The Work-Life-Coffee-Beer Balance Experiences of an Engineering and Gym Entrepeneur

The Work-Life-Coffee-Beer Balance Experiences of an Engineering and Gym Entrepeneur

Oct 16, 2016

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In May of 2014, Eric Stone, Joe Atef, our significant others, and I, made the decision to find a location and open our own gym.  Eric, Joe and I put together a partnership agreement, found a location, and kicked it all off with both Joe and I dealing with serious injuries and recovery.  At the time I was the vice president of a technical company and had re-opened my publishing company, Success by Design, that I had previously kept idle, in order to re-publish Ernie Frantz’s Ten Commandments of Powerlifting.  My full time position was relatively demanding, but provided plenty of time for training 4-5 times per week.

In March, 2015, I had enough of dealing with issues, that had inspired my return to powerlifting in 2011 as a stress reliever, and re-opened the engineering & reliability consulting firm that I had shut down in 2009.  The reason I originally shut down was the request from the owner of the technical company to help turn around his company that I had worked with, or for, since I left the Navy in 1988.  It was a relatively easy decision – I was a corporate UAW and General Motors, US Steel, and other automotive-effected companies consultant and was burned out, following successes through 2008, from managing the effects from the economic collapse.  While the consulting firm survived the transition, and I maintained my clients, watching a great many people I knew at my clients suddenly having to accept early retirement or unplanned layoffs has an effect.  I shut things down while business was successful, but needed a breather, and agreed to a five-year contract with the former employer in 2009.

When I re-opened MotorDoc LLC, I had expected the opportunity to relax and train while building up a new client base, but I was caught off-guard.  I had made the announcement a month before leaving my previous employer and found myself sorting through a high volume of immediate requests – many from previous clients that had been awaiting my return.  This started me back into my up to 43 weeks per year travel schedule, again.  This had a pronounced and immediate impact on training, although most of my travel allowed me to train 2-3 days per week, in addition to visiting gyms throughout North America.  By December, I had formed another partnership founding a manufacturing company in California and leading into a 6-week consulting project trip to Bethesda, MD from the first week of January, 2016.

Throughout 2016, all of the businesses I owned or partnered have been growing significantly requiring expansion (2XL Powerlifting LLC branded as 2XL Strength and Fitness and moved to a nearly 11,000 sqft facility, for instance) and hiring employees.  In June, MotorDoc LLC, my engineering firm, and the parent company of Success by Design Publishing, also aquired IronAuthority.com with the primary intention of getting us back up and online.  I also continued expanding my participation in powerlifting by pursuing my WPC referee certification.  Having already been an APF referee, and having arguably the largest population of certified powerlifting judges in a gym, we’ve dubbed 2XL the ‘Judgement Zone.’

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^^Silouettes of Joe, Eric and I – banner created by one of the Team Stone athletes^^

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^^Feeling Judgemental^^

In addition to these opportunities, I serve as a webmaster for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Treasurer (and expecting to be elected this week as Vice President) of the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP), as well as chairing the SMRP Government Affairs Committee.  The result has been a significant impact on my training schedule – although I do have the opportunity to visit gyms from S. Korea to throughout the USA and Canada.

The challenge is now prioritization.  I have adjusted my training, especially with the upcoming WPC Worlds, and moved to ‘bench only,’ for the time being.  Presently, the business side of my personality is in play and I have been implementing time management techniques, such as common practices and agreements in the gym, engineering and manufacturing.  Success has allowed all of the businesses to grow, including the ‘horsepower’ to expand equipment at the gym with a common theme and very high quality.

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^^A lot of brand new equipment added to the gym for accessory work with more coming^^

My training challenges now surround controlling my weight and concentrating on progress with the single ply bench shirt that Brady Stewart provided.  It looks like I am, even with ‘chaos training,’ about to meet or exceed what I was doing in my multi-ply shirt in the single ply.  Unfortunately, I have about 10-15 lbs more to re-lose before I can get back into my multi-ply shirts – but that can wait until December.  In the meantime, I have lots of travel, reactive client issues, and – oh yeah – a World meet to prepare for.

Thank goodness as an SHW, I don’t have to worry about starving myself into a weight class!  Heck, I might even do what I did in 2014, and keep myself fed and hydrated in the weigh-in line!

