I grew up with two HUGE passions in life –one was to be a personal trainer and open up my own gym one day
(which I accomplished), and the other was to be a firefighter (which I also accomplished)
I also had another passion: I wanted to be a professional wrestler but that’s a topic for another day…;)
I don’t have a cool story about how I lost weight or anything like that but I got the fitness bug 18 years ago. I was 12 and I remember going to Canadian Tire with my grandma and I noticed these Weider weights on the shelves. My grandmother bought them for me and I’ve been training since.
Growing up I wasn’t good with my hands- I didn’t show that mechanical ability, My dad can fix ANYTHING but the apple fell way far from the tree with me!! No offense to my dad, because really I have the best parents in the world, he just wasn’t the best teacher for me. I’m glad to see my two and a half year old son is picking up where his grandpa’s son left off..
When I turned 17, two very important things happened in my life. My journey in the fitness industry began and I became a volunteer firefighter.
At 17, that seems to be a bit old to have your first job right? I couldn’t find a job for the life of me. Everywhere I looked you needed experience and my thought process was – how can I get life experience if I can’t work?
Sackville Sports Stadium in Nova Scotia gave me that chance! After much deliberation and the passion they saw in me, I started to clean the cardio equipment, didn’t matter if the members were using them or not.
Then one day my boss told me I had to start speaking to the members because I was extremely shy and she basically said if I don’t then I could lose my job so I jumped into the unknown territory of opening myself up to strangers and the weirdest sensation started to happen. I was actually enjoying it and that really opened up the flood gates!
One day there was an open house at Hammonds Plains FD in Nova Scotia. I was so excited to see what they had to offer and a volunteer firefighter saw this but the only problem was I needed to be 18, to join as a volunteer. I was devastated but he saw something in me and put in a good word to the fire chief (Whom I remain good friends with to this day) and they let me in. They accepted me.
Fast forward a few years from working at a different gym and after serving four years as a volunteer. I wanted to join the military as a firefighter because there was a guy named Dave working out at Sackville Sports Stadium telling me about the trade, the military and such and it really spiked my interest!
I wrote the recruitment test only to find out that my score wasn’t high enough to qualify to become a firefighter. The only trade I remember that was on that sheet was a steward. Nothing against stewards but that wasn’t in the plans for me so I went back to the drawing board.
I bought an aptitude test book- YES I studied for the aptitude test!! I worked my butt off. Once I felt I was ready I went to the recruitment office again and this time only to find out the trade was closed!! That didn’t stop me though, and every two weeks I would drop by to the office in downtown Halifax to see if the trade was open. It got to the point where they knew me by name and then came by lucky day! The trade FINALLY was open so I wrote the test and one of my options was a firefighter as well as other trades like a combat diver (combat diver these people are the best of the best when it comes to diving. They work with explosives. Enough said)
Little did I know I probably should have picked the combat diver. I will get there in a minute but as my parents used to say one door opens another when one closes so I’m not upset with the choice I made. Everything happens for a reason.
What I’m about to say here very few people know about. Only the people that are close to me know and the reason why I’m coming out with this now is because I’m finding closure on it and hopefully this can help someone else.
Basic training started, I had NO idea what I was in for! But I wasn’t going to give up because I had my dream in the palm of my hand!
Little to my knowledge if you make mistakes in basic training like your inspection is bad or dirt on your boots you get marks taken away from you and too many marks – they kick you out.
I think I had about 16 marks against me before they kicked me out and 12 was actually the last straw before they kicked you out of platoon.
The reason why I think they didn’t kick me out at mark #12 was because everyone liked me and most importantly I was respectful.
Anyways they put me on PRETC(which stands for personnel awaiting training) because I was going to start on another platoon all they way at the beginning week one day one and this time basic training they extended it from nine weeks to 14 weeks but I didn’t care I had my DREAM in the palm of my hand!
This was such an inspiration that I didn’t give up that my old platoon. They named a fake operation after me in the field. Operation BISBEE! I would be lying if that didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. For the first time ever St. Jean Quebec at the MEGA (where basic training is held) there was an operation called a student’s name! COOL!
So I start with this other platoon and things start gelling right away! I feel I’m fitting in a lot more with everyone and the best part is this time I didn’t get ANY marks against me!
Graduation rolls around and the thing that impressed me the most about it were my old instructors all shook my hand that felt really good.
After graduation some of us got sent to different parts of Ontario to do our trades training (which is called QL3’s in military lingo. I HAD A BLAST! And I averaged around a 92 per cent
Towards the end of the course we got to choose where in Canada where we wanted to work at. My first choice was Calgary but Calgary wasn’t an option so I chose Edmonton. Edmonton was what I wanted since day one I wanted to be close to Calgary. I’ve loved Alberta since I was 16 and I still love it!
I was all set to go to Edmonton but there was one problem: two guys in my class started to become really good friends and one guy was going to Edmonton while the other guy was going to Cold Lake. Well one of the guys wrote an essay to the instructors saying how Cold Lake wasn’t good for his social life, so guess who got sent to Cold Lake instead!!! ME!!
I was devastated! I had it in my hands only for it to be taken away but the thing that got me was the essay part. This is the military we are talking about you shut your mouth and you obey and you take orders. At that point someone in my class who I hardly knew took me in. He made me realize that Cold Lake wasn’t so bad as we were both going to the same place and we formed a strong bond. So strong in fact that the joke that his wife used to say was I was their lost son and because of that I enjoyed the personal side of things in Cold Lake.
I was totally unprepared for the mind fuck that was about to happen!!! We get to Cold Lake and we had to report in to the firehall and I needed a haircut extremely bad because it didn’t meet military code so I didn’t worry about it because I really didn’t have time to go looking for a barber, I had to report in to the firehall but what a big mistake!
Right when I get there the Sgt. looks at me suspiciously and I’m thinking “crap, crap, crap” he yells at me and I get sent to the deputy fire chief and I get reamed at! Talk about forming a very good first impression and creating a target on my back for something that was out of my hands.
At this time I’m still coming out of my shell believe it or not I was still shy…Part of our on the job training we had to do power point presentations and talk about what you know to your crew like chainsaws, forest fires, and how to work the fire trucks to give you an example.
Well this threw me for a loop!!! I didn’t see this coming at all. I always hated doing presentations in front of people and once again I stepped out of my comfort zone!
Still very nervous and the boys see this too. It got so bad that they would deliberately interrupt my presentations because they knew I would lose track of what to say and I would be at a loss for words.
As all of this was happening I would see my platoon chief every shift we would have a private meeting because I knew there was something wrong but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I couldn’t blame the guy for not believing me because he didn’t know my background. My first shift on his crew though I told him that I’m a bit slow but once I get it, I understand it for life-that’s just who I am.(looking back on it now I also could have been more prepared with the lectures and more confident in my ability to speak).
So my boss puts a hold on my training because he thought I had learning difficulty and this was after a bunch of screw ups on my part.
This is when the downward spiral begins.
My training was put on hold for a very long time because things move extremely slow in the military. Change has to go through the proper chain of command so during this time I start thinking about opening up my personal training business and working on my lectures (THE RIGHT WAY- what my boss told me to do) because I was put in the fire prevention cell.
The Battle between fire and weights
At this time this is when the Bisbee’s logo came to fruition- I was getting help starting up my business that the military provided me with and she knew someone that designed the World Junior Hockey team logo who designed it for me and it turned out extremely nice!
At this point I realized though I had to give up something and I realized I had to give up my credentials as an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) Personal Trainer because firefighting was paying the bills and where I was at. It needed my 150 per cent undivided attention.
During all of this time in Cold Lake I was letting people walk all over me. I really didn’t know how to go about it because the military jail petrified me so I let it happen.
The warrant officer in the fire prevention cell he sat me down and said that I had to start standing up for myself. I really took this to heart – a guy that everyone respects is telling me that I should do something about it so I kept it under advisement.
Bad gets to worse, before I finally get put on another crew, I am sent to see a neurologist in Edmonton because of my “learning difficulty” after doing a day of tests he told me what I already knew and what I told my boss the first day I met him. I’m slow but once I get it I get it for life.
The doctor said you know the turtle and the hare? Well you’re the turtle.
He also said that I can still do my job but they will probably use this against me. At this point I was getting really mad because this is exactly what I told my first boss on my first shift.
Another 4 or 5 months goes by without being put on crew and my career in jeopardy. I knew at this point the military was trying to kick me out they just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t really anything wrong with me.
The day finally arrives that I get put back on crew and I was READY! There was NO WAY anything was going to happen this time. I prepared all my power point presentations for my OJT(On the job training) package while I was in the fire prevention cell.
There was one presentation that I started to do, I believe it was on forest fires, and I did this lecture in front of the fire prevention cell and it was really good. Anyways the end of the lecture comes up and I start to answer questions there was a guy nicknamed “Fudge” (I didn’t want to know how that started) but everyone in the hall was calling him that instead of his normal name so I make a joke trying to fit in and I said “according to Fudge…” everyone laughed but he didn’t.
He said the next time you call me Fudge I’m going to give you a part 5 (that’s military lingo for writing you up.. VERY BAD) and right away I knew there was something seriously wrong. How can everyone call him this but I can’t??
Anyways the lectures didn’t pan out so well even though they were up to standard by everyone else it wasn’t good enough for this crew (But things that make you go hmm: I gave my presentations to a friend of mine on crew and he went on back to Borden to do more training.
At this point I was mad I did everything that my old boss asked of me and to see that this wasn’t standardized it was a joke.
Third Degree Burn
One night at the dinner table the new guy on the crew that they were treating as the golden boy making fun of my speech. I calmly said to him the next time you do that there is going to be trouble. What does he do? He tells the boss on me! I thought this was the military!?
At this point I had it. Four years and not really getting anywhere I call up my mother heartbroken and I said that I put in my release. She surprised me by her response. She said I’m surprised you made it this long what you went through I would have been done years ago.
It takes six months for your release process in the military. During this time I met an amazing woman in Southern Alberta who happens to be my wife now.
Light at the end of the tunnel
I was at a very dark point in my life though. I knew I wanted to stay in Alberta to be with her but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.
I lost my ambition and drive because of what happened to me in the military. Sarah saw past that though and new there was something great underneath all of the dark stuff that I was showing.
During all of this time I mentioned to her about opening up a personal training studio where we live at called Brooks. Brooks is a small town located in Southern Alberta. I didn’t want to do it because it was the unknown I have never been so scared in my life, what happens if I fail? I would be out of all this money. Well after much coaxing and talking to her dad (entrepreuneur at heart. HE started a transportation business 20 years ago and recently sold it for a good sum of money) I opened up my studio and I haven’t looked back!
I also went back to school to get my personal training certification again and we were the first ones from this school to graduate. Elevated Learning Academy. I received my ACE certification and my diploma in Personal Fitness Training. If you are interested in becoming a trainer I recommend checking these guys out!
2011, I opened up Bisbee’s Fitness Experience in Brooks, Alberta and I have been running it ever since.
What’s the moral of this story??
When one door opens another one closes. An icon in the fitness industry says “Live a Life Worth Telling” What is YOUR Story and once you find out what your story is, you can make a mark in this world.
Although I had some really bad hardships the military wasn’t all doom and gloom it provided me with some really good valuable life long lessons.
My old boss would be proud – he harped on this from the start.
ALWAYS Think on your feet. PREPARE yourself for the next step ALWAYS!
(This has helped me run my personal training studio- training clients because they would come in sick or a little bit injured and so I had to change the program up.)
I also have no issue doing presentations and talking to strangers. I can probably talk to 200 people now without losing my thoughts. IT’S ABOUT CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF! Once you find these things you will be unstoppable!
I could have went to the media and been a whistle blower about what happened to me in the military but that just isn’t me and I really think this can help people, with whatever they are facing in their life!
I really got over this a few years ago- I made a journal of all the stuff that happened to me but you know what at the end of the day it’s not worth it to carry this load on your shoulders so I had a really good bonfire one night. 😉
Maybe I am looking for some validation from this because I know there are a few really good friends that I lost contact over the years be it in the military or when I was a volunteer firefighter. I don’t want them to feel I wasted tax payer dollars and I just feel they don’t know the whole story until now..
*The names of the guilty (and innocent) are protected and I will never share that!*