At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

Sam Sonny Bryant Jr

Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is 70 years old and he looks better than men half his age. That’s because he realizes the importance the mind plays in every aspect of life. Whether you succeed or fail, age gracefully or become “old” at 50, how you think about the things you think about plays a crucial role. It sounds like common sense, but most people never realize the sheer power their thoughts possess. Our thoughts, very much like wind or rain or the natural elements acting on a rock face, can bend reality with applied pressure and time.

Here is what Mr. Bryant Jr. told the Augusta Chronicle:

People ask me when I’m going to retire. I say “never.” I say “most people die retired than they do on the job working.” I love to work. I love to work out. …

I’m 70 years old if that means anything. I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I started out when I was 44. I was in a bad marriage. And so to relieve  stress I went to the gym. …

I didn’t know anything about working out, nothing about lifting weights — nothing. But I went there and stayed and stayed. Eleven months later a guy told me “Sonny, you ought to go to a contest and complete.” I said “you think so?” He said, “Yeah. You look like you’re ready.” So I went to Columbus, Ga. It was my first contest. … I won third in the novice and forth in the masters, and I was just like a crack addict. I was hooked. I had two trophies — never won anything before — and I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym and start body building. I was just working out before. …

People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realized that it’s a state of mind that makes you old. Age is just a number. In a year most people — the majority of people — give a reason not to do anything, you know? I hear a lot of people telling me to wait until I get their age, and then I tell them how old I am and then it’s kind of embarrassing. I tell them to make a point — that the inactivity and the thought process is what makes them old. … Your subconscious mind reads your conscious mind. If  you start thinking you’re old, subconsciously your conscious mind is going to grab hold of that.  Then you’re body is going feel that it’s old. Then you’re going to start acting old, feeling old — and you’re old. …

Honestly, I never feel like I aged since I started body building at 44. I don’t feel no different. I just want people to recognize me for what I am and what I’m doing and realize that it can be done. They could do it. I just want to be some kind of model for them, for people to see … I’ve seen a lot of young guys “older” than me because their lifestyle — that’s what they chose to do. Go home, sit around watching TV all weekend…sit around doing nothing. I can’t do that. I can not sit in the house that long.

Sam Bryant Jr. demonstrates quite nicely that “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” but it’s his understanding of how our thoughts can directly impact our reality that is truly impressive. The saying goes that whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. It’s true.

Sonny Bryant weightlifter

Mr. Bryant’s philosophy has implications that extend far beyond the world of weightlifting. He essentially says that we make a conscious decision about how we view age, and then the reality in our mind manifests itself into the physical world. Another wise man touched on this debate, and his name was Ben Franklin. You may have heard of him.

“There are two sorts of people in the world, who with equal degrees of health and wealth and the other comforts of life, become the one happy, the other unhappy. Those who are to be happy fix their attention on the pleasant parts of the conversation, and enjoy all with cheerfulness. Those who are to be unhappy think and speak only of the contraries. Hence they are continually discontented themselves, and by their remarks sour the pleasures of society, offend personally many people, and make themselves disagreeable. If these people will not change this bad habit, and condescend to be pleased with what is pleasing, it is good for others to avoid an acquaintance with them, which is always disagreeable, and sometimes very inconvenient, particularly when one finds one’s self entangled in their quarrels.” — Benjamin Franklin

Every day you can consciously decide to look at the bright side of things, or to focus on faults. Every day gives you the opportunity to choose to be a positive or negative person. Every day you can either be the light or the darkness in the world around you. What do you choose? I choose to cast my lot with Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

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Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Schwarzenegger’s most important rule of all for attaining success: “Work your butt off.” Sage advice from the Austrian Oak.

Like all of us, Arnold Schwarzenegger has his moral failings. We know what they are since he’s a public figure, but if we’re honest with ourselves we know that we too are “warped timber.” Given that, the question becomes:  How did a scrawny kid grow up to become the Austrian Oak, and can the principles that helped bring him success be applied to the rest of us? There’s a video that’s been on YouTube for quite some time that highlights Schwarzenegger’s “Six Rules for Success.” I believe they can be inspiring to anyone, in any field.

As I’ve noted before, it’s been my experience that those who are serious about lifting weights tend to have a conservative streak in them — or at least seem to be more open to the worldview than my other friends and acquaintances. The weights are about tough love, and Arnold does a great job imparting their wisdom here:

Now of course, people ask me all the time, they say to me: “What is the secret to success?” The first rule is: Trust yourself. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down — dig deep down — and ask yourself, “Who do you want to be?” Not what, but who? I’m talking about not what your parents and teachers want you to be, but you. I’m talking about figuring out for yourselves, what makes you happy no matter how crazy it may sound to the people.

Rule #1 is: Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Rule #2 is: Break the rules.

We have so many rules in life about everything. I say break the rules — not the law — but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That is what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble? The only way I ever got anyplace was by breaking some of the rules.

Which of course brings me to Rule Number 3: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Anything I’ve ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. You can’t always win, but don’t be afraid of making decisions. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision. And you know that it is the right thing to do and success will come. So don’t be afraid to fail, which brings me to Rule #4, which is: Don’t listen to the naysayers.

I mean, how many times have you heard that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and it has never been done before? I love it when someone says no one has ever done this before, because when I do it that means that I’m the first person who has done it! So pay no attention to the people who say it can’t be done.

I never listen to “you can’t.” I always listen to myself and say, “Yes, you can.” And that brings me to Rule #5, which is the most important rule of all: Work your butt off. Leave no stone unturned.

Mohammad Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the 70’s when he was asked: “How many situps do you do?” He said, “I don’t count my situps; I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting because that’s when it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.” And that’s the way it is with everything: No pain, no gain.

While you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work. None of my rules for success will work unless you do. I’ve always figured that there were 24 hours in a day.  You sleep 6 hours. There are 18 hours left. Now, I know there are some of you out there now who say, “Well wait a minute. I sleep 8 hours or 9 hours.”  Well, just sleep faster, I would recommend.

That takes me to Rule #6, which is a very important rule. It’s about giving back. Whatever path that you take in your lives, you must always find time to give something back. Something back to your community. Give something back to your state or your country.

Let me tell you something: Reaching out and helping people will give you more satisfaction than anything you have ever done.

Remember these six rules:

1. Trust yourself
2. Break some rules
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
4. Ignore the naysayers
5. Work like hell
6. Give something back

Well said, Arnold. Well said, indeed.

Related: ‘Pumping Iron’ inspires, decades after its release