Starting Packs a Punch
…wisdom from the Taylor Swift of boxing
At age 16, he decided to get in shape for a prom date, so he took up boxing in a neighborhood gym.
At age 23, he was adrift…until a friend bet him he couldn’t do a 28-day cleanse. He took the bet. And that clean start felt so good that he made a decision to restart everything. He changed his name to Cam F. Awesome, became vegan, and started training for a boxing career.
I met Cam after he had created one of the most successful amateur boxing careers of our time, and a big name for himself – with seven national championships, four Golden Glove Awards, and wins at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic trials for the United States.
But the man I met was not just an athlete, he was a stARTist – a comedian, a speaker, and a light-footed entrepreneur.
You see, the confidence he built in the boxing ring and in media interviews quickly unearthed other talents. Cam hammed it up, playing to the crowd and the camera, trash talking and dubbing himself “the Taylor Swift of boxing.” Fans loved it. And Cam loved making people laugh. Before long, he was performing at open mic nights in comedy clubs.
Then bigger stages beckoned and his backstory began to serve him.
Cam had been picked on as a kid, and he knew his experience was something many kids could relate to. So he wrote a presentation about bullying and self-esteem, then began pitching it to high schools. It was so well received that at age 28, Cam took time off from competitive boxing to start a speaking career.
Today, Cam is in high demand giving powerful presentations about goal setting, positivity, resilience, and cultural competence.
Here’s what he has to say about the power of starting.
Becky: You’re a stARTist. How do you know?
Cam: You’re my friend. You told me so, and I believe you.
How did you go from boxing for no money to speaking for lots of money?
My plan was to do Olympic boxing and add value to my name, so I could have a career after retiring from sports. I viewed national championships as college degrees. The more I collected, the greater my value would be when I transitioned into something else.
In order to get myself there, I had to come to terms with sucking. At first, I wasn’t any good at speaking, but I continued to practice. I found that one of the hardest parts of stARTing is dealing with the potential embarrassment of failing. It’s something you have to learn to get over!
You’ve restarted your life, and now you create jokes, speeches, tours and businesses. What’s your secret to initiating so much so easily?
I love starting new things. I no longer give any thought to failure or what could be deemed a waste of time. Experience has shown me that nothing can happen to me if everything happens for me. The question becomes, why wouldn’t I start?
You’re featured in the creative cross training section of Start More Than You Can Finish. How do you build and cross train your own stARTistic muscles?
Mostly by removing my safety net. If I don’t have one, I’m more likely to get creative to make sure I don’t fall.
For example, I moved to Kansas City on 72 hours notice and lived in a stranger’s basement. Because…why not? Then I lived in a van for three years, traveling the country for speaking gigs. My first resort was my last resort. No net.
Your book Start More Than You Can Finish lists ways I made the most of creative cross training from these decisions. Hey, everyone! Read the book!
Name something you start easily now that used to be difficult.
Speeches. I used to be nervous to start a new one, but now that I’ve delivered more than 1,000 of them, I just get excited.
Tell us about a bad start that finished great.
I referred to this earlier. In 2017, I decided to go on a speaking tour. It was going to be very low-budget and 51 days long. Just a few hours into this trip, I totaled my Prius, and wound up taking what I thought was a big financial loss. But when I got the insurance money, I used it to buy a van. I tricked it out and called it my Vansion.
I lived in it for the next three years while building my speaking business. I don’t want to think about how I would have done this in a Prius.
What would you say to someone having trouble pulling the trigger on their idea?
Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re likely concerned with looking stupid to others in your attempt. Who cares? Try anyway. Fail. Learn something from it. Then start again, or start something else.
What was the best thing you ever won? Golden Glove rings don’t count.
That’s easy, a Chipotle “Celebrity Card!" It made me an official "celebrity" with free Chipotle meals for three years. Even my friends got to eat for free. Double guac for everyone!
Alas…all good things end. I’m no longer Chipotle royalty, just a commoner – or as some call us, "customers".
What do you do on a treadmill besides run?
I have trained myself to get "in the zone" while running on the treadmill. I write most of my blog posts (1,500-3,000 words) on a treadmill. The better shape I'm in, the better writer I am.
How many power tools do you own?
None. I don’t do tools. I know how to change a tire, but why would I, when for $1.99 a month I have roadside assistance? I exfoliate and am not about to get these soft hands dirty!
But for the record, after my girlfriend read Start More Than You Can Finish, she went out and bought woodworking tools. So I do, technically, have access to those tools…as well as a stARTist who knows how to use them.
You are famously vegan. What is the hardest part about maintaining that diet while on the road?
Finding healthy alternatives is a challenge. There’s so much tempting vegan junk food out there, but I try to eat plant-based, whole foods instead. I can’t speak about being an athlete if I don’t look like an athlete.
What is something you would recommend to convince me that living vegan is great?
Cocaine. It's plant-based. You'll be addicted to a plant-based lifestyle in no time!
Just kidding…perhaps this barbeque cauliflower recipe:
Okay Cam, time to knock out this interview! Just finish these statements:
The best way to kill an idea is…to think about it. When someone says, “I’ll think it over and let you know on Thursday,” they’ll likely forget about it. Then Thursday, right before they see you, they’ll come up with something on the fly. That’s not always a bad thing, but it’s better to just say ‘yes’ in the moment. Impulsiveness can be a productivity hack.
The worst thing about money is…that no one talks about it. It's hard to understand something that isn't spoken about. It's difficult to acquire something you don't understand, and even harder to hold on to it!
An athlete I admire is…Shaq. He’s a big man with a big personality. Also, I hear countless stories about about him randomly helping people in need. I admire that. He also does comedy. He’s a one-two combo.
My stARTist crush is…Cary Phillips! He picked up comedy and acting in his 60’s and is killing it. If I can keep starting new hobbies and passions my entire life, I’ll say it’s a life worth living!
(Cary Phillips is my husband. Their bromance is adorable.)
Learn more about Cam F. Awesome at:
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