I'm often asked why I enjoy my job, and I rarely run short of answers. Usually I rotate through: I get to be active; it's different every day; I don't have to sit behind a desk; I'm able to help people. These are all good responses, but the ultimate answer is, in a way, selfish. It's all about the people I meet and how they motivate me to be a better person, work out harder in the gym, eat healthier and not take my opportunities for granted. I get to see people at both their best and worst. One client has seized every opportunity; another has endured life-altering hardships. In good times and bad, these individuals have taught me to count my blessings and not my troubles, and if I feel unmotivated or stressed or downright pissed-off, I think about how hard these people have worked to be able to say they are where they are - and given my current situation, I can do the same.
FRANK: Two years ago, Frank invited me out for a round of golf. We teed off around 8 a.m. on a Saturday and worked our way briskly through 18 holes in about three and a half hours. When we were finished, Frank had beaten me by fifteen strokes; 84 to 99 if I remember correctly. On the 20th of this month, Frank turns 90. He claims over the last two years he's added 20-yards to his tee shot, and can make it through a round with minimal fatigue. During the winter he goes to the gym three to four times a week at 6:30 a.m., which he supplements with exercises at home (if he doesn't have to shovel the driveway). During the summer, he works at the golf course and exercises and golfs often (when he isn't working on his perfectly manicured yard). Frank hasn't stopped -- why should I?
BRENDAN: For the past seven or so years I've had the pleasure of spending hundreds of hours of my summers in the gym with Brendan, a young hockey player playing his first year of NCAA Division I hockey. Aside from being born in December (which, if you've read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, is pretty much the kiss of death when trying to rise through the hockey rankings), Brendan has been given many opportunities to excel -- and he knows it. His attitude and the tenacity with which he approaches each workout, season, tryout, game, etc., is unnerving at times and sometimes needs to be corralled. I struggle to keep up with his work ethic and desire to improve everyday -- but it makes me better.
ED: Every Thursday at 11 a.m., I hear a happy tune being whistled as Ed comes into the clinic. Every Thursday that is, assuming he's not away at a convention in Florida, or playing his guitar with the boys down at the 55+ centre, or visiting and helping someone who shares his uncommon situation. Ed is referred to in the medical world as a 'bilateral AK', meaning he's had both legs amputated above the knee. This is the result of an unfortunate and unnecessary motor vehicle accident 15 years ago that would have left the most understanding person jaded beyond belief. And while Ed may have a chip on his shoulder, he realizes there is no reason for him to slow down -- he just had to change his approach to every situation and learn to ignore the countless people who told him "he would never do that again." It's a good thing he never listens.
BARRY: I've known Barry almost one-third of my life and he has been as much a father figure to me as anyone else. We cannot change the cards we're dealt, and Barry lived with cancer for the better part of 12 years. He scoffed at the prognoses made by his many oncologists over the last decade-plus and repeatedly fought this battle through surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments -- and ultimately pain -- while thinking only about the well-being of his family and friends. His one vice? Every May long weekend, Barry and the other 'Peters' (a long story I'm not sure I know the half of) would head out for an isolated fly-in fishing/camping trip. Although tired upon return, Barry always came back ready to continue his fight and prove to those around him life is worth living. A few weeks ago, Barry lost this fight, which took most people by surprise because he never gave anyone the impression he was dying; instead, he was just living with the flu every second week for twelve years.
There are some days I don't want to get out of bed, but I do because I know Frank has already been awake for an hour. If I feel a lack of focus, I bear down and work harder because I know Brendan is working harder than me. When I am discouraged because of an obstacle I have encountered, I think of how trivial that obstacle must be compared to what Ed goes through everyday. When I go to bed, I am reminded by Barry to appreciate the day I've been given and the people I'm able to share it with, because he was able to do so through the toughest of situations.
Take some time to figure out who motivates you to be better, work harder, and not take for granted the life you're able to lead.
So what are you going to do today?
Tim Shantz is a certified athletic therapist and trainer