Everyone goes through life changes, changes that make up the entire being of the human race. Changes are something that most people dread even thinking about, but the only way you can truly face changes in your life is to confront them, according to Kurek Ashley, a world renowned performance coach. Kurek coaches and mentors tens of thousands of people each year at his workshops and seminars on how to improve their lives and get themselves back on their feet again.
Kurek Ashley was born in Chicago in early 1961. He grew up idolizing his father, trying to mimic everything that he did. He recalls “lathering up with no blade” with a razor next to his dad facing the mirror, just so he could be like his old man. At age three though, Kurek had to deal with a major struggle at such an early age; his parents were going through a divorce. His mom married a man who already had three children of his own. Kurek’s two siblings had to now welcome three others into the family, as well as another child from his mother and step-father’s new marriage. “I wasn’t well liked by a lot of my siblings, so I tended to have times where I was very lonely. I had great memories and fun as a child, but I was isolated a lot by my siblings,” he said. He had the same usual idols as most others of his time; Elvis and John Travolta were two that he always looked up to. “I wanted to make a name for myself and do something big like they did,” he said. Instead of attending college after high school, Kurek knew what he already wanted to do in life; he wanted to be an actor. With that in mind, he drove to Hollywood with $300 in his pocket, hoping to get a name for himself quickly. Unfortunately, it ended up taking him three years to find a steady job that would make him happy. After working with many famous names like Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris, he finally thought he found his calling in life. Kurek was now acting in movies while also being a stuntman for films. It was while he was acting in the movie, “Delta Force 2” that his lifelong dream would soon be put on hold.
Unexpectedly during the filming, one of the helicopters on set crashed, causing his life to change in an instant. Five of his friends, including his best friend Mike, would eventually die due to this awful accident. “I felt like a loser because I couldn’t save my friends’ lives. Also my own mortality was in my face; I realized how real death is. Mike was only 29 years old when he died in my arms; you’re not supposed to die that young,” he said. This event is what caused Kurek to spiral into a dark and downward depression that he never thought was even possible. He became truly upset, not even wanting to live anymore. At 27-years-old, he didn’t know what to do with his life. After all, he felt that living wasn’t worth it anymore. “How am I still alive, but my best friend isn’t?” he said. During this time, he went through bouts of homelessness. There were times he had $20 to his name, sleeping in his car at night with nowhere to go. “With all that was going on, I still remembered to be grateful. By being grateful, I was able to keep things in perspective,” he said. At least I still had a car to sleep in at night. I also kept myself physically in shape everyday, which helped to turn my emotions around.”
After years of depression, Kurek realized he needed to start living a healthier life, which led him to where he is today. He started to look at the positive in life and realize that he was still pretty lucky compared to many other people. “I had experienced awful loneliness, pain, and sadness. Once I started to truly bring happiness into my life, I realized that everyone has the same potential,” he said. “It became my hunger to study and learn as much as I could to keep myself happy and help others to do the same.” When asked if he would consider himself a motivational speaker, he says no. “My job is not to teach content; it is to teach change. Motivational speakers are great people, but that’s not for me. Motivation is temporary, true life change is forever,” he said.
Kurek goes all around the globe to spread his message and now lives in Australia. It was there, while he was giving a free seminar, where he found his next big calling in life. At his workshop, he was talking about how nobody wants to finish last. He was using the reference of the Olympics, where the top three finalists stand on boxes to receive their medals. “Nobody wants to be on that third box, everyone wants to finish first,” he said. A girl raised her hand though, and she said that she literally was on that third box. He was speaking to a member of the Australian Women’s Volleyball team who had finished third in the Summer Olympics. Kurek apologized for his reference, but the girl told him that she needed his help to win. In 1998, he started to coach the team, urging them to realize that they can win if they try hard enough. Sure enough when Australia held the Summer Games in 2000 in Sydney, the Australian Women’s Volleyball team took the gold. “It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said.
Kurek tries to help people understand that everyone has an equal potential in life if they just put their mind to it. “There are only two groups of people in this world. There are the successful people and the unsuccessful ones; and I’m not talking about money,” he said. “The formula for being in the unsuccessful group is easy: don’t follow the successful formula. If you want to be in the successful group, you have to change first before anything else in your life does. You have to reinvent yourself before you get results.” Kurek doesn’t simply stand on a stage and talk to those who come to his seminars; he wants to get them involved. At some of his seminars, he has an optional “fire walk” or “glass walk.” These events involve getting the audience (at their agreement to do so) to walk barefoot over a path of hot coals or broken glass. He actually holds the world record for the longest fire walk at 266 feet. “I realize most people think this impossible, but thousands of people have done it under my watch. You just have to believe in yourself. I do this at my seminars to show people that they can overcome their fears and move past boundaries in their lives that they think they can’t,” he said.
Kurek is also a best-selling author. His book, “How Would Love Respond” has sold tens of thousands of copies, and reached number one on amazon.com after only being published for four hours. It has made over 20 best seller lists, and took him four years to write. In his book, he talks about how he went through depression and overcame it, and he also teaches people his advice on how to achieve better success in their lives. There is a section of his book that talks about his then-wife Marie. Kurek thought he was in a happy marriage, until one day Marie approached him wanting a divorce. At first, he was devastated and heartbroken; he loved his wife and didn’t want his marriage to come to an end. His eventual reaction though was one of complete gratitude and love. “I realized that she wasn’t leaving me, she was going to find herself, and I’m the one who taught her how to do that,” he said. “I got my engines back on and told myself that I had to handle this in an empowering way.” Kurek is now married to his wife Johanna, and they are expecting their first child in less than four weeks. He met Johanna at a winery that his friend owned. “She was pouring wine and looked like an angel to me,” he said. “She told me that she wanted to be a success coach one day; I chuckled and gave her my business card. It was a total coincidence
. She e-mailed me the next day, and we have been together ever since.”
Kurek’s overall message is one of love. His goal is to teach people that gratitude is everything. “Gratitude makes you feel better, which makes you act better, which makes you produce better results,” he said. “Buddha said it best when he said ‘there is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.'”
Adam Anders is a fifth-year student majoring in political science with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA652656@wcupa.edu.