About a month ago I went to an event called Summer Strong. This year was the 10th year that Sorinex has put this event on. It started as a gathering of friends in the iron game for Richard Sorin’s (Pop) birthday. Pops started this company in 1980 (story here) and he and his son Bert have grown Sorinex to the outstanding organization/family that it is today.
Approximately 500 people landed in Lexington, South Carolina for the event. I wasn’t sure what to expect on my way in and, to be real honest, this was the best approach to have. What transpired on this weekend still leaves me without words. I have been making attempt after attempt to frame this in my mind into one solid linear thought, but I keep coming to the conclusion that this is just not what it is. This weekend was a room full of giants in the literal sense and in the sense of life experience. There were those at the top of the powerlifting world, those at the top of the strength coaching world, the most decorated of military operatives, Olympic athletes, and many, many more.
Each and every speaker that stepped foot on the stage very humbly spoke about leadership. They told their story, they told about their experiences, they told about those that they looked up to, and what they learned. They mentioned the direct link to hard work, and the solace and struggle they always found in their training. Each and everyone that spoke talked about Bert and Pop Sorin as you would speak of family.
I listened to a man tell a story of victory, but it was not the story you would think. It was the coming down from a high place in his life into a very low place. It was the story of a brush with suicide. It was a story of deep personal struggle and the beginning of the journey to redemption. He spoke of the gift of men working. He spoke of living with guts. He also spoke of more than ten surgeries, the end to a career as he knew it, and how to move forward with a happy life.
I listened to a man tell his story of his journey to the highest ranks in the military. He told of the individuals that he looked up to and he told about the training. For him and his teammates, training meant life and death. Do you think about this when you skip a workout? He spoke about a helicopter crash and their resilience after. He spoke about losing friends and the effect this has on a man. He spoke about death, and seeing it firsthand. He spoke about moving forward at all costs. He spoke about what he would tell those coming in after him. He spoke about a meeting with teammates in which they slept in the same room for days. No one left until they figured out a way to move forward and be sure they would not lose another soldier. He ended his presentation with the most humility I have ever seen to a room full of tears and a standing ovation. It was so powerful that we all took a fifteen minute break afterward to regroup and just let all of that settle in. I have never felt a feeling of such reverence and gratitude come over a crowd than I felt in this space.
I listened to another man speak about being attacked while overseas. He spoke of being consumed in fire. He spoke of losing his teammates and friends. He spoke of brass raining down from the sky (in reference to shells dropping from the sky from a well armed helicopter). He spoke of making peace with God on the battlefield, and then being saved. He spoke of leading a driver back to safety with no eyesight from being blinded by chemicals. He spoke of falling down due to broken femurs. He spoke of asking to be the last one helped so that his men could receive medical care. He spoke of his one hundred surgeries that bring him up to today. He spoke of having his leg amputated. He spoke of his intense desire to still train. He spoke of moving on. He spoke of training and what this meant to him in his life. He left us all speechless. He left us all better. He challenged us all to carry on in life. The proverbial mic drop here was paramount. After this recount, I was simply humbled and grateful.
I listened to a man tell about his journey to the Olympics. His story about his journey to getting the silver medal, or more importantly not winning the gold. He then recounted the story of his second journey there, and his five missed attempts that led him to another silver. These two Olympic appearances covered eight years of training, but the journey to get here was much longer than eight years long. This had been the journey of a lifetime. So, there he was two Olympic appearances and two silvers. He was crushed that he never received gold. Then eight years after, he got a phone call. On this phone call, they informed him that the gold was actually his due to some drug scandal with the athlete that beat him on that day. All this time, all of the training he had been through, all of the loss he felt, was now different. While this was an incredible story, he was not done. He humbly told the story, and didn’t even smile when he spoke briefly of the gold. You see, his focus was clearly on the struggle, not the prize. The struggle makes us who we are, not the prizes. The journey to get there gives us the experiences we can share. The real gold in this equation is the experience along the way.
There were many other talks that tremendously stamped my experience. I just wanted to shed light on a few that really caught me pleasantly by surprise. These were like warm spots in my soul. They spoke to me on a much deeper level than simply cognitive discovery. There are things that you stumble upon in life, and this was one of those for me. Having to train just to stay alive and having to depend on your training as your only lifeline is some pretty heavy stuff. Speaking of struggle and speaking of things that people write books about in a plain and simple way is incredible. I watched these men and women do this. These men and women spoke of tremendous achievement with vicious humility. Leadership through unbridled dedication to purpose was a current that ran through everyone.
Each evening the whole crew walked out back to three eighty inch grills where the staff of Sorinex had been grilling chicken and steak for the majority of the evening for all of us. There was a beer truck and even wine that was sent over from Zac Brown himself. If you don’t listen to country I am sorry, but Bert asked him to come play. Unfortunately, he was on tour. He sent a bunch of cases of his own wine, instead. We had another gentlemen play live music for us. We, then, had a bbq with everyone each night. Over and over again, we had a hell of a day.
I left this event speechless and fully inspired. I would like to reiterate all of those that have said this before, step outside of your box and expand your mind. Listen to others that have done things. Listen to men and women tell stories, and just absorb all you can. Spend some time with yourself and let yourself be. I haven’t done this in awhile, and was more desperately in need than I knew.
To Bert, Pops, and the rest of the crew at Sorinex: You guys are something special, and I will see you next year. Thank you!
In 12 minutes, establish Heavy Single C&J…
-Rest 2 Min-
Power Cleans (@75%)
Max Cal Row