It has been awhile since my last blog. It isn’t because I’ve been lazy. It isn’t because I’ve forgotten. It isn’t because my mind has gone blank and I have no ideas. It isn’t even because I have a broken computer and a busy schedule. There is a reason though. And that reason is the very topic of this new blog post.
Let’s catch up. I started my personal training studio eight years ago in Asheville, NC. I leased a space 2000 sq ft in size. I have been blessed with special clients and wonderful growth over the years. A few years ago I decided to knock out a wall and expand my space, when the business beside us closed. It was a decision that has made my life difficult for about 6 or 7 months. My business has been great, but our growth has in no way kept up with the climbing rent. I knew I would have to do something as each month passed. I could see it coming, yet when the moment came when I could not make it…I could not pay my rent…it slapped me in my head, punched me in the throat, and put a foot on my chest as I was flat on my back wondering what in the world had happened to my dream? I didn’t know what I was going to do. This is what I’m going to write about to you today…not about how to make business work, strategy, marketing, restructuring, or annnny of that “stuff”. I’m going to write to you about a place in which these circumstances put me…a bad place…a place I’m not even sure I’ve been before…ever. I have received e-mails in the past from people who ask me how I can put myself “out” there the way I do. I have always said I would be genuine and honest when I write or speak and it’s funny because I have never felt I put myself “out” there…until right now. Why is that? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I know what I’m about to write. I’m a bodybuilder…with plenty of pictures that show my size. I have many many pictures and recordings that show my strength. I’m a father and a husband…with lots of stories and pictures of my leadership position and love in my family. I’m a Strength Coach with a list of client testimonies that would take you hours to read or listen to about my training philosophy, methodology, and success. I’m a man…that says it all. Men aren’t supposed to share this kind of stuff right? We keep it all inside, but I’m telling you, this instinct is part of what made things so hard on me as I struggled silently to climb out of a dark deep hole without a ladder. Have you ever been in that hole? This is what happened to me:
I knew for months things were getting tough…and I told no one. I continued to work with a smile on my face. I continued to go home to my family quietly. I eventually talked to Amy about what was going on, but it was all “surface” talk. I didn’t want her to worry. I continued to train and support my clients in the way I do, but my own training started to become sporadic…and eventually came to a screeching halt. I stopped writing. This is the hard part to talk about…because of all the things I listed above about how others see me…what the pictures and stories and smiles said…they were all soooooo far from how I saw myself…from how I felt. I would close the gym mid-day when I normally lift but instead of lifting, I would try to catch up on sleep I missed during the night…then I would re-open in the afternoon, put a smile on my face and train more people. When the last person left, I would turn the lights out and sit in the dark looking at what I knew I would lose. This routine went on for days…then weeks. This was so not me…yet I could not escape it. Some of you probably know what I’m talking about. I’m not even sure right now exactly what “it” is. Discouragement? Hopelessness? Feeling of Nothingness? It’s almost like a cloud that stays with you…a pressure that stays on your shoulders…a parasite on your soul. It’s with you when you wake up in the morning. It’s with you while you shave…shower…and drive to work. It’s with you when you come home to your family…when you pick up each child and kiss them…when you talk to your wife as you eat. Tossing and turning because you can’t sleep, you roll over only to see it staring you in your eyes daring you to even remember when you last slept. You all know me. I’m a Christian. I prayed and prayed. I’m a motivator…a coach…as positive as they come.
For this reason I had years of material to use on myself. I’m serious…I read my own quotes…my Instagram posts…tweets…Facebook posts….this very Blog…and the words on the back of my own T-shirts and sweatshirts. Some days it helped a little…most days it frustrated me. I got angry and hurt when I thought about how deeply I cared about people…checked on people…worked for people…encouraged people…and now I needed ALL of that…and I needed people to lift me…and I didn’t get it…no one even knew…What about me!!??…I felt selfish…and to me that was screwed up…really screwed up and sad. Then one night as I sat on that little plyometric box in the middle of my gym…in the dark…I put both my hands on my bald head and tucked my chin…and I started to cry. Tears streamed down my face as I thought about working eight years… and having nothing to show for it…Eight hard years…so many hours and now I had to go tell my wife and my children it was all for nothing. I cried when thinking about how many people I helped but now I was about to let them all down. And then as clear as if I had head phones on, I heard a voice. I’m not being dramatic and I’m not looney. I heard a voice…and as I have always said, I promised you I would be 100% honest and truthful when writing…and I know some of you share this blog in your church, with your kids, in youth groups, your sports teams, etc…but I have to tell you what I heard in exact words as I sat on that little box, head tucked, and tears dripping on the rubber floor…I heard : “Boy…get your A#$ UP!….You think this is hard?! You’ve been through some real sh#@! You’ve been through it boy… Get your A&$ UP! You’ve held two of your children in the palm of your hand…You’ve seen through their skin…You’ve watched them hurt…you’ve seen real pain…Get Up NOW!” So I did. I went home and filled Amy in…never saying anything about the voice to anyone until this very moment. And to make a long story not as long…I worked out with my landlord to keep half of my space. It worked out to stay open and I get to continue doing what I feel I am supposed to be doing. Don’t think it has been easy though since I heard that voice. It wasn’t smooth. I suspect if you’re familiar with any of these feelings I have written about you know the ups and downs come and go….and they will continue to come and go…because that’s life right? So what have I learned and what can you learn from my experience? :
1. NEVER ASSUME PEOPLE ARE OK…all the time. I was talking to one of my clients as I neared making a decision about keeping half the space(she actually has helped me tremendously in getting through this period) about what makes people successful…you know those people who have it together? She asked me, “Who in Underdog has it all together?…excluding you…we all know you have it together.” I remember almost choking on the lump in my throat as I told her what was going on with the studio and how far far far away I was from having anything together. NEVER assume ANYONE has it all together…because they don’t…and if they think they do, it can change in a flash. CHECK on people who are normally “up”…who are encouragers…who are “natural helpers”…You know who I’m talking about. The people who do so much for so many. The people who would give you the shirt off their back, the money in their wallet. They’ll give you all their lunch if you say you are hungry… as their own stomach growls. Teachers, coaches, preachers, mothers, grandmothers, volunteers, foster parents, friends, fathers…you KNOW these people! Check on them…because they’re the best at hiding their own needs…and when they crack, it can be bad because what caused that crack has been building for a long time in these people. Trust me…I know. I still deal with it because I don’t always communicate the stress of this change. For example, after pulling and stacking 7000lbs of flooring until midnight and someone coming in the next morning and calling you a hoarder or the mess in the back of the gym ridiculous and disgraceful makes me want to scream “Do you even know what is going on here!?”…but I don’t…because I don’t scream…because my reaction comes out of exhaustion…and because they don’t know. Most of the time we DON’T know the battles people are facing and fighting. So…Please…Just check on them.
