As I said last week, I had some work to do on myself. Did I learn some things from sticking it out for a while at the gym? I certainly did, but you can only live on the financial edge for so long. Barely making it financially was starting to take a real toll on me. Around January 2014 I really began to step back and look at my situation as a whole. There was one day in particular that really stuck out to me as a low point. I was depressed by the combination of lost romance, disenchantment with work, and very limited finances. One morning I went to a local donut shop and got 3 donuts. I also bought a sugar laden caffeinated drink from the local coffee shop (like a hot milkshake). The next morning, 4 donuts plus the drink. The next morning, 5 donuts plus the drink. I told y’all, I’m an emotional eater. Sugar had become my best friend and comforter. On that third morning I remember saying to myself, “Travis, what are you doing?!”
At the time I was doing quite a bit of working out as I pursued being an MMA fighter. I was pushing through injuries and rest days were almost non existent. I would workout at the gym for 1.5 hours in the morning and do another 1.5 hours at the MMA gym in the evening. 3 hours of intense effort on top of moving all day for gym classes and personal training. One of the things I realized was the fact that I wasn’t taking my own advice. I would tell clients to slow down when injured. To focus on doing less work but at a higher quality. I told people these things all the time, yet, I was ignoring chronic injuries in my back/shoulder and I was definitely working out too much. I began to think more about what I wanted my future to look like and my current path didn’t match. I eventually wanted my own business and a family. How important was this MMA thing to me? Did it still have the same value? I had to give something up and I realized that having my own business/family was far more valuable to me. I cut the MMA training and I drastically cut how much working out I was doing. Almost immediately, my sugar cravings decreased, my sleep got better, and I actually got leaner.
Of course, I also began to take a good look at my progress as a Personal Trainer. There was no progress as far as I was concerned. I had tried changing up training approaches several times but nothing seemed to really turn a result for me. A huge lesson that I learned from my time as an engineer is that you don’t let things get so bad that you hit a wall. I caught myself starting to blame other people, “The clients don’t care!” “I’m not getting enough support!” Whining! When I find myself blaming other people for my situation, I know it’s time for me to take a hard look at my life and figure out what needs to change. Financially, I needed to get my legs back under me. If I kept pushing down the road of fitness as a profession, it was going to grind me into the ground. I was moving rapidly towards a wall and I knew I would never want to help people get healthy again if I allowed that to happen. I quit the gym and started work as a Technician at a local Hospital Emergency Department.
It was like being suffocated and suddenly being able to breathe again. I had some money in my pocket. My injuries were healing. I had more energy. I wasn’t eating a bunch of sugar. I had my sanity back. I didn’t want to work at the hospital forever, but I was open to doing something different. However, I had no idea what ‘different’ was. I thought, “Maybe I will go to Physical Therapy School or Nursing School.” None of that ever really took hold in my mind. As I worked in the Emergency Department I got questions: “How do I get lean like that?” “Travis, what exercises should I be doing?” “How do I start to change my diet?”
Initially this was frustrating. I thought, “I’m going to tell you what to do and you’re not going to follow through.” You know what? I was right! Different environment, same story. People always approach with such fervance and desire in their words. Healthcare professionals. Nurses with knowledge of how the body works. Highly educated, highly trained, and extremely intelligent. However, no execution. I can give you the best plan in the world but if you don’t execute, it’s pointless. A question became loud in my mind, “What made me flip the switch and can I teach that to other people?” Another thought than began to dominate my mind was, “We live in a time where there is so much advancement in science and technology as it relates to the human body. Yet, we are sicker and more broken than ever. Even our healthcare professionals, nurses and doctors, seem to have some of the worst health in our society.” Statistically this is actually true. The average nurse has worse health outcomes than the average American. This quote is from the Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation website:
Nurses are less healthy than the average American. Research shows that nurses are more likely to be overweight, have higher levels of stress, and get less sleep.
