How do you know when you’re ready to make a change? More importantly, how do you know when making a change is the right thing to do? For Darian Parker, it’s when you get that itch or that sense of knowing moving through your body that you should do something. Darian is a personal trainer and the co-owner of Epic Leisure Management, a firm that provides turnkey solutions to planning, designing, programming, and operating the next generation of healthy living centers. Armed with a masters from James Madison University and a doctorate from UNLV, Darian gave all of that up for a career in personal training. Today, he joins Jen Du Plessis to share his path from success to significance and his complete satisfaction with what he is doing.
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Making A Change With Darian Parker
I am happy to have you here with us. If this is your first time, thank you for joining our community. I hope that you enjoy this interview that we’re doing. If you have been reading for a while, thank you for reading and for giving us great ratings and reviews. Please continue to do that if you’ve not done that already. My guest in this episode is Darian Parker. I want to share with you a little bit about Darian. He is with Epic Leisure Management in the State of Washington. He helps lots of people, real estate developers, hotel developers, country club general managers, and gym owners. We talked to him about all of these people that he’s helping, we’re going to find out what his path was from success to significance in the way that he is giving back to the people that he is serving. I want to welcome, Darian, to the show.
Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.
Let’s get started with your story. What brought you to where you’re at now?
My story is one where travel is the word. I grew up in a military family. I was born in Germany and I’ve lived there a couple of times. Throughout the course of the military service that my dad was in, the journey was about hard work, integrity, hearing about other people like genuine care for others, and being yourself no matter what, being yourself in the face of scrutiny. As you’re growing up, especially when I was in high school growing up, I felt like I was a more mature old soul type of person, but everybody else I knew generally was not. I did not make for the best time in high school.
Most of us didn’t have a good time in high school.
I don’t get when people say high school is the peak of their life. I don’t want to top out at that point in my life. I was painfully shy. It was difficult for me to relate to people my age. I wanted to break through that. I desperately wanted to get out of high school. I wanted to graduate so I can move on, start fresh, and bring out the person inside me that I knew was always there. I want to bring that person to the surface. When I got to college, it felt like this was the time for me. It was now or never. For a lot of people, one of their biggest fears is public speaking. A lot of people are afraid of that and I was one of those people. I said, “I’m going to take a public speaking class in college to get through this.” We had to give speeches every single week the entire semester in front of a large group of other students. It broke me in a good way. It broke all the barriers down for me so that I could function and speak to people without feeling painfully shy about it.
What did you study? How did you use that in what you’re doing?
I was a Kinesiology major with an emphasis in Exercise Leadership. I was going to be working with people so I need to know how to speak, be personable, and connect. That public speaking class was an elective. It wasn’t something I had to do, it was what I chose to do. My program at James Madison University, I went for my undergrad and Master’s. I wanted to also have counseling. They had this great course called Basic Counseling Skills. You received a therapist for the entire semester as part of the class. That was also life-changing for me. Think about the twenty-year-old student going to your therapist, it’s part of your class. You’re getting videotaped and you’re talking about your feelings and stuff and emotions. That was crazy, but I always felt good when I left my therapist and I would go to my next class. I thought it was such a unique thing.
I’ve never heard of it before.
I still haven’t heard of it, but I give my university a lot of credit for making that possible.When you’re in your 20s, you're always second-guessing what you're doing. Just hold on and keep doing what you're doing. Click To Tweet
What did you do when you got out of college and you started doing personal training? What are you doing now?
When I got out of college, I was personal training then that’s when I started my career but I stayed at James Madison for almost seven years because I did my Master’s degree there as well. I was trying to not work so much because I was like, “I don’t know who I am.” I don’t want to get out there and start working. I don’t know myself so I continued to go to school. I continued to personal train. Once I graduated, I went to UNLV across the country and I did my Doctorate in Sports Education Leadership after that because I wasn’t ready to go into the workforce full-time. I didn’t consider training to be my career. Earlier on, it was what I love to do, but I wasn’t considering it that thing.
What did you do after you graduated?
