I have a friend that grew up in Washington, DC. He is African American. The odds were that he would end up accepting the stereotype and live a much different life than the one he has. Instead, he had a dream to fly, and he pursued it. He joined the Air Force and became an F16 Pilot. He served in combat, distinguished himself, and earned a coveted spot on the Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team. After his two-year stint with the team, he was chosen along with 13 others to be a White House Fellow. Each year fourteen outstanding Americans are chosen to be White House Fellows and work closely with a top level administrator for a year. My friend was the special assistant to the director of NASA. After serving an incredible year attached to the White House, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and became an Air Force Combat Flight Instructor. A few years ago he retired from the Air Force and today he is a pilot with Southwest Airlines. If you are a UFC or MMA fan, then you have probably seen him on TV refereeing UFC fights.
I love spending time with him and listening to him. He inspires me to do the hard thing.
I have another close friend. She was born in a small Texas town and could have spent her life thinking that way. She was an outstanding athlete and for a time it looked like her ticket to something better. Her parents divorced, and she had to give up her dream of running track at a major college. Left with a great body and pretty face, she did what she felt her best option was, but it was a different option than most would assume. Twenty-Six years later Monica Brant is an enduring fitness legend. She moved back to Texas a few years ago, but did so on her terms. After spending 19 years as the most prolific female IFBB competitor in history, she and her legacy moved to the WBFF and earned two world championships there before leaving the sport in 2013. Three months later she won Gold, Silver, and Bronze in the World Masters Track Championships in Brazil. She always wanted to run track. She and her husband are helping to raise a sweet young girl with great athletic potential that comes from a rough side of town. It’s the thing in Monica and Brad’s heart.
This past week Monica stayed five days with us in Las Vegas. She is preparing to compete with NABBA in England in four weeks. She’s been doing this competing stuff for Twenty Six years, and she still has a world-class physique.
I love spending time with her and listening to her. She inspires me to do the hard thing.
I’ve learned from these two, and a hundred more, that if you want to do something truly outstanding you don’t have to be someone else from somewhere else. Everything you need is right there inside of you. You just have to choose it. The hard thing, the scary thing, the thing you and everyone around you said you couldn’t do. The thing that is in your heart that you dream about doing. The thing God put in you, your purpose, when he gave you life.
Grandma Moses, the famous painter, had a dream to paint as a young girl. She gave it up to do the responsible thing. She raised her family and worked on the farm. When she was almost 80 years old she took up painting again and shortly afterward became one of America’s great painters. She made more money then than she had her entire life and more importantly, her dream was fulfilled. We would have missed so much had she not begun painting again in her 80’s. It’s never too late to start.
What if you respected and honored the path that was made for you. What if you pushed away everything and everyone that didn’t. What if you knew that you would be ok, that your bills would be paid and you would have friends and loved ones, and most of all, happiness and fulfillment if you followed that path. If you can succeed where you are doing something that is not in your heart, how much better would you do if you chose something that was?
I’m from a small town on the Canadian Prairies. My mom was a drug addict, my adopted father an alcoholic. I did poorly in school and never went to college. I’ve been a SWAT Cop, a corporate executive, an entrepreneur, and a consultant. I’ve also been a record holding Powerlifter, a bodybuilder, and a fighter. In 1997 at almost 40 years of age and with no skills or experience, I decided to become a photographer and writer. It’s the thing I loved, and I worked among the best in the world. As I write this I can say that I’ve never been happier. I’m also empowered to follow my other dreams of being a philanthropist and inspiring others to see their possibilities.
On Tuesday this week I shot one of Monica Brant’s workouts. She was being trained by a friend of mine. He owns two Superbowl rings after playing ten years of professional football yet he offered his time and gifts to train Monica for free, as a favor to me. Marcus Nash, like me and the friends I’ve written about here, has followed his God-given path and trains elite performance athletes to help them succeed. Mark Smith, the pilot and UFC referee, is in a couple of the shots. He came to help me out like he often does at my shoots. I feel honored he is there, yet he humbly asks to be my assistant, to serve his friend. Now in her forties, Monica Brant trained with four young male college athletes and surprised them with her athleticism, skill, and work ethic. She didn’t feel too entitled to train with a group of strangers.
These are all outstanding people because of who they are, not just what they do and have done.
When I surround myself with outstanding people, outstanding things become commonplace. Less impossible, less scary. There are no voices telling me I can’t, my time is passed or that it’s too hard or impossible. I’m not afraid to fail because the lessons I’ve learned in failure are the building blocks of success.
I’ve pushed those negative voices out of my life because anyone that holds me back or tries to limit me, doesn’t love me and is not my friend.
Instead, I spend my time with people that inspire me…to do the hard thing.