“I’ll start with I am the luckiest guy I know… my life is the furthest thing from perfect and that is part of what makes me lucky because without challenge I wouldn’t have the opportunity for the significant personal growth that I have had. Without challenge life may seem simpler…But for me it wouldn’t be full.”
Andrew Ross grew up in a loving, lower middleclass home. He never went without, but life was far from easy or luxurious. His parents decided to break the cycle in which they were brought up which as he’s learned and understands today, was not only impressive but progressive for the Boomer generation. They both had less than ideal childhoods and decided to work together as partners and break those patterns in their family. His dad worked a number of jobs to take care of the family financially and his mom had what is arguably the most thankless but most important role one could have. She was a stay at home parent.
He was very active as a child. Soccer, skateboarding, BMX, track, cross country, lacrosse…basically if it involved moving, other than hockey, he was game. His parents had to be creative to keep their children taken care of. His mom would go to the Edmonton Journal and get roll ends, lay them across the table so they could “colour on the table”. They camped a lot, fished, were involved in archery and Ducks and Trout Unlimited. His dad was always their coach in everything they did and was a huge supporter of their activities and interests.
“Dad loved to run, and we loved spending time with him so my younger brother and I would run with him. We started doing the Beat Beethoven race when we were probably 7 or 8 years old (we always beat him),” says Andrew.
They were very close as a family. Andrew recalls always enjoying going to Fanny’s Fabric with his mom and aunt to pick out material for the clothes they would make for the kids… He recalls a great pair of shorts (he describes them as clam diggers and jammers) that went past his knee. His favorite toy was Lego which allowed him to be creative. He remembers laying them all out and he would design planes, helicopters, space ships…basically anything that could go fast in his imagination.
During elementary he was bullied a lot, made fun of and physically beat up regularly. On top of that Andrew had a learning disability.
“In grade 3 Mrs. Mongraw (who since passed – I attended her funeral) discovered I couldn’t read,” he says. Every morning before the house was moving, he would do various eye exercises that he thought would strengthen his eyes to get them to work together so that he could learn to read. “I never thought twice about it,” he says. “To me it was simple. It is what it took to make my life better, going to school, being made fun of, hating to stand up and try to read in front of everyone was humiliating, but it was shaping me, it helped me to develop empathy, integrity, discipline, commitment, determination, compassion, and grit.”
As life progressed and he began to realize the shaping of who he was; he recognized that he’s blessed. That he was born this way, nurtured this way, beat up this way. He credits this for how he has become a very hard, disciplined high integrity worker, who typically set goals that are just a stretch too far as he would rather fall short of a stretch goal than achieve a reasonable goal. Failure creates growth.
All along the way, his parents and environment were shaping him to be responsible, accountable and most importantly operate with a high degree of integrity.
“There are a couple of things that have always stuck with me,” he says. “My parents would say, never tell a lie. That way you don’t have to try and remember what you said. My dad also shared with me that no matter what, you always do the right thing, even when it hurts and sometimes it may hurt a lot.”
Andrew started working at age 11 and in 1989 discovered snowboarding. It became his number 1 passion, which eventually got him interested in mountain biking and introduced him to wakeboarding. Over the years, he progressed and became a sponsored rider. He’s still passionate about it and it has taken him around the world. For grade 12 he moved to Jasper, with the support of his family, to snowboard, mountain bike, run and be outside. It was a very difficult but rewarding year in terms of personal growth.
When he was 18, he started working out on a daily basis; something he still does today.
“I find the social aspect and the physical challenge rewarding,” he says. “Plus, by 6:30 AM I’ve accomplished something, released endorphins and had time to reflect on the day before and plan my day ahead…its very therapeutic. The discipline to drag my ass out of bed when it dark and it’s -30 all come from the character experiences, mindset, shaping and support I had as a child.”
He considers himself to be very reflective and constantly looking to improve. He’s taken the good stuff and tried to apply it to his own children – he’s raising 2 amazing daughters who are as any proud dad would say “intelligent, hard-working, creative, disciplined, have high integrity, compassion and kindness…plus they are actually pretty funny”.
“Being a parent is my favorite role, of all the roles I have,” he says. “I am blessed to be afforded the opportunity to be a dad. I learn so much from my kids, and patience is probably one of the greatest gifts. I’ve learned how to relax (not very good at this yet) and really be present in the moment.”
After reading, digesting and practicing living in the now (he thanks Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown, Pema Chodron, Don Miguel Ruiz and others for their wisdom) the depth of experiences he has with his children is inspiring. One of his favorite words is “experiences.” It is the focus of how Lauren (15), Rachel (13) and he engage with each other. They don’t do material gifts, they do experiences. Time and memories and doing things together is their gift to each other.
“I would say I have always been a good dad but after my life went through a major shift in 2016 it jolted me back into focusing on being an exceptional father,” he says.
It was this disruption, as difficult and painful as it was, when he had to make a shift and curate a new life forward. He had to do tons of self-work, healing and most importantly growth. With an incredible support network, he still had incredible panic attacks where he would black out. Shielding the girls from his pain was difficult. He suffered from insomnia, and had significant weight loss.
“When you are in the muck, fire, shit, whatever you want to call it there is only one way out and that is through putting in the time, energy, effort, discipline, emotion, and commitment,” he says. “The other side can be very rewarding. I would even venture to say that I emerged stronger and better. Don’t get me wrong, there are always scars but the power of will, spirit and a fantastic network is what drags you through it and as it turns out the worst shit in life actually becomes the greatest opportunity.”
When he was in the “muck”, he realized that he didn’t need to be the superhero he once thought he was, and he did something; he reached out for help. His brother flew in to support him, and he opened up to a couple of his friends from the gym.
“Brett, Bill, Jordan, Jared, Raymond, John, and their families …they were all there for us… When shit hits the fan there are people who want to be there for you and allowing them to be there, like we are for them, is what builds love and an incredible relationship,” he says.
When he was at his worst a community of people from his fitness life rallied around him and held him accountable to his routine, provided a never ending ear to listen to, and incredible patience and unconditional love. