A New Kind of Social Anxiety?

You know how we get nervous for public speaking commitments, an important sports game, or some other life event? That crazy anxiety where we feel like something is going to happen that will humiliate or hurt us? We don’t have all the facts; we’re filling in the blanks to visualize success instead of failure. Usually, our brain takes this opportunity to think of every potential failure point, mostly using our imagination to dream up irrational fears.

Look in any of the comments sections on the political posts of our feeds. Regular people arguing mercilessly, trying to use strong emotions to sway another person’s opinion. Are we listening to each other? Are we understanding each other? Do we get to explain ourselves? Hell no. We’re left angry and unable to get a word in edge wise. If our honest reality is so unacceptable to another, is there a reason they’re CHOOSING not to listen to us? Are we forcing each other to use our imaginations to explain why people think we’re bad. Maybe this is where conspiracy theories come from?

People on the left AND right feel so unheard they start making up elaborate stories to explain why their good intentions are not worth hearing out. “Why won’t these people listen to me?! I’m not bad. Am I? Why wouldn’t they listen to me?” And off the imagination goes to make sense of why their life is not worth listening to…

The conspiracy theories that you hate so much are the result of your inability to communicate effectively which causes people who’ve lived differently than us to imagine why they’re not worth listening to. It’s a different type of social anxiety where society is anxious because we won’t ask each other what we don’t know. Now, should these unspoken differences be governed by or into law? Is that what causes the Left vs Right war? Do the politicians know this and exploit us to fill an agenda?

Empathy. You don’t get to agree or disagree with someone’s existence, that’s bullshit. Just try to understand how others have existed.

Pssst… Our Trauma is Showing

Our emotional outbursts are often the physical manifestation of discrepancies between personal expectations and our PERCEPTION of our reality. The bigger the disconnect between what you think should be vs what you assume IS, the more irrational we become. See the massive vulnerability here?

What emotional or physical trauma have you endured in your life? Do other people share similar trauma? Do other people not understand your personal fear/hardship? Would you tell them? It’s interesting; I bet the answers to those questions make you land in one political party over the other. Do our elected officials exploit people’s fear and trauma in life for personal gain?

If someone disagrees with us, we should be curious as to why. We should ask what happened to cause them pain. Pull the string; ask them to educate us or educate them. Or… ask them if politician’s personalities remind them of someone who hurt them as a kid. Bullying builds defense mechanisms in us to protect from experiencing it again. We hide our insecurities and trauma to protect ourselves; however, our reactions to situations reveal more about ourselves than we recognize…

Two groups for 330+ Million Americans?

We have two political parties to choose from; two options for 330+ million people. Some nights, my wife and I have a hard enough time deciding what to eat for dinner. Add three kids to the mix and shit really gets crazy… do you fight, cause riots, or disrespect people in your family if they want to eat somewhere different than you? How can 330+ million people agree on a “this or that” decision when our nation’s collective personality demonstrates the empathy & compassion skills similar to those of a psychopath.

Social media stokes the fires of division and separation by allowing people to create a digital safe space where everyone agrees with them and no one challenges these views. We’re essentially picking and choosing the information and/or decorations we allow into our “digital homes”. Anyone brave enough to enter the home we’ve built is destroyed and viewed as dangerous.

I don’t know everything that goes on in Washington D.C. You don’t know everything that goes on in Washington D.C. Does anyone really know what goes on there? I doubt it. That’s the problem. This isn’t a sport, with teams to cheer for or against. Elections have evolved into a Super Bowl of Politics, an extravaganza. Masses of people cheering on one group of people for shallow reasons, devoid of logical explanation, often resulting in “I just like this person better than that one”. This isn’t any one politician, party, or person’s fault.

We will never understand each other’s perspective on every issue because we didn’t experience each other’s life in lockstep, side by side, with the same personality, from birth to this moment in history. Politicians don’t understand you or me. Their trajectory into politics is often narrow, without experiences/challenges most of us face. Diversity is often touted and celebrated unless another’s life is so different than ours we can’t empathize with them long enough to allow their experience and culture to REST on policies they find valuable without telling them their life is a lie and they’re wrong. When policies force people to fight, ignoring each other, defending and proving their experience, why are these issues being forced into law by a group of disconnected people halved by an aisle??

Photographer Father’s POV: Pumpkin Patch

My wife and I recently took our children to the local pumpkin patch. During this trip, I mounted a GoPro Hero8 to the top of my camera, a Nikon Z6. I wanted to capture the process I use to document my family’s adventures. I want to share my thoughts on light, composition, and camera settings I use and share them with people like me.

I am passionate about photography. Candid photography, the visual documentation of our family’s day to day life locks these precious memories into my mind more than anything else. I can remember the moment I took these photos. From July 2011 to July 2012, I took one picture a day of my first born, from her 1st birthday to her 2nd. Looking back at that year, I can remember every moment of my daughter’s incredible growth.

Rylin was almost 2 years old here. We’re at the zoo, watching the giraffes. This shows her sweet personality and love of animals.

As time marches on and my photography develops, I reflect on that experience from time to time. During that time, I developed a skill to watch and predict precious moments. From this skill I have realized the power of a well timed, well composed candid photograph. Parent’s will know, its almost impossible to pose a 1-2 year old. When you look longer, wait, and capture a candid of someone, you have the opportunity to capture their personality in a fraction of a second. One step further, you have the opportunity to show someone how beautiful they are. In my experience, people see themselves differently in a mirror than when they’re captured loving their children, spouse, or any other cherished activity/person.

During my “365 Day Project” I learned to observe and wait for a laugh, a look, or facial expression that is unique to her. My oldest daughter has the most expressive eyebrows and her smile lights up our world. I can almost hear her laugh when I look at a photo that I captured of her laughing. My middle child has an exaggerated facial expression that radiates from her mouth to her gorgeous eyes for every emotion. My son is a goldmine of non-verbal expression. He exudes joy from the tips of his toes out his beautiful blue eyes. Photographs give you an opportunity to appreciate a moment forever. If that moment is your children’s personality, you’ll cherish it forever.

Take a look at the video below. I am building a YouTube channel sharing this information so parents can capture for themselves what staged, posed photoshoots cannot. Thank you so much.

Rylin’s personality captured in 1/1250th of a second.

Control motion in your photography with your SHUTTER SPEED

In photography, adjusting your shutter speed is a fantastic way to add creativity to your photos. Of course, you should aim to set your shutter speed high enough to stop motion blur when taking portraits, landscapes, and photos of Fluffy. However, there is a time and place for slowing your shutter to add a sense of movement and speed.

Below I will show a few examples using my son and his two favorite activities; playing with monster trucks and riding his dirt bike. In the 1/1250th shot, there is no detectable movement. The tires on the colliding trucks are still.

Shutter Speed: 1/1250th

Here, in the 1/320th shot below, you see some motion in Benny’s hands as he lunges forward and in the trucks tires. It appears as if the tires are rotating. At this shutter speed, Benny rocketed his trucks fast enough for movement to be detected at 1/320th of a second!

Shutter Speed: 1/320th

In the shot below, at a snail’s pace 1/50th of a second, you can clearly see the wheel spin of the truck, as well as the motion blur caused by the panning of the camera. This is a fantastic shutter speed to use if you want to catch your children riding their bicycles, playing with the trucks, or anything with movement.

Shutter Speed: 1/50th

After playing in the house, we went outside. Again, another fantastic opportunity to slow the shutter down and capture some movement with fall foliage leaving streaks of color in the background. The first frame, I prefer the 1/800th shot where motion is frozen. The branches pointing down to him, the alley in the background, and the colors make this a nice shot without the movement.

Left Image: 1/800th – Right Image: 1/50th

Below, I LOVE the movement in this shot compared to the static, 1/800th of a second shot. The slower shutter shot is the clear winner here.

