What’s Your Why?

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Simon Sinek, Start With Why


Driving back from picking up a piece of equipment, heavily caffeinated, I started reciting the talk I would give when I arrived back at the school. It was honest, off the cuff, from the heart, and flowed like a great talk should. It was in the moment. And it started getting louder. My voice was raising. The words were flowing better than before. Ideas coming together and connecting in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was writing it. And everything came back to WHY.

Every morning (90 percent of the time) the alarm goes off and I’m ready to attack the day. Maybe it’s knowing how great coffee tastes and makes me feel. Or maybe its how refreshed I feel after downing 30-40 ounces of water. It could be brushing my tongue and teeth and waking up with a shower. But I think they are contributors, not the cause.

Attacking the day happens because of my WHY. Driving back I felt like I had one of those “a ha” moments. You know the ones where an epiphany occurs. Where hours and hours of work, reading, effort, and sweat culminate into a visionary experience. I clearly saw my WHY more than ever before. I put it into words and saw it in my mind’s eye. It’s not always that clear.

My WHY is to be better than yesterday. To grow, to learn and do something new today, to fail forward, to exhibit courage in the face of fear, obstacles, and challenges AND to use everything I learn to help those I serve.

Strange thing happened after articulating this statement out loud. My goals became much more clear. I felt the shift in my body. It was an amazing feeling, almost miracle like. But this wasn’t the only thing that thrust me into a passionate frenzy filled with emotion. There was something else.

Average. Mediocre. Those two words are the equivalent to immediate death. I’ve told the my athletes the following:

My biggest fear is being average; mediocre. I’d rather die than be average or mediocre. It’s the worst thing I can think of being. Nothing in this world will crush me more than being mediocre. And that is one of the biggest driving forces in my life. Everything I do is meant to be of the highest order; excellence in nature. You see, it’s the process and the approach, not the result I’m concerned with. Average people think about the result, the challenge, and the obstacle. They see what they want (result) and fantasize over it. But when the challenges and obstacles come they cower. They run. They make excuses. Excellent people revel in the process and approach to getting to where they want to go. They see every fear, obstacle, challenge, and failure as an opportunity to grow. They learn to love being uncomfortable. I’ll never be average. I’ll die before that ever seeps into my existence. 

I never did give the talk today. Nobody showed up. It was a funny joke by the Universe. Trying to get me riled up. I laughed. “I had this perfect talk ready to go and no one showed up” was what I could have said. But I didn’t. I was tired anyways. And some things needed refining too.

Everything that happens in life can utilized in a positive way, eventually. It’s really all in how you approach each situation.

So what is your WHY? Why do you get up in the morning?



How Many Tomorrow’s Do You Have?

What if you just had one more day? What would you do differently? How much time have you already spent worrying, instead of doing something that you love?

“Somebody should tell us right at the start of our lives that we are dying and we may live our life to the limit. Every minute of every day. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. I say to you are driven by anything other than your love, spirit, desire to grow and expand–if you’re driven by your need to please others, driven by your fear, your past, it’s time to free yourself. It’s time to decide, decide consciously what you want your life to be about.”

Tony Robbins

For too many, life is spent worrying and being fearful. For too many of us we never ask the tough questions, examine our consciousness, and break ourselves down to the core. For too many of us we blame others, complain too often, and say we just didn’t get the breaks the next guy did. If only I had this or if only the coach did this, then things would have been different.

He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right


This is a disease. It’s a sin. It’s an abomination of the beautiful gift of life we have been given. The majority of life is wasted. And it’s sickening. And I’ve been there. I’ve been to the point where I’ve wondered what the hell I was doing. Why go on living? And I broke myself down, and did it for 23+ years. Finally, I decided instead of using the energy required to break myself down to use it in relentlessly going after the WHY in my life. And suddenly, things became clear.

If it exists, then one speck of dust exists.

