So here are a few life lessons I've learned a long the way, and I hope that you are not too "hard ears" (as my grandma used to say) to get something from them too.
1# I remember when I was 6 years old. My dad used to let me and my bigger brother watch those badly dubbed Kung-Fu movies (you know the ones, where the grandmaster with the long white beard takes on the fresh faced hard-bodied student who has come to avenge his fathers death and Shaolin temple).
I was hooked. It was the first time I had come across action hero's like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Me and my big brother used to go at it afterwards. Practising our latest killer kung-fu moves on each other. We loved those movies. Now that my brother is gone I realise how important it is to spend quality time with your family and those you love just having fun.
2# When my parents go divorced It shook me up pretty bad. I had a lot of anger. I copied the bodyweight training routines in the marital arts films I had seen. It helped me to channel my aggression. Training got me stronger, and taught me how to get in touch with my emotions through my body. I also learned that two people can love each other, but not be right for each other.
3# I don't know exactly when I saw Arnie, but as I kid I was mesmerised. I was one of those ugly duckling kids. Buck teeth, braces, spotty. The kind that didn't get much attention from girls (you know the type). Arnie's attitude to life about taking control of your destiny, and building a beautiful body captivated me. If I couldn't sculpt my body exactly like his, I sure as hell was going to create the best rugged physique I could. So I set to work.
I saved up my money. I took the bus down to my local Argos shopping store and ordered my first York Barbell weights set. It came in two huge boxes, with a bar and spin lock collars in a plastic bag. I struggled to carry them home on the bus. When I got back, I ripped open the box. The set came with a thin blue booklet which featured hand drawn figures of hefty old school strongmen working out. Mainly compound lifts like clean and press, bench press, military press and squats. I pulled out my dad's heavy-duty speaker box and flipped it on its side to double up as a bench. I started training. In a few months I packed on 7lbs of lean muscle. As my body changed I grew in confidence and felt better about myself. I STILL keep the compound lifts the foundation of my workouts today.
4# I remember my first time down at Earlsfield boxing club. My friend from school took me down to the boxing club one day. He used to bring videos of his fights for the class to watch. I fell in love with the sport instantly. The training was hard and brutal. But I enjoyed the challenge. More than that, everyone in the gym supported each other in training, and pushed you that little bit further. It was a close- knit family. Just like a second home. I will always remember that feeling.
5# The first time I fell in love was with a girl I went to school with. She lived just down the road from me. She was beautiful inside and out and didn't judge me for how I looked, but for who I was as a person. Her love made me a better man, which I am forever grateful for. To this day we are still friends. I learned that no matter how tough we pretend to be, or how strong we are, we all need someone that loves and supports us.
6# I don't regret my first tattoo. But I regret going to the guy that tattooed me. I was 15 years old. I got a black panther on my left arm. The guy butchered me. The tattoo looked a mess. When it eventually healed, my skin had raised badly from the scars. But it didn't stop me from getting inked again. I decided to do more research next time. I eventually got the panther covered up with some black tribal design. When people ask me what that tribal tattoo means, I tell them, "It's a reminder that you can't erase all the mistakes in life."
7# Every Christmas (when we could secretly flip over the channel) my brother and I used to watch The Worlds Strongest Man. I remember watching Magnus Ver Magnusson blowing away the competition. Winning the title 4 times! (in 1991, 1994, 1995 and 1996). Magnus was a beast. He wasn't the biggest of the bunch, but his heart, spirit, determination and athletic strength dominated his competitors. I remember thinking, "Size doesn't equal strength. Heart and character do."
8# My first boxing match ended in 45 seconds of the first round. I had trained solid the whole season. I was rock-solid from the weight training, and had stamina by the bucket loads. My boxing coach had put the finishing touches to my technique and I was good to go. I had just gotten my braces off (so hadn't been able to fight before).
We got to the venue. I weighed in. I didn't know who my opponent was. I walked around eye-balling every boxer that looked around my weight category. I was young. I thought this is what you HAD to do. When I eventually got into the ring I looked up at my opponent across from me. He was over weight and poorly conditioned (he held on and was gasping for breath every moment he could). When I did eventually manage to shake him off I delivered a flurry of punches which came unanswered. This happened consistently. The referee stepped in and stopped the fight. I had won by a TKO.
That fight left a sour taste in my mouth. After all the preparation, and everything I had given that was the best challenge me opponent could come up with? It looked as if he didn't even take his training seriously. The next day I was back at the gym training. Focused. I learned that even when you win you can still lose.
9# I had no intention of going to college or university. No one in my family had been. Few of my friends were going. Most were going straight into work, or ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or be in life. I didn't think I could do it. One of my teachers believed in me and told me it was possible. He simply knew I could do it. When he spoke, he was so certain. I couldn't resist his request that I should at least apply to go. So I did. I nailed the exams and got into the University of my choice. I made some amazing friends, and learned so much about different cultures that I didn't even have a clue about. That teacher showed me that we are far more capable than we realise. It's a motto I still tell everyone I coach.
