I started from the bottom…and I’m still here.

A totem pole represents an outcome-based hierarchy, it keeps things in perspective so you can’t help but notice the difference between the bottom and the top. Inventible curiosity sets in with questions that have limitations and dead ends built into them. We become fixated with glorifying the top, yet we forget that the top ceases to exist without the bottom. This past month has taught me a great deal, it ripped me out of the ego filled bubble I fashioned for myself, the fresh air was…intoxicating. I was placed time and time again in a climate where only the uncomfortable could thrive. My experiences were contingent upon how well I could handle bad news on a second by second basis. What did I learn? The reward for failure is experience. The saying goes “know your place on the totem pole” I say, more than likely whoever said that has never been at the bottom themselves and if they ever did arrive there, they’d get crushed…

Admit it. We all think we know what we’re doing and where we’re going with whatever misplaced goal we arbitrarily decided to pursue. It works just like the menu at Baskin Robbins, that flavor of the month bullshit. It shifts constantly to something different until we become tired of it and we end up eating the same thing just with a different name; an over disguised re-run. Sample, eat, repeat. By the time we’ve tried them all we’re inebriated with our own gluttony for failure, ashamed from our pathetic attempt “to find ourselves.” My recent travels over the past month have left me with new questions, challenges, and purpose. I use these nouns as a mask to hide the broken confidence and new found appreciation for being the dumbest person in the room. I often wonder how people can consider themselves “experts” in their field when they’ve only surrounded themselves with people that are less capable than them. It must be a desperation thing, they’ve run out of friends, options, and the small amount of respect they did have ran down the back of their leg into the nearest gas station bathroom after having their “detox” shake, organic of course. At the top of their craft indeed…

My first experience led me to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I went to train and discuss “the philosophy of effort” from a very different perspective at the Non-Prophet event center. A congregation of gym owners, former U.S special forces, entrepreneurs, and variety of fitness practitioners. The discussions were insightful, depth and rabbit holes were common place and no one was pulling us out anytime soon. My mind split wide open like half healed scab scraping up against the jagged pavement. The only thing comparable was what occurred physically during the training, an experience indeed. A workout consisting of a group effort, a 400M sprint up a mountain 7500ft above sea level, followed by an effort like-minded, capable, a ruthless application of the task at hand. There was a massive delta from where I was and where they were. Refined, polished, ultra.

My Second experience led me to an Olympic lifting seminar, headed by Dimitry Klokov, the Olympic lifting world champion from Russia. Once again, I was situated in a room that was completely filled with experience and I was not a contributor by any means. I came to the realization quickly that this was going to be a long day. What was even quicker was how fast the 45lb bare barbell made me its bitch. We held each individual position for each lift…for a very long time. It’s amazing how far you can go without going anywhere. My body trembled, the doubt permeated, my soul shattered. Each snatch, each clean, each jerk was attempted to show myself that I deserved to be there, but it was anything but. The only thing that was keeping me sane was the unbelievable coaching, from Klokov, which was genuine, ruthless, unfiltered and unsentimental. The patience from him was there, but not without the disappointment. There was a new found clarity, I was watching, I was doing, I was learning. After 12 hours of this, I reflected on the way home on what I’ve been doing these past years and where I go from here. The questions I asked myself would be the impetus for future growth.

The following week I traveled with some of my clients and trainers to the United States Merchant Marine Academy to tackle a military obstacle course. The course was designed by one of my own clients who I had put through his own series of crucibles, all I can say is… I had this shit coming. I had never done anything like this before, not that it mattered because my fear of heights had demoted me from a man to a mouse. I guess all this “fitnessing” I had been doing was about to get flushed down the latrine. Climbing over walls, up ropes, through tunnels, and over bars were child’s play as we watched the Gunnery Sargent do the entire course effortlessly with fatigues and boots. It must have been that Marine Corps stuff he was talking about…he wasn’t kidding. We were not allowed to die without permission that day. OORAH! I watched as some assessed, adapted, and then performed. I was proud of them, the training we had been doing was transferable. I on the other hand had still needed work…

As I attempted to recover, I ended this month of mortality recuperating as I traveled to Bali for my Honeymoon. Of course, a sunrise Sumatra Yoga class was on the menu and I was willing to roll the dice, I mean how bad could this be? What I thought was a going to be an inadequate tapas serving ended up being a three-course meal, the portion sizes were…generous. Some say heaven is whatever you want it to be, I say the same thing applies to hell, and this was it. I’ve taken Yoga before, but this was indeed an unexpected experience and from the second I stepped foot onto the outdoor studio at 6am, I knew I was in for it. The instructor spoke softly which was quickly replaced by the big stick he was carrying and pummeling me with. I guess that’s what they call diplomacy. The poses were “basic” the application was anything but. Emphasis was placed on being unhurried yet deliberate, a very acute control through a range of motion. I quickly began to recognize that my own sense of balance, mobility and flexibility were merely a mirage that I had been subconsciously gazing into. My pathetic attempt to control what I previously thought I had control of left me in a pool of sweat…no wait that’s just utter disappointment, which was fine because I needed a look in the mirror anyway. Eventually focus and concentration came to pay a visit and save me from my own broken morale. The barrier which I failed to permeate began to slowly fall. The nature and environment surrounding me was tranquil, my state of being was distressed and disturbed. Capability vs Inability/Incompetence, Contrast…

Today more people train for rewards rather than reasons, a distraction and a deviation from our true trajectory. The reasons for these experiences are to learn from voluntarily placing myself in situations where I am the dumbest and weakest person in the room. How else are we expected to grow? To remain at the bottom has a negative stigma because there is a distinction that is not made. Ask yourself; Do I choose to remain at the bottom indefinitely in order to avoid the possibility of failure because of my insecurities? Or do I voluntarily place myself at the bottom in order to benefit from the pressure that has the potential to shape me in ways that were previously thought to be impossible? Truth is a hard pill to swallow, unless it’s washed down with honesty and that happens to be a laxative.I’d lick my wounds, but I rather let it bleed out to get rid of the poison within…

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Photo and Video by Andrew Minarik Photography




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