“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
- Jack London
I get asked time to time, by students and online acquaintances, where I get ideas for teaching, writing and training. How I answer depends on who's asking and although the list of influences is very long and varied, there are a few constants that I can draw literally hundreds of anecdotes from - Master Pak (my Tae Kwon Do teacher and long-time friend of the family), my competitive swimming experience (thousands of miles and over two decades of training and coaching), my son, my students, and my friends. These are personal connections and experiences that I can't really "share" in the sense that I can't tell someone to, for example, hang out with my students for inspiration. There ARE other sources of inspiration that I can share however, and here are a few of them:
When it comes to weightlifting, there are some books that I'd consider classics - some old, some new. Here are a few classics about strength training that you should consider adding to your library if you haven't already:
- The Strongest Shall Survive by Bill Starr
- The Weightlifting Encyclopedia by Arthur Dreschler
- Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
- Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline
- Supertraining by Mel Siff
- Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladmir Zatsiorsky
- Athletic Body in Balance by Gray Cook
These are books that you can read and then reread. Whenever I pick up one of these books after some time away from them, I can open to any page, start reading, and be drawn into the anecdote, training tip, or lesson being presented. ... and yes, I know I'm kind of a nerd like that...
*Try the "Kaizen" Approach
"Kaizen" is a Japanese word that means something that can be loosely interpreted as "improvement" or "reformation". It was a business buzzword for a while in the early 90s. It differs from the ideas of "renovation" or "restructuring" in that kaizen implies small, sometime incremental, improvements that, over time, can make a large difference in performance and climate.
A book I read years ago, ”ザッツ カイゼン！” ("That's Kaizen!") broke it down into a very simple list that was similar to what follows:
- make/do it smaller
- make/do it bigger
- make/do it faster
- make/do it slower
- make/do it safer
- make/do it cheaper
- make/do it easier
- make/do it harder
- make/do it easier to see
- make it prettier
- make it uglier
- make/do it backwards
- make/do it quieter
- make it louder
It's pretty tough to think outside the box when you are constantly inside it. In Japanese, there's a saying: "A frog in a well doesn't know the ocean." The same could be said of people who surround themselves with like-minded individuals and similar input from the same fields day in and day out. If you want to bring a fresh approach or perspective, it will be easier to find that by looking at books, magazines and websites from other fields, and talking to people with different backgrounds and trying to apply them to your own. Very often inspiration doesn't strike the scientist as he is working in the lab, but rather when they are walking home, or playing with their children, or sitting under a tree...
If you constantly read Powerlifting USA, for example, pick up a copy of TIME magazine, or Scientific America, or People and see if there's anything that might be applied to your craft. Who knows, you might be the next trend-setting powerlifter in terms of fashion or training templates!