Monthly Archives: June 2012

Satisfaction is overrated

At a powerlifting meet last year, I went 8/9 in attempts. For those not in the know, that means of the nine attempts I made, I missed two of them. It was my third squat attempt at 380lbs. My original plan was 375, a number I had gotten a few times before in the gym. I didn’t cut weight for this meet, my training had been going really well and I smashed my second squat at 365. What’s five extra pounds?

I went down. And on the way up, my ass flew up into the air while my head, neck, and shoulders stayed glued where they were. Spotters caught the bar and that was that. No lift. This was so memorable that an older lifter, six months later, approached me at Nationals to retell the story to my girlfriend at the time. The rest of the meet, though, went amazingly. My third and heaviest bench press flew off my chest faster than the first attempts. In deadlift, I was pulling more than the equipped lifters in my weight class. Their jaws hung loose watching me.

I went away with first place in 165 Raw, happy with my performance. But not satisfied. People are always telling me how they’re surprised that every powerlifter they meet is extremely humble. It’s because we’re trained to be. We’re trained to realize that we suck, we’re weak, and no matter how strong we get, it’s not strong enough. The very culture enforces this: never be satisfied with yourself.

I’m not saying to not be happy, with your life or your identity or your present state. But satisfaction is different. Being happy with yourself and your accomplishments is natural and healthy. It’s a celebration of who you are, which is all this blog is about. Being satisfied with yourself, though, implies that there’s nothing left to improve.

A co-worker once asked me why I’m pursuing an MFA in creative writing. He said, “It’s a skill you already have. Wouldn’t it be more pragmatic to pursue a skill or knowledge set that you don’t?” It’s an admirable point of view, but I think it misses the point. Just because I have the skill to write doesn’t mean that I write as well as I want to. No matter how good you are at something, there is always room to grow. People who will never be satisfied with where they are will always pursue growth. Never stop learning. Never stop growing.

If you believe in something, if there is a practice that contributes to your definition of yourself, I feel like the only thing you must do — the thing you are compelled to do — is pursue mastery over it until the sun winks out of existence. Anything less is cheating yourself.