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Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning in to a Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a Veteran, Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, or a family member, this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show .
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:22 Hi everybody today my guest is Christian Lopez. Christian served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion and had his own eventful transition out of the military, which between his time in the military and his transition out, has led him to where he is now with his company, American Savage and his mission to serve Veterans. So welcome to the show Christian, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?
Christian Lopez: 00:00:48 Hey Scott, thanks for having me. So, my name is Christian. I was in the 3rd Ranger Battalion from 2007 to 2011. What prompted me to basically join the military, I didn't have a military background per se, as far as my family goes or anything of that nature. I lost a scholarship to play football, so I got an injury, tried to bounce back from the injury. I wanted to continue on that path where I felt like I was doing something or I felt good about myself, and a team oriented environment. And that's what led me to the military. I had a rough start from the beginning. I grew up in Southern California. So, being in Georgia, Fort Benning, I wasn't acclimated to the heat down there.
Christian Lopez: 00:01:45 And in July of 2007, I had a heat stroke. My temperature was almost 108 degrees and my liver, kidney failure, and was hospitalized for a couple of day,s the whole bit and then I was supposed to be getting out of the military from that. So I basically fought to stay in, when that happened. I was just dead set that I'd already lost a scholarship to play football. And I was like, I'm not losing this. I'm going to be a Ranger. I'm going to be a Ranger. And I pretty much begged to stay in. And at the time it was the Ranger indoctrination program, which we called RIP and they let me come back. So I went back again, this happened in July, 2007. I came back in October, I passed it and then I went on to serve the remainder of my enlisted contract, my four and a half years, with the Ranger Battalion.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:02:44 Yeah. Awesome. And so that process that you went through the Ranger indoctrination program, it was basically like your way of getting into the Rangers at some point, is that right?
Christian Lopez: Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: So, that had to be mentally challenging overcoming that setback with the heat stroke, and then trying to get back into that and doing that where your doubting yourself, like maybe I'm not cut out for this thing through your mind, of course.
Christian Lopez: 00:03:23 Up until that injury, I had been playing football, I'd never really experienced failure, that was on me, that was me. Right. I remember that first initial feeling where it was like, oh, I felt weak, you know? I might not be as good as I think I am, or I didn't know what to think. Really. It was just my first, I couldn't bounce back from it. And then when that happened I didn't even see it coming. It wasn't anything that I probably could have prevented but I remember feeling really weak at the time again. And I felt like I'm not accepting this failure or I took it as a failure and I did feel weak from it.
Christian Lopez: 00:04:15 I just remember, I was like, I'm not going to stop until I get through this. So that was a major mental barrier to overcome where I just said, I just locked it in my mind. I was like, I don't care what they already saw, what they had seen. Don't put me into the hospital. So I had an idea of what to expect but I was like, I'm going to go through them and do it again. And, I'll do whatever it takes to get my scroll. That's basically what my way of thinking was.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:04:48 And from what I know from other people, I didn't go through RIP or anything like that but from what I know of other people who have gone through like Navy Seal training or other more intense training like that, you have to just have that mindset of, I'm not going to fail, no matter what, I'm going to keep going, and I'm going to keep doing this and no matter what I'm going to just keep going. I've talked to people who've completed stuff with either broken limbs or whatever. And they just keep going and they don't stop, you know?
Christian Lopez: 00:05:31 Yeah. That's, I think, what I learned there. I think the biggest takeaway I learned there was when you want to quit, you don't realize really how much you're more capable of going through. So when that feeling, when something like, oh, this is hard, or I don't know if I can do this, when you can, just when you can set that aside and just keep going, You know, it's you who measures yourself at what you're actually able to do. So that's what I did when I ran myself into each road. So I remember it was a 10 mile run and then, after the first five miles, I was dead, it was 105 degrees at seven in the morning. So I remember being like, oh my God, I'm so glad that's over.
