The Edmonton Oilers just made it to the Stanley Cup finals.

Zach Hyman's on the top line. He's leading the playoffs in goals.

I was his personal trainer when he was 16. To be clear, I take zero credit for his success. It was for a short time and it was a long time ago.

This just felt like a good time to share a conversation we had that I'll never forget.

It's paraphrased. I've probably made up a bunch to fill in the gaps but the essence of the conversation is true as much as any 15-year old memory is true.


“I feel weird because all that I do is train while the other kids are out partying." Zach said.

“Weird’s just another word for different. Different means that you don’t fit in. That you’re not average. That you don’t fall prey to average temptations or average bullshit. Different means that you think for yourself and don’t give a fuck whether an arbitrary group of kids at your school think that you’re normal." I said.

Then I added.

“Different's good. People who feel different when they’re young often find out later that they were the ones who had it figured out and the rest hadn’t caught up yet.” I said.

“Yeah, I guess.” He said.

I could sense he didn't buy it. It’s hard to recognize something true if the opposite is what’s in your face.

“What are most of the popular kids from school doing right now?” I asked him.

“Probably out with friends drinking. There's a party tonight." Zach said.

“And you’re here at the gym.” I responded. "Tell me, is being different from them a good thing or a bad thing?" I asked.

“I just wish that I fit in more.” He said.

“I get that man. Look, nothing that I can say will make you truly believe me. The stuff that other kids do and how they socialize is your normal because you're stuck going to that school.

“Once you become an adult you get to decide where you spend your time and who you spend it with. It’s important to choose wisely. Shitty people with no work ethic who complain a lot and drink until they black out are people that you can choose to avoid. In the real world you can design your life and if those people still get you down, well, then that’s your own damn fault.

“But as a kid, you’re stuck. No matter what, for the rest of the year until you finish high school you’re going to have to see these kids every day and it’ll be impossible for you not to compare yourself to them. A piece of you will wish that you belonged more.

“Humans are dumb that way. Our immediate surroundings becomes our reality. The emotional part of our lizard brain wants us to improve our perceived standing in whatever social group we happen to be in at the time.

“What you see is not all that there is, obviously. But what you see becomes your reality even if it sets you down a negative path. And a part of you will always crave acceptance and power within that reality even if you know it's not good for you. It’s dumb.

"High school social dynamics don't matter.

“Right now, however, they matter to you because you’re forced to be there. Once you graduate you’ll realize that it’s nonsense.

“And this isn’t just some adult saying to a kid that his life doesn’t matter. Adults get wrapped up into this nonsense too and the worst part is that when they do, it’s their own damn fault.

“Adults choose the prisons that they lock themselves into. They all own the key to get out. Some use those keys and escape. Most don’t.

“I guess what I'm saying is that I understand being different is easier said than done.

“Keep working out. Don’t make a big deal of it in school. It doesn’t matter if you aren't the most popular kid in the petri dish you’re forced into this year. What matters is what's going to happen when you get out.

“When you invest your time strengthening your body while others waste it away weakening themselves, you’ll rise above.

“5-10 years from now, those popular kids will be admiring you." I said.