If things don't go your way today you can always come back another day and win!
What's stopping you from getting what you want? From winning? From succeeding? One of the biggest things that holds people back from getting into the gym, from seeking a promotion at work, from starting a business, from asking someone out, or from trying something new and challenging is the fear of failure. It's incredible how the fear of failing and looking bad in the eyes of others stops people from going for it.
Maybe it's because I was born into a family with a father who knew he wanted something better out of life; a guy who packed up his wife and firstborn to make the journey to America— with a detour through Canada on the way—instilled in me courage and confidence, along with hard work. He told me that you don’t worry about what others think. You don’t sweat it when there are obstacles and setbacks. My dad instilled in me, by example, that you set your sights on the prize and you go for it. You can do neither win nor fail unless you jump. You have to go for it.
One of the most significant competitions in my life was the NPC Nationals in 1983, in San Jose, California. I was 208 pounds which put me at the bottom end of the heavyweight division. The lineup of bodybuilding greats I was competing against was incredible – its been said numerous times, that this may have been the best amateur lineup in history. These guys were my heroes. I had studied their pictures and read their training tips for years with the dream of someday being like them. Now there I was, up on stage going toe to to with them.
Rory Leidelmeyer came to San Jose as the clear favorite, but the winner ended up being Bob Paris. Mike Christian, the legendary “Iron Warrior” took third place. Another great bodybuilder, Matt Mendenhall, took fourth place. In fifth place was a 20 year-old kid from New Jersey that no one had ever heard of before. His name was Rich Gaspari. My first competition as a teen I took sixth place, so believe me, on that stage, with those great bodybuilders – even by today's standards - I wasn’t disappointed in taking fifth place. But, I wasn’t satisfied either. Being up there and compared to those amazing physique stars just gave me a taste; it only made me hungry for more. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear the key players in the bodybuilding industry talking about me as the guy to watch—and watch out for.
After the show, Ed Connors, one of the owners of the Gold’s Gym empire, came up to me and told me that if I would drop a weight class I could come back and win the NPC Nationals as a light heavyweight the next year. He was right. That was a tall order, but I did it. I dropped about 20 pounds and won my first national championship in 1984 and turned pro.
Now, what if I hadn’t competed in 83 because I thought I was too young and wasn’t ready? What if I had been afraid of what others might think of me? Or if I had been too scared and intimidated to walk on stage to compete against some of my heroes? I certainly wouldn’t have been in the position to win a championship the following year. You may never have heard of me if I didn't go for it.
I don’t care how awkward you feel about whatever it is you need to take on in life right now. Coddling you and telling you it's okay to be afraid and handing you a puppy to pet in your safe space isn't going to help you. What are you afraid of? Who cares what others think? It matters what you think. And if you think you're not ready, not worthy, not good enough, so what? Go for it anyway! What have you really got to lose?
Try, get your feet wet, do it anyway, ask out the hottest girl you've ever seen. Tell your boss you deserve a promotion and more money. Sign up for a local competition. It doesn't matter if you get turned down, told “no,” get your butt kicked. Who cares? Get back up, brush yourself off, learn from it, get back in there and win it next time! You can't win unless you try. So, you're just going to have to go ahead and go for it.