Christian Lopez: 00:06:23 And they said, turn around, we're doing it again. And I was like, there's no way, in my head. I was like, there's no way that we're actually going to be doing it again. And if they're just trying to make more people quit or whatever. That's kinda what I had thought about it. And, we did it again. And I remember every step on the way I was like, okay, when are they going to say, all right, you guys are done. And it never happened, that step never came. So I just basically locked it in my mind. And it was like, just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you finish. Yeah, I did finish. And then that's when I collapsed.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:07:02 I forget who said it now, and this is going to drive me nuts to try to remember the guy's name, but anyways, they came up with this theory, it's called a 40% rule, like when you're ready to quit, when your body tells you that you're ready to quit, that when your mind tells you that you're ready to quit with any physical thing, you've only really done about 40% of what you're capable of. Like, you can push yourself to keep going. And that was probably right around the right ballpark for you, because right around five miles, you said to yourself pretty much spent, and that was about halfway there. And, you turned around and you did the whole thing over again, and you were ready at that five miles to just be done.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:07:48 And so it seems like that's pretty much spot on,
Christian Lopez: Yeah, that is.
Scott DeLuzio: Unfortunately, you did push yourself to probably over a hundred percent. And I imagine that the training that you went through in the Ranger Battalion and and even on your deployments working up to the deployments and all that stuff was probably more intense than your typical soldier, typical infantrymen maybe even, would have gone through as well. So having that mindset to get you through all of that was probably a blessing,
Christian Lopez: 00:08:27 It was definitely great, laid the foundation for being in the battalion. I don't want to say it was easy, but once you get there, it's like trying out for the all stars is what it felt like. The process of training and getting onto that team is the hardest part. And now you're in with these great leaders and other people that have been doing it for a while, or you have other peers, they're all people that want to excel. They want to be the best, if you're the best at something, I want to be better than you. So everybody wants to be better, it's that competition that pushes you further and further and further. So I had some great leadership. I had great training and my time in the military went by so fast. I mean, granted, it was only four and a half years, but it was train train, train, train cycle, six months deployment for four months, roughly four months. So training cycle, deployment, training cycle, deployment. I did that four times and then I'm out.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:09:37 Deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.
Christian Lopez: 00:09:41 Afghanistan three times and Iraq once.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:09:43 Okay, cool. So let's talk about your transition out of the military. So, you've gone through this whole process. You've toughened yourself mentally and probably physically as well. I dunno, coming in as a football player, you're probably pretty tough as it was, so talk about the transition. So when we talked a few weeks ago, you told me it was a pretty eventful transition. So, what was your transition like and what went on in your case?
Christian Lopez: 00:10:17 So I mean, when I first got out I felt like I needed a mental break. It was like being on for four and a half years mentally. And after getting out, what I was looking for was that I just wanted to take a breather, try to figure out what I wanted to do. Previously to the military, my background, I'd only done odd jobs. I call them odd jobs because it's not your typical career path or anything of that nature. I'd done security and I was also a personal trainer. So, after getting out, I didn't really know what I wanted to do after about a year. I decided I wanted to go back to doing personal training.
Christian Lopez: 00:11:05 And I think I was like 26 at that time. So I started back there, started getting my confidence back in there and I'd spent my whole time in. And while I was in Battalion too, I was just writing workout programs. And I got to this mindset where anybody that I would look at everybody, like I would be writing their program the 12 week program for that person in my head. Like, how would I write that person's program? How would I do that? You know, and I would do it for everybody that I come into contact with, even people that I'd see on the streets. I never say it out loud, but that's how I'd say, why would I do this? I do cover the five W's and say, who am I doing it for?
Christian Lopez: 00:11:49 What do I think their goals are? And so, I got really good. I didn't get really good and discover that. I discovered that I guess at some point in the military, I started thinking that way, I guess. And, that part transitioned really well and into my training business. I went full-time, I had clients sticking with me for three, four years at a time. Not because they weren't seeing results, but more so they didn't want to leave my schedule because somebody else was going to be there to replace them. So that was fairly easy for me. I just knew that that was something that I couldn't do forever. And, I've never been a salesman. I've always been, just let my performance show and whatever it is that I'm doing.
Christian Lopez: 00:12:44 So I was like, I'm going to go back to this. I need to go back to school. And prior to the military, I think I'd completed maybe like a year and just a year and change. And the BS courses that you take for your Associates, where it's like, I don't know what I want to do, but you're just going to take every course, you know? I decided to go with business. So I went back to school for my Bachelor's in Business. And then that's when I actually started liking different parts of business. So I was like, Oh, I like Marketing, I've always liked numbers. I've been a math guy my whole life. So I was like, I can do Accounting.
