Recently I came upon The Egg, a short story by American author Andy Weir. I am placing the video link here, so take a moment to watch it. Then we will meet back here in the article. Take the time and watch the video, or you will lack the inferences required to follow the remainder of this article.
Now you have watched the video. And yes, there were subtitles (sorry lifters, but those are good for you, like spinach). So, let’s move along. As I initially read The Egg (here is one of the many links to the written version of this story) then later watched this video, I couldn’t help but see this reincarnated type of pattern in all facets of life, as we all continue to grow and mature. We grow and mature as people in general, as individuals in the workforce, as boyfriends or girlfriends, as husbands or wives, as sons and daughters, as parents, in all facets of our lives, and in every role in our lives.
There was a clear parallel in our lifting worlds as well, as we also grow and mature as powerlifters. And as powerlifters, there is a reincarnation effect as well. Like in the video for The Egg, we keep and/or retain our essence from the prior lives, but continue to strive to become a better version of ourselves as the time passes.
We meet a vast variety of people in our lifetime. Some of the people we meet fall into the broad expansive categories with attributes like crass and rude, or matter-of-fact and common, but a few are old souls, meaning they possess and emit that rare depth of maturity — that inner confidence, that gravitas with the ability to pause, to reflect, and to listen that makes them seem above the fray. Those are the leaders we aspire to be with or like. They are the great-minded individuals that Eleanor Roosevelt spoke of when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.”
As powerlifters we are, in the sense described in The Egg, reincarnated. We live and die and are reborn several times over our lifting career.
Most powerlifters start off not as powerlifters, but as a young person picking up weights to become more muscular, a strong(er) version of themselves, or perhaps to become better at some other sport or an activity. We start off with little more than a cursory understanding of lifting weights. But having seen photos or scenes from films like Pumping Iron, we are all somewhat aware of the possible outcome that could result from weight training. At that stage, or in that “life,” or in that incarnation, we are anything but an old soul, and the lifting is done out of joy and with a method that is little more than trial and error. Instinctively, we know sore muscles mean worked muscles, so often at most, we lift and become sore. Based on what is sore, we know what muscles were affected by the exercises we did to get them sore in the first place.
As that version of you continues to lift, that version learns and grows. And as more education is obtained and some experience begins to mount, this new-to-the-world-of-weights version of yourself prepares to move into its next phase of development.
So, figuratively speaking, that lesser version dies and is reincarnated into a lifter who has managed to uncover information and has discovered the world of powerlifting (or at least the concept of the sport). Within this larger world, this new version of your old self finds application for three of the lifts they have already been experimenting with, as they did in their prior incarnation of themselves. They discover that there is a proper form to these three lifts that are the crux that is the sport of powerlifting. As they discover this, their old self dies and they are reincarnated into the novice lifter.
Now as a novice lifter, one hears about training programs and methods and, as they try new and adventurous things with their lifting, they simultaneously begin to make their first mistakes. They try all the movements, indulge in all the programs, spend money on supplements that don’t work, and fall into the traps and bad advice of the loud voices of the never-have-beens who are selling their snake-oil programs and “secrets” to these newly reincarnated novice lifters (who have also yet to develop any skepticism of powerlifting’s used car salesperson types).
As time passes, so too does this life. The novice powerlifter begins to filter information, and as they step further away from the shoreline of their little island of information, they begin to feel the slope of the sand deepen quicker and quicker as the current of the powerlifting ocean becomes stronger and stronger. The lifter discovers that what was once the point (just lifting the weights) now has changed, and the weights are now lifted to reach the point of the sport, and that point is to compete. As the powerlifter starts to wade into the sea that is this new (to him or her) world of competitive powerlifting, the novice powerlifter dies off. Again, as with the story of The Egg, the lifter is reincarnated into a more mature version, with all the experiences and life lessons of the novice lifter’s life intact.
As the novice to intermediate powerlifter is born, they begin to compete. With competition can come an overconfidence, as they are now as learned as they have ever been. But because this is the furthest they have ever been from their island of experience, they have no idea how vast the ocean ahead of them truly is, nor the storms that can pound on the deep shark-filled waters in which they are now starting to swim. Because they only know what they know, to this novice to intermediate lifter, they see themselves as possessors of knowledge and experience. That mindset, coupled with a few meet trinkets and shiny objects, gives them a false impression of their depth in the ocean, and they stop learning, as they all too often feel they know so much already.
You see this played out in living color when this incarnation is online. Virtually every post or mention or comment is how someone else is doing it wrong, or is on the wrong path, or is somehow lesser. Remember, small minds discuss people. The average life of a powerlifter is less than 18 months, and the few that last beyond that rarely get beyond three years. So this specific stage, this incarnation as the intermediate lifter, regardless of the number of reincarnations, is tough to get past. This stage, as viewed by those in the sport for decades, takes the longest to mature in, and most do not develop past this stage of development.
For those few who do, they are likely to become lifelong competitive powerlifters. When they can’t compete any longer, they find a way to create their own competitive goals in their mind and strive hard for them in the weight room. These are the lifters that, when reincarnated, come to the realization that they don’t know everything — that although they have accumulated years and decades of knowledge and experience, there is always more to learn. The learning never ends.
And with that knowledge comes humility and the desire to help others find their way, the same way these lifelong lifters were helped. Their knowledge, regardless of how vast, is always leading to more and more. These are your old soul lifters who spend more time listening than talking, who spend more time lifting others up than putting others down, and who spend more time looking at the big picture of teaching others than posting their own pictures online. They do this because they lack the self-discipline to work on themselves and help others, thus they spend their energy pointing out the other lifters’ flaws. Not unlike Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.”
In The Egg, Andy Weir says to the man in the story who was again being reincarnated, “Every time you victimized someone, you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you have done, you have done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
The story explores the idea of how we are constantly being reincarnated all across the dimensions of time and all of the humans we run encounter are incarnations of ourselves on these different time dimensions. Further, Weir delves into the idea that this entire universe was created for the individual for the sole purpose of maturing to the point of reaching our destiny on the next higher plane.
The point we are trying to make is that the very point of powerlifting is for the lifter to be the best version of themselves they can be. To develop their knowledge of the sport, its history, its present, and its future. To develop a deep, copious, and full understanding of technique and methodology and complete grasp of all that comprises training. To be as strong as humanly possible inside of the gym and have the ability to demonstrate this strength when it counts, at the meet. To do all this while helping the other, lesser incarnations of you. To be parallel to the story, your own self at a different stage in your powerlifting maturation. In other words, to be the most complete, powerful and competitively successful powerlifter you can be, but at the same time making sure that along the way you live, learn, and pass on!