Before fatherhood, there was a time in my life where I felt like all I had was myself, and bodybuilding was a tool to help me get through hard times.
The biggest fear I used to have in my life was that I wouldn't be able to provide enough for anyone besides myself and that no woman was going to see long-term potential in me.
I was working labor jobs and often broke and I wasn't going down the normal path other kids my age were taking (finishing college, going to frat parties, socializing, working on a degree towards something long-term).
I was probably an atheist for a long time, but I do remember praying one day. I remember exactly where I was driving and the time of the day that I prayed for this, and my prayer was to have a son one day.
I was so sick and tired of feeling lonely that I promised myself that if I ever had a son, then I was going to do everything in my power to be the greatest Dad I could be.
My son is my best friend. When he was born I was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes. I never talked to him like a baby either, and I would load him up in my car and take him places before he could talk. I would just talk to him like anyone else.
Don't be fooled if a kid can't talk, they still take it all in!
I was the first person he caught a fish with.
I bought him his first pair of boots and I had him cutting branches with a bow saw at 4 years old and helping me rake the yard.
I was the first person who saw him ride a bike without training wheels at just under 3 years old, then I got him an electric dirt bike at 3 years old because he kept on about dirt bikes after seeing a big air show during the intermission of a Monster truck show.
For kindergarten graduation I bought a brand new Yamaha for him off the show room floor (then I had to go get one for myself).
His first bike was my first bike. We would learn to ride together.
A lot of people would say that I spoil my son, but here is the catch to that…besides for the fact I don't want to be 50 years old and realize I could have done more when I had the chance, I want to show him that hard work gets you nice things.
When you stop working these things can be taken away. Freedom is really the luxury I'm trying to show him more than anything though.
I have done some things and spent some money I probably shouldn't have spent. I went on vacation 11 times last year… yes I said 11!
When I say “vacation” I'm talking about a few larger trips and a lot of smaller 2-3 day trips. Whether you're taking your family to Paris and blowing 10 grand or just taking them to a campground to go fishing for a couple days and grilling out, the values you're trying to pass on are what's important, not the price tag.
Kids do not see money, all they see is time. Let me repeat that in case you missed it:
Kids do not see money, all they see is time.
So if you're slaving your ass off at work and not spending any time with your kids or your significant other, your relationship with them will fail. You will become nothing more than a paycheck instead of a superhero.
If making a million dollars a year meant that I had to give up my camping trips, dirt bikes, days on the lake fishing, and playing Halo on the Xbox with my best friend, I'd take the middle class job instead and have the time to spend with him.
In some of my pics you'll see “The Master Chief” and “Halo Promethean Knight” tatted on my shoulder. I'm going to let you in on the inside scoop on those tats…
Those tats represent time with my son, the game is just what we were trying to beat TOGETHER.
Sometimes we get too close to the forest to see the trees. Money is only a short-term motivator in life, eventually it all gets old and can become an addiction.
With this bodybuilding addiction you can lose yourself in the process.
You can get to a point where those fun things in life such as catching fish or roasting marshmallows dwindle away.
I'm not telling you to be a bum and not to provide, but what I am telling you is that you may find life more rewarding if you focus on the little things more. Because one day you're going to realize that the little things were really the big things all along.
My home is small. For years I wanted a huge house and wondered what the hell I was going to have to do to get it. Now if you were to ask me, I'd tell you that the last thing I want is a big house.
Why would I want a home that I could shout across and my family still couldn't hear me because they were 20 rooms away? Have you ever heard the phrase: “Love grows bigger in a small house?”
The bottom line to what I'm telling you is that it doesn't take a small fortune to build a strong relationship with your family, especially your children. A $20 fishing rod or a $10 football can often go a lot further than a million dollar yacht. But this is all relative to what your values are.
I tend not to be friends with people who look down on people who make less money.
Blue collared workers are what built this country and at one time you could take your family to a ballgame, buy a few hot dogs, and at the end of the night you were fulfilled with that day.
I know this guy who is a mechanic. He was never going to be a computer genius or a doctor but he is a great mechanic.
What I like the most about this guy is he loves what he does. When everyone else is bitching about the heat where I live, he is out in the shop busting his ass and he doesn't complain. Then when he leaves work (which is often a 12 hour day) he heads to the gym.
Guess what? He has a great physique despite the fact he isn't in a cushy air conditioned workplace with opportunities to eat 6 times a day.
This guy still gets it in, he still finds time for his kids, and outside of working on cars, his hobby is working on cars!
