Originally published on SubStack, November 18, 2021
If you were a character in an amazing novel, what things would you do to be the hero of the story? What challenges would you take on? How would you grow and what would you look like at the end of the book?
I had a friend as a kid – middle school through high school – whose name was Viktor. Many times, when asked who was the most influential person in my life, I reply with his name. We’ve lost contact since graduating high school, but he will remain my greatest influence – whether he knows it or not.
What did Viktor do that influenced me so much? He ran.
Sure, lots of people run. But Viktor was athletic. In fact, Viktor was overweight, just as I was back in those days. In fact, I remember once, when both Viktor and I were pudgy adolescents, he was at my house and my Mom bought Little Ceasar’s pizzas (back then you got two for the price of one). Viktor and I stood at the counter just eating slice after slice of pizza; no talking, no sitting, just a bona fide gorge fest. It was something we had in common and we were comfortable with it.
Then, one day, I noticed Viktor had lost a LOT of weight. At that moment, I felt as though something was lost (other than the weight, of course); that the bond we had as chubby buddies dissolved. At the same time, I felt envious of his new physique while I still was rotund. I asked him how he lost all that weight. His answer was simple:
My mind exploded! Viktor wasn’t athletic. He didn’t walk as much as lumbered around with a slouch. He was a metalhead who donned a jean jacket with a patch an Iron Maiden patch sewed upon its back (I remember it being Iron Maiden, or was it Black Sabbath, or Metallica, or Megadeath, or…). The idea of Viktor running for his health did not compute in my mind.
But, just because it didn’t compute in my mind, didn’t mean it wasn’t real. All of a sudden, all my ingrained beliefs and assumptions about people were tossed into the air like a game of 52 Card Pick-Up. I was the fat kid. I had always been the fat kid. In my mind, that was how God had made me and I was dealing with it. But now I saw with my own eyes how a person could shift their reality. Mind blown!
Viktor created a new reality for himself. He was not satisfied with an aspect of his life, so he changed it with brute strength and determination. Perhaps he could have accomplished the same thing with a Keto diet, but this was circa 1990, still in the era of Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and low-fat (usually high-sugar) food. Exercise was the answer, albeit not the best one in hindsight, but I digress.
Viktor inspired me to run. I lost 65 lbs over the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. Like Viktor, I changed my reality as I changed my physical and mental state. I realized that, if I am not satisfied with an aspect of my life (which usually is the result of laziness, neglect, or apathy), I must do something to change it. I will add that it must be a positive method. There’s an old joke I used to tell as a kid:
“How do you lose 10 pounds of ugly weight? Cut off your head!” Sure, that could work, but it’s not optimal.
The reward of accomplishing something wonderful is not the “something wonderful” at the end, but the gains in strength of character throughout the process. This leads to a better life with whatever was accomplished as the cherry on top.
The 2013 version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” represents this in a fun and beautiful way. If you haven’t seen it, do so. If you have seen it, see it again with fresh eyes. It’s an amazing journey. Inspiration like this can add fuel to your fire, or, at the very least, give a spark to kindle something inside.
Now, some may say that an even more influential quote would be “I am.” I’m a Christian and I would agree that those two words phrased like that, specifically in the context of Moses, are the most powerful words in the universe. Yet, “I am” is a statement that holds power on its own; more static than action-oriented. “I ran,” stated in the context of my buddy Viktor, is influential. Anyone can say, “I am this or that” and work toward something. And, if they say “I am _______” (enter an already accomplished feat like “a world-famous tap dancer” or “Olympic gold medal winner”), that only announces their accomplishments. “I ran” is akin to “I endured” or “I believed.” It doesn’t highlight the accomplishment as much as it gives insight into how that person was able to do whatever wonderful thing he or she did.
I’ll ask again: If you were a character in an amazing novel, what things would you do to be the hero of the story? What challenges would you take on? How would you grow and what would you look like at the end of the book?
Imagine yourself as that character, that hero. Imagine someone asking you how in the world were you able to do such an amazing thing! Your answer would be, “I ______.”
If you’re not yet that hero, that means there’s something missing in your life. It’s that blank in your answer, “I _______.”
Fill in the blank.