My world record idea, by Coach Chris
My “office” was really a storage room that they’d crammed a desk and computer in, piled high with stacks of medical release forms.
Take a form from the stack. Look up the person on the computer. Type in the check number. Make a copy, then put it in the “Done” pile. Repeat until lunch. Then repeat again until 5pm.
That was my work life, for about a month during the summer of 2008, between my sophomore and junior years of college. It was a step up in pay from my previous summer gig working at a berry farm, but a big step up in repetitiveness too. At least I was in air conditioning, and nobody is complaining about the size of the strawberries, I told myself.
After a few days after I started, I had the job on autopilot. I tried everything to pass the time. Listening to music, podcasts, the Euro 2008 soccer games on the radio, timing myself to see how fast I could do 100 papers. But eventually I just started letting my mind wander, daydreaming for hours at a time while my hands did the work. Look up the person, type in the check number, copy, next. Over and over. A thousand times per day.
In my hours and hours, day after day of literally being a paper pusher, letting my mind wander, I got an idea in my head: I should try to break some sort of world record!
A pretty ridiculous thought, but what did I have better to think about at the time? Nothing. I was happy to have a train of thought to follow for a while.
So I started thinking, what am I good at? What world record could I break? During my lunch breaks (and any chance I could get) I investigated my world record ideas, seeing which ones appeared doable. Most were not. Plank for 14 hours? Pass.
One idea I had was setting a world record for the longest journey on inline skates. I looked up the current record, which was held at the time by a 50 year old dude from Thailand, who skated all over Southeast Asia to set the record. He hadn’t even learned to skate until he was in his 40s! He set the record on insane, barely-paved roads in the countryside of Thailand! If he could do it, I could do it.
I had the thought: “I can beat that.”
A seed was planted in my soul at that second. I could hardly think about anything else. I had to make this happen.
Fast forward two summers later: I embarked on Rolling to Rebuild. I skated 2,500 miles across the country to raise money for new schools in Haiti after the earthquake. I didn’t actually go for a world record, but the journey and fundraising effort was a direct result of the seed of an idea I had in that glorified closet two summers before.
That skating journey introduced me to the world of inline speed skating and racing, which then became a huge part of my life for years after.
I started working out in Matt Meyer’s garage gym to get better at speed skating, which introduced me to functional fitness classes for the first time. I was totally hooked.
Eventually I started filling in as the instructor once in a while when Matt was out of town. I brought lots of friends and family to the garage to work out with me. Turns out I had a knack for coaching.
Here I am in 2020, ten years after Rolling to Rebuild, owning a gym, which feels like my true calling. And I can trace it all back to that office temp job in 2008.
There are a few takeaways I see now, looking back on how all of this played out.
First: For those of you feeling stuck in a monotonous or unfulfilling job: you could be looking back on this 10+ years from now recognizing this as a part of your “origin story.” All of our experiences make us who we are. It might not happen today, or tomorrow, but keep your heart and mind open.
Second: I’m convinced that at some point in our lives, we get these seeds planted for a “crazy” idea. Something that seems way too big, too “out there,” too hard to actually do. But it sticks with us. I think most of us force ourselves to dismiss and squash those dreams before we let them get too big. I get it — quitting your day job to write that novel is probably totally impractical. Better to stay with the sure thing, right? For some people, yes. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s simultaneously the most freeing, and most terrifying thing out there. You’re trading security now for freedom later.
My hope is that the next time you feel that big pull on your soul towards something big and bold — you give it time to sit there for a while, before you dismiss it. Give it a chance to breathe — what would it take to do this? What’s the worst case scenario if I try and fail, and what’s the likelihood of the worst case scenario happening? EVEN IF YOU DO FAIL: The connections, lessons, passions, and skills you learn along the way will lead you to the next thing. THAT thing might be where you really belong. But if you’d ignored that urge, that feeling in the pit of your soul, you would never have found where you truly belong.
That crazy idea might be the thing you were meant to do with your life. Or, it might be a stepping stone towards the next big thing. You can’t know until you try.
Right now I have the best job in the world — helping people get healthier and happier through really sweaty workouts and dad jokes. I ended up here by noticing that little thread tugging on me, and following it down the rabbit hole in that cramped storage room 12 years ago. Did I feel like a lunatic telling my family I wanted to break the world record for longest inline skating journey after graduation? 100%. But where would I be now if I hadn’t?
I have no freaking clue what I’d be doing with my life right now, had I not taken that temp job, or if I had talked myself out of pursuing my crazy idea.
Don’t bury those crazy ideas. That fire and passion you feel in your gut is something to cherish and use. Some people may never feel it — or never let themselves feel it. Some people will actively look to squash other people’s dreams, because they haven’t found their own yet, or are bitter that they haven’t gone for it themselves.
As I said, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Maybe you have no idea what I’m even talking about with all this nonsense about fires in your stomach. If that’s you, my ask is this: if someone you love tells you about their own crazy idea, fight your instinct to shoot it down or poke holes in it, unless they’re specifically asking you to help them vet an idea. I wonder sometimes how many great ideas the world has lost out on, only because the person with the idea tells their friend, or parent, or spouse only to have the idea scoffed at immediately.
What I can offer you is this: If you get that crazy idea, and you feel that conviction burning a hole straight through you, you can talk to me. I’ve been there. I won’t dismiss it. I won’t tell you it’s stupid. I’ll do whatever I can to help you make the connections you need to actually flesh out your idea. Will they always work out? Of course not. But there’s only one way to find out…and I think the world needs more people who are driven by passion.