Other people may look down on guys like this, but what I see is an artist. I admire anyone who does what they love doing and tries to perfect it.
Bodybuilding is my canvas in life. I have a job I enjoy but bodybuilding is the driving force behind a lot of what I do. I've been promoted enough at my job to where I'm in charge and I don't have someone telling me when I can eat my chicken and when I can't.
What does that have to do with being a good father? It's simple, if you like what you're looking at in the mirror then your kids are going to follow suit! Your kids will also have more respect for you if you take care of them and also take care of yourself.
I have found that the biggest key to fatherhood is the willingness to tackle the unknown. I'm going to be honest with you guys about something…
Do you know what I fear? It's fixing shit! It's not that I'm dumb but my patience is terrible!
But one thing I want my son to have in life is patience, because I know it'll take you so much further if you have this quality.
So I've learned to try to tackle some projects on my own. I'm no mechanic but after hearing my son constantly ask me about riding dirt bikes and knowing his bike needed to be fixed, I decided to tackle this project on my own.
You see, it wasn't necessarily the fact that I'm dying to become a motorcycle mechanic, but knowing that his bike was fucked up and hearing him constantly ask me, “Dad, when are you going to get my bike fixed?” was killing me.
So I tore the bike apart myself and repaired it. Do you have any idea how good it felt to finally fire it up with him standing next to me?
I said to him, “Well it looks like you're riding again,” and he gave me a high five and started jumping for joy.
The next day was a weekend day and I was planning on working overtime that day. I couldn't do it. Hearing the disappointment in his voice when I had to tell him we couldn't go riding was going to be like a knife sinking into my chest.
So I did what 90% of modern day fathers wouldn't do. I said to my son, “You know what? Yes, we are riding… first thing tomorrow!”
I lost over $800 from that decision. I have my entire life to make another $800, but I don't have my entire life to take my son places. Fuck $800 over taking my son to ride.
My son is worth more than a random $800!
But how often do we think we are making the right decision just to realize down the road it was the wrong decision?
Listen, I'm not telling you not to work and provide, obviously we have to pay bills and having money is nice. But what I am telling you is don't forget about the little things in life sometimes.
Okay, so you might be at a fork in the road of life. You want to change your life but you just don't know how. I'm here to tell you right now that if you have no time and you don't know your own child, then do yourself a favor and reinvent who you are!
Sell off stupid shit that doesn't matter and consider a career change. 9 times out of 10 it's a career that consumes people.
Stop thinking of just money for a second and think of what you'd do with less money (or ways to make more money in less time).
You may find that you can think of all types of activities to do! Maybe you have time to go hunting, kayaking, fishing, or even spend more time on your body and preparing meals.
Maybe… JUST MAYBE, your life would fucking rock if you were muscular and proud rather than a fat corporate slave who lived like a shamed dog!
Maybe your days would be more fulfilling if you were able to participate in other activities outside of just working?
So you may have to sell your huge home and downgrade, big fucking deal. What's the point of owning all this shit if you can't enjoy it anyways?
See most people just work for stuff, and then they want to acquire more stuff, and more stuff. But the smart ones realize that you're never going to be satisfied and something about the quality of life has to change to be fulfilled.
I haven't always done the right things or made the best decisions, and for a long time I walked around with a feeling of emptiness.
Even when I'd make money or get something nice, this hole in my heart was still there. Now some of you may have your own beliefs and that's fine, this is just my experience.
It was about 6 months ago and my life was falling apart. I had moved out of my home and was sure I'd be going through a divorce.
It was ENTIRELY MY FAULT.
I forgot that I was married for awhile and was looking in other places. I had done this before (and been caught before) but this time was different. I felt horrible and realized that I wasn't the person I wanted to be.
My wife had asked me one question that changed my total outlook on life and being a Dad. She asked me, “Would you want your son to grow up and be like you?”
I can't tell you the last time I cried that hard.
At this point she was still going to divorce me. I tried justifying to myself that I must have had reasons to look in other places, but I knew the reality of it was that I was a piece of shit.
I moved out of my house for a week and during that week I spent a lot of time soul searching. So there I was again…. alone.
It wasn't just the fact I felt lonely, but I started thinking about what a great life I had and how it was about to all be stripped away over something so stupid that I could have prevented.
So the following Sunday I walked into a church. I had been to this church a few times in the past when my wife would suggest going, but I never tried to take anything in.