Left Image: 1/800th – Right Image: 1/50th

Again, in my opinion, the slower shutter, concentration on his face, and the locked up rear tire add style and pop to this image. As a father, capturing this shot, I’ll remember him giggle, and quickly asking me “did you see me sliding, daddy!?” for years to come!

Left Image: 1/800th – Right Image: 1/50th

If you’d like to watch the video I made breaking these shots down, watch the video below.

Follow this link to my Instagram for more examples: https://www.instagram.com/ryan.branscum/

Thank you,

Ryan Branscum

Photography from a Parent’s POV

I bought my first DSLR two months before I became a father. It wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into; it was something I felt I needed to be a good father. Looking back, typing that last sentence, I realize why.

Being a parent is stressful. Raising children is hard. Raising children with focused intention, adjusting to the vision of an adult, taking all of their strengths and interests in mind is really hard. It requires us as parents to be present. It requires us to watch and listen to everything. What do they love? How do they love? How do they want love? What do they ask? How do they ask it? What hurts them?

Avi making sure I’m still there for her to fall back on. This was a difficult, emotional moment for her. It is one of the most impactful moments of our special bond.

When I focus my camera on my children, I see and remember things that I can’t during the normal day to day. The small flashes of emotion while living is lost. The emotion my cameras capture for later viewing simmers and resonates from my memory cards. I can hold and see them longer. Every picture I’ve ever taken I can remember the moment. I remember how they felt, what they were saying, and how they were saying it.

I am passionate for photography for that reason. This hobby has given me the ability to hold onto those fractions of seconds that are often lost in the hours, days, and weeks of life. The camera forces me to watch with the intention of capturing a moment, not a photo. A photograph is a gateway into a memory.

I’d love to teach you how to use photography to see, to capture, and hold these memories forever. I’d love to teach you how to use your camera phone, your film camera, your mirrorless camera, or your DSLR to capture these moments. I’d love to teach you how to see light. I’d love to teach you how to see shadows. When I was learning photography, I started to see things in a different light (pun intended).

Candid photography is what I’ll focus on. Posed photography has it’s place but I feel candid photography is where we capture personalities, emotion, and the child’s authentic self. Some of my personal favorite photo’s of my family have given the viewers a glimpse of who they are as people. They’re often not consciously paying attention to me. It’s often a smile, a laugh, or a look that passes quickly, and will never be captured in a ‘say cheese’ type of pose.

I will create a video while I photograph our next family adventure. I will attach a GoPro to my camera that will show my POV as a dad with a camera. Afterwards, I will discuss what I was seeing in regards to emotion, light, and shadow. I will post the video to YouTube and share it. Stay tuned and let me know if it’s a process you’re interested in following. Thank you.

Ryan

Hoarders

We’ve all seen the show, right? Or, even better, a real life example? I feel for those people. The pain on their face is difficult to watch, isn’t it? The immense sadness the producer only scratches the surface of for display is a good hook. The history of a person is edited into a 45 minutes time segment for the world’s entertainment. That peek into a strangers life typically causes us viewers to contrast and compare. “Oh shit! The kids pulled the toy baskets out again…” I imagine, for some of us, a household toy collection container spilling sounds eerily similar to how a Hoarder’s home looks (ya know, if looks had sound). Clean it uuuuupppp!!!

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I don’t think we’re much different than those homes. No, not all of us have tunnels as hallways, paths carved through our abundance of stuff, making a casual walk to the kitchen for a Cherry Zero Coke a crossfit workout. I’d say, similar to the overwhelming mountain of knick knacks, trash, and treasures saved in those homes, our minds are a collection of thoughts and ideas often saved from years and downloaded from generations past. I’m not going the cliche’ route, ending this here by saying “Lets clean up those thoughts, grab a broom! Clean up those rooms, make space for new ideas!” Barf…nope. I want to stay in the filth, let’s roll around in it. What kind of shit is saved here, OMG, is that actual shit? Let’s put our noses in our mess and learn something about ourselves, shall we.

