I wrote about toughness after reading Jay Bilas' book and meeting him in April. Since then, I've been looking deeper into toughness and strength sports by asking teammates, friends, colleagues and clients a simple question:
What makes a strength athlete "tough"?
They've given great answers, so I'll be sharing them from time to time on the blog.
"The honest answer is that I just don't know. I think that anyone who can give you that answer that you are looking for right off the bat...is better at telling people to be tough than actually being tough.
Somehow people have branded me as a tough guy for one reason or another over the last few years but I'm just as average as anyone else. Everyone is tough... It's that single parent that works 60 hours per week and still has time for their child. That is tough. It's the people riding their bicycles to work in Hungary at 4 in the morning, an hour each way at freezing temperatures, to a job that they may or may not get paid at this month. It's the overworked, over stressed, sick and nauseated 300 lb father changing his son's diaper in the bathroom of an airplane at 3 in the morning...tough.
What makes people 'tough'? Tough is not something that you can decide to do in order to be tough. Tough guys don't sit and say 'I'm going to be tough'...those are the guys posing in their sun glasses and designer jeans. Tough is something that is JUST DONE. Tough people see a path that must be followed no matter the difficulty level. There are not left or right turns. There are no easy paths along the way. there is only one path and they accept anything and everything that is on that path because the destination is something worth having for them.
For some people that is that their child grow up with everything that a child needs, not knowing that they are any different than any two parent home. It's freezing for hours on a bicycle just for a shot at some money at work so that you can buy some lunch meat for your family to eat that night at the dinner table. It's changing your son's diaper when you are sick just because it's part of raising a child to become a man one day.
I think it is difficult for someone to accept their path as the only path. A basketball player PLAYS THE GAME OF BASKETBALL. It is not glamorous. They play hurt, bruised, hungry. I've worked with MLB players and let me tell you...their life is not glamorous. Those guys hurt and play hurt all the time. No complaints...THIS IS BASEBALL! A Strongman does not complain about how an Atlas Stone rips the skin from their forearms, a powerlifter does not complain how a squat bar takes the skin from their upper back, and OLY lifter does not complain about the skin lost on their clavicles from cleans and front squats. It is all part of ACCEPTING their path and that it is just part of the path. Accept that this will be hard, it will hurt, and that it is just part of what you do. After that...it is ONLY pain.
There are no tough guys out there...only those who accept their path and those which choose to stand still.