This is the first in an ongoing series talking about how the 1-2-3 lens impacts people’s lives. if you’d like to be part of this series, shoot me a note.
At RPR, we talk about the world through a lens we call 1-2-3.
In the body, that’s a metaphor for optimal movement. It’s hip flexion and extension (zone 1), quads, hamstrings, and abs (zone 2), and then out to the extremities (zone 3). Just like your baseball coach told you when you were ten years old: power comes from your hips.
The body’s truly amazing - it will do whatever it takes to move you. If zone one isn’t doing its job to its greatest capacity, your body will compensate to find a base of stability further down the line. Great athletes can be great compensators, but compensations prevent you from reaching your full potential.
When I was introduced to this idea, it made sense but it didn’t rock my world, it just sort of … made sense. I’ll say without hesitation that I’m lucky. I never had any allegiance to what I’d believed because it was never a core part of my identity. Training, bodywork, coaching - those things brought joy and richness to my life, but they were never my sole pursuit.
When I attended one of the first RPR clinics at The Spot in Columbus, meeting Cal, Chris, and JL, looking around the room and seeing NFL coaches and trainers, entire Big-10 athletics staffs, and some of the best lifters in the world, I knew there was something here that was bigger than injury prevention or performance enhancement. There was something more than the lightness I felt when I first experienced the Wake Up Drills that had some incredible value. I was bound and determined to figure out what that was.
It took a long time, a lot of experimentation, and a lot of seeking, but it became clear. What drew me in and held me close was how 1-2-3 applies outside of the body and can improve every aspect of life.
What I found with 1-2-3 was that the ability to separate input from reaction. I was able to engage with myself from a place of authenticity and integrity (Zone 1), which allowed me to bring that same clarity and calm to my interactions with my close circle of people (Zone 2), and choose how (and whether) I wanted to engage with the rest of the world (Zone 3) - ATOF (if you know, you know).
I can tell stories of being a better salesperson using this approach (prior to joining RPR, I was a sales lead at Onshape) and I can tell stories about choosing to stepping away from relationships that didn’t align with my values. But the story I want to tell is when the power of 1-2-3 became REAL to me.
After work one day, I was on the subway heading downtown to meet up with my wife. I’m sitting near the end of a car and across from me is a mother and her probably three-year-old daughter and a few seats down from them is an older man, potentially homeless, probably drunk, but definitely down on his luck. One of those guys who carries an air of sadness with them. One of those guys that is, more often than not, simply ignored.
He’s being friendly with them and the mother is tolerating it because it’s pretty clear that he’s at least mostly harmless. Eventually, he starts being a little more friendly than the mother is comfortable with and she moves away. This does not go over well. “Just a bunch of princesses……..” he starts saying, getting loud, but not actively doing anything. He just starts running his mouth.
Now, this is where for the first 36 years of my life, I would have met force with force. I probably would have gotten in the guy’s face and verbally overpowered him.
But with this new 1-2-3 lens, and the space to separate input and reaction, I just walked over and stood next to the guy, outside his space, but close enough to speak softly and said to him:
“Hey man, is this really how you want to be?”
And he came back with a bunch of noise about princesses and entitlement and how he was just trying to be a nice guy. And after he stopped, I said simply:
“I totally hear you, but is this really how you want to be?”
And he stopped. He just stopped. And he said that he was tired. I’m sure tired couldn’t even begin to explain it.
And I held space with him. Every few minutes he’d get agitated and I’d coach him through to the next stop, reminding him that he was ok and he just wanted to get where he was going.
Now’s where it gets fun.
We reach what he thinks is his stop and he gets up to get off the train. I walk with him over to the door when he realizes that he actually has to go one more stop to reach his destination and, for obvious reasons, turns around to get back on the train.
And some other guy comes up behind me in a ball of rage and yells “NO WAY, YOU’RE GETTING OFF THIS F*CKING TRAIN RIGHT NOW!”
I turn around to the newfound hero, and quietly and gently say to him, “Hey man, you don’t need to worry about it. Everything’s all set here.” This is the moment that I’m honestly the most shocked by because he was so violent and forceful. And I chose to deflect that rage and meet him with calm kindness.
And I turn back to the older guy and say “The next stop’s in about a minute - let’s just get there.” And he does. And he thanks me for staying with him for the train ride. Maybe this is the first time he was treated with empathy in a long time, I don’t know. I just know that I was able to meet him on a level that acknowledged his humanity and reminded him that he had a choice.
Now, the hero’s gone, the older guy is gone, and I sit down - shocked at what had just happened because it’s so starkly different from how I imagine that situation to play out. The mother and daughter are sitting right across from me again. The mother looks at me with one of the most genuinely grateful looks I’ve ever seen and says, “That was amazing. Thank you.”
And I, at a loss for words (which I still am when I describe my feelings about this), simply say, “I’m glad I could help.”
I credit RPR for giving me the ability to create that space to choose empathy and kindness in that situation. That space allowed me to engage with human beings as human beings, rather than as problems to solve or as combatants to defeat. I also credit the 1-2-3 lens for giving me the language to describe this.
Anyone who has attended an RPR course that I’ve taught can attest to the earnestness and passion that I bring to this calling, and this story illustrates why. There is an infinite amount of good that can be brought to the world, all we have to do it choose it.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3.