I can understand why many walk away from our sport when life and business get complicated.  After all, we aren’t in it for the money.  Following my injury in 2013 I had a great many people suggest that I should walk away – but I can’t.  While I often have to train far away from my team, while wedging training into periods of time where I could rest/sleep instead, while the siren call for unbalance in the direction of business only is hypnotic, part of the reason I went into the gym business with my partners was to ensure I kept that balance.

Prior to 2011, I went 15 years without proper training or competing.  While I was the strength coach of a high school football team in Connecticut, and kept involved that way, those are 15 years of not participating in a part of my makeup, personality if you will, that I will not repeat.  I have resolved that participating with the brother and sisterhood of iron, in all its forms, will be a goal for my remaining days (decades or centuries – you never know!).

Whether I am on the stage, participating in others’ success, or being a judgemental bastard (no passes here) in business or in strength sports, I find it important that I maintain my balance – a task not always easy for an SHW – and enjoy myself.  Otherwise, there is no point.

I’ve been asked if I ever sleep.  Sometimes I will joke that coffee is my life.  But, sometimes, I sit back and sip that beer.  I actually sleep quite well, I am at peace with myself as I do what I think is right.  That, and I surround myself with like-minded people who pitch in when they can.  The result?  You would not believe how much time people waste with drama – shake it loose and be creative – personally, I just avoid it, or finish it – sometimes in a way that the very people who waste my time start saying that I’m an a**hole.

I’d rather be an a**hole and take care of those that add to everyone’s success than be the ‘nice guy’ and waste a lot of the limited time I have to make a difference on this Earth.   I’ve seen too much to get stuck in the world of the small minded or control/judgemental freaks who feel that everyone should conform to their way of thinking or beliefs.  They worry so much about everyone else that they don’t accomplish much more than one thing – and often only for a short time.

In one of my favorite examples of this, I had some guy from elsewhere in the world make a comment on a video where I wore the Leviathan Pro for the first time.  It wasn’t adjusted right and I was trying to get a feel for the weight during my recovery.  He started the whole ‘your squat is too high’ bit on a training video and how his federation would kick me out.  I took a moment and simply replied (usually I just block them) that he should read the caption.  His response was that I was an arrogant, narcisistic American and that I needed to explain myself to him.  Ironic, huh.  I blocked him and deleted his comments and watched, with amusement, as he went nuts.

Mind you, there are times when I need to releave some pressure and I go Troll Hunting – but that’s another story.

Then I got back to work losing only about 10 minutes of my day while noticing how many folks lose it and get into battles with these folks.  In another layer, I participate in NIST and Homeland Security Cybersecurity committees as part of SMRP, I observe all of this internet interaction with interest and watch people get entangled with the impersonal world of the computer.  It is easy for people to be anonymous and take out their insecurities on others that are doing what they can only wish that they could do.  So, they do whatever they can to foul up, break down, psychicly harm and maybe even defeat someone better than them with a few choice words on a screen that they would not dare do face-to-face.  In effect, the ‘victim’ is doing it all to themselves.

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^^Presenting to NIST, Homeland Security, and White House on a Global Forum – then I went to the local gym and did reverse band bench – and, yes, I did use 2XL in one of my examples so they all got to hear about my gym and partners^^

I suppose I’m used to people attempting to throw nonsense around because they can hide behind the company they work for.  I usually refer to this as ‘engineering intimidation.’  However, you cannot put BS up against knowledge and you quickly find out that these people fall far on the ignorant side.  I’ll either ignore or crush them and move on.

So, while you are deciding what you need to do, how to move forward, how to succeed, start looking at how you are balancing your life.  Are you leaning too heavily in one area?  Is that a bad thing?  Really, what it comes down to is setting your priorities.  If you have a life-goal of a particular lift, success in business, success with family, etc., you need to ensure that your balance leans in that direction.  Most of our strength sports thrive on our personal goals and, if that is where you are focused, surround yourself with like-minded people that balance what you have and kick ass.

For instance, when I look at 2XL, each of the partners provides value to the overall business.  If we all had exactly the same abilities, then we would have failed.  But we have a businessman, a top level trainer and a strong lifter – each of us know people, as well, that enhance what we do and we all have the same long-term goals for the gym (and we all do pretty good on the platform).  I also like to think that we are also into it for the right reasons and attract the type of members that we want, and we have.  We stay away from drama with the result that the gym feels like a safe home for everyone involved.  The result is a very low turnover (business expression) of members and training clients resulting in less stress, resulting in more success, etc., etc.

In the immortal words of ‘Super-D’ – ‘See you on the platform.’

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