Episode 172: Rise to the Top - Jason Gordon's Inspiring Story of Overcoming AdversityOct 31, 2022
Jason Gordon is the founder of Rise to the Top basketball empire in Vermont. He is also a motivational speaker, sharing his story of growing up in the Bronx and overcoming adversity to become a successful entrepreneur.
In this episode, you will learn the following:
- Jason Gordon's journey from growing up in the Bronx to founding Rise to the Top in Vermont
- How Jason Gordon's leadership skills were developed
- The unique circumstances that led to Jason Gordon's success
“If you're good, go be great, right? Don't stop at just being good. Go big or go home. Don't worry about what people think. Don't worry about who's doing what. You have one life, one skin, one everything, and go big."
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Welcome back to your next stop. I am Juliet Hahn Hahn. In this episode I speak with Jason Jason Gordon Jason Gordon. He is the founder of Rise to the Top VT basketball empire in Vermont. It is a really great story.
You guys are not going to want to miss this. We talk about him growing up in the with a single mom from Jamaica and some of the not great times in the Bronx. What led him to go to military high school, then university, then into the military and the journey as he was in the military. How he founded Rise to the Top Vermont is a really awesome story. You guys do not want to miss this.
This is so inspiring. You can follow Jason Jason Gordon at Rise to the top underscore VT on Instagram, and that is Rise. Rise the number to the top underscore Vermont. You can also find him on Facebook rise to the Top VT but that is two to. You can also go to his website rise to the Top Vt.com and that is Rise with the number two on also Instagram.
You can go to Jason Jason Gordon Jason Gordon eleven and you can find out all what Jason Jason Gordon is doing and follow him because he is not only creating this dynasty in Vermont but he is also going back to his roots in the Bronx to continue to grow the basketball world there. It's really awesome. I met him actually at a basketball camp for my middle son. I met he and his wife and his daughter and connected immediately. Love his story.
You guys do not want to miss this. Don't forget to follow me at I am Juliet Hahn Hahn on most socials my website. I amJuliet Hahn Hahn.com LinkedIn Juliet Hahn Hahn and we will see you guys. We'll see you soon. You're going to love this.
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Hello. Welcome back to your next stop. This is Juliet Hahn Hahn. I say it every episode and I'm going to say it again. I'm really excited about my guest, Jason Jason Gordon Jason Gordon, how are you?
I'm great. Great. Super excited. This is like I mean you guys always laugh at me because every time I have a guest on they say I say that every time but I'm really truly excited to share your story. But I also love that we met in a basketball gym, and I just had a live show with someone that is a social media they basically are social media expert, but they had a basketball background.
And like, literally when he said that, it was probably towards the end of the episode, I just felt even more connected. Everyone that listens knows that my middle son loves basketball and it's one of my absolute favorite sports. He's a good ball player, too. So it doesn't hurt, right? It doesn't hurt.
It definitely doesn't hurt. But so, Jason Jason Gordon, when we met, we were in Long Island. You guys had just driven, I think I felt like it was almost like an overnight. You were coming from Vermont, where you live, and I met your wife and I sat down because it was like a new kind of camp that he was doing as a one day camp. It was actually, I have to say, there was a lot of older, very tall kids.
And I remember just being like, I'm going to ask this mom if she's been here before. And that's kind of how we started talking. And then she introduced me to you. We started talking and then I think I paused you and I was like, oh, I don't want to know anymore. I have to have you on my podcast.
Yeah, no, when you meet people, certain energy and certain vibes, it just automatically clicks. That's kind of how I felt where I was like, oh, I got to go do this thing, but I'm going to be right back. I didn't want the conversation to end. No, I totally agree. We're going to start a little bit.
Just if you can, I'm going to let people know where they can find you. So on instagram. Jason Jason Gordon Jason Gordon. But it's Jason Jason Gordon Jason Gordon. Eleven.
And then also and you guys are going to be like, wait, I want to know more, but you're going to find out more. But just so you can kind of check out Jason Jason Gordon socials rise and then to the number two, the top underscore VT and then the website rise two. Again. The number top Vt.com. And I will have this all in the show notes.
So if you guys are driving, please don't stop or please don't try to write this down. We will have you where you can find us. But so, Jason Jason Gordon, if you can just kind of give a little background where you grew up, because that's the other thing that we kind of connected on, where you grew up and then where you went to if you went to university and then kind of where you created what you're doing, but just a little in the beginning. And then we'll get into the meat of the story. Yeah.
So once again, Juliet Hahn, thanks for having me. And I mean, for me, it's always been like a pleasure of just sharing this story with people just because of where I'm coming from. It's not necessarily the best place but it can happen for people born and raised in the Bronx. Bronx, new York kid, Jamaican parents. What really stems is, like, I'm, like many other kids growing up in that type of environment, poor background, single mother, working three jobs, trying to make ends meet, trying to raise a boy into a man in the middle of not so friendly circumstances.
We've lived in public housing, from cockroaches crawling up the wall and turn the lights on and they scatter, to being able to take different routes home just because of the bad stuff that happened. But that all intertwined. People would say, oh, my goodness, that's terrible. And I tell people, like, It's terrible, but it's made me who I am, and it's allowed me to see things from a different view. After growing up in New York City in the Bronx, my mom moved to Manhattan.
And at that point in time, I really wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to go someplace where, you know, basically where they had a lot of trees versus billboards, right. So I got the opportunity to get recruited and go to New York Military Academy, which is a military school, like, 45 minutes outside of the city. And it was awesome. I didn't know I was a leader until I got there.
I was a little bit of a rough houser before I got there, so, you know, listening and not following directions was right up my alley. But going there definitely showed me how I can take my capabilities of talking to people and people wanting to talk to me to a whole different level of getting them to do something that they probably didn't want to do in the first place. Right? So at these military high schools, people think adults are the one running it. It's really not.
It's the kids. So you're having to convince your peers into doing something like, hey, 530, wake up and iron your uniform and do all these things and go outside and stand for the raising of the flag. Not a lot of kids that were being sent there wanted to do that. I love that you said that's where you learned your leadership. And I would assume, just like in any kind of circumstances, some people rise to the top, some people follow, some people fail.
