What Makes a Champion?

As we reach the final few weeks of ‘improvement season’ I have found myself asking that question repeatedly, “What makes a champion?” Is it something that can be universally defined, or is it better interpreted individual to individual? According to my Google search, a champion is described as follows:

Cham-pi-on (noun) 1. a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports. 2. a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else.

So a champion is exemplified by the battles you win and the trophies you collect? Well I beg to differ. Where does integrity come in to play, or perseverance, or a positive attitude; or simply the ability to admit to mistakes and begin again? Do these qualities not also thoroughly characterize a champion as well? I’m pretty sure my 5th place trophy still makes me a champion; though I wasn’t able to  surpass all rivals in my competition, I still managed to exceed my personal expectations and self-doubt. Boom! Champion.

Though I’ve known Brittany for quite some time it wasn’t 10898037_2994574062119_7556363223988973707_nuntil recently that our friendship really started to blossom, and it couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate juncture. You see, Brittany has lost 90lbs in the past year – 90lbs! And you ask her how? “Eating right and exercising – you know, the hard way.” So when she came to me last month talking about her lack of motivation it really got my own wheels turning – where had my motivation gone? It had been 3 weeks since I had seen the inside of a gym, 3 weeks since I tracked a macro, 3 weeks since I really cared about my physical and mental well-being, and Lord knows how long since I actually attempted to motivate someone else! How could I offer her any support if I couldn’t even lift myself up? I couldn’t. So I tore all the walls down and was as brutally honest with her as a could be; that’s when Brittany became my champion. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she told me, “but I love that you’re human too.”

I am human. You are human. We’re all humans! (Surprised?) We all make mistakes, we all have set-backs, but that doesn’t make you or me any less of a champion. So your walls aren’t lined with trophies and awards and you don’t get 500 likes on your Instagram post – if you get out of bed each morning with the determination to make your day (and hopefully someone else’s along the way) a little brighter, then haven’t you won even a tiny victory? You don’t have to live, breathe and bleed fitness to be a model athlete – you can have your pizza and eat it too…in moderation. Living is just as important to one’s physical and mental well-being as lifting weights.

So Brittany made a goal for 2015 – instead of focusing on how far she has left to go, she has decided to focus her efforts on running 365mi this year and to give herself more credit for the progress she has made and continues to make. I’d like to commend her for that, but not only that, she’s also encouraged me to make more attainable and rewarding goals for myself this season.

Last season I spent a vast majority of prep feeling inadequate and down about my personal progress because I was so busy comparing myself to other athletes. Now that I know I can complete the physical requirements of the sport I’d like to give my mind the grace it deserves (Coach B is snickering at this point), but not just through bodybuilding, in all aspects of my life as well. This season I resolve to bring the best package I can, while still remaining true to myself and genuinely appreciating the process. Whether I leave the 2015 NPC stage with trophies or not, I’ll still leave it a champion because I’ve run the race as hard as I possibly could without cheating anyone else, myself included.

 Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

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It Starts With Food…

But it’s really about living. It’s been 2.5 weeks since my competition debut and as my 2014 NPC season has come to a close and I sit down to reflect on the incredible journey I have traveled this year, my mind can only wander towards what possibilities lie in 2015. That being said, improvement season started off with a bang! No really, I hit legs 3x a week – I literally can’t walk straight…ever. #GLUTES2015

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I must say that the day was a success in every way, shape and form. It’s amazing how quickly it passed seeing as how I was performing on 4 hours of sleep, less than 10oz of water and only rice cakes (I lie, I snuck in some A LOT of peanut butter). I kept reminding myself of the excitement and how important the experience would be for me, so nerves never struck me until my foot hit the first stair onto stage, but then a judge winked at me so I blushed and almost tripped in true Katie fashion, but I persevered – and perspired – no less. I made 1st call outs in 2 of my 3 divisions and 2nd call outs in the 3rd and that was enough for me. The number of bikini competitors was overwhelming, yet I finished 5th in two of my classes & 6th in the 3rd, bringing home two bad-ass medals, a smile to last me weeks and more confidence than I’d ever experienced in my life. I met so many incredible people, but somehow in a room full of competition I walked out with more friends than anything. These girls know my struggle, they had experienced the hard work and dedication that goes into training; they know the late nights and early mornings, the growling of your stomach and the insatiable appetite for anything remotely resembling almond butter.

