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As part of my work on author and speaker Jeff Yalden’s creative team – I’ve been blogging about The BOOM Podcast as episodes come up. Hope you enjoy:

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Many know Michael Oher from his football career – he now plays offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers – and from the Oscar-winning film, The Blind Side. At 6’ 4” and 315 pounds, he’s hard to miss.

For Oher, it all started at Ole MissThe University of Mississippi – and its legendary NCAA Division I football program.

When Richie Contartesi walked on to the practice field at Ole Miss, he was 5’7” and tipped the scales at 155 pounds. By an awesome twist of fate, he was given one chance – and one chance only – to prove himself.

In classic “feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway” fashion, Contartesi made the team and became an Ole Miss Rebel – eventually garnering a full SEC scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

Yalden - Contartesi

In the ensuing years, Contartesi became an in-demand public speaker, with a focus on kicking off and closing conferences. He is also the bestselling author of In Spite of the Odds: A True Inspirational Journey from Walk-on to Full Scholarship at Ole Miss.

Reader Pat Canuso had this to say about the book in an Amazon review:

“Reading In Spite of the Odds was like watching the movie Rudy, but with a machine gun.”

Youth motivational speaker and Amazon bestselling author Jeff Yalden hosted Contartesi in the third episode of his BOOM Podcast.

“Richie and I have a relationship that goes back a couple of years now, and I knew from the beginning that he was going to do some epically awesome stuff,” Yalden said, adding that he helped Contartesi get into the speaking market and mentored him from the very beginning.

Contartesi grew up in Palm Beach, Fl., where there was a lot of competition for Division 1 and Division II scholarships. And he was already at a perceived disadvantage because of his size. But he said he was lucky enough to attend a new high school in his sophomore year.

“There was not as much competition, [and that] gave me the opportunity to touch the field as a sophomore. I got to learn a lot early on,” Contartesi said.

By the time he was a junior, he said he could play because he knew what was expected – and he was able to outsmart some of what he called the talent just from experience.

But he hit a major snag in his senior year. A broken ankle sidelined him, and the colleges that were looking at him about potential scholarships fell by the wayside.

Contartesi shared his story on the BOOM Podcast – how he had a chance to play at Jacksonville University, a non-scholarship school – but redshirted his first year. The next year didn’t go well either, after a change in coaching staff.

“He took a look at my size without really getting a chance to see me play, and basically just cut me from the team,” he said.

He had a decision to make: Hang up his cleats and quit, or continue to follow his dream of playing Division I football.

He resolved to keep going, putting together a spreadsheet of 119 Division I schools, including phone numbers and the names of the head coaches.  Contartesi picked up the phone and started dialing. Most conversations didn’t last more than 30 seconds, especially when he got to the height and weight question. But he kept grinding.

A silver lining appeared when he found out that a man by the name of Kyle Strongin was interning with the Ole Miss football program. Strongin, who eventually became director of football operations at the University of Mississippi, went on to work for the San Francisco 49ers and is now coordinator of football operations with the University of Tennessee.

Contartesi said he built a relationship with Strongin when he was 12 years old, and Strongin also coached Contartesi’s football team in high school.

“He saw my character, leadership and playing style. Because of the relationship I built with him, I called him and said, ‘Hey man – can I play football at Ole Miss and can you help me get in?’”

Strongin told him that if there was one person that he would help get in, it would be Contartesi. This was three weeks before school started and way past the admissions deadline.

“He was able to get me in academically, and was going to give me one shot – one try,” he said.

In this episode of The BOOM Podcast, Yalden and Contartesi talk about the importance of overcoming fear and self-doubt, while holding fast to perseverance – pursuing an important goal with bulldog tenacity.

Contartesi mentioned studies that show only three percent of Americans write down their goals, and uncovered an interesting correlation.

“When I was playing [youth] football, my coach said to me that only three percent of high school football players play Division I football,” he said. “When I was studying about goals and the fact that only three percent write them down – the same three percent get whatever they want in life. They live a lifestyle by design, and do what they want to do every single day.”

Powerful stuff.

“I wasn’t the given size. I wasn’t the most talented. I wasn’t the fastest, but I pushed myself into the top three percent by always putting myself in the position to be successful – by getting there early and leaving late – working with coaches, being in the film room every day – being in the weight room as much as I could, and doing everything I could that was humanly possible every day. It wasn’t given to me, because I didn’t have all of those other gifts.”

