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3 Money Mindset Lessons I Learned from Powerlifting

Last weekend, I learned a lot about money mindset through powerlifting.

It started with wearing a singlet in front of 40 people. It was my first time wearing this iconic outfit for my first time powerlifting competition. At 65, I felt like a fish out of water, not just in an outfit I never imagined wearing, but in a setting where the majority of the competitors were half my age. I was there on a Saturday morning with my wife and a friend because we had decided 4 months earlier that competing would help us reach our goals. We were a triad of newbies to the sport and only had a rough idea of what to expect from the event hosted in a small workout studio in a warehouse just outside Washington, DC. "Just have fun," our trainer Larry told us.

Powerlifting is a simple sport that involves lifting heavy weights primarily in the form of squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. Sometimes the bicep curl is included. The goal is to lift the heaviest possible weight for a single repetition in each of the lifts. It requires a combination of strength, technique, and mental fortitude much like bodybuilding but without the focus on muscled profiles and oiled-up poses.

Before the competition, I joked that I wanted to break a world record for the curl and be called "Curl Gurl" just because it sounded fun. (In my earlier years, I'd thought about joining a roller derby team where part of the gig was to have a skater profile like Sugar Skate or Twirl Queen.) When we got there, those hopes were quickly dashed when I saw a woman around my age who would clearly outmatch me. The first clue was the matching outfit. The second was that she flew in for the event. The third was that the curl was the only event she was entered into. "That's ok," I told my gurly self. "You're here just to have fun."

In each round, you perform your lift on a small stage in front of three judges and a crowd. The focus is all on you. Because I lifted the lightest in my group, I always went first. This meant that when the first round of bicep curl was ready to start at 9 am sharp, I was the first one on stage. What I knew well was how to hold the bar and bring the weight to my chest. What I didn't know well were the commands you have to follow or the stand you need to take to qualify for your three lifts. It took a patient judge to get me through the first event which went well though knew I could do better. My competitor clearly out lifted me. The next round was bench press which I sailed through with adequate results.

When it came to deadlift and the final event of the day, I was again first up. This was the scariest and most challenging given my knee and back issues over the years. I could feel fear creep into my soul -- the kind that gets your adrenaline running and forms a pit in your stomach. I knew I had three tries, just like the other events. The first round went well. The second I aced. Now I was up for the third and final round where I had decided to try a weight outside my comfort zone but inside my willing-to-try zone. So there I was, butt back, knees bent, and my chest and eyes up toward the ceiling. My chalked hands were gripping the bar like a pro even though I felt far from one. This was my moment. I either do the lift and walk off feeling great or I fail to lift and walk off convincing myself I did my best.

On the command of "start" I shift my stance and take a deep breath. As I began the lift and to push my feet into the floor for leverage, I could feel the weight against my legs. As I came up, those legs started to shake as I hit that sweet spot between effort and failure. It seemed like an eternity as I wobbled -- wondering how I might reach the required final position. That's when I heard the crowd cheering and my self-command engage. It was all I needed to make that final push.

I did it! It was a sweet moment and one I won't forget. Looking back, it taught me a few lessons about the mindset that can be applied to money:

  1. Create a vision that inspires action and helps clarify obstacles that stand in the way.

  2. Stretch your idea of what you can and can't do.

  3. Accept help. We are often stronger when we lean on others.

Tanya, Sydney, me, and Larry


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