2. STOP HIDING… Men…we are the worst. We think we aren’t supposed to share our “stuff”. I can tell you from my experience of thinking about starting over, it’s hard as a man to share a hurt. It means we’re vulnerable…and oohhhh how we hate being vulnerable. I don’t care how strong you are or how strong you think you are…this kind of vulnerability brings you to your knees. Hiding also causes stress in a marriage, family, business, and with friends. When we stay quiet, we risk missing the help we need. As I talked to the client I mentioned above about not having it together, I felt like I could breathe easier. Without even knowing it, I spilled my vision and plan to make it happen because of her questions. She now denies saying these words(she says she put it in a nicer way) but I remember her exact words : “I have never met anyone with so much going for them…who is such a mess. You have so much together but you’re going nowhere…floundering.” She was right. It was true. Which leads to the next lesson.
3. FIND YOUR PURPOSE… As my client said, I was a mess. But I have to say, I believe one thing remained constant even in the worst moments…I knew my purpose. I know what I’m supposed to do…how I’m supposed to do it…and the gifts I have been given. That kept me from sinking into a deeper hole I believe. I knew my purpose. Find your purpose because it can be one of your anchors in a storm.
4.YOUR PAIN FROM THE PAST CAN GET YOU THROUGH YOUR PAIN RIGHT NOW…Most of you know our story of having 1 pound premature twins. In the midst of it, it seemed impossible. I can’t tell you how strong that experience made me. It was painful at times…very painful…but as the voice told me that night in the gym…I can get through anything I’m going through now when I remember what I’ve already been through. Remember how strong you HAVE been…and remind yourself how strong you ARE RIGHT NOW.
5. THE VOICE…ahhh the voice…Call it what you will…my conscience, the wind, whatever… I call it my Foul Mouthed Angel. I have written in other blogposts about the importance of being quiet in order to hear God’s whisper. I now believe that He loves us so much…that sometimes He’ll find a louder way NOT to lose us…He sent me a motivational, no-nonsense, call-it-like-it-is, cursing Angel. The truth is…as bad as it all can get…loss of a child, sick family, suicide, disease, unspeakable tragedies and violence, learning disabilities, empty nest syndrome, financial disaster, divorce, inability to see a reason to even get out of bed, unemployment, abuse, abandonment, etc…the truth is…We are never alone. Remember this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6 ….. I know you may be thinking it’s easy to say these things and I may even be upsetting you right now…I get it…I promise…and it leads to my last lesson:
6. NEVER STOP WRITING…NEVER STOP ENCOURAGING… I stopped writing. You know that. When I was going through the last few months and trying to “get out of that hole”, I was reading everything I could to lift myself. I read my own blog as I said because I love it…I do…I love it. However, during this time, I found that nothing I read or listened to seemed to help me. Not even my own stories or motivational posts…to be quite honest, I often ticked myself off. I would read my words and think “easy to say…means nothing”… and I realized how some of you may take my words because of the pain you’re in…I started understanding that being in such a bad spot hardens your heart and makes you pessimistic to anyone who writes to encourage. Then I made a big mistake. I stopped encouraging. I started telling myself none of it mattered and that no one cares. Even with all the comments and e-mails…the hugs…and thank-you-s…I told myself it was worthless. I was wrong…and I will write. To those of you who encourage…NEVER stop. I started thinking about this last weekend while swimming with Emma Grace. She was trying to show me that she could swim with her face in the water. She was nervous and wanted me to stand close to her. It didn’t make sense to me but I did it until Ella grabbed my attention in the middle of one of Emma Grace’s attempts. Emma Grace pulled her head up and started screaming for me…and I looked at her like she was crazy and then I said, “Just stand up Emma Grace”…..which is why it all didn’t make sense to me because I knew she could stand up…but she forgot. She forgot all she needed to do was put her feet down and stand up. She did it and started laughing. So sometimes in our struggles and pain…we forget…we flounder and splash and worry…until someone tells us to “JUST STAND UP.” Encouragers…that’s what you do…and though you can get weary…and be in need of encouragement yourself…you CAN’T give up…I can’t give up. I won’t give up. Thank you all for reading my blog. God Bless you