Green Light, Yellow Light, Red light

This is the second of a set of excerpts from the Intervention DVD.

Question #1 of Intervention—Rule #1 is What’s your goal? What’s the task you are asking me to support? And then we move from there.

I have stolen this and everybody uses this method now for a thousand…but I use it to help someone with the health side of their life. It’s very simple. It is the traffic semaphore. It’s green light, yellow light and red light.

In your health side of things, I think this is about as good as you can at explaining stuff. Green light means go. You are doing You are taking…you know, your heart is beating which is always good. Your air is coming in and out. You are sleeping as much as you need to sleep. You can have a lousy day or two and recover quickly.


By the way, does that happen? You know, I always love it on the interwebs when someone will say, ‘Well isn’t a moderate diet, medium sleep, medium workout, medium eating—isn’t that the correct way to go?’ Well sure. If you’re in a perfect situation where you have someone cook for you 3 times a day and you get exactly 8 hours of sleep and you have a personal trainer walk you through a very intelligent workout that has mobility, flexibility, strength, this and that—that’s great. Your life is great. Your kids are perfect and they never get injured at track practice at the university. Yeah. You can do that all of the time. I would love that life.

Now for the rest of us who live in what I call the real world, occasionally things happen. Like, for example, you go on a road trip and that’s when you get the flu. Right? You travel to go give a workshop. The night when you get in you feel a little funny. The morning of the workshop you wake up and you can’t see because you’re so sick. You still do the workshop. You get on a plane and on the way home, of course, you cough all that you can so you can share it with everybody.

Green light is when you’re kind of in your bounds. You’re kind of in that zone where if something…you do get sick…you’ve got enough kind of in the tank, in the bank, to kind of keep going ahead. I always tell people financially, I mean, how much money do you need in case something goes wrong? They always say that you need 3 months in savings. Well, the truth is that if you are Dan John’s daughter, you need about 3 minutes of savings because I’m going to step up and bail you out. My daughter’s green light is pretty big. They’ve got a lot of family. They’ve got a lot of support group. They’ve got…you follow my point? They have a lot of wiggle room at the age they are right now to make some big mistakes.

Yellow lights are times…they are cautionary, right? Things come up. I always talk about that one week I had…well, you know, a lot of people wanted to know why I moved back to California and it is because my wife applied for this job. She guaranteed…she says, ‘I’m not qualified. There’s no way I’ll get it. I’m just putting my name in the hat,’ In the middle of the last track season—in the track season itself—I was the head track coach and my wife calls me up and says, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,’ And I go, ‘What’s the good news?’ She goes, ‘I got the job. We are moving to San Francisco,’ And I thought to myself, ‘That’s the good news?’

She says, ‘The bad news is that they want me there—boom—May 1st,’ This is like April 1st. So we have to graduate our daughter from the high school where I am coaching. My daughter, who is going to win the State championship later that month, has to go to that State championship. My other daughter has graduated from college during this month. Oh, and a small thing…We have to sell and move our 6 bedroom 3 bath house. We have to pull up stakes, move 3 states over, re-settle and start from scratch again. That was a yellow light situation. Now the funny thing is that when we got in the car, finally, after all of the graduations, the going-away parties, the commencement addresses and everything else, we both went like this for about the first two hours. Hhhhh…Wow….Whooohhhh.

That’s a yellow light situation. I would throw, in a sense, pregnancy into a yellow light situation. Pregnancy involves a lot of changes. Those who have had kids all just laughed. But there is an end in sight so to speak. There are certain situations in life…for example…you know…if it is tax time. You know you’ve got to go in, argue or however you do it and you’ve got to fill out the form. You know, if you decide to do your taxes the day before the National Championship, I would suggest that you take a yellow light situation and maybe turn that into a red light situation. The yellow light is this. Things are going on. You’re busy. For those of you who are students and for those who have been students, you know that finals are coming up. You know, being a track athlete…one of the hardest things about being a track athlete is that your finals and the most important track meets of the season are in the same two weeks. So you would be flying off to the Nationals, taking finals early and the stress level can be high. I am sure that it is the same in every sport. You’ve got those windows where things are busy.

Those are generally yellow light situations.

Red light situations are when we can’t fix you. Generally I say this, ‘If you’re driving drunk on the freeway and you see a bunch of lights behind you flashing, pull over. You are literally in a red light situation. You’ve gone too far,’ If you come home and your house is empty and there is a little note that says, ‘You lousy son of a gun,’ Maybe you’ve gotten yourself into a red light situation. Of course, I always joke about some of my injuries. The surgeries I have had in my career were God’s way of telling me to slow down. When you are looking at a piece of white sticking out of part of your body, maybe the decision process you’ve had for the last 20 minutes has been in error. You know, when you are riding down that hill as fast as you can on a slick day without a helmet and all of a sudden there is a boulder in front of you, your choices for the last 35 seconds are going to impact that impact that you are about to have. These are red light situations.

My argument is this. For your health, stay in green light as much as you can. Stay in green light as much as you can. That means you should probably eat breakfast. You should probably eat more protein. You should drink water or, at least, non-caloric beverages for most of what you put in your mouth. You ought to sleep well. You should take your Fish Oil. Did you notice that none of the stuff I just said is very sexy? You know? You should spend less than you earn most of the time. You should plan solid vacations. Don’t do what I do where you plan working vacations. It never works. You work but you don’t vacate. You should read good books now and again. You should see quality movies. You should have a lot of relationships.

Not one thing I said right there…it sounds like it is going to make it take you to the top…but what I have found working with elite athletes is that elite athletes have to nail down the green light on their health side. It’s really difficult. Now you can. I know people have done it – but to make the Olympic team and get a divorce at the same time. I’m sure that you can do it. I’m sure that you can do a lot of things. You guys might know the records about professional athletes within a year of retirement—the bankruptcy rate and the divorce rates go through the roof. Why? Because…Did they hold onto the green light when they were at the top of their fitness goals?

If you see yourself get into the yellow light situation, one of the things I always ask myself is this, ‘Is this a time-related issue?’ A couple of weeks ago on a road trip, I got sick. Now here’s the thing about the flu and cold season. I know that I have about 2 or 3 weeks. I always say that it is going to take me 3 weeks to get over it. It only takes about a week but I always feel like it’s reward time. Oh, yeah! I thought that I was going to be sick for 3 weeks but I was only sick for 7 days. I’ve got 14 days on this cold. I’ve got to win on this one.

I’ve got to win on this one.

Click here to see some of the preview clips from Intervention.

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