One blogger I’ve just started following is Josh Hanagarne, who is known around the web as the World’s Strongest Librarian. Josh is a big guy, but his stature pales in comparison to his passion for helping others discover their innate and abundant potential. He writes about strength, health, getting what you want out of life, and his past struggles and recent triumphs with Tourette’s syndrome. I rarely encounter someone so authentically engaging on the Internet, and I want all of my readers to get to know this inspirational guy. After you’ve met him once, you’ll never forget him.
Here’s an interview we whipped up today (he’s punctual, too!)…
1) What’s your story?
That’s a big question. I had an English professor say there is only one story: someone wants something they can’t have and they are trying to get it. They either succeed or fail.
I believe that. In that context, here’s my story: for the last 27 years, I have wanted nothing more than to just sit still. I have Tourette’s Syndrome, which I won’t get into too much detail about—here are the broad strokes. TS makes people either move or vocalize involuntarily usually it’s mild.
In my case it has resulted in a hernia, broken teeth, a dislocated thumb, three years without being able to talk much because of an experimental botox procedure, an abysmal amount of self-loathing and depression, and many other challenges.
For the last 27 years I’ve had one goal: sit still for one minute. Doctors said “deal with it.” Neurologists said, “Here, have some pills.” They never helped me at all.
A couple of days ago I sat still for four hours without one tic. Over 14,000 seconds. That’s the story to date. What’s next is curing myself, replicating it with others, and annoying my underdelivering doctors.
If I have a “Life’s Work,” it is to spread kindness, compassion, and convince people of how much they are worth, especially when they are down on themselves.
2) Why do you share so much and what drives you to be proactive every day?
I have to be honest: I don’t consider it sharing. I write because I love to write. My blog is my playground. I would not do it differently if I had zero readers or one billion. I really wouldn’t. If you doubt it, everyone unsubscribe and see if I go away.
But don’t get me wrong—I am absolutely delighted that so many people enjoy what I do and that they find me inspiring (their words, not mine)—but I don’t do it (the writing) for them, I do it because I love to do it and it teaches me about myself and makes me happy.
Now, as to being able to help people with their fitness, health, and possibly with Tourette’s—that’s what I do for them, and I do it because I love people and I believe that we all have things to teach each other. I want to help whenever I can, however I can, and whoever I can.
To the second part: I lost a decade of my life feeling sorry for myself and accomplishing nothing. I am trying to make up for lost time and it is so fun to make progress and evolve that I can’t imagine doing anything else. The alternative to being proactive isn’t being stagnant—it is dying slowly and dismissing your birthright to be better than you were the day before.
3) How could someone replicate your success in their personal endeavors?
Inject the super-secret Tourette’s toxin into your brain, punch yourself in the face repeatedly, turn on the camera and film it, mix in equal parts crying and laughing about it, and read lots of books.
If that doesn’t do it for you, here is The Secret that is not a secret at all: find a way to win. There are going to be situations you can’t control. That means give in and sob about it or change the situation by introducing something into it that you can control.
4) When catastrophe strikes, how do your respond? And what advice would you give to someone who is facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge?
I don’t see catastrophe anymore, only opportunity. When I see something that I might consider an insurmountable challenge, I just don’t call it an insurmountable challenge. Change the words and you change the thoughts.
Now, having said that, I’ve never lost a family member. I’m not dying of an incurable disease. My challenges are very small to what I would consider legitimate catastrophes. I’m not sure how I’d deal with them, but they would not break me. Not forever.
My environment is always going to be a product of me, not the other way around.
5) OK, training time. If I spent one day training with you, what would I learn about building strength? Better yet, tell me exactly how to get physically stronger.
You would be amazed at how much I am able to get done without ever straining or pushing hard.
Effort is overrated. I’m not impressed by people who can make hard things look hard. I’m impressed by masters who make hard things look easy. For me, there are no gut checks, no backwards ballcaps, no tears, no pain, no injuries, and no teeth-grinding exertion. Results impress me, nothing else. And you can get results without driving yourself into the ground.
I know how to find which lifts are best for my body in any given minute of the day. Once you know how to choose your lifts, it is simply a matter of putting in the time. Not psyching up, not screaming…just putting in the time. If you put water in your mouth, the water will do its job. If you do a lift when you’re supposed to, showing up is enough to make progress.
If your goal is to get stronger, you need to focus on doing things that make you stronger. If you want to deadlift more, then deadlift more, when it tests well.
6) There’s more to strength than just training, of course. What else is involved in living a stronger, healthier life?
I have a very simple philosophy of life: Do not make anyone’s day worse, including your own. This lends itself to just about any situation we can find ourselves in.
I do not bow to the expectations of others. This knowledge makes me happy.
There are thoughts, habits, and activities that are beneath us. They may be different for us all, but I believe that we are all entitled to be better, every single day. If you are not getting better, you are getting worse.
If you are happy and you are not hurting others, then you’ll never convince me that you’re not a success.
Above all, stay curious.
7) What other benefits have you experienced from a focused strength training routine – besides the obvious health and fitness improvements? Surely the purpose of lifting weights extends beyond mere poundage increases and muscle tone.
My training pursuits have taught me to keep promises to myself. Too often, someone who wouldn’t dream of lying to another person has no problem breaking commitments to themselves. It’s no better. It might even be worse.
Also, my training has resulted in some absolutely priceless friendships.
8) What is “The Movement,” and how has it helped you?
Another big question. For now, I would come see us on Walk The Road Less Traveled. Observe or jump right into the conversation—you’ll see quickly what we’re all about.
In short, we are the antidote to a fitness industry that is absolutely sickening. I am not at a loss for words very often, but what I see passed off as “health information” in magazines, gyms, and by many/most personal trainers…saying I’m disgusted by it doesn’t even come close, but it’s the best word I’ve got.
Pretty soon we’ll be impossible to ignore.
Most of the fitness industry makes its money off of confusing people, hurting them, discouraging them, and teaching them that they can’t possibly rely on themselves. The Movement is the opposite. Our goal with every client is to ensure that the day when they never need our help again comes quickly.
But this is about much more than lifting weights, losing fat, or gaining muscle. It’s about each person’s greatest potential, and all the things that can mean.
The Movement empowers, just as movement itself does. Nobody owns it. Adam T. Glass, Frankie Faires, Brad Nelson, and Mike T. Nelson can take nearly as much credit for my improvement with Tourette’s as I can.
I owe them everything and that’s why I will use every bit of leverage I have to reach audiences they can’t.
9) If you had the full attention of a complete stranger, what single piece of advice would you give them before you parted separate ways?
Do not make anyone’s day worse and make sure you read some Kurt Vonnegut before you die.
10) Where can my readers find more information about you and what you’re doing?
Subscribing to World’s Strongest Librarian my Newsletter is the secret to life everlasting, or so I’ve been told. You can also reach me at Walk The Road Less Traveled, Please do. We’re not going away but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t use your help. Thanks for having me over!
A big thank you to Josh for sharing his story and insights with us. After reading that, you know Josh shares a lot of the same values as we do here at PhysicalLiving. Be sure to check out his site.
To your health and success,
CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT