'No way I was going to let him down'
During the past 57 years, I have crossed paths with some amazingly inspirational people.
A few of these are friendships from my childhood that have endured the test of time. Others are special bonds I've formed with a handful of people that I have met during my adult life, and include both personal and professional acquaintances.
For reasons that are as unique as the individuals themselves, each of them motivates me to dig deep within myself and find whatever it takes to succeed whenever the going gets tough.
On March 19, Tom Clements was fatally shot when he answered his door in El Paso County, Colorado. Mr. Clements was the executive director of Colorado's prison system -- where I've worked for 25 years. Since his death, much has been said about the leadership, vision and direction that he provided to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
As significant as this impact was, the inspiration that I gained from him comes from the way that he lived his life as a husband, father, brother, son and friend.
This inspiration is not based on a close personal friendship between Mr. Clements and I. The most powerful and effective leaders are those who lead based on the same core values that they use in their personal lives. Tom Clements was that type of leader.
When I found out that I was accepted to the Fit Nation team, I e-mailed my entry video to my immediate supervisor, the director, and Mr. Clements so they would know what I would be doing this year and why.
I knew they would be supportive of me, as they always have been. What I didn't anticipate was the genuine enthusiasm and encouragement I would receive from Mr. Clements.
From the very beginning, he let me know that not only did I have his full support, but that he himself would have loved to have the same opportunity. He made me promise that I would share every article, blog and update on my adventure with him.
His response stemmed from his own passion for staying physically fit and taking advantage of the great outdoors, especially all that Colorado has to offer. He told me that one of his goals when he retired from his 31-year career with the Missouri Department of Corrections was to ride his bicycle through each of the lower 48 states. Turns out he was an avid cyclist.
The last time that I saw Mr. Clements was about a month before he was killed. It was at a two-day meeting in Denver. It was customary for him to open these meetings by speaking to the group about how we were doing on meeting our strategic goals and objectives, and to listen to any questions or concerns that we had. This time was no different.
But what I will remember the most is that before the meeting started he sat down next to me and asked how my training was going. He didn't ask just to be asking -- he really wanted to know, and smiled when I told him how I was already way outside of my comfort zone (in a good way). As he always did, he made me promise to keep him posted on my progress. He even opened the meeting by making sure everyone in the group knew I was training for a triathlon.
He added that I was his inspiration.
I was so surprised that I could be an inspiration to someone of his stature. I was very honored and humbled. From that moment forward, any time I felt like I was too tired, too stressed, or didn't have time to train, I would hear him telling my peers that I was his inspiration. There was no way I was going to let him down.
I cannot begin to compare the impact his death has had on me personally to the tremendous loss that his family and friends will experience for the rest of their lives. But those that have led our corrections system since that tragic night have made it clear that, as a tribute to Mr. Clements, we will keep moving forward.
With that in mind, I have decided to dedicate my training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, and the event itself on September 8, to him. I am now even more committed to making sure he is proud of me each step along the way.
For those of you that, like me, sometimes doubt your own ability or motivation when the going gets tough, try focusing on a personal hero, and do it for them. It works!
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