What do you think gave you that rise to the top? Do you think it had to do with watching your mom really pushed and work hard, or do you think it was something that you were born with? So, for me, I don't think leadership is like leaders aren't born. There's some traits that you may have instinctively, but I think it's through hard work, dedication, resiliency, like all of these things that are molded right. Like, when people want to get better at a sport, it's the amount of reps that they get in, right?
Like, you doing this podcast. How many reps have you gotten into and we talked about this, right? But the more reps you get, the easier it becomes. So I think that's the same thing with leadership, where if I get 10 or 1000 reps trying to help lead people, then it's just going to seem like I'm a better leader, right? Like, Colin Powell one of my idols.
I would read all of his books and just because he had the same background and it's not to say. Like. When people say. Oh. Well.
When you come from a certain area. People who look like me. I tell people this because Colin Powell was exactly he was from the Bronx. South Bronx. Jamaican parents.
You know. Went as high as he can go in the military. In the army. And then worked for the State Department and did all of these things and just had such an impact on people. And I think that's because of where he grew up, right?
And I got to meet him at my college, nonetheless, at Norwich University. And the first story he told was about how he treated people, right? The people, like in the State Department, you park your car underneath this tunnel and they basically, you know, most of them are immigrants that are parking your car. And he always was fascinated with how they like, they put certain people's car in certain areas closer than the other, right? So some people's cars are way in the back and some are right up front.
And he was fascinated by how they knew where to put people's cars. And he asked one of the attendants, how do you choose who goes where? He's like, if people wind their window down and they smile and they're nice to us, we park their car close. And it was like just a simple action of kindness. That's how some people do business, right?
If you're really kind and all you care about is helping others, sometimes that's, you know, that's the stemming. So I think for me, the whole rising to the top, like syndrome is not like to the top of monetary means. It's rising to the top of whatever you're great at, right? If you're good, go be great, right? Don't stop at just being good.
Go big or go home. Don't worry about what people think. Don't worry about who's doing what. You have one life, one skin, one everything, and go big like, don't and that's what I that's how I feel about rising to the top right now. I love that.
And I think that was such a great analogy because people can really also think about it and see it in front of them. And I 100% agree with that. I think that everyone's circumstances can mold them, but it's also the people that take those circumstances and do something with them because a lot of people will get certain circumstances and you hear stories, people that came from nothing but just had that tenacity because they were put in the right place in the right time, but then also the ones that made their own path. And so that always kind of fascinates me just how the human brain and what everyone's path is. People know on this podcast, I talk about it.
I really, truly believe we all have a path, and we talked about this at the gym, whether you believe in God or the universe, and not all of us find it, but when we do find that path and the doors just start opening, it's really cool to see what happens. So I know that that's kind of where we started really also connecting, because my dad was in the military. He was in Vietnam, and then the basketball. And then you were saying things like you're saying we literally and people I know right now are laughing because they're like, oh, I'm so excited. I'm so excited.
And it was so sweet because your wife and your daughter were sitting there also listening with just smiles on their face, because it is something to see when people are in their passion, when they're in the right spot, the excitement and how they can inspire others. So then take us through. So then you were in the military academy, then you went to university and give us a little bit more there. Yeah, so I went to a military college. My mom really didn't want me to go to a larger university.
And kids who are raised by their mothers, especially single black mothers, you don't say no to mom. It was one of those things. And really, to tell you the truth, I think she knew ahead of time, right? Like, I wanted to go to UMass Amherst, play basketball or Cinnabell, like all these big cities. And she's like, no, you're not going to graduate from there because you're too much of a people person.
You're too much of a party. We got to find a space that is boring, right? I don't want to say it's boring, but anyone who knows of Norwich University in the middle of Northfield Vermont, it's surrounded by we're in the middle of this valley. And when I say I've never felt cold the way I felt cold there, the wind would just rip through there in these wool military uniforms. And it's the oldest military college in the nation, so most people say, how did you even end up in Vermont?
Like, why of all places? And I always attribute that to my mom, right? Like, we went down into the town, and there was maybe one pizza restaurant at the time, right, and a gas station that was literally it. That was, whatever, a mile and a half down the road from the university. Nothing to do.
I was looking around and people were waving at us. And being from New York City, you're like, they're driving and waving, and you're like, what's going on here? Right? Yeah. I mean, for me, that was the best place that I could have ended up because of everything that I was learning in high school, it just doubled down in college, where now all of us are trying to become professionals in our own I call it the little Pentagon.
Right? So you have every single branch of service that's attending this academy. Right. And then on top of it, the NSA and all of these other kids are on scholarship for like, cyber and all these things. And then you have civilians, which is where I met my wife.
Right, and they're just civilians, so they're just like doing whatever it is that they're doing. So I call it literally the mini Pentagon of Vermont, in a sense in the middle of nowhere. I love it. So I do have to ask, so why the military? I know, and also like the military high school, was it to get out of the city and then it just led to other things and you found a path for yourself or was there something more behind that?
Yeah, no, it really was to just get out of the city. I just felt that there was a lot of things that were negative, like taking the subway and just trying to get away from the environment that I was in. And I noticed I had friends who are super smart and they made the wrong choice, 30 seconds of a wrong choice, going the wrong place at the wrong time, and they ended up serving 25 to life in prison. And that ultimately scared me, where it was like, wow, you're trying to make quick cash or quick money. And I think it was the fear plus the opportunity.
Plus we lived in this one bedroom apartment, right. So it's not like I ever had my own room. So it drove like boarding school was calling my name. It's like, all right, I get to have some space, right? Like, I get my own room.
It's like college. So I think that ultimately drew me even more.
I wanted my mom's stress level to go down, so every time I left the house, she would like any other mother when their child leaves the house, but a little bit more when you're in that environment. Right, understandable. Because I know you have a teenager as well and there is different levels of the stress, but just the top line stress of your child going out, not knowing where they are, not knowing what they're doing, you know, who they're hanging out with, but are they making the right choices? And then you just have on top of it that you're in the city and maybe not the best areas. Yeah, I can't imagine.