I didn't go to church for her this time, it was for me. The day I walked in there by myself I listened. I listened to everything. The part where your supposed to shake hands with you neighbors that I used to laugh about? I saw the sense in it that day.
How many people nowadays are losing the basic social skills in life? I was always taught that a good, firm handshake and eye contact was just part of being a man. What better way to teach your child than to set the example every week?
I listened to everything the preacher was talking about, and I was open enough to take it all in. My life IMMEDIATELY got better. I had things happen to me that were unexplainable. I think they call this the holy spirit or something.
I was standing in line a few days later at a grocery store checkout and becoming impatient. The store didn't have enough registers open and the old me would have just went to the service desk and complained.
The very second I thought to myself, “Just let it go and be friendly,” the two women in front of me with carts packed to the rim asked me if I wanted to go before them.
This type of thing never happens to me. I'm talking THE VERY SECOND I thought to myself to let it go is when they told me to go ahead of them.
It wasn't just that. Later that day I got done training and had someplace to be so I didn't have time to go home and eat. I stopped by a Smoothie King and for no reason at all the girl at the register told me, “It's on me, don't worry about it.”
Someone I had done nothing for who didn't know me had just given me something to be nice. This stuff never happens to me. I thought to myself, “What is going on here?”
Later that day I was Xmas shopping with my wife. Still under the impression we were getting a divorce we wanted to at least start the process after the holidays for my son and stepdaughter's sake.
The stores were packed with people, consumers, greed, and chaos. I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk downtown and get lunch instead of dealing with the madness of shopping.
We were walking downtown and out of everyone this random guy on the sidewalk could have approached, he approached me and just started talking about dogs and how he's a dog trainer.
The irony of this was I was actually looking for a trainer for my dog. The guy had a therapy dog with him and although he didn't strike me as homeless, I could tell he probably didn't have much.
I asked him what his rates were and he replied, “Well whatever you're working with… $10 an hour?”
I told him that I was better than giving him $10 an hour to help train my dog. I called him up shortly after he gave me his phone number and we agreed to meet the following Monday. After walking around town with him for an hour I got lunch for him and gave him $100. He needed the money more than I did.
The guy was living in a halfway house because he was a recovering alcoholic. He was just a guy out on the streets looking for honest work. When the food arrived this guy said a blessing and in his blessing he said he wanted to thank God for bringing me into his life.
Nobody has ever said that about me in words.
When Xmas time arrived I bought him a leather jacket and wrapped it up. This guy probably hadn't had a Xmas gift in over a decade. He needed it more than I did.
I began training with him more and every time it was the same routine. I'd walk a route with him and my dog and he would help me correct the dog or we'd work on new commands.
I got to know the guy a little better and I realized a couple things.
He was genuinely a good person who had fallen in a dark time in his past life, and that he didn't judge people. I never heard one negative thing come out of this guys mouth.
I soon began to realize that the time I walked around chatting with this guy became more meaningful than most other interactions with random jackasses. I also saw an artist in him.
You see, this guy was like the dog whisperer. He knew everything about dogs and he would tell me how the dog was thinking when placed in certain situations. He genuinely loved what he did and he was the best I knew on the subject of training animals.
To some people I'm sure he was just some random guy with nothing to “gain from”. To me he was an artist and he was genuine.
I think there are certain people in life that seem “pure”. What I mean by that is that they have become such perfectionists at what they do out of pure love.
It isn't for money, social status, or material gain. They do what they do out of love.
You see, when you stop looking at all the bad and start looking for the good, that is when good things happen for us. Maybe it was always there and I was too blind to see it, but when I started going to church and actually taking everything in, my life got 100 times better.
That feeling of emptiness had left me and I became a much more positive person.
I stopped doing the stupid shit I had done before and I stopped lying. Lying will get you nowhere in life and at the end of the day there are two people who know you're full of shit, and that's you and God. So why lie?
I understand that you may or may not believe in God or the same God as someone else. That is fine.
You're listening to someone who used to make fun of religion and viewed people who would pray as weak. The Vikings believed in many Gods, but their thought process was that the Gods don't give a shit so you're on your own.
They were some of the strongest and fiercest warriors, explorers, and survivalists to this day. That was my former thought process, minus all the Gods.
I didn't walk up into that church by myself that day until I realized that I had exhausted every avenue to self-fulfillment and nothing was working. Something was wrong with me and I tried everything I could think of to fix it, and nothing worked until I established a relationship with God.
