Teamwork is important! As someone that has labeled himself as a lone wolf for the majority of my life and career! I can attribute a lot of my success outside of athletics and in the world of business towards having the right team and systems implemented and in place! I still encourage others to have multiple skills so that they can wear more hats than one!
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eren Legend.
Eren Legend is an IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders) Canadian Gold Medalist, sought after celebrity trainer, World Champion, guest speaker & entrepreneur. Training actors such as Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time), Pablo Schreiber (Halo TV series) & Ricky Whittle (American Gods TV show) has made Legend a go to fitness expert. Serious dedication to his success and the best way of getting there has made Legend a respected member of the fitness community. Winner of many championship awards in bodybuilding has put the body building champion at the top of his game and kept his entrepreneurial spirit alive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My name is Eren Legend I was born and raised in Ottawa Canada and I have currently been living in Toronto for the past 5 years. I’ve always been very passionate about Athletics as well as being involved in any entertainment-related pursuits. Being the youngest of three brothers I had a lot of influence from them to pursue a career in Nutritional Health and Wellness!
My parents immigrated here to Canada in the 70s, and although we weren’t poor, we never lived outside of our means! Growing up was a little bit hard seeing other families always have more than we did. At the time I didn’t appreciate why our family did things so differently, why we would never attend events or activities, or even go on trips… Discipline was something cemented within our family from a very young age.
I later grew to appreciate my upbringing and how my parents raised me. I can now be grateful for the morals and ethics my childhood has instilled within me and allowed me to command more of myself, as well as give me the skills to develop stronger leadership traits.
I attended Algonquin College, initially enrolled in Business Administration however dropped out after the first semester. I decided to pursue Fitness and Health as I knew I was more passionate about that industry overall. Funny enough I hadn’t known then that I would go on to work 14 occupations and launch over +30 companies. I had never been academically inclined, although I had taken multiple IQ tests as a child, all resulted in being labeled as “gifted” and I was offered the options of skipping a grade.
Despite that, school was never quite for me, and although I was penalized through the schooling system, I simply knew that I had perceived education as a whole and the academic system entirely different than others had.
I graduated from college and at that same time, I had to move from one end of the city to the other due to some family issues. Thereafter, I was able to secure a job as a Private Professional Fitness and Health Consultant which was the catalyst and first step towards the life that I’m living right now.
While employed as a Fitness and Health Consultant, I was able to develop and gain even more knowledge than what I had learned through college, this allowed me to coach a multitude of clients towards their wellness goals while implementing a variety of elite methods.
While focused on developing continued educational skills within my craft, I had no idea that working within that performance center I would eventually begin my career towards becoming a Professional Athlete.
I was approached by the owner of the performance center, and he had mentioned to me that a new division within the world of physique competitions was emerging. I had no interest in competing simply because I had viewed the fitness industry at that time as a very self-absorbed and narcissistic industry. I felt that I had more to offer academically than simply how my physique looks. Also, the fitness industry was riffed with steroid abuse and that was something that I knew my parents were highly against.
I proposed the idea to my father and he supported my pursuits, on one condition.
That I would stay natural and drug-free from banned substances and remain a clean athlete throughout my career. He mentioned that he would pay for my flights, hotel stays, registrations, food, supplements, travels, etc… His only condition was that I had to say no to steroids!
…And so the journey began.
The objective was to make history for Canada while remaining true to myself as a natural athlete. This had largely been considered impossible at the time. We began on the journey together, my father and I, and he supported me at the majority of my competitions! We were able to go on to make history winning the first-ever World champion title for Canada as well as a Gold medal which allowed Canada to remain as the top 5 ranked country during that international world event! It was even more of an honor because the World championships had not been held in Canada, since the conception of the “Worlds” in the 70s. An honor to represent my country and have the support of all the remaining Team Canada Athletes cheering me on through my victory.
