It has been said that with age comes wisdom. If I’m being honest, quite a few things have come with age; some good, some bad, all of it a learning opportunity. Before I go any further, I feel it necessary to acknowledge how grateful I am to even be able to sit here and reflect on my life so far. At 40 years old, a long list of people I’ve known has come and gone; they are without the luxury of looking backward or forward. I don’t look back and wonder what I might have done differently because I am ungrateful. In fact, it’s the complete opposite; I realize how precious life is and as I get older, my desire to make full use of every day is stronger than ever. My love of and respect for life is what has me thinking back and asking myself what I might have done differently and what advice I might have given my younger self. It’s in the same vein that I think about the future. Measuring the past and making determinations is what has me looking to the future with promise. While I am extremely grateful for all the good fortune I’ve had so far, if I could go back in time, there is definitely some advice I would give my younger self.
If I could sit my younger self down and believe that I had a chance of getting him to listen (no easy feat) I would tell myself to say yes as often as possible. While I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to hyperfocus on tasks and goals I also believe that I shied away from a lot of opportunities. As a bodybuilder or as any other high-level competitive athlete, you become sensitive to anything that might rob you of your focus. Whether we’re talking about food, events, or even business opportunities, I learned to say no to a lot of things over the years simply because I perceived them as having the potential to distract me from my competitive goals and derail my efforts. The reality is that lofty goals require sacrifice, focus, and perseverance and I watched a lot of guys around me spread themselves thin and miss the mark because they allowed their focus to be blurred. That said, the focus is one thing and missed opportunity is another. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that just as the body adapts to training with increased physical capacity, the mind and your life itself can develop an increased capacity for worthwhile things. And rather than detract, when the right endeavors are pursued, they can feed one another. While I wish I had learned to do it sooner, I sincerely try to recognize and make room for as many people, opportunities, and possibilities as I can. If someone has an idea or a business proposal and wants to involve me; even if my immediate thought is that it doesn’t appeal to or resonate with me, I will always hear the person out. If someone invites me to an event and I’m tired or I’m busy or I just plain don’t want to go, I oftentimes say yes anyways knowing full well that some of the greatest opportunities can arise from the least likely circumstances. Saying yes has opened more doors for me and created so much more success than saying no ever has. If I could go back, I would tell my younger self this.
They say that if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. Honestly, I think there is a great deal of truth to that; life is undoubtedly a mix of things you have control over and things that are completely beyond your control. While I would consider all plans tentative and subject to change, I wholeheartedly believe that planning is a beneficial and worthwhile activity. When I look back, I realize that there are some things that I did a great job planning (usually the things I was interested in or knowledgeable about) and there are areas of my life where planning was absent (usually in areas where I allowed my ignorance to create fear and a consequent lack of action). Simply put, I would tell myself that I have to give the same attention to planning the areas of my life that didn’t produce the same interest as the things I was passionate about. As a competitive bodybuilder at the highest level, I gave a lot of thought to my career and I planned for my success. If I could go back, I would tell my younger self how vital it is to devote adequate thought to the other areas of my life that required planning and attention of their own. In my personal life, family and relationships require their own planning. In my professional life, applying business planning techniques to my bodybuilding endeavors would have been massively helpful. And of course, financial planning is something that applies to both personal and professional areas of my life. Don’t get me wrong, considering that I was young and green when I was making so many important decisions, I’m happy with how things have turned out; I consider myself fortunate. But if I’m being picky and if I knew then what I know now, hell, I could have taken over the world! All areas of our lives require our attention and our efforts. Planning is not something that should be reserved for dinner dates, vacations, and weekend trips; it needs to be practiced even when it’s concerning subjects that are painful or uninteresting. Had I planned all facets of my life with the same precision and discipline as my diet and training I do not doubt that I would be even better off.
The next piece of advice I would give my younger self is to maximize every day! I’d tell myself to wake up earlier and to make use of every minute of every day. There is so much that can be done in a day and the reality is that our days are numbered; they are a finite resource. To take a day for granted or to waste it in a way that doesn’t produce ANY measurable benefit is a sin! Growing up, I watched my father do a lot with very little. What he lacked in formal education, he made up for with common sense. What he lacked in income, he made up for with disciplined savings and frugality. What he lacked in skill, he made up for with hard work and determination. I knew from a young age that it was imperative to maximize what you have. But, for whatever reason, it took me far longer than I should have to realize that the hours in the day are no different.
Lastly, if I could go back, I would remind my younger self how important it is to show them how it’s done. I’ve heard it said that each of us should be the change that we want to see in the world and I agree with that but it doesn’t fully communicate the way that I feel. Simply put, if you see something done and feel that you can do it better, get up and do it! If you have an idea for something that would make your life or someone else’s life better, take action and create it. Some of my greatest accomplishments in life came from looking at something and saying “I can improve upon that. I can do it better.” Just the same, there were times when I thought that and failed to take action and I regret it. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self to have the conviction to do the things I know damn well I’m capable of doing. Failure to act upon an idea that can improve your life or the life of others is a mistake!
At the end of the day, I feel extremely fortunate to have enjoyed some tremendous victories and to live my life. When I think back and reflect, it’s through the lens of someone a little wiser now than when I was half my age. It should come as no surprise that the advice I would give my younger self is based heavily on that which I am currently doing and plan to do moving forward. Nowadays, I get up at 4:00 a.m., I say yes every chance I get, I make plans even when it’s uncomfortable, and if I feel I have something to offer, I try not to let myself off the hook without seeing it through. It’s for those reasons that I wake up every morning knowing that my best is yet to come.