So that makes complete sense. So then you found some passion in that and that's where led you. And I love that you said that Norwich again, because we talked about I played two sports in college as well, and going to the big school is really what I was thinking I wanted. And I remembered my mom just being like, let's just get you through this. And my mom, she was like, you know, love her to death, but she didn't really like me playing sports.
My mom, actually, she's only seen me play once in her entire life. I thought I was pretty good at sports at the time, but she was all about education is what's going to get you out of here, talking about generational wealth, like, things that are now popular to talk about. She wanted nothing to do with sports, and it's crazy now because all she does is watch sports, and I'm like, bob, you never came to my games. And she was just like, well, these recruiters kept I mean, she hung up the phone on recruiters. If they called on a Sunday, she was just like, why are you calling my house?
Yeah, but ultimately, everything happens for a reason, right? And I wouldn't change that for the world because she knew early on, and I think for me, it helped me get to where I am today as well. Right. No, I think it's great. I love that, and I love, you know, mother's love is a big thing, and your mom sacrificed a lot for you, and so she expected, I'm sure, something not in return, but like, this is what I want for you, so I love that.
So you went to Norwich, and then what happens from there? Yeah, so while I was at Norwich, basically, it was an expensive private school, right? So it wasn't one of the cheaper schools. It's probably one of the more expensive schools on the east coast that we paid someone to yell at us. That's what everyone kind of imitates it as, but great school as far as leadership is concerned and building great people.
I basically joined the army national Guard here while I was here, because then it would give me a stipend money while I was in school, once again taking the pressure off of my mom, trying to figure out, like, oh, okay, well, you need these items and books and so forth. And from there, I enlisted, and in my senior year, I got basically deployed, got deployed overseas. That was not a fun conversation to have with my mother because she was not happy with me. She wanted me to finish college first before joining, and I decided otherwise, and I was like, oh, nothing will happen, mom, I'm good. And we got deployed to Kuwait in Iraq, and at that moment, I had turned 21 in the summer.
And being 21 years of age and being sent to this foreign land in the middle of the desert where things are just different yeah, it really helped me grow substantially. And you had already met Courtney, so. Were you guys yeah, so, Courtney, we were planning on well, I was planning on proposing probably middle of my senior year, and got the random phone call that you've been involuntarily mobilized, and it went from middle of the year to a shotgun two weeks later, getting married in the basement of Revan, Wicks. And then we had an official wedding, but for paperwork purposes. And it was funny because we've been trying to figure out when our anniversary really is, because we got married beforehand and then had a wedding ceremony for the family prior, too.
But yeah, the first year of marriage was spent while I was in Iraq and she was here. So that was and being 21, 22 years of age, right around, right? Yeah. And she's been with me ever since I don't know how. Well, I mean, the little that I got to know her, she is definitely a special soul.
You can just feel that, right. So you're young, you're newly married, and you're in a foreign country. I mean, that's a lot to absorb as a young, especially a young mind. Don't they say a male brain doesn't. Fully develop until 25 or something like that?
Right. So, I mean, that had to be a culture shock. I mean, that really just had to have been some stuff that take us a little through that. For me, I think the biggest part of it was we thought we had problems, right. Like, when you go to a foreign country and you see how people are living in these huts that you can literally put a fist through no running water, you start to really look at life completely differently.
Right. Like, you want to maximize the time that you have and nothing is promised. And I think for me, that's what really being in a war torn environment and being around my brothers at that time, because it's not like I was doing, like, an admin job. I was an infantry guy. So at the end of the day, 140 degree weather, I get a phone call or get to make a phone call to my wife, and you don't want to talk about the things that you had to go through.
Right. And especially if and when you lose someone. Right.
I think the biggest culture shock of it all was when we lost someone that we knew, and I went to college with them. So knowing someone and then pretty much knowing that they're no longer there or coming back, you're just like, wow, if they got to that individual, what about me? Right? How am I going to get through all of this? Right?
And also, I mean, I have to say, I've lost some very close people to me, but I was able to be in a safe environment, be able to mourn them, be able to then celebrate them. In most circumstances, when you're in the situation you were in and I'm just kind of speculating, it's not like that. You can have that grieving time. You kind of have to put your hat back on and be like, okay. Do we have a job here?
I have to focus on that. So was that something that you kind of had to put your and especially now, I mean, again, you're a young kid. Okay. I'm mourning this, the death of this. This is really messed up.
But I have to now put my other brain on to continue and do my job. I mean, for me, environmentally, the loss was a big deal, but I think ultimately my environment that I grew up in, in the Bronx, it prepared me. Right. I hate saying it, but where I grew up, good things didn't always happen. Like, you went to school one day and then a classmate didn't show up, and then you're doing a candlelight visual for whatever reason.
Right. I don't want to say you become numb to it, but you learn. I don't know how to put it. It became like, boys don't cry, don't shed a tear. Like you need to be tough.
All the things that now being older, you're just like, man, sometimes you gotta let it out. Right. Like, don't hold it in, don't try to be this tougher version of yourself. And but at the time, you know, while all this is going on, you're correct. You have to put it someplace else.
Right. I would say I became angry, like, more and more like a short fuse, especially coming home. Like I had so much of a short fuse. Like, I didn't want to deal with people, didn't want to go to malls, didn't want to go to crowded areas, just didn't want to be around people. And I would say for a lot of veterans, that's that dark place, right?
Like the dark place that people and being young. Right now I'm back home after a deployment, expecting our first child, trying to finish up college so that my mom doesn't kill me, because right. Cause you promised her, right? Yeah, I promised her. And working two, three different jobs, whether it's at a pizza joint, at a restaurant, just trying to make ends meet and trying to figure out what's next.
I don't want to minimize the time overseas, but it was something that taught me how to just cherish the moment and cherish your life. Ultimately, we have no clue on when the end is coming. Right. Right. So tomorrow is never promised.
