The Guinness World Records now reserves two spots for a Binghamton University professor — first for ripping license plates, and now for bending metal spikes.
William Clark has spent his life focusing on personal health and fitness through weightlifting. After racking up multiple international medals for lifting, Clark became an adjunct lecturer in health and wellness studies at BU.
On Tuesday, Clark set his second Guinness World Record as he bent seven metal spikes in a one-minute period, breaking the previous record of four. However, Tuesday’s event meant more than just breaking records for Clark.
“This record means absolutely nothing to me,” Clark told the crowd before he attempted the record feat. “At this stage in my career, what is another record? Unless I can attach it to something bigger, something more important.”
That “something bigger” for Clark is spreading awareness for dealing with mental illnesses like anxiety. Throughout his talk, Clark said anxiety and stress are not things to fight, they are things to learn to live with.
“I know I may look calm and cool, but I’m about to throw up,” Clark said. “I’ve been through this enough times, I’ll tell you the difference is this — I am comfortable being uncomfortable.”
In August 2018, Clark ripped 23 license plates in a minute to set his first Guinness World Record.
After he finished speaking on Tuesday, he performed an extra demonstration of lifting his son in the air and simultaneously ripping an entire deck of cards. Then, he left to change into his dirty jeans so he could attempt the world record.
With encouragement from the crowd and loud yelps of his own, Clark bent seven chalked-up spikes over his quadricep area.
One of the students watching the performance was Helen Najjar, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. She previously took Clark’s weightlifting class, and said she was so inspired by his motivational talks that she decided to help spread his message as Clark’s social media coordinator.
“I got involved because I believe that [Clark] is a genuine instructor on this campus who has a strong passion for helping anyone who needs it, whether it be advice about how to handle an issue in life or a question about fitness and lifting,” Najjar said.
Najjar said she was most fascinated by Clark’s ideas of connecting anxiety and excitement, and thought this is an important concept to keep in mind heading into finals week.
“He talked a lot about the idea that there is no difference between anxiety and excitement,” Najjar said. “I thought this was extremely interesting. In our minds we can be anxious and stressed out and at the same time, be excited by telling ourselves that we can overcome that stress. Going into finals week, I am definitely going to implement some of the techniques that he mentioned.”
The event was part of the University’s Stress-free Bing initiative, implemented with the aim of providing students with mental health and wellness events around finals season. Owen Collier, a resident assistant in Dickinson Community and a senior majoring in Spanish, brought some of his residents to the event to de-stress.
“It’s also a little bit more outside of the ordinary programming that happens at [BU], so I thought it was a good thing to expose people to and show them what else is happening in the community,” Collier said. ”It was unlike anything I’ve seen and it was interesting to see how his mentality on facing anxiety, on facing stress [and on] facing fear can be translated across more things.”
One of Collier’s residents, Ivy Lu, a freshman majoring in geography, said she almost did not attend the event, but was thankful she did after hearing Clark’s motivational advice.
“Now, with finals coming up, everyone is really stressed out, especially me,” Lu said. “[Clark] really taught a lot about anxiety and not giving up and how to stay on track. It’s great to even hear it from someone like him who is super accomplished [but] he feels anxious and gets stressed out too. It’s very inspiring.”