“Come to the table. We’ll make room. But please BRING something.”

My friend and mentor, Shante always talks about collaboration not competition and spits pure fire when she says, “If there isn’t room at the table, build a bigger table!” I agree 100%, but I’d be lying if I said the younger version of AZ felt that way. Even a few years ago, I would have feared sharing a table with professionals that looked too much like me. Thankfully, that has changed!

As usual, I’ll start with a little backstory. In August 2018, the Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Network put out a call for proposals to present at their Symposium this past march. I threw my hat in the ring and was honored to be selected. As the symposium approached, one of the other presenters interviewed each of us to be featured on his podcast (shout out to Jon Sanders!!!)

Through that podcast experience, I noted that another fitness professional was in the mix at the conference (oh hey there Chris Marella: 4th Shift Fitness). I can’t honesty say whether I reached out to Chris first, or he reached out to me, but we stayed in pretty constant contact in the 2 months leading up to the symposium. We bounced ideas, opinions and technical questions (as well as quality memes obviously), so by the time the symposium rolled around, we were old friends. I was even invested in baby-watch 2019—congrats Katie, that baby is gorgeous!

My fellow co-workers were quite shocked at the venue when I bee-lined for Chris (the {gasp} competition). They joked “dude, why are you co-mingling with your competition???” And they were kidding of course, but not entirely. Because in our society, most people see others in their direct sphere as competition.

But instead, we have become collaborators which is golden! And why did that process marinate organically and create magic instead of a cesspool of petty competition? We can sit at the table together and we both BRING THINGS!

We don’t agree on everything and that’s actually very important. Having a circle of humans that simply create an echo chamber for yourself is dangerous. But philosophically and fundamentally we agree. And when we disagree, we can see the other’s point and graciously move on.

We also look out for one another. I found an opportunity for presenting at another event and I immediately forwarded Chris’ information to the organizer and they connected. I needed a suggestion for advertising swag and Chris had the hook-up as well as the solid suggestion of where not to go. In short, we add value to one another’s professional, and dare I say personal lives. I’m invested in his success just as much as he’s invested in mine.

But why?

We both CARE fundamentally about the same thing: firefighter health and wellness. And it’s not in the best interests of firefighter health and wellness for us to be taking pot shots at one another and seeing who can take out the other’s knees first. There aren’t enough qualified fitness professionals that are in our space. Firefighters are desperately under-served and so I CELEBRATE the fact that I live in Montgomery, IL and Chris is up the road in Elgin, IL. It’s gonna be really easy to do our joint Instagram live talk—which is my thinly veiled plan to see that baby and meet Katie in person. Sorry, not sorry.

What does this all have to do with YOU? With YOUR life? With YOUR fitness?

Thanks for asking.

Build your life with people that bring something to the table. We are the average of who we hang out with. It’s #science. Look up mirror neurons. I know you’re probably not going to do it, so here’s the TL:DR summary:

We tend to normalize/equalize our behavior to that of our circle. Out to dinner? The women are all dressed similarly. If one man is wearing white leather New Balance shooty hoop shoes, they all likely are. If your friends get up at the butt crack of dawn to train, you probably do too; or at least train hard a different time of the day. It’s unlikely that one person in a group uses drugs. And if someone in your group says “dude…”, you probably do too. I’m looking at you Karl Fitzloff.

I’m personally seated at my table with legendary humans who contribute to other’s lives and their own careers greatly. Want to sit at my table? Bring something. Level up. Believe me: I’m doing the same thing. Always reaching higher.

“Come to the table. We’ll make room. But please BRING something.”

Have a great week.