The Valedictorian vs. the Felon

There are a million ways to be remarkably valuable in the world. The only obvious requirement is that ultimately you bring remarkable value. 

When I was trying to become a coach I was sleeping on couches and house sitting, coaching for free, and working odd jobs to make money. I’ll never forget the time I made a couple hundred bucks off a Craigslist ad to help a woman move her excess belongings into a storage unit. 

Upon meeting her, I knew it would be a long day. The woman was in her fifties and did a fine job taking on the caricature of a “crazy cat lady”. She mostly bossed me around, came across as a generally unhappy individual, and from our various conversations I ascertained that she wasn’t much of a contributor to the world around her. It was sad and uninspiring. 

After a long day of moving boxes of junk and literally labeling each box “Stuff” with a marker (I’ll never understand that one), we finally got the last load to the storage facility. As if this were a Hollywood movie, I swear to you that the lid of one of the last boxes I placed in the storage unit slid off as I set it down. There inside the box I saw a familiar text. The book read “Compass” with an anchor on it. I immediately asked her. “Is this your yearbook?”

“Why yes! I was the Valedictorian. Saint Monica’s. It’s a little high school in Santa Monica,” she said fondly. 

“I know,” I said. “I went there, too.”

It shocked me to see a Valedictorian from my same high school leading such an uneventful life. I couldn’t help but recall this story this weekend. I’ve never been more sure that there are unlimited ways to be incredibly valuable to yourself and your community. These ways have almost nothing to do with things like awards, accolades, and a Fairytale Path.

I’ve been learning this lesson the hard way with some exciting work I’ll share with the world soon in a new non-profit creation from DEUCE. I’ve easily had five of the most incredible conversations of my life in the last couple of months and just last week I couldn’t help but compare one of them with my experience with the Valedictorian above. 

I spent an hour talking with a young man in a program to transition former inmates back into society. Keep in mind this young man is in a position of leadership, has soft, motivated eyes, and is relentlessly useful to everyone around him. He was living to suck the marrow out of life. He’s also a convicted murderer. He was charged at age 17 and served 18 years in prison. We connected over a mutual friend. His best friend since age five is a former teammate of mine from South Central. I could listen to him all day and learn about emotional mastery, group dynamics, motivation, and the power of psychology. I left him feeling so inspired and limitless. 

As an employer, who do you think I’d hire? The Valedictorian? Or, the murderer? My answer is easy and without hesitation. This isn’t hyperbole, either, people. Our stories don’t matter so much as what you do with them and we’ve all got a choice in how we choose to show up in the world.

3/22/21 WOD


2, 4, 6, 8…
DB Front Rack Walking Lunges
DB Muscle Cleans
DB Push Presses

Then, complete 8 rounds for reps of:
In :60..
10 Lateral Jumps Over-the-DB
30 Yard Shuttle Shuffle Run 
Max Lateral Burpees Over-the-DB
-Rest 1 Min-


Odd: :40 Max Front Squats (95/65)
Even: 8-12 Burpee Over-the-Bar

Then, complete 5 rounds for time of:
15/12 Cal Row
12 1- Arm DB Clean & Jerks
9 Hand Release Push Ups


Complete 4 rounds for quality of:
Max (-2) Kipping Pull Ups
10 DB 3-Way Raise
12 1-Arm DB Bent Rows (ea)
-Rest as Needed-

E: :30 Max Cal Row/Bike
O: :10 Goblet Iso hold + 6 1 1/4 Goblet Squats