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Stranger 93, Day 93 - Meet Mike

Stranger 93, Day 93 – Meet Mike, the “Man with No Excuses”

Meet another staple at the gym I go to. He’s here often, and I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic — in frequency, quality of his routines, great form, etc. In fact, he’s one of the few people in the gym I “look up to”. Yes, there are plenty of people who are stronger than me, more flexible, etc. However, today’s Stranger has always reflected the type of athleticism I admire, and strive to achieve/ maintain.

It was high time we met, so I walked up to him during our workout to meet, and then ask for time after his workout. He agreed.

Fast-forward a little bit. Our conversation took place pretty quickly, and we really just dove right in. So I’ll insert you in here…

Meet Mike, 27

We just get so caught up with everything else around us. We don’t make time to say hello. And this is great, and I didn’t want to interrupt your workout routine. I plug in my earphones. I have a timer. So, it’s like don’t F$*@ with me.

“Ha! Yeah.”

So it’s nice afterwards to connect.

“Yeah, I definitely come in here… it’s almost like therapeutic for me in here. It’s like you said — getting so busy and caught up. For me, just come in, and do my thing. Get my endorphins going. Get my sweat going. And I usually come in in the mornings just because it starts my day off so much better.”

“If I’m working late, then I don’t have to be like worrying about 7 o’clock. Am I going to get to the gym? I got two dogs. So, am I going to get home and let them out, or am I going to get to the gym? So doing it in the morning is much easier.”

Exactly. At least between sets or whatever, I can nod to you or say hi, and then go about doing our own thing.

“Yeah, I’ve seen you in here for at least the last year or two.”

*We talk about my workout routine a bit in the gym as well as my running and soccer regimen + yoga.*

“I go… usually, I lift Monday-Friday. I try to get five lifts-a-week. Then, do a couple days of something outdoors — whether it’s taking the dogs up to Kennesaw Mountain, or trail running with them, or I’ll go over to Marist and run stadiums over there. Just something to keep myself going.”

“I played Lacrosse in college at Bucknell. It’s Division I. And then, it was probably two years after school — so, I lived in Baltimore for a year. Then, came down here in 2012. Then, maybe two years after that, I started getting terrible, terrible pains in my hips. And so they tried this thing called dry-needling. You ever heard of dry-needling?”

Nope.

“They basically try to shock your muscle tissue because they think it’s some sort of mobility issue. And my third session of dry-needling, they tried to address this pain that I had. The physical therapist was like, ‘You gotta go get an MRI’ because he thought it was hardened muscle. But it was actually just my bone. It turns out I had, it’s call FAI — femoroacetabular impingement. You ever heard of that?”

No…

“It’s the top of your femur. You know the ball-in-socket? I guess my entire life, it’s almost like a bone deformity, but it’s an impingement. So, it’s a mechanical limitation to movement. I had excess bone on the outside of the top of my femur. So instead of, like, rotating nicely in that socket, if there’s more bone on the top of the femur…”

You can’t go that far.

“Right. It would kink out. So, over time, it just started to wear away at the cartilage and soft tissue, which is called degenerative joint disease. So I had torn labrums in both hips, and degenerative joint disease in both hips. So they repaired that as much as they could. They put anchors and medical stitching, or whatever. Then, they shaved off the bone that was causing the impingement. I guess not only on the top of the femur, but was also on my pelvis, too.” He laughs, “… chopped off bone on both sides of the femur and the pelvis.”

“So that was like — I’m 27, so that was… I think started at 24. I’ve had my last surgery a year ago. A year and a half ago. Last summer. So summer 2015. So long story short, I don’t know if you saw me, but I was in here with my brace on and a cane.”

I did remember once or a few times, but…

“You were probably like, ‘What the hell is that kid doing in here?!’ But I was like, I can’t. I’ll go stir crazy, so I was like, ‘I gotta do something.’ I had my buddy that was in here. We started, and we probably lifted together for like a year or so. He and I started lifting together at that time. So, it was motivation to do something instead of just laying on my back all day. I only did upper body stuff. So that’s kind of been, for me, made the last couple years kind of suck. Even more for me, never wanting to not do something physical. Flag football, or like, I said, trail running, or just lifting weights… it’s nice for me. I think it’s as much mental as it is physical as far as stress decompression. Saying I’m not going to use anything as an excuse to just do something to make myself feel better.”