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This lifestyle wasn’t/isn’t easy and not many can understand it, nor do they even care to, but having actually successfully lived through it – I can’t wait to start it all over again. Post-competition we ended up gorging ourselves (some more than others – Carlos ate an entire 16″ pie) on pizza, beer and cake balls – none of which I regret – and still found ourselves “fat and happy” in bed by 1am. I had oreos and milk for breakfast the next morning and then decided to begin again. I had tasted all the food and all of the beer my body thought it wanted and I needed that to be enough.

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So I’ve been bitten by this competition bug, but it’s so much more than that. The first week post-competition was a disaster; I spent 3 days treading water in the kitchen simply because I didn’t know which direction to go, what was safe to eat, and what would pack on the dreaded “rebound” pounds; so after gaining 5lbs in the first 7 days, I contacted Brian Melancon of C620 Nutrition to ‘fix the busted can of biscuits’ I felt like. I’m in my second week of working with him and I see now that this lifestyle starts with food, but it’s more about living.

As I struggled through contest prep hitting every dead-end block in the neighborhood, I thought post-competition life would be awful trying to beat the rebound; I think even Carlos prepared for the worst – you can take an anorexic girl out of rehab, but you can’t take the anorexic tendencies out of the girl; but I’ve truly surprised myself. I’ve been given these tiny little macronutrient goals to hit each day, and as I get to flexibly decide what I put into my body within those margins, I find myself reaching for the healthier alternatives 9 times out of 10, the mantra “you are what you absorb” echoing in my skull. I’d rather have 2c of broccoli than some chips or I’d rather skip out on the wine with dinner because we have TONS of September birthdays to celebrate; I’ve gotten more creative at satisfying my sweet tooth and even discovered a fascination with fat free Greek yogurt.

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I built the post-competition rebound into this giant scary monster, because in all honesty food has always been my enemy, but at the end of the day it, along with every thing else, is just a matter of perspective and a balancing act. I’m a much better person for attaining this aesthetic through healthy hard-work and dedication rather than allowing myself to starve thinking that abstaining from food as a whole was self-discipline. There are days I falter and definitely over-estimate two tablespoons of PB, and I still feel a pang of guilt if we go out for a slice of pizza, but we’re always a work in progress. I’m just anxious to continue on this journey and see what I can bring to the table in 2015…assuming I stop waddling by then.

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Everything Else is Secondary

Inspired. Wow, where to start?

My goal in life has always been to help people; it is my passion, my calling, my virtue, my blessing and my curse. I will burn myself to the ground trying to light the path for others, and just when I thought that’s what I had done with this whole contest prep, I am uplifted by so many.

It’s been a very humbling process to be so self-absorbed, and that is only because I have always been a girl of little self-confidence. I will tactfully build you up or constructively criticize, but when it comes to me? I had no self-worth. Today, as I struggled with my scale like I do every Saturday morning, I began to think “Is this what I really want?” “I’m not going to win, so what’s the point?” “People are going to laugh at all your effort when you come home empty handed.” So I did what any girl thirsty for attention might do – I posted my progress pictures to my IG account. Feeling fat, bloated, lazy, congested, and exhausted, I uploaded my 2-weeks-out photo and you’ll never guess what happened! Nothing and everything all at once.

I started this process for me – not because I was tired of seeing pretty girls, not because I was insecure in my relationship, not because someone was being mean to me, but because I was tired of looking at my body and hating what I saw. So why should a competition change that, and why would I let it? No amount of comments or ‘likes’ can change how I feel, no plastic trophy is going to give me that self-worth. What does give me self-worth are the people who contact me after my posts and ask for my advice or my help because I have indirectly, through building my own self-esteem and allowing it to be viewed publicly, unlocked the door for others to do the same.

