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What My Friend Craig Brown Taught Me About Real Strength

Back in April, I attended the Iron Online Bash here in Salt Lake City.  Lots of big names from the fitness world were there.  Dan John. Lyle McDonald.  Laree Draper.  And so on.  I’m not really one to get starstruck but that was as close as I’ve ever been.  I know, my gods may not be yours, but this was something pretty special.

But the most memorable person I met there was just another passionate lifter.  Just another guy who loves this stuff.  He doesn’t know it, but meeting him changed me.

When I walked into the little weight room, a guy immediately walked over to me and shook my hand.  “Your Bruce Campbell story is hilarious,” he said, “And your interview with Adam Glass was really excellent.”

His name was Craig Brown.  Five hours later, I felt like I had bumped into an old friend that I had lost track of long ago.

Real Passion

When I am around someone who is really passionate about something, it fires me up too.  If you love to knit and you present it in the right way, I may want to take up knitting with you.  I went to library school because one of the recruiters preached a sermon about organizing information that just about beat my face in.

That was how Craig talked about something as simple as moving heavy weights.  This is his blog.  It might not look like much to you, but it speaks volumes to me.  I get it.  For so long, I had nobody to talk about this stuff with.  Most people humored me and tried not to look confused when I would pull out one of my many soapboxes and start talking about strenth methodology.

Suddenly, here was someone that “got it.” Another crazy person, and not just from online!


We sat together at dinner and continued talking.  And while we certainly spent a lot more time talking about iron and sweat, Craig said a few things that were more relevant to strength than anything.  They had nothing to do with weights.

We were through talking about the “how” to get stronger portion of the conversation and had moved on to the “why.”

“It’s a gift to me, from me,” he said.  “And that means it’s a gift to anyone around me as well.  It makes me better, so I can be better for other people.  It never runs out and I’ll never have to stop.  That makes me happy.”

Craig, I wonder if you remember saying any of that…

You’re only as good as—

I’ve known a lot of co-dependent people.  People who are masters at taking care of everyone but themselves.  These people are as loving and kind as people get.  And yet, I’ve always wondered if they could be even better if they were able to love themselves more.

I believe that I can only love you as much as I am able to love myself.  Loving ourselves is preparation for loving other people.  I can not be on the best possible terms with you unless I am on the best possible terms with myself.  I improve myself so that I can be the best me possible, first for me, next for everyone else.

We are each more immediate to ourselves than to anyone else, even if we might wish it were otherwise.  We spend the majority of our lives in our own heads, with our own thoughts.  We become what we practice.  We get a lot of practice thinking about ourselves, unless we willfully seek distractions just to avoid spending time with our own minds.

When you spend time with yourself, is it positive or negative?  If it is negative, then I believe that negativity creeps out into our relationships with other people.  Maybe it’s not obvious.  Maybe it’s subconscious.  Maybe it’s not even a bad thing, but it’s just not as good as it could be.

If I spend most of my time in my own head, focused on me, but I spend that time feeling happy, positive, progressive, and loved, then when you and I are face to face, we will each be better for me loving myself more.  If you are doing the same with yourself, the effect is amplified.

It’s another type of strength worth pursuing.  Perhaps the only kind.

Does that make sense?  I think it will make sense to Craig.

Speaking of Craig!

Today is his anniversary.   I don’t know if he is aware of it, but when he talked about Dana at dinner, his voice changed.  His eyes changed.  He talked as if she were in the room and everyone else disappeared.  He talked about her as if he were talking to her, trying to make her smile.

For all the talk of sandbag slams and kettlebell techniques and heavy deadlifts, I will remember Craig most for the things he said about the woman he loved.

Happy anniversary Craig.  I am better because you are working on you, for you.  I wish you both many more happy years together.

Oh, and Laree said that the Iron Online Bash is in Kansas City next year.  You better be there!


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  • Rose December 9, 2009, 6:04 am

    What a great post. It’s so true that when we are able to love ourselves and be kind to ourselves it’s much easier to extend love and kindness to those around us.

