Stoic Sunday – All In

 

Every hour of the day give vigorous attention, as a Roman and as a man, to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice — and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts.  And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life:  free, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love to self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Two, Five

F*ck.  I love this passage – a favorite of mine.  This section in ‘Meditations’ is bracketed, underlined, and bracketed again.  Each segment and thought deserves a reciting with bold intensity and careful analysis.  F*ck it, here it is again (but, this time, allow the words and their meaning to marinate):

Every hour of the day give vigorous attention, as a Roman and as a man, to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice — and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts.  And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life:  free, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love to self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Two, Five

Every hour of the day…

All the f*cking time.  Not some of time time.  All of the time.  “Pat, I like to sleep 6-8 hours a day.”  Even when you sleep.

…give vigorous attention…

None of this weak a*s, kind of attention.  We’re talking ‘all in.’

…as a Roman and as a man…

I prefer ‘as a Warrior’ but the title is irrelevant.  Principled.  Convicted.  These values are indifferent to sex.

…to the performance of the task at hand…

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From the Tennis Court to the Platform – A Pursuit of Strength

This is not my thing.

I only write in order to educate my clients and the public about a topic that I find to be imperatively important in the real estate world.  I do not enjoy talking about myself – especially a weak ass tennis player former self.  But alas, my good friend Pat asked me to contribute to his blog.  Pat is literally the type of guy to book a last minute flight from California to Atlanta to come see a friend in competition – this is the least I could do.

A little background:  I am 32 years old, a husband, and a father to 3 beautiful children.  I own a real estate brokerage and a real estate investment firm.  I grew up in an upper middle class household and had an awesome childhood.  My parents have always been supportive and I was never really in a position to ‘want’ for anything.  There is a recent conception that this style of ‘easy’ or ‘privileged’ upbringing creates weak humans.  The belief that we must go through a form of extreme hardship to really test yourself or that you need a heroic story of rising through adversity to become a strong and successful person.   In my case, a good family with good role models and decent education is what I received.  I think I turned out alright…always improving…but pretty good.

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My Family (Sara, Me, Magnus & Donovan, Palmer) – August 2016

This brings me to the topic Pat asked me to focus on in this blog:  power lifting.  In general, as a kid, I was always pretty small.  I was a wrestler up until 10th grade and at 16 years old I only weighed 135lbs.  I was never the strongest kid on the mat and I never took the weight room seriously.  I was a technique wrestler who had decent hips and body control. At some point in my adolescence I stumbled onto a tennis court. I wasn’t great, but I think the little bit of athletic ability I had lent itself to being better than most kids in the area. It doesn’t hurt our high school was literally called “Cornfield High” and 95% of the kids wouldn’t be caught dead on the tennis court unless it was to chug a Budweiser before the football game.  Needless to say, I was decent at tennis.  I also didn’t take tennis that seriously.  To me, high school was all about parties and girls.

After high school, I pretty much thought my “athletic career” was over. The closest thing to a sport was golf and I played golf as an excuse to drink beer. I was totally OK with that. College at this point had me focused on the next step in my life; making money. I worked full time and went to school full time. I was mediocre at both. I carried a B average through college, had a good time and was ready to start “real life.” I tried my hand at a few corporate jobs in sales, HR and customer service. I was utterly uninspired. Shortly thereafter I got into real estate. I found a couple great young mentors to take me under their wing and I was off and running. I started reading, like legitimately reading books that no one told me I had to read. It was crazy. I started thinking bigger and started to look at aspects of my life that I was neglecting and suddenly I realized that at 21 years old I had a “dad bod” before that was even a thing. My wife (yes I was married at 21) was going to a local gym and seemed to love it.  I was skeptical, so I asked my gigantic friend Randy what I should do at the gym.  He pretty much said use some machines and do some cardio.  So that’s what I did, I went in, jogged (it might be a soft J, not sure) and then I’d do some convoluted circuit on the machines, do some pull ups, dips and some “ab work.” Then suddenly I noticed my arms getting all swole, I could do 30 pull ups and weighted dips were a breeze. So, I started getting more confident. I noticed 3 dudes who were ALWAYS there when I was there and they worked out together.  They were not the strongest gym bros who came in with their Timberlands and tank tops, but they were clearly bigger and stronger than I was but still approachable.  So I used my ridiculously charismatic charm to get permission to lift with them. The one dude, Jason, could hack squat every single plate in the gym. I got stronger just loading the damn machine for him. We did squats, leg extensions, leg curls, hammer curls, seated curls, standing curls, curls on the floor, curls in the squat rack…oh…and calf raises. Typical bro workout and I loved it. I started seeing more weights on the bar and I started noticing a difference in my body. I was hooked.