If it doesn’t exist, then the whole cosmos doesn’t

Thich Nhat Hanh 

What Hanh is referring to is that life and death are all in our minds Energy is neither created nor destroyed. It is only converted from one form to another. So you were here before being given the most beautiful thing in the universe (life) and you will be here when you “die”, just in another form. One contains everything and everything contains one.

Why Be Average? Why be normal? Why be mediocre? These types of people use anything as a crutch and will get people around them to sympathize with them. Don’t fall into the trap. It is said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around. So why not bring UP the 5 people around you? Be the difference in others lives by shining your illuminating light!

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us

Marianne Williamson

So GET UP and start with simple changes.

1. Write down what it is you want to do in life. Write a to do list—2-3 things you’ve been putting off. And do this at night before bed and read it in the morning. And DO IT first thing in the morning.

2. Accept responsibility for everything in your life. It’s ok to get help and I highly encourage it. But it is not anyone else’s responsibility to make sure you are chasing your dream and working relentlessly to achieve your goals.

3. Drink 20-40 oz. of water right away in the morning.

4. Move Your Body. We become sophisticated and technologically advanced and the physical culture leaves some of us. Move your damn body and get all of that tension, fear, and nervous energy out! It doesn’t matter what it is. Eventually you’ll find what you want to do long-term. But don’t go half in.

5. Eat like an adult not a child. You want cereal for breakfast? You’re not a kid. Eat some eggs and veggies. You want a snack and think a snickers bar is worthy? A snack is an extension of your meals. A treat is a once in a while thing. Twenty grams of protein per snack and you’ll be much better off. It means a little preparation and thought. Be an adult.

6. Emulate and adopt people you draw inspiration from. What have the most successful people done? What habits do they adopt? What advice do they have? You don’t have to be a robot but success leaves clues.

Instead of asking WHY, ask Why Not?

Journey to Mastery: A Reflection on 10 Paths

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.




One habit that has changed my life

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Zig Ziglar

Gratitude Journal

Making adjustments and changes in habit are important parts of growth. Changing sometimes happens because we feel at the bottom of the barrel. We feel like garbage. We feel things couldn’t get any worse. And at these moments, we decide to make changes. Other times, there are tragedies and the call to action is written in the impending death of us all. What legacy will we leave? Is this all there is?

And after a little bit of reading from people much smarter than ourselves, the idea of a gratitude journal seems like a start. Gratitude and sadness are not able to be occurring simultaneously. And if only for a moment, we are relieved from our temporary black hole. Add in conscious belly breathing and we’ve got two solid techniques to improve our lives right away.

The principle gives precedence to simplicity: of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred. The principle is also expressed as “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.

Occam’s Razor

It’s not the wildly tremendous changes in our lives that offer the most impact. It’s the simple ones. Like writing in a gratitude journal. And breathing. Don’t forget to breathe. It’s kind of important.

Hero’s Journey, Courage, & Getting Uncomfortable

It is said that every time, the late Oki Hyobu’s group gathered and after all their affairs were finished he would say,

Young men should discipline themselves rigorously in intention and courage. This will be accomplished if only courage is fixed in one’s heart. If one’s sword is broken, he will strike with his hands. If his hand are cut off, he will press the enemy down with his shoulders. If his shoulders are cut away, he will bite through ten or fifteen enemy necks with his teeth. Courage is such a thing.


Intention and Courage 

You need to hold in your heart your intention, your purpose, your mission in life. If you do not have a goal to reach in the short and long term as part of a bigger purpose, you will never achieve greatness. Just like you intend to go to the grocery store you NEED to intend on greatness. Set your mind on your purpose and go headlong into it with courage. Nothing of value will be achieved without getting uncomfortable. Outside one’s comfort zone lies greatness, mastery, and mastery of fear. Courage is such a thing. The more you overcome fear and come closer to mastery the bigger your courage muscle gets. The bigger your courage muscle the more freedom you have of your own life. 

