You can learn a lot about a person if you ask where they came from.
Well, if you ask and then you listen that is…
I am disappointed in myself. At the start of the year, I asked my TFW affiliates if any of them had an interesting life story to share. As you have probably read over the last few weeks, there have been powerful stories of comebacks from injury, career changes and battling life threatening disease.
I always make a point to get to my emails and there is one I am really upset that I missed. When Mikey Murphy of Visalia, California sent me his story, I was traveling. My inbox got overloaded and it took me a few weeks to finally open it. When I did and read his story, I was disgusted with myself. Why? His message is so powerful I know it is going to help and inspire you. This story took so much courage to write I should have opened and shared it sooner.
I guess my consolation is that the story let me know you will mess up. There will be things you miss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them back. I challenge you to read Mikey’s inspirational story and question what gifts you have received from your greatest setbacks.
I am nervous about what I am going to share with you.
Typically, I don’t discuss my childhood. Although I do make occasional references to how I grew up, few have heard what I have endured. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the closest people to me have never heard some of what I am going to share with this writing. In all honestly, I wouldn’t change a single thing that I went through because each experience you are about to read gave me the ability to live the mission and vision I currently have for my life and family.
When I was born, the doctors knew something was wrong.
My life started on a winter day in 1988. I was born premature and was rushed into an incubator. I was born with a hole in my heart, and spent the next 2 weeks in that incubator fighting for my life. Miraculously, after the right medical treatment, I survived. But this was the least of many challenges I would have ahead.
My mom and dad split up when I was three.
Speaking about my parents is a touchy subject so before I go further, I want to make a few things clear: my mom is an incredibly loving woman and my Dad is a stoically peaceful man. My story is not meant to slander them, but honor them for helping me become the man that I am today. My mom has had her demons, and has battled through some difficult conditions many of which I will never understand or perhaps even know about. She has also battled with drugs for as long as I can remember.
Much of my childhood was spent “homeless.”
My earliest “home” memories would be getting evicted from roach infested apartments. We lived in areas where “drive-bys,” murders, and drugs were prevalent. We would live in trailers, and were forced to sleep in cars. We lived with some of my mom’s friends or boyfriends and even lived on the carnival for a bit, when my mom could get work with the food trucks and concession stands.
My mom taught me to be a survivor.
Give her hardship and she will face it head on with a smile. She would cry from time to time, but I knew a big thing for her was showing strength and resiliency to her kids. At the age of 9 because of her addictions, and lack of stability she made a decision: she gave up custody of my sister and me. She faced reality and did what she thought would be best for our survival, regardless of the heartache it brought her. I know the picture I have painted is not pretty, but those conditions, as horrible as they sound, are some of my fondest memories.
What my mom lacked in stability she made up for in love.
Through all the trouble, she always loved me, and I always felt it. Because of my mother, I learned that even in the harshest conditions, you can always have Love. We may have gone without money or a house, but I assure you I never went without love. In her courageously loving act, my mom gave custody of my sister and me to my Aunt Sue. I will never forget when my Aunt Sue picked us up for the 45-minute drive to Visalia. I have experienced no greater sadness than watching my mom’s reaction from the back window as we drove away.
I found with hardship comes resilience.
My aunt’s home quickly had become mine and I was in heaven. For the first time, I lived in a “home” where the family was the centerpiece. I was surrounded by cousins helped me through these tough times and I will always look up to them. I was surrounded with love, faith, and a family. I had “brothers” to look up to, and an Aunt and Uncle who taught me another lesson: Generosity.
I learned you find your self by being selfless.
My Aunt Sue is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met. It isn’t uncommon to see her inviting the homeless to her house for dinner or to sleep there even when she and my uncle were stretched thin financially. She and my uncle have taken in over 25 foster children. Still to this day she runs a nonprofit company that focuses on helping those less fortunate. She has done this for twenty years and is the most selfless person I have ever met. My time with my Aunt and Uncle was short, but the year and a half that I lived with them is time I will be forever grateful.
It was decided I would live with my dad.
After living with my aunt my dad had decided to move my sister and me to the Bay Area to live with him. I was 11 years old and just about to start middle school, and my sister was going into high school.
Since my father had never raised kids, becoming an instant father to two teenagers was tough on all of us. I personally had A LOT of resentment towards him, since he was absent when I searched for a father growing up. When I moved in with him I was excited, but admit I was also one of the most moody and unhappy kids he could have taken in. My father, unlike my mom was emotionally absent. He had his demons as well, and although he didn’t show the love I craved, he taught me something else: Responsibility. I admired that he did the right thing and took his children in. I lived with my father from 6th grade through 12th grade, and although we may not talk much to this day, I am grateful that he took me in and gave me stability through some of my toughest years. Up until moving in with him, I had never really lived in one place for more than a year or two. I look back and because of him accepting responsibility I had a place I call my home.
