Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Art of Being Human - Judd Biasiotto

These six lectures were delivered worldwide from 1985 to 1995. They have been modified for print and most redundant stories have been deleted. However, all pertinent information and stories have been included at least once within this collection.

The Author Squatting 603 lbs at 130 Bodyweight:

"Michael Jordan and countless other NBA stars credit George Mumford with transforming their game. A widely respected public speaker and coach, Mumford shares his story and strategies in The Mindful Athlete. His proven techniques transform the performance of anyone with a goal, be they an Olympian, weekend warrior, executive, hacker, or artist.

A basketball player at the University of Massachusetts (where he roomed with Dr. J, Julius Erving), injuries forced Mumford out of the game he loved. The meds that relieved the pain of his injuries also numbed him to the emptiness he felt without the game and eventually led him to heroin. After years as a functioning addict, Mumford made meditation the center of his life. He kicked drugs, earned a master’s degree, and began teaching meditation to inmates and others.

Mumford went on to partner with coach Phil Jackson, a long-time mindfulness practitioner, working with him and each of the teams he coached to become NBA champions. His roster of champion clients now includes executives and Olympians. With a charismatic style that combines mindfulness with lessons from icons like Yoda and Bruce Lee, Mumford delivers an engrossing story and an invaluable resource."

Chapter Six:
The Art of Being Human
by Judd Biasiotto

Over the years I've had the opportunity to speak to some extremely impressive groups and teams, but never in my life have I been in a room with so many great athletes as there are here tonight. I was informed earlier this evening that the athletes in this room are responsible for more than 350 National records, 700 American records, and 250 World records. Just as impressive is the fact that there are 67 National Champions and 43 World Champions in attendance here tonight. Needless to say, I'm impressed and extremely honored to have the opportunity to talk to you. This is such a gifted group and I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to give you all that I am. So let's begin.

I love being an athlete. In fact, sports is a major aspect of my life. In all condor, there is nothing in my life that I enjoy more than competition. The euphoria and celebration that received from participating in sports transcends anything that I have ever experienced. For me, sports is truly a gift from God. And I am sure that for many of you sitting here the feeling is mutual. As important as sports is to us, we have to realize that they are just a game, nothing more, nothing less. This brings up something that bothers me a great deal, and that is blind obsession -- where sports becomes a means to an end. I'm really concerned about this problem. And it is a problem, you know, a major problem. First of all, the obsession with sports in America is incredible. With war raging all around us, you would think that the major interest in the United States would be detente, right? No, it's sports! There is more interest in the world series than there is in the Middle East crisis. There is more television and newspaper coverage devoted to sports than there is to our economic system. Even though the latter relates to our well-being and livelihood. More time and more money are spent by colleges to recruit good athletes than good college professors. College coaches are paid more money to coach than the Nobel Prize winners are paid to teach. Superstars are far better known than super scientists. And Shaquille O'Neal who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers makes approximately 25 times more than the President of the United States. Now, if that doesn't freak you out, I don't know what will. 

Intertwined with these obsessions by the American public are the plain realities of high-voltage competition. The American athlete responds to competition like no other athlete in the world. It's been estimated that the average athlete in America trains an average of twelve hours a week. Now that's an average athlete. Most elite athletes train at least three times as much. Not only that, but they will train if they are in pain, if they are sick and even if they are injured. They will do anything to improve their performance -- drugs, cheating, lying -- it doesn't seem to matter as long as they improve. Believe me, there are numerous elite athletes who practically surrender their entire lives to that single purpose. For many elite athletes, their devotion to sport actually goes beyond the border of obsession. In fact, there is considerable research in sports psychology that demonstrates that elite athletes often develop obsessive-compulsive behavior in an attempt to achieve their goals. For example, a number of studies I conducted with weightlifters in the late eighties indicated that there was a consistent positive linear relationship between weightlifting success and the "obsessive" factor as defined by Nideffers Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style. Generally, the better the lifter the more obsessive their behavior.

In a similar series of studies, Dr. Paul Highlen and his associates found that qualifiers for the 1988 Canadian National wrestling and diving teams reported relatively high frequencies of compulsive behaviors. The athletes were withdrawn, talked to themselves frequently and generally lived a highly structured lifestyle compared to less-skilled athletes.

Interestingly, most psychologists believe that for most people to reach an elite level in any field of endeavor some degree of obsession is required. In fact, in sports, one of the most competitive fields of endeavor, obsession -- total obsession -- may be the most important aspect of achieving world class status.