And that's the way I live life currently. That's the way I've built a business. I don't worry about what everybody else is doing. I actually could care less about other people's opinions. And I'm seriously like a core group of people that really can influence me from not doing something.
And if that core is all on board and they're about it, I'm going full throttle and I become obsessive about it. Right. No, I love that. I love that. So were you ever deployed again?
Because I know when we spoke, I feel like that you had just kind of exited the military. I don't think that's the correct term. Yeah. So I had left. You can take, like, a leave of absence.
So I went to the police academy down in Austin, Texas, of course, right, like, graduating college and then took the highest paying job. It was between, like, secret service, APD, NYPD. I was just trying to figure out, I was like, all right, we're going to Texas. And we packed up, literally had maybe $200 to our name, rented some, like, penske truck, and tried to drive through to Texas for two days. Got there in two days because we didn't have enough money for the hotel to stay in a hotel.
And it was just, I mean, of course, Alex at that time was probably two years old.
We barely had furniture. We had a blow up mattress in the living room, and that's what we sat on.
Man, I'm thinking about that right now. And I'm like, wow. It was like we just decided to just continue to grind and continue to figure things out as a young couple, married with a new baby. With a new baby. Right.
And so I was going through the academy. If most people don't know, the academy at Austin is like eight or nine months long. It's one of the longer police academies, but they paid more. So I was driven by money. Right.
And I think Austin really showed me, like, don't go after something with a monetary gain, right. Like, when people are deciding on a job, the last thing you should decide on is the money part of it. Because we had never lived south, right? So we were from either new England or New York city or the northeast, so going to Texas, I would say was a huge wakeup call. Right.
There are things that I had been called that I had never been called before, and I was just like, wow, okay, this is another part of the world. And I'm not saying that at all. I'm not generalizing it, but in my experience being there, my wife, she experienced some things. They were asking, oh, what adoption agency did you get your child from? It was some crazy just conversations with people that I'm just like, okay, and.
This is what, so probably twelve years ago, right? Oh, more than that, easily. Yeah. 2007, 2000, and eightish time frame. Yeah.
So, yeah, austin hadn't really gotten their boot yet. They were getting there. Right. And it was like, keep Austin weird. It reminded me so much of, like, Burlington in a sense, but yeah, my wife did not enjoy Texas, to say the least.
And then we had family medical issues up here in the northeast, so trying to get away with the hectic schedule, she's flying back and forth to help family and do certain things. We decided that it was best for us to move back north to the northeast, and we decided to move in Vermont again. You missed. The cold. I did not miss the cold.
I'm looking at the snow this morning in Michigan, and I'm like, we're about three days away, right? Yeah, we'll have that here. Pretty soon, we moved to Vermont because it was in the middle of both grandparents right. Maine and in New York City. Right.
So it was in between, and yeah, I came back and joined back up into the military after that law enforcement experience. But that law enforcement experience really taught me that there are so many kids that need our help, just guidance, and by them. I was one of two other individuals in my academy class that happened to be African American. Right. Right.
So out of a class of 100 individuals, there were only two of us right. Wow. In the middle of Texas. And I was just like, wow. But, like, 80 or 90% of us were all military, prior military.
So that was like it was like, never seen before. They were like, man, like, 90% of you guys are all military, and all of us were just coming back from war for, like so talk about dynamics. Talk about the dynamic shift, and us trying to figure out who we are afterwards was definitely a challenge. Now, are you still connected with any of those guys in that group? Oh, yeah, and it's pretty funny because now they're like, detectives and counter drug guys, and we were all just so green behind the ears.
Right. We were in our 20s. We didn't know anything, and we're going out trying to police and yeah, it definitely, I would say, was an eyeopening experience, because I look at the Bronx where I grew up, and I go, man, that was rough. But in every state there's a Bronx.
There are kids right now that have all the potential to be great, but they just don't have the means, or they may not have the mentorship or the guidance or someone telling them, hey, not just telling you, hey, don't do that because of this. You could actually be a Fortune 500 company runner someday, right? Yes. You can also be a street pharmacist. Right.
And you can probably be good at it, but you can also run this company. And I think yeah, that's one of the biggest things that I noticed growing up was we had some kids that were so gifted, whether it be athletically or academically, but being smart wasn't cool back then.
It didn't get you any of the ladies or any of the gear or whatever it is, and people made decisions, lifelong decisions, based upon how cool they can become. Right. Which is I mean, you still see it in some sense. I know even with my kids, they'll be like, say things, and I'm like, Wait, what? That doesn't make any sense.
It doesn't really matter. Like, high school is such a blip in our life if we really think about it, but it is such a shaping time. It's so crazy to think that it's such a short time, middle school and high school, but it really does formulate sometimes who you are and then the things that you hold on to. So many people that I've interviewed, whether they've had good experiences in high school or bad experiences, or even when I lived in New York City, I remember I was going to basically apply for an apartment. It was an apartment down in the West Village.
And there were three roommates, and they were looking for a fourth. And I remember going and the guys being excited I was going to be a roommate, and the one girl was like, oh, you were that girl. And I was like, what girl? What girl was I? She's like you played sports.
And I was like, I did play sports. She's like, yeah, your type was really mean to me. And I was like, this is so weird. I was like, okay. I was never mean.
She's like, Well, I was in drama. And I was like, okay. I grew up in a town that we weren't. I had friends that were in drama, and it was a very nice town in New Jersey. And I didn't have the same drama.
I think other classes did, or I just didn't involve myself in drama. I still am the same way as an adult woman. If there's drama and I'm like, time for drama, I just do my own thing. If you guys want to be dramatic, that's fine. But I remember her being like, she was really upset, and I was like, okay, I didn't grow up with you, and I'm so sorry.
I will change your mind. But it's such a short period of time. And the fact that she went back to that moment and I made her uncomfortable because I played sports, and it brought her back to a bad time in her life, and she was a super successful woman. Like, that was the other thing. I was, like, so taken back.