I moved out at 18 and rebelled against everything.
After about a year of poor choices I found myself in Visalia, back at my aunt’s house. I made this decision in part from the guidance of my cousin to help me “find myself and avoid traveling down the same paths as my parents.” When I first moved in, I had no clue what I had wanted to do. I got a job, only to lose it because of hanging out with the wrong people. I felt like a failure and depression set in. After a year of this one of my cousins (who owned a local gym) offered me a chance to work out at his gym for free.
I just needed something to believe in and someone to believe in me.
My cousin gave me a shot at fitness. When I got the job as a coach he took my to my first seminar and I met Martin Rooney. He spent time talking to me and from that day, I followed Martin’s training philosophies. Everything he stood for and wrote about resonated with me. For the next 6 years I spent working under my cousin’s mentorship and guidance, I learned more about life and work than I had in my previous 18 years. He helped be stop various bad habits and showed me what passion was about. With him and TFW, I started to form a dream I could have a business of my own.
I was, of course, really afraid of commitment.
When I was 22, I met my (future) wife Dina. At the time, I was lost in my own personal life consumed with my own self-pity, recreational drugs alcohol and a huge false bravado. Her presence had convinced me that it was time to let go of those unhealthy addictions. In fact it’s crazy, I had never fully committed to a girlfriend before, but there was something different about her and it demanded more of me. She had a 2 year old daughter and there was no way I could continue on my self destructive path if I had wanted to be involved in their lives. I cleaned up my act and by 25 we were married, had our baby son on the way and I had opened our first personal training business. Talk about change! We had so much change happen in that nine-month stretch that our lives were completely disheveled.
I started our relationship by failing on my promises.
My wife has taught me about another important human attribute: Patience. In our early years together, she saw me at my most vulnerable moments. She rode out a wave of poverty and failed promises with me for years. She held me together through some tough times, be it my business failures or strained family ties. Her patience allowed her to stand by me regardless of the issues we may have faced. We have cried ourselves to sleep because we couldn’t afford Christmas. We have been forced to move in with family because we couldn’t afford the rent. We have “stolen” food from her aunt’s fridge to feed our kids.
This was all still happening until a year and a half ago.
I had been running the personal training business for over two years and lost four big paying clients who dropped our gross income to $3500 (before rent, utilities, and services we paid for). We had no clue how we would make it. Dina had lost hope in me and it was deserved. Two years in business and all I had to show was debt and failure. One night after we were sitting outside talking and I mentioned Training for Warriors. I said how much my personal beliefs matched with TFW, and she had told me we had no choice to give a proven system a chance. Obviously I wasn’t doing things right, and this was our last shot.
My life is starting to turn around.
Martin (who remembered me from all those years ago) took a shot on us. I know we weren’t really the “model” TFW affiliate, but as he reminded me, “Your past does not determine your future.” I dove into TFW and it is hard to explain the emotion that followed. After a 3-month transition from my previous gym to becoming a TFW, we began to grow. In the last year and a half, TFW has helped us create and grow a positive business that I didn’t think was possible. We now have over 60 students and although we still live month to month, we get to live the full month! And even bigger than the money, we have a strong community surrounding and supporting us and I know only bigger things are ahead for my family and me. Without TFW, I could guarantee I wouldn’t have my marriage, wouldn’t feel accomplished, and I would still be searching for myself. Through TFW I not only rekindled my relationship, but also ignited a passion in my service.
What you can learn from Mikey’s story.
We didn’t share Mikey’s story so you would feel sorry for him. His story is your reminder challenges will happen to you and there is always a lesson to learn when life isn’t going your way. If you can get the lesson and grow from it, you will someday be happy life gave you that kick in the pants. So instead of focusing on the poverty, addictions, apathy and business failure we wanted you to see how Love, Generosity, Responsibility and Patience grew from them.
Hardship is normal. You will struggle. How you react to your struggle is the difference maker. So when the next battle comes your way, embrace it, learn from it, adapt and grow. A Mikey demonstrates, that is where your power lies, and if you want a better life, don’t stop fighting because you don’t deserve anything less.
If you are passionate about fitness and your goal is to run a new program or open your own facility like Mikey did, TFW can help you the same way it has helped him. Now with over 275 locations in 28 countries, TFW has a proven system that can help you overcome your challenges. If you are interested in hearing how Training For Warriors can help, contact us today. You can head over to www.JoinTFW.com and enter your email or fill out the form below here on the TFW Website
Yours in Strength,
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