The Long View

The Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris is a remarkable work of faith, art, and engineering. Enter it, and you experience an out-of-this-world feeling of being lifted up to the heavens, floating up on a beam of light.

The person who initiated the building of the cathedral, Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, did not get to see it finished. The construction was completed over a century later and refinements took centuries more.

The architects of Notre-Dame took the long view.
The builders of Notre-Dame took the long view.

The story of Notre-Dame de Paris was typical for the middle ages. As Durham World Heritage Site put it: “[T]he building of monumental cathedrals in the middle ages was a reflection of faith and the channel for much of the creative energy of medieval European society… As cathedrals took decades, and often even centuries to complete, few people who worked on them expected to see them finished during their lifetimes.”

Another magnificent Gothic cathedral, the Duomo di Milano took almost six centuries to complete! Again from Durham, “Being involved in the construction of a cathedral, even as the building patron, required a willingness to be part of a process that was larger than oneself.”

The nobility of undertaking a task far bigger than one’s life with the certainty of not seeing it completed is incomprehensible in the XXI century. Not only does the modern man have no attention span to plan ahead, he has no pride for what he leaves behind.

Decades-old houses will crumble long before those built centuries ago. Consumer goods bought today practically fall apart, and one could easily imagine our society slipping into a dystopia from a sci-fi story I once read. Imagine the government mandating that clothes be made to fall apart after 24 hours, to be replaced by new ones to stimulate the economy. And drinks are forbidden to quench thirst. Does it sound like the fitness industry today?

The construction of Notre-Dame took over a century.
The construction of Notre-Dame took over a century.

Taking the Long View on the Value of Strength

At StrongFirst, we refuse to chase our tails in pursuit of the next novelty, only to discard the tired yesterday’s fad. We are inspired by the ancient builders who built on a solid foundation and built to last. I envision a society of strong and proud people. Where every woman can do a pull-up and every man can deadlift at least two times his bodyweight without a belt. Where strength is built not in pursuit of vanity but duty.

The ancient Romans made exercise a legal requirement for all male citizens aged seventeen to sixty. I dream of a society where it is not a legal mandate but a moral imperative for all citizens, men and women, and way past sixty. Where it is incredibly uncool to be weak.

I am not naïve, and I realize the odds of realizing this vision are long. In a best case scenario, it would take decades. I accept that. I set the course for StrongFirst to become a cultural institution akin to the Boy Scouts a hundred years from now. An institution that has put the noble value of strength on a pedestal, a pedestal on which it has stood for most of the history of mankind. This is the mandate that I gave to our CEO Eric Frohardt. It matters little whether Eric or I live long enough to see this vision realized, as long as we get StrongFirst closer to its goal before passing on the baton.

A Foundation of Strength, Built to Last

This week marks two years since StrongFirst opened its doors. It is a small and meaningless number. Our organization has been around a decade and a half under a different name — and for millennia under the many names of our predecessors who valued strength, warriors and builders. And we are here to stay for centuries.

Long live strength!

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

28 thoughts on “The Long View

  • I’m definitely on board. Strongfirst has changed my life completely! It’s the basis for my health and wellbeing, and it defeinitely works wonders! I went from doing S&S with the 16kg bell 10 months ago to doing it with the 40kg bell now. I’ll be hitting Sinister pretty darn soon!

  • This post describes why Pavel and StrongFirst do what they do so well… It’s about more than simply teaching skills or filling a demand in a market. It’s about a vision and a purpose. Inspiring.

  • Pavel – Excellent words and I agree. Stick to your beliefs. I know that this is the harder way to build a business, but I also believe this is the right way. Thank you for the years (well over a decade now) of knowledge!

  • I am highly honored to be a part of a society that exists for the greater good og humanity.

  • Pavel,
    My gratitude to you for sharing a deeper vision for all who read here on the StrongFirst website. I too believe that this pursuit of Strength carries over to all facets of our lives. Not only making us physically strong, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, PREPARED if you will for what life brings us. It is my wish for this reason alone to educate others in the masses of our society to embrace this need for strength, to pursue it, to train it, to understand it, and to reap the many benefits it brings to quality of life and those you come in contact with. Strength base affects all facets of life. Strength training the way we teach it, the principles that we work from can bring a better quality of life in many areas. Period.