And she was probably seven, six years older than me, too. So it was also like, this is so weird. Like, I had just graduated college, so it is such a short time, but it does create yeah. So yesterday I had a high school group. We're doing, like, preseason workouts, and everything that I do is coed.
I don't separate the boys and the girls. And there's a reason for that because I think girls like, right now, I think they can if ever a time in history, females are coming, like, they are coming, like, stronger than ever, and they've got a huge following with them. And I love it. I love it. Especially having a daughter that's really like, she's like, I'm going to run through you.
It's so awesome to see because I feel like it's time for women, right? It's no longer the time of, you know, trying to find women sneakers in a sneaker store or wearing it's coming and, like, equal pay and whatever it may be, right?
And my point is that yesterday I gave a brief overview of what you just said. I said, high school is like, maybe two to 3% of your life right now. And I told him that. I was like, you're not even going to be able to name one person from your class in four years. You're going to have to go on Facebook to see what that person's name was again, the person that you care so much about their opinion of you right now.
And I told him, I said, I feel like I got to tell you guys this, because the minute you stop caring what people think, life becomes so much sweeter. You can still do all the great things and be kind to people, but don't put so much, like, emphasis on how people view you, right? Because if you're trying to please people, I'm sorry to say, but you're not going to please everyone, right? And not everyone's going to like you. And it's actually their problem.
I think it's Bernard Brown. She has a quote, and I'm going to mess it up. But it's basically like, what other people's opinion is none of your business. None of our business? Yeah.
What other people think of you is none of your business, I think is. What I actually use that quote as well. I said it's none of our business what people think. And quite frankly, I don't care. Right?
If you do things based upon what people think of you, you're going to have a very boring and very pressure filled life. Let's just say that, in a sense. No, I totally agree. Okay, so I want to bring it back. You went back into the military and then you had how many more years?
Because then I want to get to the gym that you opened up and all the things that you're doing now. So I literally spent the next 15 years in the military between the Army National Guard and then transferring over to the Air National Guard. And I became a guy who became a subject matter expert for the military in terms of recruiting, like, for the Army Guard. I had helped create so many different recruiting systems when they changed their whole logo, went down to DC and helped do certain things with marketing. And I had no clue that that marketing campaign would have been probably one of the best marketing campaigns that the Army National Guard had ever had.
But it wasn't like, me me. I I. It was like, a bunch of us that formed this Synergy team, and it was literally entrepreneurs sitting at the table, now that I think about it. Right, because I go back to that same Synergy team, and probably 20 of us are leading and created our own companies. I love it and, like, killing it.
The military is not always friendly about stepping outside of the box. Right. I think they're learning now that there are other ways to solve a problem that doesn't consist of, well, we've never done it that way. And that's just another form of being a leader and innovative leader that you can kind of say, okay, now I got to convince my boss to basically think that it's his idea or her idea in order to get this to go through. Right.
So it was a lot of manipulating and maneuvering in the marketing world, right. And then marketing something that is intangible because the military is intangible. I can't say, oh, well, here, hold on to this career, or, Here, hold on to this. It's all based upon the individual, and everyone's experience is different. It's like high school, like you were saying, right?
So someone's experience in high school might have been great, but the next person might have been terrible. So it was like, okay, now we got to deal with everyone's experience. And I think what we tried to do and emphasize in the marketing deal was, let's not even worry about that. Let's just talk about the careers and how cool they basically look and what you can do after the military. Right?
Don't talk about the military. Talk about what it can do for you afterwards, because that's what everybody was into at the time, right? High school kids, they were like, oh, so if I get trained as a plumber or HVAC or whatever, after I have my license, I can go make 40, $50 an hour being a plumber or an HVAC? Yeah, you absolutely can, right? You can make more than some college kids getting out of college.
So I think for us, that was more of the I don't want to see a marketing scheme, but it was the marketing analysis. And while I was there in the military, I felt like I was still being held back, in a sense, right? Like, you're in a corporation or company, and you're like, man, I can totally run this totally differently and be good at it. And I think that's where it stemmed, where I was like, all right, well, I'm helping these kids, and I'm bringing you back tenfold, where it was, like, five years prior to me retiring. My son got really into sports, and I was the parent who basically coached everything, right?
If I didn't know how to play it, I was, YouTubing doing whatever practice plans. But I took it serious, and then it became like, every parent who had a kid in the sport was like, hey, Coach, what a sport you coach in next season? I was like, I don't know. Well, whatever it is, I'm requesting you on the form for the recreational form. Right.
You can request a coach. And it grew into this, like, enormous thing where we had, like, a basketball thing, and I had created something in the town that we lived in and we got our butts kicked. When I say we got our butts kicked, I mean, the scores that we were getting beat by was so terrible. Like, it was 60 something to two, and we were clapping just because we scored one. And the parents were like, you're so positive with these kids and you're getting your butts kicked.
And it was just like, yes, but this is a lesson that they'll never forget. I guarantee you that. And it was funny because I was like, oh, like, there's so many kids that need this mentorship and guidance. Like, they didn't know how to control their anger when things didn't go their way. And it was just like, okay, I think I can kind of build something out of it.
But after getting our butts kicked, what had happened was we just basically created this group of following of kids, and we, in turn, went, like, all summer just practicing and getting better. And I can tell you this, when they came back for the fifth and 6th grade league, same league, same kids, year after, thinking that, oh, yeah, we beat you guys. We lost one game because my car broke down in Mass coming back from Massachusetts after Thanksgiving, and we lost by one point, but other than that, we hadn't lost one game. And it was funny because everyone knew all of these kids and they saw how good they became in just three months. And now, was this your son's age group?
So these were like the well, no. He was actually in fourth grade. Okay, but it's just basketball, though. This is basketball. So it was like you were taking it, which I love.
I love that you saw that. I wanted to do something. I wanted to spend time with my son and be there. And then you create, like, saw, okay, well, there's a need for this. And that's why I think there's so much with entrepreneurs that I think is really cool that happens that sometimes we don't realize is that we're filling a need that we don't realize until we've done it, because it's something that it's our path, right?
