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Go Against the Grain

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In life, we all experience moments that shape the rest of our lives.  Sometimes we are aware that a certain decision is going to be life changing and other times, we only realize the magnitude of the experience after the fact.  When I was making my career choice after college, I knew without a doubt that this was one of those defining moments.

But first, let me give you some back story.  Some of you may recall that growing up, my brother, James, and I were just a couple of fatties with low self-esteem.  We were active in sports and were always decent football players, but things started to change around our 8th grade year.  We were introduced to the weight room.  I was able to see that if I worked hard in the weight room, it translated to me being a better athlete, looking better and feeling better.  I started learning how to eat better to get even more out of my workouts.  I swapped out the post workout doughnuts for a protein shake.  I was constantly learning and trying new methods to discover what worked and what didn’t.  I was my own science experiment.  In high school, my friends disregarded our PE teacher and would ask my brother and I to teach them how to perform some of the harder lifts like power cleans.  I went from being a pretty good football player to one of the best on the team and in the state.  I fell in love with training and the improvements I gained from it.  Sometimes I think I enjoyed preparing for football season more than the actual season.

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This love of training led me to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science at Montana State University after high school.  I nerded out more than ever before on fitness, nutrition and coaching.  I got involved in powerlifting, weightlifting and CrossFit.  I also got an opportunity to intern for the strength and conditioning staff at MSU, which allowed me to apply a lot of the concepts that I was learning to people other than my brother and I.  James and I did well in school and it became time to decide what we were going to do after our senior year.  Physical Therapy school was a route that a lot of our classmates were taking and one that our professors seemed to think would be good for us.  So, we got observation hours with physical therapists, applied to school, got interviews, the whole sha-bang.  All the while, we were still learning and getting certified in CrossFit, strength and conditioning and nutrition.

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At an interview with the University of Montana, which was my top choice of schools to attend, I experienced one of those life-shaping moments that I discussed earlier.  I had gone through the tour and heard a couple of speeches from the faculty and now I was waiting along with James to go into an individual interview that would seal my fate of getting into this school.  A lot of thoughts had been going through my head the past few months and as I was standing there in the hallway waiting with my brother, a lightbulb went off.  I blurted out, “James, what if we didn’t go to PT school?  What if we just opened up a gym and started coaching people like we have always wanted to?”  An excited energy came over us and we began brainstorming ideas for opening up a gym.  We committed to it right there in the hallway of the University of Montana while waiting for an interview to get into their school.  Our brainstorming session was interrupted when we were called for our individual interviews.  We went into the interviews fully knowing that we were not going to attend their school.

After our interviews, we skipped the rest of the day’s events, hopped in the car and drove home.  During the car ride, we were as giddy as a couple of school girls, discussing the future.  It felt like a weight had been lifted and that we were free to pursue our passions.  We ended up getting accepted into a couple of schools including U of M and turned them all down.  Later that year, we opened up our gym.  James and I had zero experience in running a business.  We have made mistakes along the way and there have been ups and downs.  But, I have never regretted making that decision in the U of M hallway.  Now, I get to use my passion of training, nutrition and coaching to help others and make a living doing something I love.

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I have learned and continue to learn so much from this experience.

  • First, don’t let other people put you into a box. You don’t have to follow the crowd if the crowd is leading you somewhere you don’t want to be.  Don’t create a life where you are constantly counting down the time until the end of the work day, the work week and retirement.
  • Do what you love and live your life with passion. Don’t settle for a life that doesn’t excite you.  I’d rather take risks in order to be happy than take the safe route and feel unfulfilled.  It will be scary at times, but it’s only when you feel uncomfortable that you are growing.  Is it easier to choose the path that is laid out for you?  Maybe, but there is greater reward in carving out your own path.
  • Just because you don’t know how to do something right now doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. You have to have a growth mindset.  No one just woke up one day great at what they do.  It takes hours and hours of work.  Welcome challenges as opportunities to grow and learn.
  • You have to believe that it’s possible. People might think you are making a mistake.  That’s okay.  You are the only one who has to believe that you can do it.  Self-doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will.  If other people can do it, why can’t you?
  • Finally, it’s never too late to do something about your situation. To get where you want to be, you just have to commit to taking that first step.  From there, do something every day that will make everyone around you have a better day and bring you a little closer to where you want to end up.
  • Go against the grain. Live a life you love.

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