Seriously though, who am I to say this? Honestly, I don’t know and to answer the question, probably no one in the grand scheme of things. My imposter syndrome is strong when I write these things. I feel stupid quite frequently, as we all do, I’m sure. The highest level of education I have completed and made tangible is in the form of a High School Diploma. I have some college but…I struggle to finish for many reasons. With all that said, let me tell you something, my absence of the hard, concrete social beliefs that people hold onto is something that has taught me to feel passionate enough to hide behind my computer and type these words. Maybe my lack of specific direction, keeping me focused long enough to pursue a degree, and my wildly diverse, broad experience as a small-town boy/young man has taught me something about people? Maybe the struggle to find balance within societies “rules,” while being stuck in the deep valley between playing football/wrestling/baseball with my classmates and competitive dancing with girls from another town kept me lost for long enough to sit back and observe what most people were busy chasing?

I’ve been told I’m agreeable. I’m not. I’ve been called adaptable. I am. I’ve been called a faggot by peers and parents as a child before I knew what reproductive organs were used for. I’m not and you’re terrible, narrow people for using that word. People with my training and skills have been called a terrorist by elected officials. I’m not. I’ve been called dumb. I’m not? I’ve been called a lot of things based on assumptions from ignorant stacks of tailored character traits that were used to survive in one culture, different from my own, left over and passed on from one generation to another.

I’m agreeable, or I’m perceived as agreeable because I understand the glimpse you’re giving me into your history. I feel it’s not my place to challenge you. Why? Because I don’t know you, no matter how much I know you…

I’m adaptable because I observe before I speak. I try to first understand your words and actions, looking for the reasons for YOUR beliefs. Sometimes, I overlook bad traits because I understand I’m no match for someone’s lifelong reality.

While I was a security training instructor, I remember teaching the use of deadly force module during a trimester training session. During the presentation, I mentioned the “Disparity of Force” theory. We discussed scenarios where people would be authorized and justified in a court of law to use deadly force against an attacker. This disparity of force levels the playing field between the attacker and the victim. It balances strengths and weaknesses so people intending harm do not have an unfair advantage. For example, a 250lb MMA Champ attacking a 98 year old woman is not a fair fight. A reasonable person would believe the 98 year old woman would be justified in defending herself in that scenario. (For the record, I do not believe Daniel Cormier would ever harm America’s Grandma, Betty White)

This juxtaposition of this visual; justifying a sweet, elderly woman to deal a deadly consequence to an attacker is a great segue into this point. A disparity is defined as a great difference. When there is a difference, there is bound to be the need for balance ESPECIALLY when similarities forgotten, often due to being so obvious they’re invisible. We are all HUMAN BEINGS. There is no disparity between us left to balance if you ask WHY enough, eventually making your way back to our beginning.

We all started when a man and a woman had sex. However, before we beat our competitors into the egg, the very act that got us to the egg is different for all of us. I know…gross. Sorry, Mom and Dad, you probably never imagined your fetus would use it’s cause in a blog post. I need to start a new paragraph, NOW.

Did your parents love each other? Were you planned? Was your conception’s reality a happy experience? Those questions are difficult to type…I feel like I’m attacking people. Please know that I am not. If you’re here, during this time in space with me, breathing, pumping blood through your veins, and alive, you are a human being and I do not know your story. I respect your existence, you can tell your story.

Our minds are full of remnants gathered from a lifetime lived a certain way. We organize and sort those items to the best of our ability. These collections, however, are never on display, only assumed to be similar to everyone’s because we are all human. Our mental “safes” are never cracked open and put on a television show for all to analyze. The contents of our minds are assumed from a distance, comparing our actions to those known from one special, unique human experience. Brock Lovett spent his life searching for a safe that should have contained a valuable necklace. He assumed a safe in a rich man’s rented room would contain a fairy tale valuable. After all, a safe has valuables, especially if a wealthy man owns it, right? Rose had it the whole time. Boom, Titanic analogy. Anyways… When there is a discrepancy with what we see or hear in others, we’re quick to think different is wrong, or incorrect.

