Am I a tough guy?

Coach Zike’s comment on one of my Facebook posts reminded me that during my interviews with, I had mentioned growing up a tough guy. What did I mean by that? Let me explain.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Our house was in the country outside of a small town 25 miles south of Indianapolis. My brothers, friends and I spent most of our summer days outside. We didn’t take the time to get a scratch cleaned and bandaged. It didn’t matter whether it was raining or the sun was shining.

When we had played basketball or baseball, if you got knocked down, you got back up. We wanted to win and weren’t going to let a bruise or scratch get in our way.

School sports weren’t different. The school was small compared to the schools around us. Some of the sports teams barely had enough students to field a team. There weren’t always backups or enough to scrimmage.

Participating in sports was our entertainment in high school. Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes were having a lot of success, and many teams adopted their respective approach. The coaches I played for were focused on developing us as individuals. They never threw a chair or punched a player. Did they push us? Absolutely, but they also didn’t push us into a danger zone. When we competed against bigger schools, we were able to compete. We didn’t win all the time, but we did string together a pretty good season.

It was through interactions with coaches that I learned to do two things:

  1. Listen to the experts and then act based on what they told you.
  2. Don’t let anything take your focus away from meeting your goal.

So, why am I babbling on about the good old days? Those lessons I learned from coaches and the experiences I growing up served me well when I woke up one day with a new heart. I had been bedridden for almost two months. I not only had to deal with a new heart, but I had to deal with muscle entropthy as well as loss of balance and energy.

I did what I learned growing up:

  1. Listen to the experts and then act based on what they told you.
    • With a heart transplant, cardiac surgeons and doctors are the experts. I did what the doctors told me to do. I was woken at 4:30 AM most days by a technician coming in to do an EKG. While still in the hospital, I went for 5 days eating only ice chips.
    • After being discharged, I carried that same approach with me into rehab. I did what the physical therapists told me to do. If they said “Walk for 25 minutes,” I would walk for 27 minutes. If they told me to ride a stationary bike at level 2, I would set the bike for level 3.
  2. Don’t let anything take your focus away from meeting your goal.
    • I can’t tell you the number of times I made the statement “I don’t want to go to therapy today.”
    • I have modified my diet, watching how much salt I consume. I also try to eat fruits and vegetables when possible. I still splurge but am conscious when I do.
    • With the help of my wife, I have become more conscious about staying safe with COVID. BTW, my doctors say COVID is a death sentence to someone like me.

I have had people tell me that, with what I have been through, that I am tough. Does that make me a tough guy? I don’t think so. I’m just doing what I was taught to do: Listen to the experts and keep focused on the goal.

Coach Zike was one of those coaches that challenged me. I wasn’t always the best. I didn’t always succeed, but I learned that didn’t mean you don’t give it your best. That attitude has gotten me to this point in my life, career, and health. It’s worked this far, so I am going to stick with it.


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