Corey Lewis and Thomas Drew: “Comfortable being uncomfortable”

Find a Hobby — Occupying your time with meaningful activities other than work will keep your brain at its sharpest and will make you happy in the long run. For me, it’s working out. That’s my outlet, but there are so many things from swimming, golf, and reading, to knitting, yoga, and dance. The possibilities are endless. […]

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Find a Hobby — Occupying your time with meaningful activities other than work will keep your brain at its sharpest and will make you happy in the long run. For me, it’s working out. That’s my outlet, but there are so many things from swimming, golf, and reading, to knitting, yoga, and dance. The possibilities are endless. Find something that you love and stick with it.

As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Co-founders, Corey Lewis and Thomas Drew.

Co-Founder and CEO Corey Lewis is currently a personal trainer and formerly a professional football player. His love for performance and fitness started in his early years when he began playing football. With his determination and drive, he found himself playing football in the Big Ten Conference at The University of Illinois. He was also given the opportunity to participate in the Academic All Big-Ten for three years and won the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. Shortly after, Corey played a short stint as a professional football player and persevered through four ACL surgeries and seven knee surgeries. The trials ultimately strengthened him, and the experience he has gained over the years has been integral to his role at 1AND1 LIFE. Through 1AND1 LIFE, Corey is dedicated to engaging people and pushing them to reach them to their full potential.

Co-founder Thomas Drew assisted in the creation of 1AND1 LIFE back in 2017 while completing his graduate degree at Columbia University. Growing up, Thomas was extremely active in sports, basketball being his saving grace. During his undergraduate stint as a college basketball player, Thomas discovered that the gym was a perfect stress reliever and release. In May of 2018, he stepped down from his position leading a division at a New York City Marketing Agency to focus all his efforts on creating 1AND1 LIFE to become the brand it is today. It was then, the vision for 1AND1 LIFE evolved into a wellness and lifestyle brand that was going to bring value to the people through exceptional content and even better community building. 1AND1 LIFE is a product of Thomas’s love for brand building and storytelling, colliding with his passions for health, wellness, and self-improvement. In his agency days, he led successful marketing and social media/brand strategy initiatives and campaigns for companies like Samsung/Verizon, The U.S. Army, The St. James, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Corey Lewis: Thank you for taking the time to interview me today. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, between the areas of Red Hook, Flatbush, and Crown Heights. My love for athleticism started at a very young age. Having an older brother, I would always try to keep up with him and his friends, no matter what they were doing that day. Those experiences developed my athletic abilities rapidly and gave me an edge amongst the kids my age. When my parents started to realize my love for sports and physical activity, my father, who was a former professional basketball player, guided me and pushed me hard to be the best that I can be. Still, he also never pressured me to pursue sports, as one might think. He allowed me to explore different interests and figure things out on my own. With my father never forcing the issue with sports and me always striving to keep up with my big brother, I developed the ability to continuously self motivate at a young age. That self-motivation is what got me to where I am today and allowed me to achieve everything I have at this point.

Before founding 1AND1 LIFE, I played football in the Big Ten Conference at the University of Illinois, where I earned my B.A Business Communications and my M.S Business Communication and Sports

Administration. After college, I played a short stint as a professional football player and preserved through four ACL surgeries and seven knee surgeries. These trials ultimately strengthened me and have contributed massively to my role at 1AND1 LIFE. Now I’m a certified personal trainer (ACE certification), and I’m incredibly passionate about health, wellness, and fitness. There’s also a side of me that’s deeply committed to building a community. So me and my Co-Founder, Thomas Drew, created 1AND1 LIFE. Through this platform, I want to engage people and push them to reach their fitness goals and find their true purpose in life, no matter how long it takes.

