This is the fifth and final installment of the Reality Check series, where we are hearing from individuals who left stable positions to pursue ventures they felt would be more personally fulfilling and impactful in their communities. Explore episode 1, 2, 3, 4.
Entrepreneurs are often glorified as constantly being on their grind, practically pumping caffeine intravenously to sustain grueling hours, and being solely committed to realizing their business ventures.
Shane Levernz is not one of those people.
At the age of 30, he deliberately separates himself from a work culture he says values many of the wrong things and encourages practices that lead to an unbalanced life and unhealthy mental, emotional, and physical habits.
Shane didn’t always have this perspective. For years, he defined success as earning a six figure salary by the time he was 30, working a job where people reported to him, and having a family. However, after his father passed away, he deconstructed many of the goals he set for himself and began to examine the things that truly brought him fulfillment. This journey caused him to leave his stable job and start his company FitBox.
After graduating with a degree in anthropology and history, Shane wanted to pursue a job in archaeology. As the job market was not so great when he graduated in 2009, he decided to teach English in China. When he returned to the states, he began a job in sales, eventually working for a startup in the farming equipment industry. In 3 years, he helped grow the company from $50k to $6m in annual income. This is where Shane started to develop his entrepreneurial chops.
“I had none of the risk and all of the fun…it was fun growing that business and the accountability and ownership were key.”
Despite the energizing business environment and opportunity to see his work make a positive impact on business growth, Shane did not have a burning passion for farming equipment.
But he did have a burning passion for the fitness world.
This interest led him to a job at Gopher Sport, a gym and athletic equipment supplier. Working as the international sales manager and eventually the regional sales manager, Shane ascended the corporate ladder in the way he always envisioned.
Then, his father passed away.
Shane’s father was his compass. He worked in the corporate world for his entire life, and Shane intended to carry on his legacy by doing the same. He took his father’s advice to heart, and shaped his goals accordingly.
Without his father’s guidance, Shane began to re-evaluate his values and desires.
“This all started when my dad passed away. He was always my role model and my guide post for mapping out my career and what I was envisioning for my life…After he passed away, I thought, ‘What is going to make me happy? What do I want in this world?’”
This introspective journey caused Shane to realize his corporate job was not making him happy or fulfilled, even though it satisfied so many of the criteria he had conceived would construct his ideal life. He felt he could have a much greater impact if he dedicated himself full-time to FitBox, a company he had been nurturing for about 1.5 years.
A Different Fitness Experience
Shane’s vision for FitBox, a company he co-founded with Greg Kriege, was to make working out accessible, affordable, and fun for a wide variety of people.
“Part of my vision with Fit Box is altruistic. I don’t believe you should have to pay for a gym membership. I have a big problem with the exclusivity built around fitness…that you have to pay to be fit and feel good about yourself.”
He envisions a system where he could work with municipalities to provide free or subsidized adult fitness opportunities. Ultimately, he wants to create a fitness experience that can bring people together outside of the walls of a gym.
A Refreshing Entrepreneurial Approach
Shane decided that he would implement a more balanced lifestyle when he had the freedom to determine his own schedule. This is an entrepreneurial approach that differs greatly from the 70+ hour weeks we’ve heard of in the past four episodes in this series, but Shane insists that it is essential to his physical and mental health, and accordingly, to the development of his business.
With just 2 hours of his day solely dedicated to FitBox, Shane often feels as if he is not doing enough. Many of his friends and mentors share this concern, urging him to work harder at developing his company or move to a state with a climate more amenable to outdoor workouts year round…(those -40 degree Minnesotan winters are not the most conducive for warm muscles…)
“It’s so hard to defend myself against that because they are right. If I really was serious about FitBox being my end all be all source of fulfillment, I probably am in the wrong place. I have a much wider view of where I want to get fulfillment from. I don’t just want to get it from my business, I want to get it from my relationships, meditation, exercise, from a lot of different places.”
Although some see Shane’s schedule as detrimental to FitBox’s success, he feels it is imperative to creating an authentic brand.
“Every single day I think if I don’t buckle down, this business might not grow. But I think that fear is unjustified. People buy what you believe not what you sell. If I’m constantly trying to shove stuff down someone’s throat, and I’m anxious, they won’t buy it.”
By personally practicing the values that he wants to be integral to FitBox, Shane strives to build an organic customer base of individuals who agree with his vision.
Throughout his varied work experiences and after enduring the loss of his father, Shane’s definition of success has changed dramatically. Upon reflecting on what his goals were in college in comparison to his current goals, Shane explains:
“It’s completely different. When I was in college, success was making a 6 figure salary by the time I was 30, being a manager, having a number of direct reports, being married and having a family, replicating my parents life…Now it is much more about being content, satisfied, and finding joy in the little things in life.”
Shane is grateful he redirected his life in such a dramatic way at a young age, especially because he recognizes how easy it is to get consumed with work.
“We live in a culture that values a lot of the wrong things. And if you’re not careful you just get swept up in it. Before you know it you are 40 and have kids and a house, and you don’t have the luxury of making these big changes.”
As we’ve seen in this series, there are many people who do make large life changes in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond, but these decisions are often accompanied by a host of different challenges.
Ultimately, Shane stresses the importance of taking risks and being introspective, especially when one is younger, and to not forget that fulfillment can and should come from a variety of sources, not just one’s job.
In a entrepreneurial culture where a nonstop work scheduled is viewed as a prerequiste for success, Shane challenges himself to think outside of the (Fit)box.
…I’ve been waiting all article to make a Fitbox wordplay.
Thanks for watching and reading.
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I’ll speak to you soon.