Thoughts at Fifty

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Today is a big one: I’m turning 50 years old.

I consider this the midway-point of my life. Of all the birthdays I’ve ever had, this just might be the most impactful one. It has triggered a lot of thoughts about my life so far. About the mistakes I’ve made, the goals I’ve set for myself and my ability to fulfill my own dreams.

The most important realization I’ve had is this: If my 50th birthday is truly going to be the midway-point of my life – that is, if I’m going to live to 100 – I need to be a lot more careful about what I do to my body.

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Now, as the inventor of the Baking Steel, everyone might assume that I love to devour deliciously gooey pizzas all day long. For a while, that wasn’t a completely wrong perception. The excitement I felt about my own invention did, indeed, affect my diet in considerable ways.

The vegetarian tennis trainer in LA (spoiler: It was me)

Before the Baking Steel emerged and took over my life – in mostly wonderful ways – my life was quite different.

I quit college after two years and replaced it with culinary school. I was a vegetarian for a decade, and I even worked as a professional tennis trainer in LA. Geographically and professionally, that feels like pretty much the opposite of being a pizza enthusiast in Massachusetts.

In 2012, when I developed the Baking Steel, I was working in the family business, Stoughton Steel Company. With a renewed and much more intense focus on cooking, my vegetarianism was thrown overboard. I neglected exercising, and since everything was suddenly about food, I ate a lot of it – and often at the wrong time of day.

The effect on my body was obvious: Over the course of five years, I gained 20 pounds. As much as my excitement about the Baking Steel was growing, my health was declining.

Coming full circle

The big change happened in April of this year. It coincided with the birth of the Baking Steel Company. Of me turning my invention into the basis of a full-scale company, officially making me an entrepreneur.

On April 1st, I gave up alcohol for good. I needed to have a much clearer head to be able to focus 100% on my company. My focus has increased immensely, and it feels incredible to reclaim control of my health.

I’ve gone back to being a vegetarian (bye-bye, pepperoni pizza – I’ll be missing you), and I’m considering going full vegan. I’ve also picked up trail-running, yoga and meditation.

Those 20 pounds I gained over the course of five years? Since April, they’ve all disappeared. In short, I feel like I’ve come full circle.

No quick fix for all your problems

Of course, it’s immensely satisfying to have achieved this. But a healthier body doesn’t exactly mean that all of life’s other challenges magically disappear. What I do know, and what I’m feeling every day now, is that it improves my ability to cope with it all.

Being an entrepreneur is a lot of hard work. It can be a lonely endeavor at times, and it definitely has the power to keep you awake at night, when you’d much rather be sleeping. The decisions you make are yours to own, and that instills an amount of self-doubt that is not exactly pleasant. In fact, it can scare the bejeezus out of you.

As so many others have learned throughout history, the reward you get when you achieve success, makes it all absolutely worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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On the personal side, I’ve been married for 12 years now, and my wife and I have two boys ages 11 and 7. When it all comes down to it, they are the ultimate inspiration for me. Without them, Baking Steel would never have gotten off the ground.

In this context, living healthier offers me a lot of added energy to become a much better father and husband. I think that’s appreciated by my family.

No preaching – just hoping to inspire

Of course, I have to reconcile my newfound love of yoga, meditation and – potentially – veganism with the fact that I run and own a company whose product caters very much to the meat n’ cheese-lovin’ public.

Let me assure all of you: I won’t judge. If I had a better grasp of moderation and was less of an all-or-nothing kind of guy, it’s likely I’d still be a carnivore. (I mean, I’ve prepared steak on the Baking Steel, and I know full and well what I’m missing out on.)

By telling you all this story, my hope isn’t so much that a lot of people will do exactly what I did. Not at all.

I do hope, however, to inspire everyone to consider what choices can be made to ensure a better, more focused and energized existence. A few steps in the right direction can result in a significant change, and I promise you that it can be felt in both your professional and personal life.

Obviously, there’s no built-in guarantee that any of us will live to 100. But at least now I feel like my odds have personally increased quite a bit. So, on this 50th birthday, all I can say is this:

I look forward to the next 50!

Andris

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