For the security conscious, walking into a crowded bar usually isn’t your idea of a good time. Crowds are exceptionally good at concealing threats, and those who have built careers (either legitimate or otherwise) by being a threat know that.

These days, I’m a pretty big fella. At six feet tall and around 245 pounds, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life as a gym rat. I may be able to throw 350 pounds around on the bench now, but I didn’t cross over the 300 barrier until I was well into my twenties. Being the “big guy” is, in many ways, not something I’ve had a lifetime to grow accustomed to — and if I’m honest, I still don’t fancy myself as all that big — but then, that may be a product of my raising. Here’s a shot of me (reminder — six feet tall and probably 230 in this shot) with my rugby team from back home a few years ago.

I’m the guy in white shorts. They grow ’em big in Vermont.

Growing up as the “little guy” did a lot of things to me. I’m never afraid to stand and swing with a larger opponent because that’s all I’ve ever done, but it also made me quick to fly off the handle as a young punk, eager to prove that my size wasn’t a handicap in the land of giants. It’s a tale as old as time: the smallest guy in the crew also tends to be the craziest, and I was happy to solidify my place within the stereotype.

In the Marine Corps, I found myself in a very different environment. Suddenly the largest guy in the room, my affinity for weight lifting and combat sports even set me apart from many of the Marines I hung out with. The Marine Corps will give you some good training, but ultimately, it will train you to its own established lowest common denominator. If you let it, the Corps will spit you out after four years as a guy with a bare minimum in hand to hand combat training and a burning hatred for formation runs — but if you want to be better than that, often, all you have to do is ask. And ask. And ask again. Get an endorsement signed by some officer you never met, and then ask some more.