Dr. Gordon Edlin, a sports psychologist, says an interesting thing about this very issue. Let me tell you what he said:

"I've never met a great athlete who wasn't somewhat obsessive. The really great athletes, the one-percenters, are generally obsessed with what they are doing. They place a higher priority on their sport than they do on work, family, interpersonal relationships, and even on their own health. Athletes seem quite willing to sacrifice the very essence of life just to achieve athletic greatness. Nothing matters -- just the game."

I know that may sound crazy to you, but I'm afraid Dr. Edlin's statement is pretty accurate. Let's be honest, athletes are at best different, especially the great ones. I mean, think about it. How many people do you know that would push their bodies to the brink of exhaustion every day, abstain from social and physical pleasures -- such as sex, alcohol, and social communication. People who would sacrifice job opportunities, financial security, home, marriage, even children, perhaps ingest large quantities of illegal and dangerous drugs, ignore and endure pain from serious injuries, work long hours perfecting a simple skill that is ridiculously repetitious, and re-gain and re-lose a couple of hundred pounds each year? For that matter, how many people do you know that would spend forty to sixty hours a week working on their hobby, and eating two to three cans of tuna fish each day for a lifetime? Yet, all this is done for a chance to participate in an event that might, if the athlete is good enough, bring him a few moments of glory.

For many athletes, sports is not just an event that is played at specific intervals; it is his social life, psychological life, and physical life. For this type of individual, it is not just participation in sport that is missed, but the entire life that is built around the sport. It's insane.

I remember a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to meet Scott Edmiston, a former world champion and world record holder in the sport of powerlifting. During the years that I have been involved in the sport of powerlifting, I have met some really "different" lifters. You know, "different" like in playing without a full deck; like rowing with one oar; like several sandwiches shy of a picnic; like the lights are on but nobody's home; like . . . well, you get the idea. Without question though, none of the "different" lifters I've met can compare to Scott Edmiston -- 5'11", 242 pound superman, superflake from Allentown, Pennsylvania. In fact, when it comes to obsessive behavior, he's in a class with a very select few.

For instance, in order to get himself really psyched up for the Collegiate National Powerlifting Championships, Edmiston shaved all the hair off his head -- all of it. Next, he got a steak bone, put a chain through it, and wore it around his neck. Then, every night, he walked across the Kutztown State College Campus growling at people. Doug Haines, Scott's training partner, told me that the entire campus was scared to death of Edmiston, from the groundskeeper right on up to the president. In fact, Doug said that some of the students would actually run away every time they saw Edmiston coming.

If you think that's "different," listen to this. In order to prepare for the 1986 USPF National Championships, Scott moved right into the local gym so he could get his "mind set" for pending championships. He brought his mattress from home, along with a small night stand and table lamp, and set up a bedroom right there in the corner of the gym. Then every morning, Monday through Saturday without fail, Edmiston would drag himself out of bed at five o'clock to prepare for his first two-hour workout of the day. At five in the afternoon, after an eight-hour shift at Bethlehem Steel, Edmiston would be back in the gym for his second two-hour session.

Let me read you what Scott said in an interview he did with me for Powerlifting USA after he retired at the early age of 22:

"My goal was to be the best lifter in the world. Whatever it took to get there -- sacrifice, hard work, drugs -- that's what I did. Nothing mattered to me, not my family, my girl, my job, just lifting . . . That was my whole world -- nothing mattered. Thank God I survived it all."

Do you think that's scary? Let me tell you about my good friend, Stephen Korte. He's a magnificent athlete. One of the greatest powerlifters ever to come out of Germany. By the time he was twenty-two, he had already won three German National Championships, a European Championship, and a silver medal at the World Championships. He had also broken most of the teenage German National Powerlifting records in the heavyweight division. It was no secret that Stephan was Germany's hope for the future; a superweight who would dominate powerlifting for a decade to come. He was just that great of an athlete.

Let me also mention here that Stephan is a marvelous human being. He is so positive, and so wondrous and do full of exciting things to share. He is a joy to be around. I wish I could share him with you. But he is also a man who lived on the edge. A man who was so obsessed with his dreams that he literally jeopardized his life to realize them. His story is a strange mix, inspiring, yet extremely frightening. One that will afford you some insight into the myopic view of life that many world class athletes have. Let me tell you what happened.

