How an Empty Tic Tac Container Changed My Life?

For 9 weeks 2 days 4 hours 4 minutes and 4 seconds, I participated in an intense training.  It was an important time in my life and if not for the three young men that endured that training period with me, I would not have made it.  Let’s call this training period Basic, yea like Army, Navy, and Marines Basic! We faced plenty of challenges during Basic and each one provided learning moments that have proved invaluable in our life experiences.  One of the most enduring lessons I learned was from losing a fight with an empty Tic Tac container!

Let’s not get into the details of why I was holding gallon water jugs out to the side like a lowercase “t”, just know that I was holding them…..for a long time.  Blame in Basic and the pyramids!  This was a test about endurance, about fighting past the burn and pushing past my limits.  But, in my mind, I set a time limit for how long I could hold the jugs and when I reached that time, I acted as though I just couldn’t hold the gallons of water any longer.  One day, one of our “trainers” noticed I was cheating and suggested I do something a little different.  Something a little more challenging.  The next time I got to the endurance station I didn’t see the dreaded gallons of water; instead, there was simply an empty Tic Tac container!!


This little thing is heavier than it looks!!

I wanted to yell at him for insulting my strength but I wasn’t exactly in a position to negotiate.  I figured I would be able to hold it up forever!!!   I figured WRONG!! Right when I got to my mental time limit I felt the fatigue start to creep in my arms.  I was shocked and embarrassed.  My trainer noticed my arms doing the wobble and in between laughs asked how I was letting a Tic Tac container whip on my head!!  It was a gradual progression of foolishness.  I started with just a little dip from perpendicular to a full-blown Harlem shake!  That empty Tic Tac container beat my behind!  I couldn’t understand how an in shape, strong young man couldn’t hold ONE empty Tic Tac container out to the side for more than a few minutes.


When Basic was finally over, I had time to reflect on the lesson I learned that night.  That night an empty Tic Tac container changed my life.  That night I experienced the power of mental conditioning.  I never tested my limits at the endurance station. I did just enough to keep my trainers off my back but not once did I try to see how long I could really hold out. I conditioned myself (mentally and physically) to endure for only so long before I quit.  It didn’t matter what I was holding, in my mind I had already set the time limit on how long I could last.  So even when presented with an easier task, the outcome was still the same.


Chis at Leadership Conference at Texas State University - San Marcos

Chris at Leadership Conference at Texas State University – San Marcos

We often unknowingly do this in our leadership roles.  We do this in our programming and event planning.  We think, “The E Board before me only did three programs so if I do four its cool.”  Or maybe you say, “The RA before me used the same passive programs every semester why do I have to change mine?”  We make excuses like, “I wasn’t mentored before taking on a leadership role, the next cat will learn by trial and error just like I did.”  Really!!! Are you serious?!?!  If you think this isn’t you, that you would never say or do anything like that…, think again.  If you are not consciously focused on how to be a better more productive and efficient student, leader, and organization that is exactly what you are doing.  You are conditioning yourself and your org to stop at good enough.  Eventually, that catches up to you and your group.  When you get complacent and forget the hard work it tales to run the yard you start slipping.  You go from rocking out major programs and events to struggling just to get people to show up to weekly meetings and follow through on once simple tasks.

There must always be a conscious effort push past success and go for great!  This mentality should permeate the culture of your organization. This mentality starts with you.  No matter your title or tenure, having a creative and challenging approach to the things you do is a results-oriented habit.  Don’t limit your ideas or expectations, allow yourself the room to G.R.O.W. and exceed expectations.  Think big and do big!  When you are just starting out and things are difficult, the lifting is heavy, push harder to be better and more efficient.  It develops the fortitude needed to be great.  That way you won’t be intimidated by large task and you will have the discipline to excel in the smaller task.  Don’t wimp out on the gallon jugs, because they prepare you for the Tic Tac containers!


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