To grow in life, we need inspiration. We need to allow space within ourselves to fill that very space with new experiences, knowledge, and ideas. Finding our passions is important because it reminds us every time we step into that particular realm of who we are, how far we've come, and how we got there. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to get to know and befriend a guy that gets all of that and then some. He's one of the dopest guys around not only the Charlotte area, but literally just around. Realizing we both attended the same elementary school in St. Louis within a two year span of each other was a dope find. Henry has a hunger for growth and true feel for who he is not only to the people in his circle but to any community he is in. His career with Lululemon has amplified that part of who he is and the first time we met, I was aware that he absolutely was comfortable with who he was. I decided he would be a great candidate for the first interview of my new category on The Untamed Mind. With similar interests and views on life, we have clicked instantly. I have already learned a ton about new perspectives on the important things in life. This led to a very smooth interview transition.
A very in depth and real convo like normal for us. His answers weren't quick and to the point. Elaboration was needed for the answers he gave. I caught him during an off day and it seemed like he had time to get detailed and into these questions. He seemed refreshed and energetic to have it, too.
- I don't even have a set list of questions I really just want to talk and let it flow. Kinda start off with, like, who you are, where you grew up, and how you made it to Charlotte. Then we can go from there?
- So I was born in St. Louis, MO. Mom, dad, older brother, and younger sister, so one of three children in a family of five. Was in St. Louis when I was born, and then I moved 11 times before I was in first grade, like, just for my dad's job we just moved a bunch and...
- Did I know that?
- I don't know! Haha. Like literally 11 times before first grade, and then when I moved to St. Louis in first grade I was at Wildhorse elementary and then I went to Khers Mill fourth and fifth. I was in St. Louis for a long time, so I spent my high school time there, I went to a university in St. Louis, so I, like, stayed really local. I worked for Lululemon, the clothing company. I started my junior year of college and I really loved it. Right away I realized it was a really good culture fit. Right away I realized how much of the culture I actually agreed with and their core values and all that stuff. And probably a year or so in I was like, 'Ya know I really wanna make this my full time thing after I graduate.'
- And you didn't go into it wanting to work there long term?
- No! I mean I thought it was just like a... I mean I was still playing soccer and still an athlete in college so it was my super part time thing. And then in the off-season I would work more hours, but yeah I had no idea. And realized the more in depth the brand got, and working with a lot of the community side of things and the men's business. Fast forward a couple months, I got a job offer from Charlotte, NC to move there as what was called a 'Men's Key Leader'. So inside the store I ran the day to day stuff on the floor, but then outside of the store my main goal was expand and grow the men's business in Charlotte. Really build great relationships in the men's business and that's what got me here to Charlotte, honestly. I've loved it. I've built a ton of relationships in the last two years and I've really enjoyed it a lot so...
- Thats awesome man, so what are some of the things that surprised you right off the bat about working for Lulu that you weren't, I guess, really expecting?
- So I've always been a deeper thinker and I'm someone who really enjoys intentional conversation with people. And, you know, when I thought of a retail company I thought of, like, a really transactional experience. Especially every job I've had before that's how it was. You clocked in, clocked out. You saw people you worked with and you maybe dapped 'em up when you were there, but that was kind of it. And immediately what surprised me was the relationships between people. The people I worked with were really interested in who you were and kind of what you had going on in your life and weren't [pause] I don't know, they just really cared a lot. And I was the youngest person that worked there by several years so it was all people who had lived more life than me and have experienced more things, so that was really nice. I could ask them for advice and about their life experiences and that surprised me a lot. And the other that really surprised me was that I've also always passionate about personal growth and leadership. I didn't know how much of a leadership development company Lululemon was. So their core values, all the way to how they train their employees and everything in between is engrained in personal development. So even now that I lead a bunch of stuff in Charlotte, I get asked how powerful of a leader I'm being versus, you know, how many dollars is someone bringing into the store.
- So they're really making sure you're self aware of what kind of impact you're making rather than how many shirts and shorts you sell?