Four weeks prior to the 1993 Junior European Championships, Stephan noticed that his right testicle was beginning to enlarge. Within two weeks, his testicle had swollen to twice its normal size. Suspecting that he might have testicular cancer, Stephan went to a friend who was in medical school, to get examined. His friend's diagnosis was not good. He told Stephan that he definitely had cancer and that he needed to see a doctor immediately so that he could get treatment. I don't know about you, but I would have been in the doctor's office that night. But not Stephan. Instead of seeking medical care, he refused to see a doctor. He was afraid that if he was diagnosed with having cancer he would not be allowed to compete in the European Championships and consequently would not be able to compete at the Worlds. Winning a gold medal at the Worlds was a dream that he had had since he was a little boy. A dream that he could not abandon. So he continued to train, pushing his body to its breaking point in every workout. Each day though, his body became a little smaller and a little weaker. It was obvious that his cancer was spreading through his body, but Stephan persisted. In fear and in pain he drove himself relentlessly. He never complained, nor did he tell anyone about his cancer. By the time the championships rolled around, Stephan had lost close to thirty pounds. He was weak and frightened, but he was determined. Amazingly, Stephan made the seemingly impossible possible by winning the gold medal and qualifying for the Worlds. An incredible feat; one that I can barely comprehend.

Unfortunately, Stephan's story does not have a happy ending. The day after his competition he was admitted to the hospital and was immediately operated on. His right testicle and a major portion of his abdominal lymph system was removed. Needless to say, his powerlifting career was over. Isn't that a tragic event? One that could have been avoided. I love Stephan Korte. As I mentioned before, he is a wonderful man, but I don't believe that winning outweighs every aspect of human interest. No championship or medal is worth a life, or for that matter human suffering. Sports are challenging and exciting, but they're just games. Nothing more and nothing less. To think otherwise is in a sense . . . sick.

Unfortunately, the history of sport is filled with athletes whose sole objective in life is to ascend to athletic greatness. For these athletes sports is not a game -- it is their life. Nothing else matters to them. They are driven men and women. The only real world for them is and always will be the world of sports. Everything else savors of anticlimax. For the obsessed athlete nothing in life could even approach the significance of the game. The game is their whole world. There is nothing else. This type of thinking is a  myopic view of life.   

It seems even more insane when you consider the statistical possibility of being really successful in sports. Just consider the odds of making it to the pros in professional basketball. Each year there are approximately 200,000 high school seniors who participate in inter-scholastic basketball. Of these seniors, approximately 12,000 will receive college scholarships. Out of that 12,000, somewhere around 200 players will be drafted by the N.B.A., but only about 50 will actually be offered a contract. Of these 50, about five will eventually earn a starting position. Of those five, only two will stay in the N.B.A. for more than five seasons. In other words, your chances of making it big in the N.B.A. are about 1 in 100,000, and believe me, your odds of making it big are not much better in any other sport. Conversely, your chances of success in business is approximately 80%. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against sports. If anything, I'm a jock at heart. If you have a chance to make it big, go for it, but don't forget that there's more to life than shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball. Strive to be a total human being, not someone who is just physically well developed, but one who is physically, mentally, socially, an spiritually developed.

When you really think about it, what is the significance of hoisting up a heavy weight, hitting a home run or slam dunking a basketball? It's nice to be able to do these things, but they really have limited value to mankind. I think my mother put sports in perspective for me early in my lifting career. I remember I had just broken the world record in the squat and I was so excited about telling her what I had accomplished. So before I even showered, I ran to the nearest phone and called her. I said, "Mom, I broke the world record tonight." And she said with that marvelous Italian accent of hers, "Thatsa nice! How's the car running?" I believe that says it all. Athletics are great but there are more important things in life; like keeping your car running. You know, we really don't need anymore great athletes in America. We already have a surplus of gifted baseball, basketball, football, and tennis players. What we need now is more gifted doctors, lawyers, and teachers, etc. Now don't get me wrong. Like I said, I'm not against sports. If anything, I'm a jock at heart. I love being an athlete. But the truth of the matter is, it is more important to be a good person than it is to be a great athlete. And I'll tell you this, too, it's a lot harder to be a good person.

So, tonight with your permission, I would like to talk to you about some of my ideas of what it takes to be a well rounded human being. Take the ideas you like home with you and leave the others behind. We might call this talk, "The Art of Being Human."

I think it is in every man's best interest to be a total human being. An individual who is not just physically developed but one who is intellectually, socially, and spiritually developed as well. I know that as athletes we tend to focus more on the physical aspects than the latter. I tend to believe that this is only natural because most of what we do requires extreme physical prowess. However, to ignore the other aspects is a mistake of significant magnitude, because without these other aspects of life we can never truly become all that we can be. It is true that the body is essential; but it is only essential because it carries around the greatest gift given to us: our brain.

