It wasn't so much about the practice - it was more about me (and my excuses) versus me (and staying committed to my word)
The cover photo has a huge backstory behind it. It’s a picture of me at practice (circa Apr 2015) but the story behind it is that I almost didn’t make it to practice.
I played semi-pro football for the Lake County Venom in 2015. I was 37 years old and was considers the old man on the team. Our season started in May and ended in August. Which meant that our training camp and OTAs were from January to March with practices from end of March to May.
I got myself in the best shape of my life and by the time our first few practices began, I was feeling awesome. Our first outdoor practice was on this day that you see in the cover photo. A brisk Chicago April day of about 40°F with wind gusts of 20. Which meant it felt more like 25-30°F.
This particular practice day was a day that I was feeling extremely ill. I woke up with the feeling of flu like symptoms. That’s it, I could skip this practice because I’m feeling pretty damn sick and the coaches wouldn’t say much of anything about it.
So there I was. Stuck with this dilemma. Do I just use the excuse (which is not an excuse, I’m really sick as a dog) or do I grind it out and plow through my sickness.
What kept gnawing at me was the fact that I’m not the type of person to give in to excuses. Even when I was a lazy man and didn’t do much of anything, I loathed excuses.
Deep down in my gut, I knew that I had to bring it this season. I was 37. I couldn't miss anything. I don't recover as quickly as the young guys in any phase of life at this point. I knew I had to give a million percent just to stay relevant in this game.
I also knew that I couldn’t stay home and look myself in the mirror and be okay with slacking off just because someone else would approve of me slacking off.
I just couldn’t do it. I’ve got too much heart to be doing what losers and quitters do.
I’ve always had the mindset to do whatever it takes to make it work. If I commit to something, then I’m doing it. I’m a man of my word. So that’s what I did.
I went to practice.
I went to practice, feeling as though I was going to die from my flu-like symptoms. I remember the cold brisk wind hitting my arms and cutting up my pads like a knife that just came out of the freezer.
I remember coughing up some ugly stuff and literally dying of loss of breath after running drills. I remember one drill I literally had to speed walk/jog because I simply couldn’t run anymore.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured when it came to performing at practice along with the mental and physical stamina.
I came home and ate nothing but chicken soup for the next few days. I felt like complete garbage at the end of the practice but my mindset was strengthened.
I defeated the Lazy Monster. I defeated the Excuse Monster. I won. It was the biggest victory I had gotten that whole season and it set the tone for how I would play and my entire approach to everything I did that season.
You see, that practice was the first practice outside. It was time for me to showcase my skills on a regulation field as opposed to the small indoor gym that we had. But on the first day outside, I felt like trash.
The biggest takeaway from this practice was that I didn't allow for my laziness to get the best of me. I didn’t allow excuses to overall what I was trying to accomplish. I found out that I was mentally tougher than I thought I was. You know how some college teams add stickers for incredible games or special merits that were earned during the game? I felt like I added another sticker to my helmet (metaphorically speaking) and felt damn good for doing so.
Have you experienced a moment such as the one I’ve encountered in this article? One that mirrors the same qualities and situations? Are you willing to deny the Excuse Monster and the Lazy Monster when you get stuck?
I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t defeated those two monsters, it’s okay - for now. Everyone has bouts with these two monsters. The key is that you’re always looking to defeat them and at some point but you’ll realize one thing: if you don’t look to fight back and defeat these two monsters, then you could be looking at a lifetime of mediocrity or worst yet, less than a mediocre life.
You weren’t born to be mediocre. You were born to be great. I’m not accidentally mentally tough. There were and still are and will always be battles with these two monsters. It’s not about fighting them, it’s about dominating them so you can truly live the NO EXCUSES life.