Pay It Forward

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 5.37.12 PMThe greatest lesson for anyone is learning how to do something on their own.

That’s not some inspirational quote someone shared on Instagram or something I found deep in the pages of a self help book. It could be though, because it’s a simple truth. It resonates and ripples out, starting with something as small as making breakfast for yourself to clawing your way out of a difficult upbringing and being the first in your family to attend college.

Learning by doing and finding initiative within yourself will create a work ethic to last a lifetime. Work ethic is an increasingly foreign concept today, because most take the easy path. Today’s culture gives everyone a trophy for just showing up. Teachers are afraid to use red pens. People want things they haven’t worked hard enough to deserve. Champagne dreams in a soda reality.

I try to teach the athletes of Steve’s Club that a strong work ethic is the key to success. I give them the tools they need to make good choices, a place they can come to get strong and a network of coaches and teammates to rely on. But my athletes have to use the tools they are given, and ultimately, they have to do the work.

We started the Steve’s Club Summer Leadership Camp so kids from all across the country could come together and learn from each other. Every August, we travel to a National Guard Training Center in the hills of Pennsylvania for a week of fitness, nutrition, leadership training and sharing. We take the kids out of their environment and their norms. For seven days, gone are the typical mornings when they can get up whenever they want.

Life often doesn’t let you get up whenever you want, unless you’re checked out or you’ve worked your ass off to earn the right to. Ideally, there’s an alarm clock or a parent there to wake kids up and remind them there’s responsibility on the other side of the snooze button.

In a perfect world, that responsibility is waiting in a classroom or at a job and not on a street corner or a couch. The temptation to accept entitlements is real for many kids, they could take the easy-but-costly path and sell drugs or leech off anyone else in the family who is taking responsibility.

Sometimes, there may not be anyone around to help, no one to wake the kids up, make them breakfast or give them lunch money. That’s why Steve’s Club exists. It’s those kids in particular that we want to help, throwing mentors and good advice their way until they are  transformed into self motivators who wake themselves up and become agents of change in their own household, and maybe later their whole family, and then within the walls of our club.

At Leadership Camp, our kids are woken up early. Their bodies are in motion all day and they have to bring their brains out of bed with them. It’s much more than sweat or throwing the weights around. For that week, I expect more of them and in turn, they demand more of themselves. It’s a beautiful balance.

The kids learn problem-solving skills and the value of working together for a common goal. Camp can act as a seed, planting responsibility and self sufficiency in their minds. Add some luck and love and that could all grow into a young man or young woman who’s not afraid to lead, not too proud to get up early and work their way toward their goals while the world tells them to sit back, relax and let things come to them.

Sometimes, these lessons are more of a virus than a seed. They have to infect their way through a whole lot of history and preconceived notions that might be deeply rooted from influences at home or in their neighborhood. It takes a lot of guts to get up and throw on a McDonald’s uniform when your buddies are hanging out and playing video games. And even though the promise of a pay check is at the end of the shift, there’s a million deterrents pulling, tugging and shoving for kids to go the easy way. It’s my job to provide them with the tools to battle the deterrents.

They don’t always win the battle, but when they do, the victory pays it forward. My best athletes often become responsible leaders and they stay around well into their early 20s. They often work in the warehouse at Steve’s PaleoGoods, and they coach classes after becoming certified. By providing a few key tools for success, we can help them create their own success and in turn, they will help others be successful.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. –Ben Franklin

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