Ironman Gold Star Initiative

 
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Mike Ergo talks to us about the Ironman Gold Star Initiative and what it's doing to help support Gold Star Families.

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Scott DeLuzio: 00:03 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting Veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcast. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there, click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes. As soon as they come out. If you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit DriveOnPodcast.com/subscribe to find other ways of subscribing, including our email lists. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:44 Hey everyone. Today, my guest is Mike Ergo. Mike has completed several iron man marathons and has teamed up with the Gold Star Initiative in order to honor the fallen and support Gold Star families through these races. Now Mike's story is about more than just endurance races. And today we'll talk to him about how these races provide a sense of meaning and purpose. So, Mike, welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your military background to start with, and then we’ll get into the races and everything else.
Mike Ergo: 01:16 Sounds good. Thank you for having me on the show. It's always good to talk to another Vet. So, let's get into it. I grew up in Northern California and I finished high school in the summer of 2001. I had to do a little extra, a little summer school and join the Marine Corps. I actually signed up delayed entry program in the spring of 2001 with the intention of going into the band. I auditioned with my saxophone and was all set and then September 11th, 2001 happens and eventually I had a change of heart. I did bootcamp in San Diego and it was hard for me. I know some people have talked about how bootcamp is easy for them. I struggled. I was overweight going in and I was used to just being treated nicely.
Mike Ergo: 02:08 So, it was a culture shock to say the least. San Diego is a beautiful place and I've been there many times. In fact, my first memory is being on the beach in San Diego, with my grandparents in a much different context. And so, I'm looking at planes taking off literally next door to a bootcamp here. And I'm just imagining all the cool, fun places, but I decided, I wanted to serve my country. I decided that service was important to me. Growing up I was an evangelical Christian and I went on a lot of mission trips, got to see the world and actually helped build churches. I enjoyed that at the time. And I enjoyed meeting other people and serving, knowing that I was doing something that was going to help people. And so, I knew that if I served in the military, it was something that only I could complete. It was something that was up to me; my dad or my mom or my grandparents couldn't help me through it. So, I liked the sense of being able to take that responsibility. And so, I changed, went to the infantry and eventually we were stationed in North Carolina with the first battalion, eighth Marines.
Scott DeLuzio: 03:18 Awesome. Um, yeah, it's, it's interesting to hear people's backgrounds and how you know, life throw some curve balls at us and things don't always work out exactly the way that we plan it to, the way you started off thinking that you'd end up in the Marine Corps band and then ended up as a grunt. I was in the band in high school and I played saxophone as well for a number of years and never had any aspirations of joining the army band or the Marine Corps band or anything like that. But it's something that's a discipline to be able to learn an instrument you're basically learning another language with learning how to read the music and how to translate that into playing.
Scott DeLuzio: 04:07 It's a discipline thing that you need to do between the practicing and the lessons and all that other stuff that you have to go through. I can imagine that probably help out a little bit in your military training once when you got to that point in life having that background, music and everything.
Mike Ergo: I knew how to March, so that was, yeah. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: That's one thing that you're not tripping over your own feet and looking like a fool or anything like that when you're marching. So I briefly mentioned in the intro here that you've been doing quite a few Ironman races with the Gold Star Initiative to honor Gold Star families and the fallen soldiers and everything. So let's talk a little bit how you got there; what was the path? So, what was it like when you first got the idea to start doing some Ironman races and then, were you already involved with the Gold Star Initiative, or what was that whole journey like to get to where you are?
Mike Ergo: 05:18 Yeah, well, I think it definitely dates back to my second deployment in Iraq and I was there in 2004 and my unit fought in the second battle of Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury. And that was intense is an understatement. That deployment, we lost 21 Marines and I got out, got home afterwards in 2005. And that transition, like any of us know who've been in, gotten out even just the transition from the military to civilian life, it's culture shock, and the transition from going to combat to try to make sense of the slower paced, civilian life with different values, different goals, not being told what to do, but having an overwhelming, and I say overwhelming amount of choices that I could make. And I didn't know what my next step was. I struggled a lot with addiction, got into alcohol, used cannabis way too much.
Mike Ergo: 06:18 And I was diagnosed with PTSD. So, I was having intrusive thoughts playing through my head. I'm having panic attacks. They were crippling literally they would paralyze me at times. Sometimes I'd be driving to school, had to turn around and go back home. Needless to say alcohol and drugs weren't the best way to deal with them. It’s what I knew at the time, but eventually they're less and less fun and more and more consequences. And I was just hurting people. You know, I betrayed the trust of my wife. I stopped showing up to work. I was unreliable. And I do remember a low point in my life looking at the tattoo on my chest that says, Semper Fidelis, always faithful. And it just seemed like this is a lie. I'm living a lie. And the friends I had, who I fought with and who did not come back would not be proud of this person in the mirror.
