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  • Writer's picturePeter Tanaka

Pushing Boundaries with a Team

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

I’m starting this blog to serve as a storytelling platform for Whole Baltimore Engineering The Earth Team (WBETET). People are the most important component to any organization. And each person is defined by the stories they have experienced. This first story is a personal reflection of how my experience as a runner, racer, and with a team, has helped me grow into a strong leader for WBETET.

I am a runner. I have always enjoyed physical activity, and running is one of the purest forms of physicality. My mind and body, passing through space and time, with no competitors or apparatuses involved. It’s just me against myself. Running is mostly mental. The more disciplined I am in training, and the harder I push, the better runner I become. I live a physically adventurous life, but I have somehow never been injured badly. The worst injury I have experienced was when I was running a race. I tweaked my knee in the first lap of a mile race. My coach told me to stop, but I thought that pushing through pain was the best attribute that a runner has. As the pain increased with each lap, I only pushed harder, through the worst pain of my life. I limped across the finish line and collapsed. Despite limping the race, I still made a qualifying time, and I thought I was a total boss for pushing through the injury. Except, I couldn’t walk for weeks, and my foolish injury cost me an entire year of recovery. It didn’t even matter that I qualified, because I was out of the game. I could have prevented the season ending injury if I stopped after the first lap. If only I knew when to hit the brakes and quit…

I am a racer. When I was 16 years old I got my license. I disobeyed my mom, and I got a job so that I could buy a car, without my mom’s permission. It wasn’t much, but that 1998 Pontiac Sunfire was my ticket to stardom and freedom. I always felt restricted as a child, and I was constantly trying to successively break down each restriction. Having a job and a car was when I finally could stop being at the mercy of my mom’s whims. She would never let me do anything, and I finally had the power to do what I’ve always wanted. Excitement and adventure. I had so much fun in high school, driving to new places of adventures all across Hawaii. One dark rainy night, I was driving down a twisty mountain road called Tantalus. My friend wanted to race me, and my mind went into Initial D racing mode, and I boldly accepted the challenge. I accelerated and cornered as hard as that Sunfire would go. On a hairpin turn, I hit the brakes way too late, and I lost control, and my car started sliding through the sharp corner. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, because I knew I could slide off the cliff of the mountain road. My friends were in the car and my life flashed before my eyes. How I could do something so fatal to me and my friends? The car slid to a stop, just inches before sliding off the cliff. The race was over, and that traumatic experience has forever shaped my driving habits. I drive as safely as possible because I experienced fear in getting close to death.

The common theme here is that I’ve always been pushing myself to the limit and pushing boundaries. I learn the limit, but I usually need to learn the hard way. I don’t believe it, until I experience it. But it’s the experience that allows me to grow. The final example is my mental breakdown from pushing too hard. My mind was redlining past 7000 RPMs. My mind was racing with so many ideas, and I was jeopardizing myself and others. The people who love me helped me seek help, and I had the right team there when I needed them. I didn’t see it in the moment, buy my mind was way past the healthy limit. I was going down the same path, pushing myself as hard I possibly could. Again, the worst injury of my life, was caused by pushing myself beyond my limit. I have never been to the emergency room, but sitting there and staring at a blank wall caused me to realize how much I burned myself out. I finally learned my limits, and how I need to take things at a reasonable pace. I need a team and people who can support me. People matter more than the organization itself because people are the main ingredient of the organization.

This WBETET organization is part of my story. It’s been a journey of struggle and strife, but I have learned enough, where I’m ready to take the next step. My whole life has been pushing limits and boundaries, and not letting people tell me I can’t do something. I understand that bringing engineering resources into rough areas of Baltimore is a far fetched goal, but I’m not going to give up. I have learned through failure, and this WBETET organization is the product of me trying things until something finally sticks. I’m ready to innovate for a revolutionary way to look at outreach.

Photo Credits: Eric Chen from JHPF

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