"Compos sui"

BY: wade of BORG

Greetings all, hope everything has been going well for everyone. I have been talking with a few different people (when  don't I? <g>) and came across an interesting thought/philosophy about success. It kind of summed up in a few Latin  phrases I came across as well that sort of tied the whole thought/philosophy together for me. The title phrase compos sui translates simply to "master of himself." This really hits to the heart of what makes champions IMO. Talking with a good friend, Mike O'Donnell, he pointed out to me that Kirk Karwoski would leave the gym if he felt 'off.' Regardless of the day or what was planned he would pass the day and do it at another time. The rationale was that the mindset/form et. al. was more important than the single days sets/reps. I believe (and he is net bound too so he can correct me if I am
wrong here) that another great Rickey Crain is a believer in form and mastery rather than brute strength. Don't get me wrong in that I think you can sacrifice strength (that is what it is all about after all) but, "strength" is a compilation of a number of different factors and the physical manifestation is only one piece of the equation. If you think about it...the physical aspect is pretty easy to obtain and what sets the champs apart is that they are more often than not, able to apply that strength when it counts. This kind of philosophy goes to the heart of compos sui in that in order to perform at your best you have to know what your best is, on any given day. You have to know what you can do and believe you can do it. Not "think" you can...believe you can. 

          Very major difference in the semantics there and a major difference in how you will approach the task at hand. A step to getting to compos sui is another nice little Latin phrase nosce te ipsum which means: "know thyself." It only makes sense in that you can't 'master' something unless you 'know' it, right? Truth of the matter is you can self talk all you want and you can talk to others about yourself all you want BUT, at the end of the day when you look in the mirror you KNOW the truth about yourself and what you can do. Maybe that is only for an instant and then you start self talking to bolster or diminish what you can do but, in that instant you know your limitations. I do not, and never have believed that you can lie to yourself. The sport of Powerlifting is one that won't allow you to lie about yourself via your actions either. The criteria for success is totally objective. The weight is the weight and you will lift it or not. There is no grey area when it comes to the performance (within the rules of the organization that is). The point I am trying to make with this is that goals are great but, they are "goals." It is a subjective limit (for the time being) you want to reach within a time frame and they aren't where you are. I have been making this mistake for so many years that it is very hard for me to realize I am doing it over and over again. My 'goals' are always just outside of where I 'am' and the result is I push a little harder than what I can handle (over time). I haven't learned to nosce te ipsum and thus compos sui has continued to elude me. The nitty gritty of the point is that you need to work with where you are and not where you want to be. Working with where you are is what will get you to where you want to be. I know all to well how easy it is to think you can do 5, 10, 15lbs more (before you know it you have jumped 50lbs before you have even touched the weight! <g>) than what you are shooting for, or believe you can do. The desire to lift more is strong in all of us and this is why it happens. I understand that very well...I am learning that this desire needs to be tempered or it becomes a liability. I think Powerlifting is one of the few sports that rewards patience and consistency more than others. Quick gains are tough to come by and they require a slow, consistant, and methodical approach to achieve. The more you control your enthusiasm and temper it to stay within your boundaries the faster this actually happens. 

          To use myself as an example (I know I do that a lot but, it is because I screw up so much I have lots of lessons to share <g>), I have been fixated on the goal of cracking 1900 total. I 'know' I am capable of doing it (and then some), it is the time frame that I have been making my errors with. I can't complain about the progress I have made in the past 8-9 months as it is outstanding. It is that desire to get the "goal" that is pulling me outside of myself. Luckily I haven't pushed it so far that I re-injured my back (I don't want to EVER go through that again) but, instead I have developed some tendinitis in my knees. Had I stuck to my original plan I don't think I would be in the position I am in for my next meet. Instead, I focused so hard on achieving the goal of 1900 by the end of the year that I looked for little 'extras' that could help to get me there. In essence, I was looking for a faster path to get my goal. I failed to listen to my body and to know the affects as they were happening. The result...I am not planning on that magic 1900 total now, the time frame is now shifted.

          In light of the whole theme of knowing oneself here, I look for the positive in this lesson (read: screw up but, lesson sounds nicer <g>). The lesson learned is two fold, it is put me into a position that I must believe in my ability (looking in the mirror I _know_ what I can do) as I haven't been able to re-inforce that ability with gym lifts. The other side is that screw ups can have golden linings. I see the mistakes and recognize them. Sometimes these steps back can result in more steps forward. My following progressions of training will keep this important aspect of myself and my bodies response in high priority. I did so many things 'right' this time around too that it makes it frustrating to come
up that much short (theoretically anyway) due to some minor flaws. Herein lies the difference between the good and great. The details that are incorporated into everything that we do can add up so fast that they form a major gap. 5lbs here or there doesn't sound like much but, look over the course of 2-3 months and you do that 4-5 times and now you are down 20-25lbs going in to the meet. Take into account some minor things that can go wrong on meet day, bad set up: 5-10lbs, bad wrap job or uneven: 5-10lbs, miss your groove: 5-10lbs, etcetera. Now you just dumped 15-30lbs more at the least (and that is just scratching the surface of what can affect your meet day performance too) and this is just one lift! You are now down 35-55lbs just on that one lift! The ratio's are subject to debate but, the point is what I am trying to drive. The details matter more than we give them credit for and this is one of those "secrets" that the great ones learned and applied IMO. The champions know themselves and they know how they do things..."knowing" is the critical factor in "doing." The less minor factors you
allow to influence your performance the less they can add up and detract from your true potential. This is summed up in yet another Latin phrase (I am loaded with em' today! <g>) ipsa scientia potestas est which means "knowledge itself is power." The more you know the better you are...and the best topic to study is yourself. I don't mean to advocate that pure knowledge will make you a champion because knowledge without application is about as worthless as application without knowledge. To excel in PL I think that nosce te ipsum is one of the most important things you can learn. A sport that is dependant on the vehicle (your body/your mind) is best executed by one who knows the vehicle. Racers know their cars, business gurus know their markets, and champion athletes know their bodies and minds.

          I believe that to be one of the elites you have to realize that you have a progression of "where you are" that will lead to "where you want to be" (goal). If you take the approach of "where you should be, could be, or would be" then I don't think you will ever get to "where you want to be" (goal) let alone, even be at "where you are." If you don't know where you are how can you start a journey to your goal. Some journey's can have no destination but, they always start form somewhere. I know this is a little on the hypothetical side and maybe is just a bunch of gibberish. I found in writing it that I realized a great deal of things, re-inforced a number of things, and even learned a few things. I hope that maybe in my trials (that I so oft refer to) there is something that can be of benefit to someone else. It is also my hope that if I am heading in a wrong direction someone will help to point me in the right one. I am nowhere near good let alone great, I am not a "master" at anything (although I am pretty good and stretching a point out <g>), and I am surely not the last word on anything. We all learn from each other and before you know it we will all be the next generation of greats (goal <g>) in this sport/endeavor we all cherish so much. I have learned so much already but, it pales in comparison to what I have yet to learn. 

So, in the meantime...good liftin'.

-wade of BORG