Tie it All Together
So, I'm gonna tell a little story about a stressful incident in my life at one point. I was skating on the national team and... After that first year, I wasn't good enough to get funded to go overseas to World Cup. So I was still on the team, but I wasn't funded to go to the World Cups. And so, the coaches wanted me to stay and fix my weaknesses some more but I decided I didn't want to do that. Instead I said I'm gonna go to World Cups anyway, fund it myself, I didn't have any money, so I sold a bike, for $2,000 that I had. And so I had $2,000 and I bought a $400 ticket to Amsterdam. I flew to Amsterdam and I bought $400 worth of skates, two new pairs of skates and an extra set of blades that came in a tube. So now I had $1200 for three months in Europe. Perfect, right? And my brilliant plan was to hitchhike through Europe to all the events and then couch surf with the families at the events. And so I proceeded to do so, I had my two boxes of skates, and the two blades, I had my big ba...
ckpack with all my clothes, and I had my skate bag with my skates and skate sharpening stuff. And then I walked down to the highway, down in the underpass and stuck out my thumb. It seemed pretty straight-forward. Like you stick your thumb out, somebody picks you up, and they take you where you want to go. It didn't really work that way. I was there for an hour. And then two. And then three. Then it started raining so I had to run underneath the overpass but then it was dark in there so nobody could see me so. Then I started running out when there was a friendly-looking car. And that didn't work either, so then I got a little more clever and started doing things like this. And at least I saw heads turn. So that was starting to create some engagement and then, as luck would have it, this rusty old jalopy pulls over, four guys my age pop out, all four doors pop open, and one of them says to me, "Hey mate, where are ya going?" They were from Australia. They just bought the car that morning and they were traveling Europe for three months in it. They just arrived that morning. And I said, "I gotta get to Munich, 1,000 kilometers away. "Two days from now, there's a World Cup. "I need to get to Munich, "are you going any way that direction?" "Aye mate, we're going to Ocktoberfest." They're literally going right where I'm going. So the first car that stopped is going 1,000 kilometers to the place I'm going. I'm like alright, hitchhiking is it, this is easy. So I get in the car and they strap my stuff to the roof 'cause there's no room inside 'cause they all have their junk and they hand me a warm beer and we're off to the German border. Everything's great. And then about 20 minutes later, shiny things start shooting out from underneath the car and the engine's still running but we're coasting to a stop. They dropped the transmission in the car they bought that morning. So they got out and mourned the death of their vehicle but I had to get to Munich so I'm back out with the thumb, right? And, as luck would have it, not too much later, a giant red truck stopped. So it took awhile for them to stop, so I had to sorta run up with all my stuff. And the door pops open and there's this guy like with his head sticking out, this crazy looking guy. He looked like the, like his crazy hair and mustache and beard, and had a cigar that wasn't lit in his mouth. And he looked like the wagon trained driver from Dances With Wolves, remember that guy? Timmons, I think his name was. Anyways, he spoke no English. He spoke only French. And he didn't speak, he yelled. I don't know why but he's yelling at me in French and I'm responding in broken German and English. I'm saying, Munich. Munchin. Deutschland. Germany. And he's nodding and smiling with his cigar so what do I do, I get in and off we are. And then we went through the German border, 'cause, you know, Holland's like this big, and then I promptly fell asleep. And that was probably eight o'clock at night. I get shaken awake like five hours later and we're in the middle of nowhere and he's in my face with his cigar and he's yelling in French and I don't know what he's saying and then he's pointing and then he's pushing the door open. So I get it, I gotta get out. So I get out and he just roars off and there I am, in the middle of nowhere, there's no town, there's no lights, there's no nothing. So what do I do, I grab my stuff and I start walking a little bit and that's when I see the sign. He had sorta made a right, and the sign said Deutschland Links. (mumbles) he had gone to France, so he kept me in the right country at least. But I had no clue, this is pre-GPS, I don't have any clue where I am and that's when the heavens broke open and it started pouring. It was just the big, fat, wet drops that go right through all your clothes. It was 35 degrees. I put on my extra jacket, didn't matter, went right through, was going down the back of my spine. My teeth started chattering right away. I'm super freezing, I haven't eaten all day, and barely slept except for in the truck. And so, what do I do, I gotta keep warm, gotta