As I said on the homepage, I’m a character development coach. You might ask yourself, “How does a person become a Character Coach?” Or, “What makes a person want to be a Character Coach?” Well, I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing life from many different angles:
- I struggled with obesity as a child. I started experimenting with various strategies for weight loss when I was 10 years old. I weighed 180 lbs at the time. Despite massive amounts of effort and literal blood, sweat, and tears, for the next 7 years I only grew heavier. At my heaviest, I was 17 years old and I weighed 305 lbs. That year I managed to make some fundamental changes in my diet and I lost 80 lbs in 8 months. Since then I’ve only grown wiser with how I manage my health. All this while growing up in the South in a family and environment where being overweight/obese is normal. How does this happen? I believe that this intensity of focus came from a need to overcome the teasing and bullying that often came from my classmates. Somewhere along the line I embraced the idea that I didn’t deserve the treatment I was getting and I had to do something to change it…
2000 – 2014
- I have never liked school but I worked extremely hard at it and eventually graduated college with honors with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I’m a slow writer and reader. I rarely understood ideas when they were initially presented in class. I was a good student because I began applying myself outside of school at a young age. Around 6 years old. Why? My mother always told me that if I wanted to go to college then I needed to earn scholarships to pay for it. She knew she wouldn’t be able to help financially. In my home, a college degree was the way by which you overcame financial struggles. I wanted to be able to help my mother and sister when I got older. It was hard to watch my mom struggle to make ends meet and I wanted to change that. So, from 1st grade on, I worked as hard as I could. That mentality lead to long term success.
- I worked briefly as an Engineer and realized quickly, that it wasn’t work that I would ever be truly driven to do. After experiencing massive amounts of depression, I eventually walked away. At 25 years old I decided to join the military with the hopes of becoming a Special Forces Soldier (AKA – Green Beret). I wanted to do something that I believed would have a real impact on people. I had never been a great athlete. I had never been on a hike. Never been camping. Never shot a gun. And I didn’t know how to swim. However, for the 2.5 year training and assessment process, I focused on doing simple things well and I ended up graduating in the top 20% of my class of Green Berets. I would later serve as a Special Forces Medic in Afghanistan…
Afghanistan Feb 2011 – Feb 2012
- I didn’t grow up learning about budgeting and how to handle money well. Though I had always been a frugal guy, some poor financial decisions made in the midst of my depression left me $60,000 in debt before entering the Army. It was an incredibly enslaving feeling and I was determined to get out of debt and never go back into it. Over my first three years in the service I paid off the debt. I sacrificed often and was scrutinized for spending habits (or lack thereof). People couldn’t understand why I was making such material sacrifices. I wanted my freedom, so I chose to endure the process. I left the military debt free with about $60,000 dollars in savings (That’s a $120K swing in five years. Yes, I’m proud of that!).
When I left the military in 2012, I started working fulltime as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. It was my hope to take the things that I had learned through weightloss to help others find health without making the mistakes I made. However, I began to notice two things:
- The simple things of life were preventing people from seeing success outside of the gym. Poor financial management, poor time management, a lack of purpose in work/life, mishandling of relationships etc. If a person is massively stressed out from poor life choices, it’s hard to kick the sugar habit that they’ve had for years.
- More importantly, I realized that people had shallow motives for wanting to workout. “I want to lose 10-15 lbs.” “I want to get ripped!” “I want to be stronger.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these things but they are all outcomes of the process. Furthermore, to acquire and sustain these outcomes one must engage in consistent exercise/eating habits over long periods of time (years). It took me 7 years of failing before I started losing weight. A lot happens in 7 years. Unexpected death in the family, disease, loss of romantic relationships, job loss or maybe you’re a kid in school and every week you get teased mercilessly. If a person’s motive for starting is weak, then their commitment to execution will be weak. When life hits, they’ll give up.
