Every single year I watch nationally qualified competitors duke it out onstage in hopes of finally making it through the bottleneck and achieving Pro status. Some competitors get smacked down repeatedly, yet keep hitting the national circuit for so long that they must compete against new blood, further limiting their chances. There are times when I shake my head in wonder over the outcome of a national or Pro event when individuals who clearly should have been in first callouts were neglected. I know that feeling all too well because it has happened to me a number of times. Every year the national level events get bigger, which results in even more pressure and more competition to get through that level and into the big wide world of Pro status. When a competitor finally gets pushed out of the bottle and glides into Pro waters, he or she will bask in it, enjoying the victory, but the majority of Pro competitors soon discover that becoming a Pro doesn’t mean that life will become any easier. If anything, it becomes more difficult, because the bar is set much higher.
Those of us who compete live in a bubble. In fact, I will go as far as to say that when we escape the bottle, we end up in a fishbowl instead of open water. Please don’t interpret this to mean that I lack appreciation for being a Pro, because it is indeed a great honor. But the world at large is a vast ocean which bodybuilding leagues really don’t connect to, similar to the artificial environment which a bowl provides for a pet fish. Bodybuilding is its own world, and though I may love it, I also know that it won’t make me a superstar. Even the biggest bodybuilding legends (except for Arnold) don’t have the full global recognition which they deserve, because bodybuilding is such a niche industry. The only bodybuilders who are household names are the ones who became thespians.
I will admit that when I finally got my Pro Card (after 14 Pro qualifiers), I was relieved and ecstatic because I had finally reached a goal I had set for myself. However, I also fully realize that it wasn’t entirely up to me when or if I would ever get that card, so I always tried my best not to berate myself when I fell short of that Pro card goal. A number of competitors who have been on the national circuit for a very long time have built up a tremendous following on social media channels and have so much power and influence, yet they sell themselves short because they focus on the Pro Card chase as a singular goal. These are precious gems whose shine is only dulled by the disappointment they experience when the sport of bodybuilding edges them out of the winners’ circle.
If you have been competing for a very long time and are getting weary from slipping in national placings or just missing that Pro card too many times, it’s time to take a good look at where your passion truly lies. If your true passion lies directly in the experience of stepping onstage, then by all means continue. However, if you are broke, exhausted, sore and dejected, and you have a true passion beyond the stage for inspiring others to reach fitness goals, then why not BREAK the bottle and swim into the wide ocean? If you build a name, a brand, and a following, you can establish a presence in the real world which will enable you to impact others in the truest sense. In addition, you might stand to make some decent money from nurturing your passion for fitness. Honestly, how much money have you made from competing? Just saying.