Good Advice from Richard Simmons

Yesterday at the Quest virtual conference, I showed up for one of my sessions in a Richard Simmons costume – big wig, short jogging shorts, and a lime green tank top with fake chest hair coming out every which way but loose. @SQLSamson captured the moment live:

Microsoft Certified Master at Work
Microsoft Certified Master at Work

Viewers at home were treated to a high definition video feed of my pasty-white skin, and fun was had by all. I haven’t read the chat logs yet, but I did get one email that stood out to me:

Very funny, and it takes a very secure person to do something like that.

That made me sit bolt upright, because it reminds me of something I’ve wanted to communicate here on the blog for quite a while, and it reminded me of a prominent theme in Richard Simmons’ videos. In his interview with Ellen Degeneres, she asked, “Everyone has aspirations to get in better shape – what advice do you have for people?”

Richard answered, “Number one, love yourself, have a lot of self-worth.”

This advice doesn’t just hold true for getting into better shape – it’s for public speaking, taking control of your career, and having better relationships.

Loving yourself and having a lot of self-worth doesn’t mean a big ego. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not an attractive fella when I’m wearing a tank top and short shorts, but that doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of who I am. Today, right now, this is as good as I’ll ever look, and that’s a mixed bag. When I look back in my mental rearview mirror and think back about my body at age 16, it’s so tempting to say, “Wow, I wish I still looked like that.” But the reality is that at age 16, I was drinking Enfamil trying to bulk up because I was too skinny. I was horrified at my rail frame, and I wanted to be like the guys who played sports.

Right now, I could examine myself and say, “Wow, I wish I looked like that guy on the cover of ESPN Magazine,” but that’s the wrong comparison. Instead, I think about what I’m going to look like fifteen or twenty years from now. In that future, I’ll be looking back at my 36-year-old body and saying, “Wow, I didn’t realize how good I had it when I could walk up a flight of stairs without my knees hurting.” Right now, you have it better than you’re ever going to have it for the rest of your life. From right now forward, you’re never going to think faster or look better than today. Put the gun down – I’m not encouraging suicide – but stop comparing yourself to somebody else’s body or brain, and start comparing yourself to your future.

If you’re not getting up in front of user groups because you don’t look like George Clooney or because you don’t think as fast as Buck Woody, get over it. Your clock is ticking, and it won’t tick forever. Take me – my family tree is riddled with heart disease and cancer. I write this blog knowing full well my web site will live on longer than I will, and sooner or later, somebody’s going to read these words when I’ve passed away. If I waited to do Richard Simmons stunts until I looked good in a lime green tank top with fake chest hair, you wouldn’t ever see me do stunts period.

As you age, you won’t have regrets about the things you can’t control.

You will regret the things you could have controlled, but didn’t.

Get out. Meet people. Share what you know. Help others conquer obstacles. Make a difference. The people who really matter don’t care what you look like – they care that you care, and that’s something you can control.

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Couldn’t say it any better. Thank you.

  • Brent Ozar -eq “life coach’.

    It was fun to watch, great banter and info. K Kline as Bob Marley was hilarious and Buck really added some depth – great online presentation when I got to watch/listen.

  • You love what you do and it shows.

    “I see your nuts”. I laughed so hard my cubicle neighbor poked her head around the corner to see if I was ok.

  • Wow Brent! Sage advice and so very, very true! It’s part of what I call “Charity Begins at Home Principle.” Meaning, before anyone can be the best blacksmith, best librarian, best spouse, best SQL professional, best anything, one has to get their “cave” in order. That doesn’t mean *not* helping others with their cave when needed. No, no one gets a free pass on that. However, it does mean that we have focus on who we are and be comfortable with that. I cannot help how I am viewed from the outside in. I can only help with the view inside out. If I’m comfortable with that then I’m able to step out of the cave with more confidence to be able to focus on the challenges the road has ahead. Awesome points in your post!

  • Shawn Quillman
    July 22, 2010 10:05 am

    Truer words have never (ok, rarely) been spoken. The day I quite giving a rip about what others thought of me was the day my life turned around. (Also helped that it was the same day my wife said Yes to my first date request!) Richard Simmons at least has that part right, to be sure!

    PS – I especially liked when your session was over how you walked in front of the camera and then bent over to put your laptop down next to your chair… Have that image burned into my psyche now. Thanks for that!

  • Very true words. Some NFL running backs have gotten out of the game with a lot of their health still intact. Barry Sanders (though he partially just gave up on the Lions ever bringing folks in to blame him… years later, he’s been proven right), Robert Smith (Vikings), and Tiki Barber (Giants) all left the game being able to walk away. Yet folks complain about them “leaving something on the table.”

    But only these guys have to live with the effects of the game on their bodies. They could have listen to everyone else or decided to take control and ignore public sentiment. And only we live the lives we live. If we listen to public sentiment and don’t take care of ourselves, we’re the ones that have to live with the consequences.

  • Lots of fun seeing the seminars and silly costumes yesterday. You guys presented a lot of very useful information and I really wish I had been able to see all of it, but meetings kept getting in the way.

    I’m looking forward to watching the seminars once the links to the saved versions are up.

  • Dude, this post is awesome.
    Thank you!

  • Great post Brent and an awesome session today. Lots of offtopic banter but to be honest that was a bit refreshing from the usual focused deep dive video presentations.

  • Hi Brett, thanks for the advice you give on your site. Since I came across your blog I’ve registered at PASS, started regular study habits to go from Desktop Support to SQL Server Admin (I’m lucky in having a best friend who is a SQL Server consultant), and I’ve registered for SQLSAT50 in Iowa City, IA for Septmeber. See ya on the dais in a few years 🙂

  • First, thanks Brent for sharing your knowledge at the Quest seminar on Wednesday. The SQL Takeover talk was was not only informational, but inspirational. Second, thanks for your this encouraging post. It’s a breath of fresh air to find actual human beings in the IT field…

  • The chest hair was just a fake? 😉


  • Great article!

    And the caption in the photo proves that there is a crucial difference between your and you’re. I keep telling people, but gosh darn it, no one will listen.


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