Then I moved.

I moved back to rural Carroll County and didn’t have my gym bros anymore. I went through a couple years of P90x and a few other home workouts.  Oh, and Pat Jones said “I bet you can’t run a half marathon.”  So, I fucking did it.  That was stupid.

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Pat & I after the Baltimore Half – October 2010

Then finally one of my real estate mentors, Nick told me about CrossFit and that he wanted to try it. We did some research and there was NO way we were in shape enough to go to a scary Crossfit gym where these jacked dudes did muscle ups and chicks wore sports bras to jump rope really fast. So we did the next best thing, we did the CrossFit workouts in a Golds Gym. The people there thought we were on drugs. We had stations set up and would do the sprints on the treadmill. Looking back, it was really fucking stupid. But we finally felt like we were ready to go to a real CrossFit Gym. At this time, I was probably around 220lbs and squatting maybe high 200s, benching mid 200s, deadlifting mid 3s and surprisingly overhead pressing 185lbs.  So, I wasn’t weak, but I clearly wasn’t that impressively strong either.

I remember being so freaking nervous before our first day at Crossfit Retribution.  The owner, Beau Bryant was cool, supportive and an effective coach.  I was always really good at WODs (Workout of the Days) that involved row sprints and anything heavy.  It also became apparent that I was adding strength quickly on Beau’s plan.  I was quickly pulling mid 4s, benching close to 300, pressing 200, and cleaning 300lbs.  But, I still looked like a ogre when asked to run 300 meters.  After about a year of CrossFit, sometime in 2013, Beau politely told me to go to the back room (Westminster Strength & Conditioning.)  And this was the just the beginning.

Shortly after transitioning to purely strength training, our gym organized a small local powerlifting meet in October 2013.  It was my first taste of competition. I weighed in around 255lbs and performed well.  The competition was a “Starting Strength” competition including the squat, strict press, and deadlift.  I totaled 1290 lbs. and took first place in the heavyweights.  I have always been very aware that I was a big fish in a little pond.  Our gym has some strong ass people, but there are freaks in this world and I wasn’t delusional about my numbers.

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Big Mike Jenkins at my first power lifting meet – October 2013

I continued to train and compete. I entered another local meet in a different federation that was a typical squat, bench, deadlift comp.  I totaled around 1400 lbs.  Then I wanted to test myself in a bigger, sanctioned competition.  So, in 2015, I entered the USAPL Equinox Open in the 120kg class. I had some bad ass competition including a dude who was going to pull in the mid 600’s which was still otherworldly to me. I ended up missing my 3rd attempt on bench and had to bump my 3rd attempt DL to hit my goal of 1500 and also to be able to snag 2nd place. I found a place in my mind I had never been before. A place of determination that I didn’t even know existed. I pulled 567 and took silver with a 1504 total. Now I was hooked on competition. In the fall of 2015, we had a few of our strong ladies from W&SC training for USAPL Nationals. Comparatively to these girls, I was inconsistent at best. I had excuses for everything. I was fat because that made me strong, I was inconsistent because I had a young child and 2 businesses. I had many conversations with people about how our National level lifters had more time than me etc. I just wasn’t mentally able to commit to taking it to the next level.

