Toasty cups in hand, we sat and I quickly admitted to Jeremy that I do not, actually, enjoy coffee. He, on the other hand, has made it his "lifetime commitment to become a caffeine junkie". In fact, he's made it his lifetime commitment to be accomplished in many things, including music, fitness, and writing comedy.
Fitness, however, is his real passion. Being an Oreo and couch-lover myself, I asked him why he was so interested in personal health. "It gave me a lot and helped keep me on a good path physically and mentally ... maybe even spiritually." As a teenager, physical fitness and sports kept him out of trouble and in order to stay eligible for teams, he had to keep his grades up.
While he recently opened his own personal training facility, the path he took to get there wasn't exactly linear. When he graduated high school, he did his best to stay active by volunteering for a sports program. After five years he received a paid position as a coach, which he did for 3.5 years.
Next, Jeremy plied his skills as a certified diesel mechanic and a union carpenter, but that didn't last long. “Those were just jobs. It wasn’t something I was really passionate about. It was something I just did because it was decent pay. It wasn’t my career.” Tapping his cup on the white tabletop and looking distracted, he told me that he invested a lot of time in personal study and then went into retail sales, working first at Sprint and later at Mattress Firm.
Within 6 months he realized that his excitement had fizzled. At the same time, Jeremy had been attending the gym and watched as personal trainers worked one-on-one with people to help improve their well-being. Now, THAT was something he could get behind. "I didn't feel balanced until fitness, then it all just clicked together."
One gym job later, he started taking on his own private clients out of a shared space in Clayton, then he graduated to providing training out of his new studio apartment in downtown St. Louis, and finally, his own gym, Functional Fitness STL, on Washington Avenue.
A Chance Encounter
Patrons wandered in and out, and a few meandered through the shop cocking their heads at the variety of artwork displayed there. Watching the steady stream, I mentioned to Jeremy that I was positive about the future of downtown St. Louis. He nodded his agreement and told me one story that has shaped his opinion of the potential.
Shortly after moving downtown from Belleville, Illinois, Jeremy met a guy who played piano at Jive and Wail. He was promised piano lessons, but after being stood up several times, he dismissed the idea, figuring the guy hadn't been serious. Not long after, Jeremy ran into the same guy on the street and was offered a job playing at Jive and Wail.
Jeremy was shocked and explained, "I'm a piano learner at best. I don't think Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is going to rock the house." It didn't matter. What mattered was his willingness to learn. Soon enough he was actually rocking the crowds and has been playing now for 2.5 years.
“That really helped open my eyes to what kind of possibility is downtown if you’re just open to the people around you. There’s a lot of people down here who have a wealth of knowledge in anything from business to finance to marketing to sports, music. It’s all down here, you just have to be open enough to find it."
Setting the Hard Goals
Jeremy and I really began to connect when it came to motivation and goal-setting. In order to continue broadening his horizons, he set a goal of winning the Rock n' Roll marathon and turning a traditional upright piano into an electric piano (he's already completed this one).
“The difference between people who live mediocre lives and people who live amazing lives, is just simply going after it, having a thirst for knowledge and setting high goals. You can set high goals and you might miss, but you’re always going to be way way further along the path than someone who sets a mediocre goal and hits it.”
A light rain was beginning to obscure our view out of the front windows of the coffee shop, so Jeremy and I began to wrap up. Before parting I asked the only recurring question in my coffee conversations: "what is your favorite thing about St. Louis?"
Jeremy looked over my shoulder at a painting hanging on the wall as he contemplated, then looked back at me. “I feel like there’s a lot of people down here who are hungry and driven and I think that’s my favorite thing about St. Louis. Specifically downtown. I feel like it’s really economically diverse, you know?"
"I personally think diversity is a cultivating pot for knowledge and success. It’s really easy to get to know people and surround yourself with people who are already at the same level as you. It’s really hard and it takes a lot more drive to be around people from different backgrounds and different education levels, and different income levels."
"Not that that should necessarily be a goal for people, but I think it’s a lot harder to look for the commonalities. It’s really easy to put people into stereotypes. That’s my favorite thing about St. Louis, there’s a lot of commonality with everyone down here, whether they know it or not.”