I am traveling today and I met a man in the Atlanta airport. He was a super fit “buff” guy that looked like he could squash me with one finger if he chose to do so. He was wearing a tank top, had several tattoos and was wearing sunglasses on the train and his hat was on crooked. I say this explain that he looked intimidating and he looked like he didn’t want to be bothered by anyone. Of course, when has that ever stopped me?!
I have learned a few things about people (and myself) over the years. Most of the time when people look the most like they don’t want to be bothered, it is probably the time that they most need and want people in their lives. As I looked at this intimidating guy, I also noticed that he had a huge scar down the entire length of his tricep. It was about a 1/2′ wide and must have been at least 12-15″ long. It looked painful.
As we both got off the train and he gave me a bit of a “I’m tougher than you so get out of my personal space” look, I said to him very politely, “oh man, that scar on your arm looks like it hurt like hell.” That was all I had to say. I had a new friend. His tough guy exterior left immediately and he started talking with me like we were old friends. As we walked off the train, up the escalator and towards each of our gates I heard his story. He was a professional arm wrestler and he tore his bicep 20 minutes into a semi-final match. He said that it hurt so bad but he was determined to win and he blocked out the pain, kept fighting and eventually won the match. What a freakin’ bad ass! Seriously, he tore his bicep and kept competing AND he even won. Unfortunately he did so much damage to his muscle that he had to be taken to the hospital and he was not able to compete in the finals.
He told me the worst part of it all was post surgery. He said the first 2 days after surgery that his arm hurt so bad that he actually called his mom and cried. He even said, “I’m a grown man but the pain was so bad that I kept calling my mom and cried to her because she was the only one that I was willing to cry in front of.” Yet, he just shared his entire story with a complete stranger, in Terminal B, of the Atlanta airport.
So, what do we make of this? What are the key takeaways from this story and how do we apply it to our lives. Here is what I think. What do you think?
- No matter how intimidating people may appear, people are always friendly when you talk about them. If you can find something that is important to them, they will like you, open up to you and share their story. When you do that enough with enough people, I believe that we reap what we sow and favor, encouragement and opportunity will start to chase us down and overwhelm us with positive outcomes.
- Even tough guys cry to their moms. But, that is not the end of his story. He spent 9 months in physical therapy then he said he had to start all over with extremely light weights (of course his light weights were probably more than most of us could handle on a good day) and work his way back. He is back competing and honestly seemed to light up when he talked about his career. My takeaway from him was never ever ever ever quit. Plus, when you are crystal clear on your identity and intentional with your time and activities, challenges are never the end of your story. They are just opportunities to focus more, get stronger and go farther.
I am sure there is a lot more that we can take from this story but my flight is about to leave. What spoke to you from this story and how are you going to be intentional with what you learned? I would be grateful if you would share it with us all. Your opinion and your story matter!