keep warm. So I start jogging down the road with my stuff, I actually kept my stuff 'cause it was keeping me a little bit warmish. And it just kept raining, kept raining, and I was getting colder and colder. And as I moved away from this turn, the only light in the area disappeared and it got so dark I couldn't see so I had to turn back around and I started this ugly shuffle-jog down the road and then back. And down, and back. And that went on for half hour, and then an hour, and then two hours, and then three hours. And now it's three in the morning and at one point, I remember, I was sitting. I realized I had sat down on my bags and I didn't care anymore, and then I knew at that moment I was gonna die. There was no heat left in my body, I couldn't feel anything. And I knew one of the signs of hypothermia is you just don't care anymore. You can't feel anything. And that scared me actually enough to reframe my problem, 'cause I was solving the wrong problem. I wasn't gonna get warm by running up and down. I was exhausted, that wasn't gonna happen. So I changed track again, I had gone up the embankment, before I went up back into this field where there was like rows of freshly mowed hay and I thought to myself, alright, well, the things that mow these things, they don't drive for tens of miles, there's gotta be something at the end of this row. So I just start following a row hoping I'll find shelter or somehow get some coverage. And I got about 100 yards in and I suddenly had an idea that saved my life. And I started scooping together the grass and I started pushing it into a pile and I made a pile that was about eight feet long and about five feet wide and about five feet high. That almost took me maybe 15 minutes. And then I did the hardest thing I've ever done as an adult human being 'cause I'm frozen, and I can barely feel my hands but I took off all of my clothes. Standing naked in a field in southern Germany in the rain, I put my jacket over my head and I put on the only dry clothing I had, which was three speed skating skin suits, which were at the bottom of the other bag. And I put all three of them on, the hoods and everything. And then I shook the blades out of the tube they came in, I put the tube through the sleeve of my jacket, put it back over my head and then I burrowed directly into the center of this pile on the bottom. I turned sideways, I put the tube in front of my mouth. I could breathe, I was warm, I was safe, I was dry, I fell promptly asleep. And I was out. Then I woke up and I looked at my old Indiglo watch and it said 1:00 PM. I'm like, I can't have slept for like nine hours. And it was pitch black in there so I pull my way up through this nest of hay and I could feel the rumble of the autobahn, so I was like, okay, I made it to morning at least. And then as I parted the top, it was bright and sunshine. I had slept for nine hours, it was 1:00 PM. And then I was like, oh thank God, I'm alive. And right then, really unsettling feeling because the autobahn shut off, the rumble of the autobahn disappeared, right as I came out of the top. And I was like, that's weird, 'cause they can't see me. And that's when I turned and looked behind me to see one of the world's largest pieces of farming equipment stopped 10 feet shy of my little pile. Now what happened next, I'll never forget, 'cause it's so funny. So this guy he's just cruising along, right? Threshing his hay and then he sees this odd egg-shaped nest in the middle of this field. Now I changed in the middle of the night, I couldn't see what I put on, I had two standard issue US speed skating skin suits. But the third one I put on was a trade with this crazy Belgian guy and it was bright silver, pink, and purple, complete with a hood. So what he sees is the nest part with this purple, silver, and pink creature with this weird hood come out of it and stretches and smiles and waves. (audience laughing) His face, I'll never forget it, his face, he like leaned out of there and his mouth was just wide open. (audience laughing) So, I think that's Area 42 in Germany now. (audience laughing) Cause, you know, something hatched. And I could just see that he was like, "It looked at me." So I smiled and waved. I grabbed my stuff and I went down to the autobahn. I didn't change. So tip, if you need a ride, in bad weather in southern Germany, or good weather in this case, silver, pink, and purple skin suit wins every time. I had choices. Three cars stopped. I chose the fastest looking one. I got in it, I said where I needed to go, they took me right to the ice rink. And I got out and I didn't need to change so I got right on the ice and I started doing some laps. And so I'm skating along and then some Dutch kids, younger kids were skating behind me 'cause I'm the cool USA guy, right? 