Christian Lopez: 00:13:27 You know, I started thinking about what's more career based. And I started applying for different entry-level jobs. I couldn't get in anywhere, and this was after I graduated. So with a Bachelor's, it was like, no, sorry, you don't have any experience. So I was like, okay I did that. And then I was like, well, and I was doing this while I was training still. And then I decided that I needed a break from training. So I went back to school again for my Master's in Business. And I was like, okay, this is going to get me somewhere. And I put myself through the master's program in business administration, and guess what, no job, nothing came out of it still. So that's when I was like I had different thoughts about the education system and everything else, and it's like, well, where do you find that experience?
Christian Lopez: 00:14:25 If you're not able to go try it anywhere, you know what I mean? So, that's something I've been struggling with. I mean, that's been the whole thing since I graduated, I graduated with my bachelor's in 2014 or 2015. And so that's when it started. So literally these last six years, I've been trying to find something else that is more career oriented, that has longitude in what I'm able to do, building up a sustainable income and everything else and still no luck. So that's been the hardest thing for me after getting out. Basically, what that led to, after seeing a little bit of it in 2016, I was going through a pretty rough time. And I was like, what do I feel is going to make me happy?
Christian Lopez: 00:15:18 I wasn't happy; I was working all the time. I was going to school full-time and then I was so used to just putting one foot in front of the other and not really taking a step back to reflect what I'm actually doing. And basically what it felt like to me was I was waking up and I was simply alive only to go to work, you know? And it didn't really sit well with me so I was like, what's going to make me happy. You know? And that's when I was like, I want more time with my kids. I want to be able to see all my buddies that I used to be in Battalion with, or that were in the military with me.
Christian Lopez: 00:16:01 And, when I actually took a step back to reflect on that; well, am I doing all this right now? And the answer was definitely no. I was seeing the time I was spending with my kids wasn't really quality time. I was so tired all the time that it's like, okay, let's go do something on the weekend. And I would just be like, oh, I'm so tired, I'm burned out from the week, it burned me out. So, I started a company, American Savage and the initial idea was like, I want to do something fun where I can have the whole family involved and we can go around, call it like a vacation. And it's like, how am I going to make that work?
Christian Lopez: 00:16:45 So, that was the foundation of that. Like, how am I going to answer two questions? How can I spend more quality time with my kids? And how can I go see my friends that I don't get to see anymore? So that's when I came up with the concept for American Savage, which for lack of better terms, I called it, it was going to be the traveling circus. I was going to create my own obstacle course, but I was going to go bouncing around and then my thought I'd be running into my buddies a couple of times a year, at least, or even once a year because I was at that point seeing them every five years or some I haven't even seen since I've been out.
Scott DeLuzio: So that's something that works like the Spartan type races. Is that kinda like what you're doing?
Christian Lopez: 00:17:34 I've done it. I've done a couple of Spartans. I enjoyed them. I just left wanting more. So and I think with my background, what I was able to do or what my thought was like, well, how can I leave? How can I do something that, along these lines, a competition and the amount of people that fly across the world to go do these Spartan races, how can I make one that is mine that's going to make people want to show up to mine. So I built it around VR, the idea was that I was building it around four different aspects. So there was an individual performance, which would have been first. So you think the whole Spartan is pretty much an individual performance. There was an individual performance.
Christian Lopez: 00:18:18 I was going to have what I call it, adapting to stress. So what I'd set up was, which nobody really understands what that means until you get thrown into it. So, how I was going to do this is I was going to work with a local, well-known, Airsoft company. So they were going to be setting targets, shooting a move and you have to hit this target X amount of times, or you have to have a tight group after you're already spent, you're out of breath, you're trying to focus and shoot, and it's basically going from a chaotic environment to slowing yourself down to be able to teach people that, because that's something that people, Oh, it's super cool, but what they don't really understand what's happening is you're forcing your body to adapt to stress, which shows you that you can.
