From Kevlevs blog.
Mr. Olympia the rules for qualifying are always changing it seems. Back when I was an active Mr. Olympia contender, the top six instantly and automatically qualified for the next year. Some would take all year off. Not me – I loved the thrill of competing and kept a busy schedule of contests all year long. Fans want to see us!
Competing I did it for those who’d supported me in my career, the ones writing fan letters, sending e-mails, and paying to see me up on stage. I loved every minute of the ride. Contest prep and the actual show made me feel alive. It was proof I was living, proof I was breathing. I needed it, and I put everything into it. That was my choice.
Looks like the days of choice are over – bodybuilders don’t get to choose whether they want to take the year off or go full blown. New IFBB rules encourage more competition between Olympia showdowns. The top three still automatically qualify, but all other athletes are on a points system, and it’s through that process they qualify for the Olympia. In short, they have to go full blown if they want to stay on top. That’s what’s up.
I love this new rule. If you compete and earn enough points, you’ll be part of the greatest bodybuilding show conceived by humanity. Win a Pro show, and you’ll automatically qualify. Every bodybuilder should jump at the opportunity.
Bodybuilding is part performance art, part business, and if you’re a competitor with an eye on the bottom line, promoting yourself is part of the never-ending game. Get out there and strut your stuff. Flex your marketing muscles online. Tell the world who you are, and be an innovator in every sphere of public life, on and off stage.
Competing helped me build a property, a brand, a business known as Kevin Levrone. Today, I look back on that experience with fondness. Competition is the name of the game. You hone your skills by trying and falling down, picking yourself up, learning and overcoming, until you sharpen everything to a steely point. That’s what I did.
What annoys me is when people assume I became a bodybuilder out of insecurity, or as a reaction to childhood trauma, and that I’m compensating for old pain. The average person doesn’t understand why we do this, what drives us to physical perfection. Their psycho-babble doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Let me break it down. An IFBB Pro is a real person who’s taken their love, hardships, education and life’s wisdom and put it to work, regardless of race or background. The seed is your thoughts and your emotions, it’s in your DNA. We want to build something incredible, and make a vision a reality, and emerge a champion. It’s not about self-hatred or over-compensation. It’s about relentless pursuit of a vision, the yearning for greatness, the conviction of ideals. The audacity to imagine something impossible and defiantly bring it into reality.
When you’re living the iron life, you just might find your way to the IFBB stage. And that, my friends, is an unbelievable moment, as powerful as it is rare. There are unusual, unexpected rewards that make our sacrifices and battles so worthwhile.
One day, a kid came up to me at the gym. I was two weeks out of the Olympia and focused completely on my program, and he asked if I’d mind training arms with him. This kid was bright, about 17, and of course, I said sure. It suddenly occurred to me that he should’ve been in school, instead of hanging out at a gym. The reason had to do with his father: they didn’t get along and had fought that morning about skipping school.
I gave him my heartfelt thoughts about responsibility and doing the right thing, even if it’s tough. I let him know that I’ve been there, and that the best choice is to gut it out and hang on, overcome. The workout ended, we said our goodbyes, and that was it. Or so I thought.
Much later on, I picked up one of the fitness mags and read the letter section. What did I find? Something from that same kid I trained and talked with! He’d included a picture of us snapped in the gym. The letter was titled, “How Kevin Levrone Saved my Life.” On the day we’d worked out together, he’d planned on killing himself. But our talk had changed his mind. Right then, I knew: there’s more to Bodybuilding than just muscle. It can be a cosmic endeavor, touching many people and taking competitors and fans places none of us thought possible.
After the Olympia, I received a call from a mother whose child had undergone cancer surgery. She asked if I’d come to the hospital and see her terminally ill child. He was unresponsive, and the doctors were fearful. I was dead tired that day, spent from the hardest show prep of my life, but I dragged my bones to the hospital pulled by a force I can’t explain, I somehow found the strength.
When I arrived, I took off my shirt, walked toward his room, and popped around the corner. Positive energy within me exploded, I felt 110%, and I didn’t know where the energy was coming from. It must have been infectious because the boy, previously unresponsive, raised himself up on one arm and just stared at me.
I did what fate designed me to do: I flexed with everything I had. This poor, sick boy started laughing. Laughing – after all he’d been through. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. His mother and grandmother were crying tears of joy to see the life force in their beloved child, ignited for a brief moment by an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder, of all people. “Thank you,” they said. “Thank you for being so kind.”
And why wouldn’t I be kind? Should I be a selfish, angry, underground, roid ragin’ animal? Things aren’t always what they appear on the surface. We’re pro bodybuilders – IFBB Pros. Forget stereotypes and misconceptions. Beneath the skin and muscle, all of us are human. Before you find your inner IFBB champion, find your inner human and get in touch with it. Humans make muscles and not the other way around.
This has been a good session. Now stop analyzing things and go lift something.