2010 – A Year in Review – My Life on the Road to an Unknown Destination
By Robert Cheeke
I’ve written a relatively brief recap of my life experiences throughout the year of 2010. Rather than just sharing highlights or ranking experiences to quantify the level of meaning of one experience versus another, I’ll simply share the most impactful stories from 2010 that shaped my life for a couple of reasons; namely to assist my recollection of past events and enhance the current book I am writing Driven – The Road Well Traveled which is heavily based on my last year on the road. I invite you to take a stroll down memory lane with me to vicariously walk in my shoes and view the world though my glasses, even if just for a moment.
When the clock struck midnight and 2010 had officially arrived in the Pacific Standard Time Zone where I was living in Oregon, bouncing between Corvallis and Portland, I didn’t sit down and write a list of resolutions that I was determined to conquer. I don’t wait for a calendar to tell me when to begin anew, when to pursue a dream, or when to take action. I am astutely aware of the fact that action is necessary to get to where I want to go and waiting for a specific calendar date to begin a meaningful pursuit only postpones achievement. I already knew where I was headed; to Los Angeles, CA. The final month of 2009 marked the beginning of the end of my time in Oregon and my dream of living in Los Angeles was my new focus. In a strange sense of timing and coincidence, I did start a new chapter in my life at the beginning of the New Year without even planning on it.
At this time last year, my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness book (which was due out in the fall of 2009) still wasn’t complete and I was spending long days and nights working on revisions from the farm I grew up on in Corvallis, OR, away from the busier and noisier life in Portland. After three years of having the desire but not having sufficient funds to move to Southern California, I had found a way to make my relocation a reality. I stayed with my family in Corvallis and Portland from October through early February to save up some money and in mid-February I finally made the move to California. I left Oregon with only a suitcase, a laptop and a dream of “making it” in Los Angeles.
Upon my arrival I was nearing the end of the long 8-month grueling editing process for my book. I craved the sun and warm sunny weather, so much so that I often base where I live around how warm and sunny a location is. For the first three weeks I was in LA I wouldn’t allow myself out of my apartment to enjoy the sun until my book was completed. I finished editing my book on March 2, 2010 which was my 30th birthday. I sent the book off to print, took a big sigh of relief, walked outside and embraced the sun, smelled the flowers of Southern California and then headed out on a book tour that would encompass the entire rest of the year.
Just days after I completed my book, I attended the largest fitness festival in North America; the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH. While at this 3-day fitness showcase, I worked with bodybuilding powerhouse Bodybuilding.com on behalf of Vega, my primary employer. With 150,000 attendees from around the world all sharing a common passion for fitness I was in good company and couldn’t help but be inspired. Though I had taken a long break from weight lifting to put in 12-hour days writing and editing, I was delighted to be back on the bodybuilding circuit. One of the highlights of this experience is the opportunity to work with some of my favorite people, including the exceptionally kind fitness model Jamie Eason.
Jamie has now become a friend of mine and one of my favorite people in the fitness industry. She exudes happiness with her glowing smile and entices audiences with her eyes, but most importantly she embraces an authenticity with her heart which I appreciate most. She has had a greater impact on me with her character traits I admire than her fitness physique she is known for. We will be working together again soon and throughout 2011 and I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities ahead.
At the Arnold Classic I also met professional fitness model/figure competitor and fellow vegan athlete Marzia Prince. Marzia and I quickly became friends and kept touch regularly the entire rest of the year. She included me in multiple magazine features which was greatly appreciated and her thoughtfulness, sense of humor, and drive to make a difference are the traits I admire most about her. I’ll be working with her in various capacities in 2011 as we resolve to stand up for animals and make a difference using our athletic success and reputations to encourage others to consider where their food comes from and make more compassionate choices about what goes on their plate.
After a week in Ohio I returned to LA and started spending time with Brian Wendel, the producer of the documentary Forks Over Knives, who I had met just a week or two prior. Brian joined me and a couple dozen other influential people in LA for my 30th birthday party.
We became training partners and quickly became good friends too. In fact, he would remain in regular contact with me the entire rest of the year while also providing me opportunities to be on speaking panels and host screenings of his life-changing documentary that sold out every showing it had in 2010. Brian also introduced me to his personal trainer, Kappel, who trained me and was a catalyst in my return to the sport of bodybuilding in late 2010.
I credit Brian for helping spark my new found interest in the sport I once loved and seem to have fallen in love with all over again. Perhaps the trait I admire most about Brian is that over the course of the year I’ve known him amidst the significant time I’ve spent with him, he has never once talked about the fame and financial rewards he’ll likely experience as an award-winning producer, but has spoken enthusiastically about the difference his film has made in the lives of everyday people who have reclaimed control of their health after watching Forks Over Knives. It is extremely rare to find an individual in his position who cares so much about the lives of others that is seems to dominate his own thought processes and communication with people, and trumps the innate desire to be successful from a business standpoint. I have a tremendous amount respect for Brian and his contributions to positive change, and I am constantly inspired by his drive and enthusiasm to make a difference in the world.
While in LA I had the great fortune to meet filmmaker Whitney Lauritsen who joined me on tour throughout Washington, Oregon and California in April, and created a highlight video of my first week on tour. We spent weeks on tour and spent months together and it truly enhanced my LA experience and enhanced my life. From the moment we met we truly hit it off on a positive step forward and she became my partner, my friend, my biggest supporter and all the while she became a mentor and role model for me. She demonstrated a strong commitment to the things she cared about and her work ethic caused me to reflect upon my own, even though strong work ethic is what I am known for. She challenged me, helped me in areas where I am weak, and she inspired me to embrace new ideas which gave me new perspectives to draw from in my future discourse with others. We continue to work together as 2011 is upon us and planning is already underway to complete future projects together. We have some unique film ideas we will release later this year and I am greatly looking forward to the experiences. Whitney and I have numerous collaborative videos including ones of me interviewing movie director James Cameron, Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone and various actors and athletes, which she filmed and edited. I owe a significant amount of gratitude and appreciation to Whitney for all that she has done for me. Perhaps out of everyone in 2010, Whitney’s influence made the most significant difference in my life last year.