The human mind is a miracle. It is limitless. No one has even guessed its potential. Believe me, the powers of the brain are literally beyond human comprehension. Brain researchers estimate that even prodigies don't use more than a fraction of their brain's potential. "If man used the full potential of his brain," says Dr. Stephan Berhard, a leading neurophysiologist, "he would likely cross the parameters of mortality, he would become godlike." Think about that. What a gift this mind of ours is. Yet we don't even use it.

You know, we are the greatest country in the world, but we are by far one of the most uneducated countries in the world. Which is really crazy because we have the greatest educational opportunities on earth. Our data banks are cram packed with the most advanced scientific information available to man and we have the technology to access that information in a moment's notice. We have everything in America, the best schools, the best libraries, the best learning carrels, the best scientific equipment . . . the best of everything. In short, our educational opportunities are futuristic compared to other countries. And do you know what? Most Americans don't give a damn. They are worried more about who is going to win the Super Bowl than they are about educating themselves and their own children. That's sad because intelligence is on of the most important aspects of being human. It gives us the capacity to participate in the ideas and feelings of others. It's a very special human quality that allows us to step out of ourselves and observe and understand the wonder and magic of others from within. It gives us the capacity for understanding, passion, drive, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, tenderness, and love. When you are intelligent your entire life is enriched, as well as the lives of others who you touch.

Unfortunately, we have very little regard for education in America. In fact, most American's look at getting an education more as a hassle than an opportunity to grow and nurture as a human being. I've been teaching for close to a decade-and-a-half and I can honestly say that most students don't take their education seriously. I've seen guys spend three hours in the gym or six hours in front of the television, but they won't spend fifteen minutes reading a book. When it comes to education the accent is definitely on the wrong symbol. Hell, if we would spend a fraction of the time we dedicate to sports on education we would be a country of prodigies. As it is we are a country of dimwits.

A couple of months ago, I asked my publisher why he thought my books were doing better in Europe than they were here in the States. Do you know what he said? "American athletes either don't read or can't read." I hate to admit it but he is probably right. In fact, most Americans don't read, which is odd because most of us spend half of our youth learning how to read, and once we learn how, we don't read anyway. Here is something that will probably shock you. The average college student after graduation reads less than one book a year. Now that's the average college graduate. Most Americans don't read a book from one decade to the next. And here is something that will really blow your mind. Twenty percent of the American population is functionally illiterate. Worse yet we are adding one million illiterate teenagers each year to our already shocking number of illiterates. Now I know what you're thinking. "America has more college graduates than any country in the world." Well don't let that fool you, because degrees and titles mean absolutely nothing in America. Some of the dumbest people I have ever met have Ph.D's and some of the smartest people I ever met don't even know what a Ph.D is. Believe me, anyone can get a Ph.D. Hell, I got one.

Recently a friend of mine told me he was going to become a certified fitness expert. He never had a single college course in physiology, bio-mechanics, kinesiology, zoology, anatomy, nutrition . . . hell, he's never taken a college course. And he is not that scholarly when it comes to the elementary aspects of weight training. But one day he forked over two-hundred dollars, sat through a four hour fitness seminar and now he is a bona-fide fitness expert with a certificate to prove it. The guy was selling "fun meals" at McDonalds the week before and now he's a fitness guru. Do you believe that? Well don't! Like I said, don't be fooled by people with degrees. Look at a person's knowledge, not some piece of paper he's holding in his hand. Even Aristotle made the distinction between education and intelligence when he wrote, "Dignity does not consist in possessing honors but in deserving them." A degree is just a piece of paper. What's really important is your wisdom, not your title. In life you have to prove yourself. Do you really think I.B.M. gave a "rat's ass" if Bill Gates had a degree? Hell no! They were interested in his production. All they wanted was for him to "crank out" that software. The bottom line was, are you competent -- can you produce? And that's the way it should be -- competence based on performance. Believe me that's the way it is in sports. Just because Carl Lewis shows up for a track meet you don't think all the other athletes are going to say, "Oh, Carl's here. Give him the gold medal." Or course not! They're going to make him prove he's the best every time he walks on the track. They could care less that he's a world champion. But then, Carl Lewis can prove his worth when he walks out on that track; he's worked his whole life in order to develop his skills. He didn't stop training once he won the gold either. He forged on, because he knew that he would have to prove himself over and over again. Unfortunately that's not the case with most Americans. It seems that as soon as they get out of school the quest for knowledge is over. This is a mistake of significant magnitude. We live in such a fast paced dynamic society that by just doing nothing we fall way behind. As mentioned, in life you have to prove yourself each and every day. You can't rest on your laurels. Once you think you have it made, you will reach a cumulative point, inertia will breed and before you know it you will be on the backslide. It's in man's best interest to never be totally dissatisfied but to always be unsatisfied. Leo Buscaglia says, "Education is a never ending pursuit and the truest measure of intelligence is a dedication to continue the process throughout life." Let me read to you more of his thoughts:

