Trying To Identify Our Own Identity

What do you do when you can’t do what you love? Or you can’t do it the way you used to?

Last week I competed in my 3rd D10 Decathlon. It’s not the competition that I love so much (although I do...), it’s the training and the camaraderie that being part of the fitness community provides that really does it for me. It’s the meeting guys for workouts, the laughs, the sweat, the weight, the outlet, the endorphins, the rush and grit of it all. When it’s ingrained in your DNA, when it’s your lifestyle; it’s just as addicting as any drug. You crave it, you need it and when you cant do it, you miss it, yearn for it and look for any way you can to get it.

So what do you do when you can’t do it? Or you can’t do it the way you used to? On Saturday, I pulled my hamstring on the very first event, the 400m run. It’s easy to just relent and say “it sucks getting old”, but it’s more than that...It’s an eye opener to “oh shit, what if I can’t do this anymore?” Really? I can't run 400 fucking meters without pulling a hammy? Am I that guy now?

Look, this isn’t the biggest deal in the world...I’m not gonna get overly dramatic here (maybe I already did...) so let’s put away the violins. I’m not feeling sorry for myself...It’s a pulled hamstring, not cancer, not even a broken bone but yeah I’ll cop to being a whiny little prima donna sometimes (often). I’ll be laid up for a bit, rehab, recover and ideally come back stronger, fitter and smarter so that this wont' happen again but in the meantime...I’m miserable. It’s been 4 days (yeah, four measly days...) and I’m grouchy, moody, stressed, feeling out of shape, icing, compressing, doing stem, whatever I can to speed up the process and I hate it...Makes me feel weak and out of balance.

So this has got me thinking...As a midlife male, how do I stay in the game? How do I get better? How do I keep things balanced so that one thing doesn’t make or break me mentally or physically?

My wonderful wife put it so delicately “You train so hard for three months, pull a hamstring and now you're going to complain for three months...That’s like half the year! Maybe you should dial it down a bit”. Wow, thanks for the support and bedside manner. Love you too. (Side note, I'm like 90% sure she doesn't read my stuff and even if she did there's like a 97% chance I wasn't getting laid tonight anyway...)

One of my favorite quotes is “You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing”...It’s true. Another is “By definition if you’re injured then you’re unfit”...That one stings right now...A lot. I’m looking around at other guys thinking “That guy can run a 400 and I cant” or “That guy can touch his toes and I can’t”...It’s pathetic.

It also got me thinking about identity - You are what you repeatedly do - by that metric a lot of my identity is tied to being a “fit guy” - If I’m not that then what’s my identity? Who am I? I’d like to think I’m a lot more than just a “fit guy” but everyone has some type of identity or may even struggle with an identity crisis of sorts. I think I’ve gone thru several incarnations of this on my way towards finding and identifying my true authentic self.

I was “Harvey Weinstein’s Assistant” in my early 20's...Not a great role overall for a slew of reasons that we’re all just now beginning to hear all about (For the record I told the fat bastard to fuck off about 2 years in and walked out...), produced a few movies in my mid 20's (check out Two Nina's if you're ever awake at 2am and cant sleep...) then I became Michael Eisner’s "Team Baby" guy for about 5 years in my 30's (becoming a dad along the way) until that went away and then I had the hardest time internally becoming an insurance guy in my 40's (which I've come to love and embrace more than anything) and even now I’m kind of becoming the “Midlife Male” guy in my mid 40's after taking a shot being the "ROW" guy ....Throughout all this though, I’m really just trying to be me and figure out who me really is.

Lately Ive had conversations with some other guys dealing with their own identity issues.

There’s the guy who’s been making great money at one of Houston’s top financial institutions for years but has literally just been going thru the motions, getting up, getting dressed, going to the same office every day and really not doing very much of anything and now in his mid-forties finally said “I can’t keep coming in here waiting to die...I’m like furniture. It’s not even about the money anymore...” and recently moved on to take his shot at something “energizing” before it was too late.

There's the former pro athlete who's trying to adjust and adapt to life after sports and misses the locker room, the travel, the games, the teammates, the structure and having to get a "real" job just doesn't cut it.

There’s the guy who started a healthcare company from the ground up, built it to the point where it required 20M in cash to continue to grow and when he got the investment he needed one of the conditions was that he be replaced as CEO...Now has to decide if his identity can handle going from CEO to CMO and he's questioning everything from selling his watch collection to becoming a minimalist.

There’s the guy who’s wife is CFO of a major petroleum company and hasn't had a career of his own in 15 years. Now, he's trying to prove himself in the fitness industry and finally put that MBA to good use.

I'm not passing judgement on any of this. I've always admired those who keep moving forward, trying new things and live inspired lives. Take your chance, live your life. I've equally admired those who seem to "know" just who they are. The one's that have always wanted to be a doctor or are genuinely content with going to the same place, everyday to do the same thing year after year. If it works for you, do it.

How do we identify as our authentic self? What is it that we truly identify with? Why do we care about how we are perceived? How do we balance our own values with the expectations of others?

Some of the things I've been working on are:

  • Coping techniques - Be grateful for what it is that I can do, rather than be angry about what I can not

  • Mindset - Meditation and breath work

  • Replacement Therapy - If I can't run, then perhaps I can swim...

  • Be of value - Give without any expectation of anything in return

  • Stop comparing and start constructing

  • Lose the negative self talk

Here are a few articles I've found helpful:

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