It was May of 2012 and I was preparing for the biggest test and moment of my life.
For the past year, I went through the fire academy and began my journey as a volunteer firefighter. Now I was just a few weeks away from taking the physical test to make it my career.
This job is hard to come by, and for the past two years I had been training my ass off to prepare for it.
I also just signed a lease to open up my gym, Tutela Training Systems here in Clark, NJ.
One morning in May, just a couple of weeks before the test, I woke up to the aftermath of another drug bender that my brother was on. The house was an absolute mess with dishes, old food and crumbs everywhere, peanut butter smeared all over the countertops, cigarette butts on the floor, and the smell of smoke ran through the entire house.
It was a pivotal point in my life where things were beginning to fall into place.
Unfortunately at this point in time, I didn’t have much patience or control over my emotions, so I walked downstairs where my brother was sleeping before I left to go train a few clients. When I woke him up and confronted him for the mess he made, he wasn’t happy. He jumped up enraged and got in my face.
Being that he was an addict for nearly ten years at this point, we certainly had some physical altercations over the years. But this time no one was around to break us up. These weren’t just brotherly bouts. These fights were the result of years of built-up pain due to the turmoil in our family that rooted his addiction, as well as the sadness of watching my brother slowly kill himself.
Karel Miragaya © 123rf.com
The hurt, anger, and rage that was pumping through my veins at that moment in time will hopefully never be matched. But I felt threatened and challenged, so I completely disregarded the potential repercussions of a physical altercation, regardless of the biggest test of my life coming up in just two short weeks.
He got in my face and I struck him on the jaw with a right hand that was building up for nearly a decade. As he fell back into the wall behind him, I was able to grab him and wrestle him to the ground. After some wrestling and blows on the ground, I let him up.
Emotions were heightened for both of us.
Not because we were mad at this point, but because we both knew what this was really about. He was killing himself slowly and destroying everything in his path, including our family. If you have a friend or family member who suffers from addiction, you understand.
When things cooled off I went to put on my shoes to go train my clients. However, when I went to put on my shoe I noticed that the sock on my right foot was wet.
So I took off my sock and… fuck…it was blood. I completely ripped off my big toenail during the scuffle.
After an hour or two went by my toe began to swell and it started to hurt like hell. I thought it was broken, but luckily it wasn’t.
Now I have the fire test that I was training so hard for approaching and my right toe was killing me and tripled in size. The tasks for the test required stair runs, dummy drags, mile runs, climbing ladders, running with ladders…all of which required running and pivoting which puts a ton of pressure on your feet and toes. They were also timed events. At this point, I was training for these exact events nearly every day so I was worried about how much this was going to slow me down.
A lot of these tests are certainly hard enough, but doing them with a swollen, fat toe with a missing toenail didn’t make them any easier. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I couldn’t let my brother’s addiction place any more restraints on me and my life. So I taped up my toe and continued to train.
It hurt, but I was prepared.
I ended up coming out number two overall and landing the job as a career firefighter.
Now I understand that ripping off a toenail isn’t this devastating injury where I wouldn’t be able to perform. But that’s not the point of this story.
The Point of the Story
The point is that I could have broken my hand, my foot, my toe, my jaw or torn my ACL in that fight. Luckily it was just a boo-boo on my toe, but it could have been worse.
Any of that could’ve happened because I lost my composure. I lost my cool and didn’t think about the big test coming up at that moment. I didn’t think at all, I reacted. And my reaction could have cost me the job that I’ve been training my ass off to get for two years.
And that’s the problem in most of our lives.
We’re mainly reactive, rather than proactive.
Instead of thinking, strategizing, and planning we react to the news, something someone said on social media, a text, an email, etc., and so we live our lives by putting out fires all day long rather than really moving the needle in our lives.
It wasn’t until I stopped reacting to my brother’s addiction, took myself out of that environment, and started making the time for the deep work I needed to do on myself that my business grew and my life changed.
If you’re going to transform your life then you have to prioritize the deep work.
Not just your training and diet but working on your vision, getting around the right people, reading the right books, and becoming a better father, husband, son, daughter, mother, etc.
It’s the work that Stephen Covey refers to as non-urgent/important work in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Spend your days in a proactive state to be the person you are (deep inside).
You’re worth more. You’re capable of more, no matter where you are in your life.
Getting emotional and reacting to someone else’s bullshit could have cost me a career. What has your reactive behavior costed you? Time with your family? Building your business? Dialing in your nutrition? Training?
The Legacy Work
I challenge you to do the work and get ahold of your emotions. Take the time to focus on the work that really matters, and staying ahead of the curve so you don’t just spend your day “putting out fires."
When you focus on the non-urgent/important work you will gain control over your life.
Make it a priority.
Your training, meal prep, sleep, time spent with loved ones, and working on your legacy all fall into this category.
Your time on this planet is limited. Make the time for this type of work so you walk down to the end of the road without regrets.
Stop reacting and start building the person you want to become.
Leave your legacy and make your mark on this planet.
Chris Tutela is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Clark, New Jersey. He is the owner and operator of Tutela Training Systems, where he works primarily with college and high school athletes, as well as with the general population. Chris has been working with athletes since 2006, including two seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach for a high school football program in New Jersey in 2013 and 2014. He has also worked with a nationally ranked high school basketball program in New Jersey. Tutela Training Systems has a reputation for drastically developing, strength, performance, and total body transformation for athletes and clients of varying experience levels and goals.