“Yeah, it’s been good, though. I refuse to go back to the doctor right now!” he laughs. “I talked to my mom, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m not feeling so good’. She’s like, ‘Go to make an appointment!’ After two and a half years of all that, I’m just going to try to see what I can do. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but…”

*I tell him about physical therapy, and how yoga has been great for me, and for many people around me. Several Strangers over this journey have also found yoga to be hugely helpful for different physical, mental, and emotional elements. I share with him, also, how yoga helps complement my lifts and running/ soccer.*

“Yeah, I’ve been to Infinity on Dresden.” (Infinity is the studio I go to, and where I’ve met lots of Strangers.)

“My sister’s a certified instructor. She’s always telling me to get into it. I’ve enjoyed it.” He mentions how he did the teaser classes, and also how the cost has prevented him from signing up longer-term. “I’ve done on-demand stuff at my house. I agree with you, and she’s always trying to push me into it as far as restorative and flexibility.”

This place has some yoga (referring to the gym we’re at). I started out doing yoga here, and then I switched over after 15 months or whatever, I went over to Infinity. *Mike then asks me about my background, and if I still play club league soccer today*

“I also played club league hockey down here for a year. But the rinks… I’m from upstate New York, and there’s four or five rinks within 10 minutes of me. Yeah, down here…” he laughs. “Either Cumming, or sometimes you go up to Marietta. Or there’s a little rink in Buckhead, but they didn’t schedule our games that much. So after a couple years of driving to Cumming for a 10PM men’s league game, getting home at 12:30AM, I was like, ‘Meh, it’s not worth it.'”

Yeah, we have games at like 10:15PM and stuff. It’s like a shorter game. It’s like half.

“And then lacrosse, I pretty much have played every year since I’ve been here. But two years ago, and it was actually kind of when I was finishing up with surgery, the league disbanded. My buddies started up again last year. So lacrosse is growing down here. It’s good to see. I actually used to coach over at Marist. They had some raw, raw talent over there.” He laughs. “Lots to learn, but it’s good to see. I love the sport. The kids that don’t go out for football, or whatever, want to concentrate on a different sport since football’s so big down here.”

So, aside from working out and lacrosse, any other passions?

Mike thinks for a moment. “Other than work?”

Is work a passion?

“Yeah, I think so. I’ve been working for this company for five years. Actually, a friend of mine from college, recruited me to work down here. I work in operations management now. The company was very fragile, and so I think I’ve grown a lot in learning how to motivate people. It’s been very helpful, and very… it’s been a good learning experience for me.”

He shares with me a little bit about the challenges of the company, and how he’s appreciated the opportunities to learn. “I mean, I guess I don’t have a really good explanation for it, but it definitely keeps me going.”

So I’ll start to wrap it up, but what is a key to motivating someone?

“Knowing that everyone is different. You can’t be a hard-ass on somebody and think that being a hard-ass on everybody will work. You can’t be, you know, motivating and being a servant leader to everybody, and think that’s going to work. Everyone has different motivations, and you can’t just work with people from afar. You have to, I think, dig in and understand everybody in order to know what drives them. If you do that, they’re going to feel like you have that personal relationship with them rather than ‘Oh, here’s just this guy that’s just trying to manage or make money for the business or whatever’. It’s more like, ‘This guy actually cares about my personal progress as a professional or as a human-being.'”

“So I think that’s a big key is understanding the people.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congratulations, you’re Stranger 93), if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Before you have that opportunity, there were two people yesterday (they combined into one, they were a couple). Two questions they wanted to ask. Andrea wanted to ask you, “Without any boundaries, what would you go do right now?” (Thanks to Andrea, Stranger 92)

“Without any boundaries? I’d probably go visit my good buddy out in San Francisco. He’s been out there for like three years. He’s my best friend growing up. He’s never visited Atlanta, and I’ve never been to San Francisco. I think we owe it to one another to see what each other’s life is like. Since 3rd grade, we were inseparable. If I could just go and hang out with him for a few weeks, and see what he’s up to… It’s kind of been like a relationship we haven’t kept as strong over the years.”

