Members Change Their View (And Take Selfies!) at April Breakfast Meeting

April 15, 2015 | Posted By: Connor Watkins

It was a moment frozen in time, a moment all about leadership. And it was a moment that changed the course of one man’s life, a defining moment forever etched in his memory.

To set the stage, you have to go way back to Marine Corps boot camp on Parris Island. Chris Wooten found himself in the middle of his platoon, which was aligned from tallest to shortest.

“After about the third or fourth day, I realized my view wasn’t changing,” said Wooten, now the owner of Bodyshop Athletics. “I was in the middle of the pack, looking at the back of some dude’s head.”

That’s exactly where Wooten found himself on the day the platoon leader, who carried a guide iron, messed up. The drill instructor immediately grabbed the guide iron from the platoon leader’s hand, and it was at that moment a leader emerged.

“As soon as he grabbed it out of his hand, I stepped up, and I grabbed that guide iron. I don’t know why. But I grabbed that guide iron, and I carried it for twelve weeks, and I graduated honor man out of that platoon,” Wooten said. “I realized if I’m up here, I can see what’s going on, and whatever I do influences these cats behind me, and I’m going to lead them. I’m going to take them to success.”

Stepping out of that comfort zone and stepping up to lead was the challenge Wooten put before the crowd at Tuesday’s monthly Greater Lexington Chamber breakfast.

“I’m going to challenge you today to get out of that comfort zone. There’s always a ‘but,’ or an ‘I’ll start tomorrow,’ whether it’s your fitness regimen or leadership. But tomorrow’s not always going to be there. I can promise you that. Tomorrow is not promised, so why not start today?” Wooten asked. “We need to change our mindset, think about why we’re truly here. We need to change our view.”

Imagine if Wooten hadn’t changed his view, if he hadn’t grabbed that guide iron and led his platoon. He would have missed out on a whole lot, including dinners with two United States Presidents.

Wooten carried that same attitude to Military Police School in Texas, where he once again graduated at the top of his class and was chosen to protect President Reagan and later President Bush. Following that, he came back to S.C., graduated at the top of his class in state law enforcement and a few years later was chosen out of over 1,000 troopers in the state to be one of three bo dyguards for the Governor.

“If it were not for the Marine Corps and Jesus Christ, I’d be dead or in the penitentiary. No doubt,” said Wooten, who used to be uncomfortable talking about his accomplishments. “All of this is coming from a humble spirit. I want to share with you what got done for me. It’s not bragging if you know where it came from, and you’re truly thankful for it.”

One question Wooten posed to the audience was “Would you follow you?” He had everyone in the crowd take a “selfie” and step outside of their bodies to take a look at themselves.

April 2015 Chamber Breakfast Meeting April 2015 Chamber Breakfast Meeting

“Before you get people to follow you, you have to want to follow you,” Wooten said. “Look at that selfie every day and say would I follow this cat? Am I living the life I want my kids to see?”

If you want to lead, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and get to the front of the pack.

“It’s not easy to be in the front of platoon. It’s not easy to lead. You’ve got to bring it every day,” Wooten said. “You cannot do it from the middle of the platoon. You cannot lead anyone unless you step up to the front.”

Wooten knows from experience and not just in the military and law enforcement. Over the past 15 years, he’s worked his way to the top of the fitness industry in S.C.

It all began in another one of those defining moments. This time, Wooten just wasn’t happy in state government, and his wife suggested he sell something. That conversation led to the birth of his fitness business. At the time, he needed 40 workouts each week simply to pay the bills. After the first week, he counted everything up, and he had done exactly 40 workouts. Fifteen years later, Wooten and his staff did 500-plus workouts last week and generated $1.2 million gross last year at the gym.

Wooten credits hard work and caring about people for that success.

“Talent is going to take a lot of people there, but your character and work ethic are going to keep you there. Hard work wins when talent does not work,” Wooten said. “You have a chance to change a life every day. If you show somebody you love them, and you keep them accountable to their goals, they will follow you.”

The breakfast was sponsored by MCEC, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.