It has been said by many in one form or another: If you want to be successful at something, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and those that have been successful in your endeavor already.
I find this statement to be more true than ever to me these days, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on this topic with whoever wants to listen (or read). Whether you have a heart condition or not, I think that this is good food for thought.
Prior to my heart event, I was a sucker for temptation. I would run in the morning, and go to a party and eat cheese burgers, chips and drink 6 IPAs that same night. I was always grabbing a soda or a candy bar at Lowes or Home Depot (those damn coolers full of ice cold soda at the checkout got me every time!). I would take weeks off of exercising “because I was just too busy.” I would get extra queso on my burrito, knowing that it was a bad choice but it just made the burrito better, right!?! Does any of this sound familiar??
Since my heart event, I am rarely ruled by temptation. In fact, my temptation is more centered around exercise and making healthy choices. You see, that day as I laid there in the hospital bed not knowing if I was ever going to kiss my wife or kids again, I made a conscious decision and promise to myself that if I made it through this that I would do everything in my power to be there for my wife and kids for as long as possible. I am going on a year and a half since that day, and I can honestly look myself in the mirror and say that I have done good on that promise to myself thus far. But, I didn’t do it completely alone. Inspiration from people with like minds, and the support of amazing friends and family have truly been my recipe for success.
With respect to exercising, I jumped at the opportunity to begin cardiac rehab as soon as I was released from the hospital. It was there that I realized that I wasn’t alone (at that time I thought I may have been the only one my age going through it as everyone else in cardiac rehab was at least twice my age, but that too has proven to be very false). After they kicked me out of rehab for running too much and too fast, I was greeted at home by my wife and some friends that would run or walk with me whenever I wanted. Then, I started this blog which spread to thousands of people (thanks to those that have shared my blog to make that possible). From this blog, I was introduced to others going through a similar story, and my blog started to be cross-posted to the American Heart Association on occasion, leading to introductions to even more like-minded people. It was also from my blog that I was introduced and connected to two amazing and inspirational groups on Facebook, Cardiac Athletes and Ironheart Connect. Without fully realizing what I was doing, I have created a network of like-minded (and admittedly exercise and health crazy) individuals amounting to tens of thousands and reaching more than 30 countries. This network has been invaluable to me in my quest to be healthier than I have ever been in the past. As an example, the Cardiac Athletes group that I am part of is unquestionably the most inspiring group that I have ever been a part of. We come from many continents and all walks of life, but we have one common goal, which is to not let heart disease define us. Maybe my favorite part of that group is that I can post about a great run I had, and the other members don’t think that I am gloating, because they get it – they are like-minded! (As I side note, I couldn’t gloat to that group even if I wanted to. There are men and women on there running marathons, triathlons, ultra marathons and other crazy athletic feats all the time. And that’s AFTER they’ve had serious heart events. I’m in awe of these people daily, a true source of inspiration!). Nobody in the group cares if you run 5 minute miles for a marathon or 15 minute miles for a 5k. We encourage, accept and inspire each other because while we may have different fitness levels, we are all striving toward the same goal of just being healthy and taking advantage of the second chances we have all been given.
With respect to other temptations that I used to have (primarily drinking and unhealthy eating), I also want to spend a second telling a story about the importance of surrounding myself with great friends. This past weekend was little league day with the Colorado Rockies. My son and daughter got to parade around Coors Field with their little league teams (way cool experience for the kids by the way), and then we watched the game. I was surrounded by a number of friends as we watched the game. Some of the friends are close and know of my heart stuff, but some of them don’t. For those familiar with big league American Baseball games, your healthy eating and drinking options are quite limited within the stadium. And, the customary things to eat at a baseball game are hot dogs, burgers, french fries, nachos, cotton candy, ice cream…and don’t forget the beer! I said that I wasn’t often tempted by unhealthy foods anymore, but when I’m at a baseball game that goes out the window. However, I still held strong, and I walked around the stadium until I found the one teeny tiny salad bar tucked away in the corner. I got myself a nice healthy salad and headed back to my seat. It was a b
ig salad, and it took me a while to eat, so I know that all of my friends sitting around me saw me eating it. Did a single one of them (especially my close guy friends) give me shit for eating a salad at a baseball game…no. Why do I tell this story? The reason is because this is just one example of why I feel it is so important to surround yourself with people that are supportive of you, especially when you have to make “unpopular” decisions like eating a salad at a baseball game.
Whether we are trying to be better at our occupation, trying to be healthier, wanting to be a better father/mother, eliminate temptations, or any number of other things in our lives, I think that the recipe is simple. We just need to surround ourselves with like-minded and supportive people, and the sky is the limit.
And finally, a quick note to spouses who are the primary source of support for their significant others. I’ve written a lot about how great my wife has been, and this area is no exception. I know that she sometimes thinks I’ve gone exercise and healthy-eating crazy, but she never does anything but encourage me to keep at it. If you’re supporting someone going through something similar, the best thing you can do is to be positive and keep on encouraging.