My life has already been quite a journey. I have had the absolute blessing to experience things most never do in a lifetime. I have found that if you have the desire to follow your passion, great things will happen and you will be successful. To achieve success, you need to really understand what it means. To understand what success means, you need to understand your purpose in life. I have recently discovered my purpose, my passion. I knew I found my passion when I, without hesitation, made the hardest sacrifices in my life to follow it. In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, he states “When a person really desires something, the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream.” My young life has been nothing but an exact replication of Coelho’s claim.
It all started after successful High School athletic career. I was blessed with athletic ability as well as parents who engrained great values of integrity, hard work and leadership into my brain. Though I was blessed with ability, I was not blessed with size and speed. I was faced with the decision to try to play division 1 baseball as a walk-on, or play football and baseball at a division 3 College. I struggled with the decision all summer until I realized what a mistake I would be making to stop playing football, a sport I loved equally as much as baseball.
College Football Camp: Rude Awakening
As a “hot shot” high school athlete, I had a rude awakening when I found out how talented the athletes were when I arrived to my first college football camp. I trained all summer, almost assuming I could easily win a starting role as a slot receiver. 5 weeks went by in the season, and I deservingly remained a number 2 receiver on the depth chart, with very little playing time. Frustrated to the point where I was considering transferring to another school, my dad advised me to approach my receiver’s coach as a man. I had such a strong desire to play and make something happen for our struggling offense, I came to tears in the meeting I had with my coach. The very next day, on the very first practice play, our offensive coordinator shouted out “fily 14” (I was number 14 in college). This basically meant I was in at receiver at our H back position. I began making things happen in practice and that very week, one of our starting players sustained an injury. That next week I made my first college start as a Freshman.
Freshman Fairy Tale
The remaining 7 weeks of the season (which included two playoff games) seemed like a fairy tale. I ended up leading the team in receptions, scoring 6 touchdowns in the process. All 6 touchdowns came in the playoffs, 4 of which were in our first playoff game, tying a school record. Let me take you through the end of the first playoff game: With 5 seconds remaining at the 19 yard line going in to score, we were losing 42-38 and had been losing the whole game, in the most hostile environment I had ever played in to that point. This was a playoff game, so we had to score or our season was over. My coach called a play where I knew I had a great opportunity to catch the ball. The ball was snapped and everything seemed to be silent and in slow motion. After running for 15 yards or so, I turned my head inside and the ball was near. I caught the ball with a defender right on my back. I was tackled immediately and thought I was short of the goal line. The eruption of the home crowd (we were visiting) seemed to confirm my thoughts. I started to stand up and to my amazement; I was in the end-zone. I wasn’t standing long, as the entire team rushed the field and piled on top of me. I was hoisted up on a player’s shoulders, surrounded by the entire team. You would think this story was written by Disney, but this actually happened. I went on to have a successful college career, never losing sight of the absolute desire to achieve more.
I have tremendous value for friendship. I choose my friends very closely and have never seemed to fit into big groups or cliques. To sum up my view on friendship: as the old saying goes “It’s better to have one quarter than 25 pennies.” My sophomore year in college, my two other roommates and I were assigned a random roommate. Every year before football camp started, I always studied the incoming recruits to see what kind of talent we had coming in. When we received our roommate assignment, I immediately recognized him as a receiver transfer from Northern Illinois University. I will never forget the first day in our receiver meeting when I saw him in person for the first time and not from “creeping” him on Facebook. In walks this very fair skinned, red-head with long muttin chops coming down to his jaw bone. I couldn’t help but think “Man, I am stuck with this weird red-head all year.” That night, we started moving our stuff into our dorm. To my surprise, the “weird red-head” and I ended up immediately connecting. Shaun and I became the closest of friends.
