Interview with Nic Saluppo: Overcoming personal obstacles

I have a special interview to share with you this week. And though each is special, this one is unique in that it’s in written form, not audio. A friend of mine and fellow alumni of Mount Union College (now University), Nic Saluppo, is a former track star and fitness enthusiast. But, he is also someone who works to inspire others via his vocation and through his social media reach. I won’t spoil what kick-started this desire to help others so you’ll just have to read more about it below (ha!). I had bugged Nic about doing an audio interview some time ago, but due to recent struggles with his vocal cords, Nic was not able to. However, he was gracious enough to send me some answers via email that I am now happy to share with all of you.

That being said, here’s that full text below:

Nic, thanks for wanting to be interviewed. I wanted to inquire about your desire to inspire others so let’s start there. You’ve had a blog for a while now where you share plenty of inspirational quotes and stories (even having yours truly on your site). What got you started doing that?

Josh, thanks so much for having me as part of your program. What got me started with wanting to inspire people is this: Life is short. A very simple concept, but very big implications. I used to live as if my problems were actually me. That is, I identified with my problems, rather than observed my problems. As I found healing from this condition, I noticed that 99% of the population was doing the same thing. Navigating life became so much more clear for me when I gained a new perspective of listening to what my pain had to say. This is in stark contrast to living as if I am my pain. Once I began learning from the inevitable pain that comes with life, the pain wasn’t so scary anymore. As mentioned, I began noticing that most people have no other perspective other than living to avoid pain. This causes people to sacrifice relationships and never take part in living out their God-given desires. My hope was that a new perspective would allow more people to embrace who they are, including the painful parts, and therefore not need to make the unnecessary sacrifices that go along with avoiding squarely facing the painful situations that are a part of life.

 

What’s a personal triumph you try to share with others? Or perhaps turned tragedy into triumph?

Nic Saluppo

I often share about my bout with depression. From the ages of 19-27 (I’m currently 33), I struggled with depression. Now, I don’t struggle with depression because I process my emotions as they arise. By processing what arises, no struggle is necessary. What was most significant about healing my experience of depression was that I needed to face some seriously scary, dark pieces of myself. I had to stop blaming others for my sad lot in life and begin looking at the fact that some of the painful experiences I’ve had in life were not my fault, but my emotions associated with those experiences were my responsibility. Nobody was going to fix me. Even if someone wanted to, they weren’t capable of doing so because the emotions causing the depression were inside of me. If the emotion is inside of me, then I am responsible for taking measures to resolve those feelings. As a result of taking responsibility for my depression (again, being responsible for my emotions is different than being at fault for them), I took drastic measures. I drove 90 minutes to Erie, PA every week to see my mentor, and I traveled all around the US to attend various workshops. The investment was a lot of time, energy, and money. If I didn’t take responsibility for my depression, I would still be depressed.  

 

Are there any mentors you’d attribute your successes to? Why were they helpful? Why were some not so much?

There is one man who was significantly helpful in my healing journey- Ron Gainer. After knowing him for less than 10 minutes, I could tell that he knew more about me and my situation than I did. In other words, he had walked the road before me. I still had to walk the road myself, but Ron was my guide. I drove to Erie PA weekly to see him for 5 years. A lot of time and energy, but I wanted to heal. Essentially, depression results from “stuck” emotions. Something on the inside needs to be processed, to move. I’m not talking about acute depression, but chronic depression that becomes a lifestyle. I met Ron at the age of 25, and before meeting him, I was taking medication for my depression and believing the lie that if my outer circumstances were to change, then I wouldn’t feel so bad. In other words, I was looking everywhere but inside of myself for the cause of the depression. Ron told me, “If you want to heal, you need to get off the medication and have the courage to look inside. Looking inside will be painful. It will be like walking through fire. But on the other side of that pain will be great joy.” LOL: I mean, how could I have known this? There’s no way I could have known this. Yet, Ron knew that this is what needed to happen if I wanted to heal the depression. Looking inside was painful. But, as it turns out, there was great joy on the other side of the pain. He knew the path.

How do you cultivate a creative edge to what you do?

Definitely meditation. Meditation is like clearing the road. It’s like laying out the red carpet so creative ideas can walk upon it. When I go into meditation, all the thoughts, worries, and anxieties about finding an answer dissipate. Then, when I come out of meditation, creativity simply arises with no effort other than being present to it. It seems that too much analytical thinking actually blocks the creativity that is beneath all of the endless thoughts. Take writer’s block, for example. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s that there are tons of ideas swirling around in the writer’s head, but none of them are pertinent or relevant to the current piece of writing. None of them move the piece of writing forward. The creative answer is beneath all of those swirling thoughts. And, the way to access the creative answer is by dissipating the swirling thoughts through meditation. Once the swirling thoughts have dissipated, the creative response can arise naturally.

