[Editor's Note: This was originally published on November 25, 2008.]
As a child, you can do anything. The future is an unwritten story, unencumbered by the fetters of harsh reality. Belief is easy to come by, as simple as hearing or seeing. Potential is infinite, and always given its due.
As we get older, living is no longer an exercise in blind faith. Doubt creeps in, and skepticism finds its way into our minds. The world gives us our knocks, and with each blow, the bounds of reality narrow. The vernacular of the impossible impregnates our speech and infects our actions, until we stay with the safe, the pleasant, and the known, afraid to push back against the unfamiliar and the difficult.
This unfortunate evolution leaves us unsure of our abilities, scared to display incompetence and unwilling to attempt the unknown. Terrified of another hard knock, we display only those traits with known rewards and certain payoffs. We become small and weak as the chains of doubt weave themselves into our lives.
Every time you grab a barbell or strap on a weight vest, you have the opportunity to reverse this disastrous course. Instead of succumbing to the gravity of your misgivings, you can take heart in your potential. You can push back against the pain, secure in the knowledge that every failure can be remedied, every misstep righted. With a piece of cold rolled steel, you can crush the virus of inadequacy beneath your heel.
We don’t trade in exercise. We trade in the idea that your potential is exactly what you believe it to be. Squats, pull-ups and levers are merely tools, a chance to show the world that it is wrong, its lessons flawed. We cannot conquer frustration by quitting, nor defeat the unknown with doubt. Meekness can never be rewarded, and with every clash, we scream this message.
I’ve seen athletes perform the impossible, heaving against every fiber of their being, a living war cry in the face of adversity. They overcome through sheer exertion of will, shattering the fallacy of the immovable object by becoming the unstoppable force. These athletes come from a thousand different places, unique only in their refusal to accept the world’s false constraints. They choose to believe in their own capacity for greatness, and they are rewarded.
Belief is a place where the irrational exuberance of childhood finds new life, where the burden of the past is shed in favor of the promise of the future. Belief is a chance to give all the hard knocks back, to free ourselves to become anything. Stop wondering if you can, and know that achievement is as simple as trying, over and over again.