Then October came. I made the drive up to Scranton to watch our girls lift at Nationals. The moment I walked into the warm up room the air was thick with chalk and testosterone. The strongest people in the country all in this one hotel conference room. The staging area was littered with Instagram lifting celebrities like Chad Wesley Smith, Jesse Norris, Kim Walford, Layne Norton, LS MClain, Bryce Lewis, Jordan Feigenbaum…all the lifters I followed and tried to emulate.  Our girls did amazing and I had an amazing experience.

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Kim Walford and I at some shitty pub in Scranton

Shortly after that, I had a conversation with Beau about how I don’t have the ability to be at the same level and that training and commitment that going to nationals requires. Oddly enough, he agreed with me. He pretty much said, “Yeah, you’re a busy guy.” I’m still not sure if he was serious or if he knew subconsciously it would eat me up. Then I realized that one of my strongest abilities in business is to set and achieve goals through leverage and time blocking. If I wanted to go to Nationals…I could do it. I would just have to plan and set my goals accordingly. To go to nationals, I had to qualify and the new qualifying totals were just announced. For me to qualify in the 120 class, I’d need almost a 1600lb total. OR I could lose 30lbs of fat and qualify with a 1444 total. I chose to get skinny. So the first step was to get my food in control. I hired a girl to prep my food in accordance to Beau’s macro suggestions. I shed my weight right on pace. It was awesome. I felt better, looked better and was getting strong AF. A few weeks before my qualifying meet, The Equinox Open, my training went to shit. No idea why. All my lifts lost 30-60lbs and instead of shooting for mid 1500’s I was beginning to question if I could even hit the 1444 required to qualify for nationals.

Long story short, we made a plan on what numbers added up to exactly 1444 and we executed perfectly. I took 3rd place at Equinox and was headed to Atlanta for Nationals.

I trained my damn ass off and ate prepared meals 5 times a day for an entire year with this crazy goal. I woke up at 4:30, 3 days a week and lifted for 2-3 hours per session. Over the course of the training year, I missed only 3 training sessions. I skipped happy hours, skipped cookies and cupcakes, and even resisted pizza (most of the time).  The weeks leading up to USAPL Nationals were full of anticipation, excitement, and anxiety.  I just wanted to get to the big show.  Thankfully, I had the pleasure of watching all my fellow team mates crush it before I hit the platform.  When my time came, the copious amounts of pre-workout and anxiety caused me to lose focus on nearly everything.  My first squat attempt was a blur, the 2nd ended with me accidentally dumping the weight – potentially merit for disqualification.  Thankfully, USAPL was forgiving and allowed me to continue.  I amazingly recovered and hit my 3rd attempt.  I finished going 6/9 on the day and a 1500lb total.

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3rd Squat Attempt 540lbs – October 2016

I learned a lot in Atlanta.

I learned that I’m not invincible in competition and not impervious to nerves.  Overall, Atlanta was amazing. I lifted on the same platform as my lifting idols and can now say that I’m in the top 10% of USAPL lifters in my weight class.   I will be back and I’m after a 1600lb total.

A good friend once told me, “happiness = progression.”  Powerlifting is one of the purest and simplest ways to see progression.  You can see progression over years, months and even days, and it’s an easy formula:

Get your ass in the gym.  Put more weight on the bar.  Don’t be a pussy.

fPat & I after all my lifts were done

Make Wrestling Great Again!

Hulk Hogan.  ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage.  Andre the Giant.  Ultimate Warrior.  Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.  ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude.  The Undertaker.  Mr. Perfect.

Do those names look familiar?  If not, I am sincerely sorry.  If so, you had an amazing childhood – gold star unlocked.

