I have been indirectly conditioned to deal with my feelings at a level most can’t comprehend. Health issues, relationships, accidents in life, etc. come and go, but to do what I do, I have to be focused 100% of the time. BMX riders face the fact that we may get seriously injured on a daily basis doing what we do or even die. It’s an accepted fact in our sport that you may fall from 10 to 20 feet in the air to the ground and is almost inevitable if you have been riding long enough. This sounds crazy but it does happen, and we bounce right back up (most of the time). I love what I do and the feeling it provides. I’d rather feel pain from time to time doing what I love than be numb with something I don’t love. I am an all or nothing type of person when it comes to what I do in my life.
The amount of emotions that run through our bodies at once in a short split 2-second period in the air is insane. Now that I think about it, my ADHD/ADD, or whatever you want to call it, is what allows my brain to focus on multiple things happening on top of a 25-pound bike, 12-18 feet in the air while flipping, spinning and jumping off the bike. There are times you start to think of a trick to try for the first time or even attempt to learn in the foam pit when fear starts to kicks in. Then you go back and forth between what could happen, what you want to happen, and the consequences of what happens if the trick goes wrong. Then adrenaline and anxiety build up, and, if you’re not careful, doubt washes over you. Then you have these intense nerves that kick in at a contest from the combination of judging yourself too hard and comparing your riding to others, as you struggle not to psych yourself out.
As a BMX athlete, we learn to assess whether or not these feelings are real. Are they coming from the “unknown” of the trick and experience, from someone else’s experience, or are they made up from our past experiences? A top pro rider, no matter what their style of riding may be, is good at blocking these feelings and thoughts. Maybe not blocking them out as much as acknowledging them, and deciding whether or not they serve a purpose in our current life and if we will allow them to take over our success. I can look back on a lot of instances where I fell, and it was because I was thinking, “what if this goes wrong and I do this” or “what will happen if I fall”? More than likely if your thinking of the negatives rather than thinking about what you need to do, and how it will feel and look, you’re going to fall or attract the unwanted negativity.
There is a quote I saw once that read “worrying is like praying for something negative that hasn’t happened yet.” I have learned to apply this mentality to my life and not live in fear. I believe this so much that I even got a tattoo that reads, “fear is just a thought, thoughts can be changed.” I have had relationships go south because one or both of us were living in fear of what the other may think, do, or feel. It’s possible that we were so fearful of a potentially negative experience that we lived in a manner that eventually manifested negativity into our relationship.
I do my best to share with others that anyone can do anything they feel they are capable of deep down inside of them, and that they can absolutely accomplish their dreams that even they doubt are possible. You just have to believe, visualize, and take action. You also have to completely embrace your dream into your life and not listen to others if they spread negative energy towards you or your goals. I have done this very well when it comes to BMX riding, but I’ve never been 100% good at it, and never will be because I am always learning how to improve myself and I am only human. I have learned to adopt this into my riding and my personal life even further since my diagnosis and surgery for three separate brain tumor diagnosis while living with four tumors in my skull today. I have learned to listen to my gut feeling, which all of us should learn to do more. We have complex brains that take intuition, analyze it and discredit it, resulting in changing our thoughts to disagree with our gut.
I feel that many people are afraid of their goals and dreams because they are afraid to accept that they can have positivity in their life while achieving success. I feel a lot of American’s are conditioned to believe they cannot have a happy life, a healthy life, success, their dream job or life partner, etc. They live in fear to take a risk and go for it. What I do as a BMX athlete involves taking calculated risks every single day. There is a part of our brain we have learned to manipulate, allowing us to hold onto the feeling of exhilaration you get from landing a trick while suppressing the fear and danger of trying the trick. An excellent quote by Dave Mirra that I love is, “I’d risk the fall to know how it feels to fly,” and Jim Carrey “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on what you love.” Both are so true and hold so much meaning to my life and me. If more people were willing to risk the fall, they would understand the true happiness of accomplishing something that no one else thought was possible.
I am a firm believer that our thoughts manifest into our reality, whether they’re “good” or “bad.” Energy and the universe don’t interpret the difference; they just provide us with what we focus our energy on. I grew up constantly thinking, dreaming, daydreaming and talking about BMX. Wanting to become a pro rider one day consumed me. I put everything I had behind this thought into action because it was what I wanted most in life. I took risks on tricks, traveling around the country as an amateur rider, and then moving from MA to NC at the age of 17 to pursue this dream of mine. Luckily for me, my parents were behind me completely and without hesitation, which makes it much easier to move 13 hours away from your home and family and take a risk that doesn’t conform to what society says is a “normal” American life. Between the mental and physical acts of working towards a goal, I achieved success as a top BMX pro athlete and became friends with my idols I grew up watching on TV.
Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Or rather, it transforms from one form to another. Everything in life is energy. If you can learn to shift your energy from negative to positive, then you will see significant benefits in your life. This practice along with a holistic diet has helped me grow in ways I never saw coming. I believe a clean, macro balanced, high-fat, healthy diet allows your body to do its job without added stress and toxins slowing it down. You begin to feel, think, act, and live clearer and with positive energy full of love. Love for yourself, your life, your passions, your goals, your family and friends, strangers, animals, etc. Learning all of this and making these changes has helped me become the best version of myself as a human being and a pro-BMX athlete while accepting positive energy into my life.
It’s not always easy, though. Brain surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery were not the only obstacles I have had to overcome. Two and a half months after my first brain surgery, a fall during a contest in the UK resulted in my arm being operated on to remove bone chips and fragments in my elbow. Then another year or so later I fell while competing in Ocean City, MD at the Dew Action Sports Tour resulting in the worst concussion I have ever had. My heart stopped beating for 30 seconds, I had a black eye, and I woke up in the ambulance throwing up. Then in November of 2015, I went in for ACL/meniscus reconstructive surgery to repair an injury from 2013. Despite all of this, I still ride today, and I ride harder than ever.
When you set a goal, and you love something as much as I love BMX, you do whatever it takes to make it happen. Failure is a part of life, and when you can accept that fact, you can learn not to dwell on past failures and instead strive for greatness. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
-Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
You cannot have success without failure just as you cannot have up without down, hot without cold, or good without bad. It’s just how life is. We define what “good” is, so we indirectly and directly define what is bad. Otherwise good wouldn’t be a real thing. Just as I have had to accept death is a part of a human experience in life, we must accept failure is a part of the road to success. It’s our perspective on “failures” that can either turn into a learning experience or put us into a “victim” perceptive and thus set our reality as just that.
My point with all of this is that if you truly believe in something and a dream to be someone or do something special one day, don’t let anything stop you. When life gets tough, shift that energy into fuel and stay positive. Don’t stop pushing because when times feel as if it’ll never get better and you want to give up, that’s when you’re closest to reaching your goal. Live and eat as healthy as you can so you can form positive thoughts and have the mental and physical strength to push forward. Don’t be afraid of failure or to take a risk doing something you love, and put that positive energy out into the universe and accept it in return.