In this episode of The BOOM podcast, you will discover Contartesi’s empowering views on healthy competition and how to find the fire within yourself, and more.

Yalden and Contartesi work together in the youth speaking market and speak often on leadership, character and resilience, but they have a great relationship and help each other out – the exact opposite of cutthroat tactics and self-preservation. For them, it’s all about service.

“Healthy competition is when you are secure with who you are – and you want to see other people grow and succeed as well. I think that’s awesome,” Yalden said.

Contartesi’s daily routine involves affirmations, personal development study and a few minutes of meditation and regular workouts. He utilizes a vision board and a goals spreadsheet, taking the main specific goals and writing them down on a Post-It note every day.

He also uses a task management app called Todoist.

Yalden mentioned that Contartesi’s routine was like a customized version of the principles laid out in Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.

Contartesi is currently implementing the principles laid out in the Dale Carnegie classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Both Yalden and Contartesi are huge proponents of self-discipline, and Contartesi  laid out his three-point plan to bring the BOOM and make a huge impact in a person’s life.

  • Build Relationships/Find a Mentor
  • Overcome Fear
  • Be Persistent

Yalden closed this episode with an admonition for folks to put down the cell phone and make that face-to-face interaction.

“Come out of your shell,” he said. “Recognize fear. Overcome it. Feel it. Crush it and go through it. We all experience fear, but you have to learn to overcome it,” he said.

And never forget the value of persistence.

“Richie talks about the football analogy of giving it everything you have,” he said, adding a shout out to entrepreneurs: “Wake up and give it everything you have – every single day.”

For more about Richie Contartesi, go HERE.

Learn all about Jeff Yalden HERE.

To listen to this episode of The BOOM Podcast, click HERE.

For more of The BOOM Podcast, point and click HERE.

Grab your copy of BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every day, click HERE.

I’m so stoked to be a part of Jeff Yalden’s creative team.

Here’s a recent blog post from Jeff’s site.

In tandem with the release of his Amazon bestseller, BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day, author and speaker Jeff Yalden has launched his BOOM Podcast – the perfect companion to bring the BOOM into your life, reinforcing the principles laid out in his life-changing book and digs even deeper, featuring people who have implemented the BOOM in their lives as well.

BOOM Cover Hal Elrod Endorsement

A leading youth motivational and mental health speaker for more than two decades, Yalden has addressed more than 4000 teen audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and Vietnam.

His message has always been hard-hitting, bringing a world of actionable principles to the table and inspiring his audiences to take personal responsibility in all areas of their lives.

And now he has taken these principles and given them life in his book and in his podcast.

In this inaugural episode, Jeff explains with astonishing honesty and self-reflection where the BOOM comes from, what it means to him and why he decided to write the book.

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “In this first episode, I want to come clean and give you guys a sense of where I have come from to where I am now, and how the BOOM really impacts everything I do.”

As he talked about in the book, coming to his BOOM moment involved a series of major setbacks that could have stopped him in his tracks, or worse.

About four years ago, Jeff went through a divorce which ended a 14-year marriage. Instead of placing the blame on anybody else, he went straight to the mirror and asked himself tough questions, coming to the realization that his mental health issues were much more severe than he thought them to be at the time.

Jeff was pre-diabetic and putting on weight. He said he knew what to do and what to eat, but was basically ignoring the warning signs.

“All of a sudden I was a full-fledged diabetic, but I still didn’t pay attention,” he said.

He vividly recalls the time he went to his parents’ house, physically exhausted and mentally drained and with his diabetes flaring up.

“I told them I felt like I was going to die and I didn’t want to die alone. They gave me some orange juice and something to eat, and I went home a few hours later.”

But his parents intervened that night. Jeff’s dad came to his house, woke him up, and called an ambulance for him. Jeff was a mess. His triglycerides were a jaw-dropping 2784, his blood sugar over 500 and his A1C level was 15.5.

“My endocrinologist said to me that at any moment something catastrophic was going to happen,” he said, adding that even despite these serious warning signs, he still didn’t make the necessary changes, citing his grueling speaking and travel schedule as a deterrent to a healthy lifestyle.

