“Have empathy and perspective to develop Grit” With Phil Laboon & Andrew Carignan

Are you having a bad day, week, month or even year? You aren’t alone. There are 7 billion people on this planet and the vast majority struggle every single day. When I start to feel down or bad for myself, I think of our soldiers overseas in war zones or people in third world countries […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Are you having a bad day, week, month or even year? You aren’t alone. There are 7 billion people on this planet and the vast majority struggle every single day. When I start to feel down or bad for myself, I think of our soldiers overseas in war zones or people in third world countries who don’t have access to food or clean water. If they can prevail despite their situations which are infinitely more difficult than what I’m dealing with, then I can suck it up. Being empathetic of others and having a realistic perspective on life can help you to realize that typically situations aren’t nearly as dire as they might seem.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Carignan. Andrew is a co-founder of Localfit, The Travel Fitness Membership that gives members access to over 5,000 fitness facilities nationwide for a low monthly fee. A 2017 graduate from the University of North Carolina, Andrew was a part of the 2006 and 2007 College World Series runner-up Tar Heel baseball teams and then went on to a nine-year professional career that included a stint in the Major Leagues with the Oakland Athletics, before a second and third arm surgery forced an early retirement. During his second go-around at UNC, Andrew reconnected with Rob Gilliam, a former teammate from the Athletics organization who also retired following a shoulder surgery. The two had an idea that stemmed from an entrepreneurship class, from there Andrew and Rob built a team of former collegiate athletes and started Localfit.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

I was 29 when I went back to start my senior year of college. I pitched in my last game in December of 2015 for the Leones del Caracas, in Caracas, Venezuela. A month later, I moved into a house a quarter mile from campus and was walking to my first day of class.

Returning to school after a decade away was quite an experience. Jumping back into academia writing papers and calculus tests were actually the easy part. Getting the hang of all the new technology in the classroom and the social aspects of working with kids a decade younger than me in group projects were more difficult. My young classmates were infinitely more comfortable with the technology and once I coaxed them into talking to me I was able to learn a lot from them. During one group project, I worked with a kid named Duncan. To give you some context, the last year I was in school Duncan was in 7th grade. He was a computer science major and was learning Cherokee (the Native-American language) for fun. We were so entirely different. Different life experiences, ages, and interests but interacting with him was fascinating. He was so intelligent, unique and authentically himself but he was uncomfortable talking to people, especially someone older than him which seemed to be the case with many of my young classmates. They were brilliant but uncomfortable speaking to people. As this became more evident to me I realized that there might be a place for me in the tech world. Not with programming but with the people, I have always taken pride in being able to connect with anyone and everyone. Those that are “different” by society’s standards being the most intriguing to me. When I realized the need for social intermediaries to connect young, brilliant programmers with savvy middle-aged business executives I knew there was a place for me. When Rob approached me about starting an app, I was all in.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

On June 5th, 2012, the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in my right elbow tore in half while pitching in a game for the Oakland Athletics. Being a hard-throwing pitcher, I always knew Tommy John surgery was a possibility but I wasn’t particularly concerned because the surgery has a high success rate. I thought I would be good as new in a year. Six months after surgery, my elbow felt great but my shoulder did not. Instead of being back in games a year after Tommy John, I was prepping for another surgery. This time, on my shoulder and I would never pitch in the big leagues again. I played for two more seasons but I was never the same and decided to call it quits on my playing career. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t a baseball player. I was a 30-year-old undergrad student searching for my identity outside of baseball. I soon began to relish my opportunity of being back in school after so much time away. I had more life experience and a much better idea of who I was and what I was interested in. Being back in school became an invigorating experience and I was determined to make the most out of my second stint at UNC.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always represented more than myself. My wife, my parents, my family, my hometown of Norwich, Connecticut and my college community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina have all played an instrumental part in who I became and what I was able to accomplish.

