This past weekend I had the privilege of attending Sorinex’s Summer Strong 9.
For the past four months, the event’s been hyped in my circles. It’s frequently touted as the “Woodstock of Strength.” An organic, free-flowing mashup of lectures, lifts, and laughs with the proverbial who’s-who in the Iron game. My friend Zach Even-Esh went so far as deeming the weekend “life changing.”
With so much build up, I felt a brand of nervous excitement typically reserved for Senior Proms and pee-wee football weigh-ins.
I showed up one beard, two sleeves of tattoos, and 50lbs in bodyweight short of fitting in. As dog owners tend to look like their dogs, Sorinex insiders tend to look like their equipment. Each individual built like an oversized, human erector set with wrists thicker than 4X4’s and backs made of marble.
Summer Strong is a place where monsters deadlift 900+ lbs, elite special operators pull back the curtain on the physical and psychological necessities of combat, and the most progressive scientists in the S&C community meet to trade secrets and hoover truckloads of Carolina pulled pork.
It’s like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...strength edition.
Despite being a successful athlete and coach for 20 years, I can admit never feeling so intimidated by a cast of characters. But once there, the initial instincts of intimidation subsided as I was swept away in the magic of the event and the welcoming arms of the Sorinex community.
Each speaker brought to the table a unique story. And, while they no doubt had their differences, one unifying theme ran across the board:
Perspective leads Purpose¹. Purpose drives the Process². The Process is greater than achievement.
To find Perspective, we gotta work. We gotta jump in the deep end and put our ass on the line.
To find Purpose, we gotta create space for reflection, surround ourselves with authentic, high character people, and set out to learn each and every day.
And to love the process over achievement, we need to fail. We need to hurt. And we need to let experience and time disabuse ourselves of the notion that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that makes it all worth it.
The speakers at Summer Strong worked together to affirm that success is not about beating society, beating a game, or beating a mark. Success is about beating ourselves. It’s about conquering our fears, shattering our limits, and discovering the unbreakable spirit inside each and every one of us.
Scar tissue isn’t the cost of admission to the gates of success, it is success itself. Surrendering our egos in the face of defeat is the ultimate form of courage and, ironically, the greatest personal victory. Adam Nelson, Olympian Gold Medalist Shot Putter and World Champion brought this message to life this as well as anyone.
The favorite in the Athens Olympics, Adam was crushed when a tiebreaker in competition left him holding silver. What followed was a dark period filled with hatred, reflection, alcohol, and ferocious training. After a retroactive drug test disqualified the gold medal holding Ukrainian, Adam swapped his silver for gold with a member of the IOC...in the food court of the Atlanta Airport.
At no point in Adam’s two decades of training did he think the phrase, “do you want fries with that?” would come to mind during his medal ceremony. Anticlimactic doesn’t suffice to describe the occasion.
Adam lost. He wallowed. He confusingly won. And only then then did he realize: it’s not about the medal. It’s about the Process. It’s about doing things right, controlling what you can control, Being your Best, and leaving every fucking ounce of heart on the the field.
As if summoned by a magnet above, the Summer Strong audience rose to their feet in compulsive standing ovation. The collection of meatheads struggled to decide whether to cry, let out a barbaric yell, or awkwardly hug the person next to them. Unsure of what to do, we clapped. Loud and hard in in agreement to confirm that Adam’s story put words to a feeling we all sense, but struggle to articulate.
We’re here on earth to discover our true being, and nothing teaches us more about who we are than setback and defeat.
It’s the Process.
Strength comes through struggle. As our muscles grow through time under tension, our minds and hearts grow the same way.
Where we fail as a society is we focus our attention on the end. We idolize the victors. We watch the ticker pass by with laser focus on the outcomes, but we’re rare to find the opportunity to applaud the underlying efforts.
We don’t see Christmas Abbott battling self doubt, depression, and drug abuse en route to becoming one of fitness’ most charismatic personalities.
We don’t see Brandon Lilly cut ties with his past, fight through 11 knee surgeries, contemplate suicide, only to rise again to the top of the powerlifting world.
We don’t see Aaron Ausmus get fired, divorced, and schlep from job, to job, to job across country to chase a dream in the Iron game.
We don’t see Ed Cosner, a 800+ lb squatter and strength coach of the All Blacks, suffer a heart attack, endure triple bias surgery, and get his strength reduced to a PVC pipe, only to learn that the story he represents in this world is far more powerful than any lift he could perform or program he could provide.
This is where Summer Strong is different. Summer Strong turns stars inside out, proving that before they were glowing, they were just swirling blobs of dust and gas like the rest of us.
We see stars and we assume, like in space, that stars are temporary. But the bright light these stars hold will continue to burn well past the time they’re alive. Because these stars understand that their light is not a trophy, it is not medal, nor is it a pile of glowing red notifications bubbling up on their Instagram feed.
The light that burns for these stars is the Process. It’s a passion for fighting thru the journey, giving back to others, and standing as a model for each and every one of us to follow.
Sorinex is a brand that’s the living embodiment of the Process. In a training world filled with flash-in-the-pan, overnight successes and promises of quick gains, Sorinex has sharpened its sword¹ over 36 years of incremental growth to be where it is today. It’s a brand that reinforces that we are the average of the five people that we surround ourselves with, and that our efforts and ethics² are far more valued than our achievements.
If we want to be great, we need to move hell and high water to surround ourselves with great people.³ Not only people who have achieved things in the field of play and the field of battle, but rather people who have cracked the code in finding meaning in our utterly confusing world. People who motivate, support, and challenge us each and every day to Be our Best.
Sorinex’s customers, friends, and network are a league of extraordinary people who grew the same way. There are no holier than thou, grandstanding assholes. Just good, hard working people who love the Process, celebrate brotherhood, and believe in pushing past possible.
To be included in this extended family is an honor, to share in these narratives is a blessing, and to participate in three full days of explosively powerful storytelling, intimate community, and innovative thinking is nothing short of the best 72 hours on the Strength calendar.
Thank you to Richard for deciding you could “do it better,” to Bert for not only carrying the torch of the tradition, but accelerating and expanding its reach across the globe, and to every member of the BOSCO brotherhood for being an example to all others around us.
Until Summer Strong 10, cherish the Process.
¹ Some Assembly Required + Omar Avila - Who stand living embodiments of finding perspective thru struggle. These athletes are exemplars for never giving up and never packing it in.
²Jeff Nichols - Owner / Director of Performance at Virginia High Performance and Navy SEAL who’s entire presentation set the foundation for a weekend of stories about “the Process.”
³ Ron McKeefery - The NSCA 2016 College S&C Coach of the Year on discussing the need for coaches to perpetually hone their craft thru continued learning.
⁴Rudy Reyes -United States Marine, martial arts instructor, and actor on relying on brotherhood and community in times both times of need and times of success