by Craig Hysell

I read of a battle once. I can’t remember the exact time, although it was ancient. And I can’t remember exactly who was fighting: Greeks, Spartans, Alexander. But there was a point about the battle that struck me as very peculiar. The fighting was bloody, dusty, terrible. Truly a sight to be both in awe and fearful of. A unit of troops was being held in reserve to go in at the right time and seize the tumultuous battle in the country’s favor I was reading about. The unit was made up solely of veterans. Men in their 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. Men who had fought in countless campaigns since their teens.

This is not what surprised me or made the story memorable. It was the way these old salts comported themselves. On the sidelines of all this death and carnage they sat in the shade with their armor off. Some of them ate, some of them slept, some of them gambled. None of them seemed concerned. None of them busied themselves with worry about the coming attack. Instead they focused on saving every last ounce of strength for battle.

This is the difference between a rookie and a veteran. Rookies are about the immediacy of moments. Veterans are about the walk. The long, laborious, brutal walk.

A rookie focuses on the importance of numbers. A veteran knows that numbers come and go. Rookies worry about weights. Veterans worry about technique. Rookies have something to prove to themselves. Veterans work to improve themselves. The former is about ego, the latter is about deliberate, persistent practice. Rookies have no plan or many plans. Veterans have one plan.

Rookies yell, curse and get frustrated. Veterans accept, adapt and take the next step forward. Rookies are easily excitable. Veterans are composed. Rookies pace, get revved up and shake weights. Veterans approach with poise, saving every last ounce of energy for the task at hand. Rookies think they know everything. Veterans learn something every day. Rookies are undisciplined, practicing only when it is convenient. Veterans know that only by unrelenting discipline will The Thing ever reveal itself to the practitioner. Rookies have timelines. Veterans have learned that timelines are ridiculous. Rookies go to work. Veterans go to school. Rookies come and go. Veterans remain.

Donnie Thompson illustrates the difference between veterans and rookies beautifully. And tells you how to get better at your squats.


I have been lifting weights for 26+ years. Only now (in the past year) am I beginning to slightly understand what this whole thing is truly about. All veterans begin as rookies. All rookies do not become veterans.

I leave you with an infamous joke. It contains vulgar language, so if that offends you, do not click play.