I, later on, went to compete within the Pro leagues upon earning my World Champion title which gained me access to compete as a professional athlete. Yet again I was able to mark history for Canada by securing a 1st place win at the Vancouver Pro Show in 2015 which holds history as the first Canadian Men’s physique athlete to win an IFBB Pro Show, and in Canada on top of that! I was able to represent Canada at the Olympia stage which is the largest stage for competition, where even Arnold Schwarzenegger retained the Mr. Olympia title 7 times!
Through achieving this I was able to secure almost every supplement sponsorship imaginable with all the top athletes and had incredible opportunities to travel around the world, being compensated to meet my fans as well as teach seminars and network globally through multiple magazine features as well as public speaking engagements and a multitude of collaborations of all sorts!
I had decided to retire at the end of 2016 due to having achieved what I had initially set out to do, which was competing at the Mr. Olympia showdown as a natural athlete and be the first to notably represent Canada in my division on that stage!
In the interim, I had been focusing on Legend Fitted apparel which started to gain a lot of traction, and then I was approached to train celebrities for the American God’s season 2 show being filmed in Toronto. I had the honors of training Pablo Schreiber as well as Ricky Whittle! Both notable stars truly instilled a different type of drive and work ethic within me which was unimaginable for me at the time! This reignited my passion for training and I decided to get back into coaching full-time all while still balancing multiple occupations! I went on to coach a few more celebrities over the years however I do enjoy training everyday clientele and helping them achieve better body awareness!
My work ethic as a professional athlete and the discipline that I learned through training had transcended into multiple forms of business and networking! I always knew that I would be doing what I’m doing at this moment in time from a young age, however, I didn’t take the path that I had initially envisioned. Regardless of the fact, there were many lessons learned along the way.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?
I can’t typically say that a person or thing had inspired me to pursue my career as a high-level professional athlete! However, I can say that at the time when I began my career as an amateur, I had seen a void that needed to be filled! No natural athletes were emerging in Canada, there wasn’t even a conversation at the pro level of what I had been pursuing. I realized that I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to pave the way and cement history.
The inclusion of the men’s physique division was new to the world of competition, therefore there was a very special opportunity to make history!
This motivated me to rise up as a leader and pave the way for others to pursue something which at the time was largely considered impossible. I went on to remain undefeated through my career in the natural amateur stream, and qualified to become a national level athlete only within my first week of competition!
I endured quite a few injuries and much abuse to my body because I was unable to take time off having to go compete show after show to solidify history for Canada… Which I was able to achieve. But at a cost to my health. Also, I had been shooting hundreds of photos for magazine publications.
For me, I had always looked at competing as a business and not a hobby. I believe that attributed to my success! As though being on a project for two or three years going to the gym doing my workouts, cardio, taking the right supplementation, enforcing proper nutrients timing, and getting the adequate amount of hydration, as well rest! It was as though I had a checklist that I frequented everyday repetitively with no margin for error and no social life over the course of 6 years or so.
I wouldn’t change anything about my path, it wasn’t an easy one and I faced a lot of scrutiny from my peers for being able to reach the highest stage of competition without the use of steroids… However, I knew that what I was achieving was bigger than me and I was simply a vessel and catalyst to show and prove to others that it can be achieved too. The goal that I had initially set out for with my father had been achieved.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I can attribute my success as a professional athlete to my father and my brothers! Had my father not giving me his blessings to pursue competition, I would have had an entirely different path! He had supported me for years in so many ways unimaginable, which looking back now, I know that other athletes I had competed with hadn’t had that same opportunity that I did. I can attribute a lot of my success to him being in my corner and always bridging the gap for anything that was going to bring me closer to winning championships.
My oldest brother would leave anatomy books around the house which I used to read at a young age and became fascinated with the human body being an ultimate tool! I know that this instilled a higher interest to master my body and created a voracious desire to learn more about putting myself through different methods of fitness and health! Through this I observed the types of changes small stimuli can make on one’s body! Everything I had learned had been through putting myself into the competitions! All of this transcended beautifully upon how I was able to gain a higher understanding and methodology of training for my clients as well. As their progress increased, I continued to win championships and I gained more knowledge through the nutritional, biomechanical and physiological experiments I held on myself.
