Our friend, Eric Fiorillo, has graciously allowed me to write several articles for his blog on his Fiorillo Barbell Company website. The other day he gave me a fun assignment... define strength in my own words. So here you go!
I am an ESOL teacher. I teach English to young (Kindergarten-5th grade) speakers of other languages. It’s such a rewarding job and I am privileged to support amazing kiddos. My favorite part of the day is when I get to teach them new vocabulary words… robust rich words that will help them better understand the world and help the world better understand them. Word choice can really add depth to understanding. It pays to have an extensive vocabulary and to never stop learning new words.
Whenever I teach new vocabulary to students, I typically go through the same process. We write the word, define it, list its synonyms and antonyms, use it/write it in a sentence, draw a picture of it, and brainstorm possible affixes we could add to the word (sufficient => insufficient for example). Since I was asked to define strength in my own words, I would love to go through the same process that I ask of my students :)
How do I define strength? Well, strength to me is a quality that a person or an object can possess, but it is also an action that one can exhibit. It is a trait that can be seen, heard, felt, sensed, if you simply slow down and choose to observe it. Strength is not a fixed trait. You can practice it and make a goal and conscious effort to increase it.
Synonyms of strength? Tenacity. Grit. Power. Force. All great words, aren’t they? Strength requires work, commitment and determination. It requires you to be relentless in your pursuit of your goals. It involves creating big goals for yourself… dreaming big. Then working big! Working to reach those goals. ...and helping others work toward theirs too.
Antonym of strength? Weak. Weakness is the easy way out. Weakness involves quitting, excuses, half-assing. Not giving something your best or your all. Not forging through the tough stuff. Not choosing growth because growth is difficult. Weakness is the choice to waste time instead of maximize your time. Weakness is not facing your demons because of fear. Must I remind you of your strength? Those dark parts of yourself have nothing on you. You are bigger. You are stronger. You are more capable. Have you decided that for yourself yet? It's in you. All you've gotta do is believe it.
Sentences and examples? Strength is being You. Being You and making no apologies for it. Strength is not changing yourself just so you will get the approval of others; or denying who you are for fear of rejection. Decide to be You… quirks, uniqueness and all.
Strength is found in those people working multiple jobs in order to support their family. Doing whats gotta be done. Refusing a free ride.
I see strength in my student, who came to America having very little education. He was a third grader who wasn’t even able to read at a kindergarten level. A little more than a year later you’d hardly recognize the struggles he has overcome. I marvel at his strength daily. His strength leads him to not only soak up the education we offer, but then to spend his evenings and weekends practicing his new reading and math skills at home. He is the only student I have seen, in all my eleven years as an ESOL teacher, that came back after summer break at a higher reading level than when school ended in June (typically students have an expected minor drop during the summer). His strength and determination are amazing.
Strength is often demonstrated in physical feats as well. ...and it probably goes without saying that mental strength goes right alongside these feats. It must! Bud Jeffries doing a dead-stop squat with 1,000 pounds! Also, Bud carrying a 200 pound stone in one hand, a 100 pound dumbbell in the other, all while pulling his 5,000 pound truck! Adam Glass doing a double overhand axle deadlift with 430 pounds! Logan Christopher pulling a fire truck… by his hair! Dennis Rogers at 168 pounds bodyweight, bending a 12 inch crescent wrench or driving a nail with his bare hands! Hell, strength could even be seen in that 110 pound Kelly girl pulling 250 pounds off the #3 pin the other night, or doing the farmer’s walk with 90 pounds in each hand.
Strength is Eric blowing a bicep but having the balls to go back over and go after it again! Determination? Grit? Absolutely!
Strength is a mom waking up 3-5 times per night to breastfeed an infant then going to work a full day and taking care of her family and house in the evening. Then repeating that every day… for 2 years… per kid. If I stop to remember those times fully, I am amazed that even I remained strong enough to not quit. Strength is also found in her comeback story.
Strength is a man believing in his vision and dream, pursuing it relentlessly, and becoming a successful entrepreneur despite the obstacles and challenges he faces. ...despite the reasons the naysayers think he can’t make a go of it. Thank you, Mr. Eric, for keeping on keepin on. Your strength has a ripple effect. It doesn’t begin and end with you. You fill others with strength by having so much of it yourself. You are the reason my blog exists. You filled me with enough courage and motivation to overcome my own doubts and fears, in order to pursue my vision. Thank you for infecting me with your strength. I believe strength is contagious. Maybe someone could even draw some strength from my blog, allowing the ripple effect to continue!
Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Grip. Lungs. Low back. Mind. Etc. We’ve all seen the man with big bulging biceps who lacks spinal strength. Or worse yet, lacks willpower or belief in himself. Be sure to strengthen all aspects of yourself. Build them all up proportionately.
How about the purpose of physical strength? I want to continue picking our 32 pound little girl up like she’s as light as a feather and not ever let it take a toll on my body. I refuse to ever ask my husband to carry the vacuum up a flight of stairs for me. You should be as physically fit, if not ‘fitter,’ than your everyday life demands.
Strength can be found in your beliefs and your faith. Let me share an example of what strong faith and the belief that God can/does provide looks like, as minor of an example as it may be. I vividly remember particular runs on the gravel roads where I identified myself and my body as ‘not being a runner’s body.’ As ‘not having what it takes to ever be able to progress as a runner.’ Let’s face it… I was a ‘jogger’ at that point! My doctor said I had asthma. My right shoulder hurt so bad after runs (my right shoulder!? how odd), not to mention my hips and knees. My spinal health was less than ideal. These things always caused me to slow to a walk and to never go as far and as fast as my ambition should have allowed. It was discouraging to be in my early twenties and to not have the physical health and capability to do as much as I thought I should be able to do. In came my strong faith and belief that, with God, I could change anything. Fast forward to today, today! ...a January day in Central Iowa where I got the privilege of running on the road I love after two months off of running because of snow, cold and ice. I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor …and faith. I kid you not… it felt like I was running in a whole new body. The strength I felt throughout all of my insides was incredible. Despite the odds (people’s beliefs about aging and my doctor’s past diagnoses), I am enjoying a new reality out there on the gravel road compared to 10 years prior. I attribute it to a strong belief and faith that ‘better’ can be achieved and that ‘healing’ is possible and within reach. We have no idea, I imagine, how much God and the Universe are just waiting for us to just say the word that we’re ready for that. Say the word! Say the word… then believe that it will happen! Our bodies are meant to heal themselves. I think we are the only ones standing in our own way.
Decide to be stronger than what you're up against. I'll say that again... promise to yourself that you'll become stronger, much stronger, than the struggles you'll face in life. You owe it to yourself. You know you'll be up against some shit in your journey. Life’s struggles aren't an if. But your strength in the face of those storms is a large if. Do yourself a favor and be strong enough (physically, emotionally, mentally) to let them barely throw you off. Only allow them to nudge you, poke you. ...not knock you over completely.
I am a wife, mom to two and teacher. I have a lot of things I'd like to go after in this lifetime!