The Google Photos app has a feature where it regularly shows you a photo from the current date, several years ago. Yesterday, it showed me this one:

A rusty old squat rack in a dirt driveway. With a chicken photobombing it.

I decided it was time to tell the story.

If you didn't know me seven years ago, you really have no idea. That's deliberate. Redemption stories are great, but I personally hate mine. I told it anyway, in a series of tweets. (You can read the original tweet that started it here):

August 2014

I'm 40 and fat

My 30s are over, and I can recall achieving nothing of note for an entire decade of my life

A corporate gig with no growth potential

A dying marriage

A home in the middle of nowhere

I've known for years I need to do something about it 

Inertia is a bitch

You get into the rut

You stay just comfortable enough

And you wake up 10 years later wondering what it's going to take to crawl out

Or are you just going to keep digging?

Problem is

Nobody wants to shame you anymore for that kind of mediocrity 

Everyone was mostly content

Money was tight, but not a real problem

The job was a dead end, but the benefits were ok

I had a roof over our heads, cars in the driveway, and food on the table

No shame in that


My son's role model was a reliably mediocre dad

My daughter would grow to expect the same of a husband

In a few generations, I'd be forgotten, and my descendants would be equally unremarkable

This was my legacy

No one shamed me for it

So I started shaming myself 

I read an article about that time

About Jared Lorenzen

A world-class talent who fell far short of his potential because he couldn't control his weight

You can still read it here:

Inside Jared Lorenzen's lifelong weight battleEx-NFL QB Jared Lorenzen still loves football. But what do you do when your appetite for food competes with your appetite for the game?

The interviewer (also overweight) says:

"We see our futures, and they're not long ones. I'm 50, and I might feel it more deeply than he does. Nobody who's 65 looks like we do."

(Lorenzen would end up dead 5 years later. He was 38) 

At that point, I figured I'd have to do something drastic, or I'd be dead before ever seeing a grandkid

So I hopped on an exercise bike I had

It groaned

I looked at the label


Hilarious, if you think about it 

So I did the next thing that came to mind

I started running

(If you could call it that)

Couldn't make it a quarter mile at first

But I kept going

Every day

I had miles of open farm roads in the middle of the desert

(This is an actual photo I took back then)

The only dietary change I made the first month was quitting Mountain Dew

(I used to drink a six pack a day)

That alone, along with all my stupid running, shaved 30 pounds off in that time

By November I was running 5k's 

I'd also cleaned up the diet

Started counting calories

Annoyed the wife, who wanted nothing to do with it

As I said, the relationship was already dying

But this would end up killing it 

By December I realize running sucks, and the easy weight is gone

So I decide I need to lift weights

Only gym I have is a small one at the office, and I live way too far from town to be a member anywhere

(I tried, it really doesn't work)

So I start looking for home equipment 

Now, money's still a thing, so I'm stalking Craigslist for deals on used gear

By March of 2015, I get my first squat rack

This glorious bastard:

Yes, it's in my dirt driveway

Yes, there's a free range chicken in the photo

My wife liked having a hobby farm full of pets

And a garage full of crap that looked like an episode of Hoarders

So I lifted weights in the sun

It was exactly what I needed 

By 2017, I've moved out

The next year and a half basically sucks as I deal with the divorce, sale of the house, and a doozy of a custody battle

Zeroed out, financially

Took months to even get to a point where my kids would talk to me

And it was all worth it 

But none of it should have been necessary

Truth is, I knew better all along

I was in fantastic shape in my 20's

Had a brilliant career trajectory

And I let a few bad breaks knock me off target

I didn't figure out anything "new" the last 7 years

I just returned to form 

Whether this applies to you or not doesn't really matter

You already know damned well whether or not you're on target

And if you're not, you know why

You're comfortable

And your scared

And you're lazy

Fitness. Relationships. Career. Whatever. 

If you're not maxing out your potential

If you're not pursuing hyperambitious plans

What are you waiting for?

The next decade?

The next life?

This is it. You could be dead tomorrow.

Do that hard shit that you're scared of, because it's in the way of your path to greatness 

I dropped that thread at 1:20 a.m. Arizona time, thinking nothing of it. It was more than what I wanted to say, but I said it anyway, and went to bed.

I woke up to over a thousand notifications.

Thankfully, most of them were not congratulatory. They were people sharing it so that others might get the message. Which is about as much as I'd want from it.

Do not fucking congratulate me for this.

It never should have been necessary, and it's a sad state of affairs when we go around patting each other on the back for merely not being terrible.

If you're a recovering addict, or reformed convict, or renewed degenerate in any way, good. That's better than your previous awful condition, but you do not get style points for screwing up in the first place, and then taking the reasonable corrective action.

That's why I haven't told the story.

I had no excuses. I was not a victim.

I had a few bad breaks in my late 20s, nothing worse than what anyone else deals with in life, and under those conditions I was not resilient. I made bad decisions. I spent years just living with them. And then I finally stopped.

That's the message.

That's the point.

It's far, far better to not screw up in the first place. Because you never get those years back

And if you are in a situation like that, stop.

Turn the corner.

Make the hard decisions and take the effortful actions to correct course.

It will suck. It will probably hurt people.

And everyone involved will be better for it in the long run.

Obviously this story resonated with a lot of you. If you want more like it, let me know. If you have questions, reach out. Join the newsletter and you'll have my e-mail address. I read all of it.

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