We've learned all the things that we've learned throughout history, throughout our jobs, throughout our careers, throughout our life, and then it's all of a sudden, it comes together like this enormous explosion, and it's so exciting to watch it evolve. And I feel like that's like, what happened to you and the gym and everything. And so the parents see that you're okay doing this. Now, are you still in the military at this point? As I was still in the military, I was still doing my regular day to day job.
But at the same time, we had just created this LLC, and actually, it goes back to my mom. She was like, oh, I need to get you a Christmas gift. And I was like, well, to tell you the truth, Mom, I want to create an LLC. For whatever. She's like, well, how much does it cost?
And I was like, oh, I'm going to go to I forgot what the name of the website was, but it was formed by I think it was LegalZoom formed by Johnny Cochrane or something, where they do everything for you, right? Like, they give you the pamphlet, they give you the stamp. And I was like, I just want to create something. And at that moment in 2013, I didn't know that it was going to turn into what it is today. Right.
But I knew that, OK, let's put some thought to this. Let's see what can happen. And while I was in the military, even up until 2013, is when we officially but we didn't do anything with it for two years. All I did was buy, like, basketballs, and my wife was like, the garage is getting full of all this crap. I need my parking space back, right?
I bought a shooting machine for thousands of dollars. And she's like, what are we going to like? It was complete madness on the things that I did, but I felt like at the time, I was like, we're using these things for the kids, but when I'm able to find a gym and utilize it, we're going to be ready, right? I was buying all the stuff the NBA players were using in their videos, right? I bought a Verte Max.
And all these kids are like, What's Verte Max? Like, oh, it'll help you increase your jumping ability and whatever. And I was like, if a professional athlete was using it, I bought it. And I was just like, yeah, they're going to have the best of the best. And that's really what I basically pride myself in to.
Like, I didn't want to get mediocre. Mediocrity. I didn't want that for them. Right? We're in the middle of Vermont.
Yeah. Okay, cool. It doesn't matter where you're from. Like, I don't care. The hoop is still 10ft.
The basketball is still the same size. Right. No one cares where you're from. Right? And that's the thing when you're athletic, I feel like, because we both have the athletic background, and I know your mom didn't push you for it, but you obviously had the athletic background.
Yes, I still played dual sports in college. Right? So you still played and you had the love for the game, and it was what you were good at. And I do think when you are athletic, there's a lot of sports that you can pick up if you have the opportunity to. And there are certain areas that don't have the opportunity.
You know, I think we talked about my husband grew up in the Bronx and he played baseball and he played soccer. He was a short German Irish kid. He did not play basketball. He could play, but it just, you know, he was outplayed most of the time. But those are the two sports that he played because that was what he did.
Now, where I grew up, we had every sport, I mean, every sport I played, I played four sports. I think there was a time where I was actually like swimming. We thought that's what I was going to take off in. And then there was a certain time where I was like, no, I'm going to play field hockey and lacrosse. And that's really ultimately what I did.
But I ran track. I did literally volleyball. I did everything. And that's what I wanted for my kids as well. I wanted them to be able to have the ability because I saw that they had the athletic ability and really it was whatever we were going to put the time into, but whatever they also fell in love with.
So my kids have played so many different things. My middle son, that is, the basketball player, he's probably equally gifted in soccer, but he doesn't have the love for it the same way he has for basketball. Well, it's so funny you mentioned that because I just did my own little podcast on the way to the gym, and it was talking about youth sports. And literally, I played every single sport that you can think of, especially when you go to a boarding school. We didn't have that many people at the boarding school, so we would go from playing a baseball game, running down to go play lacrosse.
The coach just throwing us a stick and go like, hey, go hit something. I had never played lacrosse before, and I was just like, what do you want me to do? He's like, you'll figure it out. And he was right, you'll figure it out. And it's funny that you say that.
I was a junior Olympic fencer. I love that. Oh, my God, think about it. My mom forced I couldn't go to basketball until I went to fencing at the YMCA and I got coached by this German Olympic coach that literally would hit my arm.
Yeah, you're going to be a good fencer. And I was like, I'm only doing this because my mom is making me. And plus, it looks good on college. Right at that moment, it was like you did everything. Even if you didn't know how to do it, you still went outside and threw the football around, right?
Or you were in the middle of the street playing stickball. It didn't matter what the sport was. If it was tag, it was competitive. And I think that's the one thing I miss about our generation, where kids are specializing in things way too soon. And yes, of course, I own a gym with predominantly basketball, so I can speak to it where I see so many more injuries as far as that's concerned.
But I digress. No, but it is true because that's one thing parents would say to me all the time. How are you doing this all with all three kids, and I said, I want them, when they get to be a certain age, to decide, OK, this is the sport that I really love. And that was probably my oldest, who is a soccer player. He really probably kind of made that decision his freshman year.
Like, I'm going to give everything else up. I'm going to play school soccer, but also play on my academy team. Actually, he still did track in school, so he was able to do a couple of different things, but he was really focused on soccer, and that's what we did. My middle guy, he was an AAU and also on an academy soccer team. Now, I have to tell you, the soccer coach made it really hard for us.
The basketball coach understood and was like, I actually like that he plays soccer. It's giving him a leg up and certain things. The soccer coach was one of the. Reasons, although you must, you must do this. You shall do this.
I tell all the kids in my program, and parents know this about me. I'm a big believer in multi sport athletes. And not only that, the injuries is really because now you give your body a break, right? Because once these kids get to a certain age, they get to college or they even get to play professionally, how many miles are on your body doing that same movement? And then you're like, oh, how did I get there?
Like, how did I get hurt? Well, here's where you got hurt. So kids who are playing AAU and playing basketball all year round, when they rupture their Achilles or when they tear their ACLs, or when they do certain things, you're like, okay, well, I could have seen that coming. Your body is only right. It can only do it so long before it breaks down.
So, yeah, no, it's one of the things, and like I say to people, yeah, of course it's in my best interest to tell you to come and play basketball, because I own a gym that does basketball. But really, it's also my civic duty to tell kids, like, hey, go do something else, right? And it's also headspace, right? It's a different headspace. If I was playing lacrosse, I wasn't trying to go and play, like, professional lacrosse.