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Are you religious? What religion? Why? Republican? Why? Democrat? Why? Libertarian? Why? Socialist? Why? Anarchist? Why? Brown skin? Why? Fair skin? Why? Dark skin? Why? Pro-Life? Why? Pro-Abortion? Why? Pro-Gun? Why? Anti-Gun? Why?

How can we find balance in the spectrums of decisions, and the reasons for those decisions above?

We are the result of the breadth of our experiences from the second we are conceived. I cannot confine my beliefs to a few buckets of absolute certainty. My certainty is not someone’s reality as your certainty shouldn’t be mine. Is our only true commonality that we are alive? Why do we need to identify with something other than the fact that we are all human beings?

1189 words later, I don’t have an answer, just questions. I carefully use these questions as a foundation to understand people. Often times, the assumption of agreeableness is actually the perception of being “one of our own.” I’m quietly MY own, 1 out of 7,794,798,739.

 

“All the world’s a stage?”

Imagine for a moment, standing in the center of empty silence; no information for your senses to decipher except the pressure between the floor and the bottom of the soles of your shoes. Suffocating in perpetual darkness, you’ve lost your sense of direction in the absence of light. A short bit of panic subsides when light begins to leak through a vail of red velvet that weighs heavy on thin planks of well-worn hard wood.

Somewhere between 1564 and 1616, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players:” Long before technology tangled itself within the human existence, a brilliant man called attention to the theater and drama in everyday lives. What is our current reality?

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Tension in the cables and ropes pull the red wall skyward. Blinding light assaults your senses for a moment. Once the aperture of our eyes adjust to the exposure of the scene, a microphone stand and it’s shadow appear in a puddle of light, extending towards your toes, inviting you to step up and speak your thoughts, mind to mic, so to speak.

“All the world’s a stage…” Are we all actors and actresses in the movie we call life? When we step out of bed in the morning, our roles for the day are normally laid out by our own, society’s, and our employer’s expectations, laws, or guidelines. These rules we follow are the results of centuries worth of mistakes and lessons learned in humanity. Sociology calls this learning of society’s rules socialization. So, what interactions are actually genuine? Do these guidelines force us to be anything other than what we want to be? Do they push us farther left or right of center than where we are meant to be? Can anyone be 100% real or would there be consequences for their actions? Are we all fitting the mold for what fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, students, teachers, soldiers, and employees are supposed to be? In Shakespeare’s time, these are the roles he speaks of in his infamous monologue. What would he think of this new world?

When you move toward the microphone you notice an audience giving you their full attention. A single source of hard light is beaming from behind their seats, you can’t make out your audience’s faces; you’re essentially blind to their emotion, also, their judgement. The soft glow of light penetrating hair and silhouetting hats and shoulders gives you an idea of the depth of the theater. When your fingers touch the microphone, two more spot lights illuminate you from 10 and 2 o’clock. You now realize you have a wider theater and more company than you initially thought. All the light in the theater is directed towards you and this forces the cameras and people in the audience to isolate and focus on you.

Uniforms we see in life are costumes that carry responsibility for the wearer to bear. Clothes are viewed as tools to convince or persuade. Human behavior is manipulated to cause separation between people. Homes and vehicles are seen as measures of success, or props, if you will. Jewelry, hairstyles, and makeup are items we use to paint a picture of who we are as a character. Store-fronts and establishments are set designs that offer services, goods, or food.

There is a difference between the society of Shakespeare’s time and ours…technology, and more specifically, social media. Everyone nowadays has a stage similar to that mentioned above; when you open your Facebook app, stage lights illuminate, essential preparing for a show. The microphone looks a little more like the all too familiar question “What’s on your mind?”

