All my life I have been blessed with amazing people. People that have done truly extraordinary things with their lives and then passed them on to me (and others).
We are the average sum of the people we surround ourselves with. They come and they go, but the experiences and the things they teach us while in our lives stick with us forever. Perhaps if you’re unhappy with your current situation, in whichever way that may be, a change in social environment is the first place to look.
These are the people that taught me things throughout my life and helped made me who I am today.
For Part 2 of this series, see the Brands and Sponsorships that have helped me along the way.
Mom and Dad
We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and somehow my parents, with just high school diplomas, managed to raise 3 [mostly] normal kids.
My dad has always, and still to this day coming up on his 65th birthday, worked long hours at jobs that weren’t always the greatest just to provide. At one point, he almost became my school’s janitor. Of course, as a kid in junior high, I was fucking mortified, but now as an adult, I can appreciate exactly what and why that needed to be an option. 13 year old David is still incredibly grateful that never happened.
My mom is the one that somehow kept it all together. Managing finances, working jobs that weren’t great but allowed the flexibility to be at nearly ALL of our sporting and school events (and we were all 2-3 sport athletes), and keeping us all in line…especially my dad sometimes.
My parents aren’t unique snowflakes, and I’m sure many of you have similar or better stories, but I hope you can all appreciate your parents in the way that I do mine to make them unique snowflakes to you.
Rollie Hall and Randy Bielmeier
Coach Hall was a D3 Football All-American as a player and is now in the WI Coaching Hall of Fame. If I remember correctly, Coach B pitched in the Minor Leagues. These two gentleman taught me how to give and receive respect. They taught me leadership. And they taught me nothing will be given to me.
If you worked your ass off (on and off the field), respected your teammates, and did what was asked of you, they rewarded you with playing time, a team that felt like a brotherhood, and a State Championship. If you mouthed off (common for high schoolers, at least this one), failed to make grades, or put the team at jeopardy because of something personal, you faced losing everything you had worked for as a player until you proved to them you were worth their respect again.
It would take a lot of work to confirm this, but I *think* their teams made high school playoffs every year from 1992 – 2004, including one State Championship. There are so many lessons to be learned from team sports and with the right people in charge, those lessons will last a lifetime.
My college football defensive coordinator.
I wasn’t particularly close with Coach Sailors. I was 3rd string defense and special teams at best, but that does not mean I didn’t observe what he did with other athletes on the team. Picture the work your ass off and give/get respect values of my high school coaches except at an intensity level about 10x higher. Add in the work ethic he had in preparing a bunch of engineers to try play football every Saturday and this is a man I wanted to model some parts of my life after. His integrity and the level he held his players and himself accountable are unrivaled to anyone I’ve met.
I certainly lifted weights all through high school and college, but I never understood what or why I was doing anything. Brian was the man that started putting it all together for me.
He had served in the military, started his own engineering firm, owned Ford’s Gym in Madison, WI, graced the cover of Muscle and Fitness, and to this day, still holds USAPL State Powerlifting Records. It’s already apparent how much athletics and fitness has played in my life, and this is the guy that I hold at the top with the highest regards.
At Brian’s we talked more than just lifting weights and getting strong. Brian helped shape some truly big life decisions and has affected me in more ways than I can imagine. He alone sits at the top of people that helped me get to where I am today, not counting my parents.
His passing is something that still saddens me to this day. He is missed.
Dr. Mike T. Nelson, PhD
When I met Mike, he was a PhD candidate in exercise physiology, had his Master’s Degree in Biomechanics, and was working as an engineer at a biomedical device company. Being that I was also an engineer and fitness junky, we clicked immediately.
I was already scientific at my core, but he taught me about research, nutrition, and helped guide me in getting my CSCS training certification. It was also just really nice training with a PhD and being able to bounce ideas off of him (and sometimes I’d even help him out). He also introduced me to…
Frankie Faires and The Movement
At this point in my life, I had a solid “to-do” list, a map of things I needed to do in order to get to where I wanted to go. But I had no idea on HOW to do them, or better yet, HOW I, specifically, should do things to get me there. Life is a horribly complex thing to go through and no one is going to hold your hand and lead you through it. Frankie and The Movement taught me how to lead myself.
The relationship certainly started out personal training and biomechanics based, but it quickly led to psychological, nutritional, and emotional management. He taught me that everything in all of these realms are interconnected. That expansion and higher function in one, means expansion and higher function in the others. That rigidity and elasticity of tissues in your body are similar and exactly the same as the plasticity in our brains, though through wildly different mechanisms.
I will expand on these teachings and how they have guided me to where I am now in a later post all by itself.
I found gym climbing on my own, but Steve is the man that introduced me to outdoor rock climbing. He taught me how to build anchors; he taught me how to trad lead; he taught me how to appreciate the history of climbing.
He invited me to the Black Hills for the first time with his wife Cecilia and son Grant. He introduced me to Jan Conn, the first woman to climb Devil’s Tower and the first all-woman team to climb Devil’s Tower.
I’m not sure what direction my life is currently heading, but I know that climbing is the biggest influence at this point, and this is the man that basically taught me how to climb. How can I aptly put his importance in my life into words? Not to mention, he’s always quite the ladies’ man.
I met Abbey through the teachings of Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ramit is a multi-million dollar blogger, author, speaker, and teacher. Abbey was his lead copywriter at the time.
It’s no secret between us that when she reached out to me for a piece on IWT, I was totally just planning on leveraging that relationship to get in touch with Ramit himself. This ‘fake’ relationship did not last long. Our values, outlook on life, and professional paths were too similar. In short time, we were texting each other daily. About nothing, about life, about career paths. We even met while she was in town for a convention, and I managed to make her throw up on a winding mountain pass at 12,000ft. elevation.
If it weren’t for Abbey, I never would have bought a course on freelancing, who knows how long it would have taken to get my first client, she takes credit for me quitting my engineering career, and again, who doesn’t want a friend that has taken such a huge role in creating multi-million dollar products in their back pocket to ask for advice and bounce ideas off of?
The Average Sum
It’s sometimes hard to step back and look at all the people that have come in and out of your life. Maybe it’s a teacher, professor, pastor, uncle, or a really great boss. Or maybe all of them. But you are the sum of the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. You become better with the good and worse with the bad.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of people that have influenced, or continue to influence me, but they are the ones that have shaped, molded, and directed my life. They are the ones who’s lessons have stuck with me and gotten me to where I am. I feel incredibly grateful I’ve had the opportunities to surround myself with great teachers, PhD’s, record holders, professional athletes, and people capable of becoming millionaires. Who have you surrounded yourself with?