- Yeah. Literally in my four years, I've never been asked how many dollars I've sold of something, like, ever. So I mean if we throw, like, a really strategic shopping event, maybe it's like, 'Hey how much did we do?', but I've never been asked that. Instead I've been asked things like 'Where are you taking things personally?', 'How are you setting people up powerfully?', 'Where can you take responsibility with 'X'?', and 'What do you want to celebrate yourself for?' You know, things like that was definitely not something that I was used to, nor was I expecting it all.
- Yeah and I remember you saying since you've experienced all that with Lulu, if you ever changed careers you're going to be hell to interview.
- Yeah! haha. I mean I feel like I would be. Granted the more I've thought about it, I feel like I have some things to bring to the table for sure, but yeah it's a very different culture. A lot of companies claim culture. They claim it's really important to them, but they don't quite do things that reflect that. And Lululemon is one of those companies that DOES reflect that. They do everything they can to really build into you as an individual. So if I do ever move outside of Lululemon, I'm going to expect that in a company that I go and work for. And that's a difficult thing to expect, ya know?
- You said those things surprised you when you first got there, but did it ever feel like that was a new focus within the company, or you think that's kind of always been the focus for them from the start?
- I felt like it had always been that way. So Lululemon is an international company. It started in Vancouver, but I mean we have offices worldwide in so many different countries. And anytime you have something to that scale, it's really difficult to monitor culture in every single store. So there are definitely stores where we've missed the mark and we're not perfect. But in the stores that I've worked in during my career, I've been very, very blessed with the leaders that I've worked with. And interestingly enough, my store manager here in Charlotte was my store manager in St. Louis. So I've worked under her for years. And she's always been that consistent voice of leadership and challenge in my life. So during my four years, I've always been pushed to become something bigger. And I've always been held to greatness, so it was something that I felt I came right into and definitely wasn't something that was new, but something that had been present the whole time.
- Could you speak on some of the events or community led activities, specifically in Charlotte that have impacted you or stuck with you the most since you've been in Charlotte?
- I think two of them stand out right away. One of them happened, I think, a little under two years ago. I was really new to the city and it was this thing called 'The Founder's Club." And what it was at it's core, was an intentional time to bring, like, 40-ish of the city's most influential people, men specifically, together to do something that wasn't there yet in Charlotte. Which was just bringing guys together just to talk. Just about stuff. Things that you weren't normally talking about like beer, weather and sports. You were talking about vulnerability, vision and goals, or what does masculinity mean and how can we start, ya know, debunking these myths that have come along the way. The reason why that one was significant was because at the time I had been in Charlotte for two months, three months maybe? And this thing came to life and it took a lot to get really comfortable to say, 'Hey I need 40 Charlotte's most influential men inside of this room and I don't even know 40 people in Charlotte.' So it took a lot of teamwork with people and collaborating with people to express the vision and what we saw and then bringing that to life. I remember we did a few after that, and after the first one I went home that night and thought, 'If we can create this in Charlotte in three months of me being here, we can do this anywhere. I can and the team around me, we can create community in any city that we go to.' So it opened up my perspective to see no matter where I go in my life, what city, store, what state, what country, I can bring community with me. And that's really special and unique. The other one was this thing called the series where we partnered with this local coffee shop in town called Not Just Coffee. We partnered with them because although they were a coffee shop and we were a retail company, which are not similar things at all, their core values and how they treat people are very synonymous with Lulu. We said what if we could put our brains together and see what we could create. We did a six-part speaker series where we had six different speakers over 6 months with topics that they felt were important to them. Heard everything from mental health, to entrepreneurship, to focus and drive. A lot of different topics from different perspectives. It got a ton of buzz around the city and people are asking when the next one is all the time. I think we have a lot to learn from our city so I think like, 'Let's just hear their voice.' So it was a huge learning experience for me.
- Speaking more on being a leader and influencing those around you, what do you think the things you want to portray most, like core values and morals, are to them?
- I think the first one is love. It's my biggest core value and it's in everything that I do. It's like the basis of my relationships. I connect to people and I talk to people because I love them. The absence of love is such a detrimental thing and sprinkling a little bit of love into anything and relationships is so important. So love is definitely number one. And then number two is something that my whole team can attest to. I consistently preach: What can I be learning in this situation? I think that question strengthens us as leaders. As people even, as spouses, friends, and I talk about that a lot. I talk about I because it has been a consistent practice of mine for two years and the ability to do that and to look inward has something that has been important to me my whole life. And last, I know it may be cliche, but when it comes to leadership, you can't ask of those what you wouldn't be willing to do yourself or that you haven't really put in the time to understand fully. You can hire someone to take that next step, but you cant really empower or coach them along the way or even hold them accountable for something that you haven't yet mastered or haven't put in the work to do. And those I lead I hold accountable at Lulu because it comes very much from a place of 'been there' and I'm holding you accountable because I know that you can do that. Those are my three big things.
- This is dope because I'm kinda learning more about you as well as this goes along, haha.
- Yeah, yeah!
- So what are some other things, besides your career with Lulu, that you like to do outside of that?
- Yeah! So photography is, like, the big thing. So my freshman year of college I was in a spring game and got cheap shotted in a game. My left side of lip is way more swollen than the right because of how bad I got elbowed. I got a crazy amount of stitches and I also got a really bad concussion. I was knocked out of soccer for, like, the rest of the spring season. I was out of school for a month and a half and then I didn't actually return to the soccer field until the middle of August. And I thought when things were at its worst, I was never gonna play again. I felt like I was never gonna be able to run or, like, head the ball or anything that was vitally important to me as a centerback. So, I picked up a camera. My dad always took photos of us growing up. Sports primarily. So cameras were around the the house all the time, so it wasn't a super big stretch to pick one up. But I had never taken a class or really dove into it before. But I couldn't talk to anyone or really do much because I hurt my head, so I got a camera and laid around my house and my family had a dog at the time and just took a bunch of photos. And photography just kind of ended up sticking. It' been 6 or 7 years since then and it has just kinda morphed into this now and the summer going into my senior or junior year was my biggest sense of growth within photography. Because my older brother, Jake, and one of my best friends in the whole world, Lucas, the three of us just decided to be tourists in our own city. So we spent the entire summer going and doing all the things that you should've already done by this stage in your life in St. Louis. So we went everywhere from Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play, Anheuser Busch brewery and we had a camera in hand for the entire summer. During that time, we invited people to come shoot with us and all three of us fell in love with the craft of it. It just stuck. I really just love photographing people. Living their everyday life.
- That's what you immediately notice from your Instagram.
- Yeah, I find posing difficult to work with, so if I can just capture you in the moment. A lot of my favorite photos have existed by me just sitting my camera next to me and at one point of the conversation I'll just pick up my camera, take one photo, and then just put it away. And that's the photo that ends up being the photo. It's led me into some really cool convos and in areas that I feel like I had no place in being. But it's also nice to have in your back pocket, because it allows you to offer a service that not everyone can. That directly can contribute to a business like marketing. That tell a story of your product. I can give that and not everyone can, so that's pretty special. I before I left and moved to Charlotte I moved away from shooting and started coordinating. Because I didn't want to leave them be slacking for business. So I brought another photographer with me and kind of coach them and train them and give them opportunities to shine, so by the time that I left this business could use this other photographer because that connection had already been made. And dogs are phenomenal. I've always had a family dog, but when I started dating Madison, she had a dog and she's been around dogs her whole life and it's one of her big passions. I think that up until then, I think I realized my family dog was always my family dog. Obviously I loved my family dog, but it was never mine. And I was really introduced to what dog ownership was like with the bond that you develop between that and it made me suuuuper soft when it came to dogs. But that's definitely something that will be a part of my life forever now.
- I guess two more. Inspiration, role models. Do you have any in particular? One or a couple?
