It Ain’t Easy Being Lean…


Somewhere Under The Rainbow

The Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, Colorado; from the late 1970’s through the late 1980’s, The Rainbow Music Hall was Denver’s premier concert venue.  There were 1,400 seats, not a bad one in the house, and the acoustics were rich.

Concert promoter, Barry Fey, ensured that week after week, The Rainbow Music Hall was host to world class acts such as Bob Dylan, Jefferson Starship, U2, The Pretenders, BB King, and many others.  I witnessed many of those shows because I was one of the puffy-armed dolts lucky enough to score a job working as part of the back stage security crew.

Some employee once wrote, "Free Drugs Tonight" on this marque -- it was a sold out show. True...

It Ain’t Easy Making Green

It wasn’t always about music.  Comedy acts and theatrical performances occasionally appeared on stage of the Rainbow, Jim Henson’s Muppets included.  In the early 80’s, The Muppets weekly TV series was a widely accepted alternative to Sunday evening’s 60 Minutes.  Hosts like John Denver, Elton John, and Lilly Tomlin, in combination with America’s favorite Frog and Pig, assured The Muppets a large weekly audience; adults and children alike.

With that kind of success, it would not take long for The Muppets to hit the road and spread the word, one city at a time, that it ain’t easy being green. 

The only competition Mike Wallace and Morley Safer ever had...

The Dolt And The Genius

Jim Henson’s creative genius was unique and obvious.  He also understood that to live is to work, and to work well is to master the art of enjoying work.

Pure genius, all work, and a true gentleman...

There I stood, in my tight t-shirt with my bad ass man-boy face set to stun, ensuring no intruders violated the set-up space that the Muppeteers required for their evening act.  I was a bit annoyed at it all.  It’s one thing to stand, look impressive, and do absolutely nothing when Chrissie Hynde or Stanley Clarke was setting up beside me.  It seemed less glamorous though, when it was the Muppet guy.  I repeatedly sighed from deep within my contempt. 

Jim Henson, overseeing the setup, was keen to my wordless griping.  He stopped his work, stepped toward me, and asked,

“What would you rather be doing right now?”

A bit surprised, I received his point and did not want to offend him.  I responded,

“Nothing really, I’m just tired.” 

I could feel a lesson coming on.  Mr. Henson continued,

“You will be working your entire life.  If you’re not working it will be for one of two reasons; that you are homeless as the result of your choice not to work, or that you are wealthy as the result of working very hard.  Aside from those two paths, you will be working.  Even if you can’t embrace the work that you do, never quit looking for reasons to like it – you just might find some.”

I had no response whatsoever.  Just the glazed eyes of a slacker-bouncer, contemplating the wisdom of a success, and wishing I was anywhere else.

Henson added one more thought – and this was the one that mattered,

“Work is one of the good things in life” he said, “it’s what we are here for – it’s all we are here for. If you don’t like the work that you do, either learn to like it, or take what you do like and make that your work.”

Those words changed my life forever because, with those words, I began to appreciate those special moments within work, that make one return to work – though it would take another 20 years for that ideal to fully sink in. 

A Many Forked Road

Fitness training hasn’t always been there for me, and when it has been there, it hasn’t always been lucrative.

In my post-Henson lifetime I have been a gas pump jockey, United States Coast Guardsman, a shoe salesmen, sandwich maker, waiter, dishwasher, scheduling analyst for a major airline, airport security screener, athletic trainer, fitness trainer, liquor store clerk, jewelry salesman, call center supervisor, hotel general manager, computer salesman, writer, convenience store clerk, delivery driver… and a bouncer at a place called The Rainbow Music Hall. 

I have found smiles in every job I have ever had -- even the crappy ones. But you won't find them if you're not looking...

Despite Mr. Henson’s advice, I had a hard time embracing many of those jobs.  Because of his words though, I never quit looking for the good in those jobs. Though I may not have always found those jobs to be glamorous, I often found the smiles buried within them, which subsequently gave me reason to return each day.

The Fitness Hook

In fitness, unless you are one of the blessed ones, you will likely be working at fitness for the rest of your life.  Though you may not always embrace the work in exercise, as I failed to embrace the work involved in my long list of jobs, I suggest you seek to find the smiles buried within the exercise – they are always there. 

Perhaps by regularly challenging yourself to find a nugget of good buried within the hard work within your workouts, you will find reason to keep coming back for more, and thus find results rather than finding reasons to avoid exercise. 

There is so much good in what this represents...