With this relationship I started looking for the good in life and not the bad. I got so sick of seeing the world as it's portrayed on the news and with negativity everywhere that I wanted something positive to live by.
I'm by no means perfect and my talk can be rough at times, but I'm a lot better than the guy I was.
I guess I want my son to grow up looking for the positive in life. When all we look for is the negative we eventually become the negative.
It never mattered how much weight I could bench press, it wasn't filling the void in my life.
And my wife? She eventually saw the person I had changed into and we are still together.
My son gets to grow up with his parents in the same house and he doesn't see his dad yelling at his mother… Okay, maybe sometimes but I'm working on it!
The point to all of this is that there are values to be learned by having God in your life. I didn't look for him until I needed him, but there is no reason I cannot introduce him to my son so he doesn't make some of the poorer decisions in life I've made.
When you have morals and a positive influence in life it's a lot harder to do the wrong things. I haven't done the wrong things since that day I walked in there alone and listened. And I'll admit it, I was scared to go in there by myself.
HAVE THE BALLS TO BE A LEADER BUT ACCEPT HUMILITY!
One of the greatest traits any team leader can have is humility. I'm not talking about humility in the definition of being laughed at, but as a way of admitting you don't know everything.
Let's say I manage a business and I have three employees. Now, let's say that I know a lot about the business but each one of these employees knows more about a certain aspect of the business than I know.
Would the company be more successful if I learned from them on their strong points or if I continued to ignore certain issues because I didn't want them to know that I didn't know something?
How would this work in the armed forces? You're the leader of a group of guys and you go to war… you know for a fact that one of your guys is the best sniper of the group, another guy is the best medic, and another guy is the strongest swimmer.
What sort of team would you build if you didn't play on the strengths of the group and you tried doing everything yourself?
You'd be shot in the fucking head pretty quick, that's the reality of it all. Business is no different and neither is fatherhood.
When it comes to fatherhood it's okay if you don't know it all. But you can both learn together. Maybe your first time replacing a hot water heater is your son's first time too.
You can tackle the project together. You do whatever it takes to finish the project until you've exhausted every resource.
What this teaches your kids is that nobody has all the answers in life, but we do whatever we can to accomplish a goal. I'd rather see my son try his best to write his own school paper and get a C, than to write it for him and have him get an A+.
There is nothing wrong with teaching him, but it's important to teach him to tackle his own obstacles in life.
This my friends, is humility. It's the fact that we don't know everything and we admit we don't, but rather than hiding from it all we tackle it.
This can be difficult for many people, including myself. Like I said before, I'm a shitty mechanic and my patience sucks.
But here I am admitting it to you all. Humility!
Don't get me wrong. Money isn't everything, but we aren't raising our kids to accept a shit-sandwich in life either!
You don't need to make a million bucks a year but you should always teach your kids to strive for more. It's not even striving for more so much as it is giving things your full potential.
Take the gym for example: is it more rewarding to accept mediocre or to be making huge gains and smashing through your plateaus?
Life is no different and accepting shit-sandwiches isn't a good diet to be on. But balance is key here.
When striving for perfection becomes too much in one area that life starts slipping then you need to come up with a better game plan, but only if you admittedly see life slipping.
THIS IS COMMON WITH A LOT OF BODYBUILDERS!
I used to be this way myself and I eventually came to a hard realization after my son was born.
I could go through a diet phase for a competition and show my son an example of striving to achieve something, or I could ignore my family and make my son resent what I did during his childhood.
MY BEST COMPETITION IN BODYBUILDING
My last competition was my best. I never told my family I couldn't do something because of my diet and I always mustered up the energy to play with my kid.
Calories aren't what gave me that energy to do these things, love is what gave me the energy.
When you love something or someone you make it happen. There was no reason I couldn't go the distance for my family if I could go the distance for contest preparation.
When my son actually stood out in the aisle so he could see me onstage I knew I had first place. It didn't matter how I placed in the competition, to him I was first place.
I handed him my trophy and told him I won it for him.
I'm sure to some people handing a 6 yr old a sword isn't good parenting but fuck it!
Being a father is kind of like bodybuilding. We do what we have to do in order to get the job done.
You're going to hit plateaus and you're going to have hiccups, but eventually you realize that injury prevention is key. Like bodybuilding, sometimes life is about taking two steps back to take another giant leap forward.
When life gets difficult we do whatever it takes to squeeze out one more rep.
Whatever it takes.
So this is your life and this is fatherhood… squeeze out one more rep and be your kid's hero!
Over and out.