Being an Ogre in a Tech World

IMG_3082I’m not a small guy. In fact, I’m kind of huge. People joke about me being an ogre all of the time. Most of the time, I take the joke in stride, and even relish in it.

Being in the tech community, I am especially an ogre. The typical software developer is either under 6 feet tall and 150 pounds, or under 6 feet tall, and a round 200+ pounds. That definitely is not me.

The average developer

The average developer

Most of the time, being the fit guy is a welcome thing. People like asking questions about health and fitness. People enjoy making jokes about CrossFit. Usually, it’s a good time.

Conflict is an inevitable fact of any business however. When that conflict happens, my physical appearance frequently intimidates my peers.

It’s frustrating. I’m just as civil as the next person. I would never dream of using my size to intimidate coworkers or employees. However, there’s something instinctive to people to worry about physical safety during heated arguments.

If I am threatening, my point in a situation won’t be heard. I’ll be dismissed.

So, the consequence of this, is I typically have to act more calm, and more understanding than I want to. Otherwise, I’m threatening. It’s like I have a handicap walking into discussions. I’m not being myself. I’m being a tame version of myself to accommodate the fears of others.

I used to work with a guy (many years ago), who I won’t name. Let’s say his name is Joe. Joe was about 5’7 and 145lbs. If he knew something was bullshit, he could be as animated as he wanted to be. Nobody felt threatened by it. They would respond, with their own side of things, without the fog of fear to do so.

If I were ever to respond in the same fashion as Joe, I’m pretty sure the police would be called, and I’d be in jail.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to do about it all. The only real solution is to continue to be super-sensitive to the fears of my peers. Instincts don’t change. They’re biological.

/rant 😉


Some recent events have forced me to really evaluate what motivates me. I’ve talked before about Fear and Insecurity,  and at the time I thought I had a better handle on it. However, I’ve had to deal with some harsh realities lately, that are the result of my own actions.

I was asked a pretty straightforward question about the things I’d done – Why? I couldn’t answer the question. I was frustrated, because the question was prompted multiple times, in a number of ways, yet I still couldn’t answer the question. I didn’t know why I had done things that were damaging to myself.

For whatever reason, I finally came to the conclusion – I had acted out of fear. I had done a thing, to suppress fears that I had about something else.

Realizing that is pretty important to me, because I’m starting to see that pattern in a lot of areas in my life. I buy things to distract myself from relationship insecurities. I workout to “earn” my ability to be wanted by others. I write code, to shut my monkey-mind up from tormenting me. I run away from problems, because I doubt my ability to fix them.

I wish I had answers about any of this. I don’t. I think acknowledgement is the first step. Realizing what’s happening before I react, gives me the chance to do something constructive, instead of destructive.


Yesterday, the world lost one of the best performers/comedians I’ve ever seen: Robin Williams. His death, apparently by suicide, seems also tragic. How could someone who seemed to have what most of us want, feel alone enough to end his own life.

The story of Joseph Grimaldi1) comes to mind when discussing this. It’s a story about a man who goes to a doctor about his depression. The doctor tells him to go see the famous clown at the circus. The man then tells the doctor, that he is that clown.

I’m not a clown (insert joke here), but I’m all to familiar with suicide. I’ve had serious thoughts of, and even tried, to kill myself repeatedly. The first time, I was 10 years old. Since then, I’ve struggled with it many times in my life (most recently, right before I went to rehab).

I think this would be a good time for a much more public discussion on why people get to that point. Also, it’d be a good time to talk about effective techniques for helping people who are in such a dark place.

I can only speak from my experiences, so here’s some of my thoughts about when you’re “in the trenches”:

Stuff That Doesn’t Help

  • Reality becomes a myriad of self-pity. Being told so isn’t a good thing though. Because then, it feels even worse and adds to the stigma of “what is wrong with me”.
  • Reminders of what’s good (like, “You’ve got a great job.”, or “You’re kids are amazing.”) seem half-sincere. I recall feeling like people only wanted me to cheer up, because I was a burden to them. Again, this only made me feel even worse.
  • The worst thing, ever, is to be told to get over it. It’s dismissive. It says “You’re feelings don’t matter.”. It says “Nobody cares how you feel”. Those statements only increase the desire to end it all. Feeling like you don’t matter is an awful place to be.

Stuff That Helps

  • Accomplishment always helps. Getting something done, and having a small “victory” always makes me feel better.
  • Exercise helps. I always feel better when I’m doing heavy cleans or squatting. Being in a CrossFit class, and doing the workout (especially with a team) always helps.
  • Sex helps. For that matter, simple affection helps too. Being touched, being held, always makes me feel better. I think this is my “Love Language” 3), which for me, is physical touch.
  • Alcohol helps, for a while. However, prolonged exposure to drinks makes things far, far worse. A Friday night with friends is cool, but if you’re drinking alone and playing video games in the dark – not cool.
  • Antidepressants help. I’ve been on and off Zoloft for 15 years. My mood swings seem less intense when I’m on it. That’s a good thing, because life happens. When it does, I’m less inclined to feel overwhelmed by it.
  • More than anything else, being able to talk, helps. Nobody chooses to feel this way. Being able to talk about it, and just vent, is supremely helpful. Empathic Listening 4) should be required learning in school. I swear, it would save more lives, marriages, etc than any other learn-able skill.