“It ain’t easy being green” said Kermit, and it ain’t easy trying to be lean says I, but there is joy in the work, though you will only find it if you are looking for it.  Be well.  rc

And to Jeffrey, my oldest and dearest friend, thank you for getting me a job at The Rainbow!  Amazing nights — and Tacorittos 🙂

15 responses

  1. Many a memories watching the “Muppet Show”. In fact I recently bought season one for my kids not to long ago. Imagine my disdain when Miss Piggy and the old guys on the balcony just didn’t live up to the hype I had created for them. I suppose it’s just not the same as today’s children’s shows. 😦

    There’s so many good lessons I could take away from this post, but inquiring minds want to know about the liquor store clerk job. Now THAT sounds interesting and I bet you met a varied selection of people at that job. Not so different from fitness training perhaps, but just at the other end of the spectrum?

  2. You honor Jim by remembering his words! You make me think of many efforts of wisdom that fell upon me, hopefully some stuck.

    I did a sociology project in undergrad where I passed out a questionnaire with ten requests, the last asking “Do you think hard work makes for a good person?” I think more said yes than no.

    I think some of the hardest work I’ve ever done was the most rewarding. The physical was always the easier part of the task.

    I would vote for Elmo for President 🙂

  3. WOW, I don’t even know where to start! I love this: “Work is one of the good things in life” he said, “it’s what we are here for – it’s all we are here for. If you don’t like the work that you do, either learn to like it, or take what you do like and make that your work.” I so want to do that, have tried & not been able to make the living I need by doing it but I keep trying…

    And this: Perhaps by regularly challenging yourself to find a nugget of good buried within the hard work within your workouts, you will find reason to keep coming back for more, and thus find results rather than finding reasons to avoid exercise.

    Now that says a lot!!!

    Roy, man have you done a ton of things…. I am guessing not settling for the norm… searching for whatever.. would love to hear why so many jobs & was it a search for something…

    You have me thinking as usual! Love it all!

  4. I absolutely loved this. I wish Jim Henson was here to read how his words impacted your life. My father once told me something similar and I’ve never forgotten it.

    You truly do have to find joy in your work. I gave up my career in public administration to become a massage therapist. It was physically difficult and didn’t pay well, but I would drive to and from work with a smile on my face. I loved my clients and learned so much from them. I hope my own children will find that joy in their future.

  5. Bobbie: Animal was my favorite Muppet — because he played the drums like me 🙂 The liquor store job was great because the owner let us take home all the bottle with torn labels — how stupid can one man be.

    Dr. J: Agree. I once had a job shoveling rocks in Phoenix in the summer time — hard work, very rewarding, and yes, I still went to the gym at the end of the day.

    Jody: Yes, lots of jobs — most built around my workout schedule. All of them, were mile markers on my mono-visual path to gym ownership.

    Karen: We who do what we love, are the lucky ones. Like you, I learn from my clients and am a richer man for their knowledge and experiences.

    Jack: Thanks for taking the time brother. I miss you already. True.

  6. Great article as always. I love how you (and all of us) can take all the experiences in our lives and learn from them. My work right now is at home with the children – and although I don’t get any money for it, I am richly paid.

  7. I’ve realized lately that I have been having trouble finding the joy in my life. I have been very negative about how far I’ve come in life, and where I’m going. I think this has to do with the fact that I am turning 40 at the end of the summer. I am worried that I won’t have accomplished what I want to by that time and that I will be a failure. I have to remind myself that I can find happiness in everything that I do, and to celebrate all my accomplishments up until now!

  8. Diane: You have the hardest job on Earth — seems like you, and those like you, should be higher on the pay scale.

    Reba: Thank you for taking the time!!!

    Doug: You were there with me through many concerts, and many of those jobs. How I made it through I will never know.

    Carla: You’re 40???? You like you’re 19. Even at 40, you’re not even at the half-way point yet. Besides, tomorrow may never show up. It is THIS day that counts — live it. Oh, and keep those amazing food pictures coming. I always love your food ideas, and the pictures are always great!!!!

  9. Awesome story!! I like to live my life with that kind of attitude, that we have to learn to love what we do if we don’t already enjoy it… life is all about truly LIVING and having fun, and what’s the point if we aren’t enjoying ourselves? So I make a point of making fitness, health, and my worklife all enjoyable tasks.

  10. Great wisdom.

    I always find reasons to smile and reasons why I do like the job in which I’m in. Give and take. The best ones are when you feel like your stealing company’s money by doing absolutely nothing with your time. 😉

  11. Pingback: Week Daze… « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

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