age, you won’t be able to do that.” That guy died a long time ago. Be the person that says I’ve never been someone with that attitude and I won’t start when I’m 40. Keep pushing!

In closing, I want to thank Doug Fioranelli for inspiring me to reflect. His article can be found here along with many great supplements, training implements, and food.


What is your story? Feel free to comment below.


I’d also like to invite you to the Gorilla Strength Facebook Page here.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s