As I sit on the plane headed back home to Houston from Denver, excited to see my family, I find myself reflecting over the past week and the time spent at the American Society of Safety Engineers Annual National Safety Conference, “Safety 2017”. To say my mind is reeling is putting it lightly. After hearing keynote speeches from incredibly motivational people and meeting some extremely knowledgeable folks, I feel like a rocket on a launch pad. I can already see the eye rolls from my peers on Monday when I burst into the office like the Kool-Aid Man. OH YEAH!!!!
I feel supercharged. I know there are thousands of other attendees on their way home feeling the same way and I hope it stays with them. I hope each and every one of them finds a way, large or small, to change their life, change the life of those around them and maybe change the world. There is one thing I want to point out about my experience, my motivation did not begin in the Mile-High Ball Room of the Colorado Convention Center on Tuesday morning. While it may have been realized there, my eyes opened about three weeks ago, in the kids’ playroom of my home.
I am a quitter. It’s a hard thing to think, let alone to write or even say out loud. As hard as it is, it’s true. I have quit on some of the most important things in my past. I am not proud. Like most quitters, at the time, I didn’t think of what I was doing as quitting. I’d come up with some excuse as to why whatever I was doing was a “waste of time” or that I should just “cut my losses” when something wasn’t going my way. Just like anything in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Quitting became a breeze. I’d rationalize, I’d quit and when I started to feel guilty, I’d rationalize some more until I believed I had made the right choice. Years ago, I was testing for a local fire department. I had two tasks left and I was ahead of the time limit. I was winning. Then, as I began the second to last task, I threw in the towel. I quit. Why?! For years after I told myself that I became ill and was forced to quit. “I’ll come back and try again when I feel better”, I told myself. As I look back, sure I felt sick. I was exerting myself physically and mentally to extreme levels. Was this new to me? Absolutely not. I had pushed myself much harder before that. The truth is, I was scared, I was uncomfortable and I was filled with self-doubt. I was feeling mentally weak and I gave in to that weakness. I took the easy route.
So how does the playroom revelation come into the story? As I progress in my safety career and in my pursuit to be a better Father and Husband, I’ve started reading self help books. I know, cliche. I’ve read about taking ownership (Thanks Jocko and Leif) and I’ve read about leadership and how to communicate properly. While these books and speeches were not the catalyst to my awakening, they were the equivalent of switching to higher octane fuel. I began looking at things from a different perspective. I started to become more analytical of myself and the situations in which I found myself. Still, I was not there. Until three weeks ago. I recently purchased a kettlebell and found a “kettlebell Workout for Beginners” on Onnit.com (Thanks Joe Rogan). My goal was to swing the kettlebell and throw around the tractor tires that I had acquired about six months ago (and have sat untouched in my garage since) at least five times a week. I’ve used the kettlebells several times and the tires still sit unmoved. On this particular day, I had used the kettlebells maybe three or four times, so it was not new to me. I knew what to expect and it was not an easy workout. There are about a dozen exercises (more than the onnit.com workout but I modified it to include some other things). These exercises are done three times with a one minute break between reps. I use the kids’ playroom because the east wall is mirrored and I can watch myself to ensure proper form. I was sweaty, I was sore and I was feeling weak. As I began my third and final rep, my mind won the battle and I dropped to my knees. “I’m done”, I thought. Hey, two reps is better than no reps, right? I should feel good that I accomplished what I did! This wasn’t a failure, it was a double success. I worked out, right? From my knees, staring at myself in the mirror, something in me broke. Like a light coming on, I realized I was doing what I had always done when I was feeling weak. I was quitting. I could see my Wife in the living room and our two younger children playing around her. I had the realization then and there that I was a quitter. I had done it my whole life and I felt ashamed. I looked at them and I began to cry. Then something happened that I did not expect. I got to my feet. Cheeks wet with tears, I resumed my workout. Sore, tired, sweaty and full of disappointment in myself, I pushed through. While I did not make a promise to quit quitting right then and there, I did make a promise to myself and to my family (unbeknownst to them) that I was going to find a way to not be a quitter. I know you’re probably thinking, “wait a minute. You made a promise to find a way not to quit?! That’s not right! Just stop quitting!”. Look at it this way, I knew I wanted to build a house… I just didn’t have the hammer and nails to get it done. What I promised was to start gathering lumber and drawing up blueprints.
So, as I sit here on my way home, head buzzing with ideas and plans for professional and self-improvement, I understand that I did not find my motivation at Safety 2017. I was handed the tools to build my house. To build my better me. Armed with tools like the 5 Second Rule (thanks Mel) and surrounding myself with the people I want to emulate (thanks Vinh) I am now ready to explode forward. I will do better. I will BE better. I make this promise to you; my colleagues, my peers, my team, my friends and to my Wife and my children…
I will not quit.