First off, let me just say that I think professional bodybuilding is disgusting. There is no way any one of the top pros looks the way they do without a shit ton of chemicals and hormones.
But there are still a lot of people who emulate these guys and strive to be huge like them. And while I despise many of their tactics to become muscular, I do admire their work ethic.
These guys bust their asses in the gym like no other. Their diets are meticulous down to the last calorie. Now that’s discipline.
I recently came across an article, although it’s quite a few years old, in which a former pro bodybuilder named Mike Matarazzo was interviewed. You may remember him from the 90’s bodybuilding scene and he was known for his freakishly large calves.
Life Lessons From a Former Pro Bodybuilder
When I started reading this article, I was fascinated by Mike’s story and his humility regarding his rise to the top and subsequent fall. His desire to be the best athlete he could be clouded his judgement so much so that he put his health at risk for many years.
I read and reread the article/interview (which you can find here) and it really got me thinking about my own life. His story is one of great success but also crushing failure. It’s also about regrets and living life the way it should be lived.
Here are 5 lessons I took away from his interview:
1) Realize that you are mortal.
I’m guilty of this for sure and before I had my PVNS surgery last month, I thought I was invincible. We never think anything bad will happen to us until is does. Life doesn’t discriminate and neither does death.
As I get older, I pay closer attention to the small things that mean the most. A love note from my daughter. A genuine smile from a stranger. A warm, cloudless day. Holding hands on a walk with your significant other.
Life will be over before we know it and sometimes, as in Mike’s case, it’s cut way too short. Don’t live with regrets. Live for today because it may just be your last.
2) Take care of yourself.
Be proactive, don’t just wait until you’ve got something wrong with you. Sometimes it’s too late. Had my tumor been malignant, the doc told me I would have already been dead. I was just lucky it wasn’t.
When asked about his outlook on his health, Mike says:
I’d get a clean bill of health, and the doctors would joke, “What are you doing here?” But these things sneak up on you. I used to believe that I was 100% healthy, but those days are gone, and I’m angry, because I did it to myself.
Don’t be a fool like me and think that just because you never go to the doctor, there is nothing wrong. I have a father who is a prolific self-diagnoser and I followed in his footsteps. Get yourself checked out yearly. Prostate cancer, Diabetes, Pancreatic cancer, heart disease. These are all killers for men our age and it scares the shit out of me thinking one day I just might get that phone call.
3) Put your health first.
We all want to look great and feel great, but at what cost? Tanning salons have a market because we are vain. Testosterone, HGH, and steroids will always have a market because we want to be big and strong.
But what are those things doing to our long-term health? We are a society of instant gratification seekers and will deal with the consequences later.
I’m no stranger to a tanning bed and spent many years roasting myself in order to look good. But now I am dealing with skin issues and was just told I need to have surgery to remove a pigmented region on my abdomen because it might lead to skin cancer. I love the sun but I love being alive more.
One of my favorite sayings is “don’t be the richest man in the cemetery”. We can spend our whole lives building a business, saving money, or creating wealth, but if we don’t have our health, it’s pointless.
4) Have no regrets.
In his interview, Mike states:
Only a handful of men on this entire planet make barely a decent living at bodybuilding. I happened to be one who did for 15 years, but I probably took 20 years off my life. No amount of money in the world is worth that.
Waiting for something good to happen is the fastest (or slowest) way to living a mediocre life. In order to have a great life, you have to do great shit. Sitting at your cubicle and hating on life is not the way to live.
I talk about this endlessly on my personal growth blog, EndingTheGrind.com and I feel so strongly about it because I wasted 10 years of my life being a miserable asshole and expecting good things to just happen for me. They didn’t.
Do what makes you happiest, regardless of what it is. Don’t be that crotchety old fart who hates everyone because he never took any risks and lived his life for someone else.
5) Make the most of every day.
Sadly, Mike passed away in 2014 of heart failure. He was 48. Shit that’s me in five years. Granted, you and I don’t have to worry about drug related heart attacks, but there are so many issues that we do have to worry about.
We aren’t getting any younger and with each year that passes that we aren’t doing the things we want to be doing, we are wasting valuable time.
If you want to start a business, do it now. If you need to end a bad relationship, do it now. If you want to take life by the balls, do it now.
Some day, it WILL be too late.
Yes, it’s sad that Mike passed away before reaching 50. Yeah, it’s too bad he ended up regretting what the lifestyle choices he made ended up doing to him physically.
On the flip side — think about the life he lived! He was at the top of his field! He was one of “a handful of men” to make a living as a pro bodybuilder. He was doing what he wanted. He was pursuing his goals, he was living his dream, he was traveling the world, he was an inspiration to others. He achieved what most of us never do and never will no matter how long we live.
What’s better: to “have it all” but only live to 50? Or to live to a hundred while just kind of puttering along and lamenting the “someday” that never arrived?
In your other blog, which you reference here, you encourage people to “go for it” with passion and commitment. Mike the Bodybuilder went for it with passion and commitment. And he reached the elite levels of the sport. Had he done any less, taken fewer supplements, worked his body less hard, he would not have been there, and we would never have heard of him. And his life, most likely, would have been considerably less awesome. And who knows, that heart attack might have come anyway as he burned himself out in some thankless, stressful, boring “normal” job. He said in the interview (ten years before he died) something like, “if I’d realized what was going to happen I’d have gone back to driving a truck.” Sure, that’s easy to say in retrospect after heart surgery. But he could have made that choice at any time, and he didn’t. Endless hours on the road, sitting all day, the pressures of adhering to time schedules, thinking of every hour and every minute as dollars and cents – a lot of truck drivers die young, too. Even more develop chronic, debilitating health issues: back problems, heart problems, joint problems, obesity, substance abuse dependencies. Who’s to say that he would have ended up living longer or healthier if he had gone back to trucking? And he certainly would not have experienced the same intensity of excitement, the world travel, and the fame.
As you say in point #1, “live for today,” and this guy chose to do just that. As you say in point #4, “in order to have a great life, you have to do great shit.” This guy “took the risks” and “lived life for himself.”
It’s too bad he ended up regretting some of those decisions. But at least he had the incredible experience that goes along with being the absolute best of the best. And if he could have done it all over again, and had chosen truck driving over body building, would his regrets have been even greater? Would the “I coulda been a contender” what-ifs have haunted him forever? There’s no way to ever know.
You’ve written a thought-provoking article about a thought-provoking life.
Miss you Mike ,you definitely were an inspiration to keep lifting and training