Dorian Yates is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. A run of six consecutive titles between 1992 to 1997 securing his legacy among the greatest of all time.
He dominated a period of time where the competition was fierce with his rivals including the likes of Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Lou Ferrigno and Ronnie Coleman. Dorian would learn plenty from his narrow and only second place at the Olympia in 1991 to Lee Haney but over the years would do everything against the norm from where he lived, the way he trained to the way he ate.
“The Shadow” was someone they just couldn’t work out. Basing himself out of Birmingham England he placed himself at a huge distance away from his rivals predominately based out of America. At the time he found fulfillment on the stage but what I think separates Dorian from the pack is his openness to share his journey and to find fulfillment in life away from the stage.
It’s easy to pigeon hole body builders for a lack of personality. Given their harsh training regimes & steroid use many can be quite shy and non-social. Dorian explains during his career he was exactly like that but the respect for Dorian comes from a number of factors including his success at the Olympia over an extended period against quality competition and to move away from the norm by basing himself in a foreign country to America and to challenge the system and do things on his own terms.
His interviews with Brian Rose on the London Real were brilliant and showed another side to Dorian that had not been seen. His openness to share on spirituality, finding purpose and other topics most men would not be brave enough to publicly explore. For someone who was a giant in muscle terms it’s interesting to find that with Dorian everything starts with the mind. For all the success he didn’t have it all his own way from the start. He had a troubled youth where he lost his Father at a young age, had brushes with the law and had a lack of support from his family in his pursuit of a better future.
But he did it his own way.
I was fortunate to pick his brain on numerous topics which include spirituality, his origins and family, developing self-belief, sacrifices, competitive advantages, questioning the system, winning vs retaining titles, inspirations away from body building, what success means to him, transition away from sport, to finding growth and fulfillment.
Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue to find the stand out learning points from the chat.
FIND YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Dorian would find his strength in questioning the system and the norm. A true reminder to do things your own way and find your own path.
“Right from when I was a kid I was questioning authority and questioning the system. I became a bodybuilder and questioned the approach to dieting, the training and everything. I was the least typical body builder you could find because I didn’t like attention. I only wanted to show my body off at competitions because they were bench marks for me”
THE POWER OF THE MIND
Meeting athletes from a range of sports you get to see what really separates competitors at this level which is their focus on controlling their mindset. Dorian would have to be one of the strongest willed people I have met.
“It’s like a magnet you attract things to you. If you have negative thoughts guess what negative things happen to you all the time. You can affect your health in a positive or negative way or even thoughts about yourself. I think I’m a fucken super human. If I get a cold I feel I’m going to kill this. It has a lot to do about your thoughts on yourself and the world and reflects on yourself. There’s a mental process followed by action”
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
“When I decided I’m going to start training now I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. From day 1 I wrote down every workout I did and diet. I got that way back in 1983 when I started lifting weights. 1983 to 1987 I got everything written down. Changes to diet, workouts and feedback. I was very meticulous from day 1”
It's the little 1% that can separate the field. Dorian took away the guessing game with something as simple as a notebook and it gave him an ability to analyse performance and change and adapt when necessary. What it does show in spades is dedication to his craft and attention to detail.
BACK YOURSELF TO SUCCEED
While it’s great to have a support system and people to rely on, the ability to back yourself and do it on your own terms is something very special.
“Body Building was a survival and it was a way to change my life. Yeah I had something to prove. Prove to everybody. My Parents. I didn’t have that support and love so I guess I had some anger. Instead of using it like some young guys with violence. I got in a little trouble early but all that was being utilised and channeled into a workout so it was a controlled aggression. I wanted to show everybody I wanted to do things on my terms without following the system and doing what society told me to do”
THE BIRMINGHAM ADVANTAGE
Dorian enjoyed doing things on his own terms which would become one of his strongest traits. While the competition bunkered in America he would find strength in his home land.
“One of the reasons why I stayed in England was the big psychological advantage for me because they couldn’t figure me out or find a weakness in my physique or mentality as they didn’t know me or enough about me. They all saw each other in the gym every day so they had some handle but with me they knew nothing”
WINNING VS RETAINING THE TITLE
Respect is earnt in sport particularly when champions retain their crown and dominate over an extended period. Dorian would be a consecutive champion for six years and the competition was fierce. With respect to today’s competitors the depth of competition is nowhere near what it was like in the 80’s and 90’s and to stay motivated through a period of six years is quite the feat.
“Retaining a title requires a change in mentality. I always used the underdog to give me that energy and that anger and drive. I’m this guy from Birmingham England and there’s no good restaurants here and you guys in America you’re spoilt. You got the gyms, restaurants and the sun. I’m angry I’m going to make you pay. Then you’re the top dog and this requires a different mentality because everyone’s chasing you. Before I had someone to chase in Lee Haney so there was a target. The reason I stayed living in Birmingham and in my gym was because like the Rocky movies, Rocky got comfortable in the big house and the money so he lost his drive. So he lost the eye of the Tiger. Life’s easier and maybe you don’t give 110% any more. So I stayed in Birmingham to keep my feet firmly on the floor and avoid distractions”
FINDING OPPORTUNITY AFTER THE HEIGHTS OF SUCCESS
Just as anyone who achieves the heights of his success Dorian struggled initially with transition and finding purpose. However when one door closes another can open.
“You’re left asking who you are outside the character you’ve created. This Champion Mr Olympia upholding certain standards. But how much is it really you? What do you have now in life? It took me a long time to get balance out of that. The good thing was being forced out of it. I realised there was so much more to life. Now I don’t go to bed at 11 or eat 6 or 7 meals. I don’t have to be in the gym at this time. Now I have freedom and flexibility and the opportunity to explore more in life”
His view on life now
“Now in my position in life I see that I became this 6 times Mr Olympia and this figure and success for a great reason other than myself. Now I have a platform that people listen to me and that I’m a very positive influence on people, the world and development of spirituality and perhaps it was always planned like this. A mission to raise awareness and make the world a better place”
HOW DORIAN DEFINES SUCCESS
How does a man who has won six Mr Olympia Crowns truly define success?
“Success is being a peace. I’m getting there and understanding life and what your role is. That we are here temporally to have an experience. We have to learn and grow and then help the collective learn and grow the planet. For me that success. If I have millions of dollars, houses, cars and that when I leave this life it will be irrelevant. The whole material world is an illusion”
Some great insights and advice from Dorian that I feel we can all use to continue to grow and achieve in our own lives. Be sure to continue to follow Dorian on his journey as there is always inspiration to be gained from the great man.
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