10# When I quit boxing it was one of the hardest things for me to do. I had lost my passion and my drive for the sport. It was like a bad relationship. I kept going back even though I new it wasn't were I wanted to be. But I kept on getting in the ring. I soon woke up to the fact that it was dangerous to do things by half measures. So I stopped boxing, and got heavily into my training. Exploring all different methods of weight training and discovering how to build quality strength. It was a turning point for me.
11# I remember watching videos of Dr Martin Luther King and feeling inspired. And thinking how brave he must have been. How his strength stood for something greater than himself.
12# While I was at University I discovered that I didn't enjoy the course I was doing. I loved fitness and wanted to become a Coach. So I studied along side my degree (as well as working two jobs). The lesson I learned was
Finish what you start (or don't start to begin with)
Follow your heart and trust yourself even if the path is not clear.
13# I acted in two plays. Featured in music videos and films having NO acting training or previous experience. My girlfriend at the time encouraged me to drop off some shots to a few agencies. so I did. At first I was getting rejected left right and centre! Feeling a little deflated, but not one to give up too easily, I asked her what was going on as I had done what she had said. She replied, "Which agencies have you applied for?" I told her. She laughed. I got curious. She said, "Of course you didn't get accepted Cj! You've got completely the wrong image for what they are looking for! You're a muscle-bound, heavily tattooed brute!" ( I let that one slide - she was right). She gave me a list of agencies to try. I got accepted, and secured several jobs. Here's what I learned from my short adventure into the modelling world
We create our own opportunities
If you don't like the results, change the approach.
Act with conviction (even if you don't believe in yourself 100%)
Believe in yourself.
14# When I decided to work for myself and Co-founded CJS Fitness, I was given a new lease of life.(you can still see all our videos on Youtube to this day). I got to lead on workshops, lecture at seminars, coach internationally, write for leading publications and work with some of the best in the industry. What really excited me was the ability to impact the lives of some pretty damn awesome people around the world. This experience showed me that following your passion may not be easy, but it's certainly worth it.
15# The death of my big brother was by far the most traumatic experience of my life to date. He was diagnosed with cancer. The treatment didn't work. Three years later he was dead. It hurt like hell. It was one of the darkest periods I've experienced. I was blessed to have some amazing people around to support me. I was also wise enough to let some people go. The ones who were not really there for me. If I were to share with you what this experience taught me, it's this
Family matters most (and family is more that just the people you are related too)
Death does not discriminate.
It's not how long the life, but how fully it is lived.
People often do strange things.
Forgiveness is not an occasional act but a permanent attitude. (I'm still working on this one)
Love is what makes life special.
There are no ordinary moments.
Grief is a powerful journey that can lead you to a surprisingly wonderful place if you let it.
Be strong in your convictions.
You can turn the situation around.
You are far more powerful and stronger than you realise.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of intelligence.
Live full. Die empty.
16# I entered my first strongman competition because something was missing in my life. As a coach I trained athletes and have always love sport. I had competed in boxing, but now I was just a spectator. I had missed the focus, the challenge to be a better version of yourself today, than yesterday. I missed being part of a training team, that family vibe. I wanted to test myself and break beyond my limitations. I just wanted to see what was possible. Strongman provided all of that for me. When you get down to the bottom of it, I simply loved competing. I was happy when I did it. Yet now I no longer compete at strongman I've learned to train simply for the love of training.
17# Recently I managed to turn around my mothers illness by tweaking her diet. Since then her symptoms have eased up. She lost a lot of excess weight. She feels 100% better in herself and physically is not in as much pain. She has reduced the medication, and has a new outlook on life. This truly showed me the power of food, and how simple changes can drastically impact your life for the better.
18# In June 2013 a serious illness left me on my death bed in hospital for 13 days. At first the Doctors didn't know what was going on. I didn't agree with the treatment they were giving me. So I did my research, and handled things my way. Within 1 year I went from hospital bed to podium place at a Strongman Competition. it just goes to show
What you can achieve in a year.
It's your body. Your mind. Your rules.
Your health is the greatest investment you can make.
Just because you are healthy doesn't mean you won't get sick - but it pays to be prepared.
Being strong is where it's at.
Now enjoying life in my forties, I follow a plant based diet, ripped, strong and healthy. I continue to spread the message of mind body and spirit in alignment through my bespoke online coaching as an educator, public speaker and selected clients on a one-to-one basis.
In short, I'm dedicated to holistic strength that brings out the best in us. Let me do the same for you.
Remember to checkmy indispensable blog regularly to get quality information, and to be inspired. If you are interested in exclusive one-to-one coaching with me, then you are welcome to book in a 30 minute Complementary Coaching Call. I work with clients across the globe, so location doesn't need to be an issue.