When I first met JR (pictured above) & Taylor at Force Fitness, it was a typical encounter between a professional trainer and a potential client. His question to me was the same any person in his position would ask. My answer served as the kickoff for what proved to be a unique relationship.
My youngest son Ryan, at 20 years old is on a journey, (a quest?), to become a Division 1 College Hockey player. To do so, he has delayed the beginning of his college education and enters his 3rd season of amateur hockey. This year finds him in Shreveport, LA, playing for the MudBugs of the North American Hockey League.
Amateur hockey is supported in small communities all over the South, and the fans of those teams are involved in ways above and beyond fans of professional NHL franchises, in that volunteers from the community sign up to have these 16 – 20 year old young men live in their homes. Sure, there’s a stipend for doing so, but I can assure you as the parent of a boy who polishes off an entire quart of strawberries nightly, it’s not about the money.
Our 1st two seasons as Wichita Falls Wildcats saw Ryan in the good hands of Mary, Darrell, and Andy Albertson. The Albertsons are among some of the finest people in the world and our families will forever remain entwined, in ways more than this story might reveal.
Our first visit with the Albertsons to move Ryan in revealed a paradox. Andy, only a couple years older than Ryan, was fit(ish), friendly if somewhat shy and mostly kept to himself. The paradox was the Andy we’d met was but a fraction of the size of the Andy in the photo’s around the house. Being polite, my questions stayed swallowed but my head was swimming thinking of the potential reasons why Andy may have been so, well, large.
It was remarkable to watch, but the story only starts here.
We stood in the stands of a cold suburban Minnesota hockey rink, cheering our team toward a bid at their League Championship. Andy was delaying surgery to attend; a surgery that would remove the evidence of his dramatic weight loss and give him the chance to live life without the shackle extra skin can be for a fit 20-something. In that moment, he admitted that the forced idle time his 2-month recovery would require was intimidating to him, as he now equated idleness with being overweight.
I made a casual suggestion that Andy find a way to keep his brain busy while his body was idle, and nudged him in the direction of finding a way to tell his story. The topic came up a number of times over the weekend, but I had no idea he’d take the suggestion and turn it into that video.
A number of months passed, and as my wife and I sat at breakfast with Mary, she showed us the as-yet-unveiled but now-finished video. As we wiped the tears from our eyes at its’ conclusion, Mary, wiping away tears of her own told me that it was a result of my suggestion that Andy had chosen to tell his story.
“It’s because of you Andy had the courage to do this”
As I stood in the gym with JR, his question was simple.
“What’s your goal?”
Instead of throwing out a target weight, a specific BMI or any of the ordinary answers he might hear in reply, I simply said:
“I’ve already achieved my goal”
His furrowed eyebrows told the story, but in the weeks afterward, during our 3 hours per we spent together, I shared with him Andy’s story, my role in it, and how his courage had fueled me to improve my overall health. I wasn’t there to lose weight – mine was a life changed, and time in the gym was but one result of that change.
It was in our next visit to see Ryan and the Albertson family that I surprised Andy with 22 fewer pounds. The time was mine to make Andy understand how his courage had inspired me. It’s gratifying to get 300,000 views of your video (I know because he told me so), but it’s something completely different to know you’ve changed another person’s life.
We’re all on a journey of some sort. Be it to play college hockey, overcome the fear of sharing your story, or to live a healthy life, every journey benefits from inspiration. Don’t be afraid to seek inspiration, be even less afraid to provide it, and never ignore it when presented to you.
P.S. – JR & Taylor at Force Fitness in Winston Salem, NC could not have been better. Their knowledge and talent in challenging me came at the perfect time, and I am forever grateful for their role in helping me make the change I articulated to them during my first visit. While distance keeps us apart, as Taylor has been known to say “Friends who lift together, stay together!”