"To place proper value on learning, we need to recognize a basic law of nature. That which does not grow, dies. A life that is lived within fixed limits and travels only the well worn paths of habit and routine is diminished greatly by failing to recognize that we live in a constant state of change. That which does not grow, dies."

He's right, you know! We should always be reaching out, experimenting, learning, and growing. The pursuit of wisdom is a lifelong activity. Each day we should learn something new about the world, and in so doing we well never again be the same. You have to work long and hard if you want to really grow intellectually. It's not easy, but nothing worth having in life is easy to obtain.

For the life of me, I don't understand why people don't want to learn. Every time you learn something new, you become something new, something greater, something grander. We are all we have. Buddha told us that trips outside of the body are worthless. Jesus said if you want to find life you have to look inside yourself. Therefore it is incumbent that we become all that we can be, the most wonderful intelligent, loving human being possible. And then we will always survive. Malcolm X said something extremely poignant. He said, "They can chain my hands and feet but they can't shackle my mind." Intelligence can set you free. Believe me, you can be enslaved by ignorance, but with intelligence you are truly limitless. You can direct history, shape your environment, mold your life . . . hell, you can make the impossible possible in some cases. Just sixty years ago the Wright Brothers were told that if God had intended man to fly, he would have given them wings. Today we have men walking on the moon. Intelligence is power!

One thing that a lot of athletes don't understand is that the body serves the mind. It's not the other way around. If you have a strong mind, your body will follow. In fact, there is considerable research in the field of psychomotor development which has revealed a linear relationship between the knowledge an athlete has about his sport and how well he performs. In short, the more information extended to an athlete about the demands of his sport, the more likely it is he will excel. Because of this fact, coaches in the Eastern Bloc countries require that their athletes engage in intellectual training. Coaches in these countries will frequently assign readings to their athletes; at other times discussions are held and lectures are given by authorities who discuss the psychological or physiological ramifications of the activities in which these athletes are engaged. Also, athletes are frequently exposed to training films in which their own movements are analyzed and compared to those of more proficient performers round the world. These programs have consistently shown that athletes who are intellectually prepared for the demands of competition perform significantly better than athletes who didn't receive such intellectual training. In other words, it's brains not brawn that many times will make the difference. I know this was true of my career. There were a lot of athletes who had greater physical prowess than me -- athletes who should have beaten me easily, but never could. Let's be honest. At best I had the body of an eleven year old stamp collector. There is no way I should have been able to beat some of the guys that I did. It was my intelligence that saw me through. When I was competing, I went to great pains to procure as much information as possible about my sport. I read practically everything I could get my hands on -- books about training routines, ergogenic aids, nutrition, etc. I also called and visited prominent coaches and athletes. I looked for every little edge. I looked at everything that I thought could enhance my performance. I studied biomechanics, hypnosis, biofeedback, sports medicine, etc. I even looked into how music, lighting, and colors affected performance. In short, I played the game above my shoulders and for me it paid off. And here's a news flash! I'm just an ordinary guy. Anything that I can do, you can do too, and some of you can probably do it better. As I said before, if you're willing to work hard, and use your intelligence, you can be or do almost anything in life. The mind is limitless.

Personally, I never want to stop learning, because the more I learn the more I become and the more I have to share with others. And the more I have to share, the closer I can get to people and then, just maybe, something wonderful and magical can happen between us. For me that is the essence of life.

Another thing I'm really concerned about is what's happening to us socially. Think about these statistics for a second. Every year in America 25,000 people kill themselves. Is that sad or what? There are approximately 30,000 murders each year, 60,000 rapes (reported), 60,000 incidents of spousal abuse, 900,000 kids who run away from home, and 60,000 men and women who seek psychiatric help. And would you believe this, the average relationship in America lasts only three months, and one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. And of the marriages that remain viable, 84% of these individuals are not happy. In fact when most of these individuals were surveyed, they said that if the had it to do all over again, they would never have gotten married. George Leonard says, "We can orbit the earth, we can touch the moon, but this society has not yet devised a way for two people to live together in harmony for seven straight days without wanting to strangle each other." It gets worse, too. A recent mental health survey revealed that only 20% of the people in America who were interviewed said they were happy and enjoyed life.

