Hi All, this blog post is a guest post by Nicolas Cole. Hope you enjoy his inspiring and motivational story!
For those of you that don't know my story, here is the 30 second synopsis: When I was 17 years old, I was one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America. I had an extremely popular gaming blog on the Internet, and my dream was to become a sponsored gamer and e-Sports journalist. Instead, I somehow found myself in the gym, where I went from being this shy, awkward, scrawny kid who barely weighed 120 lbs, to weighing 170 lbs at ~7% body fat and becoming a fitness model.
Now, how I got there takes a bit of explanation:
For the first 18 years of my life, I didn’t know that I had Celiac Disease—or, in simpler terms, that I am allergic to wheat. Everything I ate made me sick—bread, pasta, muffins, pancakes, etc.—and by the time I graduated high school, I weighed exactly 100lbs.
When I turned 18, I found out that I needed to eat Gluten Free. Everybody thinks this is a “fad diet.” For people like me, it’s not. If I don’t eat Gluten Free, I have to live with the feeling of having the 24 hour stomach flu, every single day. So what did my new diet look like? Chicken. Rice. And vegetables.
At the same time, I was still recovering from a spinal fracture from playing hockey. When I was 14, I fractured the right side of my lower spine, and when I was 17 I fractured the left side—both times from playing hockey. Follow that up with a diagnoses that I have what is called Ankylosing Spondylitis—in short, a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the spine. My father (who is, ironically enough, a spine surgeon) said that I could either attempt a surgery and remove a disk to help my chronic back pain, or I could try something different. He suggested I hit the gym.
Pair a Gluten Free diet with a suddenly very vital reason to be in the gym and you have the makings of a bodybuilder.
At first, I was hesitant to go to the local gym. My legs looked like twigs and my arms looked like long strings of spaghetti and to top it all off, it’s fair to say that I didn’t have a confident bone in my body. I was very insecure about what I looked like—my concave chest, the fact that my elbows poked through my skin like spears—and I thought I would look like a fool showing up to a gym with other more experienced (and bigger) lifters.
Instead, I spent the first year in my basement gym, cranking out bicep curls and bench presses, hoping and praying that if I did enough of them, maybe, just maybe, I would grow.
After the first year and the faintest glimpse at the formation of a bicep, I decided it was time. It was time for me to go to a real gym. I started college at University of Missouri and instantly realized how far behind everyone I was. I was up to 120lbs, but in comparison I still looked like an emaciated victim compared to buff fraternity dudes and collegiate jocks.
It really wasn’t until two years later when I transferred to Columbia College Chicago (oddly enough, an art school in Chicago) that I really started to see a change in my physique. As the story goes, I signed up at the local XSport Fitness and the first week I was there I made friends with one of the bigger guys at the gym. His name was Chris (@C3_Muscle on Instagram) and he saw how hungry I was to learn about lifting—or should I say how desperate I was to put on some weight.
I still weighed a meager 140lbs and still, still, barely looked like I had ever lifted weights in my entire life. Keep in mind, I had been at this for almost 4 years with still very little to show for it. But I stayed the course and agreed to meet Chris the next day at the gym. We were going to hit Back together.
We were lifting partners for almost 2 years, and remain friends to this day. After training with him, I started training with a bodybuilder at our gym. He taught me about meal planning and how to eat more than just chicken and rice and vegetables. He gave me all his recipes and showed me the nutrition side of things. That’s when I really started to grow (my hair included). I was finally up to 160lbs.
This is where my life started to change. Girls started paying attention to me. Guys that used to make fun of me were suddenly messaging me on Facebook asking for help in the gym. I became the center of attention in all my classes, shoveling down massive meals during my 15 minute break. For the first time in my life people started to notice me.
I haven't looked back since.
A lot of people that meet me assume that I’ve always been “that guy.” Girls peg me as the asshole, guys figure I was someone they would have chilled with in high school. The truth is, I was a huge nerd and a very insecure boy. Since I spent every day in the bathroom sick, I spent all my time playing World of Warcraft. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t accept anyone’s invitations to hang out, fearful that I would be stricken with a stomachache. I truly had no concept of a life outside of my computer and my own insecurities, and I believed that whatever I did in life would be have to be done as a hermit, sitting in the bathroom.
The truth is, I had to learn how to adjust to my new body. I had to learn how to rise to the occasion that people assume me to be now. I had to learn to be confident, I had to learn to let go of my insecurities, and I had to learn how to take what I’ve learned and help other people do the same. I still relate to that skinny, unpopular, socially-awkward kid. I see him and I see myself. Those kids are the ones who get picked on, who are told they’ll never amount to much, who are ignored and who don’t know the feeling of approval, and learn to think of themselves as exactly what they’re told to be: worthless.
What this journey has taught me (and continues to teach me) is that the key to success and self change is to secure in your mind the vision of who you want to become, and then fight for that vision every single day. It took me almost 6 years to even look like I was healthy, and another 2 years after that to actually start creating a physique worth noticing. I was fortunate to have had some truly incredible mentors and lifting partners, and I was pushed by others to expect a lot more than myself than I ever thought possible.
And now that I am where I am, I feel like it’s my job to pass the same knowledge on to the next kid. One thing I am really passionate about is sharing my story via social media, especially sites like Quora. I think if you're ever in a position where you're not sure how to tackle the challenges ahead of you, it always helps to hear how someone else did it.
In the past 2 years, I have been fortunate to have had so many people reach out to me and share similar stories of theirs—and it's always amazing to hear how, in some way, my story influenced theirs. Through Quora is where I have been able to reach the most people—I have over 10,000,000 views there, as well as content republished in every publication, from TIME, to Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, etc. I am also now a columnist for Inc Magazine.
One of my big focuses now is working with people who want to become thought leaders themselves. Everyone has a story, and there are a lot of really great people out there who have extremely valuable knowledge about something. The problem is they just don't know how to put themselves out there. This is what's called "building a personal brand."
Everything I get involved with today, I see as an extension of my gaming years and my bodybuilding years. Both those pursuits taught me some extremely valuable lessons, and so as much as I want to continue telling my story, I also want to help others share theirs as well.
If you're interested in working with me, feel free to shoot me an e-mail directly. I respond to every e-mail that comes through: Nicolascole77@gmail.com
Nicolas Cole has an eBook series called "Skinny to Shredded," where he outlines his workout routines, meal plans, ab workouts, and favorite recipes that took him from being a skinny World of Warcraft gamer to a shredded fitness model. If you'd like to check them out, you can find them on his website here: www.nicolascole.com/bookstore