Ed Latimore (@EdLatimore) is a heavyweight boxer, physics major, chess nerd, survivor of Pittsburgh’s public housing projects, and author of Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower.

“I’m so happy that I learned to like books instead of social approval.” -Ed Latimore

What We Discuss with Ed Latimore:

  • What Ed Latimore learned from growing up in one of the worst environments in America.
  • Why it’s never too late to make big changes in your life — and how to kick off the process if you’re feeling resistant to making those changes.
  • How Ed rebuilt his life from the ground up after one of his biggest defeats.
  • Fear is a more powerful motivator than the desire to change.
  • Why would someone who pulled Cs and Ds in high school math choose to double major in math and physics on a second try at college?
  • And much more…

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A childhood spent under conditions of extreme adversity can lead to a cycle that perpetuates itself with further generations — unless the child manages to find a way out.

Ed Latimore, author of Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower: Insights From a Heavyweight Boxer, was such a child. In this episode, he joins us to explain how he found his way out, what happened when he took a detour away from a promising future, and what he did to get himself back in the game and excel as a renaissance man who double-majored in math and physics during his second go at college, plays chess, boxes as a heavyweight, became fluent at French, and writes books. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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More About This Show

Growing up in a bad neighborhood in Pittsburgh is one thing. Growing up in the bad neighborhood against which all other bad neighborhoods are judged — the kind of place a fence surrounds to keep the population inside contained, the police won’t dare approach, and pizza delivery drivers are beaten and robbed for $40 on Christmas Eve — is quite another.

This is where Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower: Insights From a Heavyweight Boxer author Ed Latimore grew up. And while he concedes such an atmosphere is ripe for the prosperity of bad habits, he tries to be thankful for the good things he learned from the experience — like having respect for others.

Networking for Survival

In his neighborhood, there was no way of knowing who knew who. Showing up on one person’s radar for the wrong reasons could quickly escalate into having half the block ready to attack on sight. So Ed became adept at showing respect and knowing how to de-escalate powder keg situations. He built a network around himself not for the sake of furthering his career options, but in order to survive.

“I grew up in an era where there were no trolls,” says Ed. “If you wanted to say something, you had to say it to someone’s face. You couldn’t do it from behind a screen! That carries into how I deal with people now that I can say things from behind the screen — because why would I want to be mean like that?”

Ed was lucky enough to go to a high school across town, which got him out of the projects for a while every week and exposed him to different kinds of people. It helped him understand that not everyone saw violence as the solution to all of life’s problems, and that learning was a lot easier when he didn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder for potential danger.

He befriended classmates whose parents made him feel welcome — and even though he’s in his early thirties, they still treat him as family today.

“They really took me under their wing, for lack of a better term,” says Ed, “and I was very much the recipient of the benefits from positive peer pressure. I was pushed upward. All of my friends wanted to go to college, and naturally it made sense that I should probably go to college.”

Change Is a Choice at Any Age

This isn’t to say anyone in Ed’s situation would make the choice to better themselves, but he had an attitude that was conducive to positive change. He could have just as easily remained friends with the bad apples in his neighborhood who had no desire for a better life.

“I understood as a youngster that I had the power to take my life in any direction,” says Ed. “And if I stayed in this place and I stayed with these people and I didn’t push myself, that I would likely end up here [in the projects] again. I cannot tell you how many families I knew that were two or three generations deep in housing projects.”

But what if you’re not a youngster? What if you’re 30 — or older — and you recognize your current situation as something you want to change?

“You have to step away,” says Ed. “You have to step away and get a new frame of reference for yourself independent of the old habits. So if you’re 30 and you’re like, ‘Man, I hate all these people around me. I hate my job. I’m going to go home; my friends are losers.’ The first thing I would tell you: ‘Man, learn to love yourself. You’ve got to be alone.'”

An Unexpected Detour

While it might seem like Ed was primed at this point in life to escape from the bad habits that dragged people back to the projects, a derailment early on in college led him on a detour that lasted through his twenties.

As Ed tells it, he played football and fell in love with “the booze and the girls” that hadn’t been available to him as a nerdy teenager. His GPA plunged and he dropped out of school just into his second year. He slept on his aunt’s floor where seven other people stayed and he learned how to shoplift for food.

What helped Ed out of this rut?

“I was making progress in boxing,” says Ed. “I was putting a lot of energy there — so much so that I beat a guy named Dominic Breazeale, who ended up going on to represent the United States in the 2012 Olympics. And because I beat him, I got selected to be in his group in L.A. and I had all my training paid for. Life was good.”

Then Ed got injured and they had to cut him. He wound up selling phones at T-Mobile for $11 an hour (with commission), which made him miserable. But this also prompted him to get back on a path of progress instead of self-pity. After researching his options, he decided to enlist in the National Guard.

“One, I could have that on my resume,” says Ed. “Two, I could get some skills…and three, to get money to go to college.”

Whatever the Trials

Even though Ed barely made it through math in high school, he decided to pursue math and physics on his second attempt at college — because any job that dependably paid a salary he sought could always be traced back to a proficiency with math.

“The way I approach problems is…here’s the end goal. That’s where I need to get to. What do I have to go through? Do I have to go through fire? Do I have to go under the bridge? Do I have to answer three riddles? Whatever the trials are, then I just prepare for them.”

How to Take the Good from the Bad When Things Turn Ugly

Ed says that the real gratitude to appreciate one’s own situation comes from expanding horizons and understanding the world from points of reference alien to one’s own. Reading, traveling, and interacting with others helps us achieve this.

“I used to think I grew up dirt poor,” says Ed, “but it wasn’t until I was in the Dominican Republic in Puerto Plata and I was helping people laying cement so people could have floors [that] all of a sudden my whole perspective on poverty changed.”

If we want to cultivate this kind of gratitude, we might keep a journal and write down five to 10 things that happen every day — even if it’s a terrible day — to remind us that bad things happen, but in perspective, they can always be worse. This helps us develop the reflex to say, “This is terrible, but what are two or three things that came out of this that are positive?” Building this reflex changes the direction of our thinking.

THANKS, ED LATIMORE!

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Resources from This Episode:

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