Mike Ergo: 07:12 And neither was I; things changed in 2012. You know, I decided that I was done. My wife gave me an ultimatum to. She's like, I love you, but I can't go down this road unless you stop using. And so, I did, and I was looking for purpose still. I had a friend give me a registration to a half marathon for my birthday when I turned 30. And at the time I thought it was a terrible present. Because I was thinking like, I don't want to run. Like, why would you give this to me? Now I have to run. Here's the thing though. I have a very specific memory that I can go back to about a week and a half to two weeks into training. And for this run with anything, especially when you get back into PT, back into the gym first week and a half, at least it's just miserable.
Mike Ergo: 08:00 It's terrible. It just hurts. Everything hurts and you're sore and you're tired. Yeah. Once you bust through that, the, I have this memory of rounding a corner in my neighborhood, and I just had this powerful feeling that I noticed for the first time that I could remember since I got back from Iraq, that I felt safe in my own body. Like it was okay to be there without being totally loaded. And I said, there's something to this feeling. So, I ran that half marathon loved it. I had a friend introduced me to swimming. I love that it was the first time I was able to really get a hold of my breath and really feel my body because it's technique heavy. So, you're moving through the water and you're going to have to be very mindful that you can't fake it like you can on a run sometimes.
Mike Ergo: 08:48 So those two things felt pretty good, that was 2012; fast forward to 2014. I am on the big Island of Hawaii. And I happen, coincidentally, I guess, to be there the same weekend as the Ironman world championship. And I'm watching these athletes run around, get prepared for this thing. And there's just this huge contagious buzz, this exciting feel-good celebratory buzz or just vitality in life. And at first, it scared me and then it made me angry. Because I was like, why would people want to do this? I'm looking at these distances for an Ironman triathlon. It's a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride directly after the swim, and then directly after that, a marathon 26.2 mile run in the Hawaiian sun. You know? So, I'm thinking, why are people doing this? But at that point I had developed a different relationship with fear. At first fear would paralyze me and I crawled into a bottle. What happened at that point is I learned to recognize that within fear, there's also excitement. And you know, I'm not talking about getting chased by a bear, that's fear like, “Hey, I don't want to die.” That's well-founded fear, but the fear of taking a risk, like asking that girl out or taking a new job or doing something you always wanted to do, but it’s scary.
Scott DeLuzio: 10:17 But but there's something to that too, where there's the potential for a great reward at the other end of that. Like you said, like asking that girl out, she might say no, right. But she also might say yes, and that's pretty exciting right there, or applying for that job or a college or something that might be a little bit of a stretch out of your comfort zone. You might not get the job or you might not get into that school, but you also might. And that's pretty exciting it is.
Mike Ergo: 10:46 There's a part of it where your heart is just telling you there's something here. If you have the guts if you have the heart to take it on and risk failing. And I said, I'm willing to risk failing. I didn't know why, but I knew that triathlon was my next step. And because it was a deeper knowing it was a bodily knowing. And so, I signed up for a half Ironman. So, it's half all the distances of that. I wanted it. I didn't want to jump in full-fledged because I made mistakes. Right.
Scott DeLuzio: Baby steps.
Mike Ergo: So, having a half Ironman is a lot to bite off and
Scott DeLuzio: 11:24 Oh yeah, not I'm saying baby steps. Not that that's like, Oh, you only did a half Ironman.
Mike Ergo: 11:31 But yeah, exactly. I hear you. And so, I started with the smaller ones and then worked up to a half Ironman and that's, you know 70.3 miles long total. And in between when I signed up and when I was arriving on race day, I saw a video of a woman who had lost her husband in Afghanistan and started running to honor him. And I just had these tears cascading down and this relief and this feeling of connection, Oh, in this epiphany I can honor my friends by racing and triathlons now. And so, I immediately ordered a customed triathlon Jersey, which had all 29 names now because we had lost a few more after I got him back and I put them on my Jersey and I started contacting the families, something I was definitely afraid of doing and telling them, Hey, I will be honoring your son in these races and in this race coming up, I just want you to know that they're not forgotten and it meant a lot to them.
Mike Ergo: 12:32 It meant a lot to me; it was a big healing thing for me. I do that half Ironman. I felt great. I loved it. I learned that I loved the sport of triathlon. I loved swimming, biking, running, and you know, I signed up for a full Ironman and when you register for an Ironman, they ask you a question at the end, basically, what's your deal, man. Not many people do this stuff. Like, what's wrong with you? I told them my story. I broke it down. Like went to Iraq, came home, fell into addiction, have PTSD. And I'm grieving the loss of my friends. And I'm dedicating these races to them. And iron man got ahold of the story and they surprised me. And they invited me to race in the world championship. I mean, people spend a lifetime trying to qualify for this race being first in their age group.
Mike Ergo: 13:23 Being a top finisher, but they invited a select few people. If they think that the story is a good one and they chose me in 2017 and I got to go and I raced in honor of my friends there on the big stage and at the very end I carried the Marine Corps flag through the finish line, just to honor my friends and that translated into carrying a flag for the entire marathon. So, I decided by this point, Hey, I like this sport. I'm going to keep doing these Ironman things, right. And iron man asked me, Hey, for your hometown race, that's coming up in Santa Rosa, we want you to be the ambassador for the race. And what do you want to do to put your mark on this race?
Mike Ergo: 14:11 And I said without totally thinking it through, I said, I want to carry a flag in honor, of a local Gold Star family representing a fallen hero and present it to their family at the finish line and invite them to the race. And they said, you sure you can do that. And what I knew was that once I had that purpose underlying what I was doing, there's nothing that would stop me. I'd run on two broken legs before I gave up. You know what that purpose is like. So, I ran that race in honor of Corporal Josh Karnak, a soldier who was killed in Iraq in October of 2005. And at the finish line, 26.2 miles later, carrying that flag, I handed it to his daughter who he had met only days after she was born and never again. And I handed the flag to his mother.
Mike Ergo: 15:03 And the feeling for me was overwhelming gratitude to be able to honor a fallen hero. The feeling for them was, as they said, gratitude and healing for knowing that their son was not forgotten. And the public loved seeing this too. And what I learned is that a lot of times we get back and if we lose people, a lot of us carry a lot of survivor guilt and the families of the fallen want to connect with the Vets and they're hurting. But after the funeral, a lot of times they get shunned by the community because nobody knows what to do. Everybody just suffers alone, it feels awkward. And so, I said, let's make this a national thing. I asked iron man if we can make this a national thing where Veterans around the country can honor a Gold Star family around the country in these races.
Mike Ergo: 15:54 And that way the community can get involved too. And it doesn't have to be at a barbecue or a bar where we're crying into our beers and that there's a time and a place for that too. I don't want to just totally step on that. But, I wanted there to be a positive atmosphere that these families could be part of and celebrate their son's life and grieve at the same time. And so, I founded along with a Gold Star mom, we founded the Gold Star Initiative to do just that.
Scott DeLuzio: 16:23 I mean speaking as a Goldstar family member, I lost my brother in Afghanistan in 2010, I can basically echo that sentiment of those are Gold Star families were basically saying to you, in that we appreciate knowing that the memory of the fallen soldiers are not forgotten that there someone is there still thinking of them and remembering them. To that point, I think in so you had shared with me a YouTube video that you talked a little bit about the races you were doing here a little bit about your story, but in that video, you shared that one of these Gold Star mothers feared that someday, she wouldn't be able to talk about her son anymore because no one would want to hear about him. To be honest, that got me a little pissed off, not at you or anyone in particular, but to think that someday someone might say enough, I don't want to hear about your son anymore. You know, that's just not something I think should ever happen.
Mike Ergo: 17:35 It's the fact that this woman had to suffer like that. I think that at a certain point people would just say, “Hey, get over it right, move on. And that's what I've learned is that's the last thing we want to do with people who are grieving; you don't need to move on because that bond of love you have with that loved one, that family member doesn't stop when their physical body dies. That connection keeps going. There's no reason to move on. You move through it, I think, but I don't think you need to forget them.
Scott DeLuzio: 18:09 No, absolutely not. I think you have to learn how to live without them the same way you might learn to live without them, if they move to China or something like that, where they're not physically here but the memory of all the things that you've done and all the experiences that you've had and all the laughter and all the fun times, maybe family vacations and other things that you've done even, and not even big momentous things like that, just every day, little things, little interactions that you had with each other, you remember those things because that's a part of who you are too as a family member you live with this person, you grew up around this person, you knew this person at one point and they had a significant impact on your life, and to think that you should just all of a sudden forget about them and not talk about them anymore. It’s ridiculous to me anyways.