Knowing that I had such a strong community to celebrate my accomplishments with always gave me the motivation I needed to work through the offseason workouts and years of rehabbing injuries. There were so many people who invested their time, effort and love into helping me, that I’ve always thought of putting in the work to become the best version of myself as my way of paying them back.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit allowed me to keep everything in perspective. Not to get too high during successful times and not to get too low during struggles. I was confident in my abilities and in myself to do what I needed to do in order to succeed. I had to battle through two and a half years of injuries before even making it to the Major Leagues. When that opportunity, and ultimately baseball as a whole, was taken away from me due to arm injuries, I understood that eventually, the end comes for all athletes. Transitioning wasn’t easy but knowing that there were countless others that had been down that road before made it much easier to pick myself up, re-enroll in school, and set out on this new venture of starting a company.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Today things are exciting. Building a company from the ground up brings new challenges every day, some more difficult than others, but the positive is that it is never boring. We’re building our brand and working with our customers to create the best product and customer experience that we can. We’re at the cusp of building something real and we’re extremely excited about the direction Localfit is headed.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

(Please share a story or example for each)

1. Treat every day as a new day

– During my playing career, I was a closer. I would pitch the last inning when my

team was winning so when I threw, who won or lost typically came down to my performance. If I failed at my job, my team lost. If I blew a game, if we were winning the next night I would be right back out there in the last inning. There was no room for hesitation or doubt. It was imperative that I approached each day as a new day. If I wasn’t able to flush what happened the night before from my mind, my failures would have snowballed. Treating every day as a new day allowed me to succeed day in and day out.

2. Learn from your mistakes and failures

– Localfit is our third business model, the first two didn’t work and we had to make pivots. No one sets out to fail but oftentimes failure is a vital step in successful ventures and for us, that was certainly the case. We learned things about our product, about the industry and about our potential customers that have been imperative in helping us reach the point we are at today. Don’t get discouraged, a failure is only a true failure when you don’t learn something from it.

3. Know thyself

– Understand your strengths but even more importantly, know your weaknesses and be realistic about them. Not feeling competent or intelligent enough can be stressful but understanding areas where you have personal weaknesses is the first step in being able to improve on them. Acknowledging your own weaknesses and working to improve them is as gritty as it gets.

4. Have empathy and perspective

– Are you having a bad day, week, month or even year? You aren’t alone. There are 7 billion people on this planet and the vast majority struggle every single day. When I start to feel down or bad for myself, I think of our soldiers overseas in war zones or people in third world countries who don’t have access to food or clean water. If they can prevail despite their situations which are infinitely more difficult than what I’m dealing with, then I can suck it up. Being empathetic of others and having a realistic perspective on life can help you to realize that typically situations aren’t nearly as dire as they might seem.

5. Embrace the suck

– One of the things I told myself over and over in the minor leagues while getting paid next to nothing, riding coach buses across the country and playing in front of small crowds was, “embrace the suck”. The Major Leagues were the carrot at the end of the stick and at times that stick seemed to be miles long and the carrot too small to see. Embracing the suck, or the minor leagues, was all part of the process. If the road to the Major Leagues was easy, making it there wouldn’t have been nearly as gratifying. The same goes for business, if a company was easy to build, succeeding wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying. Embrace the suck, it makes the great times that much sweeter.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

My grandfather (Pep) was always one of my biggest fans. He lived down the street and was a constant presence in my life. I could always count on him for a joke or some unfiltered advice. In 2010, I was having a miserable year on the mound. I was terrible. I had never dealt with failure even close to this scale before and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it around. People were reaching out telling me to keep my head up and that everything will be ok. Others were tip-toeing around trying not to make eye contact. One morning after a particularly sub-par and frustrating outing, I got a call from Pep. I answered and hear “What the hell happened last night?” Before I could mutter a response he says “I’ve seen you pitch your entire life and I don’t know what that was last night. Stop feeling bad for yourself and figure your sh*t out.” He then said something to lighten the mood, finished with a, “good luck tonight,” and hung up.

