I think my low point was in January 2012. The wheels had come off my career in November 2010, causing me to both physically and mentally break down. I was working two jobs, was trying not to get fired from either and was losing touch with my family (who had been deeply affected by that fateful day in 2010.) I don’t even remember my sons’ teachers names from that year. My body and mind thrashed against a current of negativity that was being spewed at me. By January 2012, I was fat (248 lbs.), angry and honestly, depressed.
My wife did an intervention of sorts. She had met Paul Lacoste at the preschool where he sent his son. I got a call from Paul in January and signed up for his Fit4Change boot camp at Jackson State. I had run a marathon in 2010. But by 2012, I would get winded walking from the parking lot. I’d look at my 26.2 sticker and be embarrassed. I was exhausted the day Paul Lacoste called me. Hell, I was always exhausted.
Paul arranges his bootcamp by lines. Line 1 is the best, most fit athletes. I was in line 8 — and I still nearly died the first day. My 41-inch waist would drag on the floor. I barely survived the treadmill. I couldn’t even run a mile. A sit-up was nearly impossible. He’d keep talking about the “Next Level.” I thought it meant physically. My next level would be the one directly above the bottom — because that was where I was. The rock bottom.
Two weeks into Fit4Change, I hated it. In fact, one morning, I played hooky just to run in my neighborhood. I couldn’t take the pain and the yelling. My mind, already depressed, was in a dark place. And then Paul threw me a curve. He moved me to Line 2.
I nearly freakin’ died.
It has been a two-year journey. I quickly learned that my body could achieve amazing things — once my mind got out of the way. I quickly shed pounds and gained fitness. By the end of the first session, I had lost 45 lbs. And I had started to rebuild my mental confidence. I realized that “The Next Level,” isn’t just physical. It’s also mental.
In the book Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull (the co-founder of Pixar), he talks about how our senses are not capable of taking in all the stimuli around us. To compensate for this, our minds create models to smooth out that data and fill in the gaps. It’s like a weather forecast model that takes data and tells you what the weather will be. Those models are created by past experiences and don’t necessarily represent “reality.” Our brain, through habits, works to make life easy for itself. My model was that I could not push a board or run on a treadmill. So guess what, I struggled with it. I did not start having breakthroughs until I, as my old football coach in high school would say, “got my mind right.” You won’t succeed until you believe you can.
Today, we pushed pushed boards on a dry field. That’s about as hard as it gets during PLS. But because I had done it in the past and could visualize my success, I breezed through the exercise.
That’s what I have learned from my five sessions with Paul Lacoste. Yes, he yells and fusses. Yes, it is hard. And yes, I am in excellent physical shape. But something more important has happened. I use the same lessons I’ve learned while training for the rest of my life. I am currently working on changing the models in my mind that have held me back. My anger is gone. Forgiveness has replaced it. I know I can do anything I put my mind and body to. I believe I can succeed — because I have. I do it every morning at 5 a.m.
I had to tear myself down and rebuild myself physically and then mentally. And I have.
That’s what the Next Level means to me.