Mike Ergo: 19:12 It's ridiculous to anyone who's ever lost somebody. I think if you haven't lost somebody significant, it doesn't make as much sense. And so, they don't get it. It's only a lot of times it seems out of ignorance. And it also seems out of no discomfort. A lot of us aren't aware of how much our discomfort guides our actions. I talked to a Gold Star mom, and she said she was in a store she goes big bursts of support from the community and her friends up until the funeral. Then after that, she noticed people were ducking her and avoiding her in stores because of their own discomfort, you know? And so, then they have two losses, they have the loss of their son or their daughter, and then they have the loss of their friends or their community because people are just too uncomfortable if they don't know what to say. And I was like, that is a tragedy that needs to stop.
Scott DeLuzio: 20:07 Yeah, it certainly does. I think things like what you're doing running these races and honoring the memories of these fallen soldiers is really a great thing because it enables these families to realize that people do care, people care about who their loved ones were, and that there's still someone there willing to listen to them. As far as I'm concerned, there's always going to be someone willing to listen to them, even if it's just me, because I'm always willing to listen to these kinds of stories and for any Gold Star families that are listening to this, consider this an open invitation to come on the show and share your story, or talk about the loved ones that you lost, because that would just be a tragedy if you fell into that trap thinking that no one cared, you know?
Mike Ergo: 21:02 When I first crossed the finish line of an Ironman triathlon, it was 11 hours and 56 minutes. So about 12 hours straight of just working out and it was a long day, but I tell you what the finish line outside of the birth of my kids was. And, and some of the rush of combat that that was the most exciting moment of my life crossing that finish line. And so, I said, this is something I want to share with these families. And so you, so I'm coming across the finish line in these races, carrying the flag with a streamer that says the different names of whoever I'm racing for the time, and you hear the crowd go nuts and clap cheer. And this family now gets to be part of that. Like they get to experience this, this celebration of their son or daughter, and right, is the coolest thing to share. It is coolest thing to share it and be able to point it back at them,
Scott DeLuzio: 22:08 You know, to two things that, that this, this brings up with me is, so I've talked to other people on this show that have done endurance type races, endurance events, or one guy was trying to break Guinness world records you know, with different endurance type activities, exercises and stuff. Um, I think it was burpees that he was trying to do to break the record. Um, and, and so I've, I've never gone to that extreme where I'm trying to break records or do it, I've never done any iron mans, but, um, I've done like half marathons, right. Which in and of themselves are, um if you're a runner there, they're probably, you know not that big of a feat to accomplish, but I tell you when, when you finished that first half marathon and you cry, you cross that finish line, you hit that, that distance.
Scott DeLuzio: 23:00 It's just like a source of pride. Like I did this, like I I've, I've actually accomplished something. Um, and, and it's a really, really great feeling that you get there. Um, and the other, the other point that that this brings up, um, and it came up in other conversations that I've had on this podcast is that there are, there, there's a, a real sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with serving others. Uh, and it really makes you feel good. And it could actually be a transformative experience when you are doing something for somebody else. Um, the person that I spoke to on the podcast few episodes ago they were talking about you know, mission trips that they do like what you were talking about when you're younger you know, traveling around the world you know, maybe it's building a home or a church or something like that for, in, in you know, third world countries or things like that. But, um, yeah, the, the sense of pride that you get for, for doing this type of thing for somebody else is it's something that you don't really
Scott DeLuzio: 24:12 Recognize as something that would be there until you do it. Yeah.
Mike Ergo: 24:15 That's a good point. That's a good point. It, it seems counterintuitive that, and until you've done it, I think that helping someone else would give you that much joy. But what I, when I've looked into the research about what it means to be a human is we, we came into this planet helping one another survive, and the strength of the tribe, the strength of the clan was what gave us that advantage to survive in harsh environments. And so, it makes sense with that, in that context that helping other people would feel good, cause it's an adaptive trade. And the cool thing is like you combine service with a race and something you enjoy doing. And it's a double whammy. I mean, racing in itself is fun. I love it. Like you said, you, like when you've crossed those finish lines at a half marathon or any race, you're like, my body did this, I did this, there's this feeling of, of, I don't know if it's invincibility or gratitude or all of the above, but it's like, my body did this and I accomplished this goal.
Mike Ergo: 25:20 And then to combine that with being able to share it and have it be an act of service. I mean, I don't think there's anything better.
