I wasn’t there the night that Rob Oldman and my group of friends stole two yellow buses from inside the locked gates of the Maplewood Elementary School parking lot on a random Thursday evening in the late Spring of our junior year in high school.
Not sure of the motivation behind it. Less sure of exactly how they pulled it off. And least sure as to why I wasn’t there
Perhaps it was an act of God.
It’s the only way I can explain it as I was never one to miss an evening of hanging around with my buddies.
Sure, perhaps we had gotten into some ‘light trouble’ from time to time (I will spare the details as, again, my mother reads this) but we never went as far as grand larceny. Not even close.
Rob (and I have changed his name here) was no stranger to trouble leading up to that point. One day he randomly set a classroom door on fire with some lighter fluid and a match between 6th and 7th period. An act that got him 6 months worth of after school janitorial duty.
Then during a high school dance, a kid that no one had seen before, came into the gym, threw Rob to the ground and delivered a boot straight to his eye socket which left him with a broken occipital bone and pretty rough looking yearbook photo.
I realize now that this type of behavior typically stems from larger problems. I didn’t know what Rob’s home life was like. If he had specific mental health issues. If he was the victim of violence or other atrocities that led him to these behaviors.
Awareness wasn’t the same as it is now. Particularly when you were a teenaged kid just trying to navigate girls, learning how to drive and not flunk out of Trigonometry, as was my case.
But if I had to take my best guess as to my absence, it would be that, on some instinctive level, I knew that Rob and that crew weren’t good for me. That I had outgrown the shenanigans even before they had escalated to something that might have landed me in a juvenile detention facility.
And this is all to underline the fact that who you surround yourself with – in your youth, your career, your social circle and, yes, your fitness, is critical to your success. Maybe as or more critical than anything else you have control over.
To once again quote my man, Les Brown:
“Surround yourself with losers and you will be a loser.”
On the flip side, it is the reason to go to Harvard if you get in. Sure, the faculty, curriculum and education is world-class, but the fact that you will forever be part of a group of people who achieved enough to attend Harvard (or West Point or Stanford or any number of institutions I can name here) is what will follow you around and impact you in a way far greater than any syllabus or choice of major ever will.
In fitness, who you decide to surround yourself with – your training partners, coaches, masterminds who create the programs – will have a greater long term impact on your ultimate success than any trendy diet or Soviet training cycle or specialty barbell ever could.
It is much more important to be surrounded by a wonderful congregation than simply be in a building with beautiful spires and pews and architecture.
Ok, I’ve belabored the point. But that is how important this piece of the puzzle is. Surround yourself with like-minded people in a culture and environment that raises you up. If you’ve been struggling to get results, it is likely the missing piece of the puzzle.
My friends never got caught for the act of theft and vandalism they perpetrated at the school house that night. The buses were recovered. The damage was minimal. And while it was certainly the talk of the neighborhood for a day or two, the investigation didn’t seem to go very deep.
But while my friends didn’t lose their freedom or their money or, thankfully, their lives that night, they did lose something that they probably didn’t realize at the time.
They lost me.
But, luckily, I’ve found other people to hang on to.