 

I know you from your running days at Mount Union. Do you still do that? What else do you fill your time with?

Haha. Sprinting on the track team was a big part of my life. I still do some of the sprint workouts. Interestingly, I also train sprinters. I’m currently training a sprinter from my alma mater high school who is almost definitely going to break my records. What I love about sprinting is that you get out of it what you put into it. Unlike football, for example, you can train your butt off all year, but if your teammates don’t do the same, then success may still allude the team. Sprinting is much more simple- if you train well, the time on the clock will be lower than it was.

I also read a lot of books and attend workshops, both about inner healing. I’ve found that the more I work on myself, the more I can offer other people.

I said Nic was a track star, didn’t I? Here’s the proof.

What would you say to people who say they’re constantly let down by circumstances? By other people even?

I touched on this earlier, but the first thing I would say is nothing at all. People first need to know that I care about them. When I facilitate workshops, groups, and one on one coaching for inner healing, the first thing I do is ensure that the person who is dealing with a difficult circumstance knows that they have been listened to. What they are experiencing truly matters. It’s hard and painful. But, there is a less painful way, and that is the way of inner healing. The fact that there is a solution to their problem doesn’t matter much if they don’t understand that the person providing the solution cares about them. When it comes to helping those dealing with intimately personal issues, depression, for example, providing a solution is much, much different than when it comes to less personal problems (repairing a flat tire, for example).

When it comes to issues of inner turmoil, a person must first know that they are cared about. Without this, your “solution” will fall on deaf ears. Mother Teresa talks about this extensively. Do a quick Google search of “Mother Teresa quotes,” and you’ll find quote after quote about simply caring for and about people. The reason this is true is because most people dealing with inner turmoil have an underlying issue of needing to know that they matter, that they’re cared about. If they keep going forward on the journey, people will eventually realize that they can care about other people. But, when a person is raised in a family incapable of offering them love, it will be very difficult to turn a corner in life until they encounter someone who does care about them simply for the sake of caring, not in order to get something. I see many well-intentioned Christians and pastors struggle in this area. “Here’s the solution to your problem!” they say. But, the true solution is caring for the person, not giving advice. Once a person feels cared about, they will ask for advice; it can be a mistake to offer it too early.

 

Are you a believer in hard work? Having God-given talent? Or both coming together somehow?

I’m a believer in smart work, plus paying attention to circumstances.

 

What would you like to be doing if you weren’t working at your current vocation?

Working in the area of inner healing is the most meaningful thing I can think of. Last year, I facilitated a great workshop. Since then, I’ve been facilitating small groups and one on one coaching. What I’m working toward now is having a piece of land where outdoor retreats can be held. So, although I admit there are times when I wish God would move things along FASTER (I am a sprinter, after all LOL), I can’t say that I’d like to be doing anything else. I’ve been looking at a few plots of land, so prayers from yourself and your audience are greatly appreciated—if I do end up finding the right piece of land, may it be a place of healing.

 

Lastly, do you have any endeavors like penning a book or opening a gym in your future? I’m all about writing books, as you know.

I definitely touched upon this in the previous question. However, YES. I do have more writing in mind for the future. Whether it’s an e-book, or a complete 225 piece of non-fiction, I’m not yet sure. It will depend on what will best bring healing to people.

Thanks so much for having me, Josh!

 

For anyone who would like to contact Nic directly about what he does or any other follow up, you can reach him at this email: nicsaluppo@gmail.com. 

When You Aren’t Watching

It’s hard waiting for results. For one, our expectations are rarely met and for two, we aren’t the most patient people. We ask and we expect to receive right away (we can partially thank Google for exposing this trait of ours). However, such is never the case with things that really, truly matter. Time has to be a key player. Whatever is worth doing will take time. But, what matters will also require a participant’s unyielding contribution to the journey. Just as time ushers along opportunities, time also presents hardship. This is where the will is most tested: when no one else is watching.

I find it extraordinarily difficult to tell people about my challenges as a writer (and no, this won’t be a “pity party” type of blog. Stick around a while). Unless he or she is a writer themselves, it’s a tough place to speak from. Artists, authors, architects – they’re all like event planners: starting with a concept, a sketch or an idea, and building daily until the moment of completion. It’s a different kind of work. There are no immediate outcomes. There’s only the road. And it’s a road as long and diverse as the task required of the traveler.