Scott DeLuzio: 25:28 Yeah. I, and I think it goes to what you were saying earlier. Um, how you're, you're pushing yourself to a limit and it's sort of scary. Um not, not like being chased by a bear scary, but it's, it's scary in that, in, in the same sense of I'm going to ask this girl out and I don't know if she's going to say yes or not you're pushing yourself to a limit and you don't know if you're going to be able to cross that finish line. If you're going to have the endurance to be able to make it that far you know, you're pushing yourself out of that comfort zone. Um, so it's a little bit scary you almost have like the butterflies in your stomach before you get started. And then once you get going, you're like, okay, I got this, I got this. And, um by the time you finish, you might be dog tired, but you get to the, to the finish line and you, you feel really good about the fact that you were able to accomplish this thing. Okay.
Mike Ergo: 26:22 You know, a couple of times I've had it where the race goes really smooth and there's no problems throughout. And there've been a couple of races where I hit a wall so hard. I slam into a wall. Um, I recall the racing in Hawaii and in Kona. And by the time I got to the run that my energy was, I could feel a headache coming on. I was like, great, I'm dehydrated. If I have a headache and I'm getting the race, the first part is beautiful. Scenic the run you're, you're running near the beaches, tons of people, clapping, cheering, loud, speakers, music, cowbells, everything people in costumes, dancing. And then you head out through the lava fields. And if you're like me, it gets dark because you know, it takes 12, 13 hours. So, it gets dark, no more people clapping.
Mike Ergo: 27:17 And you just hear your own breath and your footsteps trotting along. And my body was hurting so bad. And I really, it was times like that you got to dig deep and connect to that purpose. I think if I didn't have the purpose, I would have been tempted even more to quit, but it's even though like carrying the flag, now it is an added weight and you have the drag, especially if it's a lot of wind, but even though that's, that's there for me, I'm someone who needs a huge purpose to be able to do something. Otherwise I'm lazy. Like if it comes down to it, if I don't have to work out, I'm not going to work out. Right. I need to set up a big goal that scares the piss out of me that, that I can do to really get motivated and have that purpose there. Because if I don't, then I'm like, well, I don't really need to, I can just sleep in.
Scott DeLuzio: 28:08 Exactly. Yeah. And I think, I think having that goal really, really helps to motivate you. Um, because when you, when you think about it especially things like what you're doing you know, honoring these, these fallen soldiers, they, they gave it their all they, they, they kept going until they literally couldn't go anymore. Um, and you sort of shame yourself into saying like, if I quit now, what piece of crap am I to not get out of bed and go for a run this morning to get in shape or whatever. Yeah.
Mike Ergo: 28:45 And it helped me even yesterday, even during training sessions I'm, I'm looking at my laptop and I have the Gold Star Initiative logo on there with the iron man logo intertwined. And we're doing these really hard sprints. And like, I, one point we're doing max effort for 10 minutes. That was, I mean, for me, that's brutal. That's 10 minutes as fast as I can go. That's a long ass, 10 minutes, you know?
Scott DeLuzio: 29:11 Yeah. It doesn't seem like a long time, but when you're doing your 100% that's hard.
Mike Ergo: 29:16 Oh yeah. Even two minutes is a long time. If you're like in a boxing ring, I remember getting my face punched in, in college and thinking like, man, we've only done 30 seconds. This is going to be a long two minutes, but I'm connecting to that purpose. I think just like you said, you put a perfectly they gave it their all, I can dig a little deeper. I can, I can do this. And with, I think what it comes down to is can I be okay with the fact that there's discomfort here and yeah, that, that has been the healing process for me, because what I discover in a lot of these races and why it's a healing experience is that first there's numbness. You know, especially if I'm when I was using. And then underneath that there's anger and underneath the anger is, is hurt sadness, fear.
Mike Ergo: 30:04 And underneath that, if I can dig through that through the trauma and the grief, then I can break into the joy of, of, of connection to, to everything, everyone around me, the purpose of living the purpose of being right here in this moment, right. It takes a while. But when I finally stopped resisting the discomfort and let myself just be there, it usually happens in the run. And I'm like, I'm here, here I am right now. And it's, it's a completely transformative experience, but I mean, for me, I'm fixed called dude. I need like an iron. Some people can meditate for a little bit and get there. I need to work out for 12 hours before like my brain let that sink in.
Scott DeLuzio: 30:49 Well, it's a good thing that there's these races out there that you cannot paid. Yeah. Yeah. Well, see, that's, that's maybe the difference between a people like yourself and me. I like, if I'm going to go and do a half marathon, I'm going to go find like 13.1 miles of street that I can just go run on and I'll just go do it myself. I'm not going to go pay the suffer. I'm just going to go suffer my own misery and might just be done with it. Then if I, then if I don't, I like don't do it and I don't finish it. It's just me that I'm buttoned down and I'm not like, there's no one else there.