My other brother got me into working out and although I never quite enjoyed it at the time, I’m grateful for it as he would always encourage me to get in the gym and train! I had a strong support system from my family and I can only say that all the credit goes to them for inspiring me to commence my journey.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
How I met Arnold Schwarzenegger is a little bit of a long story hahaha!
I was competing at the 2016 Arnold Classics and I was overjoyed to represent Canada on that stage in that event as it would have been the first time Canada was notably being represented within the men’s physique division.
I was grateful for this opportunity having come off of competing at the Olympia and had a ton of support from Canada as well as natural athletes and fans from all around the world going into the show! Still as a natural athlete competing in the Pro leagues (which are not drug tested) was of concern to me, however I was grateful simply for the opportunity and invitation.
I had gone on to compete and was able to secure a first call out position. First call outs essentially means the top athletes have been selected out of all the athletes competing on that stage in that division.
We were told that we would be coming back to compete in the evening only if we had been selected in the first call-outs. Although I had been selecting the first call outs I had never been called back up on stage to perform and fight for my place in the top 10.
They forgot about me…
Because of the association’s mistake, I lost out on the mandatory 1500 USD they were giving to top 10 athletes. This obviously sucked, but something better awaited.
So the evening time had arrived and although I was supposed to be on stage competing for top 10… I hadn’t known at the time that the association had made a mistake and that I was supposed to be getting on stage.
I was simply walking by the entrance to backstage and had my “Professional Athlete Eren Legend” lanyard on when one of the security guards asked if I wanted to go backstage…
I had no interest. However, at the same second current Mr. Olympia Champion Jeremy Buendia was exiting backstage and saw me excitedly, and began to start up a conversation with me as he started walking me through backstage!
Technically I was not allowed to be back there as I wasn’t accepted on the official list of top 10 athletes, even though I was supposed to be on the list due to their mistake.
That same security guard eventually caught on and chased after me to kick me out of backstage however I ran and hid in one of the change rooms before they could find me. I don’t know why I did that hahaha but it was a fun weekend altogether and because of it I was now backstage where I should have been all along but wasn’t allowed to be because of their mistake and unknowingly lost out on the 1500 USD.
While being backstage interviewing Mr. Olympia Champion Jeremy Buendia, Arnold Schwarzenegger (at his own Arnold classic events) emerged backstage! I excitedly went over and got a photo with him and chatted him up for a second or two! And although I was supposed to be on stage and I lost out on the money that I had earned and was entitled to… Meeting Arnold at his event truly is a priceless mistake that I’ll never forget! I can’t necessarily say what the lesson is here, however, I will say that there is usually a divine time for everything and if you stay open-minded to situations sometimes you’ll find yourself in a better place than you could have imagined.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high-stress situations?
1. That’s a great question! For me, I find reverse engineering is one of the most powerful tools that I can us to remind myself of what my goals are and which path and strategies I have to execute to achieve them! As long as I can stay focused on what the ultimate goal is and how it works back towards me, generally, I find it’s easier to remain disciplined towards that said goal!
2. What doesn’t help you only hurts you.
We live in a world of distractions, it’s very easy to get pulled in one direction away from your goals! I always found that if I gave myself two choices, almost as though a fork in the road… I would envision one opportunity as helping me progress, “helping my hustle” or the opposite path “hurting my hustle…” Throughout my career as a professional athlete, this made it very easy to make decisions towards doing things that either benefit myself, or towards things that take me away from my goals. There is no grey, it is either black or white.
3. There’s always someone out there with less who’s done more than you! This is a thought that I think about from time to time especially now with the growth of social media, it’s easier to see into the lives of others around the world!
