Anthony Trucks' first memory is the moment when his mother handed him over to a social worker. What came next wasn't pretty--years of neglect, abuse, starvation and actual physical torture. Life was a nightmare of bad foster homes until one woman (who would eventually adopt him) took him in at the age of 6. All of this experience left him feeling worthless, unloved and miserable.
Back then, no one would have come to his funeral.
Today, they'd be lining up around the block.
Anthony is a success any way you look at it. A former linebacker in the NFL, he started a hugely successful gym and then went on to become an international speaker, author and consultant who teaches people how to "trust your hustle" and build a better life.
So how did he do it?
He's an all-American success story of a former foster kid who beat incredible odds--only 2 percent of foster youth go to college and he has a degree in kinesiology earned on a football scholarship.
"On paper I'm a statistical impossibility," he says.
His drive for success started with him overhearing a girl in his middle school class. She was explaining to another girl that Anthony was a bad kid because he was a foster child. "I went home and spent hours just staring at the wall thinking how I hated the way that sounded," Anthony told me.
That's when something shifted and he decided he wanted to do something great.
In the beginning, that "something" was football. Anthony started working out, lifting weights, catching a football 500 times a day, making the most of his natural talent. He made the JV, then the varsity team and won a scholarship. That's when he learned that "if I can do this on the field, I can do it in life, too. I learned to trust my hustle." It's like we say at Spartan--sweat in training so you don't bleed in battle. It was a powerful lesson that today serves as the motto of his company.
Unlike a lot of people who are all about the 'destination,' Anthony says he "learned to fall in love with the journey. The ecstasy inside the pain; I like the journey, the battle, the fight that tests me every hour of the day." I know people who have every advantage of life that don't have a fraction of Anthony's motivation.
That might be why, when Anthony's playing days were over thanks to a shoulder injury, he used his degree to open a highly successful gym.
An ex-athlete using his NFL money to open a gym might sound easy, but I have an ongoing argument with my wife that running a business is harder than giving birth. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Anthony had plenty of setbacks, but none of that frightened him. "At the end of the day I know things will go well because I bring myself to it," he says. "That's what I teach people. Trust your innate knowing."
So why would someone who beat the odds as a businessman suddenly give up his successful gym? "There was a day when I woke up and I didn't love what I was doing," he says. "I knew there was more I was meant to do." His mother had just passed from multiple sclerosis and he was at another turning point.
"I just thought that, here's my mom who can no longer walk or talk but I'm physically capable. Why shouldn't I chase what I really want to do?" Choice is key, and Anthony chose to let nothing stop him from doing what was going to make him happy every day. He wasn't afraid to put in the hard work.
As he says, you get so used to grinding that the effort feels effortless.
Hard work alone won't cut it, though. Anthony says that the secret to success and happiness is keeping it real and dropping the "ego" that keeps you stuck between happiness and unhappiness. You need to own up to your fear of working for something better so you can get "unstuck" and move forward.
I was really impressed by Anthony. He's this bright, physically imposing guy who has the courage to be open and vulnerable. This personal honesty is at the core of his success. "Growing up I didn't matter. If I can step back and help people and matter to them, that fuels me."
I can say without a doubt that today, Anthony definitely matters. Someday in the far, far future there will be "standing room only" at his funeral. I promised him I'd come and make everyone do burpees.
"It's a deal," he said.