Mike Ergo: 31:26 Yeah, you're right. I have to build it up to Dover. I'm letting down a whole bunch of people, but yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 31:33 Um, so what advice might you have for someone who is struggling to find their purpose or their meaning does everyone have to go run a, an iron man or is there other things that people could do to, to find some sort of purpose or meaning to serve other people or that type of thing?
Mike Ergo: 31:52 I think the, that everyone can tap into whatever their purpose is by simply noticing when you feel, when you notice something and maybe it scares you or it angers you or both just noting that and approaching that with a little bit of curiosity. Like why, like, for example, why would I be angry at people doing an Ironman race? I'm not doing it. I was just watching I was on vacation, but I, I felt that as some fear and some anger and it's for me, I experienced it like that whoosh of, of, of jumping in cold water that, Oh my God, that shock feeling. And sometimes it's not that intense, but when you notice something that is connected to your purpose, I believe that there is an element of that fear intertwined with that excitement that you notice. And even if, if your brain can't wrap itself around how you are going to accomplish that, it's there, there's a deeper knowing of, of, of what your purpose is.
Mike Ergo: 32:55 And so you don't have to figure it out in the moment that I'm thank God, because if I, if I had to figure it out in the moment, how it was going to complete an Ironman, which was my personal journey, I would've given up because I didn't know the first thing about cycling technique or nutrition for a 12 hour race or any of that stuff. And I was like, I'll figure it out. I'll take the next step. So, you feel the feelings be okay with the fact that it's there, you don't have to like it and then figure out what the next step is. You know, there's always a next step.
Scott DeLuzio: 33:28 Yeah. And what about for someone who maybe is, I don't know, I've been there sitting on their couch and they're, they're feeling sorry for themselves. They don't have the motivation to get up and do that thing. You know, maybe it's challenging themselves to get out and start running or start exercising or start doing something. They, I don't know, maybe it's painting or whatever it is but yeah, they just don't have that motivation. What, what got you off the couch and got you, got you motivated to do this type of stuff.
Mike Ergo: 34:03 It was, sometimes it comes down to very practical things. I knew that I had the desire to do this. And so, it came down to okay. Putting my shoes on my feet and walking around the block it's like for, for musicians, I think the hardest part about practicing is getting your instrument out of the case. Right. Right. It's a practical thing it's like, and for people going to the gym, the hardest part is going to your car or walking to the gym once you're there, you're there. So, if you can tell yourself that, okay, if I can get there and work out or paint or write for five minutes and then, and I'm still not feeling it. Okay, fine. But at least let's get there. Let's at least show up. And you know, when I'm, when I'm writing and I'm, I'm trying to write a new blog post or, or a letter or, or something, a lot of times I'm not feeling it at the beginning. I know there's a warmup period. Just like a workout. Like a lot of times when I start swimming, I'm not feeling it. It takes me about 20 minutes to get into it. Sometimes when I'm writing, I write a whole page of, I don't know what I'm going to write today. I just write that over and over again. And eventually I start having ideas trickle out. So, it takes a hard start sometimes.
Scott DeLuzio: 35:18 Yeah. Sometimes you have to prime the pump to get the, get the juices flowing and get everything, get everything actually moving. But, um for the people who might be listening, who are finding themselves struggling to find a sense of purpose or meaning, things like that, sometimes, like you said, Mike, like sometimes you just have to put those shoes on or take the instrument out of the case or, or something like that. And just do that little thing start writing for five minutes, just set a timer and say five minutes. Like I'm going to do this for five minutes and whatever comes out comes out. And maybe, maybe today you end up with crap and it, and it's not that good, but tomorrow it'll get a little better. And then the next day, and the next day just try to make it a consistent habit you know, to keep yourself going.
