It’s not every day that you get to sit down and hear a story that rocks you back to reality. I have posted a lot of people’s stories on this blog and I am eternally grateful to everyone that has gotten on board to share such inspiring and wonderful things with the world.
There are two reasons that I keep the motivational and inspirational stories coming:
Sometimes the most inspiring people in the world don’t have a voice or a means to get their message across.
Today I will share a story of a guy named Brian, go grab a coffee/ tea/ herbal tea and a healthy snack and get settled in, because it’s a good one!
My manager introduced Brian to me on his first day as a personal trainer and said that we had a fellow South African joining the team. (I'm from Zimbabwe and Botswana though, but we won’t get caught up in the detail). So there I was, expecting a South African accent and some good African banter but when I heard him speak with an Irish accent my hopes were dashed, clearly he hadn’t lived in SA for a long time.
I never really gave his story more thought until last week. Sure, we trained together a few times in the gym and we always had a good laugh in the staff room; but when he told me that he had an interesting story I was keen to hear it, we arranged a time to sit down and, this is what I learned…
Brian was born in South Africa, his early years were spent in Pretoria and Botswana. His mother worked all the time and he didn’t know his father, which meant he spent the first few years of his life with his grandmother. When Brian turned 8 years old his mother had a dream, the dream was for her family to have the best life imaginable, she had saved all their money and spent it on plane tickets to Ireland… The start of a new life.
They sought asylum in Ireland and managed to get a place to stay, life was hard, but it wasn’t the same kind of hard that they experienced in Africa.
“I remember coming to Ireland and being able to have cornflakes every day, we could never afford them in South Africa. We even had a fake fire in the house - it’s those little things that made me happy.”
They stayed in asylum for a long time and lived with the knowledge that they could be sent back to South Africa at any point, but that didn’t stop them from making friends and creating a community. Years passed and Brian became the ‘popular kid’ at school, life was moving forwards until one day his family were told that they were being sent back to South Africa.
The support for his family to stay was overwhelming and an appeal to the government from the community meant that his family’s case was re-visited. They were allowed to stay and their lives became more stable. Brian’s family were able to move into their own house and for the first time ever Brian had his own room. Life was improving in great ways, and Brian maintained his status as the popular kid. Going out, partying and having a good time with very little in the way of responsibilities.
School was something that he never took too seriously, apart from a little rugby here and there. Despite being liked by all his friends, he was often told that he wouldn't amount to anything. He couldn’t read very well and as a result didn’t want to worry about his future.
When Brian turned 18 his family took a trip back to South Africa, the first time he would set foot in his home country in 10 years and it was a trip that would change his life forever.
“Seeing my family back home with nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, was a serious shock… I couldn’t believe that life could be so unfair, I couldn’t believe how much I had compared to what they had."
Stepping off the plane back in Ireland Brian knew that he had the chance to change, his thoughts had shifted, he decided to act. He went to college and qualified as a personal trainer, the whole time feeding his mind with the understanding that he was trying to help his family have a better life. He wanted to pursue rugby with everything he had and joined a team that was about 45 minutes away from his house; he needed to develop his skills and experience.
Brian’s schedule went from going out and having a good time to working full time in a gym, training and travelling 1 hour and 30 minutes on a bus 3 - 4 times a week just to make the rugby team and boost his confidence. Some weeks he would travel all the way to a game just to sit on the bench and while most people would find that deflating, it simply pumped him up even more. He had to work hard because his family needed him to. It’s funny because when Brian was re-counting the story it felt like a scene from 8-Mile when Eminem is riding the bus and getting his mind right for things to happen.
This weekly grind continued and slowly Brian made more and more progress; though the team coaches didn’t see it Brian had more heart than anyone in the team. He put himself forward for trials for IT of Carlow, a prestigious rugby school where he wanted to push his rugby career to the next level. The trials went well, but after waiting weeks to find out about his future he was turned away…
“Not enough experience, that was it, I had worked so hard I realised that I just had to work harder."
More determined than ever Brian upped his efforts, trained smarter and got in even better shape. The next time the trials came round he was ready, giving it everything he had - the coaches called him in directly after the trials, he thought they would turn him away again but instead they offered him a place. BOOM! The dream became reality!
His time at Carlow was a real test for his resilience, he was in the school but not in the 1st team. The grind continued, whilst other players stayed out and partied Brian was putting his dream first. Despite all his efforts the first year didn’t go well. He started for the 3rd team, got up into the 2nd team only to be taken off the field after 10 minutes in one of the final games.
“I couldn’t understand why... I was working so hard to make my family proud, to chase my dream and nothing was working…. I just couldn’t seem to make a good enough impression on the coaches."
Brian didn’t go back to IT of Carlow, in fact there was a point where he thought about giving up on the dream. He couldn’t bring himself to do that though, he had to keep moving forward, he couldn’t let his family down. Looking elsewhere for a route to success Brian was offered a rugby scholarship to America, all he had to do was raise money to get out there. The grind began again… Working, training and pushing himself to be the best. Despite his efforts he couldn’t raise enough money to get out to America and had to pass on the opportunity. Even after playing in all the practice sessions and games at IT of Carlow and being on point with his training he struggled to make an impact with the coaches back on his local team.
It was around this time that Brian started questioning himself, more importantly for this phase in his journey he started to question his faith.
He had given his life to pursue rugby to chase his dream of being a success, to make his family proud and he didn’t have much to show for it. Sure the experience was great, but where was his prize?
Brian realised that the whole time he had been working towards something for himself, he had been praying for his own success, he had not been hugely mindful of everyone else in the world. Call this another shift in thought, or transformation, but he realised that you cannot just keep taking and wanting in this life, you have to give back. Brian joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has not looked back since.
His shift in mentality brought with it the success that he longed for, he gave himself over to a cause greater than himself and as a result was contacted by the Birmingham Bees rugby team, a semi-professional side and after a few weeks of decision making Brian was signed to the team and working at Virgin Active as a personal trainer.
Now, I’ve never written about religion in my blog posts mainly because I am not particularly religious, but it is an integral part of Brian’s story. You may read this and think that by giving yourself over to God you will receive riches and that is not what happened to Brian, he simply opened himself up to the world and focused on something greater than himself.
There is something truly peaceful about the way Brian looks at his life since he became a Mormon, he looks at the world as a place for giving, that peace that washed over him brings out a huge smile and re-assures him that life is not about proving yourself to others, more about being there for others and bringing them the peace that they deserve.
From being a small kid in South Africa who didn’t even have his own bedroom (or cornflakes) to living in England, playing semi-professional rugby and being a personal trainer at a leading health club in the country. How is that for a story!
He has never given up on himself or his family. He has transformed his life through focus, dedication and most importantly his faith. His story doesn’t just stop there, the change in mindset lead him to his next phase of his journey. Brian will be going on his mission (2 years away from rugby, friends and family) to help others become the best they can be.
"I’m giving God 2 years of my life because he has given me 22 years. At one stage all I could think about was me, now it's about others. I want my nephew and sister to be able to go to tesco and buy cornflakes!"
Brian's story is humbling and motivating. Some people want money and riches, Brian wants his family to be happy and to enjoy the simple things in life. Through his fitness journey and his faith, Brian has found his path in life, and whilst some people might not understand his choice to leave rugby behind, I certainly do.
I hope this story makes you proud of Brian, but most importantly I hope it helps you take the values we have learnt from him and apply them to your life.
Have a great day! Stay strong and keep moving, and if you'd like to follow Brian on Instagram then click here!
Brendan is the owner and head trainer at Raw Motion Fitness.