Shawn Lopez: “Humility to me is the person behind the scenes”

A hero to me means serving people greater than yourself. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. A simple act of kindness might not have a huge impact on you but could mean the world to the person receiving the act of kindness. When I was doing the Smile and Move Challenge, I was just […]

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A hero to me means serving people greater than yourself. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. A simple act of kindness might not have a huge impact on you but could mean the world to the person receiving the act of kindness. When I was doing the Smile and Move Challenge, I was just having fun with it, but then when I started receiving those messages of how my videos are making other people smile and laugh, it just made me feel better because I felt like I was making a difference. I truly believe that no act of kindness is ever too small. You never know what your kindness can do for others.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shawn Lopez, CEO and Founder of Minditude. Being born in an athletic family, Shawn Lopez started playing ice hockey at the age of 4. He instantly fell in love with the sport. He continued to play hockey and various other sports including baseball and basketball throughout high school. While playing these sports, Shawn always thought about how the brain must function in order for him and other athletes to skate, run, and bat.

Neuroscience became his passion, which is what he pursued a Bachelor’s degree in at the University of Michigan. To further understand the brain-body connection, he received his Master’s degree in Kinesiology at California Baptist University. Through his love for sports combined with the knowledge of neuroscience and kinesiology, Shawn started noticing a very big problem when he would be on the ice. Athletes would get injured, they wouldn’t want to see a physician, and even if they did and their injuries would heal, their pain would remain. Shawn searched for other ways that could help heal the body naturally and reduce chronic pain. He came across Z-Health. Z-Health’s main focus is to stimulate different areas of the brain by isolating different parts of the body, thereby improving flexibility, mobility and reducing pain. After Shawn became a Z-Health trainer, he immediately began testing his new mobility exercises on himself. Within a few weeks, his chronic ankle pain from an injury he sustained 10 years prior nearly disappeared. He then started testing out the exercises on his family and friends and was astonished by all the positive feedback he received. Shawn then created his company, Minditude.

Even though his business is still in the early stages, he has already helped dozens of people regain their mobility, reduce their pain, and improve their balance. He has a huge heart and has a goal of wanting to help improve the lives of over one million people by 2030. Shawn has partnered with UCLA Health, YMCA, and Atria Park to continue helping people improve the quality of their lives. During the time of Covid-19, Shawn has been hosting free live mobility classes for all the seniors at his local religious community center as a way to connect with them, reduce their pain and keep them mobile while they’re sheltering at home. His class became so popular within his local community that other seniors in different regions across the United States and even globally attend his class.

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 about how and where you grew up?

Thank you for having me! I was born and raised in a Northwest Suburb of Chicago. I moved to Michigan for college and currently reside in Los Angeles with my wife and son.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

It is hard to select one particular book since every book has a golden nugget, but the two books that resonate the most with me are The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma and The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield. There is a great exercise in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari about improving your concentration. I try to visualize and meditate daily, but sometimes when I sit down, there are so many thoughts going through my mind that it is actually really hard to concentrate.

If anyone reading this wants to try this exercise, this has improved my concentration significantly. What you do is you take any interesting/complex object, in the book they use a rose, and you stare at it and describe the object with as much detail as possible. Before you begin, set a timer and see how long you can concentrate on the object before you notice your mind wandering. Write the time down and then keep practicing every day. The goal is to go for twenty minutes without your mind wandering. This seems easy, but when I first started I was barely able to do five minutes before my mind started wandering. After doing this exercise daily, I am able to concentrate better when I meditate, and I am more aware when my mind starts to drift. The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be has great tips on changing your mindset and how to implement visualization into your daily life. I use a majority of the techniques from this book daily and I already see the difference it has made in my life.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

It’s not really a quote but rather three words: Be, Do, Have. These three words helped change my mindset and how I view things. Before, I would always approach everything the opposite way, Have, Do, Be. I always wanted to create my own business and help people in any way that I could, but I would say I need to HAVE money first then I can DO something great, and then I can BE someone. But following it like this, I would always seem to be chasing money and taking jobs I didn’t even like, just to earn a few bucks, but ultimately distracting or delaying my goals from becoming a reality. When I shifted my mindset and focused on working on myself first, I naturally wanted to do something bigger than myself. I started having more gratitude, I started having more opportunities come my way, and I noticed money was coming to me in different forms.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Of course! We at Minditude hope to help improve the quality of people’s lives by helping them regain their mobility, reduce their pain, and improve their balance. During Covid-19, I started to think outside the box on ways I can help out the community and those in need. During these times of uncertainty and fear, I wanted to try and bring some laughter into people’s lives. I created the #SmileandMoveChallenge, in which I showed people how to incorporate 11 simple joint mobility exercises into their daily lives while doing a silly task to help them remember the movement.

One example was showing an elbow exercise that could help with golfers’ and tennis elbow while trying to put shaving cream on my face. It was a fun little challenge to get everyone smiling, moving, and dancing in the hopes of bringing a little joy. I received several messages saying that the videos made them smile or that they couldn’t wait to see the next video. Even though the challenge didn’t go viral, I knew that these videos were putting smiles on people’s faces just like I was hoping they would. Although the challenge was completely free, anyone that wants to purchase the entire challenge could do so and 100% of the proceeds from the Smile and Move Challenge is currently being donated to the UCLA Health System to help purchase more PPE for the physicians and nurses. Even after Covid-19 passes, all the proceeds from the challenge will be donated to the Aga Khan Foundation which is a non-profit organization that helps communities improve their quality of life for decades and generations.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

A hero to me means serving people greater than yourself. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. A simple act of kindness might not have a huge impact on you but could mean the world to the person receiving the act of kindness. When I was doing the Smile and Move Challenge, I was just having fun with it, but then when I started receiving those messages of how my videos are making other people smile and laugh, it just made me feel better because I felt like I was making a difference. I truly believe that no act of kindness is ever too small. You never know what your kindness can do for others.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

5 characteristics of a hero to me are courage, selflessness, humility, patience, and caring. Possessing these 5 characteristics not only make a great hero, but also a great human.