Do the thing and you will have the power. This is what Emerson was talking about. Do what makes you scared. Do it over and over. And then pick something else. Because it is an obstacle allowing you to become free if you choose partake in it. 

Courage is such a thing

Setting out on your Hero’s journey will require you to get outside your comfort zone. More than you ever have in your whole life. So why not start now? Start doing things outside your comfort zone daily. 

Little and often over the long haul

Little courageous acts daily build up the muscle. Just like physical exercise in training, these courageous acts continue to allow us to grow. The powerful feeling you receive as a rite of passage is amazing. Passing through this life existing rather than living is the greatest mistake. LIVE. Make mistakes, grow, learn, and make a new mistake. 


Failure is one the best teachers you will ever encounter. I’ve failed so many times I would bore you. But all those failures add up to one moment of achievement and overwhelming emotions take over. It’s truly amazing to work so hard for something and finally achieve it, with only you knowing all the times you failed. On the outside, it looks like that person is successful and gets it right every time. On the inside, the person knows how many failures it took to get to that point. 


Every time you flex your courage muscle and overcome fear you come one step closer to mastery of fear. Fear will never leave but its hold on you will be less and less as you overcome it. And when you face a difficult challenge—the biggest obstacle you’ve ever encountered, look back on your experience and know you’ve done this countless times.

A man’s life is only a vapor that vanishes in an instant. One should spend his life doing that which he enjoys. As short as life is, it is foolish to spend it doing only the things one hates.


Shifting: Doubts to Action

“Hard work doesn’t make you tired, a bad attitude does.”

Jon Gordon

Over the past few months there has been a shift in productivity—a shift in mindset. The things that were once difficult have become a bit easier. I thought I was being strong. I thought I was being positive. But my actions were not aligning with my thoughts. And the inaction sprouted doubts inside of me, pushing the positivity and excitement of life into the corner. It’s taken 25 years to feel this visceral, deep feeling. And that’s life and learning. It takes a deep, visceral feeling to change a deeply ingrained feeling sometimes. How do you change? How do you turn into a gorilla, pushing fear to the side? 

The shift in mindset starts with action. Do it whether you feel like it or not. The easiest way to shut your brain off and squash self-doubt is to do the thing.

“Do the thing and you will have the power.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s not about liking what you are doing. It’s about greatness. You will not like everything you do on the path to becoming the strongest version of yourself. You will not succeed in everything either. The shift occurs once you realize you have everything within you to be the best you. The best you fails, gets up, grows, and takes action again. The cycle revolves around knowing and understanding the strongest people fall down and get up a stronger person because of it. 

“It is easier to act your way into thinking and feeling than it is to think and feel your way into action”

Brian Cain

Practical Steps to Aid Action:

1. Quality Sleep

Sleep is the key to success. If you work well on less sleep, great. But if you are training hard you will need 8+ hours of sleep.

2. Morning Rituals

Doing the same thing every morning will energize you and minimize distractions. Check out http://mymorningroutine.com/ for ideas.

3. Take action towards one of your BIG dreams/goals 

Moving towards what your gut draws you to without sabotaging the rest of your life will bring excitement to your day. The key is to do the work each day. Pair this with your morning ritual.

4. WIN — What’s Important Now?

Using this acronym from Brian Cain to ask yourself this question helps refocus. Do the most important task right away in the morning and create momentum for the day.

5. Move Your Body

The body is the mind. Train. If you have to start with walking, that’s ok. It’s a great way to free your mind. But you must move your body. We’ve got this monkey energy inside of us and if it is held inside, we become prisoners of our minds and bodies.

6. Finish the day before it starts

Writing down what you need to get down the night before gives you momentum and the mindset going into the next day. There are no questions what needs to get done. You write, you see it, you read it in the morning. It’s not hocus pocus. You’re simply seeing it more.

“Remember, it’s the start that stops most people”

Brian Cain