So for me, it was like, whoa, I get to hit people with a stick. Oh, let's go. It's an outlet. And it's so true. You can have the sport that if you have the dreams and aspirations to go to college or go to the next level, you can do that.
But if you have the other things, where it's just fun. And that's why I always encourage my kids to do, like, all four of the school sports, even if you might not be the best, because that is you know, sometimes they're like, oh, I like to start. But as they've grown older, they see, okay, well, I can still be good at this, still have the less head space, you know, I mean, get the head space where it's like just getting stuff out. But then when I really need to focus, I can do that. So I love that, and I love that philosophy that you have as well.
When did you start so when did you find the space for the gym? So I didn't really find a space for the gym until Cobbin. So I had been using our kids school. They went to Christ the King Catholic School, and at the Catholic school level, they really didn't have, like, sports there. I mean, they had it, but it wasn't like what I was expecting for a middle and elementary school to have.
So I literally created our entire program based upon what the school's needs were. And they were like, well, yeah, you can pay us to use the gym and do all these things. But I started inviting NBA players that played. I started inviting NBA coaches to come to Vermont. And then all of a sudden, they were like, whoa, whoa, whoa.
This is great for advertising.
It was like we were both helping one another, in a sense, where I was trying to just get kids excited about playing the game. And in turn, it helped them get more kids into the school because they had this program that was being run in the school to the point where now my logo is still on the floor of the school. The kids come to our new gym. Now, that's ten minutes away from the school, but anytime the school says, hey, I need something from you, I stopped what I'm doing, and I'm like, hey, where do you need me? But during COVID everything shut down, right?
And basketball, coaching, mentoring, it's a part of me. I can't not help people. I am the type of person that I get more out of helping people than if you paid me to do something that I wasn't really interested in doing and you could pay me tons of money to do this thing over here. But if I'm not helping anyone, it really like, it's not satisfying, right? And I think for me, I realized that as I was leaving the military, my job or the job, whatever I do, has to be at a point where, can I help someone?
Can I help people? Can I help the next legacy? Like building that legacy and next group of not only athletes, but just monsters, right? And I don't mean monster in a bad way. Great.
I'm talking monster. If I want to get something done, you're going to do it. Your word is your bond. And I told kids while I was at this Catholic school, I said, in about a year or two, I'm going to have my own gym. And I purposely made, like, I guess it's an affirmation to want to do this, but COVID pushed my hand a little bit earlier.
And the minute COVID happened, I was stuck. And not only did I feel stuck, but all the kids that were in our program at that time, we probably had like 1200 kids, right? And all of a sudden we go from having kids in the gym, doing junior NBA and doing our tournaments and training, to nothing. I know it was tough to the. Point where parents are like, oh, I got to get these kids out of the house.
We got to do something. And I felt the same way. I was like, I'm not doing anything. Like, I'm not coaching anyone. I'm sitting on the couch watching Netflix all the time.
We got to do something. And I started looking and searching for warehouse space. And at that time, it was a great time to look for warehouse space because COVID had stopped everything. So the cost for warehouse space was way lower than what it normally would be previously when everything is booming and now it's back to normal. When I jumped in to get this space, and then I had these shooting machines that no contact.
So you come in, you take your temperature, you go to your shooting machine, we wipe the balls down, and then you get to work and I don't have to touch you. We're wearing our masks, doing everything that we were. So we were the only gym that was open in the state of Vermont at that time. Wow. To the point where, like, people were like, dude, how are you still open?
But I was still working for the military, right? And I was working with the emergency management team. So we were dealing with this COVID crisis over here. And I'm an entrepreneur. The minute I get out of work, I'm like rushing because I rented the gym five minutes from the base smart.
So that I didn't have to like, go very far. And yeah, I was like, alright guys, I gotta go. I gotta go open the doors. And if I couldn't open the doors, then my wife would and so forth. During COVID I would say COVID, so many parents like, emailed us and texted us and said, thank you so much.
We don't know what we would have done without you. Because to tell you the truth, there were kids that were they come into the gym and regardless of everything else that's going on in their life, they were just like, Coach, all I wanted to do was shoot some hoops today. I was looking forward to this all day. I was on a Zoom class all day on my computer and they would walk in the gym and they'd be like, thank you. I'll be back tomorrow, coach, to make sure I get a slot.
And I was literally in the gym until 910 o'clock at night just because of so many kids who wanted to get into the gym. And I'm just thinking, I actually got choked. Up because, I mean, my kids, they were okay.
They missed their sport, but they were okay. They could play my boys, especially out in the drive, they could do things together. But I know so many kids that, like, mental health just really wreaked havoc on their family. And the fact that you were able to give them a space, a safe space, that their parents were like, this is good, I'm sure, you know, but the deep, like, a little lost forward. This never happens.
I mean, I just can't imagine that your community and how thankful everyone was, because you probably skirted and I don't like that word either, but really helped some kids that could have went down dark holes, not even get close to it, because they had this. And so the fact that your community and that you were a part of that is so amazing. It's so amazing to me. I mean, I love that so much. But really, they were helping me more than I was helping them, believe it or not, right?
And I tell people all the time, it stems from the reason why I picked youth sports was because, like I said, when I came back from overseas, there were dark times, right? And having my own child, I got to refocus, right? Like, my son being interested in the sport that I love, I was like, oh, my goodness, I found a whole new meaning of not only being a father, but now I'm like, oh, man, I could teach him everything that I know.
Needless to say, he's ten times better than his dad.
He has you behind him, but he also has the means and to do it at the level that you can provide, which is just beautiful. I mean, it's so beautiful. I mean, the whole thing and you're right. When you said that, I was like, oh, my God. It helped you not be in such dark times, too, which is huge, which is amazing.
People think that I love the kids, but they have helped me beyond words, and I can't tell people. And this is the biggest part about why go after something that you're super passionate about, right? Because your passion, in turn, can take you out of any dark place that you're in. It doesn't matter. You could have $2 to your name and getting ready to be evicted.