I soon learned that Shaun was from Brown Deer Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Despite the distance, our friendship soon united our families, and my mother soon became “Shaun’s Illinois Mom.” We became closer and closer as our college years went on. Our senior year, we were even selected to play in a Division 3 all-star game in Mexico where we were able to represent our country and travel. Shaun was an elementary education major, and I found out by the end of college that he may have been the most talented teacher to come through their program. I noticed his ability with kids early, as we both coached a kid’s football camp. His ability to connect and lead kids was simply incredible. If you haven’t tried to direct 70+ kids in a football camp, just take my word for it that it is not easy. Shaun made it look simple. The way he communicated with them, and the way they responded to him was astounding.
Remarkable as a person and as a leader, anytime Shaun approved of something I had done, I felt extremely accomplished. Shaun became my best friend and role model. For most people, your best friend and role model are two different people, but Shaun became both of those things. Right after graduating college, Shaun earned a job as a 2nd grade elementary school teacher at a time where getting a teaching job was near impossible. At this point in time, we were still living together, so I was able to see how much work he was putting into his craft. This may sound cliché, but he was literally the first one in the school every day and the last one to leave. I know this for a fact, because he would leave by 5:00 AM and not return until 9 or 10 at night. He was not just satisfied with having a job. He was always looking for ways to improve, always trying to find a way to get and keep the kids engaged. Selfishly it became frustrating, because we were not able to spend as much time together. I did not know it at the time, but I was receiving first hand exposure to what it took to be a successful leader. What does it take? Absolute sacrifice.
On a cold February night, I was fast asleep and anxious for baseball practice early the next morning. I was woken up in the middle of the night to a call from one of my close friends, Brad. I had baseball at 5 AM the next day and assumed he wanted me to come hang out, so I chose to ignore the call. I fell asleep for about 20 minutes when I woke up to my phone ringing again. After it stopped I noticed I had 15 missed calls, numerous text messages and voicemails and began to get the feeling something was wrong. Half awake, I decided to check Facebook, figuring if something was seriously wrong my network of friends would have posted about it. After reading constant posts exclaiming “please pray for Shaun Wild,” I called Brad back.
“Shaun was stabbed, Steve.” I shot up and began to get ready. I did not know what to think, but I knew he was going to be fine, because he was the strongest person and leader I had ever met. On the way to the hospital, I kept thinking optimistically. I remember praying to God, “Please let the strength he has gained training for the triathlon (he was training vigorously for a triathlon for weeks previous) make his heart strong enough to handle whatever the wound is.” I arrived to the hospital to hundreds of people who were out with him, including Brad. Even after seeing his blood on fellow friends and many others crying in shock, I still knew he was going to be fine.
After what seemed like 4 days, I will never forget my mom walking down the emergency room hallway, along with other faculty from the College. She was crying, (my mom cries quite easily) so I just assumed there were some complications. “Shaun didn’t make it, Steven.” I didn’t know what she meant. The words didn’t sink in. What did she mean “didn’t make it?” As the news reached the hundreds of people waiting, everyone began crying in absolute dis-belief and shock. I began to react as I should have. I threw my jacket off, fell to my knees and began to cry. “This can’t be happening” I began to say. Down on the ground with my family trying to pick me up, I realized Shaun’s family and closest friends from home weren’t yet aware, and that someone had to be there for them. From that moment on, I decided I was going to be their crutch. I was not going to cry, or be “weak.” I felt they needed me to be strong for them. So that is exactly what I did.
Without going into too much detail, suppressing my feelings only magnified the struggle I would later go through. I made a sacrifice of being a “crutch” for Shaun’s family and close friends to lean on. In doing so, I never truly mourned Shaun’s death the right way. This state of denial I was in started turning me into a person I never wanted to be. I was not focused on my work or improving myself every day. I began to make excuse after excuse until I finally hit bottom. I once heard “I measure a man not by how high he can climb, but how high he can bounce when he hits bottom.” Thankfully, my girlfriend Kate was there when I hit bottom. She helped me fight back to being the person I always wanted to be. With her help, my new outlook, experience and wisdom, I am gaining more and more momentum every day from that bounce.