  • An unsurprisingly brilliant historical perspective by Pavel.

    If a certain tour guide had it right, the octagonal “foundation” for the dome of “Il Duomo di Firenze” was begun even though the technology didn’t exist to complete a dome of such size. With the unbridled imagination and optimism of the times, the builders knew that, out there somewhere, a solution existed, and eventually, it was found. How much of our society has become weak because we expect and imagine less and less?

    “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
    – Joseph Campbell

  • Very profound words Pavel. Congratulations on the two year mark for SF. Feeling inspired by the recent SFG in San Diego and now this article. Long Live Strength!!!

  • Pavel,

    Excellent imagery/lesson for this strength vision! From my philosophy studies as a youngster, this post reminds me of the classical distinction between the Concupiscible and Irascible appetites, or our inclination towards goods that are easily attained (sensible) and goods that are difficult to attain and take time. Freud has been a big influence in reducing man to the concupisible appetite, pure pleasure seeking.


  • Hi

    Congrats to Strong First.
    Pavel, a great post and what a great thought. Strength for the masses. Empowerment too.

    I am in Sydney, Australia. I follow your blogs and have read most of your books, Simple and Sinister being the last one.
    I train at a CrossFit gym but am a lover of kettlebells and constantly use them both for supplementary and corrective training.
    I also believe in consistently upskilling myself and learning from the best.
    that brings me to my question – When is SF coming to Sydney to do courses and Certs? I know Perth gets a few.

    Even though it ‘still’ looks daunting, but I’d like to see if I can push myself and train for a KB cert 1


  • Tavarish, if anyone can convince a majority that strength is desirable and as necessary as a
    white chocolate mocha from starbucks, it is the SF family!…..We can launch a propoganda
    campaign against “less-then-men” and fitness cliches’. The whole world would be strong.

  • “Our organization has been around a decade and a half under a different name—and for millennia under the many names of our predecessors who valued strength, warriors and builders. And we are here to stay for centuries.”

    Chief, awesome post! StrongFirst, happy birthday!

  • Mr. Tsatsouline,

    I am a fitness instructor at a local gym. I teach a class similar to CF but without the Oly Lifts. I was able through the gym to get FMS Level 1 certified. I had the privilege to speak to Gray Cook at the seminar. He told me to go down the path of SF. I am looking to get more certs. I have been following SF for few months now and with this article I am convinced that SF is the way to go. In your opinion, if one wanted to get all the certs (Bodyweight, Kettlebell, and Barbell) what order would you get them in and why? In my limited knowledge and thinking, I believe bodyweight should be first followed by kettlebells and finishing with barbells. But I could be wrong. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Judd Rumley
    Eagle, CO

    • Judd, pursue kettlebell instructor certification first.

      Learn the principles of the system, experience the most well-known certification training process and testing weekend, and meet our leadership.

      Then pursue bodyweight certification. Learn to apply the concepts and drills to manipulating your body in space.

      And finally, pursue barbell certification. Understand how the principles apply to maximal loads and the particular – to say it, “fixed” – positions of barbell lifting.

      But along the way, take the time after you complete one cert to pursue mastery.

      Because, honestly, if you have simply that philosophy, the kettlebell certification will teach you all you need and more to excel as an instructor and student of strength.

    • Hi Judd,

      The barbell cert has a prerequisite “Completion of an SFG Kettlebell Course or an SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level I Certification is a prerequisite for attendance at this Barbell Certification.”

      In terms of SFB vs. SFG, one thing to consider is which one’s criteria you are closer to attaining. If you are able to do a one arm/one leg push up, then you can do the SFB now, whereas the SFG has six different movements you are tested on.



  • It continues to amaze me that the masses refuse to accept “The Naked Truth” about true fitness. Working as a trainer for over 15 years, I am always astounded when a new client asks “can’t we do more interesting (EASY) movements?” How simple would life be if our government mandated strength requirements for specific occupations regardless of age? Money continues to drive the masses in such preposterous directions.

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