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If you were in that situation above, live and in person, standing on a stage at the front of a beautiful theater that is full of your “friends” what would you say, show, or share? Would you make your words matter? It’s hard to believe a nation full of people afraid of public speaking feel so free to use throw away words and phrases on a world stage. People forget they are essentially public speaking without the immediate reaction of the audience’s emotion and judgement. What would change in your delivery if your audience was standing on the same floor as you, under every light the theater’s electrical system could muster? In that setting, you could see your audience’s reaction to your words, you can see their judgement, their emotional response to your words… That’s where fear of public speaking comes from; being unsure of the accuracy of your words, the cold stares from certain listeners, and the possibility hecklers making you look like an idiot. That pressure, the unknown of our audiences reaction, forces us to be as accurate as possible, we make our words count and we pour passion into them. Public speaking has a unique way of humbling us before we ever speak.

What role are you playing on your social media? Who are you? Have you created a personality that’s different than your own? How different are you? In a society that’s full of restricted interactions that are bound by rules and expectations, is another platform or “role” something you need to hold in such a high regard? Are you losing yourself by trying to remain current, forcing yourself away from your center?

All the world is indeed a stage, in life and online; however, the further you push yourself away from who you are, the more lost you are going to feel. Know that roles and highlight reels do not define who you actually are.

In a world full of actors and actresses, we have lost ourselves in the chaos of theater that’s mistaken as reality.

 

Battery Life

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Every couple of years when I buy a new phone, during the initial setup I head into my settings and turn on my battery percentage indicator. The default battery icon doesn’t give me enough insight into the status of my battery life… Similar to the fuel gauge in my truck, whenever that little battery indicator drops below full, I feel as though the battery level starts to drop quicker than Samsung’s stock after their phones started exploding.

Why you may ask? Why is THAT such an important feature to me when it has been available on every phone in the over saturated market since the Nokia 4 bar days? Honestly, I don’t know…but seeing a percentage is much easier than converting the battery bar into fractions using a series of poorly constructed mental algorithms (#math). In reality, I’m never too far from a charge and I can ration my battery by avoiding the lure of an electronic dopamine hit so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

What would happen if our devices didn’t have an indicator of any type? How would you know how much time you had left? What happens when you reach 50%…30%…5% ? Do you temper your usage in some way? Do your habits change as your levels drop? Do you focus on what’s necessary and most important? Do you filter what apps you use? Do you close out of the apps after you check them? How do you get the most life…out of your phone?

So far, these words have had the weight of small talk about the weather in the middle of an aisle at your local Walmart…but what would you say our battery in life is? Is it physical? Did you think of your heart? Or food? Water? Is it our mentality? Our state of mind? Our lives don’t have a battery indicator…our battery can expire at any moment, without warning.

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What saps your energy quickly? What replenishes your power? Are the answers to these questions found in people? Or isolation? Activity or relaxation? Do certain systems within our vessel operate off separate battery systems? Can you put a face and a name to someone with power levels reading 0% in the mind and 75% body? What about someone with 95% mind and 5% body? Is that a life worth living?

How do we maintain balance in our life until we reach the end of our single-serving life charge? I see our systems similar to an early 90’s video game character’s statistics. StateOur main battery is our life span. Our life span could last 100 years or end sometime in the near future. We can never be sure…all we can do is live life, assuming we’ll live well into our later years.

If we return to the 90’s video game character analogy, I believe the remaining attributes for our character are independent of the main system. They supplement the life span, adding value to life. While our life span dwindles, these energy sources keep happiness and mobility levels within our control. There are people in my life that make me feel charged to 100%. There are also energy vampires that pull every ounce of energy out of me. There are activities that make me feel lighter, faster, and stronger. There are also activities, or lack thereof, that weigh me down and make me feel terrible.

Our life span is a battery with single charge, no guarantee, and no expiration date; however, when we find the people, activities, and moments that make us feel charged, we can live balanced, youthful lives until the end, no matter how early or late that may be.