In summary, I’d say that nobody can ‘fix’ the person with these issues. All you can do is listen, and provide options to do things. Getting out, working out, whatever, is the only way I know to get past all of it.

Something else, perhaps more important – I really hope recent events help to further remove the stigma about suicide. This is something that a lot of people struggle with, but are scared to talk about publicly. Being known for having thoughts of suicide is bad for employment, and bad for relationships.

That’s a damned shame.

If we’re a tolerant society, if we’re going to profess to be inclusive of all people, then we need to allow people to speak publicly about how they feel. Having thoughts of suicide doesn’t make you a bad person. It means there’s something up with your brain chemistry. It means that you might need help sometimes addressing that.

References   [ + ]


Fear and Insecurity

I haven’t written anything here in a long time. A ton of things have happened since I last posted. I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just highlight the major stuff:

  • My wife and I separated
  • I found a new girlfriend
  • I was rear-ended by a semi truck
  • I moved in with my girlfriend
  • I broke up with my girlfriend
  • I moved back in with my wife
  • I developed a serious issue with alcohol
  • I went to rehab
  • I split with my wife again
  • My company was bought, and I received a sizable equity payment
  • I was laid off from my job
  • I found a new girlfriend
  • I started a new job

I’m glossing over a million important details. However, it feels good to just put out there the major events in my life, over the course of the last 16 months.

The biggest event for me, over the last 16 months though, was going to rehab. I developed more foundational skills on how to deal with my emotions there, than I had over the previous 35 years of my life. I honestly wish everyone could go, just for that reason.

The biggest thing I learned – my feelings aren’t real.

That might sound strange, but hear me out.

The world is made up of facts, realities, etc. I choose what meaning I assign to those realities.

So, if I am unable to lift a specific amount of weight for a day, I can choose how I feel about that. My reaction might be to feel inadequate. I could choose to think that I’ll never be good enough to manage that weight. I could choose to think of all of my peers who have successfully lifted that weight.

Alternatively, I could acknowledge that I’ve been training really hard lately, and some time off might be all I need to get back at it. I could choose to acknowledge how far I’ve come in the last year. I could choose to be patient with myself, and allow my body to adapt at the pace it knows how to.

This concept works in all areas of my life.

If I make a mistake at work, I can choose to feel that I am bad. I could choose to feel that I never was able to do my job. I could choose to feel like a failure.

The flip side, is that I could choose to learn from that mistake. I could choose to take steps to ensure I’m less likely to make that same mistake again.

All of this really boils down to a simple concept.

Because I am alive, things in my life have happened to make me insecure about myself. Those things are so deep in my subconscious mind, that I have no chance of completely healing them. My remaining life will be spent, dealing with the result of these insecurities (btw – this isn’t just about me. YOU have the same issues).

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned to deal with these insecurities with a variety of unhealthy behaviors. I withdraw from friends and family. I drank to numb myself. Those were my unhealthy behaviors, I’m sure you have your own.

Those behaviors never addressed my insecurities. Rather, those behaviors only reinforced the fear of inferiority that has plagued me since I was a child.

Here’s the real kicker – In order to address what I’m afraid of, I have to do exactly what I’m afraid of.

So, if I’m afraid of abandonment in a relationship, I have to give myself wholly to that relationship. I can’t control what the other person does. I can only control myself. In doing so, either the relationship works, or it doesn’t. I can’t control that. What I can control is how I choose to behave in it.

If I’m afraid of failure at work, I must still do my job to the best ability I know how. If that isn’t enough, then I will be let go. I will learn from what I was unable to do, and I will find a better job next time. What I cannot do, is withdraw behind a computer screen, trying to play a cover-your-ass game.

If I’m afraid of failing a WOD, or a max effort lift, I must still try to make that lift. I must still try. I must still summon the courage to do exactly what I’m afraid of.

I had a therapist that gave me an analogy that was helpful. It’s called “Re-Parenting” yourself.

Think of yourself as a parent, and as a child. Your irrational emotions, are the behaviors of your child self. They are the beginning of a list of events that hurt you in your life. Your ability to reason, and do the right thing, is your adult self. It is the result of growing from your experiences.

Think of your parent self, taking care of your child self. When I feel like I want to run away from something, I think of the child version of myself. I think of holding him, and reassuring him that he is enough. That he is ok.

Then I hold his little hand, and I walk into the face of fear. Together, we brazenly walk towards a better version of me.