Thomas Drew: Thanks for having me! I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan with two of the most loving and supportive parents that I could’ve ever asked for. My mother, Clarice Drew, was an educator, media personality and image/fashion consultant and stylist. My father, Steve Drew, started his own law firm. My parents exposed me to as much as they could when I was younger — art, music, sports, experiences, etc. My Mother was huge on education and etiquette growing up, so she had her own version of home-schooling for me in addition to my regular schooling. As a result, I ended up skipping the first grade and going straight from Kindergarten to 2nd grade. When I was 7 years old I wrote in an autobiography this exact quote “I want to be an entrepreneur and own 7 businesses. I love basketball and I want to visit New York City.” The crazy part about this is that this sentence I wrote at 7 years old would set the actual tone for my life. I played high school and college basketball at a high level in Michigan. After my senior season, I decided that I was done with basketball and wanted to focus on Entrepreneurship and my ideas. I was accepted to the grad school of my dreams in NYC, and moved to New York to start my graduate degree program in September of 2015. The rest is history and I’ve been here ever since.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

Corey Lewis: With 1AND1 LIFE, we’re trying to address the betterment of people’s mind by disrupting the wellness world as we know it, and provide people with real, raw, and inclusive conversations that benefit everyone. Mental health is essential and has a huge impact on productivity and how one feels daily. One topic we touch on often is mental health in the realm of Black men and Black communities. In Black communities, there’s a stigma that vulnerability is considered weak and because of this, many of us deal with struggle on our own rather than seeking help. We often feel like we can’t express ourselves because there are other people in worse situations. Many of us fail to realize that there is strength in vulnerability. For that reason, my partner, Thomas Drew, and I wanted to create a platform where people can digest content that can improve their mental health through podcasts, editorial content, and reviews. We also wanted our platform to have a sense of community, where people from all walks of life could come and not feel judged.

In the world we live in today, there are so many things going on, and each one of them can harm your mental health. With our platform, and other forms of mediation, therapy, etc., you can hone in on your mental health and create a better and healthier lifestyle for yourself. It might not change overnight, but focusing on your mental health and working on it every day is a step forward in the right direction.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Corey Lewis: Growing up, I’ve dealt with anger issues — it’s something that I still struggle with to this day. During my college years, football was a great outlet for me. Just being on the field and playing football helped me release so much stress. As that part of my life came to an end, I needed to find other healthy ways to express my emotions. I now have an amazing mental coach who assists me in many aspects of my life. Aside from my temper, I have also endured concussions and head trauma injuries from playing professional football. Due to this, I’ve struggled with developing sentences clearly and concisely and even memory loss. I realized that the anger I was feeling from not remembering a memory or not being able to construct a thought I wanted to get across could quickly lead to depression if I wasn’t careful. Being that angry can get you to that point. It was important to wrap my head around what was happening to me and find methods that help me cope and better my mental health on a daily basis. Thanks to my mental health coach, I now have a morning routine, which helps me set a great tone for the rest of the day. I now play brain games that help strengthen my memory, practice my religion, exercise, and read.

Seeing how much therapy and mental health practices have changed my life, it was important to me to shed light on this topic. I wanted to create something that other people could relate to and hopefully change their lives somehow.

Thomas Drew: Corey (My business partner and co-founder) and I have always been passionate about bettering ourselves continuously from the inside out. Along with wellness in general (staying active, eating well, etc.) I am extremely passionate about mental health. Growing up, I was bullied in grade school and middle school because I didn’t fit in. I was seen as a nerd and an outkast, and didn’t have many friends because of it. I was kept out of social groups at school and was a loner, which caused me to go into a deep depression around the ages of 12–15 — to the point where there were days where I wanted it all to end and felt like I couldn’t carry the burden anymore. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I didn’t fit in with others because I was different, and different in a good way. It took me a minute to realize that being different and unique was cool. In that time period I had to see a therapist, and looking back at this time it definitely was the impetus behind me being so passionate about mental health and forcing these conversations so that we de-stigmatize it and let others know that they aren’t alone in these struggles and that there is real light at the end of the tunnel — as long as you have the tools to help you build yourself up from the inside out.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Corey Lewis: In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll be in many situations where you need to adjust. I always say you need to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.” Many people are afraid of the unknown or worry about what people will think. This thought process holds back a lot of capable entrepreneurs and businesses. You have to go for it! Expect there to be bumps in the road, a journey like this is never smooth sailing. It may feel uncomfortable or awkward initially, but as you go through the motions, you will adjust.

