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A Note to My Younger Self

John, I am writing this to guide you in a very uncertain time in your life. As the decade older version of you, I have gained knowledge that will really help you move forward in exactly what you want to do. You just graduated with your bachelor’s. Well done! At the end of this degree you finally gained some confidence in your academic ability. Your collegiate powerlifting journey was a great feat as well and, now that it’s coming to an end, bodybuilding has piqued your interest. I know you have lots of questions about what to do for a career—should you continue your education and how can you become a bodybuilder? I am going to guide you through this.

Ultimately you need to still make your own choices. While you take forever to commit to a decision, most of the time your first reaction is the right one so trust your instincts here. This advice might not be terribly specific because, all in all, you end up in a great spot. I don’t want to change your course; I just want to improve the journey. Here is a list of a few things I thought I would share.

1. Set Higher Goals

You might have goals, but you’re often not thinking big enough. You did not go into powerlifting with the goal of being a top bencher, but then it happened. I want you to set some big goals in all areas of your life. They can be absolutely crazy and absurd, but I want you to think big. At home today write down your 5-year goal for business, education, bodybuilding, finance, and personal life. Post them on the wall—I want you to see these every day. Tracing back the steps you need to take to hit those goals will help guide you in the short-term. Also, don’t make not getting last place the goal of your first bodybuilding show. That is shit. Your goal should be to dominate the competition. You can do this man.

2. Never Settle and Take Risks

Complacency is death, buddy. You have things in your life right now holding you back. You should have just set some big goals, so do whatever you must to achieve them. Don’t settle for the convenient school or the convenient job. You need to go for what is going to push you outside your comfort zone. You are very good at school and I know you enjoy being a nerd. Find the program that allows you to research the thing you love and go for it.

3. Reach Out for Help

You achieve at a high level and work well alone, but this is also one of your weaknesses. You need others that challenge your beliefs and give you a different perspective. Although you read everything on bodybuilding, you will grow all around by having a coach. You can budget for a coach; you will gain more value from that than you realize. Find a coach with an education, has done well on the competitive stage themselves, and has proven results with their athletes. Make sure this coach can get a natural athlete peeled because drugs mask poor coaching ability. For your education and career, volunteer more! You need to experience what the jobs you are interested in are actually like. You also need to find a mentor from whom you can learn.

4. Stop Being a Powerlifter

The last powerlifting meet John participated in.

John, you are going to be a bodybuilder—you have a knack for this. You are going to have to let go of your identity as a powerlifter. This is no longer about moving weight from point A to point B. You need to make every rep of great quality and focus tension on the muscle you intend to train. Don’t chase the log book without a concern for form. I am good with you getting into DC training right now. Stick with it. Like I said, make your form as strict as possible.

5. Stay Functional

You are still at a stage where you have good function and mobility. If you don’t continue to work on these areas, injuries will happen. It’s only a matter of time. Remember that hamstring tear you had last year? Let’s not do something like that again. Here are a few muscles you need to train that you never do: abs, psoas, glute medius, adductors, and rotator cuff. Always strengthen these areas and it will go a long way in your function. It may sound crazy, but I want you to do yoga once a week. I know you have free access to that right now so that is a way to stay functional.

6. Train Your Waist

I already mentioned training abs but listen up! While the abdominal aesthetics didn’t matter at all in powerlifting, this will make a huge difference in bodybuilding. Stop with the “abs are made in the kitchen” mindset, man. Train abs. I know you saw that book on how to do an abdominal vacuum. Practice that and master it. Look up Frank Zane for some abdominal inspiration.

7. Learn to Pose

The posing routine isn’t weighed heavily in placings in this current era in bodybuilding. I know you don’t really even care about posing—you just want to get huge and peeled. I get it. You do need to learn to present on stage, however, to make yourself look as big as possible. Find someone very experienced to help you pose and watch you do it. This is an art form and you will learn to really enjoy it, so put some time into it now.

1 year before John competed in his first show.

8. Learn from Natural and Enhanced Bodybuilders

You are already science minded and study nutrition and training very deeply. You need to form your understanding from science-based bodybuilders whether they are natural or enhanced. But remember naturals only have food and training to rely on, so these are great competitors to learn from as they don’t have drugs to make up for poor programming.

9. Diversify Your Learning

I know you love training and nutrition, but you need to diversify and learn other things. All of those courses you take that you don’t think will be useful—well, they will be. Take some business and marketing courses and a personal finance course. Since you want to coach people, look into psychology courses as well. Think about all aspects of what you would need to do your dream job.

You are going to do great on this journey, John. You have already found a passion in life, which many are never so lucky to find. Go all in on that passion, don’t hold back. You won’t ever regret living your life doing the things you love.

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