Adam Mattis [Movement Starter] - Business Agility & Innovation
  • Adam Mattis

Why I Tri

Contrary to what my friend Owen may think, my reason for kicking off a triathlon blog is not to fuel a InstagramModelBlogger career change. In fact, the reason for starting this project has nothing to do with capturing readers, clicks, or likes. Instead, the reason is entirely more self-focused: I am doing this for me.

With my recent pivot away from big consulting and the people management, sales, and P&L responsibilities that go along with it, I have a lot more time on my hands for health, self-improvement, and creativity. 

That's where this blog comes in. 

Tri(ing) in Colorado will serve as the dashboard of where I articulate my plans, record my experiences, and explore new thoughts. 

It will also help hold me accountable to my goals. 

If you happen to get something out of it as well, pure bonus points!

But, why triathlon? That's a simple question with a long answer. 


The experience I had growing up is not special. In fact, it is probably entirely typical of most who grew up in Appalachia. The experience is likely the result of a mindset that is  pervasive throughout the region with very little variation between New York, Mississippi and everywhere between.

The majority of the people who live in this region are the descendants of working-class European immigrants. Or, as my dad chose to refer to us, peasants. Coal miner or farmer, the objective is simple: work hard, provide, and don’t cause a lot of trouble. 

With that mindset comes what my grandmother refers to as “upper” mentality. As a peasant, there are certain things that you just shouldn’t expect: to be intelligent, to achieve, be well-educated, lead, earn more than a nominal wage; those things were for the “uppers.” 

“We” were not “uppers.”

Having this drilled into my head from a young age, I started to grasp the “not enough” mindset which prevented me from trying things that could prove her right. 

This couldn’t be true. I wouldn’t allow it.

I could not develop any objective evidence that would prove this to be true. 

I was mortified of failing (so I didn’t try.)

Coincidently, or because of my own cognitive distortions, being “not enough” would prove itself to be true for many years to come. 


I have always had a knack for technology. I learned DOS programming at the age of 8, mastered PASCAL at 13, built my own machine at 14, my own ISP at 15, launched my first consulting company at 16, and sold my first platform at 17. 

With all of that in mind, I never considered myself a technology dude. I was simply having fun and making enough money to support my motorcycle habit. 

The success I have achieved in business was completely accidental. 

I ran my business while going to college and serving clients in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Minnesota. Even as my portfolio of business and staff grew, I still never recognized myself as a business owner. I was just working with great people, solving problems, having fun, and making money. 

I guess during this time of my life I was so focused on having fun that I never considered the failure proposition. I knew what I was doing and the idea of not fulfilling a contract never crossed my mind. 

I sold a chunk of the business at the age of 21 so that I could better focus on what I was meant to do. Succeed as an athlete. Please, hold your LOLs.  : )


With $20,000 in my pocket and a new Lexus in the driveway, it was time to pursue what I was always meant to be. 

An athlete.

Except, as a 5’ 9”, 145lb, 21 year old the opportunities to make money in athletics were not exactly falling from the heavens. So, I did the next best thing I could think of. 

Joined the military.

As a Western Pennsylvania Hillbilly, members of the military are held in a regard matched only by maybe Western Texas. Growing up, people from my high school who joined the military were almost mythical. They were going to interesting places, doing America’s work, and coming home super heroes. 

Technology company be damned, I wanted to be THAT guy!

Of course, mortally afraid of failure, I wanted to take the path with the greatest likelihood of success. 

The Navy and Air Force were not on my radar. Because, as a knuckle-dragging grunt, just no.

The Marine Corps were legit, but not being a strong swimmer, I couldn’t risk failure at the bottom of a pool. The Army it was.

Thus began the long journey of not being enough. 

When I announced to my friends and family that I had joined the Army, the first question they asked was “Why not the Marines? The Marines are way harder.”

When asked what type of work, my response of “Combat Arms” was met with “Why not Special Forces? They’re much cooler.” 

When asked what job, my response of “Artillery” was met with “Why not Infantry? Their job is way harder.”

These questions followed me through my military career, and for years after. I felt like no matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. This cognitive distortion of “not enough” led to a lot of spinning and negative self-talk over the years. 

In fact, it required that I hit rock bottom to break the cycle.

While I was in the military, I was wounded while serving in Iraq. Through a series of events whose details I will spare you, I was left with a large chip on my shoulder about the military medical system and the way men and women hurt in war were treated. 

I volunteered for many advocacy and speaking opportunities focused on raising awareness of what my brothers and sisters in arms were facing. 

This brought me to an opportunity to launch a program with a large apparel company focused on taking my mission to the next level. By leveraging their brand and a near limitless budget, I would have the opportunity to tell my story and raise funds to support my fellow Wounded Warriors. 

One catch. I was deemed “not-marketable.” 

I was in combat, but not Special Forces. 

I was wounded, but not wounded enough. 

I was irrelevant. Marginalized. Forgotten about. 

I crashed.


Through reeling personally from my experience with the apparel company, my business was growing like a rocket. Similar to years earlier, I was oblivious. 

Though I was having fun, building a team, and delivering value; I was squarely focused on another perceived shortcoming. 

My education.

Many of the people with whom I was competing for business had degrees from great schools. I had become so self conscious of my degrees (yes, multiple) from no-name, online universities, and military universities that I was opting not to bid for certain work.

It took a dear friend to pull me aside and very directly tell me that it didn’t matter.

She painted a picture of my life and career and explained that it didn’t matter where I grew up, where I went to school, what I did in the military, or how wounded I was. It was my experience, the experience of my team, and my reputation that people cared about. That is what they were buying.

None of it mattered. 

Not one damn bit of the things I had been obsessing over mattered. 

In fact, it was everything that I feared holding me back that was propelling me forward. 

This was my awakening.


From that moment on, my life began to look very different. Though I really like really nice shit, it became less important. What mattered most was helping others be their best and building meaningful relationships. 

I was starting to learn that I was capable of doing big shit and that none of my perceived circumstances would hold me back. 

I learned that self-imposed limitations were among the most harmful of things, and that failure is in fact good. It yields learning. 


As my mindset has shifted from fear to curiosity, the desire to take on hard challenges has amplified. Beyond pure challenge, I also have a new focus on learning about my body.

Specifically, it’s limits.

From the guy who was afraid of the pool at Marine boot camp to a guy who is training for a 2-mile open water swim, I no longer fear failure to accomplish, but missed learning.

I’m not sure that I chose triathlon, but maybe that triathlon chose me. Because it's hard. 

I love bikes. I tolerate running. I was a weak swimmer.

Triathlon: the logical choice.

My Ironman goal has made me look beyond the short-term pain of running, because I am working toward something bigger. The same with being a weak swimmer: I can’t worry about looking foolish in the pool, I am working toward something bigger.

As far as my bike… well, triathlon is a great excuse to upgrade.  : )


That is how I got here. 

I no longer gear, I know longer fear not being enough. I am here to crush goals, learn, and have a ton of fun.

This blog is intended to document my journey, serve as a creative dump for my thoughts, and motivate me to keep pushing.

I hope that you enjoy and can learn from the content I share, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Lets gooooooo!

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© 2020 by Adam Mattis .

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