By Paul Blase
One of the greatest joys I’ve had in my life was being a guest presenter for the College of Charleston Student Leadership Council and at Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina. This wouldn’t have been possible without a good friend and mentor: Jason Torres. Jason is a life coach. The first time I ever heard that term was well before Jason embarked on that endeavor, and I admittedly scoffed at it. “Life Coach.” Like, what the fuck does that even mean? Do people just not know how to function on a daily basis? To my surprise, it’s not necessarily being unable to function. It’s about needing some guidance and outside perspective – someone to help think clearly and without bias.
Life coaches can help in a variety of different ways. They help people set up and plan their businesses, help them balance family life, set goals and make a plan to make those goals achievable. For me, I first contacted Jason in the late summer of 2014. My life was spiraling out of control. In May of 2014, I was arrested in Montana for “probation violation” because my car was totaled, and I could not get back to Minnesota. I notified everybody I needed to. I never tried to hide what I was doing. The US Marshals arrested me while I was working, trying to afford the mechanic to fix my vehicle to get back to Minnesota, where all my worldly possessions were. I sat in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility for three months while everyone sat on their ass trying to figure out how to extradite me to Minnesota. Finally, they transported me—a 19-hour trip from Billings, MT to Hastings, MN. I spent one night in Hastings and was released. All charges dropped the next day because I proved that I had contacted everybody and had proof that my vehicle was nearly totaled.
When I got out, I literally had my work uniform, $100 to my name, and my phone. I lost my place, but the person was nice enough to keep my possessions in storage. My family put me in a hotel for three days, but after that, I spent the nights in a loading dock behind Cub Foods in Woodbury, Minnesota. Thankfully, it was July. My best friend’s family let me stay with them in Hudson, Wisconsin, for a few days, and then I was couch surfing for the next several months. It was during this time I reached out to Jason. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t do the right thing because it was impossible to. The system had set me up to fail. We set in place a plan to get me the hell out of dodge.
In January of 2015, I ended up back in Charleston. Because of my experience operating at a successful level in the music industry, Jason had me present at Trident Tech to teach people how to plan to be successful. I called it the “CAPE Approach:” Competence, Awareness, Passion, and Education. Jason helped me put my own words into action. At the time, I wanted to move to San Francisco. I had so many friends there, I loved the city (and still do), and I felt that’s where my life needed to be. So we planned to take a trip out there for my 25th birthday in August of 2015. I went there for three weeks. I loved it and had such a good time. When I came back, I woke up the next day and decided I needed a change. I moved to Albuquerque 2 weeks later on a whim.
As I’ve already covered in my previous writings, this led to me reviving my professional ice hockey career. After returning home from the Netherlands, I went back to Charleston, and Jason asked me to present to the College of Charleston. The way he did it was brilliant. He brought three of us out to guest present alongside him. He told our stories. The audience had ZERO clue that we were in attendance. When he had us step forward, we received thunderous applause. We got to tell some of the finer points of our journeys. Following that, we hosted a Q&A session where people opened up about some of their struggles and how we found a way through. All of us thanked and acknowledged Jason for bringing some form of stability to our lives, that clear goal-oriented focus that we just couldn’t find among our respective chaos.
I don’t fancy myself a motivational speaker, although I know that my struggles can definitely be of use to help people reach their goals and overcome similar obstacles. I’m not naive enough to believe that I had it the worst or that my struggles were some mountain that couldn’t be summited. Most importantly, I knew when I needed help. I knew that what I wanted to do couldn’t be done alone. Just like anything in life, be it getting into shape, cleaning your room, learning a new hobby – the most important step is the first one. After that first step, the most important step is the next one. Sometimes we don’t know where to begin, and that’s okay. Our minds are a vast world of every kind of emotion, worry, and insecurity. We can’t be too proud to open up and ask for help. Fortunately for me, I had a friend like Jason.
I try to be available for my friends. I try always to be the guy they can talk to, that they can come to when things get complicated. I always strive to be a leader, someone who’s respected and loved for all the right reasons. It’s essential to look at the converse of that, though. There is such a thing as being TOO available – and to everyone. Unfortunately, not everybody has your best interest at heart. You’ll let them stand on your shoulders to get out of the same hole, only to have them walk away once they get out. It’s a shame, but it’s reality. Everybody always wants “real” people in their lives. I say everybody is real; some people are just really shitty. That’s just life.
This article took a turn from where I really wanted to go with it, but I feel that the message came out as something I can really get behind. We, as people, have an obligation to help our fellow man. If you’re religious, it’s the old adage of “live as Christ did.” Sometimes that help comes in the form of giving someone a ride. Other times it comes as listening and helping someone plan their great escape from one of life’s many ruts. I’m forever indebted to Jason, and I know that he’s one of the key people in my life that has gotten me to where I am today.
So yes, I scoffed at the term “Life Coach.” However, it wasn’t until I was ready to be coachable in my life, to accept that the way I was going about things could have been wrong, that I realized these people are some of the most giving, generous, and caring folks on this planet. I encourage anyone who may be stuck in a hamster wheel to find their Jason. It changed my life for the better, and I hope that it will have the same results for you.