Things just don't seem to be getting any better. In fact times have really changed. When I was a young boy, I grew up in Philadelphia. Isn't that a beautiful name for a city. It literally means the city of brotherly love. I remember when I was a little boy, we would leave our back door open in case our neighbors needed anything, and they would do the same for us. If we needed something we would just go over to their house and borrow it, and then later that day we would bring it back, and the neighbors would do the same. For instance, some mornings while we were sleeping they would come in and borrow eggs or sugar, what ever they needed. Then later on, they would come back and say, "Here are the eggs we borrowed this morning. Thanks!" It was so nice sharing with friends. Everybody watched out for each other. It was a wonderful thing. Today if you leave your door open in Philadelphia the neighbors will come in and take your eggs, your microwave, your stereo and anything else that is not nailed down. And believe me, they're not bringing that shit back.

Obviously, we are missing something when it comes to the basic concept of being human. We don't reach out and care anymore. And we don't love anymore either. We have forgotten that we are our brother's keeper. we are in this I-Me generation. Everyone is worried about themselves, and what they can get out of a situation. I hear it all the time -- "What's in it for me? What can you do for me?" We have become so selfish and self-centered. No wonder we have lost the aptitude for happiness.

People are in need of community but what we have is stressed individuality. This is not right. We need each other. We need other people to engage us, comfort us, and accept us. No man is a rock. We all need love and compassion. Norman Vincent Peale says that there is no substitute for the human touch. We know this to be a fact, yet we continue to push people away from us.It's as if we are afraid to reach out to each other, afraid to admit our vulnerability, afraid to say, "This is who I really am, I'm not perfect, I have my faults, but I am also unique and I have wonderful things to share."

Another thing: we are so suspicious of everyone these days that we lose a lot of opportunities for friendship and love. I'll see a girl on campus and her hair will look absolutely stunning and I'll say, "Your hair looks really pretty today." And I'll walk on. Then I'll see another girl and she might be wearing a beautiful dress and I'll say, "I love that dress. You look beautiful today." And I'll move on. And then I might see a guy who has really been taking care of himself and is in great shape and I'll say, "Man, you look great!" And then you know what happens? These three people meet up on the other end of campus and the first girl will say, "I just saw Judd and do you know what? He tried to hit on me." And the other girl will say, "Yeah, I just saw him too, and he tried to hit on me too." And then the guy will say, "Yeah, he tried to hit on me too." Is this crazy or what? But that is the way it is in America. We are so suspicious of anyone who tries to reach out to us that we are ready to immediately slap them away.

You know, a couple of years ago I was telling my students about Saint Francis of Assisi and how his philosophy of life was to give everything that you had. And you know he did that. He gave away all his wealth, time, love, and energy to others. He was one of the most giving human beings you could ever imagine and the most loved. But you know what my students said? "This guy must be tripping, he must be nuts!" They didn't understand that when you give everything you have, you get so much more in return. You get love -- the most essential element for health and happiness. The great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wrote that, "Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, and kindness in giving creates love."

I had a wonderful experience the last time I was in China. I was visiting with the Chinese Olympic Weightlifting Team and they were giving me a tour of Beijing. Actually they had me on the temple circuit. Believe me, China had more temples than K-Mart has "blue light specials." After about four hours of temple touring, every temple started looking the same. Consequently, I decided to venture out on my own to see what else China had to offer. I must have wandered off a good three miles when all of a sudden I realized I was lost. Well, I wasn't totally lost, just partially. You see, there was a fork in the road and I couldn't remember which one I had gone down. My major problem was that if I selected the wrong road, I'd never be able to get back in time to meet with the other lifters. What I needed was some transportation -- and fast. Of course, in China no one owns a car [and how that's changed!] -- they can't afford them. But just about everyone has a bicycle. Consequently, I decided to see if I could rent someone's bicycle. As luck would have it, a young peasant woman came by with a beat-up old bike. I know this may sound trite, but in the three days I was in China, this was by far and away the most beautiful woman I had seen. She had jet black eyes, beautiful olive skin, and the body of a 12th Street hooker.