Mike asks me if he’s just passing a question to tomorrow’s Stranger (Stranger 94). Yup!

So David, her husband, wants to ask, “What’s the motto or otherwise a saying that you live by?”

He answers quickly, “No excuses.”

“I don’t want to become complacent in anything, really. I don’t think you should ever let some sort of impediment to your progress keep you down. I think everyone — from time to time, it’s happened to me. You get down, and then you gotta snap yourself out of it. Keep moving forward whether it’s your mental psyche or physical ability or capability to do something in your work-life. Don’t become complacent, and don’t let it rule you. No excuses.”

“So I gotta come up with a question for the next person?”

Yeah.

“What’s the most down, or the lowest, you’ve been in your life? And what did you use or how did you get out of that rut… and keep moving forward? That’s what I would like to know.”

After the handshake.

After asking his question for tomorrow’s Stranger, he made the comment that he was sorry to ask a question that was “down in the dumps”, but I saw it totally differently. I saw his question as more as a question on how to not only connect with others, but also to learn and inspire others with ways to move on. Mike recognizes this, too, knowing everyone goes through something challenging. It was clear that the last several years were very difficult dealing with his hip pain and how it bottlenecked his desire to be active.

Like I said earlier, I noticed Mike because of his athletic abilities in the gym. He does some power lift, but does a fair bit of Olympic-style lifting, too. His form is usually impeccable (like his squat). We talked a moment before we went over to take his picture as he told me he wanted to get his picture doing a squat. I thought that picture was perfect, and I was actually think that before he said it. Him doing a squat is representative of his triumphant return and the ongoing diligence he has for being active and improving himself.

We also talked for a brief moment about his form. Specifically, he’s got great form, but it’s as a result from being hurt. After surgery, he’s spent a lot of time being cognizant of his form. I related to this after a few injuries over the last couple years. It’s funny, and somewhat terribel, that we focus on our lives and the present (and our form) typically only after something bad happens. This is familiar territory for those who suffer some setback. They reassess their lives — purpose, relationships, etc. We should be more present day-to-day and catching ourselves when our form starts to slip before they truly slip and we get hurt. Be proactive (or even active in the moment) rather than reactive.

But when we do have to react, react in a way that keeps us going and moving towards our greater goal. As Mike says, “no excuses.”

Meet Mike. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 22, Day 22 - Meet Carling

Stranger 22, Day 22 – Meet Carling, the “Ecstatic Wellness Enthusiast”

I’m talking to my buddy at Starbucks while also wondering who was going to be the “Stranger of the Day”. As I’m looking around, I notice someone across the room, but this meant I had to interrupt her… studying or work. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I knew there weren’t that many people there. But only seconds later, did this chick wave at me. I was a little shocked — “I’ve been found!” — and wondering what I did… turns out, I kinda met her last weekend. She was here with a friend talking about blogging — one of the key words my ears listen for. So we met briefly, but I didn’t know her. (If you couldn’t already tell because I didn’t recognize her very well when she waved the first time.)

Anyways, so I met her, but only briefly. And this is where my Rules for Engagement come in (which I should document sometime soon) — I really didn’t know her. I didn’t know how old she was, who she was, what her passions and dreams were… she was Stranger. So I approached her, and this is the start of getting to know today’s Stranger…

Meet Carling, 24

Who are you?

“I am a student and I was born in Canada — St. Catherines in Ontario — and parents moved to Charlotte, NC. I have now lived in Atlanta for 3 years. I’m going to Georgia State. I’m studying psychology, and I’m working on an online health-coaching certificate — that’s I’m half-way through.”

Carling is smiling pretty big as we start this. I’ve had some pretty happy and excited Strangers in the past, but Carling’s probably the most excited. This, in turn, makes me more excited.

“I’m one of seven kids. Number 3 (from the top)…” I was wondering if people ever say start from the bottom. We laugh as we both say, “now we’re here”. She’s kinda nerdy like me.

