How $20.01 Changed My Life

In my last episode, I discussed my foray into the world of physical fitness. I joined Navy SEAL PT, a Richmond, VA, training group led by former Navy SEAL John McGuire. Boot camp was held every morning from 5:45 to 6:45 at various locations around the city.

We ran, jumped, ran, did sit-ups, ran some more, learned to yell “Hooyah” to answer any questions asked… and learned a lot about teamwork.

I have just completed my 10-day boot camp with a healthy respect for people who exercise regularly. I used to refer to them as fanatics who would probably drop dead from exertion but leave a pretty corpse. No longer. I realized that I’ve spent my whole adult life focusing on the muscles above my neck rather than those below.

Without getting too mystical here, I’ve taken away some lessons that can be applied to our work lives…

The first day of training, we were tested on the number of sit-ups and pushups we could do in two minutes. Then we were tested on pull-ups and a 1.5-mile run. Needless to say, I didn’t excel at any of them. I established a baseline so low, I couldn’t help but beat it. We had to shout out our results in front of everyone and then yell “personal record!” when we beat own best times.

At the end of day 10, we were tested again. I improved in two categories, shaving a healthy 1 minute, 45 seconds off my time in the run. And best of all, I didn’t walk during the entire 13 minutes, 54 seconds.

Do you measure performance at your office? Do you set goals that can be accurately measured to see if you’re on track? If not, start writing everything down — and see how much more you can accomplish. I mean more than just a to-do list; put metrics against things, and watch the improvement.

At SEAL training, we completed the 10th day of workouts and were then brought back to the high school parking lot for our graduation ceremonies. In the middle of a group of 50 or so fellow workout partners, we were called up one by one to receive a certificate of completion and the official Navy SEAL PT T-shirt.

When my name was called and I limped up to the front, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time — pride in an accomplishment that had nothing to do with writing. As I shook Instructor McGuire’s hand and accepted the shirt and certificate, I shook my head in disbelief. I was being recognized for something other than putting pen to paper.

Growing up the spaz in my grade, I was rarely picked for any team before the bitter end. (And let’s not even talk about the Dodge Ball Incident of ’68.) Once I grew older, I forgot about physical activity and figured that my pen and my mouth could do my heavy lifting for me. Getting a certificate and T-shirt gave me a rush that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Are you rewarding everyone in your organization for a job well done? You don’t have to spend a lot of money or invest a lot of time in rewarding coworkers. Right now, there are probably lots of people in your organization either scared of losing their jobs or actively looking for new ones. Those lookers aren’t moving for more money, they’re probably feeling underappreciated. It happens everywhere, and it can be avoided.

Make it a policy to reward several people a week and then tell the world about it. You can put the good news out via email, in your corporate newsletter, or at a company event. When I worked at Capital One, we had something called Rays of Sunshine. If someone did something above and beyond the call of duty, he or she received a Ray of Sunshine. At the end of every month, one Ray receiver would win a lunch and be recognized at our monthly marketing meetings. It’s a small thing, but everyone wanted to win one.

SEAL Team PT has done several things for me over the past two weeks:

  • It made me realize that my body could be used for more than a place to hang clothes.
  • It underscored the importance of teamwork and the need to rely on others.
  • It helped me understand that slow and steady progress usually beats quick bursts of energy.
  • It made me realize that a $20 T-shirt and a $0.01 certificate can mean more than I ever imagined.

I’m continuing with SEAL Team PT at least three days a week. I’ve seen an amazing transformation already — and I don’t just mean in my muscles. I’m calmer, I’m slower to get frustrated, and I don’t have to buy pants in the size I vowed never to own. And judging from all the emails I received after my last article, lots of other people out there are doing the same thing. To all of you I say, “Hooyah! and keep up the great work.”

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