I am in competition with no one other than myself – to be the best me that I can be, and frankly, given my history I’ll never be 100% satisfied with where I am, but I’ll always be so proud of where I’ve come from. That’s what body building is about anyway – progress.

You may think that the world is out to get you, or that life is unfair or that people think you’re stupid – or just whatever – but 99% of the time you’re wrong. People love a success story, and all the hardships you may encounter a long the way, well they only make it more real. And those people that do make fun of you? They really are just jealous, because it takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, to get to this point…a lot more than the average man or woman could understand, but you’re not doing this for them. That’s the key to success – courage to follow your own goals and ambitions; everything else is secondary.

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The Great Debate

We’re in the home stretch – exactly 2.5 weeks ’til competition time! I couldn’t be more relieved. To be honest this has probably been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, not because I can’t eat the foods I want (I’m pretty creative in the kitchen), but mainly because I’m so tired of constantly judging myself…and maybe I need a beer…or three.

In a matter of 3 years I’ve gone from ED rehab to fat (plain and simple) to “Let’s critique our bodies 24/7, but we’ll call it healthy.” It’s been a roller coaster to say the least and I really want to focus less on my body and more on my health and helping others achieve the same thing.


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I’ve told Carlos a thousand times over that I am proud of my body and the changes it’s made, but I’m not happy with it from a competition stand-point; I don’t think it’s ready. I’m constantly judging myself to the NPC’s standards instead of my personal image of health. If I weren’t competing in 2.5 weeks, I’d probably walk around in a bikini just to flaunt my 6-pack, but instead I stare at the little bit of fat left hanging on my thighs or love handles because they’re not stage-suitable. While I am extremely proud of Los and I for the dedication and self-control we’ve demonstrated over the last 10 weeks, I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing a bit and sculpting my body the way I see fit. I have loved this challenge for what it is; however, I learned a lot in therapy about obsessing over food and body image, and sometimes I think that a lot of girls who’ve been in my shoes choose fitness as an escape – it’s just a healthy alternative to an unhealthy lifestyle. So I’m ready for balance again, but I’m scared of what’s to come. I’m reverse dieting to avoid post-competition weight gain and I’m mentally preparing myself for the 5-8lbs of healthy weight I’m going to put on, but it’s still a lot to take on. What’s another challenge though?

That being said, I’m left to discuss the great debate that’s flooded my fitness-oriented Facebook and Instagram lately: IIFYM v. Clean Eating ::cue the dramatic tones:: And you’ll never guess where Simple Sally herself sits…right on the fence, as usual.

If It Fits Your Macros, or ‘If It Fits Your Mouth,’ as I like to call it, is the kind of diet plan designed for people who don’t have much self-control or desire to be truly health conscious. It’s for the Pop-Tart-Lovers and Oreo-Eaters (no shame in that game – I’m 100% Pro Pop Tart) of the Fitness World. You basically carry a calculator around in your pocket day-in and day-out, where you subtract the macro-nutrients in each meal from a designated daily total, and when you’re done…you’re done. Whether you’ve eaten 3 cheeseburgers that day or 12 salads, once you meet your mark the kitchen is closed. It’s like eating on a budget.

Clean Eating is more generic. It’s healthier food options (whole foods, organic, superfoods, etc), and once or twice a week you get an un-calculated, guilt-free cheat meal. These are the eaters who fuel their bodies with quality foods for better performance and who eat for health and longevity instead of looks and aesthetics. Maybe Paleo would fall into this category, but I’m still researching that diet fad – and tempted to give it a go, but more on that later.

Simplified, if you put low-grade fuel & oil in your Bugatti, it’s not going to run as long or as hard as a well-maintenanced sports car, but it still holds the Bugatti name, right? I’m determined to find that balance in the off-season. I never want to be a girl who preaches health and fitness, but is posted up eating Twinkies on the regular, nor do I want to hide in the shadows when Twinkie-Tuesday rolls around.

So as competition season comes to a much-celebrated close I’m going to continue to post, but I want to remove the focus from myself and center it more towards you all. I want to continue to better myself by sharing my knowledge and foodie experiments with others, so we’re going to get creative in the kitchen, creative in the gym and see where that takes us.

