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):
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?
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?https://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/11382220/ex-nfl-qb-jared-lorenzen-lifelong-battle-weight
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
I looked at the label
MAX WEIGHT 250
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
I had miles of open farm roads in the middle of the desert
(This is an actual photo I took back then)
(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, 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
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.