Book Jeff

Simba in the Sauna

I was always that kid. I’ve always been that guy. Never athletic. Never coordinated. Let’s just say that giving me a brain tumor (resulting in multiple falls and multiple fractures), let alone two, really wasn’t playing fair!

For example, I scored exactly zero points on my youth basketball team, smashed my mouth on the first play of tee-ball, and broke my left arm in four places from a thirty-five-foot fall from a tree…and I was Just Getting Started!

Imagine my excitement when, twenty-two years ago, I moved to Southeastern Arizona to start my career in higher education and discovered that my office was directly across the street from an Army recreation center named “Barnes Field House.”

Finally! I thought. My name associated with athletic endeavors in a positive and encouraging light!

A few weeks after settling in, my assistant dean and I signed up for civilian passes to “Barnes Field House” so we could start working out during lunch. He was a recently retired first class army sergeant, so I knew there was no way I could keep up with him during our workouts. No worries, I told him, so we agreed to meet up afterwards in the sauna.

Just as we were stepping into the sauna, he noticed I was carrying my Disney pool towel, featuring Simba from the Lion King, draped over my shoulder. “Jeff, what are you doing? What are you thinking? You can’t bring that in here!”

“What? Why?”

“Jeff. This is an Army Post. These are men. Real men. Men who go off and fight wars. You can’t bring that towel. You can’t bring that towel into this sauna!”

Stunned, I sauntered up to the front, tail between my legs, and asked if they had a more appropriate towel I could borrow. Unfortunately, they did. Back then, I didn’t have the courage to just be “me,” so I swapped my towel for theirs.

Two decades later, I look back on that story and can’t help but laugh. “Simba in the Sauna” became an example of me almost always behaving like the person I know I am…clueless, uncoordinated, unathletic…and the name on the building was never going to change or fix that.

I now know, however, that mindset might change it. Tony Robbins often talks about how “human beings follow through on who they believe they are.” As we get deeper into 2023, instead of working harder on your resolution(s), let me encourage you to work harder on your mindset. Don’t just change what you do; change how you think about who you are.

Just like twenty years ago, I am still trying to get into better shape. Who isn’t? Eighteen months ago, I bought a Peloton, and so far it’s worked great…as a clothes hanger. In my defense, early last year my physical therapist told me to stay off it following my fall in Boston. Eventually, that just became another excuse and the bike began to stare at me, eyeing me, giving me that guilty look of another failed purchase, another failed membership, another failed me.

In early November, during a flight home from Canada, I decided to do a mind shift. I was going to ride consistently for the next thirty days no matter what. At the end of those thirty days, if I didn’t love the bike, then I would sell it. More importantly, I shared this decision with a friend, Rob, who agreed to be an accountability partner and start riding his again as well.

After only a couple of rides, I loved it. Sometimes I ride for forty-five minutes, sometimes I ride for five. But I ride every day I am home, and it pushes me to get in extra steps when I am on the road, too.

Who have you always been that you no longer want to be? How can you shift your thinking so you show up in a new and different way over the next thirty days? Who can you call to hold you accountable?

For a lot of folks, the focus in January is health and fitness. The good news is if you want to get in shape, it’s not too late to get in on a New Year gym membership promotion. When you go, leave Barnes behind, but bring Simba with you!

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