I’m sure it sounds silly, but it’s gotten me through a ton of difficult situations in the last year. Here’s a few good links to get you started:

Raid Games

Last weekend I was able to compete in the Elite division of the Raid Games. The Raid Games are held under the umbrella of the larger Europa Games. There’s a myriad of events held there (Powerlifting, IFBB events, Wresting, etc …). Just one of those is the Raid Games.

I’m going to jump ahead of myself and say the Raid Games is easily the most awesome event I’ve ever been a part of. The huge environment surrounding the event is awesome. That there are so many folks who are able to see what CrossFitters do, is also pretty awesome.

Additionally, that I was able to hang out with my buddies from my gym, CrossFit Firebase, as well as great friends from CrossFit eXalted, CrossFit KingsPoint, CrossFit 407, and CrossFit Country was great.

I went into this event, with very little expectation of doing well. I’m glad about this. It’s my first competition in 18 months, and predictably, I did not do well. However, I was able to hang with some incredible athletes. I learned a whole lot from this. I intend to make the most of those learnings.

I’ve been training for a long time for something like this. The weaknesses in my training became immediately apparent during the event. Things like muscular leg endurance and pain threshold were clearly weaknesses of mine. I’ll adapt and train appropriately going forward.

GORUCK Challenge

On May 19 – May 20, I participated in the GORUCK Challenge Orlando event. For those of you who don’t know what GORUCK is, I’d suggest the GORUCK FAQ. Here’s a quick summary of a GORUCK challenge event:

  • Wear a backpack with bricks in it.
  • Perform various PT type exercises with a group of about 20-25 of your new best friends
  • Ruck to somewhere far away
  • Ruck back
  • Expect various factors of suckage along the way


Overall I’d call the event one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done. I’ve hung out with a number of folks who have previously completed the challenge, and was adequately warned that it would amount to as much. The camaraderie is the only thing that overcomes the difficulty. I’d highly recommend this to all friends and colleagues that are in decent shape.

Cadre – Dave

Our Cadre (guide / leader / painmaster) for the event was Dave. Dave spent 18 years in active duty doing in various roles in Special Forces. Dave was a smaller guy than I had imagined we’d be lead by. Having said that however, Dave is a monster of a man: not in the physical sense, but you can’t escape the feeling that he’s got a vast amount more knowledge about the limitations of the human mind and body than most of us could ever know.


The grossest part of the evening :/

Class 172 started at the amphitheater on Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando. Our route put us around the lake, doing various forms of PT along the way. Within an hour we had our first casualty: a member passed out, and was unable to continue. We wound up in Lake Eola (gross), running to 7-11, then through Downtown Orlando during the primetime of the night scene. We headed to the new Arena, and to the Citrus bowl (directly through the roughest ghetto in 100 miles).

Flags, Ducks, Sand ... Check.

All the while, we were carrying our own packs (mine was just under #40) and 5 bags distributed among the team (each at #50), as well as the team weight: the head of a swan boat from Lake Eola. Doing all of this would have been enough, without the extra load.

When the fireman carry got to be too much, a two man carry was employed.

From the Citrus Bowl we took the scenic route to Citywalk. We had met some of the most interesting characters Orlando has to offer during the trek. Our march to Citywalk was a mix of running, indian runs, PT, and various other mental challenges. Along the way we were threatened by the intoxicated, rewarded with hydration, and questioned by criminals.

Inchworms. The worst thing you've ever wished you hadn't been through.

We got to the entrance of Universal Studios (Citywalk) around 7:30am. We got a group shot, and were able to lighten some of the #50 sand bags we’d been hauling around for so long. By that point, the less physically trained were showing signs of weakness. That’s not to take away from what they did though. If anything, those guys pushed themselves farther than any of us. For that, they have my respect.

Because of this however, our journey back to our starting point didn’t entail any other PT. I was a bit disappointed. I had expected to be pushed farther than I ever have been before. That certainly was not the case however. I had a very difficult time, but not as much as I had been worried about.


If you’re planning on doing the GORUCK Challenge, I’d suggest a few things:

  • Be in good physical shape. Crossfit is an excellent primer for the things you’ll encounter during the challenge. Having said that however, it’s not enough. I highly recommend practice rucks and extra running
  • Bring good gear. A friend of mine let me borrow his GR-1 for the event. That thing is awesome. I’m saving my pennies to get one of my own.
  • Hydrate heavily before the event. I had a gallon of water a day prior, and experienced no cramping at all
  • Eat like a complete asshole the day of the event. You’re likely going to expend somewhere on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 calories during the challenge. Because of this you’re going to need every calorie you can consume. This isn’t the day feel guilty about pizza. Find food, and stuff yourself

Final Thoughts

I’d love to thank everyone who was a part of class 172. My friends Ben, Mirason, Brenna, and Ramon were great to have for the ride. I met a ton of awesome new friends that I can’t wait to join to complete another event. A huge thanks to Dave for being an amazing leader during the event. This was my first event. I can guarantee you it won’t be my last.