Cart before the Horse…
These thoughts birthed the beginning of my first solo business endeavor after the Army: The Strength Consultant. My goal was to put out videos that both educated and inspired. Give people the right plan and help them put some fire behind it. As I put out my content I ultimately realized that the ‘fire’ piece was the problem. Ownership. The resources are all around us but, are we going to do the hard work to be resourceful with those resources? This led me to the realm of Personal Development. What you are reading now. I love what I do. I love challenging people to take a hard look at themselves. I love helping people fight through barriers in their own minds. I love mentoring people through difficult processes that are easy to quit on. I love helping people find the resolve to stay the course. I love communicating and inspiring with my words, written or spoken. I had no idea that this is where I would end up after I left the military. As a matter of fact, I can remember thinking to myself in my late teens, “Motivational Speaker?! Why would anyone need to listen to a motivational speaker?!” I’ve always been good at tapping into intrinsic motivation and self discipline, so I never saw a need for such things when I was younger. Add to that, I never saw myself being and entrepreneur and, as an introvert, I never saw myself doing something that would force me to be so relational and vulnerable with people. Engineering made a lot more sense when I was young. Life is a process of self-discovery and many things are only unearthed when we get to our wits end. I had pushed being a trainer as far as I reasonably could. In doing so, I discovered that the original problem I was trying to solve wasn’t the ultimate problem that needed solving. I also discovered that I had the ability to communicate and move people with my story. I had to run hard after one problem in order to discover those things about myself (Think Empty the Bucket).
It’s a fine balance that we walk in pursuing something we are passionate about. Stay in it long enough to get valuable lessons learned but don’t stay in an unsustainable situation so long that it burns you to the ground.
- What if I had decided to leave Tacoma? Losing more years running around to different gyms trying to solve a problem that wasn’t the actual problem.
- What if I decided to stay at the gym? Getting so bitter and frustrated with the process that I would’ve started to burn bridges with my employer and clients. Many of whom have helped me get opportunities since leaving the gym. Perhaps, I would have been cynical about helping people in any way whatsoever.
The patterns in life that I lay out before you today only started to really emerge after I left the gym environment. It’s hard to be creative and it’s difficult to learn, when your basic needs are in constant threat of not being met. When the physical, mental, and emotional stress subsided, I could think clearly and truly reflect on my experience at the gym. Many of the problems that my clients were having paralleled experiences that I had.
- Frustrations with a career that is unfulfilling.
- Challenges in a romantic relationship.
- Financial Stress (Trying to pay for a gym/trainer isn’t helping someone whose finances are in shambles.)
- Chronic injuries that aren’t being addressed
It’s going to be difficult for a person to change their dietary habits if they’re experiencing one or many of these problems. Metaphorically, their life is on fire. As disciplined and driven as I am, I was using sugar as a crutch during this stressful period of my life. I have tons of knowledge on health and have overcome huge personal obstacles in every area of my life. AND still, I am am still capable of falling into a cycle of self-destructive behaviors. How much more susceptible is someone who has never done any deep work on themselves? It was during my time at the gym that I really began to understand just how connected life is. No matter what we are doing, we carry the same mentality to every activity, to every location, to every relationship. Our character informs everything we do. That’s why deep work is so necessary. Add to this, if my own life is on ‘fire’, then it’s going to be really hard to help someone else. How many of us would be out solving some of the great problems of society if we weren’t drowning in the chaos of our own lives?
Again, the fine line we walk with many challenging situations is knowing when to stay with it and when to let it go. My only hard and fast rule is the 300% rule. If I get to a point where I’m pointing the finger and giving a less than wholehearted effort to anything in my life, I have to stop and evaluate the situation deeply and objectively. It takes some serious critical thinking and it would be much easier to run from problems or cruise along as if they don’t exist (which is still running). However, you and I are not going to do that. We are going to face our problems head on. Deep work.
Until next time…
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