As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, lots of my friends thought I was lucky to be a Buckley. On the outside it looked pretty good – my dad was a prominent figure in the community and our family was well known as “hard workers,” a value my dad pounded into me since I was old enough to do my first chores.
This hard work had its payoffs – I learned the art of public speaking at a very early age and to play the piano well enough to perform in front of hundreds and even thousands of people. What people didn’t know was the huge weight this (being a Buckley) was to carry everywhere I went. It was a perk that came with a ton of responsibility.
Until I left for college this was a normal life for me – I knew much of our position was due to the fact we were hard workers and were willing to make the sacrifices in order to achieve – consistently. But in early August 1988, everything changed when my parents dropped me off in Lynchburg Virginia at Liberty University.
The name of the university was fitting because absolutely no one new who I was or what it mean to be a “Buckley” which was challenging and liberating at the same time. This was a defining moment, for the first time in my life I was free to choose my path. That sense of freedom ignited a drive in me to achieve my own results on my own terms that has shaped the rest of my life.
The two most important lessons I learned in college were to build relationships to connect with people and to work not just hard, but smart. I watched, asked questions, and learned how to navigate from high achievers and top performers. This paid off – I was elected Junior Class President and Student Body Vice president my senior year.
This success carried on through my 20’s and 30’s. I was learning how to maximize my time and out perform most people. My friends saw me as someone who viewed sleep as optional and a necessary evil. I worked out but also ate whatever I wanted. I ate fast, walked fast, talked fast, and even drove fast. Just get it done at all costs was my life theme.
When I worked from my strengths, I felt the only thing that could stop me was not having enough time. I pushed so hard. Even though I was achieving results, I was not focused. My desire to show others I could make it on my own led me to take on almost any and every challenge that came my way that soon would prove to have disastrous effects on my life.
Something is Wrong
In February 2011 my body started kicking back. I went to the doctor and they ran extensive tests. The good news is they couldn’t find anything wrong. The bad news is they couldn’t find anything wrong. But I knew there was definitely something wrong and then I willingly chose to ignore it. I had too much to do and not enough time to do it so I went back to business as usual.
The truth was I didn’t want to stop and rest. My identity was in my drive and producing results. If I stopped, I thought I would lose ground and ultimately lose.
I pushed it even harder traveling an insane number of miles for business. I increased my pace and responsibility. I lived in the moment and was willing to sacrifice everything including my health.
The Cost of the Results
Then it happened.
I hit the wall and this time it hit back and I didn’t’t get up quickly.
In March 2015 it began to catch up with me. All of my energizer bunny energy was no longer there. Everything that was natural to me began to take more energy and I began to crash and crash hard. It didn’t happen all of a sudden but my pace and stress of life had finally caught up to me.
I was finding myself unable to get up in the morning when the hours before everyone arose was “my time” and I never missed it. My breathing was off. I became flush in the face. I would get body aches like the flu without the flu. My mind would shut down to the point I couldn’t concentrate or even read.
The hard driving me was becoming a thing of the past. But how? I was only 45 years old? Although I still felt like I was getting more done than most people, it was not MY pace and at my energy level.
I went through extensive medical tests that were exhausting, stressful, and expensive. I just needed to know and understand what was going on in my body.
The doctors had cleared me with a clean bill of health but still I struggled. I was encouraged to know that nothing major was wrong but I still left tired most of the time and unable to run races, workout, and push it like I always did anytime I wanted.
I was officially concerned and worried. I knew I had SO much more in me but not the energy to produce the results I wanted and especially not in the turnaround time I was used to and acceptable to me.
I hit a wall and needed a new fuel. I was using cheap gas and not doing the needed maintenance on a high performance car. I was doing repair work at best that consisted of “do the minimum and get me back on the road.” I needed new fuel of the highest grade and learning how to maintain this gift of a car for the long haul.
Getting results was never the issue. Years and then decades of doing it “my way” was wrecking my body. Pushing this hard without really taking care of my body was finally catching up to me. The cost of the results “MY way” was causing me to pay a price I didn’t want to but was being forced to pay.
Everything was going to have to change. I needed to do things differently. My health literally depended on it.
Over the next few months, I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. My stress and pace had damaged my adrenal glands that produced my energy and something had to change or it would literally shut my body down.
To be honest, this really scared me. I was the sole supporter of my family. I was literally forced to change. I also didn’t have all the answers and knew it would not be a quick fix, if one at all. Not the place I wanted to be in but my focus was now on getting myself healthy in a different way.
To anyone that would meet or know me, they would be completely shocked that I have “energy issues” since I’m so active and intense. But my energy is a commodity at this point that needs to be spent on the things that really matter.
I actually view this as a rare gift. It’s forced me to get focused on how to manage and increase my energy so I can maximize my results.
Under the Hood
There was this underlying stress to always perform, always be at my best and “be on.” There were all these expectations that I found out were ultimately self-imposed.
Others saw my results or my “on stage” persona not the “off stage” grind it was taking on me.
Why did I feel the need to “push” all of the time?
What do I actually do when I rest? I’m always doing something. I didn’t know how to be still or just be with others. This is not right.
I felt lonely, empty, drained, discouraged, confused, paralyzed, and humbled. And I’m not even in touch with my feelings!
I didn’t hear of high performers getting sleep, taking breaks, and having downtime. I didn’t know how to refuel me with all I was asking and taking from myself.
I deeply lacked true rest, the very thing that would heal my body, mind, and soul.
Finally I began to really look at myself as I was, not whom I thought I had to be. Yes, there were expectations but who had set them? I realized I had set the expectations from others of what to expect of me and it was exhausting.
Rested, Refueled, and Re-engaged
My character was deepened along with my faith during this journey, which is still on going, and the key has been self-awareness.
I’m learning to listen to my body and really listen. What does it need right now? For a driven, high performer, this is a DRASTIC change of operation for me.
But it’s necessary and literally changing my life.
There are many of you out there that are like me. Some part of my story is your story. My hope is you find enlightenment, encouragement, and hope in knowing there is someone else out there like you.
I challenge and encourage you to allow me to work this journey with you. You can move from “If only” to “what if” thinking. What if you no longer felt exhausted, drained, discouraged, and stressed and could feel hope, energy, and again?