I originally had no interest in bodybuilding. Absolutely none.
When I discovered lifting, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the results. (Duh.) I was fascinated by the culture. I admired the practices of physique athletes. But even with all that love, I had none for the competitive sport. In fact, I never really understood the sport, and so beyond just disinterest I also had a bit of revulsion.
Scratch that; I had a lot of revulsion towards it. Bodybuilding, to me, seemed weird. And I'm weird. So if a thing seems weird to me, it seems ESPECIALLY weird.
And still does.
And yet I am now a competitive bodybuilder. I guess I am a bit of a hypocrite. So shame the fuck on me, right?
But "normal folks" have to interest in the sport of bodybuilding either. It is fringe. It is quirky. It is esoteric. So my shame is mitigated; I was in the majority; my take was the common take. And while many people admire the look of a sculpted, muscular physique, only a few find the pursuit of it to be much beyond a frivolity; certainly not important for the "big concerns" of life.
This morning, I discovered my attitude has not much changed in the over two decades that I have become a competitor, a coach, a reference in the sport. it was proven to me win I learned that an icon of the sport's American history had passed away. And I thought: "Holy crap, XN! You didn't know? Shame the fuck on you!"
Now, again in my defense, the name Larry Scott is not hardly a household one. Th average person on the street will more than likely not know the name, and if they do it is just random trivia – certainly not known for some relevant place Mr. Scott holds in the cultural fabric. And, if we really push the issue, he wasn't super-relevant unto himself.
Larry Scott was a footnote in a much larger and more complex cultural history. He was the first to ever have the title which is now at the center of a media propaganda empire: Mr. Olympia. And while endless discussions and accounts can uphold muscle culture and bodybuilding as a major cultural shaper (pun intended) in the American pop landscape, The Mr. Olympia itself is merely a detail; it is a "proof of concept," but not the concept itself. And thus Mr. Scott will forever be a name on a list rather than character of heritage; he was a player of the game but not nearly the rulemaker.
But this is not to say he was not important to many pool in his career in the sport. Since the 1965 Olympia title he won, he has been idolized by many who admire muscle, and even more by those who seek to craft their own. He was "The Golden Boy." He was a legend within a sport's culture. He was a hero. And I am force to admit this because that is how I learned of his passing. I am not someone who spends much time groping about the internet and newsstands for the lats bodybuilding news. However, being in a central spot of a big community, I learn fast when big news goes down.
The death of Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, is try big news. If you are in any way connected to muscle culture, it is like the loss of a star; like the passing of a rock star for music fans or the passing of an actor for movie buffs.
And so with such passings, the culture that praises the star pours out with eulogies of solace. Countless posts about "what this great athlete meant to me." (Such posts on social networks were how I learned of his death, actually – not to mention was reminded of who he was in the first place. I know, I know: shame the fuck on me.)
That was where I paused.
So often when there is the passing of a significant person in culture, the eulogaic commentary waxes slightly hypocritical. Folks want to exult their response to the death, and really prove that their sadness is not only valid but significant to the loss. Everyone takes to comments of what the person's work meant to them. And often these comments are beautiful. Yet they are also too often hollow. Too often, people claim a sadness for the loss, and yet indicate no interest in learning from what the deceased offered in the form of gain.
Let me get more specific: being amidst strength athletes, I am seeing many comments about what a loss the death of larry Scott is, and how much he was admired. And yet so few of these admirers have stepped up to compete, as Mr. Scott did. They admire his drive and passion, and yet emulate none of his resolve. They sing his praises as an important influence, and yet have not taken his example and stepped up to compete. And I am speaking here of strength athletes and lifters with a long personal history of muscle-building and the basic equipment to take on a bodybuilding challenge with high rewards. The guys who seem dented have rarely been competitors, yet have often been loyal, hard-working and driven athletes. See the hypocrisy? How can we learn what Mr. Scott had to teach us if we do not at least dabble in his example? Shame the fuck on you!
Now, this is not to say his influence is strictly across a parameter of competitive bodybuilding. Of course he was also iconic, and his imagery held profound encouragement, motivation and positivity towards many exceptional pursuits far beyond bodybuilding. These aforementioned lifters certainly did validate the examples of Mr. Scott in many ways. I am really just questioning why they wouldn't also validate his work by walking in his shoes?
