Ash and I met in 2015 at the University of Pittsburgh. We were both Graduate Assistants (GA) in the department of Health and Physical Activity. At that time, we were dating other people, and honestly, had no interest in one another. Ash’s perception of me was that I was the stereotypical CrossFit fan boy who only cared about training and aesthetics, and I viewed Ash as the goody two shoes who never stopped smiling and got along with everyone. We weren’t outwardly mean or rude to another other, but we kept our distance and played nice when we had to be in the office together.
Six months later, Ash and I had become best friends; I guess that’s what happens when you spend 12-14 hours per day with someone whom you actually have a lot in common. At first, it was nothing more than studying for exams and helping each other create materials for our classes. Whether she’ll admit this or not, neither of us needed help studying - we were both smart AF. We really just enjoyed flirting with each other. Anyway, studying eventually evolved into spending time together outside of class and the office. We played frisbee, went hiking, and even started coaching at a local high school together. In fact, if you asked the other GAs and professors, they’d probably describe us as inseparable.
For the sake of time, I’m going to fast forward through 18 months of me basically begging Ash to breakup with her boyfriend and date me - we don’t need to go tumbling down that rabbit hole.
In September 2017, Ash and I finally had our first official date. As cliché as it sounds, I knew before we even went on that date that I was going to marry her one day, and Ash will tell you the exact same thing about me. From that point onward, we didn’t waste any time! By October, I moved into her apparent in Highland Park, in February 2018 we moved to Mt. Washington, in June I surprised her with Koda, and in March 2019 I ask her to marry me.
Our life in Pittsburgh was amazing! We were surrounded by friends, we knew the city incredibly well, we frequented our favorite trails, parks, restaurants, and bars, and our families were within driving distance. We rarely disagreed or fought, and that wasn’t because it was the honeymoon phase of our relationship. It was because we had established an incredibly strong foundation of friendship prior to dating. We spent nearly two years as nothing more than friends - we literally knew everything (good and bad) about each other. On top of all that, we had jobs that we loved! Ash was working at the university and I was managing a CrossFit affiliate that became our second home. Lastly, it’s important to note that Ballistic Performance didn’t exist at this point in our relationship; it was merely an idea, a pipe dream if you will.
Again, for the sake of time, I’m going to skip ahead. By June 2019, Ash and I were living in Florida managing a CrossFit affiliate. My role was General Manager/Head Coach and Ash was the Director of Nutrition. We lived in a small town about 30 minutes North of the facility called Deland. We loved that town, the location, and the people we rented from. We were 30 minutes West of the beach, 50 minutes North of Disney (I’m a huge Disney fan if you didn’t know), and we had access to nearly 200-miles of paved trailways right off our driveway. All that said, we weren’t happy; Something was missing.
Enter Ballistic Performance.
Ash knew about Ballistic, I’d shown her the logos, programs, and content that I’d created years prior, but we never actually spoke about building the business together. If you ask Ash, until Florida, she actually had no interest in working together whatsoever. After countless heart-to-hearts and in-depth discussions, Ash and I decided it was time to create something of our own. In September 2019, we launched the Ballistic Performance Instagram page and for the first 3-4 months, that’s where the brand lived. At that point, Ballistic wasn’t even a business.
Eventually, we invested in a brand mentor and began building the business. Keep in mind, we were still working full-time at the gym, so depending on the day, we’d work 12-14 hours: eight hours at the facility, plus an additional 4-6 hours at home on the business. I don’t care who you are or how passionate you are about your pursuits, working 12-14 hours day-in and day-out takes it toll on you. For us, that toll was strain on our relationship.
Previously, I mentioned that in Pittsburgh our relationship was rock-solid. Well, in Florida, we began to notice some chinks in the armor. The time, energy, and effort that we previously invested into each other was transferred to Ballistic. Slowly but surely, we started to drift apart. In fact, the process was so gradual that we didn’t even realize it was happening.
By the time we left Florida, Ballistic was still in its infancy. We had accumulated a handful of clients, refined processes and programming, and created a significant amount of content. However, we still had no sales process and the business wasn’t generating nearly enough revenue for us to go full-time. So, when we arrived in Ann Arbor, the plan was to continue working until we could afford for one of us to transition to a full-time role with Ballistic.
Now, I am not trying to downplay the significance and severity of the pandemic. COVID-19 created unprecedented, uncertain, devastating circumstances across the globe; it took the lives of millions and devastated the economy. All that said, it also provided a unique opportunity for Ash and I to invest significantly more time, energy, and effort into scaling the business, which required even more communication, collaboration, and patience. Let’s just say that those so-called “chinks in our armor” turned out to be gaping holes.
Our relationship was completely compromised. More often than not, our morning training sessions were filled with conflict and disagreement; neither of us had patience or empathy for the other; and the romance and intimacy had vanished. At times, it felt as if we were merely roommates, two people simply coexisting in the same home, splitting rent, and sharing food. You couldn’t even call it “friends with benefits” because there were no “benefits” - we weren’t having sex! Hell, neither of us even wanted sex. That cycle continued for MONTHS!
It wasn’t as if we were turning a blind eye to the issues. We knew the relationship was broken. In fact, we talked about it damn near every day of the week. We each had the self-awareness to recognize and take responsibility for our shortcomings, but we just couldn’t move past the problems. I knew that I was impatient, rude, and placing my expectations on her. Ash knew that she was overly-emotional, taking everything too personally, and imposing her expectations on me. We tried everything to mend the relationship and reignite the fire. We spent more time in the word, prayed harder, held each other accountable, attended therapy together, and even scheduled “feelings meetings” and date nights to better manage our time and priorities. Yet, despite all of our efforts, we were unsuccessful.
As we transitioned into 2021, Ash and I arrived at a crossroads. We had become so miserable at our jobs and unhappy at home that a decision had to be made, and there were only three choices:
2. Give up on Ballistic.
3. Quit our full-time jobs and pursue our passion.
Neither of us were willing to give up on each other or the company, so the decision was relatively “easy” - it was time to take a leap of faith and pursue Ballistic full-time. Although that decision was unnerving and terrifying, it was also incredibly exhilarating and exciting because we truly believed that God had called us to pursue Ballistic.
It has been three weeks since we made the decision to go all-in on Ballistic, and as always, God showed up in a BIG way! Ballistic has continued to thrive, but more importantly, our relationship has begun to recover! We’re smiling, laughing, and playing more. We’re enjoying our time together. We’re communicating more effectively. We’re stronger in our faith, romance and intimacy have returned, and we’re pursuing our dream together!
Moral of the story:
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies here at Ballistic HQ. There are peaks and valleys on every journey. Sometimes, the valleys are really deep, dark, and scary. Sometimes, you get lost along the way. Sometimes, you don’t know if you can continue. However, it’s in those difficult seasons that you develop the characteristics and attributes necessary to reach the next summit. It’s in those circumstances that God is forging you into the man, woman, husband, wife, father, or mother that He’s called you to become. So, lean into your faith, trust the process, and never give up on your dreams.