The best advice often comes at the strangest times.

A little over 2 years ago, I found myself sitting in a cube farm in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri staring intently at a coffee cup branded with my current employer’s logo. They were all about giving away free company swag, this place was. I had t-shirts, jackets, polos and pint glasses all emblazoned with our name. But it was the coffee mug that made me chuckle. Below the company logo was a quote, one that seemed so ironic to me at that very moment:

“A company is known by the people it keeps.”

A few minutes prior, I had just been called into my boss’s office. If they didn’t get any work in soon, he said, they were going to have to let me go. This particular company’s workload ebbed and flowed with some pretty major local industries and when the work dried up, so did that cube farm. The week before I saw six fellow co-workers get the boot. I had only been there five months, I probably should’ve saw it coming.

But the mug, I thought, what about the saying on the stupid mug? This whole first in, first out concept of hiring and laying off was so foreign to me. I grew in a small town in rural Ohio, went to college nearby and then got a job in that same small town. It was a company that really was known by the people that it kept. To the tune of 20, 30 and 40 years. My department had all of five employees when I decided to up and leave. I was very green when I started there fresh out of college. But they kept me and worked through my naivety. But after seven years of making peanuts and not advancing, though, I was ready for something new.

I knew a few folks in KC so I stuffed my compact with just about everything I owned and drove the 750 miles to my new home. After riding couches for 2 1/2 months and blowing through my savings, I finally got a job at a hip, slick-looking company. I joined the ranks of about 40 other employees in my department. This definitely wasn’t small potatoes.

They served fresh fruit in the break-room and gave lunch & learn’s on staying fit. They named their conference rooms after classic rock records. We had our Christmas party in the upstairs of a popular downtown brewery. Everything but the actual work itself was pretty cool.

Enter the CEO (and the subject of this post, really). I’m not convinced he was actually involved in any of the day to day affairs but he sure brought the energy that loosely held the place together. He was the hype guy. I think that’s what made him so likable.

He was really, I mean, REALLY into fitness. He wasn’t just a marathon runner. He was an ultra-marathoner. Absolute insanity. Like 50+ miles in the wilderness insane. And if there’s one thing you should know about ultra-marathoners, it’s that they feel it’s their personal life debt to make sure everyone they know becomes ultra-marathoners too.

This guy tried really, really hard to get everyone in the office as much into running as he was. At my second interview, he popped in my boss’s office and talked to me excitedly about the fitness-crazed culture there. He gave me a copy of the book “Born To Run” and insisted it was required reading before my first day. In fact, I’m fairly convinced I was mostly hired because I am an avid cyclist. Close enough for him, I suppose.

He was successful in converting several of the long time employees there into ultra-runners. Hell, he nearly convinced me to sign up for a marathon. Little did I know how much pull that probably would have got me.

“Energy creates energy, all you need is a spark”

…is the kind of stuff I’d hear him spout off quite frequently at those lunch and learn’s. At the time, it went in one ear and out the other. In fact, after I knew that his hip, cultured company was firing me, I wrote off every little catchphrase he said. The “brain food” in the break room, the Yellow Submarine, all of it went went out the door. Negative energy created negative energy.

I’m at my second job since leaving that company (and so are many of my fellow co-workers) but I still think about that phrase a lot. Energy creates energy. Damn, that crazy CEO was right. Potential energy is only realized when it becomes kinetic. It’s simple and it’s cyclical

Energy is infectious.

If I had just worked at that company for five months so I could learn that principle then I think it was worth it. It’s got me up off my butt more times than I can count. Whether it’s getting out on my bike and putting some miles in or forgoing procrastination on a project.

All you need is a spark. It’s so true. Once you crest that hill of procrastination, laziness or whatever, you can’t be stopped. We’re all momentum driven. At least, I am. Once you get me going, you’ll be hard pressed to stop me. Writing this post was much that way.

I’ve tried a lot of methods to increase my productivity both on and off the clock. Nothing has done more for me in the last two years than grasping this concept. Physical energy begets mental energy begets social energy begets spiritual energy…

You just have to get the ball rolling.

Two years later and I haven’t run a marathon yet. But I still have that stupid mug. It’s my potential energy. Maybe one day I’ll find myself a spark.

This post was originally published here.
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Ryan Straits



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