So many people possess so many talents and sometimes accepting that you’re special and different in your own way is empowering! I like to think that we are all capable and when I see someone who’s achieved more than I have, yet they started with less opportunity or resources, it puts things into perspective and gives me a sense of gratitude but also lights of fire inside of me and motivates me to do better and achieve more for myself as well!
4. It’s okay to fail. Throughout my career as an amateur, I was undefeated and I recall hearing people quoting how winning teaches you nothing, but failure does! I remember laughing at this thought because I was on a very strong winning streak, and was securing history for Canada at the same time! I thought “winning teaches you more than losing does!” Now, I won’t say that I was wrong, but I will say that a lot of politics are involved in your everyday life… I will say that standing back up after adversity and challenging yourself in new ways is truly one of the best ways to learn where you stand with yourself.
You never really lose in life, you only learn. I live by this quote
“You may win some you may lose some but you always learn something”
Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?
Transitioning from being a professional athlete into a successful business person is something that I’m fortunate I was able to achieve much more gracefully than others might have!
As I had mentioned I had reverse-engineered a lot of my life beforehand. I had known that competing as an athlete was simply a platform that I would be able to use to transition and pivot into other industries such as acting, public speaking, writing, fashion design, etc… For this reason, I was able to slowly set the foundation of other pursuits concurrently as much as I was building up my accolades as an athlete!
I never made it seem that I was all into one thing, but rather I am fortunate enough to have been able to establish a brand image (from the start) which shared multiple interests of mine! I never really wanted to be typecast or defined for the work that I do or my profession. So, in knowing this, I had set out from the beginning to ensure that I was perceived and regarded as somebody who is a bit of a renaissance man.
I had observed other friends trying to make transitions from one career to another and were scrutinized for doing so! I never agreed with the scrutiny they faced as I believe we should be able to reinvent ourselves whenever we choose! That being said, I always ensured that I was doing multiple things and sharing my journey in doing so that it never looked like I needed to redefine, rebrand, or rebirth a new image! Everything I do is an extension of myself so the transition out of being a professional athlete, luckily for me has been incredibly smooth.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?
Currently, we have rebranded the Legend Fitted apparel line, with this, I am incredibly excited to share a new image and fashion-forward company that thinks outside of the box yet still conforms to a formula that works! The Legend apparel brand has garnered lots of love and attention internationally! Even professional athletes such as undefeated UFC champion Jon Bones Jones loves supporting the Legend Fitted brand! Among others such as Adam Weitsman and Anthony Rumble Johnson, there has been global recognition and support, and I know the rebrand in 2021 is truly going to be something highly regarded and recognize all over the world!
I’m also in the process of opening up a state-of-the-art performance center with Stephen J Wong Steven, my business partner, is highly regarded in his multiple fields! He’s not only a mentor but a good friend! I’ve learned a lot in the short time that he and I have been working together and I can say that our Legend Performance Center will be the place in highest demand that caters to many different interests and needs of the people!
I can’t reveal too much about it at the moment, however, I can say that it will be coming in 2021 and will truly revolutionize a lot of different businesses! We do have quite a few celebrities interested in a partnership as well as collaborations through this venture, however, it is something that will be available to the public and truly a one-stop-shop and hub for creative pursuit! It’s essentially my life’s work and will be something incredible for the community. I’m excited!
Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example of what you mean?
I can attribute my entrepreneurial success to the discipline that I’ve learned through doing competitions! Having to calculate every micro detail and assess/analyze the results of said implementations is something that carries over into the world of business… But also transcends into character-building skills and a higher understanding of personal capabilities! I can say that oftentimes we get paralysis by analysis. What this means is we overthink how to achieve our goals! And although there may be a lot of conflict and challenges along the path and journey to our goals… We do find that sometimes letting go of what we can’t control will allow us to live in the moment where we take opportunities as they come!
I can say though, it’s important to always be prepared for any situation, opportunity, or circumstance!
The world of business is very unforgiving.
Self-assuredness that I had learned through being a professional athlete has allowed me to know where I stand with myself, but also where I stand with others!
