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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

Every Third Day Interviews: Elliott Austin

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the stories of people. If you dig deep enough, every person you meet has an amazing story about the path that's led them to who they are today. As a college student, writing and editing for our campus newspaper, my favorite pieces to write were ones that showed angles of people that most folks might not get to see if they didn't take the time to look a little closer.

As I've gotten older, my interest in learning about other people has only grown. I find it infinitely interesting to hear background stories of successful people - there is never a straight, easy path to success, and hearing about the grit, drive and resilience of people in the pursuit of a goal is both fascinating and inspiring.

As humans, I think this fascination is pretty common - it's why we enjoy reality shows and spend hours on end stalking the lives of others on social media. We want to know what makes other people tick. We want to know the true story behind the face they show to the world. We want to feel like we're getting an exclusive backstage tour of the lives of others, like the curtain has been pulled back just for us. And although as a society, our interest can often border on obsession, I do believe there are positive things to be gained by studying the lives of others. When we ask the right questions and pull out the right information, we can find applications and inspiration for our own lives.

I'll be featuring some interviews going forward with people that I find interesting and inspiring, and I hope you enjoy these Q&A-style conversations as much as I do. I'm starting with the man I share my life with, because I've realized that he and I actually have these kinds of conversations on a pretty regular basis, and I want to share the insights that I'm fortunate enough to gain from him. I've found that while I can sometimes take these talks for granted, other folks are really interested to hear about them, to learn more about how Elliott's mind works. He is an intense, focused, motivated person who doesn't often bare his soul or share his most personal thoughts. As a writer, I'm excited to dig deep and share parts of who he is with you. As his wife, I am humbled and grateful to do life with someone I look up to and admire so much, who has found a new path recently in coaching folks on their fitness journeys. I hope you enjoy learning from him as much as I do.

ETD: What do you consider to be the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle?
EA: I'd probably say a balanced lifestyle - not being so extreme in any one particular area. I think people have a natural tendency to make wild swings in different areas of their life, health and fitness probably being the most prominent of those. It's either a situation where somebody works out five days a week, or they don't at all. And because there's no balance there, their overall health is on a constant pendulum, swinging back and forth. The way to fix that is to not allow yourself to live on the peripheral extreme of those swings. Don't allow yourself to get so out of shape that you make reactionary fitness decisions - but at the same time, don't become so obsessed with your fitness that you burn out and lose the drive that you had.

ETD: What do you think holds most people back from pursuing a healthier lifestyle?
EA: Fear. Fear of failing. Fear of not having enough time. Fear of judgment by others. Fear of a lack of support. Fear is what keeps people from starting, and effort is what keeps people from finishing. When the "shiny" wears off, and people stop telling you how proud they are of you, some people have a hard time justifying the work they are putting in...because most people try to get healthy for the wrong reasons anyway, for reasons that are not their own.

ETD: What are some intentional habits that you've put in place in an effort to be a better version of yourself?
EA: I wouldn't say that I have habits that I follow, but I try to be acutely aware of my surroundings at all times. I'm pretty aware of where I am, who I'm around and what I'm doing at any given point. I'm constantly analyzing what I've done immediately after I do it, so I can either replicate it or try to never do it again. And I'm very hard on myself. I'm constantly reevaluating who I am.

ETD: What do you focus on mentally when you want to give up on something that's difficult?
EA: I don't really know how to quantify that. I want to quit just as much as anybody else does when things get hard, but I just don't quit. I can't tell you how that happens or why that happens. I don't have a mantra or a saying or a quote, I just don't quit. When things get really difficult, if all you're clinging to is a quote, that's not enough. If all you've got to fall back on is a mantra, what are you going to do when you're hurting so bad that you can't even think? You have to prepare yourself before that happens so you don't have to think about it when it's happening. I also constantly think that I'm not doing enough. No matter how much I've studied, or how hard I'm working or how miserable I am, I think it's not going to be enough in the end.

ETD: What inspired you to create the Austin Fitness Project (AFP)?
EA: What I perceive as a confusing, muddled, congested fitness industry that's more interested in herding people through a gym like cattle than actually being invested and connected to the very people that are looking for guidance. I also think that people need to be shown that being physically fit really is attainable for nearly everybody. It's not some unclimbable mountain that's wrought with disappointment and unattainable goals.

ETD: What are the top five specific things you would tell people to do (or not do) in order to feel better mentally and physically?
EA: Be honest with yourself about who and what you are. Stop telling everybody what you're going to do and actually do something without telling anybody. Find a support system that holds you accountable and not just for fitness. Stop chasing an instant fix for your long-term problem. Stop making up ten excuses to not do one thing.

ETD: How do you find inspiration to keep pushing to become a better version of yourself?
EA: In the end, I usually do two things. I try to envision what it will be like to achieve a task or goal, no matter how insignificant that task or goal might be. And I would say I rely more heavily than I should on the affirmation of others.

ETD: Why did you choose firefighting for your career?
EA: I think most people have jobs and careers - this is a calling. The canned answer is that I want to help people. But I think the guys who are firefighters and police officers and military, the guys who really believe in what they're doing, can't give you a logical answer as to why we do what we do. It's not a job to me. It's not work. I don't do it for attention, or to come running out of a building with a baby in my arms. I don't do it for that. I do it literally because I think I'm built to do it.

ETD: What lessons have you learned from being a father?
EA: Patience. Empathy. I ideally want to talk to Brooks and teach Brooks in a way that I would want to be talked to or in a way that I would want to be taught. But I'm very aware that I fall short in doing that.

ETD: What do you believe are the most important factors in a healthy marriage?
EA: Trust and accountability. If you can't trust the person you're with, then you're going to spend most of your time wondering what they're doing or where they are. And if you don't have somebody who can hold you accountable for what you do, what you say or how you feel, then you are liable to stray from the path pretty easily, I think.

Fun Final Five:
1. What's the last thing you ate that was bad for you? Yellow cake with chocolate icing
2. Favorite song right now? "Simple" by Florida Georgia Line
3. Best book you ever read? The Road by Cormac McCarthy
4. What has been your favorite part of today? Watching Brooks run around trying to play football with some neighborhood boys. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing.
5. Top 5 things you are most grateful for in this season of life: The support of my family, being able to watch my son grow, being married to my best friend, having a career that I enjoy and having an understanding of what is truly important in life.


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