  • Dean Dwyer December 9, 2009, 8:24 am

    I really liked this line JH.

    “It’s a gift to me, from me,” he said. “And that means it’s a gift to anyone around me as well. It makes me better, so I can be better for other people.”

    Good motivation for me get back at my workouts, which have stopped the past few weeks.

    Cheers my friend,


  • James Sjostrom December 9, 2009, 8:56 am

    Great Post Josh,
    I am so fortunate to be able to see your passion for strength in person. Thank you for sharing. Now I will share my favorite song with you.

    “I love myself so much, so I can love you so much, so you can love you so much, so you can start loving me.”

    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 9:13 am

      James, you’re just mad that you didn’t press the 48 last night. I don’t want to hear that song again!

      • James Sjostrom December 9, 2009, 11:39 am


  • Srinivas Rao December 9, 2009, 9:37 am


    I’ve had two girlfriends who were both extremely co-dependent. I only noticed it after we’d been in the relationship for a while. They were both fairly unhappy people. So I think there’s definitely something to be said for enjoying the time you spend you with yourself and loving yourself. It’s an energy you give off and I think people can sense it.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 12:09 pm

      Co-dependence is really hard to see when you’re in the middle of it.

  • Crysti December 9, 2009, 10:00 am

    Great post!

    ‘In order to love others, you must first love yourself’ is a philosophy that makes so much sense yet is hard to follow for most people, including myself.


    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 12:09 pm

      Agreed. I don’t mean to get the impression that I can do it all, or even most, of the time. Thanks for the comment.

  • Heather December 9, 2009, 10:04 am


    Thanks for this. I have been reading this post off and on all AM, and it has gotten me thinking about a situation I am currently in that I need to get out of, simply because the life I NEED TO SAVE is my own. Congratulations to Craig and Dana, and thanks again for the kick that I needed. 🙂

  • Randy December 9, 2009, 10:51 am

    My old man was in the ministry. “Love your neighbor as you love your self” (Matthew 22:34-40) he taught, cuts both ways…yes it is on one level an exhortation to treat oneself better but it isn’t just (or even mostly) about self improvement. It is also a social barometer, a reality check, where the rubber meets the road on what passes for love. Look at our world past and present; the wars, poverty, crime, homelessness, hunger and disease (all preventable, actionable, fixable) and you get a different take on whether or not we are actually treating our own selves (and by extension others) with anything close to love.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 10:56 am

      Randy, what the world needs is more lateral ankle tilts. You of all people should know that:)

      • Randy December 9, 2009, 11:43 am

        LOL. Yep.
        If anything can cause anything…anything can fix anything.

  • Todd December 9, 2009, 12:03 pm

    Oh man, you hit me with this one. I need to spend more time for myself. Craig talking about Dana. Sounds like me talking about my bride of… a lot of years. 🙂

  • Craig Brown December 9, 2009, 12:13 pm


    Wow, what a thing to discover this morning! As you can tell, Dana is pretty amazing. And I do remember saying that, actually. Thank you so much!



    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 12:16 pm

      Craig, I caught you in a lie! 🙂 Finally! You didn’t say any of that! I laid a trap just to ruin your anniversary! But on a more important note, will you be there in Kansas City?

  • Craig Brown December 9, 2009, 12:32 pm

    OK, I probably said “I lift because I like it and I want to become huge so all men fear me” which is basically the same, right???

    I do plan on Kansas City. Thinking of a trip to Wichita Falls for a couple of days after.


  • Boris Bachmann December 10, 2009, 10:28 am

    Great post Josh. If you can’t be attentive to yourself, not much chance of being attentive to others. I’ve come to the conclusion (so far), that love and respect are really about giving your full attention to the person or task at hand. I think that applies to life and lifting equally well.

    I my attention between my shirt and kettlebell jerks last night. Come on over to the Squat Rx blog and check out the sweet $1 shirt if you have time.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 10, 2009, 2:23 pm

      I saw the shirt, Boris. Very stylish. I gave my Twilight shirt to my niece, by I may buy another just to train in it. The reactions would be great and I could credit all of my gains to my Edward-strength.