After I graduated, I stayed at James Madison for my Master’s degree because I wasn’t ready to work completely. I kept training people and then I went and got my Doctorate at UNLV because I wanted to have my terminal degree to give me an advantage as I went out into the workforce. Surely and during that time, I wanted to understand more about the psychology of human beings. I dove deep into human behavior, behavior analysis, behavior modification, all the things that are catchy nowadays. I was learning these back in 2007 when I graduated. I started working in more of a career college system. I liked teaching, but it was teaching personal trainers.
The personal training thing was always still there and part of my whole thing. I rose to become the Director of Education for career college helping to certify trainers and official educational program, a vocational program. One day, we moved back to Las Vegas. It was travel because we moved to Kansas and went back to Vegas. It was like a whole thing. I got back to Vegas and I was like, “I don’t want to be a teacher in a university. I’m going to give that up.” I gave it up and I said, “What do I love to do?” I love personal training. I’m going to keep doing that so I chose to make that my career. I answered a cryptic ad on Craigslist and I got into the luxury fitness world.
I started as a trainer for this company, WTS International, which is a gigantic global in 33 countries lifestyle, wellness, recreation amenity company. Throughout those twelve years, I was with them, I ended up becoming the GM of a large high-end club in Las Vegas and then became the National Director of Fitness for the entire company, the global. I was like, “It was awesome. I enjoyed it, but it was another glass ceiling.” I wasn’t challenged at the end. I said, “How can I make this something I wanted to do?” so I quit. That’s been my thing. I dropped things when I’m not challenged by them because I want to go out on top. I want to be completely happy, satisfied, and in love with what I was doing so, I dropped it.
That’s part of making these changes, going from the success to significance. You were trying to find what is going to make you feel better about what you’re giving back to the world. You were still trying to do that. You were still trying to find out, “Where do I fit in this world? What am I passionate about?”
I felt like I had an itch to do something that I thought was going to be a little more meaningful for me. I said, “What can I do?” I had trained the entire time throughout all these years. I want to have two companies. I want to do one where I personal train full-time. I want to have another one where I do the previous job I was doing, where I was working with country club, general managers, hotel developers, and designing gyms and amenities for them and managing clubs. I want to do both those things. Epic Leisure Management was born from that with the desire to have my own version of a larger company, but more on a small boutique company where we could sit down and service the people we work with. The thing was working in a large company and I’m grateful for that company was the fact that I thought it was too big. When you’re in 33 countries, it’s difficult to effectively meet the needs of all of your clients in doing that so we wanted to be a boutique.
Tell us then what does Epic Leisure Management specifically do.
We’re a one-stop-shop. Let’s say we’re working with a hotel developer and they said that they’re going to build this hotel. Most hotels, especially luxury-based hotels have beautiful amenities, spas, health clubs, and now more than ever, it is because wellness is such a big deal. It becomes super high-end luxury places with full-fledged facilities. What happens is your hotel developer doesn’t know anything about health and wellness. They know how to build hotels. They already know about the occupancy of hotels, food, and beverage and that’s great. All those things are good, but often what happens is they build this beautiful facility and they’re not quite sure how to run it or how to maximize its profitability and the customer service-related to it.
That’s where we come in as a third-party management company where we say, “This is our expertise. Even better, if we can get in with you before you even building the hotel. We can be a part of designing the actual health and wellness amenity based-off of occupancy that you think you’re going to have in the hotel, how many treatment rooms you should have in the spa, what products you should be using the programming and everything.” That’s our ideal time to get in there, financial budgeting for the spa, the fitness facility, the actual turnkey, and everyday daily management of it. That we blend in. We’re working with Ritz-Carlton and we manage it. Nobody knows that Epic Leisure Management is running the spa. The guests don’t know that. They think it’s the hotel, but you’re getting the expertise of a third-party company. We’ve become that company for them.
How does your passion for personal training still fit in there other than knowing that you’re putting together something great for people? How do you fulfill that on a regular basis from that standpoint because you’ve got those two sides?
That’s my socialization side. When I’m doing work with Epic, you’re working with CEOs and vice presidents of companies, vice presidents of marketing. You are high up the branch in terms of the more corporate aspect of it. It’s slow-moving. It’s a labor of love. Whereas training, it’s an immediate feeling. Every day I’m working with my clients and we’re growing together. We’re becoming friends with each other. We’re emotionally sinking with each other and I’m watching them become better people and they’re making me a better person with our daily interactions. I feel like I have the long-term play and the short-term play at the same time with training, which can be long-term too. Most of my clients are long-term. My longest-term client so far is thirteen years and running.
