No one knew. I was too embarrassed. Too proud to ask for help. Too scared of the consequences to admit the situation. Too aware of the alternatives if I quit moving forward each day.
I was homeless, broke and had borrowed out $55,000 in educational loans to go to a university where I could no longer afford the meal plan or the housing. From one couch to the next, one building after another crashing on the floor, in the library, at a quad floors in the dorms. Friends would bring home an extra sandwich from the cafeteria, leave an extra slice of pizza, or a box of cereal… My “diet” was whatever I could find… and on some shame-filled nights, dumpster diving the local restaurant.
So, I picked up odd-jobs when I could, but with poor sleep and diet, and heavy studies, with borrowed books, I struggled through 3 semesters without and consistent lodging or meal plan.
When your family is struggling, and you’re the first one to go to university, failure isn’t acceptable. I couldn’t go home and tell my mother that I had to quit because it was too hard.
She was the first female steel-worker in Pennsylvania, having to do twice the job as a man in order to be given half the wages and benefits, fought on picket lines next to her coworkers when laid off for months of welfare and foodstamp cold nights. A single mom, with four kids, and two full time jobs.
There was no way that I could tell her that by myself, I couldn’t make it through college. It seemed very risky at the time, since you could be ejected for lying about residence (since to be on campus and not a commuter - which was more expensive). But there was no alternative.
Risks may seem overwhelming, but sometimes, playing it safe, and avoiding the risks, is the most dangerous action you can take, if you intend to achieve your goals.
Now 20 years later, running one of the most successful fitness organizations in the world, with 21 countries boasting facilities, a line of patented equipment, hundreds of books and videos, including award-winners, I remember those humble beginnings. And when things do get overwhelming, it causes me to smile, because even though growing up as an organization may seem risky sometimes, remaining safely immature seems much more hazardous by comparison.