Betty101-FTR

 

Strength

It’s been awhile since I’ve sorted out the mess of words I have swirling through my mind. I’ve found myself in a new place in my career; new department, new people, new everything. I’ve essentially started over. In a world full of new, I’ve felt an overwhelming need for something old. I can’t really explain it… I needed something familiar to my core while I explored and conquered a new territory.

When I was 8 years old, my dad built an addition on the back of our 2.5 car garage. The addition would become home to his beloved ’96 Fat Boy and an epic garage gym. My dad poured the foundation, set the walls, trusses, and finished it off with siding and shingles. “B&B Powerhouse” was vintage iron… The bench, hack squat, preacher curl, and weight tree were all built by my old man. To this day, I can smell that gym; it was a kaleidoscope of scents made up of cold concrete, the fumes from an old furnace, raw steel, and old bodybuilding magazines. Near the end of its construction in November of ’93, minutes after returning home from a long road trip to Jessup, Iowa for bars, weights, and random accessories, we got a call that my grandfather was fighting for his life on the other side of our small town. I remember flying across town in my Dad’s Ford Ranger with the bed still holding some of the gear from the trip. By the time we arrived, it was too late… Needless to say, the barbell has been tangled into my roots after such a strong emotional connection and introduction at an early age.

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It’s been nearly 8 months since I’ve known what a comfort zone feels like at work. While that’s a good thing since growth is found during these times, it really challenges and humbles you. 11 years of solid performance in one department got me to where I am now; infancy in a new position, a place where I feel I’m learning to crawl again. Early on in this transition, I knew I needed to find strength to pull through the uncertainties I found myself experiencing every day in this new job.

Hmmm…strength?

I had lost confidence at work. I lost what I had accomplished and was feeling like a fish out of water. Physically, I was embarrassingly weak from sporadic, short-lived spurts of motivation that fizzled out after lackluster results; however, this time it was different. I got back into a gym in June. My motivation was different. I don’t really care about having a “magazine body” – my motivation was driven by something deeper than vanity. I was actually happy with my bodyweight of 221lbs. I had lost 50lbs through diet and cardio but I couldn’t bench press my own bodyweight, I could barely deadlift half of my previous 500lb PR, and my squat was too pitiful to mention here. I started to chase strength. I became addicted to adding more weight to the bar every week. I stalled, readjusted, and pushed through it. There have been numerous times in recent months where I was afraid of the weight I had loaded on the bar. The impending doom of what would surely be a failure extended rest times on more than one occasion; however, as the successful lifts started to stack up, my confidence grew not just in the gym but out, too. Failure became more of a test than a reflection of self, a checkpoint instead of an end point.

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I remember watching my dad and the neighborhood badasses throw weight around that gym after their workday was done. 2 plates, 3 plates, 4 plates…it all seemed so big and unreachable to me when I was that young. I remember benching 95lbs for the first time…so close to 100lbs I could taste it. Then, one plate, 135lbs… A few more years down the road, my first week as a freshman in high school, I benched 225lbs, becoming a member of the “2 Plate Club.” I still have and wear the t-shirt I spent the summer earning with that lift. A month before I graduated high school, I benched 315lbs, “3 Plate Club.” I knew being strong felt good…but I had forgotten what it does for my mind.

The “too busy” of early adulthood doesn’t compare to today’s version of it; however, now, at the peak of MY perception of busy, I found building strength is a priority in my life. It teaches me perseverence. It’s given me faith in my ability. Some days I dont want to put in the work but it pays off later on down the road.

When I started my career at Byron, I was told the plant will seem large at first, too large too fathom. The veterans then encouraged me by saying the more I learned, the smaller the plant would seem. It’s similar now except the job duties seem large, not the footprint of the plant. When I felt like my career was suddenly moving backwards because it’s requirements were beyond my abilities, I needed to feel a heavy barbell again. Progression is not linear…in strength and in life. When the weight on the bar is too easy, add more. When it’s too heavy, have a spotter in case you need help. Focus on that fine line between too hard and too easy and do what you can to make your too hard, too easy.

Keep the bar moving.