That being said, Carlos and I have dedicated ourselves to our bodies for 12-weeks and the results have been incredible, but I want to see what results we can achieve as “Average Joe’s” on a regular-man’s diet, and I want to help others do the same. Recently we teamed up with Dr. Shute and AdvoCare to help others gain the additional nutrition their bodies require. If you’re looking for any help, whether it’s with nutrition, working out, supplementation or just some motivation – feel free to e-mail me or Facebook me (all info is to the right) and we’ll get started, or if you want to take a look around our website and have any questions about the products or the ordering process just click on our picture below.

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Everyone’s A Critic

Before I jump right in to today’s RANT: I hope you like the new look, and I added my social media to the right side – for those interested. I wanted to give my blog a more personal touch as I’m getting closer to the show (3.5 weeks), and I have a lot of big things happening in my life…so stay tuned!


So here I go…again. The thing about the fitness industry is that everyone is a critic, but rightfully so. Whether it’s to attain a certain aesthetic or to achieve a certain goal, your body is going to change, and someone is going to be right there to compliment and criticize you. There’s a reason we hire coaches and trainers and dietitians – to professionally and tactfully critique our plans. If you are not educated in the field, or an athlete yourself, then your comments will probably end up being more hurtful than helpful.

Nothing irks my nerves quite like a woman referring to another woman as “too masculine,” or making light of her hard work and effort just to belittle her decision to have muscles of any shape and size. People fail to understand the hard work, the time, the money, the dedication…the blood, sweat and tears (because that’s EXACTLY what it is) that goes into the makings of a great physique. When you tear someone down by saying, “Ew, she looks like a man,” or “Real women have curves,” you’re not really seeing that person for who they truly are. And who put the stigma on women that we must have fatty-curves? Or that we couldn’t have the muscular definition of a bicep? And who are you to say that a woman is too “bulky?” Better yet, what would you think of me if I bullied an overweight woman? Wouldn’t it be fair for me to call someone fat, or to even to simply say, “She could stand to lose a few.” Opinions are like assholes…If ‘curves’ make you happy, then I’m happy for you.

Of course, over time I’ve developed a thicker skin, probably due to those bulging muscles protecting my soft, delicate, feminine heart, and those comments don’t really hurt me personally; I’ve learned to view them as a sign of insecurity. When I see other people criticize Dana Lynn Bailey for strong delts, thick quads, and muscular abdominals, I think to myself, “Have you nothing better to do with your time?” Because while you sit their and insult her hard work and dedication to something SHE enjoys (which she probably does without giving any thought to you), what are you doing? Oh yeah, sitting there. Get a hobby.

In theory, it’s really the same as someone insulting the outfit you chose to wear, the color or your hair, or the style of your make-up — unnecessary and hurtful.

My boyfriend recently decided to share his 3 month progress with the world and someone had to audacity to respond, “A bit too much for my taste.”

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Well lady, let me tell you, he didn’t bravely share his photo just for your opinion, nor did he shed all that fat and build all that muscle for you, so sit down. Bodybuilding is a selfish sport – it is greedy and narcissistic in a sense. I’ve spent the last 8 months tearing my body apart. I have lost over 25 pounds of fat and built up who knows how much muscle, but there are days that I get up and don’t want to leave the house because I am ashamed of my body and it’s lack of progress. There are days that I get little sleep and my body is retaining water and I feel fat and bloated. There are days that I don’t want to go workout, that I’m tired of eating clean, that I want to go out and have a few beers with my friends – but it’s a process, and I have dedicated myself to it and I’m going to see it through. With that being said, I am more hard on myself than anyone ever could be, so the last thing I need is someone telling me that I’m “too muscular,” or as my mother so eloquently put it, “losing my sweet femininity.” Like I said, it’s a process – We bust our ass for this process and you don’t have to like it, but the least you can do is respect it.

“If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.”

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What Drives You?

