For a lot of bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger was their inspiration. A few of us though went for the underdog, Lou Ferrigno. I'll always admire Arnold, but Lou was who I wanted to look like, mainly because he was the Hulk, and what kid doesn't want to be the Hulk?
As a young kid, I loved reading my older brother’s comic books. Captain America, Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Superman, The Green Lantern, Batman, Wolverine..... They were all great. But when I got to a comic that featured The Incredible Hulk, he was instantly my favorite character. He was the strongest of all the comic book characters and I wanted to be as big and as strong as the Hulk.
There’s a reason the appeal of comic book figures is powerful and enduring for young boys. For many of us, they represented our first dreams about who we want become. And those characters are cool – the bigger their muscles the cooler they are. That's what boys want -to be big, strong and cool, like the Hulk. At least it was like that when I was a kid. Today..... Ughhh, don't get me started...
Later, when I was about 12, I saw my first bodybuilding magazine. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All I could think was, this is unbelievable. There are comic book characters in real life! These guys look like they have superhuman powers. They look like the Hulk! That's what I want to look like!
There it was, I had proof right in front of my eyes that I could actually train my body and look like the Hulk. The Hulk on TV was played by Lou Ferrigno – a real live human bodybuilder. He was my inspiration from the world of fantasy from day one, (who, later on in my career, actually became my friend). The bodybuilders in the magazines personified that dream I had and proved to me that I actually could look like the Incredible Hulk.
As we grow up, people are always going to tell us to get our heads out of the clouds – stop day dreaming. It’s true we need to grow in responsibility and character with every passing year. We need to take care of business and look out for those people who matter most in our lives. But, I never grew out of daydreaming about the Hulk and achieving superhuman accomplishments. When our dreams die, so too do our aspirations to be better than we are now. I never got as big as Lou Ferrigno (No one did!), but Rich Gaspari, the businessman and the person, still grew pretty big because I never stopped dreaming.
If you ever get called a dreamer, say, “thank you,” because it's a compliment. Without dreamers, we'd have no innovation, exploration, discover, or accomplishment. Imagine our world with those things. So, dare to dream, just make it big, like the Hulk.