Scott DeLuzio: 36:08 Um, and I found that with myself, if I, if I didn't consistently go for runs, there's no way I would do any, I would ever even try to attempt anything bigger than a couple of miles overrun. You know what I mean? Um, I remember it, like you were saying, when you first started exercising getting back into PT and everything. Um, it's torture. And I remember that, that first time that I went out for a run after like years of not really doing anything and I was like a half mile in and I was about to puke cause it was like so, so terrible. Um, and, but I knew that if I didn't, if I didn't push past that and I didn't keep going, then I would never get any better. And, and if, if all I'm going to do is just do a half mile at a time. Like that's not really what I'm striving for. I was, I was looking for something bigger and better than, than what I was doing. And at the time it wasn't much
Mike Ergo: 37:11 You know, I just recently finished a book that I love called atomic habits by James clear. And, and that had some practical advice there that has helped me get into calisthenics get back into doing pushups, dips, squats, and the things that generally get neglected, doing endurance training. And I wanted to drink a little less coffee, but there's no way in hell. I'm giving up coffee. It's one of my favorite things in the world. And I, and I wanted to work out. So, James Clary had this idea of what, what do you call habit stacking? So now every time I pour myself a cup of coffee, I bang out 30 pushups and it should be something you do. That's just enough to where it's, it's doable in the moment. It's not something that it's going to be an all or nothing. Like I'm not going to go run for half an hour every time I want a cup of coffee, that there's no way I'm going to do that.
Mike Ergo: 38:03 But it's something that I'm willing to put up with. I started with 20. Now I'm up to 30. Um so it's, it's a way of pairing a new habit. You want to incorporate with an old habit. And I, there's another big thing that I think holds us back. And I didn't mention it until now. And it's embarrassment and being embarrassed of failing. As long as we are held captive to the idea that we can't do something. If there's a risk of being an embarrassed, we are not going to grow at all. Like I showed up to learn how to swim as a grown man. And I'm going into the parking lot or walking through the parking lot to the swim center, to where I am. I'm supposed to learn how to swim. And as an adult and I pass not one, but two us Olympic license plates, you know these people that I'm supposed to be swimming on the same team with. And so many doubts creeping in my head, what the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. I don't belong here. I don't belong here. You know what? I'll be embarrassed. I'll show up and just do it anyways.
Scott DeLuzio: 39:09 Exactly. And I've talked about that in imposter syndrome before where you feel like you don't belong here. Like all these people who people who've been swimming since they were two years old, probably still wearing diapers or something and, and they can, they can swim laps around you and they're better than most of the people in the world in terms of their, their swimming abilities. And then here you are like, I guess I'm going to try to figure this out thing. You know, like you get that imposter syndrome, but at the same time who cares, like who cares? How good somebody out, there's always going to be someone better than you. And no matter what you're trying to do, you're never going to be the best at everything that you try to do. Um, and so just accept that, you know?
Mike Ergo: 39:57 Yeah, yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 39:58 I'm not a great swimmer. I mean, I could swim, but you know, I'm not an Olympic swimmer I'm no Michael Phelps and you know, I'm not, I'm not going to be a competing in any races and winning anything, unless it's a people with no arms or something like that. Yeah. Maybe I'd be able to beat them, but like, I'm not going to be able to beat Michael Phelps. And I, I get that. Um, but I think we all need to understand that we're not right. We're not the best at everything and it's okay. We just have to suck that up and deal with it. Like try to try to compete with yourself, be better than what you were yesterday or the day before and try to just get better at who you are being you.
Mike Ergo: 40:42 Yeah. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're willing to put up with a little bit of embarrassment, like willing to be humble and willing to have with the Buddhist called beginner mind or, and, and learn something from the start. And you're right. I was watching kids swim faster than me. I was watching 70-year olds swim faster than me. You know, I was watching people who are obese, swim faster than me. And I was just thinking, do I belong here? Well, you know what I do, because I'm going to stay here and keep swimming. That's, that's why I belong here.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:13 Yeah. And quite frankly, you belong there because that's what you want to do. You want to, you want to get better at, at swimming. And if you're not in a pool, you're not going to get better. You know? So yeah. So that's, that was your objective. And, and if you were to just pack it up and walk away, because somebody else was better than you, it doesn't matter if they were seven year olds or 70 year olds it doesn't matter if you packed it up, you wouldn't have gotten better. And that was ultimately what your objective was. And so, yeah.
Mike Ergo: 41:41 Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:45 It looks like man, this, when we have these conversations on, on, on the show, I'm just amazed at how fast time flies
Mike Ergo: 41:51 It does. Isn't one answer the conversation's good.