In June, 2010 I decided to leave LA to set out on my own book tour that I would create, fund and manage myself. I loved LA and had sincere intentions of returning, but as I write this Year in Review in January of 2011 I am reminded that the early summer morning I got into my Toyota Prius and drove away from Santa Monica was the last day I was there in 2010. I have yet to return but have fantastic plans to return to the City of Angels at the end of January to attend the LA Fit Expo to once again work with Jamie Eason and some of my other favorite fitness professionals. I will work with Whitney again for the first time since the summer of 2010 and I’m poised to have a very enriching homecoming trip to Southern California in a matter of weeks.
The time between June and December 2010 is the primary focus of my New book titled Driven – The Road Well Traveled
recollecting stories of my journey where I covered nearly 20,000 miles on the road promoting my book, making it an Amazon.com Best-Seller, a feat I would achieve literally just days before the end of 2010. In all, this book will cover 20 years of stories from my life beginning around the age of eight, since that is when I established that being a best-selling author is what I wanted to do when I grew up. It will detail the personal drive to excel, the compulsion for achievement around deep personal interests, and will culminate with my trials and tribulations of summer on the road in 2010 I had my share of ups and downs on the road, as any new author would, and it was the summer that made me so happy yet left me so broken, and I again was forced to pause and reflect upon the authentic drive within that would keep me moving forward.
Throughout my travels I met all sorts of interesting people, gave keynote talks around the country, spent time with celebrities, went to movie premieres, appeared in magazines, slept in my car in nine states, had my book acquired by a publisher, worked 15 to 20-hour days, moved to Florida, smiled a lot (and cried sometimes), made a return to bodybuilding, rediscovered a lost passion, and eventually made it to where I had been heading for 20 years, and I accomplished it over the summer. It wasn’t all roses and parties along the way and those stories of struggle and overcoming obstacles are perhaps the most powerful ones I’ll share in my book.
Becoming a best-selling author was really where I was headed and my residence in LA was simply a stopping point, somewhat of a layover on this much larger path to success in what mattered most to me. Starting a new book while living in sunny Orlando, FL and making my comeback to bodybuilding was an incredible way to end the year after the many peaks and valleys that summed up the entire year of 2010 in my life.
Though I never made it back “home” to LA, I did visit nearly 30 states and some states were visited many times. I have traveled a lot in my life, but never in the way that I did this past year, on my own, in my car, appreciating this amazing country so much more than I ever had before. I realized that I felt at home anywhere, no matter where I was. I didn’t need to be in LA to be happy, to feel enriched or to be comfortable. I didn’t even need to be in LA to “make it” as I was “making it” all over the country, each state a closer step to my dream which was realized as a result of that relentless pursuit on the road. I have fond memories of my time in LA and I’m considering a return in 2011, but as usual, I’ll leave that as my own open-ended invitation if I choose to accept it down the road along my journey to my next unknown destination.
Along the beautiful road across the country and back many times over, I had wonderful friends who took me in when I needed a place to stay, who supported my ambitions and who encouraged me all along the way. Saving the stories for my book, I simply want to thank the people who made my 2010 tours successful enough for me to fulfill my dream of becoming a best-selling author. Thank you. Your support means the world to me.
The year came and went and now it’s the middle of January of 2011. I love to recognize the people who had a significant positive impact on me. There were many standout individuals who made a big difference in my life last year and who greatly inspired me. In alphabetical order as not to play favorites, I’d like to recognize the following people for their influence on me this past year:
Julia Abbott, Ed Bauer, Gene Baur, Brendan Brazier, Charles Chang, Natala Constantine, Jay Cutler, Mac Danzig, Jamie Eason, Rory Freedman, Wendy Gabbe, John Joseph, Whitney Lauritsen, Giacomo Marchese, Jeremy Moore, John Pierre, Marzia Prince, Ani Phyo, Jill Schatz, Gary Smith, Peter Spendelow, Biz Stone, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Wendel, Ryan Wilson, and my entire immediate family. Thanks again everyone! You’re all fantastic inspirational people I am honored to have been positively influenced by.
I’d like to leave you with some final thoughts to consider for the New Year.
As 2011 is upon us my wish for you is that you discover what you passion is, embrace it with enthusiasm and pursue it wholeheartedly, without reservation. Though you may falter at times, just like I did, and you may stumble sometimes seemingly into a plateau or dead end, I challenge you to pause and reflect upon the meaning of the pursuit that initiated your drive in the first place and progress onward with determination. I can’t emphasize enough the value in living in a purpose-driven life of sincere meaning based around your own true interests. Every day that we delay pursuing something we genuinely care about, we delay that eventual outcome, suspend success and postpone achievement. When we can honestly acknowledge what our priorities are by becoming aware of the fact that our actions reveal and dictate our true priorities, we’re in a position to create the change we want to make in our lives.
This is the year you have the courage to create the opportunities you’ve always wanted and recall a dream from the past that now doesn’t seem so far out of reach. With only 1440 minutes in a day and less than 350 days left in the year, there is no better time than right now to start living for everyday not just the weekends. Take action and make it happen. This is your time to shine. This is your journey to your own unknown destination you’ll discover a year from now, and you’ll be so happy that you trusted yourself to put it all on the line for what you love.
Happy New Year everyone!
@RobertCheeke on Twitter