You name it, and you name something that you are super passionate about, you're going to find the time, you're going to find the funds, you're going to find some way to make it work. And I think that's what really people ask me all the time, who's your competition?
I don't have any competition because I'm not trying to compete with someone. My job and what my goals are is not to compete to be the best. My job and goal is to compete to send a kid off to college. Ready? Right?
Yeah. Go explore, do their dreams, and then come back and then pay it forward to another kid, right? Because when I'm old and I always tell them when I'm old and in a wheelchair, I'm expecting you guys to run this space for me, that's the whole point, right? Regardless of what we do, our job is to serve others. We're here to serve here to serve others.
And if you're not here to serve others and serve yourself, that will work for a limited amount of time. But ultimately, I know my job and my life. Serving others gives me so much happiness. Which is just amazing. And you could hear it.
I mean, you could hear and I love this story so much on so many different levels because what you created was really and this is what we talk about all the time on this podcast. It was your path all of your life, really led you to this moment. And the fact, as I said, like, the explosion that happened all together is just so cool to hear about. So I know we went way over time, but that's okay because I knew sorry about that. No, you know what?
I knew that this was going to be longer than the typical episode because I knew that I wanted to go through I wanted to go through the beginning part because I know how much the beginning part really ties everything so much together. So no, I could talk to you for another, like, hour and a half, but then I think what we could do another and I think we talked about doing another live show, which will be really fun, where you can just kind of also mentor people on how okay, how do you start this, how do you do things? I think they'll be really fun. But I would love for you to talk about really quickly, like, what do you have up and coming? Like, can people out of state come to rise to the top fee Vermont?
Is it just people in Vermont or do you have camps in the summer? Do you have camps in the winter? Take us through that because I know that there's people. There are tons of things that we have upcoming. So this summer we are partnering with UVM to try to get their overnight stay so that they can stay on campus of University of Vermont and then in turn come to our gym to do an overnight camp that specializes.
And it's just going to be small, right? Like, it's not going to be a camp with like 100 kids running around. It's more so going to be more uniquely geared towards training and getting you prepared for that next level. And ultimately after that, of course, we have tons of camps, clinics, and things going on. Unfortunately, in the summer, our schedule is kind of crazy just because our son plays for an Adidas travel team as well.
And then our daughter, she is doing everything under the sun. She did field hockey this year. That's one of the things we connected on because I played in college. And so I was really excited when we were talking about that. She's like, Wait, you know the positions?
And I was like, oh, I do.
I went to her first game and I show up and she scores two goals and I'm just like, what? Like she's never played before. I'm like, it's a scary thing when you see a lot of your kids in yourself where they're just blessed with their athletic ability. But yeah, we have a bunch of things that are coming up, but more so we're going to do more of that overnight stuff so that people can come up to Vermont, experience the green mountains of Vermont, get away from city life if they want to, and send their kids up here. And then their kids can stay on campus and eat and do everything else.
And then we bring them over to our gym to basically get to work. That's awesome. Like a one week, two week, depending on how long they wanted to come up now. And so they can find that at Rise tooftopvt.com, correct? That's correct.
Okay. And we'll have this all again, or. They can just create like if you create a login and username on our site, we send out newsletters with all of the information and the links to get to our and then I'm also in New York City a lot now because of eleven hoops that I'm an investor with. So we're going to be running a lot of camps and clinics, bringing things back to where I grew up. And in the inner city we just had an event at the Gauchos, the preview, and so for me, it's just awesome that now I get to give back to the community that I came from, in a sense.
So it just ties me right back to where it all started, which is so special. I mean, it's so special now. Is your mom still around? Yeah, she's in New York City. In Soho, not the Bronx anymore.
Like I said, she has done really well for herself and now has no needs or wants.
She's living her best life and then. She got to see these grandkids and what you created, which is so special. She doesn't care more. She cares about me, but her grandbabies are where it's at. That's who she really focuses her time.
The other one thing I want to tell people about your passion. The biggest thing and I can say is my wife is like, she has been the person who I can bounce things off of and she's just like, do it. Yeah, go do it. And you don't always find that, right? You don't always find like, oh well, you can't see it now.
The shooting machine that I spent thousands of dollars on and used our savings money to basically buy when she quit her job to basically start working for the company.
I try to explain to parents that she's the one who keeps me, like, guided. Like, if it wasn't for her, I would be a hot mess. We all need that person. We have the people that come up with the big ideas. I feel like you and I are very similar in those big ideas, and I know my husband is always so supportive of me, but he also will rein me back in.
Let's focus on this. Let's get this done. And I'm like, okay, I have all. These other things that I want to get done, and I want to do be like you with a podcast and do all these other things. And she's like, okay, but let's slow down.
Let's try to because like you said, when you're passionate about something and I can attest to it, but we get our sites focused on something, and it's very difficult to get us to move to another thing, it's like, no, I want this. I want to do it this way. No, I love that. I love that. And as I said, I love this conversation.
And we will have Jason Jason Gordon back for the live show on Fireside, which I want to talk to you about because I know that you had the idea for the podcast, and I kind of have an idea for you. So you guys, you know what to do. Like rate review, and you might have listened to this episode and said, oh, this is so cool. But you don't know who needs to hear this. You don't know who has had a similar path or is in a time in their life where they need some inspiration.
They need something to be excited about in this episode. I mean, there were so many connections, and it's all about the story. It's Jason Jason Gordon's story that connected you more to his story, but also to something in your life. So please rate review and share this episode with as many people as you know, and we will see you again with your Next Stop. Thank you again, Jason Jason Gordon, so much.
I hope you liked this episode of your next stop. Please subscribe to my channel, share with your friends, and join in each week.
My focus is entirely on helping you follow your passion, even when you feel like you've got stuck in crazy town. There is a way out, its me helping you. You don't have to ditch everything in your life that is making you feel overwhelmed and stuck, you just need some help to navigate it.
WHEN YOU FOLLOW YOUR PASSION YOU WILL NATURALLY ENRICH THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE