We're proud to announce The Totem Ambassador Program! We're even more excited to welcome Tommy Benning to the Totem team as an Ambassador! Tommy is our first East Coast ambassador. He has spent the last half decade making a living as a sales professional in the technology industry learning about and implementing various sales strategies and processes across the globe. He is driven by solving problems and facilitating human connection which is part of the reason why he wound up in sales and is the main reason why he volunteers his time as the Co-City Director in New York City for House of Genius, his true passion.
Tommy is also an avid runner and can often be found running one of the many routes around New York City. He completed the 2017 New York City Marathon (26.2 miles) in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes and has his sights set on breaking the 3 hour and 30 minute mark for the 2018 New York City Marathon. While he listens to audio books or podcasts on his long runs, he often chooses to run without headphones in order to take in his surroundings and center himself.
Where do you live?
Manhattan in New York City.
What’s your favorite color?
I'm a big fan of blue, specifically royal blue and navy blue.
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I attended the beautiful University of Colorado at Boulder (GO BUFFS!) and received a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering as well as certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship.
What book are you currently reading? Why did you choose it?
I'm currently reading 'Grit' by Angela Duckworth. I picked up this book to learn about the blend of passion and persistence that Angela Duckworth defines as 'Grit'. The book had been recommended to me by several individuals and resonated with me.
What is your main athletic pursuit?
Running. At the moment, I am training to run the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon (26.2 miles) in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. Simultaneously, I'm aiming to break 1 hour and 30 minutes for a half marathon (13.1 miles).
How did you get started on your current journey?
By refocusing on my health. Nearly two years ago I was the heaviest I've ever been, having let my health slide as I got situated into a new career and new city (New York City). Having been a competitive runner for most of my life, running a marathon was something that had always been on my bucket list. I had heard about the New York City marathon and decided that I was going to do it. I immediately signed-up to raise money for charity (New York Road Runners' Team For Kids) knowing that I was not only doing this for myself and my health, but that I’d be doing it to help support fitness programs and coaching for underprivileged youth across the country as well. I enjoyed it so much last year (and lost 20 lbs), that I decided to do it again this year (You can help us raise funds by donating here).
What goal most motivates you? Why?
I’m most motivated by setting time goals when it comes to my running. Setting specific times to beat at specific distances gives me the motivation to get out and train, even when I’d rather be sitting on the couch at home. Focusing on beating time goals gives me the motivation to work harder during training runs which in turn helps me stay fit, keeps me healthy, and motivates me to be more conscious about my nutrition and rest.
What big picture lesson(s) keep cropping up for your in life?
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin. I am still working on getting better at planning and preparing versus flying by the seat of my pants, but I continually find that the situations that I prepare for (both professional and personal) have better outcomes and leave me with a stronger sense of accomplishment than those without preparation.
"Trust in your preparation." I’ve seen and experienced countless situations where time and energy were put into the preparation, but the confidence and trust was lost when it came time to execution. I constantly find that I am reminding myself to trust in my preparation and be confident in my execution. If you properly prepare, then you have controlled what you can control and should be confident that you’ll execute to the best of your ability. I find that I always have a moment of nerves before delivering a presentation or stepping up to the start line of a running race, but find that I execute best when I remind myself that I’ve done all that I can to be ready for this moment.
What lesson(s) or skills have you learned from your experience in technical sales that you have applied to your life in the day to day?
Active listening is one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned. The skill of active listening means that the listener is concentrated on the speaker, understands what the speaker is saying, and responds intelligently based on what the speaker has said. Active listening enables you to empathize with the speaker, understand their point of view, and let them know that you not only heard them, but that you understand what they are saying and where they are coming from without jumping to conclusions. In the professional world, this skill is crucial for successful sales people and great managers. In the personal world, active listening is a skill that I’ve seen to be paramount for couples with happy relationships and marriages. My fiancée will be the first to tell you that this is still a work in progress for me, but is a skill that I am constantly working on.
What motivated you to run your first marathon?