Fitness and mental health has always been something I’ve been passionate about. I always knew that I wanted to create change and impact on people’s lives. Becoming a personal trainer has helped me do that. Through physical fitness, I’ve been able to encourage other people to embark on healthier lifestyles, which has made them happier mentally and physically. That was my “aha moment.” Now I can do that on a bigger scale with 1AND1 LIFE.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Corey Lewis: The most interesting moment for me came during a time of hardship. We had launched the first iteration of our business back in 2017, and after a fairly successful start, we were struggling in 2018 and didn’t know what direction we wanted to take the business. We were kind of all over the place. TDrew and I worked out butts off to fix things, but nothing seemed to be working.

TDrew had just finished grad school and turned down a big job offer to focus on 1AND1 and entrepreneurship, but with that came no guaranteed salary and a bunch of risks. I was in a good place because I had built a successful personal training business for myself, had money from football, and some other things I was doing. TDrew was not in as good of a place financially, but he continued to work his ass off to figure things out, and I remember I bought him a pair of shoes I knew he wanted and left it in his room (we were roommates) with a note letting him know that “everything will be ok, let’s keep working.”

And ever since that day, we just collectively put our heads down and got to work, and things have honestly looked up ever since. TDrew found a job that allowed him to simultaneously work on 1AND1, stay in NYC, and learn many things that he’s been able to carry over to our business from a branding and marketing perspective.

This goes to my point about “being comfortable being uncomfortable.” As uncomfortable as I knew TDrew was during that time, it was great to see him push through, and At that time, I knew We’d go on to do great things together and with 1AND1 LIFE.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Corey Lewis: There are a few people I am very thankful for and who have helped me get to where I am today. My uncle, John Utendahl, is the owner of the Utendahl Group, one of the largest African American-owned investment banking groups in the United States. He took me under his wing very early into my entrepreneur journey because he wanted me to have all the keys and knowledge to succeed in this industry. John always says, “Innocent Ignorance.” It was okay to make a mistake once because you never had to deal with a situation like that before, but moving forward, you need to apply what you learned to future obstacles. He taught me that in the world of business, you need to learn from your mistakes fast to keep moving ahead.

His demeanor, confidence, how he manages relationships, and how he works through any situation, no matter how stressful, are all attributes that inspire me and teach me how to be a better businessman. I’m blessed to have him in my life, especially when joining the business field. He mentored a lot of other like-minded individuals coming into the business as well. John loves to create a community of young and talented entrepreneurs so he can teach them the keys to success and help set them up for a bright future. I’m the same way, if I can lend a hand to another aspiring entrepreneur, I will. I’ve taken to how big John’s heart is, and although I have a long way to go myself, I will offer any advice I can give. Not only is John, my uncle but he’s like a second father to me, and I am incredibly grateful for everything he’s done.

Brian Sheth is someone I met through my uncle and is another person who’s helped me become who I am today. He’s a lot like a big brother to me. Mr. Sheth is extremely talented at what he does in the world of private equity. He took me under his wing because he saw the potential I possessed and wanted me to be able to execute it properly, and that’s something I am incredibly grateful for. He’s also one of the smartest people I know, and when I’m around him, I try to act like a sponge and soak up all the gems that he drops. When there is something I’m struggling with, Mr. Sheth has no problem breaking it down in a way that I can understand, which always makes me feel way better about the current situation I’m dealing with. I’m so thankful for his willingness to open up to me, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.