I was taken aback for a second but it was refreshing for someone to be so blunt with me. With how terribly l had been performing, everyone was hesitant to tell me how they felt, but not him. He wanted to piss me off a little bit because he knew that I operated better when I was teetering on the verge of anger. That call changed my perspective during an extremely tough time and I’m forever grateful that he knew what to say even if it might have been uncomfortable for him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

During my playing career, I took every opportunity to interact with kids and make sure they enjoyed being at the ballpark. I went to minor league baseball games all the time as a kid and I vividly remember getting as close as I could to the players and sitting there in silence trying to soak up anything I could from them. They were my childhood idols. I made it a point during my career to sign every autograph and try to make a positive impression on every kid that came around me. I would do what I could to have kids leave the park feeling as excited as I was when I was ten going home with a few autographs on a baseball. Now that my playing career is over, I do my best to treat everyone with dignity and to speak up for the people who don’t have a voice. I’m working everyday to grow Localfit with hopes that eventually our platform gets large enough that we’re able to use it to help spur significant change in our community for issues such as hunger, preventing further environmental destruction of our planet and making our country more inclusive for everyone regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re building the travel fitness membership. Staying in shape while traveling was difficult during our playing careers and we set out to fix that problem. Localfit streamlines the process of finding places to work out when you travel away from home. Gyms, studios, lap pools, saunas, tennis courts, whatever amenity you prefer to stay in shape, Localfit has it for you anywhere in the county. As a nation, we are more transient and more health conscious than ever before but there is a lot to be desired in terms of staying healthy when traveling. Getting your work out in on the road is not only good for your overall health, it can also fight off jet lag which allows you to get the most out of your travel experiences. Localfit is the way of the future for those of us who are health conscious while simultaneously living life to the fullest.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to Thrive?

Put your employees in a position to succeed. That requires understanding your employees, knowing their strengths, weaknesses, what they want out of a job, what drives them and what their priorities are outside of work. All of those things matter. There is much more to a job than what it pays and that is more apparent now than ever. If decision makers have a better understanding of their employees, they will be better suited to place them in situations to maximize their production. Understanding your employees and workplace dynamics also allows for more efficient delegation of power. You can’t do everything on your own but those in power are often hesitant to relinquish responsibility. If superiors get to know the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of their employees they will be in a better position to trust them. Potentially lightening their own load while simultaneously empowering and inspiring their employees with greater responsibility and autonomy in the workplace.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

Hunger is a major problem in this country and so is food waste. That combination is infuriating to me. I would like to figure out a way to use technology to get food that is about to be thrown out but still safe to eat into the mouths of people that are hungry, especially kids. Whether it is prepared food at the end of the night at a restaurant or raw food from the grocery store, it should find its way to people who need it. It is incredibly inefficient and expensive to produce food and to let it go to waste. I will never be able to wrap my head around seeing pictures of edible but expired food filling multiple dumpsters behind a Walmart. There are actually laws in place in our country that make it illegal to feed the hungry and in many instances make the issue even more difficult to alleviate. There are many layers to the issue.I would love to use technology to make our food system more efficient and our hunger problem less prevalent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

When Rob and I were teammates I was the veteran on the team. I had succeeded at that level previously and the guys on the team looked to me for guidance. I had been around and was a big personality. I was only a part of that particular team for a short period of time but we created a lasting clubhouse culture that sustained well after I left. That team went on to win a California League championship and Rob and I often reminisce about that year.

Before Localfit, I had no previous experience in the tech sector. When Rob came up with the idea for an app, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I was the first person he approached. A year later we were talking over a couple of drinks and he told me the reason he came to me was due to my leadership role on that team years earlier in the California League. I didn’t set out to be a leader of that team, I was simply doing what I needed to do to improve and get promoted to further my own career. By knowing what I needed to do and sticking to my process day in and day out, I was able to receive that promotion and my teammates continued the culture I helped create for the remainder of that season. My contributions made enough of an impression on my teammates that years later Rob decided he wanted to start a business with me because of those leadership skills.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Helping People In More Ways Than One: This Is What Andrew Peters Does Best

by Sofia Vargas

Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “It’s important to listen to any feedback and suggestions your employees may have” With Andrew and Karina Feld and Phil Laboon

by Phil La Duke

What This Entrepreneur Taught Me About Having The Right Team & Mindset To Succeed

by Sofia Vargas
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.