Like a Bigfoot

How can I elevate people while doing what I love?

This question has been my main self reflection as I prepare to begin a new school year with a brand new batch of smiling 8th graders (ok…being honest mostly-eye-rolling-but-occasionally-you-can-get-a-smile 8th graders).  I’m going to be perfectly transparent while writing this: Last year I was not happy with how I taught.  I came into last year on Cloud Nine after an amazing experience the year before, optimistic that the ball of awesomeness was going to just keep rolling for me.  Then throughout the year, my spirit was methodically beaten down.  The students were pushing my patience and classroom management skills, I was not able to teach the science concepts in ways that I wanted to (ways that deep down were honest to my philosophy of learning), and, the “apex of craptitude” for teaching: I felt major pressure from the end of the year standardized test.

I spent the majority of the summer (and running meditations, so this relates to working out) contemplating the post-mortem of “what went wrong” while also considering a pre-mortem of “how do I prevent this from happening again?”

I narrowed this down to one thing…I lost track of the “love”.  By that I mean, I lost my truth.  Through the year, I stopped teaching in a way that was authentic to who I am and as a side effect I was not able to elevate my students to success.  The guilt of feeling like I did them a disservice is still very painful.

Here’s the lesson: If you do what you love in an authentic way, people will naturally be elevated.  You can inspire people just by being a complete and honest you.  

When I’m with my family or out running I am being my complete and true self.  It is in these moments that I really shine.

If you are going about life in a way that feels unauthentic to you or if you are feeling lost and unhappy, you need to find something you absolutely love doing – A hobby or career that you absolutely live for!  So find something, whatever it may be: skiing, hiking, swimming, pickup basketball games, hammocking, golf, sewing, barbecuing, whatever.

(If you cannot think of a single activity you are passionate about then you have to take time to go on a journey of self discovery.  The first step is to disconnect your mind from TV, the internet, or any other external distraction and take time to look inward.  The next step is to just start trying as many new things that you possibly can!  This will be uncomfortable, but the only way to growth is through a period of discomfort.)

Find something to be passionate about!  Once you do you will find ways to elevate the people around you.

It sounds counterproductive, “how the hell can I benefit others by a seemingly selfish activity like working out?”

Here’s a story I’ve been contemplating writing about for awhile.  This moment in my life means the world to me, because it’s the moment I realized this lesson of elevation.

The story starts with me running after school in a terrible self-destructive mindset.  My mind completely disconnected from my body, worrying about a bunch of work stuff I was dealing with.

I was running along the riverwalk trail in town for the first time in weeks.  Usually I’m out in the middle of the woods on singletrack trail, but on this day for whatever reason I decided to pound the cement.  As I was running I would occasionally give a little wave or say “hi” to the people biking, walking, or jogging in the other direction.  Usually this wave was reciprocated by the classic nod of the head, a wave back, or by no response at all.  That is until I passed this old man jogging along, probably about seventy years old.  He smiled and signaled for me to stop.

I almost just kept going like a complete jackass.

Luckily I stopped, smiled and said “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to say that I was biking about two months ago and I saw you running.”

“Yeah, usually I run up in the woods at Angler’s so I haven’t been out on this trail in awhile.”

That’s when he made my day.

“Son, you’re the reason I’m out here running right now.  I used to run all the time up until I was about 50 years old, marathons, 5ks, all that jazz.  I would go out almost every single day.  Then I just stopped.  Life kind of got in the way.  Every now and then I would ride my bike and I just accepted the fact that my running career was over.  Until about two months ago.  I saw you running along, smiling as you went.  You looked like you were in absolute heaven and I thought to myself ‘I want that again.’  Next morning I put on my running shoes and came out to the Riverwalk Trail, been running most days since then.”

I was completely speechless.  He then told me where he started today’s run from and where he was going.  I quickly did the math in my head and discovered that this man was planning to run about ten miles.

I smiled, shook the man’s hand, told him how much his story meant to me, and continued on my way.  My spirits were lifted so incredibly high the whole way back to my car I felt like I was floating.  I came home and told my wife the story with the biggest smile on my face.

You don’t know who you are affecting just by going about your day being you.

People observe the way you carry yourself.  You have the power to inspire just by being your complete and authentic self.

Do what makes you happy.  Do it in a happy way.  It will affect the people around you.