I think one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is what got me started lifting or why I lift like I do. The short answer is that since birth I was instilled with a work ethic unmatched by many, and I owe that to my parents. However, what truly set me in pursuit of my goals was being told I couldn’t do something, and I owe that to my friends. “You’re not big enough.” “You’re too weak.” “You can’t do that.” All things I’ve been told. I remember being a kid and hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” and that may be true, although words may not have ever physically hurt anyone, they really do know how to tear someone down on the inside. Not many people know this about me, and as embarrassing as it may be to admit, I never used to have any self-confidence. Being smaller than everyone else, I never fought back and I ended up believing what everyone told me. This was hard for me to overcome. So when did I start believing in myself, and when did I start transforming my body? It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I finally cracked. My aunt’s birthday present to me that year was a paid registration packet for an ultra marathon. I had never competed in more than a half marathon and had only been running around a mile or two a day at that point in time. Needless to say I was in no shape to run 50 miles through the Wisconsin woods. I told many of my friends about the race and got nothing but rejection in return. I think only a handful of my friends wished me luck, and nearly everyone gave me no chance of finishing. Being in no shape for a race, having virtually no support, and lacking confidence, I didn’t have much working in my favor. In an initial field of a hundred or so experienced runners, I was the underdog and I knew it. But that didn’t stop me. I not only finished that race, I finished 21st overall and 1st in my age group. Although I didn’t necessarily earn the respect or congratulations from my friends I wanted, I earned something much more important. I earned a new self-respect. From that day on, I knew that the only opinion that mattered was my own. If I wanted to accomplish something I didn’t need anyone else’s approval. Who were my friends to tell me what I could and couldn’t do? I was a new me. “The wolf on the hill… is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have spent my whole life being told I was at the bottom of the hill. But what separates me from the others is that I want it more than them. It’s amazing what a little self-confidence can do. Since that race, I have been working harder than ever and have not looked back. Although I have not reached my ultimate goals yet, I have gotten progressively closer with each day. Everyone has their reason for getting in shape, mine just happened to be triggered by my friends. Learning that the only opinion that matters is my own is what inspired me to pursue my goals. Jack Burdick is majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota and along with his weightlifting workouts, he competes in marathons and ultra-marathons (50 mile races) and is looking to earn a Cross-Fit title or to be recognized with The World's Fittest Man title which is reserved for an ultra endurance power athlete.