After I flagged her down, I attempted to explain my dilemma in my best Chinese. I figured if I gave her a real good sob story, I could get her to rent me the bike cheap. Amazingly, as soon as I got the message across that I was lost, she got off her bike and gave it to me. Even more incredible was the fact that she refused to take any money for letting me use it. I really felt guilty about taking her bike without paying, but I didn't have time to stand there an convince her to take my money. I figured I'd do that when I brought the bike back. I jumped on her bike and headed out to find the other lifters. Fortunately, I selected the right road back and located them just as they were coming out of the temple of whatever. After I explained to them what had happened, we made arrangements to meet at a nearby restaurant after I returned the bike.

On my way back to return the bike, I started thinking about what the peasant woman had done for me. There was no doubt in my mind that the bike was one of her greatest assets, perhaps only second to her home, if in fact she had a home. And here I was a foreigner who she had never laid eyes on before, and she gives me one of her most important possessions. She had absolutely no guarantee that I would return it, nor did she have any recourse if I didn't return it. She was totally at my mercy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that giving me the bike was a tremendous act of trust and kindness. I mean, can you imagine someone in America lending their bike, let alone their car, to a foreigner. Let's be real, most Americans won't give a foreigner the time of day. Hell, most Americans won't give another American the time of day. Well, I figured if she could show me such kindness, I could do the same for her. So I decided that I would give her 200 yen for letting me use her bike. That's about sixty dollars in American money, which translates to about three months wages for a peasant in China. When I got back, I found the woman sitting on the side of the road waiting for me. After I thanked her, I reached into my wallet and pulled out 200 yen and handed it to her. She immediately returned the money to me, shook her head no, and then gave me a smile that absolutely melted me. I tried to give her the money again, but once again she refused it. I know this may sound crazy, but as I stood there looking at her, I could actually feel love and warmth radiating from her. I also realized my money had no value at this time. A gift is something that is given from the heart, given without the expectation of praise or reward. Her act of kindness was her gift to me -- one I'll always treasure.

This is the way life should be. We need to treat each other the way we want to be treated. We need to reach out, show compassion and love for each other. Like I said, we need each other. Unfortunately that's not the way it is in America. We don't seem to look for the good in anyone. I see it all of the time. People will get into a relationship, and instead of trying to build each other up, they tear each other down in order to gain vantage point. That's not love. It's selfishness, and insecurity speaking. And if someone becomes successful. God help him! We are quick to try and destroy that person's reputation. We can't stand other people's success. Leo Rostan says, "It is the weak who are cruel; gentleness is to be expected only from the strong." Rosten is right -- weak, insecure people, they are always the ones to cast the first stones.

And this racism thing really drives me crazy. I know this is not a popular stand, but I definitely believe in the amalgamation of the races and miscegenation. More importantly though, I believe that a man should be judged on his character -- not his color. I detest any form of racism, black or white. We are all brothers and sisters. We need to reach out, love, risk, and trust in people. If we don't we will never realize our greatness or enjoy all the gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

I want to tell you a magnificent story about human courage and love. The story is about my Father. Now, I know what you are thinking. "Oh, no! Not another one of those 'my father is great' stories." Well . . . in a way it is a story like that. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not ashamed about bragging on my Father. Every son should think that his father is the greatest. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, but for me there is nothing more true. I believe that I am a very objective person. I've been all over this country, and I have had the opportunity to visit a few others. I'm sure I have met thousands of men, but I can honestly say that I have never met a man as great as my Father, and I have met some truly great men. He is a beautiful, wonderful human being. Always positive, smiling and always moving forward. He is a doer, not a dreamer, a listener, not a thinker, a leader, certainly not a follower. Honest, hardworking, intelligent, and powerful. He is simply an awesome force. He is everything I ever want to be.

The story I am about to tell you has nothing to do with the love and devotion I have for my father. Rather, it reflects the love and devotion my Father had for another man -- a black man. It was almost thirty-five years ago that these events took place. If my memory serves me right I was five years old. At the time my father was one of the best fast-pitch softball pitchers in America. That's not a proud son bragging but rather the record book speaking. The years the he pitched his winning percentage was well over 95%. It was nothing for him to strike out 16 or 17 batters in a seven inning game. And when it came to no-hitters, I doubt if anyone in the nation with the exception of the great Eddie Fegner had more. In one season alone he threw 21 no-hit games. Not surprisingly, at the beginning of each season my father was deluged by teams who wanted him to play for them, and it was routine for other teams to "pick him up" to play in weekend tournaments. He was just that great.

Believe me, things won't make you happy, people will. When I was working in professional baseball, I was around some of the wealthiest people in the world and they were some of the most miserable people I have ever met. And when I worked in the steel mills during my college vacations, I met some of the poorest people. And you know what? Many of them were extremely happy. For this reason I have a rule, and if you are smart you will follow too. It's simply -- people first, things second. Reach out, risk, love, share and give yourself totally. Try being human again.

I would like to leave you with a few thoughts about having God in your life. Usually I don't talk about metaphysics in my lectures, but maybe I should. Certainly we all need God in our lives, for without God we are nothing. And with God we are truly limitless. God can give us the strength to endure whatever we encounter. There is a power in knowing that God is with us. Two things that I always keep in mind during tough times -- one, that God is always with me and, two, that I can do all things through Christ. These convictions have given me power and strength throughout my career.

A few years ago I was invited by the Chinese government to train at the Olympic training center in Beijing, China. Although I was excited about the opportunity, I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that I was scared half to death. As you are probably aware, China is a communist country which is directly controlled by the military. I remember when I got off the plane, there were soldiers standing all over the place armed with sub-machine guns. That freaked me out right there. Then, when I got to the Olympic training center, I was informed that no foreigner had ever trained there before. Consequently, when I entered the training center all of the athletes were surprised to see me. Some of the younger athletes had never even seen an American lifter before, some had not even seen an American man before. It was really strange.

After my first workout at the center, I went in to shower and all of the female athletes came in and showered with me. I asked the interpreter what they were doing and he said they wanted to see what an American man looked like.Talk about pressure. I hope I didn't disappoint them. And that was just the beginning. The first day that I actually trained with the Chinese weightlifting team, I took my tape player into the gym and popped in my Michael Jackson "I'm Bad" tape. Immediately, the Chinese coach pitched a fit. It was like I had committed a mortal sin or something. It didn't take me long to realize that training in China was more like a religion than an activity. In fact, there was no music, no talking, nothing but training when training was taking place. Such activities were considered a weakness. And going to the bathroom during a training session was considered the ultimate weakness. Unfortunately I had to find that out first hand. In case you haven't been to China let me tell you about their bathrooms. They are basically nonexistent. All they have for a toilet is a hole in the floor. Kind of like an outhouse but without a seat. They call it a squat toilet. Anyway, halfway through my workout, I had to go to the bathroom so I went up to the coach and asked him where the wei'-shen-jian, which is Chinese for bathroom, was located. Of course he got mad as hell, because like I said you are not allowed to go to the bathroom when you are training. After he blessed me out, he pointed to a room at the end of the gym. When I went into the room the only thing that was there was a little hole in the floor. I said to myself, "No! This just can't be." So I went back out and sheepishly told the coach and again asked him where the wei'-shen-jian was. Of course he freaked. After he calmed down he again pointed to the same room in the gym. I went back into the room and for the longest time just looked at that little hole. I just couldn't believe that this was a bathroom. And then I thought, what the hell, this is China. So I started relieving myself. I hardly got started when one of the athletes came into the room. As soon as he saw what I was doing he immediately ran out. The next thing I knew, the coach, followed by the entire weightlifting team, came running into the room.

Here I was urinating in their sauna room -- you can only imagine how I felt. I didn't have any command of the Chinese language, their rules or customs. I had no coach, no friends, and an interpreter who understood about as much English as I did Chinese. In short, I was all alone in a communist country that traditionally hated Americans. What got me through was knowing that I had God with me. When you have God, you are never alone, and there is nothing you can't do.

It's been said that God's gift to us is life, and our gift to God is how we live it. You know, life can be really tough. There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world and there always has been. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that. All you have to do is look at the history of mankind. Innocent, beautiful people have suffered for no apparent reason since the beginning of time. In fact [I'm starting to wonder what this has to do with training . . . hopefully you'll find a connection!], pain is as much a part of the human condition as life and death. And there has been some real horrifying suffering to. Heartache and misery that human beings have created. Atrocities that are the mortal sins of our soul. No on knows why there is so much anguish in the world. Why God would allow good people to suffer so much. We can only assume that it is a provocation from God to see if we can measure up. At least that's the way I choose to look at it.

There is this beautiful anecdote about a man who looks at the world and sees suffering everywhere. People killing each other, babies in pain, unjust imprisonment, slavery, genocide and inequity. And he looks to the heavens and says to God, "There is so much suffering and pain in your world, dear Lord, why don't you send help!" And God looks down and says,

"I did send help. I sent you."                         

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