Banish Negativity and Thrive

I announced in an earlier blog post that I was going to begin powerlifting competitively, with the intention of becoming great at it. I have a long journey ahead of me to get any good. There are women out there who weigh 123 and squat 250. (In powerlifting your weight is put into a formula that calculates your final score and the heavier you are, the more your score goes down because mass lifts mass.) I weigh 170 and have been struggling to squat 200 for years.

When I say struggle, I really mean it. I put hours in the gym, underneath a barbell for five months to get from 165 to 185, several more months to get up to 195 and then just failed over and over again at 200, with my spotters needing to lift me up to avoid disaster. No matter how hard I trained, the 200 pound squat continued to elude me. I started to think I would never squat more than 195.

Then, my attitude changed. I listened to a Freaknomics podcast that told me I could “get great at anything” by engaging in deliberate practice and I started doing just that the next week. I started working with the best strength coach in Chicago and signed up for my first powerlifting competition, the Bucktown Crossfit Smash, newly confident that if I just put the hours in with a coach, I would get to 200 in a few months.

I embraced Henry Ford’s iconic quote “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” In powerlifting competitions, you get three attempts to make a lift. At the Bucktown Smash, I had lifted 190 and 195 and they had not been that hard so for my third attempt, I decided to attempt the big, scary weight that eluded me for years, my white whale, a 200 pound barbell. And I lifted it! It wasn’t even hard!

It seemed that all along, my own negativity and perception that 200 pounds was too heavy for me, rather than my own strength and ability, is what truly kept me down.

What does my powerlifting have to do with the job search? Sometimes,  the daily grind of law school gets people down. Students since I was in law school can get into this mindset where if they perceive their grades are not high enough or their journal is not good enough or they are not participating in enough activities that they are destined to fail. But this isn’t true.

Embrace Henry Ford. You are most often limited by constraints that exist in your own head. If you want to achieve something, even if you have been trying hard to achieve it for a really long time and failed, you can get where you want to be by putting the hours in and keeping a positive attitude. As famous powerlifting coach Mark Rippetoe says “Some people are allergic to nuts. Some people are allergic to milk. Me? I’m allergic to bull and negativity.”

You are not doomed to unemployment or a job that you do not like because your GPA is a certain number. The #1 enemy of the job search is not anything that appears on your resume. It is negativity.

4 thoughts on “Banish Negativity and Thrive

  1. I find it important to note that negativity coming from career counselors or mentors can be detrimental and heavily contribute to the “mindset where if they perceive their grades are not high enough or their journal is not good enough or they are not participating in enough activities that they are destined to fail.” It can build those restraints in ones mind. It is not just an internal battle.

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    1. This is an important point and I am glad you brought it up. It is indeed difficult to maintain positivity in the face of negativity and studies show that negativity and positivity spread through groups of friends like a virus. If you feel that you have been getting some negative messages, please reach out. I want to help you achieve your metaphorical 200 pound squat.

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