Put Yourself Out There

by Nick Holtvluwer

I grew up with the impression that school principals looked and acted like a combination of Principal Ed Rooney from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and Principal Gerald Strickland from “Back to the Future.” Heck, I even realized Principal Seymour Skinner from my favorite TV show of all time, “The Simpsons,” was never exactly adored. Knowing how the principalship was represented in these characters, who would ever want to be a school leader?

So when I finally heeded the call to enter the world of school administration...I knew that I wanted to avoid being a “normal” school principal like the ones portrayed in the movies and TV shows of my youth.

During those early years of my life, I lived in a weight room in some capacity. Whether it was preparing for the upcoming high school football season, college football, or just dreaming of crafting biceps similar to Arnold in my basement gym, I thrived on the energy, power, clash, and progress of the weight room. But some time between college graduation and age 39, I was inconsistent and largely unfocused in the development of my overall health. I enjoyed moments of success but also experienced much harder falls from grace. At one point, I tipped the scales at 265 pounds while my gut measured at 46.5 inches in circumference!

Now here I was, 40 years old, a husband, father, school principal, and completely ignoring my health. I decided to take a picture of myself in gym shorts, shirtless, while holding a newspaper to officially record the date. I made a promise to myself (but rather to my wife, kids, and my career) to prioritize my health. After all, what good was being a husband, father, and school leader if I was dead? That sounded like your typical/normal ending to the story to me. I decided to take positive action.

With a more dedicated approach to my health, I began to document my progress utilizing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I did this mainly for my own accountability, but I was also very hesitant about what others might think. I thought to myself, “Is it normal for a school principal to post workout pictures, exercise videos, and even before & after photos on social media?” Turns out the answer was “No. It is not normal.” And that is exactly why I did it. I made the conscious choice to Put Myself Out There.

One of Dr. Ryan Jackson’s tweets from last month said it best: “(Four years ago,) fitness was a bit taboo in education.” I couldn’t agree more. And since I was Putting Myself Out There...I felt it. But I also believe the best school leaders have the courage to be vulnerable, to step outside their comfort zone, and are leery of “normal” and/or the status quo. When you Put Your Fitness Journey Out There...you accomplish all three of these elements at the same time. You become a better leader. You become stronger. It develops a strength inside you that the weights, barbells, and machines can’t achieve.

I have been going strong in my basement gym for five years since that fateful day. (I’m now 45!) I post a before & after picture of myself each year on my birthday starting with that most unflattering picture of me on my 40th birthday. I post to remind myself that it is NOT a normal thing for a school principal to do. I post, not necessarily to showcase my muscular strength, but to reveal my leadership strength.

In my experience, it is amazing what opportunities are presented when you Put Yourself Out There. Since I had the courage to Put Myself Out There five years ago, I discovered the #Fitleaders movement. I attribute my newfound dedication to my health in large part to my membership in this incredible and inspiring #FitLeaders community. Everyone here inspires me because they have the courage and strength to step outside their comfort zones and Put Themselves Out There. 

So, I challenge you to Put Yourself Out There, today! 

No. It’s not normal. But you’ll avoid turning into a Rooney or Strickland…                                                            

Nick Holtvluwer

Twitter: @NickHoltvluwer

Insta: @nick_holtvluwer

TikTok: nickholtvluwer

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