This weekend, my cousin tagged me in a picture of where I grew up. When I received the picture, I was about to teach one of my Learn 2 Lift Seminars(www.MashElite.com) at Keystone CrossFit in Dunmore, PA. The picture really made me think about how my childhood shaped me. In my introduction, I always tell the attendees about my background, so they can have an idea of who is teaching them. All of this reflection, made me decide to write more about my past. Today is a small introduction. For those that don’t know, I am from the northwest corner of North Carolina. I am from a place so small that the county is referenced as opposed to the city or town. I am from Ashe County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. There are no major interstates that come anywhere near my home in the mountains. I often talk about all the places that my life has taken me. My romance with the Barbell has taken me all over the world. The Barbell without a doubt has taught me who I am, and what I am about. However, the Mountains of North Carolina made me that way!
I grew up with my single mom. We were poor, but I don’t remember wanting for a lot. I remember being teased a little about being poor, but that was mostly the few rich kids in the county spouting off. My mother was no joke! She has very high expectations of me both in the classroom, socially, and athletically. I believe that she knew I had potential, and she didn’t want me to waste it. She expected straight A’s, touchdowns, and popularity, and that is what I produced. She taught me that the friends I hung out with were a reflection of me.
My dad was a great guy. He was a blue collar lover of Christ. He wasn’t as driven as my mother, but he was a great example of someone who took the time to love others and life every day that he was alive. My dad loved me and his granddaughter Bailey more than anything on this earth. I am in tears as I write this thinking about the childhood moments spent with this loving man. Lung cancer took him for me in 2005, and I still miss him every day.
My hometown is stricken with poverty. The only sources of income are a few manufacturing plants and Christmas Trees. There is an abundance of alcoholism and drug abuse. Crystal Meth has hit my hometown like a tornado. Crystal isn’t prejudice! There are grown adults and pillars of the community that have been affected by the poison of Crystal Meth. No doubt, my mother saved me from all of that. She made me strong, and she taught me never to be satisfied with anything less than, EXCELLENCE!
There is more from the mountains that shaped me. Ashe County was settled my mostly Scotch-Irish. Scotch-Irish is a name given to Protestant settlers from Northeastern Ireland. These people were tough, wild, and like the seclusion. They wanted to left alone, and they were accustomed to defending their home during the Revolutionary War. The people have a history of fighting, drinking, and playing blue grass music. The people of Ashe County are used to working hard.
Ashe County is secluded from the rest of North Carolina. There are no major interstates or roads. The weather there can be very unforgiving in the winter. Imagine the people that settled this area in the 1700s! There people were tough! They just wanted to be left alone, so that they could live the life that they wanted with no outside influence. Today there is more tourism and outside influence, but the people still like being left alone. We are an independent type of people, and we don’t need anyone’s help. That is just the way we are.
My grandfather, Jack Cox was a very strong man. He was the true MashMonster! I spent most of my childhood hanging out with him and my grandmother. My grandfather worked for the NC Department of Transportation. He also owned 600 acres of land in the most secluded part of the county. Horse Creek is the name of the community that he lived in. He farmed and raised several heads of cattle. He would work all day for the D.O.T., and then come home and work all evening on the farm. There was always something to do. I watched this as a child, and I helped him as much as I could. I watched this man throw two bales of hay in each hand onto the top of a truck bed stacked with hay over and over. He was an amazing strength athlete that was a local legend. He didn’t compete in powerlifting or weightlifting, but he was stronger than anyone I have ever known. My grandmother was equally as impressive. No woman on earth outworked my grandmother. The two of them loved me, and they taught me to work hard. These two built a small empire deep in the Appalachian Mountains by working harder than everyone else. They were disciplined with their spending, and they were wise in their investments.
Can you see the lessons that I was learning: 1. Outwork your competition, 2. Self-control, 3. Discipline, 4. Make wise well thought out decisions, and 5. Planning is winning!
I can’t say that life wasn’t tough though. Life in the mountains is hard. If you can make it up there, you can do anything. My best friend, Kevin Jones, was such an influence in my life. He taught me to never set limits. He helped me see that I could accomplish whatever I wanted with the right plan. Kevin is now the CEO of Anovia Payments in Irving, TX. The dude is unbelievable! When I look back to our childhoods, I can’t help but see the unbelievable odds that we overcome to get to where we are now. We were both poor with single mothers doing their best just to keep food on the table. Now he is a big time CEO, and I am the Head Coach of the Attitude Nation’s own Mash Mafia Weightlifting Team and owner of Mash Elite Athletic Performance. My athletes range from NFL studs to Division I Collegiate studs. I travel all over the world teaching my methods of weightlifting, powerlifting, and athletic performance. Not to mention, I was pound for pound the strongest powerlifter in the world at one time. Not bad for a couple of mountain boys! I would never have survived without Kevin in my life. God only knows how he taught me to believe that there are no limits in life except for the ones that you put on yourself.
I am a guy that was destined to do something really bad or really good. I am an extremist. It’s just who I am. My mom, my dad, Kevin, my grandparents, and my family all pulled together to make sure that I chose to do something good. Now my wife Emily Drew has taken over where they left off. My love for her does all the work. I am driven because I want to provide a good life for her, my daughter Bailer, and for our future baby that she is pregnant with now. Baby Mash touches down in September of this year, and I am so excited to welcome our baby into our lives. There are so many people that affected my life that I have decided to write ongoing blogs about some of them. Kim, Tammy, Derrick, my aunts, my uncles, Scarlett, Brian, Amy, Eric G., Jimmy T., Larry B., Martin Little, and the list goes on and on. I just want the Attitude Nation to know who I am. I want my athletes to know why I am so driven, and to be honest I want to find out. Maybe through writing I will find the answers.
Most of the people that grow up in Ashe County stay in Ashe County. My whole family stayed there, but I have always been the black sheep that had to know what the rest of the world was really like. I wanted to meet different people, experience different cultures, and learn everything the world had to teach. I did that, and I still continue my search. I believe that all of this has made me the coach that I am. I am always in search of something better. I always will be! My melting pot began in Ashe County, and my heart will always remain with my home.
I believe that sometimes the people from my hometown sell themselves short. The toughest people that I
have ever met are from those mountains. I believe that expectations as a whole are not as high as they should be. Those people are the strongest, toughest, and meanest people in the world. They are capable of altering the world if only they start to believe that. The athletes are capable of reaching the highest peaks in sports, and the people are capable of leading this nation. One of my goals in life is to raise the standard of expectation for my hometown people. They need to know how great they are.
My goal is that all of my online athletes, onsite athletes, and my future seminar attendees will begin to get an idea of where I come from. I want you all to know why I am the way I am. I want you all to know why I am so driven, and why I have such high expectations from you all. I also want you to realize why I am able to love you all with so much conviction. My wife, friends, family, and most importantly my God has made me this way. They have shown me that life is so much better loving others than it ever was loving only myself.