Chapter 18: Whatever you Want to Be
Did your parents ever tell you that you could “be whatever you wanted to be”? Or that you could accomplish “anything that you set your mind to accomplishing”? Did you believe them?
I spent 16 months preparing myself and training for an accomplishment that I had dreamed about since I was 17 years old. My ultimate objective was to become a NATIONAL CHAMPION at the USA Wrestling Master Nationals.
I competed to the absolute best of my ability. I didn’t win the National Championship. I lost in the finals by the score of 7-6. Down 7-4 with a minute left, I scored two points to get within one. With ten seconds left, I came within an inch of scoring two more points. Had I had five or 10 more seconds, I’m convinced I would have turned him to his back to earn the winning points. But he successfully held me off and preserved the victory and I settled for second place.
I had set a plan in January, 2016 to eat healthier, whip myself into shape, build my strength and start working out on the wrestling mat again. In the 1980’s and 90’s, I had wrestled in High School and College and for several years after college in regional and national level tournaments. But, as a 48-year-old pudgy dad, it had been nearly 20 years since I had competed at that level in the sport that I loved.
I weighed 201 pounds and could barely run a mile.
So, as motivation to improve myself, I set a vision and a goal to compete in the tournament. I had hoped to lose 25 pounds to 167 and my only objective was to compete effectively.
But during the year, by setting what I called Daily Objectives and simultaneously staying focused on my Big Expectations, I achieved my initial benchmark much sooner than expected. As I progressed, I continuously reset my expectations higher. I decided to drop to the 152-pound class and then all the way to 138. By the time I arrived in Iowa, my Big Expectation landed far above what I originally thought possible. Eventually, I developed a Big Vision, a Bold Strategy and a Brave Approach to lose 75 pounds down to the 127-pound class and not just to compete admirably, but to win.
To execute the Big Expectation (BE) through a series of Daily Objectives (DO), I created six distinct plans and dedicated myself to each one:
The Food Plan: Eating healthy, nutritious food every day & eliminating needless calories.
The Exercise Plan: Running 60 miles a month and working out to raise my overall fitness.
The Strength Plan: Building the muscle to compete including 10,000 push-ups in one year.
The Measurement Plan: Reviewing weight, mileage and strength milestones every day.
The Disclosure Plan: Sharing my goals with my network to create pressure & drive motivation.
The Workout Plan: Practicing skills and building toughness in live wrestling environments.
I awoke every morning thinking about the steps I needed to take that day to move forward toward my objective. And I went to bed each night reflecting on how well I accomplished what I needed to do as well as where I needed to place my efforts the next day. This level of intense, constant focus on my Daily Objectives enabled these plans to succeed.
As a result, I lost 75 pounds from 201 to 125. I dropped from a 36-inch waist to a 28-inch. I ran 650 miles and completed more than 10,000 push-ups and sit-ups in just over one year. I trained with my old High School and College teams. And I competed in local tournaments against 20-year-old college wrestlers, placing third in the Connecticut Nutmeg State Games at 145-pounds. The efforts paid off and I accomplished my original objective to compete in the National Championship.
In fact, I exceeded my objective by wrestling so well and by coming within one or two points of winning the National Championship.
To make the second half of this long, 50,000-word story short, I stuck to my six point plan for the entire next year and returned to Iowa with my Dad and brother, John. I gained some muscle weight and wrestled at 133 pounds instead of the ghastly 127 from the previous tournament. This time, I had six wrestlers in my weight class including two national champions from past years.
I lost to one of the national champions by a lot and to the other in a very close match. I went on to win two and lose two to earn a solid, legitimate third place. My brother, having taken my lead, won the tournament at 184 pounds. The next year, my third try at it, I placed second again. I also placed second at the Connecticut Nutmeg games, beating two college wrestlers and losing in the finals 4-3.
While I have yet to win the national tournament, I am still deep in the process of preparing myself to win in the future and I still believe that I have it in me to do so.
So, yes, when your parents tell you that you can “be whatever you want to be”? Or that you can accomplish “anything that you set your mind to accomplishing”; believe them. I became a better person for the journey I took. And whether I scored six points to lose by one or eight points to win by one hardly seems like the point of the story any more. The bigger picture is the health, fitness and self-satisfaction achieved along the way as well as the esteem from my peers, the respect from my family and my own sense of tranquility that I pushed the boundaries of my own human capacity and capabilities so far that I even surprised myself.
Plus, they hold the National Championship tournament every year. So, as my parents have said, I still can be what I ultimately want to be; a NATIONAL CHAMPION. It just might take a new Headlock pact with myself, another 12 months and maybe 1,000 miles or 20,000 more push-ups to get there.
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