Monday, March 31, 2014


Though success and failure appear to be opposites, in reality it seems that we tend to treat both of them the same: with fear.  The fear of failure seems obvious, in that we desire to always avoid failure whenever possible and to minimize our exposure to that which would promote failure, however the fear of success is far more insidious.  We fear success in others, for we interpret it as an attack against our own success, in a way feeling that the success of another is in turn a failure of ourselves.  This type of thinking is ultimately destructive, both of ourselves and of progressive thinking toward training.

The fundamental issue at hand here is that we become married to a method, feeling that we must declare overt loyalty to its practices and forsake all others.  In doing so, we have set ourselves up for massive cognitive dissonance whenever we witness others achieving success without employing our method.  We interpret this as an attack against our method, our training, and our own success, and as such employ all manner of defense mechanisms in order to either defeat the success or rationalize it as a form of failure in and of itself.

I mean, yeah, if you wanna put it bluntly

If we are in the abbreviated training camp and we witness someone succeeding with a high volume, low frequency “bodybuilding program”, we speak of how it’s only their genetics and/or drug use that permit them to succeed, and that they would have been successful with any program they pursued, which means that if they had chosen our way, they would have been even more successful.  If we are in the high frequency/high volume camp and witness one succeeding with abbreviated training, we simply chalk it up to beginner gains and say that anyone makes gains starting out, but in order to really make it big, people need to follow our training.

However, the true venom of the pack is not witnessed in the presence of success, but instead in the presence of failure.  One will never find a more spiteful, calloused, and sometimes downright evil group of people until they witness a trainee expressing to a community that they did not find success using their method.  The sheer notion that the adopted method of the group could possibly fail is so psychologically offensive that all manner of basic human decency seems to flee from the community as a barrage of hate is spewed at the trainee.  Accusations arise from basic factors such as poor sleep and nutrition to insults about the trainee’s intellect and ready comprehension to borderline eugenic based comments on the failure of the trainee’s genetics and speculation that they may have some sort of disease or mutation.  The notion that their method is not universally successful shakes the very foundation of their psyche so hard that there are no limits to what one will say in order to maintain their belief.

"Everyone loves strawberries, I don't know what your issue is.  You must be eating them wrong."

We need not fear success or failure, but instead should embrace it.  We need to understand that there are no universalisms in training (and yes, I am aware of the irony of such a statement).  Success and failure are not moral qualities, they are simply data.  The more data we have access to, the better, as it allows us to observe that which can succeed and that which can failure.  The sheer knowledge that a program or method has the capability to succeed under some manner of circumstances is delightful information, for it means we have access to one more tool for our collective training toolbox.  We have the knowledge and understanding that there is another method out there in case our current one is not working, or not working in the way that we wish for it to work.  Additionally, knowing that a program can fail is incredibly vital information, as the knowledge of the fallibility of a method means we can work to either circumvent the failure or understand the shortcomings in order to prepare our future programming.

No 2 trainees are identical, and as a result no 2 people will train in an identical matter.  You may have 2 trainees running Starting Strength, but one may sleep 7 hours a day while the other sleeps 9, or one eats 3200 calories a day while the other eats 3300, or one is 5’7 and the other is 6’5, meaning they are both moving the weights for a different distance on each movement.  The notion that both trainees will enjoy identical success and failure rates is absurd, as their results will be purely based on the individual.  As such, when we witness someone who is not us experiencing success or failure with a method we are or are not using, this is in no way a personal slight to our own belief structure.  One does not succeed or failure purely to spite us, but instead as a result of their own circumstances.  We can appreciate this success or failure for the wonderful amount of information that it is to us, utilizing it to make ourselves better at our own training.

Do we really believe they would have turned out the same if they trained the same way?

Sometimes, someone can do everything right, and it just won’t work, which speaks to the fallibility of a program, and sometimes, a trainee can do everything wrong and still make gains, which speaks to the power of a training program.  The trick is to appreciate the value of the information for what it is, and be thankful of the trainee for sharing their experience.


  1. " Success and failure are not moral qualities, they are simply data. The more data we have access to, the better, as it allows us to observe that which can succeed and that which can failure." is possibly one of my favorite lines I've read in a long time. Did you mean "that which can fail," or was that a clever use of irony?

    1. Unfortunately I cannot claim clever irony on that one, simply the product of typing as a stream of consciousness. I am glad you appreciated the line in this form though, haha.