St. Louis is the hometown to many people that have changed the world in many ways. A few names you might recognize are Maya Angelou, Jack Dorsey, Miles Davis, Sterling Brown, and Dick Gregory. Carl Givens may not have the aspirations to be a Civil Rights Activist or build the next big social media platform, but he has St. Louis running through his veins. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. Carl has focused is passions on producing better athletes and individuals overall fitness one person at a time. Given100 is a fitness facility located on Pershing Ave minutes from Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri.
The first time we met Carl Givens was in the small town of Fulton, MO where he attended Westminster College. He was the top prospect in his conference with murmurs of NFL opportunities. Carl has always strived for greatness in every aspect of his life. A quote you will always hear him say is “Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great” It’s has been eight years since that first meeting (This interview was conducted in 2019) let’s catch up on his journey to greatness.
What was it like growing up in St. Louis?
We moved around a lot. My mom was married 4 times. So, it was interesting. I used to call my aunt and my big mama (grandmother) my second mom because I stayed with them a lot growing up. But my mom did a great job raising us. Definitely, the best she could. Being 31 and looking back on it. Now that I have my own child (Nora). She completed a big accomplishment by raising 6 children two being adopted. None of us are in jail. We are all doing great, living our best lives. She did a great job
How did Chaminade High School influence your life?
I transferred there after my freshman year at Clayton high school. I was 15 years old. I attend the Lamourous House. It was a big game changer in my life. It was a place that gave me stability, a place to grow safely without begin affected from the outside world. When you drive up to Chaminade you know you are in a safe place. You have no choice but to work on yourself. Whether you want to or not, because they are going to make sure you become a better man.
When did you know your dreams of playing in the NFL were slipping away?
I don’t look at life as losing when certain dreams or goals are not reached. The only time you can lose at something is when you quit. What I say was that there were people who had a desperation to make it to the NFL. I noticed that with my background and education I can do more than play football. Once I figured I used the things that football taught me and applied to different aspects in life.
What sparked the fire for you to start Given100?
I knew I never wanted to work for someone. When I was a kid, I would love when businessman walked into a room. People would change their tone of voice and treat them differently. That’s when I decided I wanted to be like that. My mom owned a couple of businesses, so she gave me that entrepreneur spirit. I liked the idea that I would be writing the checks. Given100 is like my first baby. It was what I needed to get to this stage in life where I am at right now. It keeps me centered and grounded because of the values I have. Which are the values that make Given 100.
How has GIVEN 100 challenged you?
I think every business owner can say over the course running the business things will pop up here and there. Being able to adjust is one of the most important skills you need as an entrepreneur. There is always more information you can learn, and you can always do better. What I always tell someone who wants to become an entrepreneur. I can tell you about swimming as much as you want. I can take you to the pool, and you can jump it. But it is totally different from swimming in the ocean, then swimming in the pool.
“Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great” How do you manifest that into reality?
Say it 1000 times to yourself all day, every day. Make it a lifestyle. Understanding what everyone else is doing is probably not for you. As long as you can always make the best decisions for you and your future. Don’t just live in the right now. Keep people around that are better than you. Always work on not being the smartest person in room. Always look and seek to find information. Always look for ways to better yourself. That’s what being great is about. Being good is following the crowd and doing the status quo. Being great is taking it the next level. Currently I’m not good at golf. But I play it every single day because I forgot the feeling of not being good at something. It also challenges me in other aspects of my life. When you find something you’re not good at. You start to question the things you are good at. You get the itch of being unsettled. You start thinking that there is more out there; there is more I can accomplish there is more I can do.
What has kept you centered during this stage in your life?
God. The belief that I am going to be successful, and I am going to be the person I always wanted to be. But I also wanted to create something for my children (Nora) when they got older that they didn’t have to work for someone if they didn’t want to. I wanted them to be able to have a that option. The option to be able to have options. You know there is a lot of the people who don’t have options. I wanted to make sure I was a part of that group. Or I created that life for my children after me.
What advice would give the someone wanting to start a business?
It’s going to be hard, but if its not going to be hard then you don’t want to be a part of it. Hard is the best thing we can be a part of. Because hard makes you grow, challenge yourself, makes you change. The person I am today compared to the person I was when I was 21 25 28. I had an idea, but I didn’t know how. The person I became today is from the difficulties of becoming an entrepreneur. It also puts you in rooms with people that are like you or people you want to be like.
We sat in for a few hours at Given100 and watched Carl take groups through workouts and coach them up. The ages varied from 14 to 50 years but Carl was able to tweak the workouts on the fly with no hesitation. After the last group finished we closed shop. Carl took us to his home to finish the interview.
As we walked up the stoop to the house Carl looked back and said " You can have this too" He never misses a chance to motivate. He opened the door to his soon to be wife Danielle and their pride and joy Nora. Carl gave us a brief tour. The home was just as beautiful as his family. The man cave on the third floor had a putting green mat. Carl grabbed a putting club and a ball, After a few swing and was able sink the ball on the third try. We went down stairs to the living room to complete the interview.
Carl sat down with Nora. He admitted he was still getting the hang of being a girl dad. Nora whined a little but Carl was able to comfort her during the interview. Once the interview was complete we sat and watch Man Utd play Sheffield Utd. We chatted a little more then we said our goodbyes.
The first time we met Carl he was living off work study and sharing an apartment with teammates. At that moment he was doing good for himself. It is safe to say Carl is doing great now.
This story has been edited and condensed from the original interview