An example of this would be being frequently approached (even still now) to do collaborations with companies that I know aren’t quite within my interests.
Before I was excited to say yes to any opportunity that presented itself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I believed that this gave me an open mind and skills to challenge myself and see what I’m capable of. But as I matured and my entrepreneurial pursuits began to overtake my athletic career… I gained a sense of clarity towards my visions and understood more of my capabilities, my purpose, my value and my worth!
It became easier to say no to certain pursuits as they don’t fit the overall vision! This is something you can only achieve when you know what you’re truly capable of! I still encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone however, you need to know where you stand with yourself too.
Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.
First off, I love the term “hustle culture” hahaha!
1. Teamwork is important! As someone that has labeled himself as a lone wolf for the majority of my life and career! I can attribute a lot of my success outside of athletics and in the world of business towards having the right team and systems implemented and in place! I still encourage others to have multiple skills so that they can wear more hats than one!
It’s good to have a full scope and overview of your entire business regardless of what your business is! But, if applicable, electing the right professionals for certain tasks within your business can bring creative growth outside of what you may not have even imagined.
2. Don’t focus on the competition! I’ll never forget that Michael Phelps photo where he’s in the pool during an Olympic event and the runner-up is next to him is focused on him while he is focused straight ahead! He later goes on to win this event. And the caption for the photo is “Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners!” I think this is very important!
Although it’s important to be aware and observe who your direct competition may be, it is always important to believe in your business and product!
Oftentimes, especially in the world of fashion, I’ll draw inspiration from others! I’ll still use my personal touch to bring things to life! But I never get discouraged when I see my direct competitors doing something more innovative than I am! If anything I use it as a way to light a fire within myself to bring new bolder and risqué ideas together!
3. Don’t take shortcuts! Anytime that I’ve ever taken a shortcut, it has oftentimes led me 10 steps back! I don’t know if this will be the same for others! I can say I’ve seen others take shortcuts and still sustain success on a high level!
For me it resonates deeper than that! Anytime that I’ll take a shortcut I know that I’m not fully invested in that idea, and I’m aware that I had taken a quick route to success! I feel because of this my mind, body, heart and soul aren’t fully in it and because of this, I feel like I’m only cheating myself!
Life isn’t always about how others perceive you but how you perceive yourself, can you live with yourself knowing that you’ve taken shortcuts in the past?! This is a question that you have to ask yourself but in most cases, if you’re anything like me, the answer is no. I find that sticking to your guns and staying on your path for yourself is oftentimes the best way to achieve any sort of sustainable success.
4. If it doesn’t help you it’s hurting you. I talked about this a little bit before in the previous questions. But you have to ask yourself whether on the field or at work…
Your life is a culmination of choices that have led you to this very present moment!
Everything you say, everything you do, everything you don’t say, everything you don’t do leads you to be who you are right now!
In the world of athletics drinking alcohol and doing drugs will impair you from your potential! But in the world of business, the same can be said for those vices, but other distractions may hold you back and hurt your hustle too! It could be something as simple as certain habits or character traits that impair your potential! It could even be toxic people in your life, more often than not that’s usually the issue… I don’t think there’s a problem with auditing your life and looking at who is helping and who is hurting. This will help you to advance towards your purpose.
5. The final thing I would say is to know your worth and potential!
Everyone is different, this is more of a superpower than it is a crutch!
On a team, everyone plays their role and everyone has a position to fill!
When it comes to business, self-assuredness and a sense of understanding your capabilities are very important! Knowing where you stand with yourself is a recurring thought that you should question every day!
I don’t necessarily believe that there is a right way or wrong way to do certain businesses! There are morals, and there are ethics. But if you’ve read this far and you’re on this page, traditionally you are doing things by the book! That being said, doing things outside of the norm sometimes is where creative success is found! Going against the grain and pushing the standard can create innovative change! Don’t think that because you’re different it means that you’re wrong. There may be others out there with similar interests that might be interested in your business, brand, or ideas! If you believe in yourself and what you bring to the table you may surprise yourself finding out that others might be drawn to your or your business or brand!