Either way, at Renaissance Nerd we will introduce (or reintroduce) you to the nuances of professional wrestling.  This will encompass a historical perspective of wrestling as I knew it as a child with the names above, to the Monday Night Wars feature WCW and NWO, to the Ruthless Aggression era, to today’s wrestling.

“Pat, but professional wrestling is fake.”  Sure, Professional wrestling is predetermined; however, it is most definitely not fake.  Just ask Mick Foley how he felt after the Undertaker threw him off the Hell in Cell.  Predetermined, yeah.  Fake, hell no.

Pat – we need you to fall from the cage.  F*ck it, I’m out.

This brings it back to myself, and professional wrestling – why do I enjoy it so much?  The answer is simple, but innocent.  Of all the pleasures I enjoy, few connect me to my childhood.  Aside from the Baltimore Orioles, the one constant has and always will be professional wrestling.  I can, from memory, tell you the context of the time frame of where I was when random events occurred in the WWF.  Most importantly, I remember the first time I watched a Pay Per View, and  I remember like it was yesterday.  The 1994 Royal Rumble.

1994 Royal Rumble

“Don’t you ask your Grandmother if you can get that wrestling shit!”

I was told this as I was being dropped off at my grandmother’s house.  (30 minutes later)

“Bubbie (my grandmother is Jewish)…(all sheepish like a 9 year old would ask), can I, I mean, can we order the Royal Rumble?  I was told not to ask you…”

Sure as shit – she ordered it.  Something along the lines she was going to do whatever she damn well pleased.  Anyways….THIS WAS IT!  The 30 man over the top battle royal where the winner would go on to WRESTLEMANIA for a shot at the title.  Undertaker was facing Yokozuna (a morbidly obese Samoan who portrayed a sumo wrestler…WWF is not racially sensitive) in a CASKET MATCH for the WWF title.  Somehow this sumo wrestler was wearing the same strap that Hulk Hogan used to wear so clearly this sumo wrestler was as good as Hulk Hogan (according to kayfabe).

Well, the Undertaker was all ready to win and defeat the obese sumo wrestler until Mr. Fuji contracted 4098 wrestlers to prevent the Undertaker from winning the casket match.  Complete, and utter bull shit.  Then…the Undertaker ascended into the heavens (see below) and gave me nightmares for a solid week.  Hell, most likely until I was at least 24.

Nightmare inducing video – watch at your own risk

Then it was time for the MAIN EVENT – the ROYAL RUMBLE.  I must have watched this match at least 93 times in the weeks which followed.  Hell, it is predetermined AND I knew who was going to win, but I would watch anyways.  Big Daddy Cool Diesel would go on to eliminate about 18 guys and kick the shit out of these two dudes in cowboy boots and tight Wrangler jeans (The Smoking Gunns — get it? [sigh]).  But the big question on everyone’s mind – would Bret Hart (my favorite) return after injuring his knee earlier in the night in a Tag Team Match.  Owen (Bret’ brother) kicked his leg under his leg.  Got that?  Damnit Owen, you ruined it.

Owen Hart articulating kicking a leg under a leg?  I’m still confused.

Well, somehow some dude named Lex Luger who bored me to tears came out with his titanium plated bicep draped in red, white, and blue and would spoil the party.  He’d go on a tear and eliminate nearly everyone until my man Bret Hart hobbled down to the ring.  He must have taken some Aleve or a few Tylenol – something, but here he was!  And then it happened.  Bret and Lex tangled up, and went over the ropes…and boom both of their feet hit the floor.  At.  The.  Same.  Time.  Co-winners.  I was 9, confused, and pissed.  How could this guy cost Bret the opportunity to wrestle Yokozuna and his 23409 friends at Wrestlemania?

Oh well, I was hooked.  I was hooked prior to watching the Royal Rumble, but I sure as hell was hooked afterwards.

The 2017 Royal Rumble is in a few weeks, and there is one thing I know – Lex Luger better not come out and mess up this one for anybody.