I’m under the impression that there are three types of people in this world: Competitive and Self-Propelled, and as with everything else, a little bit of grey area. After reading a recent Facebook post from a friend and fellow athlete, I’ve been inspired to delve into the topic full force.

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People of a competitive nature, I find, are the ones’s driven by outside forces. They are the ones who race the 90-year-old man power walking on the treadmill next to them, they’re the ones constantly scouring the Internet for photos of their ‘threats,’ they’re even the ones who have to take that one extra shot at the end of the night just to put everyone else under the table.  It has nothing to do with attention, but more so just the desire to be “the best, ” and that’s great (maybe not from an alcoholic standpoint), so long as they aren’t belittling their competition to make themselves appear that way.

In the COMPETITIVE world of bodybuilding, this is perfectly normal. To win, you have to have the best physique, the most disciplined diet, the perfect pose, and probably some really good genetics. You have to be selfish and obsessed with yourself to win; I mean, you devote 12 weeks of your life, 24/7, to perfecting your form only to stand on stage for seconds with countless other sweaty, glistening individuals, for 4-5 people to judge you…after ALL…THAT…HARD…WORK.

So a lot of the time you need outside sources of motivation. I know I’m constantly pinning quotes and pictures, changing the background on my phone, and researching fitness models for means of inspiration, but I find myself to be in the “grey category.” Before I get there though, let’s discuss the self-propelled.

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These people are the one’s that require very little supervision in any line of work. They are motivated from a flame within, the desire to be their personal best, and to surpass their own expectation.  When I was running races in New Orleans, I found that self-motivation was my best cheerleader. I wasn’t concerned with placing first, because let’s face it, genetically I wasn’t supposed to be a runner, but I was very much interested in bettering my own time and my own form.

Again, in this competitive world of body building this is still a good strategy to have. This isn’t a sport you excel in overnight, and very few people go pro their first season. Muscle takes time to develop and grow, poses take time and practice to perfect; even hair, make-up and tanning is a trial and error process.  I have a good friend who lost an “overall” title based solely on her make-up application, but guess what? The next year, we tried something new with her look and she took home the gold.


Like I said, I find that I fall within the grey area. Sure, I’m always aware of my competitors’ physiques and what kind of training they’re participating in, but I’m not bashing them or losing sleep comparing my body to theirs. What I am concerned with is how my body compares to the image I saw in the mirror the previous  morning. What I am concerned with are the hours I’m logging in the gym. What I am concerned with are the foods I’m filling my body with. And sometimes I need some exterior help for that; I need a second opinion, or a slap to the face to remind me it’s all in my head. And sometimes I can find that spark within myself. I have good days and I have bad days, and I bounce back and forth, but I’m giving it my personal best and that is satisfying enough for me.

Of course I want to go on stage and do well, but just getting on stage this season is a victory in itself for me, and if that’s not enough for another competitive bodybuilder, then so be it. I happen to know that some peoples’ best is only taking one bite of a cookie as opposed to eating the whole thing. And if that’s how they choose to train, then good for them.

Regardless of where your motivation comes from, or how hard you are or are not busting your ass, I’m not going to take it personally, because I’m too busy focusing on my own ass to worry about what yours looks like. It is not an insult to me or my sport if you want to gorge yourself on candy all night while I’m up riding a bike; I, too, would rather beat someone who gave their all as opposed to someone who half-assed it, but sometimes half-assing it is all you’ve got.

I hope that makes sense.

 

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Strength Does Not Come From Physical Capacity

…it comes from an indomitable will. – Ghandi


 

Lots to update, lots to share, and frankly, it’s 7:45am and I’m on my 2nd cup of coffee, so I’m ready to write.