What would you advise a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
Truly the first thing I would tell a younger person looking to pursue the same career would be to know and share your story! It’s important in the world of business to know who you are, where you’re coming from, what you’re capable of, where you want to go and what do you want to do with “it”! I think the sooner you can determine what your purpose is, the easier it will be to avoid distractions and stay focused on your path! There’s a lot of things that will tempt you or give you false hope, but so long as you are assured within yourself of your purpose. It will be easier to remain true to your visions!
You are by all accounts a very successful person.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve done a lot of pro bono work which has never been advertised! It’s oftentimes difficult to show some of the good that you do, in fear that it might be scrutinized or seen as conceited!
I truly believe that the world needs to see more people doing more good for others! I feel that it can inspire all of us to do better without expectation!
I’ve done public speaking at the University of Toronto, I’ve done seminars in Italy, I’ve done public speaking for high schools, and I’ve held multiple fitness boot camps for the city…
All of this I had done without incurring any compensation. It’s simply was something I felt in my heart was a small extension of myself that I can do to empower others!
I’ve given away thousands of dollars through my apparel as well, and have coached hundreds of friends for free, I have even have launched more than 30 companies from start to finish for friends without taking a penny!
I believe our time on Earth is short and I’ve always been focused on leaving a legacy or sparking something that would embolden others to pursue their purpose as well! I know through the Legend Performance Center we will be able to continue spreading positivity and have opportunities to give back more to our community and the world!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I know that Tupac Shakur says “I’m not saying that I could change the world but I believe that I will spark the mind that will!”
I do resonate with this, and I feel that I would love to be able to provide some type of health and wellness education to the world so that we can all learn how to sustain a healthier lifestyle for longevity!
I know that many businesses of the world dictate and govern what is considered best for us! But I would love to be part of any movement that truly promotes the best way of living!
Be it mind, body, soul! I feel like a lot of our mental health issues in the past few years can be attributed to poor lifestyle, I myself have battled with depression in the past.
Mental health is very important to me and I do what I can every day to be there for others! Sometimes just listening and giving them advice or even showing them that I too have battled with personal mental health issues, and have found ways to rise and cope from them is often enough to give them a little bit of relief.
I would love to let others know that they aren’t alone and I would love to provide small healthy lifestyle hacks that others can apply to their life in hopes of giving them a little bit more peace and happiness.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I have a lot of quotes, but one that resonates the most with me is “nothing prepares you more for life than living it”
This is a quote here I coined myself, I love it because it gives such a sense of relief and absolves us from overanalyzing every little detail of what happens to us in our life.
It gives me comfort because the deeper message and understanding is that you don’t necessarily have to have a plan, things are so unpredictable, and sometimes surrendering and letting go of control can open up more room and space in your life to welcome new innovative ideas and opportunities for growth!
It’s okay to be on your path, it’s okay to be focused forward! However, we don’t have all the answers all the time! Sometimes letting go and letting life be is the best answer and approach! Being open-minded and open-hearted isn’t a bad way to live your life.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to meet Kanye West! I know he’s not always the most popular person in pop culture, as he has a lot of unpopular opinions!
That being said, he’s come from so much struggle and has been able to build a billion-dollar empire and I will love to simply hear in his words how he was able to achieve that and know more about some of the challenges along the way that he has faced which he’s overcome!
His name is recognized worldwide and not simply because of his wife Kim Kardashian and affiliation to Kylie Jenner.
I know that he’s an incredible businessman and his work ethic is unmatched! A lot of his creative ideas resonate with me and oftentimes I do you feel that I too am an outsider!
I admire his tenacity and unapologetic sense of creativity! Although it’s bold and oftentimes labeled as callous. I do see the ingenuity in redefining the status quo! Going against the grain has always been a way of life for me and I love to see people breaking the mold and finding ways to grow outside of the norm.