Thomas Drew: Besides my parents, there have been a couple mentors whose influence on me has been at a level that I can’t really quantify due to my immense level of gratitude. The first is Brian Sheth, who has been a mentor for me and my business partner — not just for our company and what we’re trying to accomplish, but in life. He is self made, and a minority — being that he is Indian American. He is one of the few people that talks the talk and walks the walk at a high level with his philanthropy and impact on society through business. I will never forget what Mr. Sheth told me during the height of the George Floyd unrest. He called my business partner and I to check on us and said these words: “You can’t heal or change 400 years of racial oppression overnight. I know you’re frustrated and I know you’re angry, but anger in this sense is good. Be angry, but let your anger guide your planning. Use it to fuel your ambition and your desire to make real change, not a flash in the pan.” This is something that I think about every day while continuing to navigate the waters as a young black entrepreneur in our current society. Hearing words like that directly from someone like him is the type of thing that gets me up every morning with a different focus and different mindset in my conquest to be one of the greats.

The second is Dionna McPhatter. Dionna and her previous business partner gave me my first real opportunity in New York City fresh out of graduate school and tasked me with running a division of their data driven marketing agency. Dionna is a West Point Graduate and a trailblazer for women in the tech industry, but especially for women of color. If it wasn’t for Dionna, I wouldn’t have learned how to think about things in a data first way. The first week in the office, she saw how bright eyed and bushy tailed I was, how much I loved branding, building community, and storytelling. She pulled me aside and told me, “TDrew, I want you to think of everything data first. All of your campaigns, decisions, ideas — start with the data. Allow the data and the patterns that you see to inform your decision making. You have a knack for this stuff, but let the data solidify your intuition.” Her telling me that completely changed the way I looked at marketing and building brands in general — especially when it came to consumer segmentation and behavior analysis and clustering. If it wasn’t for Dionna and the opportunities that she gave me, there’s no way I would’ve built the case studies and rapport to confidently be where I am right now.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

Thomas Drew: Mental health is uncomfortable to talk about still — partly because people believe that if they voice it, it will make them come off as weak-minded, weird, crazy or soft. This is especially true for men, but I think this is finally beginning to change because in the world we’re currently living in, we don’t have a choice. We HAVE to talk about it. Depression, suicide and anxiety are at all time highs, and the best way to destigmatize mental health is to have conversations, normalize experiences and let people know that they aren’t alone. This is why I’m so excited about our new mental health podcast, Off The Cuff with Danny LoPriore (Presented by 1AND1 Life). In our first episode on YouTube, we garnered almost 20K views, over 500 comments and gained almost 5,000 YouTube subs. These conversations are needed for men and women, and through the new Podcast we’re already building a one of a kind platform for mental health organically.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Thomas Drew: A. Individuals need to CREATE the conversation, educate themselves, and not be afraid to speak their truth. I think the 3rd part is the hardest, but it’s the most important. People need to understand that they’re going through similar things that other people go through, but the only way to do that is to be honest about your experiences.

B. Society needs to continue the conversation through platforms, media and storytelling. The more mental health content we see at a high level, the more it becomes commonplace. But it has to be authentic — that’s extremely important.

C. The government can support by thinking of ways to create infrastructure that allows people to have easier access to the resources and knowledge that they need: Whether it’s access to therapy, information, or the funding to create the next idea that will help people suffering from mental health issues. I also think that the government acknowledging publically that resources are being dedicated to this would be a big step in the right direction.

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Corey Lewis:

1. Working Out: By doing physical activity first thing in the morning, it helps me anchor my day, increases productivity, and keeps me positive. Not everyone is a morning person, so this might not work for everyone. Find a routine that works best for you and your lifestyle. Mine consists of spiritual wellness, making time for educational books, working out, and playing brain games to keep me sharp.

2. Finding Time to Disconnect: Personal time is extremely important. Find a time during your day to shut things down and meditate. Meditation doesn’t always have to be sitting down and taking deep breaths. It can also be taking a walk, doing yoga, reading, and so much more. It’s anything that helps you relax and unplug.