Scott DeLuzio: 41:54 Yeah. These conversations are awesome though. And I really enjoy it. Um, is there anything else that you might, that you wanted to offer in terms of advice or anything like that, to someone who might be struggling to find their sense of meaning or purpose, um, or you know, anything else that you wanted to talk about the Gold Star Initiative and, and the Ironman partnership that you have going on? Um,
Mike Ergo: 42:18 Yeah, a couple of things the, those who are interested in being a Veteran athlete or Gold Star families who would like their loved one recognized, and to be part of the race that way I will, maybe we can put the link in the show notes. So, the Ironman foundation's Gold Star Initiative page, where people can apply, obviously things are on hold right now with this whole COVID-19, um, things. So, a lot of race has been postponed and canceled. You know what? We still have these races next year, if nothing else so they're going to, they're going to happen that this thing is too cool for it to go away.
Scott DeLuzio: 42:54 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And covert is not going to last forever. I mean, it may seem like it because we're in it now, but like, this is our everyone's going through the shared endurance race of going, getting through COVID-19 right now
Mike Ergo: 43:08 At some point and I think that for people looking for their purpose, there's, there's three different kinds of motivation that I'm aware of. There's extrinsic looking for an external reward, which let's say a very, um, maybe shallow one or one that wouldn't last as long could be, I'm going to work out. So, I get in shape. So, these girls think I'm hot. Okay. That gets you far. That can get you far sometimes. But when it gets really hard, it we're going to let go of that. There's the intrinsic motivation of, Hey, I want to do this because it's important for me to having the sense of accomplishment I'm going to race this race. We're getting shaped because I know I will feel better. And I'll be proud of that. That'll get you a lot farther. What will get you?
Mike Ergo: 43:54 The farthest is something that's called pro social. And it is knowing that what you are doing is going to benefit somebody else. And so like that feeling you get, when you serve somebody else and you give them something or you build them something, or you help them when your motivation and your purpose is tied up and, and doing something that will benefit someone else, you will become unstoppable. And that's, that's the only way I can get through what I'm doing, what I'm doing, because I'm not a natural athlete. I don't have the same maybe or athletic intelligence is a lot of people I share the starting line with, but the w the advantages I have the connection to purpose, I've been blessed and gifted with that. So, when you, when you find something that is going to benefit something else, even if it's dedicating a workout to your grandma, right. That's going to help push you through,
Scott DeLuzio: 44:52 Right. Yeah, exactly. And, and I do, um, I do a half marathon every Memorial day weekend, and the weekend before, or Veteran's day. Um, and I, I always do that with the thought in mind of like, what you just said is, um, I'm doing this on Memorial day, I'm doing this for the following. Uh to honor them on Veterans day, I'm doing this for the Vets I'm doing it. And that, that's my purpose. And I, I do it for that. And, um it just makes me feel good that I, that I'm doing that. And when it gets tough, um when, when your Memorial day weekend, I, I pull the muscle in my leg after like the first mile or two of, of this half marathon, I was like, Oh shit. I was like, this is going to be terrible. Um, but I was like, I'm also not going quit. Um because of what I'm doing this for. And I just kept, I kept going and I finished, um, in pain, but I finished, you know what I mean? But, but it, it, I would not have, have finished it. I would have called it quits if I was doing it for any other reason, if I was doing it for any of those other kinds of motivations, if it wasn't for doing it for someone else.
Mike Ergo: 46:02 Oh yeah. There sometimes you get a grasp at straws to find some meaning of, of, of a reason to keep going. I remember a race and it was in Hawaii and my legs were hurting so badly. I was just, I was just in the ultimate pain. I remember thinking this is the hardest thing I've done since being in combat. And my legs were hurting so bad. And I'm like, I'm in a dark place. I'm a dark mindset. Everything is dark, including the sun had gone down. So, it was physically dark right now. I'm thinking there's got to be something, some straw I can grasp on some little finger hold that I can get on this rock wall of no motivation. And I thought, okay, my legs hurt. That's my one thought. And I said, okay, that means I have legs. That means I'm alive. Oh yeah, I'm alive. And then I just, I just, yeah, it was a, it was false motivation at first, which anyone who's ever served can tap into false motivation.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:00 You can tap into that heart. Yeah.
Mike Ergo: 47:03 Sometimes it's what it takes you grasp at straws and you find something and eventually your mind can grasp onto that and you can believe it because it's true. It just takes a little while to feel it.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:14 Right. Exactly. Well, Mike, thank you again for joining us. Uh, this was a fun conversation to have and you know, really great stuff that you're doing. And again, I appreciate everything that you're doing as a star family member. Um re really appreciate all of, all of us no support that you're giving to the Gold Star family. So, um, so thank you. And thank you for joining us on the show. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was, it was great talking with you and it was, it was great having this conversation. So, I, you, again, some sometime. All right, absolutely. Thanks.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:55 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at DriveOnPodcast.

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