This is about a lesson I learned regarding marriage and family.
A lesson that I've learned the hard way, and will continue to learn my entire life.
It is a never ending and ever-evolving lesson.
The concept and responsibility of marriage is a powerful one.
The two shall become one, the Bible reads.
About 5 years ago, I enrolled in a program called Warrior Week, and it was one of the most intense weeks of my life - both physically and emotionally.
This program was targeted toward married businessmen, to help reframe and build (or rebuild) life's Core Four areas; Body, Being, Balance (relationships), and Business.
I had noticed that very few men have stability and are healthy in all areas of their life.
Most are a train wreck in one or more areas.
This concept spoke to me, so I enrolled in Warrior Week.
The first day was quite a shock to the system, and was beyond exhausting physically.
We started out by being blindfolded, loaded onto a bus, and driven up into the mountains. Thus began our journey with what we affectionally called “The Grinder” for the remainder of the week.
This program is modeled somewhat after Buds Training for Navy Seals.
I come to find out later that the coaches of Warrior Week spent extensive time working with a few Navy Seals to replicate the activities for the Warrior Week program.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can say with certainty that I underestimated the intensity of the program.
At the end of the first day, after being thoroughly worked over on the Grinder with all manner of physical challenges, we were then loaded back onto the bus and driven to the beach.
It was hard to believe that the day wasn't yet over - we were approaching 1 AM.
Orders are barked at us.
"What have I gotten myself into?" I think once again, as 16 men, exhausted from the Grinder, run stumbling into the ocean on a cold, dark, night.
“Get sandy” the lead coach yells with an authority that is not to be challenged.
The water temperature is in the mid 60’s.
Get sandy means all of you, from head to toe, face included all covered in sand.
“Get wet. Get sandy. Line up. Face down in the sand. Roll. Push-ups. Roll.
We are just getting started.
Line up. Push-ups.
Over and over.
I am shivering uncontrollably.
One of the guys is having health issues and we hear that he is headed to the ER.
We see him walking back with assistance to the van with one of the coaches.
This evolution goes on for what seems like an eternity.
I didn't know it at the time, but one of my most profound life lessons is moments away.
It's been said that one new idea or one new relationship can change the trajectory of your life.
This one idea changed the trajectory of my life with my wife and my family.
The lead coach has us all line up, and points to a buoy out in the darkness.
“Line up. When you hear my siren, you will run into the water, swim out and around the buoy, swim back and line up in front of me.
You will do this with your swim buddy.
It pays to win.
You do not want to lose.
If you do not finish with your swim buddy, or if another pair is between you and your swim buddy, you will do it again.
If you are in the bottom half of the class, you will do it again.
Am I clear?”
Sixteen men in unison yell, “CLEAR, COACH” as we await the siren.
Keep in mind, we are dressed in all black, the required Warrior Week gear, with combat boots that are less than ideal for swimming.
I decide that I will not be in the back half of this group.
I am a respectable swimmer, but not great by any means.
I am however, very competitive - I will dig deep.
The swim buddy adds a unique twist, but I’m determined. The dreaded siren sounds off and sixteen shivering men run frantically into the water to swim into the night.
It is immediate chaos. The group of men run with reckless abandon down the beach and hit the water.
It is shockingly cold. I swim out looking to find a pace that works.
My boots filled with water are much heavier than I expect.
My breathing is out of sorts. I suddenly have a moment of panic.
Where is my swim buddy?
He was close by just a few seconds ago.
We had an eye on each other.
This is not good.
Do I stop and look?
I call his name. Is he struggling?
The internal conflict is heavy.
I will not lose.
Wait, this is a team race.
My mind is racing.
We will not lose.
Do I swim slower and let him catch me?
Do I stop?
Or perhaps I swim out around the buoy and almost to shore then wait?
I swim slower.
What if I am behind him?
We were given the orders to line up without any time to strategize.
Discussion was not allowed prior the siren.
Quite frankly, I was just focused on myself and winning the competition when the instructions were being given out.
I think I see my swim buddy, and swim forward calling his name…
It is not him.
I stop and look back.
I see a guy stopped.
I swim back some… It is not him either.
He is looking for his swim buddy as well.
I decide to swim to the buoy and reassess.
That would be logical, right?
I head to the buoy.
It appears that I am still in the front half, so that is a positive.
Sure enough, at the buoy, we find each other.
We keep close, and swim together heading back to shore.
We are required to exit the water together and line up together.
We find a good pace, one eye on each other and one eye on the shore. We finish together and exit the water.
The night's darkness makes it hard to tell if we are in the back half or the front half.
As we exit the water and run to our finishing line up, I realize that we are in the safe zone as we are the second group out of the water.
I am beyond exhausted, bent over and shivering, but grateful.
We made it.
We are safe.
The rest of the guys exit the water and are lining up.
According to former Navy Seal David Goggins, when you think you are done and your body is telling you that you cannot go on, you are actually only at 40% of what you're truly capable of.
I learned this lesson more than a few times over the next few days with my Warrior Week brothers.
As it turns out, we were not done for the night just yet.
We did this same exercise with our respective Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie pods, swimming as a unit out into the night, around the buoy, and back to shore, making sure to finish together as a unit.
I am part of the Alpha pod.
We finish together as the lead group, after a bit of chaos. But we made it.
We finished up the day at 2AM exhausted and stumbled onto the bus to head back to sleep for a few hours.
I have learned that when I am exhausted, there is a distinct receptivity to learning deep, impactful lessons. The openness that exists in my mind, body, soul, and spirit to absorb a lesson is orders of magnitude greater than during the usual day to day interactions of life.
Believe it or not, after all that, I still almost missed the lesson. And I would have if it were not revealed to me by the lead coach.
Before climbing on the bus, my coach asks, “What is your lesson?"
I take a stab at mumbling something about teamwork and the importance of forward thinking.
“Listen” he says.
“Your wife is your swim buddy.”
“Stop leaving her behind.”
“Your family is your Alpha Unit.”
“Don’t ever forget this lesson.”
Within that 5 second conversation, over a decade of my marriage was summarized in one interaction.
My lesson was now firmly anchored.
During this evolution, I realized that I spent about 2-3 times the energy swimming on my own, swimming back, stopping, looking, swimming off, swimming back, on and on to eventually finish together with my swim buddy.
When I got married, I made a commitment to do life together as one.
We started this journey together, and we are going to finish together.
The decision to swim together, grow together, explore together, experience together, is on me.
We are committed to each other to live this life as one, as a team. I do damage to our relationship if I swim off without a plan or communication.
When I invest in me, but not us, I am swimming off on my own.
This goes for my family as well.
I learned that this is who I am called to serve first… my wife and my kids.
When I do not keep this in mind, not only do I exhaust myself swimming back and forth, but I also end up missing the opportunity to help my wife and kids learn and grow.
It’s been said:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Pick a pace that works for you both, as husband and wife together, and attack the adventure of life and family as a team.
Always remember that you wife is your swim buddy.
Keep her close, in your sights always, offer encouragement often, and work, learn, live, and love together on this journey called life.