The word “obsession” almost always comes with negative connotations. When you hear that someone is so obsessed with something, it is safe to assume that we will think of that person in a negative light. But why? Why are we so one sided in our use of the term? According to the dictionary, “obsession” is defined as “1. an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind. 2. the state of being obsessed with someone or something.” This term is neither negative nor positive, yet we tend to think of it and use it solely with a negative bias. Most people will assume that an obsession is unwarranted and unhealthy, but maybe it is not. The truth is for us to discover, not to assume. We need to differentiate between positive and negative obsessions just as we differentiate between positive and negative people.

“What I lack in genetics, I make up for with discipline and determination.”
– Sam Byrd

Love that line. It speaks of focus, tunnel vision, and the will and devotion to do what is necessary to succeed. To me, there is nothing more romantic than striving for your potential as a human being (in all aspects of life). Yet, some people outside of the powerlifting bubble watching Sam, or people like Sam, striving for world records or any personal goals with such laser like focus and commitment will consider him “obsessed,” and negatively so.

It’s commonly said that “obsessed is what the lazy call the dedicated.” Fuck ‘em. Negativity is a waste of time unless it’s used to fuel your fire. Sam Byrd has held more all-time world squat records than any other human being in raw (wraps), raw (sleeves), all in multiple weight classes, AND many of them simultaneously.

The obsessed are the game changers, the motivators, our inspirations.

They lead the way up the mountain. They forge the new paths for us to follow. They reach new heights to which we strive.

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In my first competition in Canada as a powerlifter, I had no direct competition, no idea what was truly impressive as a strength athlete. Then I went to Russia for my very first Raw World Championships with over 800 entrants. As a newbie doing his second competition, I had no idea who I would lift against. There, I saw Andrey Belyaev, Sheiko’s number one disciple. His 8/8 World Record performance showed me what a true powerlifter was. I also got to watch and meet guys like Misha Koklyaev, KK, and Kiril Sarychev, to name a few, which really changed my cultural perspective on the sport of powerlifting and what “strong” was. It made me ravenous.

Fast forward to two meets later when I competed at RUM for the first time. This was the largest, most respected, raw meet in North America and I was set to compete against the reigning RUM champion Jeremy Hamilton, the legendary Sam Byrd, and Dan Green who like me was younger in the sport and hungry to make a mark. That was my most exciting competition prep and also the most satisfying victory because I broke the 700 barrier that had eluded me in the previous competition. I knew that Sam would squat at least 750, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Back then, only two guys in the world were squatting 700+ (sleeves) at 220, Belyaev and Byrd. It was my most focused and determined meet prep. You could say that I was obsessed.