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We came, we saw, we conquered…in our own little way. Carlos and I ended up both placing third in our respective categories for the Times Best of Acadiana, which is pretty damn good if you ask me. Nobody at work cared, but I guess if you’re not first, you’re last.  Despite that, it was still a personal victory in my book.  The whole experience was very humbling and eye-opening; it’s made me want to be a better bartender, a better person, and kinder to everyone despite the gratuity they leave (but still…I got bills, y’all!).  And going from a few paintings every couple of months to 3-6 a week is a vast improvement for Carlos. I’m so proud of the effort he put into this whole project, and the response from people has been overwhelming. As far as the art thing goes, we’ve got some big things in the works. I’ve even picked up a paint brush to help out and we’ve got a little show coming up in August. Not only was I impressed by (and extremely grateful for) the outpouring of support from people, but I was surprised by the support we received in our personal life. So many people have been encouraging of our relationship, and that is something that is very hard to come by in today’s society.

So there’s that. #PowerCouple

Then there’s the whole training aspect of my life.  I’m 6 weeks sober, 6 weeks hungry, 6 weeks tired and 6 weeks in/6 weeks out! Now the response to my physical changes has also been overwhelming. I think the greatest compliment I’ve received however, came from an old high school buddy who took it upon himself to send me a little message explaining how much more confident I seem to be. After two bouts of ED therapy, body image is a touchy subject. I’ve had my fair share of up’s and down’s and I’m finally comfortable and proud of the work I put in. I didn’t starve myself to look this way. Which brings me to another point:

I got a new coach! I’m so happy to be working with someone reputable and local. My diet has dramatically improved and the calories have actually increased at this point. I’ve got some direction, some support and someone to be accountable to. So I’m eating more, I’m moving more, and…drumroll…the words “cheat” and “meal” have been mentioned! Crossing my fingers for a cheeseburger this Sunday (saving the pizza for my post-competition date)! I’m excited to be a part of a team, a group of like-minded individuals, and people to uplift my healthy choices and lifestyle.

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After a brief period of emotional instability, I felt like I just really needed to change my focus. I went home for a few days, I cleared my head, I had some long talks with my dad and I came to several conclusions. Everything I’ve ever truly wanted in life has been difficult. I decided early in college that I wanted to be a runner like my dad, but born with “wonky” knees, flat feet and scoliosis, I wasn’t the most graceful on the track. With some time, persistence, new orthotics, and patience…I’ve successfully run several races in the New Orleans area. When I wanted to get into the #1 nursing school in the state of Louisiana, I had to jump through 1,000 hoops to transfer credits, fax forms, drive from New Orleans to Lafayette and back twice in one day to make deadlines, etc; but I did it.  When my heart decided I should move to Lafayette and every aspect of that fell through, I was still able to rise above. I landed an amazing job, worked my ass off to afford my own house, paid for my own schooling, and picked up the pieces of my shattered life by myself. Now I am in the best shape of my life, I’m happier than I can ever remember being, and I feel like I’m only on the up. I’m strong, but not because I’m in the gym 6 days a week, but because of my indomitable will.

When my training plan fell through earlier this year I was devastated. But now here I am, never having given up, and the support I’ve received from this is also overwhelming. I thought I was alone, I though I had nobody in the fitness community, but after a few handshakes and e-mails, I’ve got all the help I could need…and some.

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I’m blessed, but a lot of these blessings came from my own persistence. Los called 2013 the year of the redhead, because it brought us together. He’s named 2014 the year of progress, and the progress we’ve made individually and together has been unimaginable.

On the topic of progress, I’ll leave you with a pre-humpday update. Since I’m working with a new team and a new plan, I’ve decided to nix the Red Stick August 2nd so I can fully dedicate my energy to prep for the last show of the season. The picture on the left is an embarrassing example of posing, but that’s what I was working with at the moment. So I’ve been killing glutes and hamstrings in an attempt for growth — My waist has come in significantly, my legs are leaning out and that booty is perking up. 6 weeks to go – and I’m definitely anxious to see where Team Driven takes me in that short amount of time.

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All in all, no matter where you are in life, no matter what your goals are, no matter how alone you feel — it’s all a matter of perspective. The harder you work, the more rewards you will reap, but you have to open yourself to those rewards and allow them into your life. If you sit around sulking over the things you’ve lost or couldn’t have then you’ll never get anywhere; go out and make it happen. People are going to clown you, people are going to hate, but recenter your focus; it’s your life and your happiness, they’re just bystanders.

 

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