It takes a lot of courage to be honest enough with yourself about what needs to change and to take that holistic approach. It sounds like it was this overnight thing. You went to bed one night and you woke up with this determination to make the change. I imagine that there was a lot leading up to that and then once you made the decision, probably a pretty long road ahead of you before you realize the results of that. Can you talk a little bit about the process?
The road ahead of me is my entire life and I’m great with that. That can be too much for people. That’s the point of excitement for me is I’ve got plenty more to tackle and I always will. I am excited by that because I feel achievement now instead of feeling like, “I got to deal with that now?” It’s excitement about the next thing I get to tackle. It doesn’t mean everything is easy.
One thing with that is that, I see people take two kinds of mindsets with it. They look at it like, “I’ve got this whole list of problems I got to go fix,” and it’s all about fixing the negative problem. I think to your point, the real challenge, the part of why we’re here on this planet is growth. It doesn’t stop when we turn eighteen and leave home. It’s a lifelong process of growth. I think that’s really what you just described is that by embracing that idea and being excited about what’s my next stage of growth, “Look how far I’ve come and everything I’ve come through. What’s next? This is going to be cool.” That to me is a key mindset.
I love that you called out the fixer bit. I am a fixer. I’m a strategy consultant originally before I got into the corporate side. What my whole career was based on saying what’s wrong and fixing it. A lot of people have that. We come in to fix problems. You take over from someone and you make things better. You’re paid to spot what’s wrong and to turn it around. You’re not paid to dream. You’re not paid to just come up with a whole new way of doing things. You may stumble upon that anyway, but most of us are rewarded for finding the problem and rooting it out and that’s great. You can have a lot of success in that, but it does train your mind to work in a certain way. It trains you to be really critical and really negative. Maybe that’s part of why I was feeling so down in my life.
My whole career, while I was successful, was very much like, “This is wrong.” It’s all the bad. Instead of looking at it as opportunity. You said I’m a Senior Executive in a successful business. The reason why I’d call it successful is, yes, we have things that we need to fix, but we have so much opportunity in front of us and that’s where we’re focused. We fixed stuff along the way, but it’s much more about seizing opportunity. We’re in an industry that grows about 1% a year. We’re growing 25% to 35% and profitably. More profitable than most of our competitors. It’s a mindset shift. We look at it as opportunity and there’s a place for fixing, but I’m just much more interested in the opportunity of it.
Having that focus is huge. We talk with business owners all the time who are stressed because they feel like they got this whole basket full of problems and sometimes it takes an outsider to look at it and say, “You got these problems, but do you also see all the opportunity that’s sitting here right in front of you? If you’re focusing on the problems, you could go grab those opportunities and that in and of itself, gets you moving forward and the problems become smaller. It’s when you sit there and dwell on the problems that you can’t move.
That defines a lot of my response to the challenges in life. I had been about 100 pounds overweight initially as a kid. I lost weight. I gained a lot of it back. I never looked obese again. I always just say I looked American. No one would look at me and think twice. Whereas as a kid, people were like, “There’s the fat kid.” When I lost weight the second time, it wasn’t about I’m fat and I need to be not fat. That’s a very negative and fixed way of framing it is, “I don’t feel good about my physical situation, how I feel, how I move, like all of it.” Set that aside and more, “This is who I want to be physically.” I had a place I was trying to get to. I did have a weight goal and all that, but it was more about a framing of myself in a different light. As someone who was in shape, active, felt good, uplifted. I started to use words like, “I’m an athlete,” which felt so uncomfortable at the time. As I started to accept that more and more, I started to feel more empowered. You said about the marathon. I had a friend about a year before I decided to do it. He was like, “I’ve got a marathon in me before I hit 40.” I was like, “That’s ridiculous. Never in a million years. I have no interest in that.”
As I allowed the framing to change in my mind, I allowed for the idea that I’m a runner. I hated running my whole life and I only got into it in 2012. Little by little, I run a couple miles at a time and I enjoyed it, but I still never really saw myself as a runner. I was like, “I’m an elliptical user who happens to run every now and then.” As I allowed for the idea of being a runner to set in and being an athlete, suddenly it was like, “Could I do a marathon?” “Yeah. I think I could.” It’s going to take a lot of work and it’s going to take dedication and training, but I’ve got that. I know how to make that happen because I’ve been doing it everywhere else. Why can’t I allow that to exist in the running side? Once I looked at it that way, I never had the sense of impossibility around the marathon where it was just such an absurdity before. That’s the way things go for me in general. Whether it’s getting a new job or some physical thing. I do road cycling as well.
I picked it in the summer of 2013. I got my first road bike and I did my first century rides, 100 miles. I’ve never ridden more than 25 miles before. I was in the lead group the whole time. This idea that, “You can’t do that. That’s too far.” You’ll never do it. If you allow for the possibility, you might shock yourself. The truth is you have nothing to lose. I was telling someone the other day about my book. I was like, “What’s my dream for? It’s to be on stage doing a TED Talk, sitting across the couch from Oprah in the middle of the woods talking about my philosophy with her.” People will laugh at it. I was like, “I’m not sitting on a couch with Oprah right now.” What do I have to lose by saying that? If it doesn’t happen, big deal. It’s not happening right now. If I don’t say it, if I don’t take the steps to at least try, it definitely won’t happen. It’s just flipping it. It’s no problem solving. It’s opportunity identifying and just allowing for the opportunity to have. It’s not a TED Talk, but I have a TEDx Talk book. That’s a step. It’s one thing after the next one, when you just allow for possibilities and you focus yourself on that.
I find that so many people, they’ll already discount themselves right from the start. They won’t even allow that idea. They’re like, “That’s just not me.” They may want to do it. They may have that thought, “Wouldn’t that be cool or that guy’s so privileged because he’s there or she’s there.” They don’t understand often that it takes that first thought and as I’m listening to you, to me the real differentiator here is, “Am I going to spend my life running from or running to?” For somebody, it might not be that they need to run a marathon or that they want to, that may not be the thing. In everything that you’re describing, to me, that’s the theme that I hear is at some point you flipped it in your head and you stopped saying, “These are all the things that I don’t like and how do I eliminate the things I don’t like?” You just started saying, “Forget all those things. Here’s what I want and I’m going to go do what I want.”
We don’t even know ourselves. That’s the reality of it. There’s one fundamental piece that was missing from my life that when I coach people, 100% of the people I coach is the same problem. It starts with before you even get to the motivation, it’s about self-compassion and self-love. That can sound as hippie as you want it to sound, that’s the God’s honest truth. The fixer mentality is, “What’s wrong with you?” It’s like, “Can you just allow for a moment that there’s nothing wrong with you? That you are okay. That you allow yourself to be good.” People are, “I could never do that.” It’s like you’ve just defined yourself as incapable, or I’m a depressed person, or I’m dysfunctional, or I’m not good at that, or you yell at your kid and I’m a bad parent. Are you a bad parent or did you just make a choice in the moment that you’re now regretting? If you frame it as you’re a bad parent, you’re going to keep making bad choices. If you frame it as, “I blew up in my kid because I had a bad day and it’s not their fault and I wish I had responded differently to the situation, or I could have shared my disappointment with them without screaming and yelling and calling them names.” Then guess what happens the next time? You’ve allowed for the idea that maybe you’re not a terrible person, maybe you’re even a good person, you can respond differently. It’s framing yourself.