- For sure. I think there are two that come to my mind immediately. One of them is a gal named Lynn Greenemay. I've spoken of her previously, she's the store manager at the store that I work in. And she's been part of my life for four years and I've learned more from her than I've learned from anybody in my entire life. Obviously from the business side of my life, but also the whole concept with the ability to look within, that's something that she taught me. She gave words to something that I had been feeling when I was like, 19-20 years old. I didn't know how to verbalize it and that's something that I've learned how to do from her and invested in. I would say she is someone that makes me want to be a better person, whether it is in or outside of the store. She holds herself to such a high standard, so being in her presence it makes you want to hold yourself to the same standard. She for sure. Then there's another gentleman, his name is Jake McKenzie, out of Nashville. Long story short, he's had a crazy upbringing. He's lived in a lot of households, being raised by a lot of different people. Sometimes knew his family, didn't know his family. He's just to me the definition of hard work. And loving people. It's so interesting how we met. It was obscure. Someone from Lulu corporate connected me with this girl named Helen, so I had this call with Helen. We talked for an hour and half on the phone and she was like, "You need to talk to this guy named Jake, he's down in Orlando." So Jake and I got on the phone one day and I was like, 'I literally have no idea why we're talking, Helen told me that we had to talk. I don't know I'm talking to you but I trust we'll figure it out.' And that was three years ago. Ya know, four weeks ago I was just one of his groomsmen in his wedding and the realationship has just built. I think everything we've done inside of Lululemon or anything that's happened outside of it, he's had happen to him. Just earlier than I have. So when I was changing jobs, he did that but a year earlier so he had a whole year of experience to figure it out. When I'm experiencing something in my relationship that's new to me, I go to Jake because he's had that. So he continuously is that person I go to for advice. I'm always watching his every move. Just in constant awe of how he lives his life. There aren't too many relationships I have that I'm not learning something from. My dad always said if you're the smartest, or best looking, or most successful person in the room, you're in the wrong room so get out. So I can genuinely say that everyone around me in my life I can draw from. Those two are just the ones that stand out.
- And even with us. I can say that as a friend now, based on the convos we've had, I can say the exact same thing about you. Learning about things I haven't known or different perspectives on things I thought I had nailed down.
- Yeah! But even that. Like I know we've said, 'It makes sense that we would be friends.' because there is that desire to you know; even with this whole blog. Like, it's not normal for an NFL wide receiver to write a blog on the side. But it's you pushing yourself to that next level of like, 'What else can I do?' and ' What else can I offer?" So even that to me, I'm like when was the last time I gave myself the freedom outside of Lulu to do something creative. So we jive so well and I was like, well that makes sense. It's not by accident.
- And then lastly. I wrote a piece a few posts ago about the term I live by. Do you have a phrase or term that you try to live your life by?
- Yeah. When I was in eight grade I heard a quote that changed my whole perception on life. He's am musician, author, thinker, speaker, he's brilliant. His name is Joel Houston. He and his group were going to really broken down parts of Africa and doing missionary work there. He was talking about how he thought he was going to come in and have this very 'God concept'. Like going in they're going to heal people and save people. His world was turned upside down because he saw that these folks were so happy. But he ended this interview, he said,
"At the very core of who we are, we all crave the very same thing. I think that it goes beyond knowledge, wealth, success, or even meaning. From the beggar to the thief, from the famous to the faceless, everyone needs love."
SO I heard that when I was in eight grade. I was like, 'Woah!' Everyone needs love I resonate with that. But beggar/thief and famous/faceless didn't mean anything to mean eight grade because I was just where I was then. And as I've gotten older, famous and faceless are really easy to identify in today's society. Like, you see the haves and the have nots easily. Poverty is a real thing. And it's really simple when you look at that and say 'Everyone needs love'. But where I've seen it to be even more challenging is the idea that you have no idea what someone is going through. You don't know what has led people up to this exact moment. And the constant reminder that everyone needs love, everyone is just craving that. What can I turn to, what can I do to feel the most loved. At the end of the day that's all that it is.
- Whether they admit it or not, yeah, I agree.
- Right! And it's also caused me to look at myself more honestly. When I think back to college when I was just doing stupid things. I could craft up this beautiful reason as to why I was doing it, but at the end of the day I just wanted someone to be there for me and accept me. that caused me to be in stupid relationships and you see even now, people even do things really spitefully. And trying to make the world something that it doesn't need to be? But they're probably lacking love. They're probably lacking relationships and that sense of belonging. And you cant fault them too much for that. But you can at least call it out and see where they're coming from. I think that if you can find how to offer that love, that's the best gift you could ever give. So I think that's what takes me through day to day and I would definitely say that's the thing that's most present on my mind.