Eric Stevens

Fitness Speaker, Author & Personality

Eric Stevens is a health and fitness coach, trainer and practitioner. Eric has broadened that body focused fitness with writing, presenting and acting in order to reach people, change lives, and create dialogue.

Filtering by Tag: Self Awareness

Response Ability

I had my first summer job in junior high. My Dad knew someone who needed sort of a ‘gopher’ for a heavy equipment company. The job was located in the industrial area of Portland, which was full of warehouses, truck stops, and machine shops. Though it was a mere 20 minutes from where I lived, for an upper middle class kid from the suburbs, it might as well have been Greece.

My parents were emphatic that I get a summer job and felt the experience of working in the shop would be good for me, so every day my Mom drove me to and from work in the family sedan. To say the shop guys raised their eyebrows at this Mercedes chauffeured, smart-ass kid from the west side was an understatement. On my first day, I was asked to fetch a 7/16 wrench from the toolbox, and I just looked at the guy as if he were speaking a foreign language. “A what???”

Still, despite my initial apprehension and my lack of technical skills notwithstanding, I gradually warmed up to the experience. I felt like a big boy drinking bad coffee and taking grief from the guys. Plus, I had a little spending money in my pocket and as a pre-driving teenager, I had fun driving golf carts and turf equipment to my heart’s content.

One day I was driving a little too fast out in the shop yard and while cutting a corner sharply, I badly scraped a golf cart on a piece of scrap metal. My first instinct was to look around the yard. I couldn’t see anyone for miles. “Thank God. These carts are beat to hell anyway and no one will ever know,” I thought to myself. Then, amidst my planning and scheming ways not to get caught, a voice of reason took over…”Do the right thing Eric.”

I walked into the shop and found Frank, the foreman, to tell him what had happened. “I was goofing off driving too fast in the yard and I messed up the side of one of the carts pretty badly.” Frank looked me dead in the eye and said, “Eric, I appreciate your honesty and you taking responsibility. If it happens again, you’re fired.”

Though they had tolerated me, I don’t think those guys in the shop thought I was worth much of a damn with my polo shirts and designer jeans. They were a rough and tough bunch; blue-collar guys who measured your value by your work ethic and what you could do with your hands. I was about as far from tough and handy as you could get. But at least on that one occasion, they respected that my parents had taught me to do the right thing. One of the guys even took me aside and told me it took real guts to go in and tell Frank the truth. It’s a memory that has stuck with me for over 30 years.

I wish I could tell you that since then I’ve been able to live up to the example of my 15-year old self throughout my life. But truthfully, I haven’t always been truthful. I’ve had more than my fair share of failing to speak up, step up and admit my wrong doings. Honestly, over the years I’ve cared a lot more about my image and appearance than uprightness.

In our social-media inspired ‘look at me’ culture, a genuine heart-felt apology is a rarity. Frankly, it pays to portray a carefully crafted and constructed image of awesomeness and assuredness, versus the vulnerability of humility, remorse and forgiveness. As Andre Agassi once said, “image is everything.”

In the era of seeking validation and popularity, the ability to respond is a lost art. When the notion of responsibility does actually rear its head, it’s seems to be only as a last resort. But admitting guilt once the cat is out of the bag isn’t the same thing as truly taking responsibility. Saying you’re sorry when you’re out of options and under pressure doesn’t really count. In the modern news cycle, stories of scandal dominate the headlines and the obligatory half-assed response occurs only after the jig is up, if at all. This trend has been going on for so long now that we pretty much accept a lack of responsibility as normal.

After years of accusation and speculation, Lance Armstrong only admits guilt after his ongoing brash, arrogant defiance. Back in the steroid era of baseball, while under Congressional oath, Rafael Palmeiro blatantly lied while Mark McGwire took the 5th.  Kevin Spacey remains silent despite dozens of credible accusations. Bill Cosby expresses no remorse whatsoever for his actions and when the Harvey Weinsteins of the world actually do get caught red handed, they play the ‘I have a sickness and am getting help card’ as if the sickness (and not their own actions) were to blame.

What ever happened to ‘I hurt people and I messed up bad. I did it and it was really, really wrong.’ That’s a good place to start. Mistakes and royal screw-ups are a guaranteed part of the human condition. Unfortunately, humility and self-reproach are not. ‘I made a mistake and I am going to try and fix it’ requires a moral compass while ‘I’m never wrong’ or ‘I have all of the answers’ simply requires narcissistic arrogance.

We need to stop judging others by the mistakes they’ve made or what news network they watch. Instead, we need to judge others by their response to their mistakes. Our dialogue needs to change from black and white, red and blue, right and left to the more refined qualities of meekness and responsibility. Those who display the ability to respond deserve our patience and understanding and those who don’t, do not. The complexity of our times demands the simplicity of humility.

I like baseball regardless of steroids and PEDs. I rooted for Lance when he was hoisting yellow jerseys. I watched The Cosby Show religiously as a kid and I still think it was groundbreaking TV. I think Kevin Spacey is a great actor. I still appreciate Tiger’s greatness and he will likely go down as one of the best golfers that ever lived. That said, our ultimate reputation isn’t marked by our accomplishments or transgressions, but by our responses to life’s inevitable stormy waters.

The ability to respond is to be “morally accountable for one’s actions.” Every athlete, movie star and politician makes mistakes. We all do. But as my parents tried to teach me, the right thing to do is to get out in front of our missteps and face the music. To heal requires forgiveness of self and others. Healing also requires the ability to step up. It isn’t talent, success or mistakes that defines us; it’s the ability to respond that makes a lasting impression and defines character.

Earth Weights

I reached out to my Mom recently seeking some advice and wisdom regarding a burden I’ve been carrying around for some time. As always, she reminded me of the benefits of gratitude, the power of prayer, and the importance of expressing my true nature.

It’s wisdom I’m fortunate enough to have heard throughout my life and applicable regardless of life’s circumstances. Hearing it again was enough to snap me out of my funk and lift my spirits a bit. But Mom also said something to me in our conversation that I hadn’t heard that stopped me cold in my tracks. “Eric, you need to drop those earth weights.”

I had to laugh, as I have been an avid weightlifter for nearly 30 years. I started lifting weights in college. Not being a super athletic kid, I had never actually even been in a weight room during my formative high school years. But once I was introduced to pumping iron, I was hooked. From that fateful day my college roommate Chris took me to my campus weight room, I’ve been a gym rat ever since. 

There was a feeling of control that I loved in fitness and the simplicity of the notion that effort + intensity = results. While I couldn’t control my God given attributes like being smart, handsome, or athletic, I could control the sets and reps in the gym. It’s a lifelong habit that I have always been proud of. While the virtues of a consistent fitness regimen are widely touted and too many to list, a passionate dedication to exercise has also led me to my professional vocation in fitness.

Indeed, weightlifting has been a big part of my life, but recently I have come to realize that my exercise wasn’t the only ‘weightlifting’ habit I picked up in college. Metaphorically speaking, the hindrance of carrying around emotionally heavy weights was also an obsession I picked up as a young man. My personal and professional aspirations also came with underlying currents of seeking validation and approval from others.

One of life’s heaviest burdens is the desire for popularity, whether it’s the approval of Mom and Dad, fitting in with peers, or climbing the corporate ladder. For me, I was the perfect storm for an approval-seeking fixation - an actor striving for applause, a writer hoping for ‘likes,’ and the common individual seeking acceptance from his friends and family. Add in the fact that I am a known pack rat (I sill have baseball cards from my childhood, countless collectibles, and even hundreds of CD’s I’ve acquired over the years) and I’ve always been a prime candidate for lugging heavy loads around. It’s no wonder I took to weightlifting with such vigor and enthusiasm!

Too much ‘weight training’ over the years has taken a toll on me both physically and emotionally. My back hurts chronically from too many squats and deadlifts and my stomach hurts frequently from too much anxiety. In confronting the false notion of physical control, I’ve also noticed the ball and chain of the emotional weight that I’ve been schlepping around from place to place. This awareness has allowed me to practice releasing the burden of resistance and instead develop flexibility, adaptability, and acceptance.

The strain of lugging around the heavy load of earth weights is something all of us deal with and with the constant bombardment of technology and social media; the desire for validation seems particularly acute these days. The constant striving for approval must be confronted or the inevitable hardships disappointments and traumas get heavier and harder to move around. If not dealt with and tossed aside along the way, at some our earth weights point become simply unbearable.

