Steve Kane of ‘Rolling Strong’: “Don’t feel sorry for them”

Success is not measured on where you are, it’s measured on how hard you are willing to push to get to the next step. Show vulnerability by allowing others to help you get there and don’t forget to give back to the next person trying to do the same thing. As a part of our “Unstoppable” […]

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Success is not measured on where you are, it’s measured on how hard you are willing to push to get to the next step. Show vulnerability by allowing others to help you get there and don’t forget to give back to the next person trying to do the same thing.

As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Kane.

Steve Kane is addressing one of the largest issues for trucking operations — driver health and wellness. As President of Rolling Strong, a fitness and wellness company that uses a mobile app to help carriers and drivers improve compliance with CDL medical requirements and to implement and manage their wellness initiatives, he leads a team of developers and coaches who are working to raise the awareness level of the importance of this issue with fleets. Kane also works with the American Trucking Associations and other trucking organizations to improve the health and fitness of truck drivers across the industry.

Kane has 20 years of trucking operations management and software and mobile application development experience. Today, he brings his skills and passion for fitness and wellness to the driver community through Rolling Strong. Prior to joining the company, he was Director of Innovation at Velociti Inc.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I am the president and founder of a health company designed for professional drivers called Rolling Strong. It promotes behavior change and provides support in the areas of nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress management and weight management. My father was an entrepreneur and business owner and owned trucks for food distribution to nursing homes and his brother was a truck driver. I grew up changing tires and shining the aluminum of trucks. As I grew older, I did these tasks at truck stops to earn enough money to become a CDL Class A truck driver. I had been athletic in college but had let myself go as had many of my trucking colleagues.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Testicular Cancer. During this time, I was a system operations manager for a regional carrier out of the Carolinas. When the drivers learned of my health condition, they all donated portions of their paychecks to help me get the insurance I needed and to buy him a bicycle, so I could model myself after Lance Armstrong’s physical prowess and restore myself to health. In 2008, I owned and operated kickboxing schools in the Carolinas. I worked my way up to mid-level management in trucking companies and simultaneously studied on my own to learn coding and IT.

In 2010–2014 I was part of a Product Committee to put computers in trucks to assist the truckers with various tasks. The other IT execs began asking if they could build something to help truckers with their health due to their sedentary lifestyle. I built and designed a wellness platform on whiteboards in my apartment in Salem, NC in 2014. I started a sole proprietorship called “Truck Fit” and turned it into a corporation and hired developers in 2015–2016, added coaching vendor partners and found an existing company called Rolling Strong, which sold their assets and I wrapped their services around what I had in my existing product as far as health-related vendor partnerships, AI coaching, wearables, etc.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

When I was 32, I was an operations manager for a trucking company and ran a side business detailing cars and trucks for extra money to support a young family. I had pain in my groin for months and eventually the pain got to the point where I finally went to the emergency room one evening. After a few hours of tests, I was told that I had testicular cancer. The tumors were removed but further tests indicated that it had in fact spread to other areas. They found several lymph nodes that were enlarged in my abdomen. They scheduled a lymphatic dissection where they would open me up to remove the lymph nodes that stretched from the top of my chest to my lower abdomen. When I went in for pre-op surgery, however, they found that my tumor markers had already doubled and that they couldn’t risk the surgery. Instead, we would move on to immediate Chemotherapy. I had a catheter put into my chest and Chemo was scheduled. When they plugged me in to receive my first Chemo, my heart rate shot up very high and I began to convulse. They pulled the treatment and had to reassess. I was then admitted to the hospital where they assigned a team of doctors and students to find another alternative to the standard protocol for that type of cancer treatment. I spent the next few weeks in the hospital waiting every day for the doctors to tell me if they found a way to treat me. My tumor markers were rising by the day and I was searching for comfort. Eventually, they found a solution. The treatment was eight hours per day, five days a week for five cycles. The Chemo would be much harsher than the cancer itself had been. Over the next couple of months, I experienced many of the challenges that this old school Chemo induced. Loss of all my hair, nausea, uncontrollable vomiting, body aches, insomnia, anxiety and neutropenia. Eventually my red, white and hemoglobin blood cells were essentially nonexistent. I could not leave the house. The prognosis was positive but the climb was life changing. My once jaded mindset began to change because of the kindness and generosity of those around me. Eventually the tumor markers normalized and I moved on to monthly check-ups, then quarterly check-ups and then yearly check-ups. Eventually, the doctors identified an issue with my heart called a cardiomyopathy. The cardiomyopathy was fairly mild but potentially progressive. My heart’s left ventricle was dilated, my pump function was less than normal and I was confronted with the risk that my heart would eventually lose the ability to pump the ample amount of blood to the body. What did all this mean for a 35-year-old man? It meant a body with old wounds, continuous pain, a compromised immune system and a heart defect that left questionable risk. Voices of doctors, family and friends were constantly airing on the side of caution. The message was confusing. Exercise, but not too much. Take these medications, but beware of their side effects. What I kept telling myself was that I had to do great things and I have to give back!