Christian Lopez: 00:19:10 So, any stressful situation you encounter, you can definitely endure it and overcome it. You know, it just shows you right there. Anybody can do it. And then the second half of it, I wanted to have a medical portion involved too just like some we had RFR when I was in, I dunno if it's the same thing, Range of first responder, and it's just, I wanted to teach simple things like how to properly apply a tourniquet, how to clean and package a wound or whatever, have some dummies set up squirting the fake blood out and not until you do it right can you move on? So it's still like a competition. It can be time-based all of this, but you're also learning something while you're under an amount of stress, you're going to remember that forever. Right. You know what I mean?
Christian Lopez: 00:20:02 And that's one of the biggest things in the military. I learned that you know how to be calm during the chaos and that slow is smooth, smooth is fast where you think you're going slow motion, but in reality you're efficient and you're doing it with the right mindset. So it was a way of forcing people into doing that by just saying, Hey, come and do this obstacle course where they have no idea what's happening to them, but it was a lot. There's a lot of the psychological aspects involved with it too. And then to end with it the fourth and final piece, which I feel is the most important. That goes in with what I'm all about is you can do a lot and you do a lot of good stuff on your own, which you're always going to be able to do more with the right people and the right people, they're going to vary for everybody.
Christian Lopez: 00:20:56 But when we talk for the majority of us, it's our family, it's the people we live with obviously, our close friends. And so to go through something like that stimulates the chaotic environment, which shows that you can do it better as a team. So that's why I was going to have it like a team, a teamwork piece where you finish as a team. So you know, if you go through it initially on your own. And you're like, man, that sucks. And then you're trying to adapt. You're trying to control your breathing. And then you got to learn something and then you've finished as a team where you're going to leave that day you're going to know something you didn't know, you're going to know stuff about yourself.
Christian Lopez: 00:21:43 That's what the biggest piece is. You know, it brings about self-awareness. So that was the whole psychological aspect behind it, because anybody could do a workout and you can, half-ass it. I could throw a workout up and I've seen people half-ass it. And even with the Spartan race you see people, they go in and they'll walk it; they're not pushing themselves to an extent and they might be going at their full capacity, but this just adds a different dimension to it, which I feel it just encompasses better in a more well-rounded way.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:22:14 Yeah. That sounds like the ultimate, , , races where it’s not only a physical thing, but it's also mental, and you have to really have control over all aspects of yourself in order to do well at this. Now, from what I understand, the COVID situation that we all rushed into last year, put these plans on the back burner a little bit. Is that right?
Christian Lopez: 00:22:49 Oh yeah. It basically blew it up initially, That's what I had started and that's what I've been building basically. I took that vision and I said before I even started, 'cause I didn't want to start anything half-assed; I wanted it to be perfect as perfect as can be. Right. So I worked backwards and everything was lining up. Everything was lined up to go and take off last year, I was going to hold two events last year. And luckily there wasn't any money exchange or any big things like that, but the planning and stuff was in motion. Two different venues were in place and then COVID hit and everything was gone. Yeah. So I was just like, that was hard because the first, like I would say probably six months, I was just like, I don't even know what to do.
Christian Lopez: 00:23:43 I feel like I just wasted four years of my life. I'm too old to be doing this. Like what am I doing? What is that? I set myself back, I'm setting my kids back. I couldn't help but think all that, you know? And then just trying to bounce back out of it and reinvent the wheel over here. I joke about it and say it that way, but it took me a lot longer than I'd like to admit to take the step back that I've been talking about and take the tactical pause and assess everything and to really see was it a complete and total failure? Definitely not. You know that now that that's in the back pocket, so in the event that everything starts opening up again, then we can start doing stuff like that.
Christian Lopez: 00:24:34 But I learned a lot again, I learned to look at it in a different way. It's not just, oh, it wasn't a complete loss. This isn't the end of my life. Obviously there's other things I can do. Andjust luckily I'm pretty creative. So, I was blessed with a creative imagination. So being able to come up with some other things and everything else to move forward has been good.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:25:06 Yeah. And having that resilient mindset too, probably from your time in the military, helped you be in that mindset so that when some adverse situation like COVID took place, you didn't just throw in the towel and say, well, screw it. I can't do this or that it's the end of the world, or whatever the case may be. So I think your mindset there really helped you overcome that and not just throw in the towel. Like a lot of other businesses, it forced you to pivot. So, what are some of the things that you've been working on since then?
Christian Lopez: 00:25:53 So after my sad pity party for about six months, that's what I call. I mean, that's literally what it was. I was just like, oh my God, I don't want to do anything. You know? And after feeling sorry for myself, I just had to have that look in the mirror that talk with myself, like don't bitch out on this, this is your livelihood. You don't have time to waste, you're doing this because you value your time. So why are you wasting it? I had to have that internal conversation and squash all that out of me, like, okay, let's go and attack the day now and let's start figuring something else out. So that word resilient, that word means a lot to me because exactly what you said, it's that mindset.
Christian Lopez: 00:26:40 I had that since I was younger, I was always a kid that somebody's playing sports, like, oh, you're not good at this. Like, it didn't make me like, oh, I don't want to go back to practice. I would go home and I would practice on that until I could come back and be better. I'm better than you now. You know, that's always been my mindset. It was never, oh, I'm not good at something; I'm just going to shy away from it. I don't want to be embarrassed or anything like that. It was like, okay, I'm going to come back. And I'm just going to work on it and I'm going to get better. And the military just pretty much enhanced that for me. So it just led me to the ultimate resilience, I guess. What I went through in terms of being hospitalized and wanting to med chapter me out of the Army to just say, no, that was the easy way out.
Christian Lopez: 00:27:33 I could have taken that way out and I chose not to. So going back to fight, that's always just going to be my spirit. Right. So, I've been working on a project called Project Resilience. So what it is is I'm working now on creating a program for Veterans where, it's basically, I call it a two-step program. So what it does is it ties something that you can do every day, right? Because a lot of the companies that I've seen, like in the nonprofits and stuff, there's a lot that are doing great work and they have all the great work and they're hosting events every couple of months and they're doing all this stuff, but there's a lot of time in between.
Christian Lopez: 00:28:28 that you can be doing something. So what I'm working on is, getting Veterans free, personal training, which I would be doing the programming for them and, alongside that, getting them free therapy. So with those two together, I feel like there's no way that you can come out of that in a worse state than you might already be. You know? And a lot of people don't really think they need therapy. I was one of those people. And you don't know where to start. I don't even want to call it, something's wrong with me, but I want to talk to somebody about this. I can talk to my wife. I can't talk to anybody else there.
Christian Lopez: 00:29:10 They don't understand, whatever the reasoning might be that you have. It'll vary between every individual, but what I was trying to do is, or what I'm trying to do is be able to locate a solid therapist for people in every state. And in the event that I can't do that we get any issues or questions or concerns that you might have and want the answers, we get those over to a specialist in that area and they provide a video that's not directly towards you, but it's general, so we can put it up on a website and anybody can go to it and say how many of us are going through very similar stuff or have gone through the same stuff. And we go, Oh, man, that sounds just like me.
Christian Lopez: 00:29:59 Oh, that sounds exactly like me. I've gone through that or I'm going through that. So to have that for other people to see, it's not going to just reach that one individual, I think overall, it's going to be able to reach thousands of people and it can happen like this; so right now in the works of actually getting it up and running, I've been training a few guys for free for the better part of the last year. Anyway, that's something that makes me feel good and because of the support that I've gotten through my company, I'm able to do that so I'm able to not have to take away from that to go work a job that I don't want to work. Right.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:42 Yep. And that's the ultimate freedom like you're saying that you can do the things that you want to do that make you feel the way you want to feel, have time with your kids, do things that are enjoyable and meaningful to you, and ultimately get to help people along the way. And that's really a great thing that you're doing for these Veterans, Christian, it's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today. Where can people go to either get in touch with you and find out more about American Savage,
Christian Lopez: 00:31:27 You can go to my website, AmericanSavage.co. My Instagram is pretty much the same thing, American,Savage.Inc. And in the near future, just definitely be looking for some of these big sponsors that we've got lined up. I'm working with some great people. And like I said, we've got some pretty well-known big name sponsors that want to be a part of this as well, too. So, which is great. It's just going to help to reach people that we can get this out to so it's coming soon.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:32:06 Awesome. Well, thank you again, for joining me, really, really enjoyed it. And I'm looking forward to what you have coming up in the future.
Christian Lopez: 00:32:17 Oh, thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:32:20 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at DriveOnPodcast.