And that’s not all by any means. He endured a spinal cord fusion because of a CrossFit injury and was immobilized for six weeks.

“I couldn’t speak for almost four months and I ended up having a mental breakdown. My diabetes was flaring up and my depression got worse. I wanted to give up, and I did,” he said.

He quit speaking and got a 9-to-5 job, thinking at the time that he just wanted to have what he calls a normal job.

He packed up his office – his life – into cardboard boxes: Computer, fax machine, mementos, awards – even his varsity letters and photos – essentially getting rid of everything near and dear.Yalden Pic2

But something awesome began to happen when he started going back to counseling once a week.

“When I walked in there, I was emotionally broken. I was not the Jeff Yalden that many of you know. We started at the beginning and built a toolbox, and I began rewarding myself for small victories.”

As a result of building this toolbox, Jeff eventually made the decision to go home and restore his office and get back to doing what he loves.

This was his first BOOM moment.

Jeff also started taking care of himself – including a gastric sleeve surgery that might well have saved his life.

“That was something I needed to do for me, and when I did do it – it was like – BOOM! That was the reward. I don’t have to let my weight be something that monopolizes my every waking thought anymore. I am down 80 pounds. I am free of diabetes. I brought the BOOM into my life. I celebrate with the BOOM every single day.”

Jeff Yalden has come back stronger than ever, reestablishing his place among the best of the best.

“The BOOM is about you taking responsibility. The BOOM is about you saying, ‘I can do this.’ And the BOOM is about rewarding yourself for your accomplishments and little victories. Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

To listen to the BOOM Podcast, click HERE.

The BOOM will change your life. Grab this Amazon bestseller now by clicking HERE.

Join the BOOM Facebook community HERE.

When I first met Jeff Yalden, he was the GM of a business called Title Boxing Club here in Myrtle Beach, which had just opened. I was there to cover the business for a fitness slot in The Sun News.

Yalden greeted me with a firm handshake.  A big, tattooed guy –  6’1” and 320 pounds at that time [he has since lost more than 80 pounds] with 20-inch arms – my first thought was biker or weightlifter.  Little did I know then that I had just met North America’s number one youth motivational speaker.

Yalden Pic1

Photo Courtesy Jeff Yalden

Yalden has enjoyed an incredible 25-year career as a public speaker, addressing more than 4000 audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and Vietnam.

During that first meeting with him, he showed me his website and talked about just having returned from a trip to Indiana, where teen suicides were running rampant – and I got the vibe that this was a man who cared deeply. I never forgot that meeting.

I was supposed to talk to Jeff again the following week, but when I got to the facility, I was told that he no longer worked there. I found that odd, but completed my fitness story without him.

Meanwhile, I had become friends with Yalden on Facebook – and I saw that his stint at Title Boxing came during a period when he was seriously considering giving up public speaking. In fact, he had been going through health issues, including a spinal cord fusion – and so much as announced that he was retiring from speaking.

But something changed, and I saw that Yalden was about to head to Vietnam to speak to 65 teenagers there as part of a youth team-building program. Intrigued, I looked him up again and found out that he had also appeared on MTV’s “Made,” appearing as a teen life coach.

Yalden’s retirement from speaking didn’t last long, and from where I’m sitting, that’s excellent. His message is too strong.

Jeff Doing His Thing in Texas

Since personal profiles are my specialty, I approached Jeff after his return from Vietnam about a Sun News feature, and he graciously accepted. That story ran last August, and I’m including it below.

The following is a testament to opportunities coming “out of the blue.” In late January, Jeff asked me if I would be willing to do some blogging for him. Remembering that initial meeting, the story that followed, and the fact that I am totally down with his message – of course I took the opportunity immediately.

In the ensuing months, I have been working with Jeff – blogging on both of his sites, www.jeffyalden.com and www.jeffyaldenblog.com. I enjoy the work – but not a post goes by where I haven’t learned something about life.

Something about the man struck a chord, and one of the standout things is that he served as a Marine. I think that anchor was awesome, because when we first spoke, my son had just enlisted and was at Parris Island, beginning his own journey as a Marine at the time.

Life can sometimes surprise a person by opening doors, and a quote attributed to Seneca sums this up best: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I’m thrilled to be working with Jeff. More to come.

