plane seat

Charlie and I were members of the same networking group.  We were in different cliques within the group, knew each other’s names, but that was about it.

Apparently at a group happy hour mixer, Charlie had heard me ranting about the fad diet industry — starvation, elimination, misery and then quit pattern.  Charlie was a big guy, real big — 6′ 3″.  He headed over to where I was ranting and I thought he was going to tackle me, but instead he broke out in a huge smile and asked if we could meet for lunch.  We set a lunch meeting.

We met at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple and it’s a good thing, because Charlie had a big appetite.  And he told me his story.

Charlie was a former college football player (imagine a 6,000 calories a day defensive lineman),  he said he was tipping the scales over 400lbs. which I actually didn’t believe until I got him on a scale later, he had two little kids he wanted to see grow up, the doc had him on blood pressure and cholesterol meds (have my own story on that), his father had died in his 40’s of a heart attack, he shopped at the big and tall shop and everything in his life had to be oversized (in addition to his food orders).

I listened as he listed every diet program he had tried, every book read, every gym joined, every supplement bought, and nothing worked.  He didn’t slam the programs, he simply felt they didn’t match him.  For most of the lunch I listened asking very few questions, I needed to hear what his threshold was that brought him to unload to a quasi-stranger.  And then I did hear it.

Charlie’s Threshold: “I had to buy a second seat on a Southwest flight.” 

Boom.  I could sense the embarrassment he must have felt in that moment.  He said he was so grateful he was alone and not with a work colleague or even worse, his family.  “I’ve had enough, I need to change”, he shared.

We created a plan.  We met 4 days a week at 430am at a gym right between our houses and worked out together – heavy powerlifting.  I told him that we needed to start moving and burning some of those calories he’s consuming as a first step.  Charlie always arrived 30 minutes earlier and would leave a massive sweat puddle on the floor riding a cardio bike.  Together we’d hit the weights, hard.  He was real strong and a lot stronger than me — one powerful man.  In one month without ever talking about his diet he dropped 48lbs.  The early goal we set was to just not eat more.  As time went on he actually met with a dietician and adjusted some of the foods, eating patterns and restaurants.

For two years we rarely missed a workout.  It was a great buddy accountability system for each of us, personally I had never been stronger and turned 40yo in likely the best shape of my life.  When my career took me elsewhere Charlie was tipping the scales at 280lbs., flying in one seat, off blood pressure and cholesterol meds.

Everyone’s threshold for action is different.  It’s reached when the pain of not taking action outweighs the perceived pain of taking action.


Written by: hackmike