Before you get too into the Sunday vibe, don’t worry, this isn’t a preachy post. I’m not going to shove scripture in your face or anything. Frankly, I’m not that well versed in the bible or religion. In fact, the first time I was introduced to Iron Sharpens Iron was in college and I had no idea it was a verse from Proverbs.

It was the first week of summer conditioning of my Junior year at Boise State. We were preparing for our first long conditioning day of the summer out on the Blue. We had just had a massive leg day in the weight room and everyone knew this run was about to be a beast. Coach Socha, our strength and conditioning coach, called us up in a circle before the run to give us the breakdown of the workout.

He pulled out a piece of paper and read the verse from Proverbs. “As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another.” He asked if anyone knew what that meant. A couple guys raised their hands and said it was a verse from the bible, but there wasn’t a lot of depth added after that.

“Iron Sharpens Iron,” Socha continued, “is our theme for the summer. Just like the swords of old used in combat, you all standing here are the iron of this team. We have everything we need right here in this circle to be great, but it will be up to each of you to sharpen the man next to you. Be ready to compete.”

Compete was an understatement. That summer was one of the toughest that I went through in my 5 years. We had shirts made with “Iron Sharpens Iron” on them and you earned your shirt by being a standout in workouts throughout the summer. Whether you won every rep in sprints or were blowing your Rx weight out of the water in the lifts, we were always pushing harder to earn that shirt. After a brutal summer, we stood as a team, all wearing our shirts that we had earned over the past 8 weeks and we knew what it took to get there. Together we had sweat and bled just to prepare for what was about to come, the season. Together we were ready.

In the moment, the simple verse from Proverbs was just an excuse to bust ass and destroy our summer workouts to get the shirt as the prize. But subconsciously it created a new level of competition between the team. Each and every rep was an opportunity to show you were competing harder than everyone else. No one was going to let themselves be outdone either.

Now, years removed and looking back, “Iron Sharpens Iron” carries a similar meaning, just a different application.

The Bible explains that just like iron blades, believers involved in one another’s lives will experience mutual edification and stronger belief.

The same is true in the non-Biblical sense. When you “rub against” another person, you’re not only working on bettering yourself, but you’re helping that person better themselves as well. Together you both achieve more than if you had been alone.

That’s what Coach Socha was really talking about that day on the Blue. Not just winning sprints or squatting more than others. Pushing yourself while pushing others.

The office, relationships, and everyday life are filled with instances that could use someone pushing us to grow. That sense of competition creates an added layer of motivation to push past your previous best. The other person pushing you as much as you are pulling them.

The point? Find the other Iron in the different arenas in your life. Use that person as your sharpening stone to push yourself. Surround yourself with those that are farther in their journey than you are. Learn from people that know more than you. Push forward with your own goals to show others it can be done. Competition breeds excellence. And while yes, your competition is your partner or group or team, your true competition, as always, is yourself.

Sharpen Yourself. Sharpen Others. Grind On.