As a small child I endured physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend. As I grew older, I struggled with obesity and endured years of teasing/bullying because of it. At my heaviest, I was 17 years old and I weighed 305 lbs. That year (2000) I was finally able to make some changes in my diet and I lost 80 lbs in 8 months:
2000 – 2014
In August of 2000 I went off to college at The University of Houston. I majored in Electrical Engineering. Of course, academically, it was tough. It was just as difficult to navigate the social landscape of college, when I never had any friends growing up. Unbeknownst to me, I took the mental skills I learned through struggling with obesity and applied them to this new challenge. I graduated in 2005 with honors in Electrical Engineering.
I began working as an Engineer 3 months after graduation. Life was supposed to be better. I bought a new car (with a loan) and I had a girlfriend for the first time in my life (23 years old). I hated the work I was doing and after experiencing significant depression, I quit.
My life fell apart… At least, that’s what it felt like:
- I surrendered the car for repossession. This, on top of student loans and eventual credit card default – I was $60,000 in debt and receiving regular calls from debt collectors
- The relationship with my girlfriend exploded – Admittedly, I was too emotionally unstable and immature
- I was at odds with virtually everyone in my life and eventually found myself alone in a dark apartment in Houston – The electricity had been cut off and I was being evicted for failure to pay rent
It was a massively disorienting time in my life. Many of the assumptions I had made about the world were being completely upended. What was I going to do next? I had tried being a personal trainer for a bit but I needed time to generate a client base and a sustainable income. The calls I was receiving from debt collectors made me very aware I didn’t have time. Briefly, I tried working as an engineer at another major company in Houston. It was terrible. I quit after 3 weeks. The office/computer work was something I couldn’t tolerate any longer. I wanted to do something I found meaningful and I needed money as well.
After research and a lot of contemplation, I joined the US Army in August of 2007 with the hopes of becoming a Special Forces Soldier (AKA – Green Beret). I payed off my debt in the same 3 years it took me to get through one of the Military’s most notoriously difficult training pipelines. Eventually, I served as a Special Forces Medic in Afghanistan…
Afghanistan Feb 2011 – Feb 2012
When I left the military in 2012 I began working as a personal trainer with the hopes that I might help others experience the transformation in their bodies that I had experienced as a young man. In the years that I spent working with people on their health I began to realize that something much deeper was key to my success… character. Patience, Resourcefulness, Grit, Courage, Persistence, Resilience, Honesty (Primarily with Self), Accepting Ownership (Perhaps the Apex Character Trait)… these and other intangibles were keys to my success in losing weight and they have continued to play a role through out all of the difficult challenges I have experienced in life. The question is: Can character be taught?
In trying to answer that question since 2015 I have realized that the character one needs to develop has to be matched with the life one desires to have. Short answer – the character you chose to grow is heavily dependent on the life you chose to build. In my opinion, the ability to take ownership of self and have the courage to look at yourself honestly, is where character begins. The things I write and speak about are an attempt to put flesh on this process and give more people tools to be authentic to themselves and the world.