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Strong Is Happy
By Donny Shankle

I have this light olive green t-shirt which Eleiko sent me with the phrase “Strong Is Happy” written across the front. It’s definitely one of my favorite shirts for its simple message. It feels good to be strong and in turn it makes you happy. Granted the kind of strength a weightlifter needs to develop to become a champion has a lot of unpleasantness tied to it. However, an unpleasant pursuit doesn’t necessarily bring you to an unpleasant destination. On the contrary some of the most important things in life which bring us great happiness may have its genesis in confusion, struggle and heartache. But what are the other things which bring happiness to man? I cannot completely answer that question. All men find their happiness in different places but there are a few ideas which we do share to be happy.

Happiness is found in freedom. Particularly in political freedom. Men cannot be happy in bondage or pinned under the thumb of cruel dictators. The importance of freedom and it’s connection to happiness is even written in the preamble to our nation’s declaring of independence. This document is a beacon to the world explaining the rights of all men. Man has a right to be free it says and in his freedom to pursue his own happiness. This can be achieved through finding a hobby or participating in a sport such as weightlifting. It can be found in traveling or watching films. It's what you enjoy during your leisure.

Finding happiness in leisure which freedom brings can also be found in simply relaxing on the beach alone and away from everything and everyone. To rest the back of your head against your hands and just feel the sun on your face. It doesn’t matter how this leisure is found as long as you are free to feel happiness while doing it. This freedom to use your leisure as you see fit whether in the gym, library, church or atop Mount Everest cannot be found in a corrupt world where your only purpose is to be a servant till death.

Happiness is found in work. I know what you’re probably thinking. But Donny you just said happiness is found in being free and using your leisure which freedom brings. I did but in order to have leisure you also have to have work. There is nothing more sad than waking up and having nothing to do and nowhere to go. There is nothing so contemptible as to never have a sense of purpose. It’s a feeling of low, low, low existence and not living. There are two reasons why happiness is found in work. The first is work develops friendships. You meet other people who are also working towards the same goal. It’s shared interests endemic only to our species. Weightlifters are strong and happy because we’re around others who are strong and happy. Don’t believe me? Try going into the gym and lifting alone everyday and never getting the chance to show others all the hard work you have put in. Never getting the chance to compete and win.

The second reason man finds happiness in work is because it puts him in action. Work puts man in motion to create. In geniuses, work puts these special men in motion to create unthinkable achievements. Work allows our happiness to be put proudly on display for others to see. When these two are put together, the friendships made and the action which work ignites, you then have the finding of great civilization. No nation on earth was ever great which was idle and lazy. No nation on earth was ever great which couldn’t acquire friendship and allies. The inactive man is a dead man. The still man is a lost soul afraid of his own shadow. The man in motion is constantly on the move to explore, to seek adventure, to fall in love and to acquire knowledge. His desire to know everything is insatiable. It is righteous he should feel this way for he took and ate from the tree of knowledge. The man of action is the good man and the man of idleness is in the wrong. By working together man finally sees the happiness in other men full on as well as his unhappiness. Through work we find we are not so different from one another.

Happiness can be found in God. There is no more lousier a lot on this beautiful green and blue Earth than the lot of men who do not believe in God. I say this with utmost certainty. People who do not believe in God are not only miserable to be around but they are sensitive to criticism and also dangerous. The idea of a God fearing man is lost to them and as a result they do not fear their odious actions. This is atrocious and detrimental to the happiness of you so stay away from them. However, if you have been blessed to speak to others and change their wayward hearts then do so. This is something which only you can discover through prayer and talking with God.

A belief in the Almighty is righteous and proper for all men. His creation is all around us to bring us peace and happiness. God has given us all we need to be happy if only we can be happy through him. Everything from the heavens above in their infinite expanse into the unknown, to the curious mysteries of the deep and all in-between are gifted to all men or this world. What a joyous time to live! Joy is the highest form of achievement man can feel by his own hands. In that sense strong is not really happy but strong is joy, because you worked hard towards being strong. Whatever brings you closer to joy brings the love of God closer to you and your love closer to Him. Once you know His love you can completely and perfectly love others. Including yourself.

I’ve covered a myriad of topics in this chapter all with the intention to better identify and understand strength or the idea of being strong. Such topics included having a strong work ethic, understanding misery, and sharing the stoic lessons I bring to each training session. I have touched upon the psychology of why its important to have a gym persona. I went into detail about the differences between controlled and violent power along with what the difference is between focus and concentration and why it’s important to understand there differences. Of all the chapters in this book it was this chapter which certainly took me the longest to complete. This was because I wanted to talk with other people around the world who are either weightlifters, coach weightlifters or who simply enjoy being strong. Any comment made in passing or discussed till late hours in the night were put to my memory.

We began by saying to be strong was the absence of mediocrity. The absence of mediocrity and topics within that message I have shared with you still has a sublime succinctness to it so perhaps there is no need to go on any further. For weightlifting’s purpose I can definitely say there is no such thing as a mediocre champion. It’s an oxymoron to say otherwise. Then again maybe all this time I’ve put more thought into the meaning of strength than is necessary. Perhaps the concept of strength or being strong can’t be singularly identified because it’s happiness is shared by so many in so many different ways. Essentially, I’m saying to be strong is common to all men in some special way known only to their heart.

Focus on becoming stronger everyday and avoid getting caught up with novelty. It has all been laid out before. Do not seek a revelation which has already been revealed. To be the strongest weightlifter you have to keep lifting everyday with the same passion you had on day one. This leads to mastery and in order to get there you must own every ounce of skill involved in what you are doing. Once you can do this you will approach the task in front of you without fear and have a powerful understanding of not only weightlifting but nearly everything. You will understand the important reasons men need to be free, to find productive work, to love God. You will know what is means to then be strong.