Many of them have great explanations. Life and family and business are valid. A time-consuming desire to accomplish more in the sports they already engage is solid. Disinterest in the sport's details – the trunks, the posing, the diet, the dye – certainly has merit. Heck, they sound like what I used to sound like. I didn't want the added burden either. I was happy with what I was doing. In fact, i was beyond happy; my practice was rewarding and peaceful and I wanted for nothing within it. Compete in bodybuilding? Why bother? I was fine without that addd pressure, thank you. Who needs the added burden of the weight of something they may be cut out for, but just have no interest in pursuing?
The answer is found in the try practice lifters engage week in and week out. The very quality of the work they love holds the answer to: "why add the pressure of something on doesn't like?" It is the try quality of their hands on the iron that tells the truth: has any great endeavor in physique sports been accomplished by aggressively de-loading the pressure of added weight? Dos lifting less improve a strength athlete? Does obeying the excuses of preference and heeding the avoidance of inconvenience make someone powerful and strong?
As Chris Corey once told me: "shame the fuck on you?"
Oh, did I mention Chris Corey yet? No? Well, Chris Corey is a man whom I consider my own, personal Larry Scott. It was nothing short of the brief influence of this man who got me started and everything and – I mean everything I have ever accomplished since, in bodybuilding and beyond – has been influenced by the lessons he taught me. The Next Level, The PhysiQademy, The PhysiQulture Collaborative, The Big Inside, even my branding & design business Scorpio Creative have all been touched, indirectly or specifically, but the lesson that Chris taught me which put me into a bodybuilding contest.
Now most people don't know my origin story. That is partly strategic – as a coach it is good to play one's cards close to the cuff, pulling aces only when needed – and partly respectful – I some parts are only understood after other parts are completely comprehended prior. And fewer that have heard my origin stories know who Chris Corey was. He was the man who was the single most resonating influence on my work, and to whom every single athlete I have assisted, peer I have collaborated with and dreamer I have inspired owes a huge debt of gratitude. Similar, I guess, to how people hold gratitude for Mr. Scott. While Mr. Scott was not the main hero, his influence certainly helped inspire those who would act heroically in his legacy.
But Chris was no levitating demigod; he was merely a peer. He was someone whom I went to college with at Carnegie Mellon University, and knew at first mainly through artistic endeavors rather than athletic ones. Chris was bright. Chris was whipsmart. Chris was funny and highly intelligent and creative. He was many remarkable things, but his stature in people's opinion was always elevated by what Chris possessed not only from the neck up, but also from the neck down. You see, Chris was built. I mean crazy built. Like, "how the heck did that guy get such an awesome roll of the genetic dice?!" built. Of course he had an incredible work ethic, and attacked the gym with a passion and playfulness that only made his exceptional genetics shine all the brighter. He was a military man as well, which added to his disciplinary abilities and expanded his physical talents.
The guy was pretty incredible. Yet to those unaware of his soulful heart and heightened intelligence, Mr. Corey was, by anyone's concept, the epitome of a bodybuilder. It worked against him often, obviously, because you could to "see through" his exceptional mass and shape try easily; the muscle was unavoidable. The very ways he moved and presented himself declared physical confidence, an enviable aesthetic and a fascinating self-awareness of the influence of his own image.
It came as no surprise to anyone that, after laving the service, he took on his first bodybuilding contest. It was even less surprising that he loved it. Well, less surprising to everyone but me. I was still skeptical, remember? I still didn't see the point; to me it was just added pressure towards something I cared little for. And I challenged him (as I am now known for doing) on his point; I wanted to see and comprehend just what was really in it that such an artistic, creative and influential young man would go for it. And in response to my questions, Chris had many answers. But the one that really stood out was the one he concluded with:
"If you had the ability to do something," he told me. "But don't do that thing, well, shame the fuck on you."
Wow. That one hit me. I had reasons for not doing it, and they were good ones. I had explanations why I wasn't going to, and they were well-conceived and sensible. And I had opinions why I was not interested, and they were logical and rational. But I also had the ability. There was no doubt I possessed the ability; there was really nothing stopping me. All the reasons, explanations and opinions could be recreated as easily as they had ben originally create. The only thing stopping me was thoughts and ideas. In other words, the only things stopping me weren't real at all, in spite of how I treated them that way.