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?

Not long after being sick, I found my way back into a boxing gym — a place I loved as a kid and young adult. When I walked through the door I was 275 lbs., pale white and couldn’t jump rope for even one minute. During that time, I lost 75 lbs. and got to the point where I could spar 7 or 8 rounds with pros. I became a coach and started training others. One of my students told me about a 10k mud run. It was sponsored by the national MS society and you could create a team to help raise money in conjunction with competing in the event. I was motivated for this as my mom had recently been diagnosed with MS. My team successfully raised enough money to become the number two fundraiser that year and completed the race in the upper side of the leaderboard. Its success left me inspired and I had a chance to see what the act of fundraising and the dedication to a fitness event did for my mom. I began to see how health and fitness was a way to build a life bridge for people and it could be used to help, give back and motivate change and growth. Parallel to my continued growth as an athlete, I also excelled in business. I went from being a driver, to a supervisor and on to a corporate manager. For me success became more about how many challenges I could work through and how to use the outcomes to give back. As I continued to coach boxing and fitness in parallel to my career, my brother and I opened a boxing school. One day I had an idea to build a wellness program and technology that could help professional truck drivers stay healthy. The idea became a start-up and eventually a reality in the transportation market called Rolling Strong. The program is now in place helping trucking companies and their drivers improve health and safety. We have helped thousands of drivers make changes, get healthy and learn how to keep it that way. Over time I would compete in triathlons, marathons and train for Ironman. At the peak of my training I was biking 100 miles per week, running 30 miles and swimming 3–4 miles per week. I have sparred with pros, I have finished triathlons and marathons and at 47-years-old I was in the best shape of my life. Then in July 2020, I crashed my bike during training. I tore my labrum and bicep. It required surgery and halted my progress to Ironman. Within weeks of the surgery, I found myself teaching boxing in the evenings to young adults. I traded my training time in for training others. As I have trained them, it has motivated me to begin training again. As the use of my arm slowly returns, so does my insistent desire to move forward. Once again, the real accomplishment is the gift of giving back and of resilience.

What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?

For starters, we all won’t be podium finishers in Ironman. Your podium finish can be doing more tomorrow than you did yesterday. Our physical self can limit how far and how fast, but it can’t take away our ability to try. If we are resilient enough to keep trying, then others will also see it and they themselves may try to do better as a result (which is inadvertently another way to give back and help others). Let your limitations become someone else’s asset by showing them that you are willing to try.

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 get you to where you are?

Help is often only available to those who are willing to receive it. There is help all around us if we are vulnerable enough to learn and accept it. I learned that once I started making my life more about helping others, I was able to find the humility to let others help me. There have been numerous people who have truly helped me and supported me along the way, both in family and personal relationships. There is no way that I could attribute my success to any one person; they’ve all been impactful in various ways and I am forever grateful!

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

Rolling Strong is probably the biggest example of that because we help people all over the country. However, I continue to coach youth boxing in the evenings and I use this program to address issues around bullying, racism and general life skills. If I ever didn’t have Rolling Strong anymore, I would set my sights on a scalable program to help young people, to address racism and to promote unity. When I was still traveling pre-Covid, I did something called “push-ups for love.” I would do push ups with homeless people so they could earn a meal. If they gave their best effort at completing 30 pushups, I would buy them a meal. In more of a micro approach, I try to make each interaction in life as special as I can for the people I meet. I try to let the world revolve around them for a moment.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why?

  • Don’t feel sorry for them; inspire them with your belief in them.
  • Don’t underestimate them, they may surprise you.
  • Pain is invisible to everyone other than the person who has it. Have empathy not sympathy.
  • For me the best kind of support was when people didn’t treat me differently but checked in just to let me know they cared.
  • Your single interaction with them could make a world of difference.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Success is not measured on where you are, it’s measured on how hard you are willing to push to get to the next step. Show vulnerability by allowing others to help you get there and don’t forget to give back to the next person trying to do the same thing.

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 with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

As much as I would like to have a meal with some big names or influential people, at this point in my life I would rather have lunch with someone that read this article who was moved by it and is ready to take the next step forward.

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