I can see how you could fulfill that passion that you have while the long game is playing itself out there, someplace in the future. Something interesting that you’ve mentioned about yourself is that you write poetry. Where did that come from?
That was in my early twenties when I was still trying to figure out what’s going on. I said, “I’ve got this outlet I love and writing. I enjoy expressing myself. I’m still trying to figure out. I need to get these thoughts and feelings out about this whole thing.” I was a junior in college and I said, “I’m going to start writing poetry books.” I wrote one and I liked it. I was like, “I’m going to self-publish it.” The bookstore in college decided to order it and have it in there, which was fun. All of my friends bought the book from the store and stuff like that. It was cool. I wrote several more after that because I enjoy creativity. I want people to see a different side of me that by people in my profession in fitness are often defined and consumed by it. I want that to never be the case with me that there are many other aspects to me in music and art. I like painting and different things that I want to be known for, to be as somebody who is almost eclectic in a variety of things. I love my jobs, but it’s not my life.
When you think back and you could talk to your younger self, what would you say to your younger self to help that person get to where you are now? Where you’re at the point of saying that you feel that you’re making an impact on many people’s lives in a lot of different ways?
I would say hold on and keep doing what you’re doing.
Is that something that you were second-guessing at that time?
Yes, especially in your twenties, you’re always second-guessing what you’re doing. Your brain is still forming, the prefrontal cortex of your brain is still forming. Your decision-making is a mess half the time. It’s biology, but it’s also emotion and it’s circumstances and things. I had doubts about where I was going. I would say, “Stick it out.” I would say the same thing my mom said to me when I was in high school, she said, “Who you are now is going to be highly desirable when you’re older. I promise, you’ll get through it. Nobody’s like this normally at this age. It’s okay.”
It’s good that you still think about that inspiration and those comments that she made to get you through. My son is an old soul. Whenever he had turned, we still laugh at him and say that he probably turned 88 because he’s an old soul. He’s always been that way. I think you grow into that and once you do, look at what you can do to help. You could have taken the path of a lot of fitness trainers and personal trainers that are working in clubs all the time and that’s all they have, but what a great a way that you could get in to be able to impact people from a third-party. They don’t even know that you’ve impacted them in that way. I’m thinking about our readers and they are people that are saying, “I’ve been in corporate forever, and I want to make a change.” “I’ve made the change, I’m in the middle of the change and I don’t know if this was the right thing.” What advice do you want to give to someone who’s in any one of those categories that you feel would make an impact on them?Who you are now is going to be highly desirable when you're older. Click To Tweet
I would say that the feeling that you’re having, that itch or that sense that’s moving through your body, that you should do something, you should listen to it. It’s like a siren and that bell is only going to get louder. You can push it away, but it’s going to get bigger. You should follow it and listen to it. It’s your intuition. It’s your gut. It’s telling you what to do. You should do it.
Maybe not do what you do, but quit. Come up with a plan.
I have plans now when I do things.
That is totally different. I get it. Your avatar and you probably have two avatars, but because you’re physically located in one location, anybody who’s reading who lives in your area could call on you for personal training. From your business perspective of Epic Leisure Management, if someone’s reading and they’re a developer, gym owner, or they know a gym owner, tell us exactly what that person looks like so that someone could help your business go forward or you could help them directly.
To any hotel developers, land developers, or gym owners, the best thing is admitting and saying, “I think wellness is huge.” Everybody in that space wants to get into the game, but they often are not aware that companies like ours exist. I think a lot of companies don’t know about that third-party management companies exist. I think for us, the best thing is if you’re in the business, hotel developers, land developers, club general managers, is to go to our website, ELMAdventures.com. You’ll learn about the type of people we are, which is most important because when you’re doing business for me, it’s who are the people you’re dealing with. If you’re working with us, you’re going to work with us closely so you want to know that you’re dealing with reputable, kind, and caring people. That’s what we are. Our services are on there and then our contact information. It has our numbers and email addresses, everything so it is easy to get in contact with us. We’re also on LinkedIn. We have a company page on there and then both myself and my business partner, Allen Jakubauskas is also on there. We’re easy to find, but the type of service we offer is not often out there too much for people.