Here’s my Sun News Story about Jeff from last August:

Local Man Imparts Core Values, Life Skills to Youth Across the Globe

Jeff Yalden recently returned from Vietnam, traveling far afield from his home base in Myrtle Beach last month to participate in youth leadership training in Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s all in a day’s work for Yalden, 45, who has been a sought-after youth motivational and mental health speaker for more than two decades.  He has addressed more than 4000 teen audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and now Vietnam.

Over the three-day engagement, he spoke to 65 teenagers.

“I was honored to go. My dad served in Vietnam, and suffers from the work that he had to do. I felt it was a good opportunity to go serve with a different purpose and in a different way,” he said.

While in Vietnam, Yalden worked closely with a translator.

“It was a challenge because you can’t really get into passion and emotion because you have to stop every couple of sentences so that it can be translated.”

Anyone who has ever seen Yalden speak can vouch for his passion. His style is hard-hitting and heartfelt – made more memorable by the fact that his message is emanating from a 6’1”, 320-pound tattooed frame with 20-inch arms and eliciting emotional responses running the gamut from laughter to tears.

He said he has been invited back for two more dates in Vietnam, and his father was invited as well to give him a better memory of the country.

“The kids were amazing. They are very disciplined and smart,” he said, adding that many of them are keeping in touch with him through Facebook.

Yalden Vietnam

Yalden in Vietnam – Courtesy Jeff Yalden

Yalden, who grew up on Long Island, NY, said his work is a good fit for him because his troubles started when he was 16.

“We moved to New Hampshire and I was a junior in high school. I never really opened my eyes to the possibilities of life after high school – and therefore I think my attitude needed to be adjusted.”

He had a learning disability, a facial tic and a stutter – and his self-esteem suffered tremendously.

He took the SATs twice, receiving very low scores – but he applied to 19 colleges and was accepted by three of them. Still, he was too afraid to attend because of a crushing sense of inadequacy. Instead, he joined the Marine Corps, which instilled in him core values like teamwork and self-reliance, as well as confidence and structure – just the tools he needed to start turning things around.

But he spiraled into depression after a relationship went bad and was hospitalized, displaying suicidal tendencies.

When he was honorably discharged from the Marines, Yalden had an epiphany of sorts, realizing once for all that he was solely responsible for his destiny – and he began to make transformative changes that ultimately led to his public speaking.

Yalden is still in therapy, having recently been diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder and PTSD, but thankfully none of this impacts his speaking programs.

“I think I am most healthy when I am with my audience,” he said, adding that the reason he likes working with youth is because he is able to answer the commonly asked questions from high school students – and he still relates to them.

“I think I still go through it,” he said. “I often say that speakers speak about what they most need to learn.”

His work is often a journey of discovery on a very personal level, and Yalden puts it all out there, bringing a very definite authenticity to his messages – and he said he comes from a clinical approach when he is speaking.

Yalden - Merrimack Assembly

Assembly, Merrimack, NH – Courtesy Jeff Yalden

“It’s about not reacting, but responding – so you teach people that when something triggers an emotion, you want to give them the tools to be able to respond. Reacting can get them into trouble.”

And this helps him to deal with his bipolar II disorder as well, because he says certain triggers will want to set him off periodically.

“I have to work on that too, and I’m kind of like ‘OK, remember what you talked about. That’s what you’ve got to do.’”

This can be likened to a physician who benefits from his own medicine.

Yalden is also a certified suicide prevention trainer and has authored several books: Your Life Matters, They Call Me Coach, Keep It Simple, 20 Ways to Keep It Simple and Traits of a Leader.

Although he said he does not consider teen suicide to be an epidemic, he thinks it’s greater now than it has ever been and for a number of reasons including bullying and cyber-bullying. But sometimes parents tend to make things way too easy for their children. He calls them “lawnmower parents.”

“These parents want to go and cushion everything for the kids to make them feel like maybe they can live their lives over through their kids,” he said. “They don’t want the kids to suffer and they want to be able to give them what the parents never had – or do everything for them. I think these parents are telling their kids, ‘You can do anything in life. Life is not that hard and I will protect you.”

This perhaps sets up false expectations about adult life, which is loaded with challenges, adversity and many red herrings along the way.

“I also think the expectations are great and that teenage life is not what it is all cracked up to be. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations – all of these test scores and trying to get acceptance and fit in – so it’s a combination of everything.”