'Cause I joined the Dutch practice, 'cause I missed the US practice. And after a little while I hear like some scuffling and swearing behind me and one of the older guys, this guy Rin-tee-Rinse-Ma swings up next to me and is like, "Uh John, we have a problem." I said, "Yes?" He said, "There's grass coming off of you, "I think it's causing people to slip. "Maybe you need to change?" (laughs) So I went in the back room, shook out my skin suit, which was covered with grass and, to this day, I saw Rin-tee in Chong-Chang 'cause I work for NBC every four years and I pass him in the hallway, he's an analyst for the Dutch channel. And he doesn't break stride, he's like, "Hey Grasshopper." So I have one nickname that has stuck, at least with the Dutch team. So why did I tell ya that story? Because, core to dealing with major or minor stresses, is reframing your approach. I was solving the wrong problem, just like the first module today. If you're solving the wrong problem, you're not going to get anywhere. Trying to create body heat with no fuel in your system, after three hours of running in place wasn't gonna work. So trying something new, just a change or shifting an environment, looking at the grass, finding that ability to see things differently and create that shelter out of something that didn't originally look like a shelter was what saved my life, and it's the only reason I'm standing here right now. So I'm gonna take this a little further, because I think there's a problem in life, that a lot of people are not solving, in this case. So you're probably familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You've got your physiological needs: food, safety needs: safety and security, you ramp up the pyramid you get to belongingness and love needs, and eventually to esteem needs. And so you think about maybe somebody that graduates high school or college, they do sync back, you know they might be here by the end of college, but they drop to here because you gotta get a job, you gotta pay the rent, you've gotta get your environment settled, you gotta have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or you get married and you have your set of friends so you move up to belongingness and love, and you get to check that box. And then with hard work, for most people, they get to this place of esteem. From there they're comrades, from the people they work with, the respect that they deserve for all the hard work. And I think most people stop here. Self-actualization never comes. Because the things that lead to get you here, and this isn't a terrible place, like it's an okay place. But I certainly got here at one point and it felt like vertigo. Like I felt like I was staring at this tiny platform and my world was half-dos. The job says I have to do this, my schedule says I have to do this. I've got all these responsibilities and there's this intuitive sense of, this is it? Wait I worked this hard, I came this far, I have this money and this is it? Doesn't feel like this should be it. And the reason I think this is, is for most people, unless you were just born to be a lawyer, for example. Some people just get to go right to self-actualization. 'Cause I was born to be a lawyer and it's awesome. But I think for most people, the last step is not a step, it's a leap, it's a fall, it's a tumble. Because getting from there to there requires going all the way to the base, and a lot of people aren't willing to throw out all of their esteem, love, belong, safety, and security to find the person they should be. To design their life for the strengths they have. Most people won't do it but those that make the leap are the happiest people I've ever met. And the reason that it's so hard is because what it takes to get here is discipline, focus, risk aversion, routine, expertise, these are all the skills you need to build to get to be an expert and get the esteem of your comrades. And they're the exact opposite of what it takes for most people to self-actualize. Novelty, openness, risk, ambiguity, possibility. These are the antonyms of these words. And for most people, this is what it takes. But if you've got yourself to this precipice, you have this incredible bank. For most people I know that reach this place, and haven't gone to the next step, they have, just in simplest terms, they have a 401k, they've got money in the bank, like literally. They have another kind of bank that most people forget about, they have this bank of experience. Degree, experience, job, knowledge, expertise. That never goes away, that bank is always there. If you take the leap and you have to go back and get the regular job, big deal. Right? So what, it's always there, it's not going anywhere. If you have to tap into your 401k for six months to try this new thing that you always thought you should be, then do it, like, what are you gonna wait til your 70? That doesn't make any sense. It makes sense to make the leap when you've got the position. You have the banks in place, both your financial things in order and then also your experience base to try to find that one thing that could light you up every single day so you don't dread going to work. I was so lucky that I found it. I was complaining to Lily the other day, "Aw, man, I don't have a gig this week." I'm bummed if I don't have my job that week. And if you can find that, I mean, life is amazing. So making that leap is really important.