That’s where the will comes in. A will that must be tested and as we discover, tested daily. Nothing is more grandiose (or frustrating) than standing on one side of a canyon, seeing the other, but not knowing how long it will take to get to that other side. You can’t fly across. You can’t take a car. And you can’t hitch a ride. There’s just you, your feet, and the ideas you started with.

A lot of aspiring writers (and artists) believe there’s a “quick road” to the other side; that if they wait on the edge long enough, some miracle bus will come along. And they’ll be taken away because they deserved it for waiting so patiently. Then they’ll be able to tell everyone how smart and wise they were for doing so. There was never a need to get their hands dirty, their morale rocked, or their time “wasted” under reworks, revisions, and failures. It will come to them. Someday, it will come.

However, I’m here to tell you that this type of thinking is delusional. It doesn’t hold merit and it won’t give gratification to the journeyer. There’s a reason why the chasm is so wide: it’s meant for molding, shaping, and preparing the one whose taken the challenge. It’s meant for narrowing the job applicants. It’s meant to set free and unleash the burden of what’s inside. There is no greater risk, but there is also no greater reward.

It’s a narrow and long trail, but it’s one that must be accepted once headed off. The landscape that awaits is minefield of tiny battles. All of which, we find at the end, were laid down for our betterment. And fought when hardly anyone else was watching.

Courage – what it means to a writer?

Nowadays, most people can claim to be writers. Not that most people do; it’s just that most people can. Your coworker, your uncle, your unborn child – all are capable of having webspace. And all are capable of pushing their thoughts out for the masses to read and evaluate. We know that in the past, there was a definitive gatekeeper; someone who kept that barrier from being breached. But, today? Not so much. That’s why when I hear someone say, “I have this story idea. I think I’m going to write about it and get it published,” I can’t help but cringe a little. Not because I feel the sting of competition – I just cringe because this person has unknowingly entered into an agreement that is not what they think. Writing a bunch of thoughts down is easy. Writing a book is hard.

Generally speaking, someone’s perception of something can be lightyears from the truth. Experiencing a vision is much different than merely gazing upon that vision. That’s why when I hear those words, I don’t get angry, frustrated, or anxious – I just wonder what that person perceives as “being a writer.”

For example, I’ll be 30 this month. I’m in pretty good physical health, but if I were to tell someone, “Yeah, I’m thinking of taking up karate. World black belt champion sounds fun so I’m gonna do that” – people would probably think I’m crazy. Sure, I could do karate and work towards becoming a world class black belt, but do I possess the personal conviction to do it? Is it in my heart to work towards that goal? More than likely, there are years of practice, years of dedication, and years of failures ahead if I want that distinction. It simply won’t happen overnight. And yet, I feel like that’s what has happened to “being a writer” – we’ve seen or read stories of people who had popular blogs and we think a stellar book deal is easily achievable. Or rather, we think it’s easy because everyone is writing. Everyone has a voice somewhere. Everyone has a platform.

So, from the outside-looking-in, the logical question becomes: “Why not me? That looks easy enough….”

I don’t fault anyone for thinking that. Who am I to judge if someone has a killer idea for a story? But, in some ways, I feel like the courage associated with following that killer idea – the perception of what it takes to become an established writer – has been forgotten. And the only way someone will be recognized for having “made it” is when hashtags begin trending about their book idea. Obviously, a hashtag is not a sign of “making it”, so what is? Is that something an aspiring writer should be concerned about? Is this the only part of writing that’s “courageous” anymore – to have made it commercially or financially? People can get their 15 minutes of fame for a popular book, but is that all anyone should be after?

Well, that may all depend on what your perception of success is – a concept that’s difficult to pin down if you’re afraid of what success looks like to you. As a person who has been self-published, entered numerous writing competitions, and been freelancing for several years, the decision to be a writer was a hard one. It wasn’t as simple as creating a new Facebook page. What’s behind me, I see as a success. What’s in front of me, I see as more opportunities for success. But, success is relative without courage. And courage is relative without joy upon completion, which is truly what any writer should be after: joy. Consider who has more joy – the person who gets 15 minutes of fame for a popular, yet fleeting idea? Or the one who toils, working hard for years to master a craft that is long-standing and definitive of the voice and resolve he’s carried with him for a job well done?

The answer to that question – the person who can claim to be a writer –  is the one backed by their courage.