  1. Courage is being able to take action when no one else is willing to and becoming a leader that everyone needs. During this time of Covid-19, several people in our apartment complex are unemployed. We had a few people step up and reach out to local farms and grocery stores. They were able to provide low to no-cost farmers markets to help the residents that are unable to afford necessary groceries at this time. This act actually inspired my wife and I to try and set up a similar farmers market. We want to partner with local farms and provide low cost fresh nutritious foods on a weekly basis to cities that are in a food desert.
  2. Selflessness is a commitment to serving others without the notion of wanting something in return. While everyone is in isolation, I am providing free mobility classes to my community. I don’t promote my business during these classes. I even created a new Facebook page for this class so everyone will have access to these videos for free. I want to provide useful and helpful content that they can apply in their lives.
  3. Humility to me is the person behind the scenes. The kindness you provide, you are not hoping for credit and recognition or to become famous, but rather you are doing the act of kindness out of the goodness of your heart. Something small that my wife and I do is that we help out as much as we can at our religious community center. We help to set up the hall, clean up after ceremonies, teach religious education to students, and sometimes even help provide free healthcare screenings to our members. We do all of this because we want to and never want to receive any credit or recognition.
  4. Patience is willing to wait and analyze the situation to the best of your ability. When the crisis happened, I regained my composure and made a list of ways I could help out my community. I tried organizing the list by highest priority and the best action I could take to start tackling those obstacles.
  5. Caring and displaying empathy towards someone else shows that you are willing to connect with them and that you are genuinely interested in them. My wife and I are part of a disaster and crisis management team for our community. We were assigned a cluster of families to call during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure they were safe and to see if they needed any help. There were people that we called that were alone and just needed someone to talk to. They were really appreciative of us reaching out and connecting with them.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Doing anything out of your comfort zone can bring fear, but those people that don’t let fear have a voice are the ones that rise up and become the heroes we need. When people squash their fear and decide to do something greater than themselves, heroes emerge all over the place.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

The specific catalyst for me was seeing all the fear and uncertainty in my community and family and it seemed to be spreading everywhere. There would hardly be anything positive on the news, which seemed to just fuel the fire. I didn’t want to succumb to those feelings so I changed my mindset and started writing down a list of all the ways I could use my expertise to help during this crisis. I decided to take action the day after I changed my mindset. I wanted to be that person that rises above from all of this and helps other people get on their feet.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

I would have to say my wife is my hero. She is a physician and has always been on the frontlines and her entire life is dedicated to helping people. She inspired me to become a better person by reminding me how important it is to serve others and our community to the best of our abilities. We even volunteer together at our local religious community center during any spare time we may have.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

I am afraid that people will start to lose hope. Without hope, people could be surrounded by more negativity and it might make them less motivated to help others in need, especially if they are not taking care of themselves. This could cause us to fall into an endless circle, where people stop thinking about helping others and are more worried about all the bad things happening in their lives. This will continue to happen until something or someone special appears. That is why it is so important now, more than ever, to have heroes emerge!

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

I believe great leaders and organizations will rise up due to this crisis and we will see more companies and people helping and serving our communities. We are resilient, and I believe we will come out of this pandemic stronger. It will take some time, but change doesn’t happen overnight.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I have been inspired by all the frontline workers because no matter how many hours they work or how much stress they endure, they always maintain a positive attitude. When my wife would come home from the hospital, no matter how exhausted she would be, she would still be smiling and have enough energy to always set some time for the family. I found the behaviors most disappointing from those who didn’t think this is a real crisis or that the virus was just made up. They are putting other people in harm’s way because they were not taking the necessary precautions for safety.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

The crisis has made me realize that the human population can be more mindful of the planet. Just being in quarantine for a few months, this has already had a huge impact on the world. Cities have been seeing record lows of pollution, animals are coming back to areas where they haven’t been seen in decades and the ocean’s water is staying clean. It would be great once things settle down to try and continue keeping the planet as healthy as possible.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

Shifting our focus to things that actually matter to us. This crisis has allowed us to spend more time at home with our family and loved ones. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am cherishing every moment that I am able to spend with my family. It would be great if people continued spending more quality time with their loved ones rather than constantly being on their phones and just not enjoying life in the present. If we appreciate the memories we are making now, we won’t have regrets later.

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?

We weren’t put on this earth to serve ourselves, but rather to serve others and make a bigger impact on society and our communities. I want to leave the earth a better place and this is the perfect opportunity for us to start. I think the Chinese proverb fits perfectly here. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.” One person can make a huge difference, even if you are taking small steps. You just have to remember to not give up. If you chop at a tree five times a day, eventually the tree will fall.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 would love to do the Smile and Move Challenge on a global scale and introduce our Minditude to Gratitude exercise. Even in these troubling times, we have to have hope and be thankful. The Minditude to Gratitude exercise helps change your mindset by having you create a daily list of ten things you are thankful for and then reading it back to yourself at least twice a day, when you wake up and before going to bed. Once the movement gains momentum, everyone will be able to help spread joy during these tough times while also becoming more grateful for the things we have in our lives.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would have to say Ellen Degeneres. She has always brought laughter into my life and has been a role model for spreading kindness. If she had any joint pain during our lunch, I would show her a quick mobility exercise that would help reduce her pain while making her laugh. I think that would be a successful lunch even if we don’t eat.

How can our readers follow you online?

People can find me through my website and can stay updated with me through Instagram.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you so much for this opportunity!

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