I love psychology, so my next question was pretty simple — Why psychology?

“I just love people and knowing how they work and myself… how I can improve myself. I feel psychology plays a lot in that.”

What are your hopes and dreams for Psychology? Or even beyond?

“I originally wanted to be an academic adviser for freshman. I was an exercise science major, and I wanted to do PT. But it was only because when I was 18, you have to decide what you want to do. I ran track in high school, so I wanted to be a physical therapist. Half-way through, I shadowed at a PT office, and I hated it. So I that’s when I wanted to be that filter for that 18-year-old who says, ‘I want to do exercise’, because no one ever asked, ‘why do you want to do that?’ No one ever asked, ‘why do you want to do that?’ No one ever stopped me and asked me, ‘are you sure? Go shadow before you make that decision.’ So I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ but you have to have a Masters to do that. So I have to do an undergrad for that anyways, so I chose psychology.”

“I finished up in May, but I’m going to take a year to figure that out. I’m not going to jump into grad school because I’m learning more about different paths. And I’m actually more interested now in the holistic health — eating and fueling your body.”

What do you think is key to being healthy? What does being healthy mean?

“Being healthy is about… feeling your body and your… soul — for the recording, I put that in quotations.” Haha, I just wanted to include exactly what she said.

“That’s eating plant-based vegetables… organic when you can, but also healthy relationships and positive thinking, and time for yourself.”

I asked her if I was healthy because I ate things that ate the vegetables, and she was okay with that. #win

What else are your passions?

“I really like learning. Sewing? I really like sewing — or creating!” She very excitedly shared how she just sewed an apron with chili peppers on it. “I’m super excited about it.”

Carling shared with me her go-to when it comes to cooking — anything Mexican. “Rice beans or anything with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.” Then, she added salads were very important to her.

… and she quickly mentioned how she really liked Shake Shack down the street. I have to reiterate how she’s laughing a lot about all this. She’s having a ton of fun with this meeting, and it really shows. She’s got a highly energetic and infectious enthusiasm about her.

What do you like about Atlanta? Or do you not?

“I do like Atlanta now. When I moved here, I was living in an old house with a couple girls. Definitely different, but the last couple years, I’ve put an emphasis on creating friendships and exploring the city, so I definitely like it better now.”

She shares some advice for new residents who know very few people here: “Download the app Meetup.” She admits, “You have to put effort in. You have to cultivate those relationships and put effort in. Be patient and it pays off.”

As I said, I did meet Carling before, but very briefly. She was talking to a friend about blogging, so I asked her about that.

“My blog is just about things I’m learning through all the healthy stuff. I would read stuff and share it with my roommates, my two best friends, but they eventually got tired of hearing me say, ‘oh, that shampoo has a lot of chemicals. Shouldn’t use it.’ So I figured I’d find an audience who wanted to learn about this stuff.” WHAT?! Friends didn’t want to always hear about the best shampoos?! Haha, she’s laughing again.

I’ve run into a lot of people who want to write, but don’t. Many lament how they believed no one would want to hear what they had to say. So curious, I asked Carling how she found her voice.

“I’ve always journaled, so I’ve always written. To find my specific voice, I used to do write DIY and self-help, but it just naturally happened where I found myself enjoying the health aspect more. So I went with what I felt was more enjoyable. Punching in recipes was not — felt like work. Whereas the information and sharing the knowledge was where I woke up — ‘oh, I really want to share this’, so I just started to listen more to myself. I found my voice by listening more to myself. You have to pay attention to where you feel alive.”

“I found myself to listening to myself.” — it seemed like a revelation.

Have you had a Life-Defining Moment?

“I was living in Atlanta, and I wasn’t in school at the time because I was still trying to figure out what I was trying to do. I bought a $2000 industrial sewing machine. I was going to sew leather bags, not knowing how to use an industrial sewing machine or how to sew leather. So I got the sewing machine — super pumped. It was my third time trying to use it, and I couldn’t get it to sew anymore. And this time, I’m still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life school-wise. And the day it wasn’t stitching. I was home alone. I couldn’t get it. I Googled. I called. I remember being there, and I just started crying because I was like, ‘oh my God, I can’t get this. I’m never going to be able to do this. This isn’t going to work.’ I just got so pissed at the machine, and that when I was like, ‘I have to go back to school.’ I really put effort into actually figuring out what I wanted to do. Thinking about it, and taking off the time limit I put on myself.”