As we go into the decade of the ‘20s and a lot of people are calling about the roaring ‘20s. I’m calling it the soaring ‘20s because I want everything to soar. What is going to soar in your life and your business in the soaring ‘20s?
We’re doing a podcast here. I have my own podcast as well that I love doing. That, plus my training, plus Epic Leisure Management, that trifecta is going to soar in 2020 in my life because all those things are connected with each other. They’re all about emotion. They’re all about caring and loving people in an honest, genuine way and helping without an agenda. That’s what’s going to soar for me.
I want to ask you this, tell us about your podcast.
My podcast is Dr. D’s Social Network. I talked to people underneath the health and wellness umbrella primarily, but I’m expanding out to people with a variety of different fields because it’s about good conversation. I love having a positive conversation with people. As long as I can talk to somebody and I can help them become the best version of themselves, that’s what the podcast is about telling stories for storytellers.
They could also reach out to you and say, “I’d like to be on your podcast,” if they’re in wellness as well.
I talk to pretty much anybody.
Can you give us either with a favorite quote that resonated with you or a book that you’re reading that’s having an impact on you?
I’m not a huge reader, but the last book I read that I love is by Chris Voss and it’s called Never Split the Difference. It has been hugely effective for me because it’s the art of persuasion in a positive way. Learning how to almost interview people, to get the best information out of them again, not to swindle them but to create good quality conversations.
Also curiosity in the relationship. Do you have a favorite quote?
I do have a favorite quote and this is my quote. I’m going to give you this. I thought of this years ago, but it’s called, “Greatness magnifies mediocrity.” When you see greatness in you around it, sometimes people get frustrated or jealous of it. A lot of times, it’s because it magnifies their own sense of why they’re not accomplishing things. It’s often with a lot of things of people’s anger and frustrations because they’re mad at themselves for not doing the things they need to do to accomplish what they want.
It’s funny that you say that because I spoke at an event and I made this comment to them, “Execution laziness,” because everyone says, “I wish I could be like you.” It’s about the laziness of execution and I’m not sure where it’s from because I don’t have all of the education that you do in human behavior. I imagine there are a lot of reasons why. It could be an entitlement or anger. There are probably thousands of reasons why people don’t execute and it’s frustrating for me as someone who does. I love that and that’s true.
It’s a mirror, greatness is a light that shines on mediocrity and says, “If you want to be great, you have to see what you’re doing is not the path for that.
It’s usually not sexy to be great. It’s work.
It is grinding. I think the mistake that people make is like, “You’re doing something you love and you will love it all the time.” There are days that I don’t want to do the things that I’m doing. I don’t want to train people all the time as my clients don’t want to work with me all the time. They’re tired, but you’ve got to show up anyway.
That’s true and you’ll feel great afterward. It was wonderful having you here, Darian. Thank you for sharing with everybody. I know that you have a business as well, but I love all of the words. Anybody who’s reading, read again because the keywords that Darian is putting out here are the things that have made him not only successful but also significant with the people that he works with and surrounds himself with. If that’s something you’re chasing after, then get in touch with him and I’m sure he will help you as well. Thank you for joining us.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
It’s a pleasure. Go out there and make it a great day. Thank you for reading. Please be sure to give us a great rating and some feedback in the form of a review and we will catch you next time.
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About Darian Parker
Dr. Darian Parker earned his PhD in Sports Education Leadership with an emphasis in Behavior Modification from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He earned his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from James Madison University in Kinesiology with concentrations in Exercise Leadership, Athletic Administration and Advanced Coaching. Dr. Parker is also a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Throughout the course of Dr. Parker’s career he has served several roles in the fitness and wellness industry such as Director of Education and Program Coordinator for Professional Fitness Institute/Pinnacle Career College to the National Director of Fitness for WTS International.
Dr. Parker’s newest venture as the Co-Owner of Epic Leisure Management provides an opportunity for him to create, implement and foster the highest levels of a people-centered culture while also providing the most innovative and significant technologies and services to clients