3. Spending Time With Loved Ones: Spending time with my loved ones always puts me in a great mood. Especially during times like these, it’s important we connect with each other in any way we can whether you’re hopping on a call, a zoom, stopping by, or sending a quick check in text.

4. Asking For Help: As I mentioned before, I have a mental health coach that helps me manage my anger, pain, and gives me the tools that I need to boost mental health. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to take that step. Whether you need a friend or a professional, it’s important to release those emotions healthily.

5. Getting Enough Sleep: As important as it is to conquer the day, it’s just as important to rest. Lack of sleep can be harmful to your mood and your mental health. I try my best to maintain a decent sleep schedule, so I feel energized in the morning.

6. Find a Hobby — Occupying your time with meaningful activities other than work will keep your brain at its sharpest and will make you happy in the long run. For me, it’s working out. That’s my outlet, but there are so many things from swimming, golf, and reading, to knitting, yoga, and dance. The possibilities are endless. Find something that you love and stick with it.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Thomas Drew: I’m going to do a shameless plug with our podcast and mention it again, but honestly our new mental health podcast hosted and produced by Danny LoPriore is an amazing take on mental health in an unapologetic, real and raw way. Aside from entrepreneurs, athletes and influencers, Danny is planning on talking to certain YouTube subscribers/listeners about their mental health journey on the show as well, which I’m very excited for. Episodes debut once a week on Fridays at 7AM EST. You can search Off The Cuff with Danny LoPriore on YouTube, Spotify Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Soundcloud. The podcast Instagram account is @1and1otc. For written content, I love our blog at Out of the 7 dimensions of wellness that we cover in our content, 4 of them are mental (Social, Spiritual, Intellectual and Emotional). I love reading what our experts write within these dimensions and it truly does help recenter my mental health. I also recommended having an iMessage group chat with close friends that you can go to for laughs at some point in the day — it’s therapeutic.

My favorite book as far as mental health is concerned is Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s a combo of mental and financial wellness, but at its core it teaches you how to control and manage your thoughts and subconscious mind while learning the tools to manifest what you want in life — which all starts with training your mind to consistently have a positive mindset while keeping the eye on the prize.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Thomas Drew: That’s kind of you guys to say that. I’m still working on my impact and I hope I’m able to leave a sizable one, but to answer your question I would have to tell the young people two things.

1. Over-index on self awareness. The way you make a real impact is by being yourself, and knowing yourself. You can’t make an impact or really leave a mark if you’re trying to be like someone else. It’s important to learn from mentors and those that have done monumental things before you, but the most

positive impacts on society are done by those that knew exactly what to bring to the world and how they were going to do it. You only know that and are able to do that if you’re steadfast in who you are. In order to be yourself, you have to know yourself. Self-awareness is key, and once you figure out YOUR why you will be able to leave the mark that you desire on society.

2. Just be kind. This is easy to say, and harder to do, but you never know what someone is going through — ever. Case in point: Chadwick Boseman. Be kind and do right by people as much as you can, because that one kind gesture or word can stop a person from going deeper into a downward spiral. If you’re having a bad day, don’t let what you’re feeling internally affect how you treat someone that day externally. This reminds me of a time where a couple months ago I had a friend call me and tell me that my uplifting spirit and laughs and reminding her of how talented of a person she was when I could tell she needed a pick me up got her out of a very deep depression and might have even saved her life. I can’t put into words what that meant for me as a friend. We all have the ability to do this.

People may forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. How you make people feel and the memory that you leave is directly correlated to your impact on others. In order to have a positive one, just be kind. Karma has a weird way of working everything out in the end.

How can our readers follow you online?

Our website is and we are @1and1life across all social media platforms. (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube)

Our mental health podcast, Off The Cuff with Danny LoPriore, can be found on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and SoundCloud. The podcast instagram account is @1and1otc.

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