Add the fact that kids are now “on” 24/7 – with a dizzying array of online options, apps and social media – keeping them under the scrutiny of their peers – and many young people have adopted an entitlement mentality.

“When something hard comes along, a lot of kids don’t have coping or problem-solving skills,” he said.

His advice to parents is to allow their children to struggle and find the courage within themselves to find their way through.

“It’s going to be OK, but this if life: Paying your rent, paying your mortgage. Losing a job, finding a job. Life is hard. When you get knocked down seven times, you get up eight.”

If there are mental health issues at play, Yalden encourages young people to open up.

“Never be afraid to ask for help,” he said.

Yalden appeared as a teen life coach on the MTV reality show, “Made,” in a season 12 episode called “The Comedian.”

“I spent six weeks in Minneapolis, Minnesota with an amazing young lady [Alyssa Williams] that we had to help graduate from high school and find purpose and direction in her life – and we are still friends today.”

Williams’ episode was about her attempts to break into comedy.

“MTV was probably the biggest impact on my career,” he said.

The fact that Yalden overcame a stutter and became a public speaker speaks volumes about his tenacity – and this should embolden other stutterers to take heart.

“In public speaking, I think you learn to annunciate your words better,” he said. “You are also telling a story – and sometimes when you are telling stories, you put yourself in another character – and I think that helps.”

Yalden is currently recovering from a CrossFit injury that required a spinal cord fusion.

“This year has been the hardest year of my life,” he said. “I am just getting back to feeling healthy again with my body – and I think I am a completely different person today than I have ever been. I am more present as a speaker, more present as a person – and I think I am operating less on ego and more on what my heart is really telling me I love to do.”

This is not lost on his clients, including John Trombetta, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week/Foundation for Free Enterprise Education.

“Jeff and I have known each other for approximately 10 years,” he said. “When another speaker of ours could not make a date he was scheduled for, Jeff very kindly altered his vacation route to Tennessee and stood in for him.”

He said Yalden was so impressed with the students and the week-long intensive summer program, which teaches young people about the American free enterprise system, that he has continues to speak there each summer, free of charge.

“He believes so much in our mission and, of course, has dedicated his life to young people,” said Trombetta, adding that his organization is blessed to have many speakers who connect extremely well with young people, but Yalden has a unique ability to forge a very special connection with his audience.

“Many youth motivational speakers use entertainment and humor to connect with their audiences and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Jeff himself uses an edgy humor occasionally but it is his ability to communicate how much he genuinely cares about each of their lives individually that I think gives him a unique ability to connect one-on-one with students in an audience of thousands. He is captivating rather than being simply entertaining.”

He added that Yalden’s heart is as big as the man himself.

“His devotion to youth is not just about collecting a fee, it is about changing lives and he lives it, not only when he is doing his professional gigs, but also in the quiet moments of his personal life. He is continually reflecting on how he can better serve young people. That is rare.”

Trombetta also cited the fact that Yalden is open about what he called his emotional scars and traumas.

“Rather than allow those to cripple him in any way, he has used and harnessed them to develop a message and style specifically to prevent young people from experiencing some of the things he has. His love for young people and caring about them individually is simply inspiring.”

He watches Yalden after every talk.

“He will sit for literally hours, spending as much time with each young person individually as necessary to hear their story and offer them his advice and often his shoulder. I’ve never seen any other speaker of the hundreds that I have known so willing to personally invest himself or herself in each and every life they encounter.”

Kevin Gentilcore, supervisor of Pupil Services at Bucks County Technical High School in Pennsylvania said that his school has invited Yalden to speak to its seniors for the past four or five years.

“He’s been outstanding,” he said. “Jeff combines straight talk, personal experience, a great sense of humor and excellent storytelling skills. He speaks to the kids in their own language and they really relate to him. In the students’ parlance, he ‘keeps it real.’”

Gentilcore said that what he likes best about Yalden is that he is an authentically caring human being.“We had a few tragedies at our school in the past few years and Jeff took it upon himself to reach out to the students involved through [social media], which he didn’t have to do. He has a good heart, and that comes across in his presentation.”

He added that he and his colleagues like to have Yalden speak to their seniors early in the year.

“He motivated them to give their all in the final year and to make good decisions asthey prepare for their future after high school.”