The other week I saw a man shout at a woman on a train…
He had gotten onto the train heading to London and he seemed like he was on a mission. The train was full and seats were hard to come by, yet he found one. The only problem was that a lady was asleep, she was listening to her music and had put her bag on the empty seat that he wanted. The bag prevented the man from sitting down, he was visibly annoyed and at first he said, “excuse me,” she didn’t budge. In the space of 40 seconds his voice escalated from conversation level to a shout, “EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!” The lady still didn’t budge, the man continued to make a scene before being offered another seat further down the carriage.
It was a bizarre moment, one that sent my mind racing, she did wake up and move her bag for the next person. I couldn’t help think that all the man had to do was politely reach out and tap her on the shoulder to wake her up… Then I started to think that maybe he wanted to but wasn’t sure how she would react, maybe he had a day from hell and just wanted to take it out on someone. Maybe she could hear him the whole time and thought she’d just pretend to be asleep. Maybe she thought, “I don’t want to sit next to such an angry person.” Then that made me think of his ego, he seemed like a business professional. Maybe he felt like he was more deserving than anyone else, maybe he thought, “I paid for my ticket fair and square, I deserve a seat.” Maybe he’d had a long week, maybe he had a lot going on at home and at work... Maybe he was overworked and stressed and it all came out in one moment, one moment that influenced the minds of many people on the train into believing that he was a bit of a… Well, not a very nice person.
I guess what shocked me was how he went about things, that’s what made me think that his ego had gotten in his way. Instead of making a scene and trying to make the lady feel rubbish he could have accepted that she wasn’t responding and moved on or, again, used his hand to reach out and engage with her in a less aggressive way. I noticed at one point he did actually pause and look around for validation from everyone else on the train for his actions, the energy was tense as you could sense people had thought he was out of line.
"We can seek to rationalise our worst behaviour by pointing to outliers.” - Ryan Holiday.
After I got off the train in London I didn’t give the situation much more thought as I wanted to enjoy my evening watching Blink 182 at the O2 Arena. As we got to our seats at the show news broke of Chester Bennington killing himself, Chester was the lead singer of Linking Park, a band that I grew up listening to. It was a complete shock because you naturally assume that rock stars are always going to be there making albums and touring the world. That, in turn made me wonder about what it must be like being a rock star, getting on stage and performing to an audience, thousands of people screaming for you, thousands in love with your talent. It must be such an ego trip, imagine how hard the come down must be after a show when they get home and realise that the fans aren’t there. It must take ages to recover from a tour, it must be like the holiday blues only more intense. Maybe that is why so many pop stars lose themselves chasing a high through drugs and alcohol…?
In many respects the age of social media has created mini celebrities, communities of people following, commenting and liking someone for the content they provide. Social media and websites allowing people to purely post a highlight reel of awesomeness that contributes to a dopamine rush of love through digital likes and feedback. Behind the scenes there is often a very different story. What happens when the likes disappear? What happens when the power goes off? What happens to the generation of kids growing up who seek social validation through a screen rather than through 121 engagement. Do they become socially awkward? Stressed? Angry? Do they become the man on the train?
"Our culture fans the flames of ego.” - Ryan Holiday
Just over a month ago I wrote and said I would be taking a hiatus from writing, I’m quite clearly back now, but I wasn’t in a great place mentally and I didn’t want to force content out to the blog for the sake of a post. My blog has always been about sharing my experiences in life, the stories of the people that I meet and providing insight into the way that I have been able to change my life. The ultimate goal is to help people feel better about their lives, situations, fitness levels; even if it is just for 5 minutes on a Monday when they want to detach from things or get their minds ready for the week ahead.
In the weeks leading up to the last blog post I wrote there was a lot of excitement around things I was doing within my work, I was very positive that everything was on the right path, I was leaving Virgin Active to be a freelance trainer, it turned out things didn’t go the way I thought they would. Part of that was down to me and the other part being down to situations I can’t control or go into. I was also in a situation where I was over trained. I remember looking over my workouts one evening and realising that I had trained 12 days in a row without having a rest. One thing led to another and I ended up injured and pretty emotional. I actually lay in bed one night angry, sad and resentful all at the same time because, in part, I had let me ego get the better of me. ‘Just one more session and I’ll rest...'
"Ego is the enemy, we cannot improve the world if we don’t understand it, or ourselves. We can’t take or receive feedback if we are incapable of, or uninterested in hearing from outside sources. We can’t create opportunities, if instead of seeing what is in front of us, we live inside our own fantasy. How are we supposed to reach, motivate and inspire others if we cannot relate to their needs?” - Ryan Holiday
One thing led to another with work and at one point I thought that I could possibly return, emotionally, to the Brendan of old, chowing down 20 cheeseburgers in an attempt to quell the emotional struggle. Then I remembered something that someone had told me once, I had to ‘sweep the shed.’
It is a lesson in humility taken straight from the All Blacks rugby team where the players would, after a game, sweep the changing rooms and clean up after themselves as a sign of respect. A sign that it didn’t matter that they were the All Blacks, world champions, they could still be humble and respectful. With that in mind (and I thought about redaction of my blog post where I said I was leaving Virgin Active) I turned round and went back to work as a fitness coach and personal trainer at Virgin. There are a multitude of reasons for that decision, however the return meant putting my hand up and saying that sometimes, things just don’t work out. On my first full shift back I grabbed a mop and started to clean the stairs, each day since I have tried to help a fellow staff member in some way, not for anything other than the idea of ‘sweeping the shed.'
I’ve always tried to remain humble about things in my life, even with my weight loss, I like to put my story out there to help people understand that there is more fire inside us than we believe. There is a fight and resilience in each of us that can power the most amazing experiences in the world. It is very easy in today’s society and especially the fitness industry to become consumed by ego. I see it every day and at a certain point even having too much humility can become egotistical.
My time off has given me the reminder I needed that this blog is my way of sharing my philosophical approach to life. It has always been focused on self development and how fitness training is part of developing the strength in our character and in our minds.
A major influence in my life, my reading and my approach to writing has revolved around Stoicism and the idea that we can’t always control events in our lives, but we can control how we react to them. A positive approach to situations through wisdom, temperance, fairness and courage can result in a balanced and happier life. I unfortunately allowed myself to forget those virtues, but as I have said before, we are all fallible. Raw Motion Fitness is my life’s work; the blog and working with people 121 being the vehicle enabling people to change any self defeating attitudes they have formed about their circumstances. In a couple of weeks it will be 4 years since I started on a journey to change my life, 4 years since my willpower became the driving force that has given my life meaning again. I hope that you’ll stay tuned in the coming weeks for more writing and mumbling on my front, that can hopefully lead you to feel inspired and ready for the challenges of the world.
I don’t profess to know all the answers, I do know that changing my life through my mindset and then through my physique has given me the chance to share what worked for me in the hope that it works for you.
We all have moments in life that knock us down, make us feel rubbish or that we are embarrassed about. We can choose to let those moments define us, and define our behaviour going forwards or we can use them as fuel to help spin us into a direction that we are happy heading in. Ultimately I don’t think anyone wants to be like the man on the train, and he might be sitting at home right now trying to forget that he was even on the train that day. All we can do is take the good, with the bad, learn from both and use them to help us along our way, striving to be wiser, fairer, have more temperance and be courageous in the face of adversity.
I hope that you take from this blog what you need, most of all I hope that you STAY STRONG AND KEEP MOVING!
Brendan is the owner and head trainer at Raw Motion Fitness.