I envy folks that can tell you where they are from. I know where I was born, but I hit the ground running and started making tracks all over the country.
Some of you have fond memories of growing up in one place. My story is different.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan and my old man was in the construction trades. Money is made on the road, so that’s where my brothers and I grew up. Sometimes we were in one place for a month, other times for six months. Campgrounds and the back of a pickup truck was our life.
I began working with my old man as a teenager before it was time to strike out on my own. One thing that always impressed me about my dad when I worked with him was the respect that he got from his men. It didn’t matter where we were, in this country or another, he knew how to lead.
I’m not talking about barking orders or being a dick. I’m talking about true leadership. He just naturally carried himself in a way that clearly identified him as the guy. He led by respecting his men and being there with them through some of the toughest shit.
I wanted that. I wanted to set the same kind of example for others that my old man did for me. I got to work honing my leadership skills over time in my own construction career. I became known as the guy companies could send into high pressure situations. I craved high-risk projects with tight deadlines and serious potential consequences.
I found myself with a very unique skill set, one I developed from growing up on the road. I had the ability to quickly determine the character and worth of an individual, to clearly see if they could work on a team.
This served me greatly when dropped in a city I had never been to to handle a project with a deadline. There isn’t time to get your bearings. It was sink or swim. You’ve got to swim to be a success.
I learned early in life that the lone wolf mentality was bullshit. Surrounding myself with a team of focused, respectful people who are on the same mission made even the most intense projects manageable, successful, and enjoyable.
Fast forward to 2011. My wife and I have a growing family. I was weary of the road and had always wanted to start my own business.
I’ve always been a gym rat, even when growing up traveling from city to city. One thing always bothered me about the globo gym space. It was sterile, faceless, impersonal. There could be 100 people in a random GoldsLa Fitness but the place would be completely devoid of social connection. There was no real push to get better. I would watch people everywhere move like cattle from machine to machine, never making any progress while managing to look bored as hell.
These gyms are everything they shouldn’t be: Cold. Mechanical. Commoditized.
I wanted to start a fitness business that helped people, and I was super interested in the CrossFit model. There is lots of focus on the social aspect and the human connection — the things that were so obviously missing from the globo gyms. However, I’m not a big joiner. So I took that CrossFit model and put my own spin on it.
I started in my backyard.
Three people and a basketball full of sand sealed with duct tape. We threw it at a target I mounted on an old satellite dish. We had rust and sand in our eyes, but it was the beginning of the hard work shoulder-to-shoulder with companions and the human connection that would become what exists today.
Three people became 30 people in six weeks. We decided to move spaces and solidified ourselves as an official business. Three locations later in 2014, we found ourselves in our current facility and we have been steadily forging ahead ever since.
That growth came from the careful selection of leaders that are the Iron Legion Team. Our coaching staff has included CrossFit Games athletes, Olympic weightlifting world record holders, strength and conditioning coaches from NASCAR, collegiate coaches, MMA athletes, doctors and prominent members of the first responder and tactical communities. Some members of our coaching staff have numerous certifications from USAW, NASM, CrossFit, BirthFit, and more.
What about the Iron Legion team? We train Ocala’s leaders, movers, and doers. We focus on our mission together. What’s the mission? To forge better humans.
My traveling days ended in Ocala in 2012. But I began another journey: building a team designed specifically to make my hometown a better place full of stronger, more confident people.
I’m proud of my Iron Legion team. We continue to forge Ocala’s best.