She shared with me about the “time limit”. She shared how she was 23, and she needed to get out of school at some point. Then she needed to get married. It was, to me, “the template”. She wanted to get out of that track. She figured out what she wanted to do.

But after this moment, she got into Georgia State and shares how she’s so much happier now.

I was curious how she decided to buy $2000 toward a sewing machine out of… anything and everything else out there. She admits she was just very impulsive and how she had some “optimism bias” — a mindset how she could achieve something where others couldn’t.

Note: She sold the sewing machine for $900 six months later.

What’s a Life Lesson you want to share?

She told me she needed to think about this, but took only 2 seconds before returning back to me.

Carling shared how she “got out of a 3-year relationship a few months ago.” Her lesson: “You have to be completely… only you can fulfill yourself. Going into anything in life, relationships or encounters with people or work, you have to be 100% of yourself… you have to come from a place of ‘I am secure in who I am by myself’, and then you take that into other things.”

“It’s not an ‘another-half’ kind of thing. You are you, and you bring that into the encounter.”

Carling told me how she really relied on the network of her best friend and her boyfriend, especially, when she first moved to Atlanta instead of creating her own network. I understood this as her needing to keep and expand her own identity in a new city.

Studying psychology, what do you think is a good way for others to connect with… others? How can we better connect with others?

“A… genuinely, and it’s sometimes hard to remove the fear of, ‘what is someone going to think of me’ or ‘how do I come across’, but that just ties into what I said before about being 100% — being complete in yourself, you can come into encountering others from a confident place. Just being yourself.”

“… being open.” I ask her if she means being vulnerable. “Yes… and being open to this. Maybe I would’ve said no four months ago. Now, we’re sitting here, and I’m enjoying it.”

“… just being in the moment. Don’t really focus on ‘where is this going to go’ or ‘do I have the time for this’ or ‘I have all these things in my head that I’m thinking about’. Actively listening, and not focusing on what you’re going to say next because they just said something. Just listening and being there.”

So… Be genuine. Be open. Be in the moment.” Check!

What makes you happy? (Thanks to Jordan, Stranger 21)

Carling thinks about this… “From a physical sense, listening to a great song, walking outside on a beautiful day… that makes me happy.”

“On a meta-physical sense, being around people who you know, who know you, and who you love. And just sharing laughter with them. That’s something that makes me so happy.”

Though, I was curious because she seemed pretty happy despite knowing very little about me.

“… in a broad sense! Positive interactions with people make me happy!” Haha, good update. 🙂

She adds before moving on, “being productive makes me happy.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

She thought about this question for a while.

“What are you doing when you feel most alive?” (Something on the daily…)

After the handshake.

So this was actually my longest meeting. I think it was just a testament to Carling’s energy and our connection/ her openness. She was super excited from the get-go to share her story. I mentioned her laughing and smiling throughout, but what I didn’t share was how animated she was. Like Sandrika early on, Carling was very animated. She just has a lot of energy, and you can’t help but be happy around her.

I definitely appreciated lots of points of our talk. Specifically, I appreciated her recognition in the effort it takes to connect with others. It’s not easy to connect with others sometimes, and this is even true of the friendships we all have. Relationships (in any form) take energy and commitment.

Also, I was curious of Carling’s points on how to connect with others. I love psychology, and given her studying and her own natural ability to connect, I was curious. I don’t really have much to add or augment to Carling’s key tenets, but I would say being open BOTH ways is important. At first, when I heard Carling, I was thinking about what was important for me to be with others in being “open” about myself. But the key, I think, is being open for others to be themselves.

 

Great stuff, and I’m excited to learn more about her healthy blogging… even if there’s a fair bit of veggie blogs in there.

So meet Carling. No longer a Stranger.