This is the realization that made me shift from fitness professional to character development coach. I was telling people what to do at the gym but we weren’t addressing the character traits required to see long term success. Essentially, we were trying to engage in behavior modification without a change of heart and a shift in paradigm. Success in all the difficult endeavors I have listed has been predicated on the same character traits: grit, patience, courage, empathy etc. These traits allow one to stay focused on executing simple behaviors for long periods of time. Focused energy (Think Colorado River) over long periods of time produces massive outcomes (Think Grand Canyon). Losing weight, paying off debt, graduating with honors as an engineer, becoming a Special Forces Soldier, and many other successes in my life have all been predicated on focused energy, over significant amounts of time. This has nothing to do with having a high IQ, genetic gifts, or socio-economic advantages. It has everything to do with Strength of Character.
Culturally, modern day society does not celebrate the long haul. We are addicted to instant gratification. Obesity and indebtedness are rising issues in America and it’s becoming a normal to fall into these categories. These issues have nothing to do with a lack of knowledge and everything to do with a lack of self discipline. Self discipline executed over long periods of time. However, with advancements in technology and science, there’s a pill or a surgery to fix whatever pains you. The proliferation of credit and loans makes debt common. Why wait and save to buy something, when you can enslave yourself and have it right now? Social media and text messaging is creating a generation of young people that can’t handle rejection and having hard/awkward face-to-face conversations. Add to that, Gallup Polls show that 70% of people are disengaged in the work that they do. I’ve learned that it’s a gritty and arduous process to find work that you believe in at a deep level. However, we don’t live in a society that naturally breeds the grit, resilience, and patience needed to endure the process.
How do we solve this problem? I think it’s all about intentionality.
Every individual and every organization needs to continually work to define and understand three things (Organization equates to 2 or more people in my mind: couples, families, small businesses, sports teams etc.):
- Why/Who – What are my/our motives for getting up everyday and engaging particular processes? Who am I doing this for? Who does my behavior impact and how?
- How – What are my/our core values and can those values be seen in my/our moment to moment actions?
- What – What do I/we want my/our life to look like? What is my/our vision? A vision consists of 4 fundamental areas to life:
- Health – Exercise and Eating Habits, Sleep Quality, Rest and Recreation
- Resources – Money Management, Management of Material Possessions, Management of Physical Space (Home, Office, Classroom, Locker, any place you or your possessions occupy)
- Relationships – Spirituality, Significant Others, Family, Friends, Coworkers and Human interaction in general.
- Work – Actively pursuing endeavors which give us a deep sense of purpose/fulfillment and a sense of contribution to the greater good of society. Your Mission.
Together, I call these things an Azimuth. In the military, during land navigation exercises, we would plug an azimuth into our compass to help us stay on course while cross country navigating. The terrain can get rough and there were plenty of times where I had to navigate in storms, at night, with no visibility. When you set the azimuth on a lensatic compass, there are two dash marks that line up to let you know you are on track while you walk. They actually glow in the dark. When it’s raining profusely and your glasses are fogging up, that compass becomes your main tool for direction of travel. It helps you navigate in the midst of storms. See the parallel.
Without doing the mental wrestling required to define your azimuth, people find themselves drifting with the environment. No intentionality means you probably get what is common to your culture. If the culture breeds impulsiveness and a lack of self awareness, then without critical introspection and a defined direction, you’ll probably be impulsive and lack self awareness.
The statistical norms for health outcomes for African Americans from the South look nothing like my own. I grew up in that culture but I was intentional about what I wanted my health to look like and I focused on that. The process itself breed certain character traits: doggedness, resilience, self discipline. I would use and grow these character traits as I moved on to other challenges in life.
My construct is simple: Why/Who – Motive, How – Values, What – Vision. Easy to understand. Difficult to execute. I believe that working against ‘that difficulty’ on a regular basis is what develops quality character. What is the ‘difficulty’? It’s the adverse life events as mentioned, it’s the scrutiny that comes with doing things that go against the grain, and it’s sticking to our value system when no one would fault us for deviating and perhaps we are expected to deviate. It’s the tension of all the challenging events in life that will come up and be beyond our control. It’s the challenge of deep, soul-level, sustained change. It’s my aim to use this simple philosophy to help as many people as possible develop the strength of character to see their visions and goals come to life.
Dream Big! Think Critically! Work Hard!
Ambition – Innovation – Effort
I Love You! God Bless You!