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Whose your 5?

Photo by The Humantra on Unsplash

In my last post I talked about the power of a word- how a person has the power to choose words that describe situations, active choices versus passive ones. The discussion revolved around taking power over one’s language to ensure that the words being used serve us and that we be cognizant of the power of our choices.

With that said, this post isn’t meant to rehash that one- but rather extend it.

This conversation centers on the power of the spoken word and about how truly powerful we can be when we use our voice to speak. It is often said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with… This statement can relate to to many things- education and income level are just a couple of things where correlations are made. However, my contention with this is- imagine if the people around you knew how powerful their words were and didn’t squander them…what if, they instead used these words with all the power and might that they were worth?

An Example:

There is this great Vlog by the Vegan Cyclist…

(Side note: If you don’t know his stuff, check him out! He’s got great content- tongue and cheek, funny, informative & good spirited. I haven’t watched everything he’s put out, but the ones that I have- I’ve really enjoyed.)

I was particularly drawn to a video labeled “Off the Couch Ironman – with no Training” I mean- really, with that title how can you not be drawn to it?

It’s worth the watch on MANY levels, and I’m sure this won’t be the only time I reference it, but for the purposes of today and the topic at hand- I want to focus on a very small portion of the video…one that I would contend might be the biggest and most important lesson of the entire thing (spoiler alert!!!) It takes place about 24ish min into the video- at this point, he is recalling the latter stages of the marathon portion of this undertaking. His film crew has left for dinner and left to his own devices, he has decided he is going to “run” home…where he will call it quits. Now alone, his mind has convinced him that continuing no longer in his best interest and he should just give up (to be fair- I would argue that in this particular case, his mind was soooo right)! As he arrives back home, where he is going to quit, his family- assuming that with the amount of time that has passed since he left, he’s surely completed the entire event- greets him with all the inspiring accolades that families would say to congratulate one on completing such a monumental event. The Vegan Cyclist is so moved in this moment, inspired by their words, that he decides he cannot let his family down by quitting and chooses to go back out and continue on. Even better- his young son, so motivated by his father’s new found will to finish, offers to help his Dad complete the marathon by riding his bike alongside him…even more accountability!!!! I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I tell you that he finished it…it’s worth the watch!

A Personal Example:

This year, I am celebrating 15 year of sobriety. A pretty amazing accomplishment all things considered…

My prior life was heavily entangled with alcohol. My profession, my social life, basically my whole identity was intertwined with it and breaking away from it and starting fresh was no simple task. Moreover, my wife also struggled with it, and as my best friend and person who I spent the most time with, we were very codependent. To tie back into to my earlier point about being the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with- her and I were in lock step 95% of the time. We knew exactly how get the other on board with our debaucherous behavior. However, after many years together and both of our lives teetering on the brink of collapse, we made the decision that we both needed to get sober.

Having made the decision to get sober and with 30 days under our belt, life as it always does happened. My Dad, who had successfully battled cancer previously, was admitted into the hospital and the prognosis didn’t look good… With that information in hand, I quickly left California and traveled to Florida to be there for him. With ONLY 30 days of sobriety at that point, any traumatic experience can easily become a reason to drink… But a catastrophic event such as this was something that even non-alcoholic’s would understand as a “good” reason to drink. I should note that I could always find a “good” reason to drink…I drank because I was happy, because I was sad, bored, excited – you get the point…but I’m getting off track.

As I left my wife and family on one coast and traveled to the other, I was holding on to my sobriety precariously at best. Shortly after arriving, my father passed. My family was distraught and the scene played out as most would imagine. As my family worked to come to grips with what had just happened, we gathered to figure out to do next and my mother, being tired, felt it was best for us to all reconvene at her house. Like a classic alcoholic trying to get sober, I hadn’t yet told many people. In fact, the only person I had told was my sister. So when in the planning for “what is next” my Mom made the comment “I don’t have any beer at home, we will need to stop and get some beer for David!” My mom was suggesting that I drink, so what if she didn’t know I was trying to stop– BOOM – I’d found my out!

But then, out of nowhere, my sister spoke up “No we don’t, David isn’t drinking any more…HE IS sober now!” And just like that- the stand was made! With words spoken, I was now accountable to my family for my sobriety…complements of just 4 simple words spoked by my sister…”He is sober now.” I made it through the trip (and the last 15 years) without drinking. It is something I find remarkable even to this day!

Looking back, I can point to my sister’s comments as the defining turning point in my life, she spoke up and took a stand for me, and in return- all I had to do was “the next right thing”!

Ironically this post isn’t about alcoholism or drinking BUT about the power my sister’s words had-not just over that trip but over the next 15 years of my life. I truly believe that just about EVERYONE else in the world would have given me the out to drink on that day, but she didn’t. I was lucky to have her there in that moment, calling me to be bigger and better than I could be on my own. Her words altered my life for the positive in so many unimaginable ways…

A touch of contrast…

Little did I know that back at home, without the support of family and without someone to take a stand for her- my wife wasn’t able to hold on and slipped. I later found out that she was POSITIVE that I would drink considering the situation and left to her own devices- decided that there was no reason for her to refrain…certain that once I got back, we’d return to our old ways. It took her additional 12 months to get sober. I realize that the conversation is complex and it’s hard to surmise how things might have been different if she had been with me…but who knows how those same powerful words might have also affected her journey.


There is no event in my life that more clearly illustrates how powerful the people you surround yourself with can be. People’s comments, even those made quickly in passing, can affect you for days, months, and sometimes- even years.

So the question begging to be asked..

Are the 5 people closest to you motivating you? Inspiring you? Do they call you to be bigger than you have ever dreamt you could be? Do they speak the words YOU need to hear?

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