"I am an artist," is what I roughly recall of all the things he told me on so many occasions. "I have the heart of an artist, and I personally believe everyone does. We just forget that when we start thinking and planning and explaining our world to ourselves. The art goes away, and we become monotonous and stuck. It's a risk to let that all go, but when we do we are following our heart, so the risk always pays off. Which is why, when we can do a thing, we should just risk it and get going. Those who don't and get stuck in their thinking are the problems in this world. And this world needs less problems. So shame the fuck on them!"
And it made sense. A lot of sense. And then Chris had an opportunity to go on a trip to Bali. Just an excursion to explore the Far East. And it was a dream come true, and his artist's heart sure as hell wasn't going to be unable to do it. And so he planned to prep for his next contest after he got back from the trip; day one on his return from Bali was all bodybuilding contest-prep mode.
And he got on the plane to come home from Bali and the plane crashed and he died.
And that was the end of Chris Corey's bodybuilding career. The end of one of the most perfect physiques I have ever seen. Now all just a memory. Just an inspiration. He could never compete again. And here I was – alive and well and with all the ability in the world to arrange it – still dismissing it.
Shame the fuck on who, now?
The lesson only sunk in after his death. Which is what has made it so poignant to me. Even after two decades, it still feels like fresh lesson. I suppose that is because it is true. If you have the ability to do a thing, but don't it is rather shameful. It's entitled, self-indulgent and wasteful. It gains you only temporary comfort, but ultimately helps almost no one. And it was how I was regarding bodybuilding.
Mere months after Chris dies, I was in my first contest, and I was very much thinking of him in thankful prayers the whole event. In fact, when I execute the pose "abs and quads" pose, Chris' name is invoked, with gratitude. The pose requires an athlete to exhale completely and hold – literally without breathing. It is like being underwater; you are literally trying not to suffocate to execute it properly. It is a moment in competition where you need as much strength as you can muster. And when I execute it, many have seen me mutter something – just my lips moving – right before I breathe out. I am saying a quick "Thanks, Chris; stay with me." Literally, over scores of contests, I still thank him every single time. It reminds me of the lesson: I have the ability and will not shame myself by ignoring it or doubting it. My role model no longer has the ability; I do. So forward I go.
Which is why the passing of Mr. Scott, the Mr. Olympia, reminds me so much of Mr. Corey. The lesson, in a nutshell, was simple yet clear: "You are alive and well, and have the ability, so if you turn away from your callings, then shame the fuck on you!" We all have talents, and just because our talents don't match our interests does not mean we should therefore squander our talents. Of course we can not do everything at once, but that does not mean a pursuit of a talent does not make it to the to-do list, the bucket-list, or the long-term-planner. It is not the same as saying "maybe one day"; the goal needs to be an absolute agenda. This is what truly shows that a hero influenced us; when we elect to not only learn their lessons, but walk the path on which they learned them.
So many of the people mourning the passing of Mr. Scott have no specific plan to compete in Larry Scott's sport of choice. Sure, many of them say "maybe one day," but no gains were ever retrieved through maybes. No one puts on strength by saying "maybe I'll lift heavy things." No one gets faster by saying "maybe I'll sprint some day." No one gets wiser by saying "maybe I'll look into it." Maybe is useless. Mr. Olympia knows no maybes, so Mr. Scott knew no maybes. And neither did Mr. Corey. Because maybes are a little shameful. And stack too many maybes up, and you got a big ol' shame-the-fuck-on-you headed your way.
So when you look at the death of Inaugural Mr. Olympia Larry Scott, also meanwhile look at your well-crafted rationals for not competing in Larry Scott's sport. Look closely at your explanations, and even closer at your opinions. Because I guarantee you will find you totally – absolutely – possess the ability; no explanation you offer will diminish that fact. You possess the ability.
So don't just honor your heroes in words; learn their lessons in deeds. Nurture your talents as they did, not just with eloquent rhetoric but also by agenda'ed action.
You possess the ability to compete. And if you turn away, "just because," well, on behalf of Mr. Olympia, Mr. Scott and my beloved Mr. Corey: shame the fuck on you.
Please post thoughts, opinions, reactions, responses and any thing else below, or hit me up, as always, via email.
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