In short, my father. He was a marathon runner back in the day and qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984. He has been my running coach and training partner throughout my life. It’s because of him that running a marathon was on my bucket list. I also have to give credit to my fiancée who encouraged me to sign-up and do it in 2017. I was also motivated by raising money for charity which pushed me to do my best and support the kids that I was running for.
How important is nature and spending time outside to you? Do you think this is crucial to living a happy and healthy life? Why?
Extremely important. I grew-up in Boulder, CO and would spend my weekends skiing, biking, or hiking and tried to get outside as often as possible. Living in New York City where enjoying the outdoors can be a bit of challenge, I’ve found that my health and sanity depends on my finding opportunities to enjoy outdoor spaces. Spending time outdoors is crucial to living a happy life due to the fact that you not only get the benefits of fresh air and Vitamin D, but that you get a chance to reconnect with mother nature and take time to slow down which is something our society is doing less and less of these days.
What’s your favorite way to get outside?
Getting on the water, both in it's liquid and frozen (specifically snow) forms. Growing up in Colorado, I love water in it’s frozen form as an avid downhill and cross country skier. In its liquid form, I enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving and jump at every opportunity I have to do one of these activities.
Do you have a mantra or quote that guides you? What about this phrase resonates with you?
I recently came across a quote by Sterling K. Brown that resonated with me: "Empathy begins with understanding life from another person's perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It's all through our own individual prisms." This relates back to the skill of active listening and taking time to understand the person or people you are connecting with and trying to understand where they are coming from.
Why did you want to become an ambassador with Totem? What about our company / philosophy is intriguing to you?
I believe in the founders and the team behind Totem as well as the vision and goals of the company. I like the fact that Totem is focused on delivering natural wellness solutions to individuals with both their products and their platform.
How have Totem’s products made your life better? What about your training?
Lucid by Totem has made a significant impact in my life and training. I used to struggle with sleep. Between sore muscles and an active mind keeping me up, I used to only average between 1.5 and 2 hours of "deep sleep" a night (as measured by my Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch) . After taking Lucid, I started to average around 3 hours of "deep sleep" per night. I wake-up feeling more rested which has led to better workouts and faster recovery times.
Totem’s logo is loosely based on the 3 Pillars of Ayurvedic lifestyle - diet, sleep / rest, and love / sex / relationships. Do you feel that these three lifestyle aspects are foundational to a happy, strong, and healthy life? Why or why not? How do you try to incorporate these into your own life?
These 3 pillars are key to a happy, strong, and healthy life. I have found that when one of these pillars is not aligned with the others, I tend to struggle physically and emotionally. When my diet is healthy, I get sufficient rest, and have strong relationships, I notice that I’m more productive in both my personal and professional lives.
If you could make one book required reading for a graduating college senior, what would you choose and why?
“How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book will help you approach the world and communication in a different way and will help you be more successful in all endeavors.
What memory brings you immense joy?
Running a sub 5 minute mile, my senior year of high school. As a freshman in High School I set the goal of running a mile in under 5 minutes, and I did it in my second to last race as a competitive High School athlete. Thinking about the training and preparation that went into the race, the race strategy, and all of my coaches, teammates, and friends who were both on the track and in the stands pushing me to accomplish this goal always brings a smile to my face. Though my body and legs did the work on the track, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this feat without the support system I had to get there.
What rituals (sacred or profane) do you incorporate into your life and why?
Whenever possible, I run without headphones. While not quite as calm as meditation, I find that running without anything in my ears is both peaceful and restorative as it gives me a chance to check-in with myself and how I am doing.
Is there anything else you want to tell our community? Feel free to phrase a question and answer it!
While goal setting is important, make sure you build a network and support system around you to help you achieve your goals and keep you accountable. There are many bumpy roads on the path that is life and having a strong support system with people who will hold you accountable, encourage you when the going gets tough, and celebrate your wins with you is a key to achieving your goals.
What are your social handles?
Would you like people to be able to reach out to you directly?
I would encourage people to reach out to me via Twitter or Instagram.I also encourage you to follow along with my training progress on Strava.