In the Bible we are instructed to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” While many follow the command to rightfully treat others with empathy, dignity and respect, sometimes lost in the shuffle is how we treat ourselves. As our society falls deeper into the abyss of narcissism, addiction, and distraction, one common theme emerges – a lack of self-love.

Peeling back the layers of the primal urge to feel necessary and loved brings one full-circle to the true foundation of self-love. Loving your neighbor, establishing purpose, and finding happiness doesn’t start with establishing what we like or who we love; it starts with loving ourselves. To truly love with authenticity, we need to free ourselves of excess baggage and heal our open wounds. To do so can only be achieved when we finally drop those earth weights and step into selfless love.







Question Authority

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."   Winston Churchill

Back in the day when John Cougar Mellencamp fought the authority, the authority always won. And so it seems for many of us – authority appears to hold infinite power. Our mega companies and bosses, our churches, pastors and priests, and certainly the literal authorities seemingly hold all of the cards. Even in the construct of our communities and families, there is a powerful underlying influence of conformity that keeps many of us in check.

America hates a loser and the cultural norm is to hold contempt for failure. Because of such immense societal pressure, many would rather sit down and stay quiet than face the prospect of a lost battle. After all, when you pick a fight, you don’t fight to lose. And if Mellencamp was right - the authority always wins - then what’s the point of fighting ‘the man’ in the first place? With such logic, many of us choose to avoid conflict and stay on the sidelines of apathy, comfort, and complacency.

The predominance of passivity and apathy may seem like trends that are here to stay, but it hasn’t always been that way. America was founded on the ideals of resistance to authority and standing up for the rights of the oppressed and marginalized. That said, the great irony of the American ideal (success at all costs) is that it also carries with it a dark underbelly of oppression, abuse, and violence. ‘Me first’ can also mean ‘you last.’

This ebb and flow cycle of resistance and avoidance has played itself out throughout the history of our nation. In modern history, the resistance movements of civil rights, women’s rights and LBGT rights have also been paralleled by the movements of corporate consolidation and greed, bigger and increasingly gridlocked government, and inequality through the disparity of wealth.

In the hangover of the tumultuous 1960’s, the notion of conflict avoidance gained continuous momentum. Rocking the boat lost its luster and in its place, comfort and complacency became en vogue. If the 80’s was the “Greed is Good” decade, the presiding themes that seem to hold sway in modern times are that of ego, image, and self-preservation.

Pop culture promotes such a zero-sum equation played out salaciously on reality television and in our constant mind-numbing newsfeeds. The end goal is the top of the pyramid (famous, rich, and beautiful) and the way is paved with playing the game, a carefully manicured self-image, and how many ‘followers’ one can amass. I have a dream has been replaced by what’s in it for me.

Greed and selfishness seem to be top American values, but that isn’t what we’re built on. We’re build on resistance. We’re built on fighting for the rights of the little guy. We’re built on the rising tide that lifts all boats, not just the yachts.

As cookie cutter monopolies have come to define our way of business and inept government has become the norm, more and more folks are stepping out to challenge the status quo. And yet it’s evident that in many ways, in the haze of our comfortable slumber, we’ve forgotten how to stand up and resist. It’s time for a crash course:

Resistance isn’t insulating yourself with those that agree with you.

Resistance isn’t simply putting up a hashtag and feeling like you’ve done your part.

Resistance isn’t shouting and screaming louder…it’s letting others do the shouting and screaming and holding a mirror up to hatred and insanity.

Resistance starts with the most important battle you can wage - challenging your own ego and limiting self-serving beliefs.

Resistance is humility, the willingness to listen, and an unwavering commitment to justice and truth.

Resistance is putting your money where your mouth is and putting your ass on the line.

I tend to agree with John Cougar Mellancamp - it does indeed seem like the authority wins a lot of the time. But the pages of history tell a different story. All important and significant political, scientific, and cultural movements start with ideas counter to the establishment. The authority may win a lot of battles, but truth always wins the war.

Corporate America, our news/social media, and the polarizing political landscape can seem like lonely and terrifying places to reside these days. But as the truly great advancements in history corroborate - there are a lot more of us than there are of them. If enough of us resist the forces of ego, selfishness, and greed, then justice will prevail.




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