Whoever said “with age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom” is missing a very important detail. To put it simply, understand that it is possible to have 1 year of experience 40 times. Too often you see a 50 year old man with an 18 year old mentality. You only gain wisdom if you actually learn from your experiences. If you don’t learn and progress yourself, you are going nowhere. For reasons nobody will ever truly understand, Shaun’s life was meant to end at the young age 24. In life, some things weren’t meant for us to understand. Everything, however, is meant to teach us something. It is our choice on whether or not to accept and apply that knowledge. I have chosen to apply it.
Losing my best friend has given me a perspective on life I cannot really explain. First, I can honestly say that I sit down for a few moments every single day and thank God for my opportunity to live. I think about how Shaun was the most successful person I had ever known and that I was fortunate enough to spend 4 years of my life with him. Some would see his circumstances and have a hard time believing me. “You’re just saying that because he was your best friend and he was killed” could be a brutally honest and ignorant thought of some people. Some people would see his salary as a teacher (which isn’t that great) or his not-so-flashy Toyota, or our small apartment and say, “Steve, no offense, but you must not know many people.” This is what I saw: He was 24, was dating the girl of his dreams (some of the phone calls nearly made me sick), was living his passion of teaching kids and was working his ass off to get better at it every single day.
Now you tell me, can you achieve a higher level of success than that? There is no higher level of success, because success is a journey. Shaun was in the middle of his journey of success when his life was taken. If you can learn that success is not a destination, you can achieve it every single day. Not many people do, but Shaun did. As U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and to impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
The Series of “Accidents”
Before Beyond Measure Training had a name, we started in a half garage donated by one of my College Baseball friend’s girlfriend named Rachel. I started training friends and family there for free because I loved it. Soon, the word spread about the garage and people would start to show up on their own. It started becoming ridiculously crowded in the small garage. One person I was training (Sam) offered his family’s barn to use as a facility. Yes, I said barn. Once there, I began acquiring a reputation as well as credibility for training so many people for free. Every dollar I had went to equipment. Not long after being at the barn, I realized the potential to train and help people for a living, and Beyond Measure Training was born. Not long after I started the business, I went on a golf outing with Shaun’s Dad Bruce and Brother Kevin. We were meeting to plan a fund raiser for a new scoreboard for Shaun’s high school. Little did I know there would be a fourth person to join us.
After introducing myself and some small talk, I found out that the fourth person who joined us ended up growing up with the family who was allowing me to use their barn to start my business in. By the end of the day, he told me “I would like to help you open a facility and help you out with equipment.” Not really knowing what that meant, we exchanged information. He told me” I am a busy man, but stay on me and we will get this done.” I stayed on him.
What if I decided not to follow my passion of playing football in college? None of this would have happened. What if I decided to transfer out of North Central College when I wasn’t getting playing time? I wouldn’t have met Shaun. Was it a coincidence that Shaun was randomly assigned to my dorm? If I never met Shaun, he would have never influenced me the way he did. Was it an accident that I ended up in Rachel’s half garage, which sent Sam in my direction to offer the barn, whose family ended up growing up with my current business partner I met on the golf course that day? Or is that all just some coincidence? I believe this happened for a reason. “When a person really desires something, the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream.” However, if I did not make the choice to learn from my experiences, none of this would have happened. This is when I figured out what I want to do with my life.
“Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”
I have many experiences in my 24 years, which I have in common with most my age. I try to separate myself by applying everything I learn from every single one of my experiences. We need to realize that every single person can teach us something, regardless of age. Think about the parents who are amazed at how much their new born babies have taught them about themselves or new puppy owners who have learned as well. The key here is to have an open mind and to apply what you learn.
I decided that I wanted to take what I have learned with the experience I have and share it with as many people as possible. I want to help people take care of themselves, not just physically, but mentally as well. We all have greatness inside of us. We have so much more potential than we could ever imagine. I want to help people understand the true meaning of success and how achieve it every single day. I want to help people to start believing in themselves, because once they do, they will reach levels of success far beyond what they can measure. That is what Beyond Measure Training is all about.
Director of Training, Beyond Measure Training