One of the first things I ever read about writing was to avoid clichés. For a while I took that advice seriously—never with a grain of salt. Now I think about things differently. I don’t litter my writing with clichéd terms and phrases, but I use them as they are familiar; they are something we can all connect with. Most experts and critics scoff, but that’s ok. Most times those experts and critics are cynical dicks—their opinions venal. I think connecting with people that read my words is more important than a cynic’s cheap, pedagogical opinions.
Connection, in reality, is what it’s all about. We can all connect through our breath—the fact that we are alive and breathing in a swirl of flux and paradox that rarely molds into something that meets our expectations. In simple, and clichéd, terms, life is funny.
But the end game is always growth.
Much like clichés and stereotypes, archetypes pervade our thoughts. Since the time of the ancient Greeks growth, change and progression have been symbolized by the archetype Phoenix—a bird ablaze that rises from its own ashes in renewed form. But before it rises anew, it must burn.
The metaphorical lesson manifested truthfully in my life this year. I embodied the meaning of the wristband I wear representing Ranfone Training Systems—it’s call to arms, “Self Discovery Through Self Destruction.” It’s the Phoenix journey in phrase form.
This was a year of trials that set my shell to smolder. Foiled business plans starting late winter and lasting through the spring gave way to a bristling summer—building to a crescendo of change that peaked deafeningly during the first week of September.
I got dumped by the girl I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life with. But some priorities change while others stay the same and true colors always have a way of bleeding through. As my shell was smoldering, this severed tie was the breath of oxygen that erupted the blaze. A scar on the heart scorched my cocoon.
It’s made me appreciate a few more things, and led me to realize more than ever that life is comprised of the people that you surround yourself with. Once you know what it feels like to be given up on, it’s easier to find the people that won’t give up on you. I’m sure some of these people would rather not be mentioned, but the profound impact they’ve had on me can’t go unstated; I have to do a roll call.
People like my business partner and great friend Chris Merritt. I don’t know where I’d be without his support. Great people like Mike Ranfone and his girlfriend Elizabeth Seltzer. They are two amazing people that affect a lot of lives—especially after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
Elizabeth is spreading the We Are Newtown Campaign to leave something positive in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy. Mike makes people better every day, and helped me reach a goal that I have been squandering after for three years—he’s an amazing coach, and a great man, that more people should know about.
Mike and Emily Roussell are two amazing people that are raising an amazing family. Their family goal is to improve the lives of others. I can’t think of a better platform for a value system.
The Assadinia family—great people that, every day, act selflessly. They’ve become my second family.
My friends the Pavlechkos are incredible. They’ve devoted their lives to helping people grow and improving others’ lives through the mediums of body work and education.
James “Smitty” Smith has pushed and motivated me for almost two years. In 2012 I did my best to follow his unparalleled work ethic. I’m lucky to have gotten to know him and his crew in Elmira.
Joseph Lightfoot is my amazing doctor friend from Manchester, England. He’s a man with a huge purpose that’s helped me shape mine.
Justin Rabinowitz has given me the level headed support that kept me progressing. You’re a great dude, Doc.
John Gaglione and I have developed a training system that I believe in and I am excited to share with a ton of young strength coaches. John’s a great dude with a huge heart.
Tony Gentilcore is awesome dude. I think everyone knows how good of a coach he is, but he is a much better human being. He’s done a lot this year to let people know that I exist and am worth listening to.
My friends Brett and Jenna Shaffer are two people with pure hearts. I’m forever indebted to them.
Casey Bard is my ginger brother. I don’t have to say anything other than that.
Joe Whitney is a solid dude. He and his wife Staci are making a huge, positive impact on the world. Joe even drove his crazy ass from Rochester, NY to State College, PA to visit me for a day and a half. Thanks buddy.
Chris “Crapplegate” Applegate—thanks for all the beers, man.
Angie Wallace is awesome. That’s all.
Josh Hull, my friend since high school, has shown kids in Central Pennsylvania the value of hard work and what we can all attain with a strong mind. There isn’t anyone in the world I’d rather share a foxhole with.
Josh Hill (yes, I have two good friends who’s names are only separated by one letter), one of my oldest and dearest friends, always offers objectivity and the truth–two things that deserve more value than they are currently given.
Thanks to my friends at Iron Militia gym for letting me use their space to do what I love.
All the kids that I coach and their families. Without them I wouldn’t have food in my belly and the message I am working to turn my life into would be lost.
Of course, I’ll never forget the love and support of my family. My mother, brother and sister always have my back. I don’t know if they always get my purpose, or my actions, but hell if they don’t support me through them.
I wish that I could do more to express my gratitude—I always do my best to show it. This blog, however, is my broadest platform to spread the message about good people. Failures, change, disappointment and destruction are fuels that erupt the Phoenix blaze; good people help to clear away the ashes.
Hidden under the corrosion of lost love and folded opportunities was the shining, beckoning beam of purpose that 2012 made clearer to me: to unconditionally do everything that I can to make other people better. Strength and conditioning, writing and presenting are merely conduits of the message.
I want people to say, “The world needs more Todd Bumgardners.” Then, no matter the channel, I’ll have done my job.
I want the same for you. In your own time, and in your own way, I want you to solidify your purpose and take relentless action toward accomplishing the goal that your life is attached to. That’s why I’ve given you more of my story—I want you to have the courage to tell yours openly.
Burn the shell, reveal the core.
Become the fucking Phoenix. (199)