MF 117 : Being a “Two Feet Forward Kind of Jumper,” with Geoff Blake
Geoff Blake is co-founder and executive director of MissionFit, a non-profit organization providing free fitness classes to Baltimore’s inner city youth. Today, Geoff will share his philosophy of being a “two-feet forward” jumper to move forward.
Successes at a glance:
a non-profit organization providing free fitness classes to Baltimore’s inner city youth
Crossfit certified: Level 1, Strongman, Kettlebell
The Brand X method certified, Ido Portal method trainee
Setback failure or time when things fell apart:
Whatever most of us might imagine as rock bottom, it probably doesn’t come close to what Geoff has experienced and survived through in his life. Geoff is a recovering addict: he turned to drugs at an early age as a way of coping w/ some of the rough experiences from his childhood. Geoff is also no stranger to loss; having watched people around him die, including the devastating loss of his father at a young age. On top of that, and Just prior to losing his father; after visiting him at the hospital, Geoff lost his house and all of his belongings from a fire caused by lightning. This caused a downward spiral that took Geoff to the pits of despair.
Geoff describes his rock bottom moment as a time when he lost everything; to the point where he felt he had nothing left to lose. Let that sink in for a moment.
You might think that this was the end. Tragic story, tragic ending. Not so. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that Geoff describes this as “falling apart in the best way.”
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
Geoff has had many ups and downs in his life. But one thing that stands out is his philosophy of “two feet forward,” meaning you don’t let the ‘how will I do this’ stand in your way of getting started doing something. The flipside to this is that while Geoff has experienced a rock bottom most of us will never experience (or can even imagine), Geoff has a resiliency that is also unmatched. As Geoff shares, the reason why his rock bottom was “falling apart in the best way” is bc he didn’t spend much time there.
The first major pivot was a definable, specific moment for Geoff. He was laying on a couch, looking out the window at the clouds. This put in Geoff’s mind the idea of what heaven is and must be like. This led Geoff to wonder how his Dad in heaven might feel looking down upon him. Something about that scenario, that moment, moved Geoff in a way that nothing else ever had. Knowing that his Dad would feel disappointed that Geoff had given up on life filled him w/ an incredible sadness, almost as if he could feel his Dad’s emotions. That was the moment that got Geoff moving, literally and figuratively, bringing him into alignment w/ his why. That big why was being a son that his father could be proud of. Geoff quit drugs cold turkey and made a fresh start. First, Geoff got into music thru a good friend, Jordan Goodman, whose encouragement helped him find a creative, healthy outlet. Before he knew it, Geoff was touring w/ bands, playing bass guitar.
The next major pivot came when Geoff “leapt two feet” forward into the world of fitness and personal training. Geoff met a club owner in Baltimore who was also a Krav Maga instructor. Although hesitant to immerse himself in a martial art that would risk his fingers, while touring as a musician, Geoff gave it a try and fell in love with it. This led to Geoff’s next iteration, out of music and into personal training.
The next major pivot came almost two years ago. Almost mirroring his own tumultuous journey, Geoff watched along w/ the rest of the nation, in horror as the city of Baltimore was engulfed in riots and fire over the death of Freddie Gray. As Geoff shares, it was a feeling of a “dark cloud” w/ a lot of uncertainty looming overhead. Like many of us, Geoff asked himself what could he, as an individual do. A daunting question w/ no easy answers. But for Geoff, it started w/ looking at what he was doing at the time. He was a trainer at a cross-fit gym, having built up a great career in personal fitness. It was then that Geoff realized that’s where the answer to the question was. Geoff decided he could give back utilizing his gifts and talents as a fitness expert.
This is where the “two feet forward” philosophy comes into play in a big way. Geoff decided open a gym but not just any kind. This one had at its core the mission of giving back by providing free classes to Baltimore’s inner city youth. To do this, Geoff had to think different. Geoff had built up a lot of success as a personal trainer and in the for-profit world. But this was a whole different ballgame. To accomplish his goal of giving back, Geoff had to pivot into an entirely new and unfamiliar world. As it happens, life sometimes has a way of bringing the right people into ours live at the right time. Geoff’s friend Wendy, who also worked at the same gym he did, was at a “midlife crisis” point. Like Geoff, she wanted to give back and not just be in it for herself. Wendy and Geoff got into a long discussion w/ her suggesting that they start a non-profit. Keep in mind, Geoff knew nothing about non-profits. While many of us would hesitate, hem and haw, Geoff didn’t blink an eye. His “two feet forward” instinct kicked in and he decided take that proverbial leap. Thus, MissionFit was born.
For Geoff, this has been the story behind every decision he’s ever made. Geoff doesn’t let the how or what if’s hold him back. Instead, Geoff decides he’s going to do something and then does it. Where does this come from? As you read above, Geoff has hit the lowest of the low. After surviving that, the typical fears and hesitations that we have when it comes to starting a business or non-profit venture, just don’t apply in Geoff’s case.
Moving Forward listeners what is your big why? Many of us are held back from aligning ourselves w/ our big why bc we’re afraid of what will happen if we take that leap. Take a page from Geoff’s book, one filled w/ the kind of loss and tragedy that you will only experience reading this blog. Even if things completely fall apart in the way you define them, you can bounce back, you can pivot and make it your best “falling apart moment.” Geoff did so, defying all of the odds. He did so bc he knew his big why: being a son his Dad could be proud of. That’s all it took. This is what has kept him resilient and moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Geoff to move forward:
People over Profit by Dale Partridge (Paperbook | Kindle): this book helped Geoff become “unstuck” and move forward w/ the question of “what should I do for work?” The theme is about putting people first w/o having to give up your for-profit goals.
Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
Podcasts: Geoff is a self-described relentless self-learner and shares that this is an incredible, free resource.
Geoff’s hack: listen at 1.5x speed to save time w/o losing out on any of the valuable content.
How Geoff recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
Go outside and enjoy nature. Taking a walk is the “absolute reset” that Geoff needs to recharge. Not only that, it’s free!
Geoff recommends taking those walks w/o the phone or devices. Get away from the tech for just a few minutes to immerse yourself in the experience.
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Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
Be kind to me (yourself). You don’t get any better if you’re harsh or judgemental to yourself. Take one step forward.
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Give their [your] gift.”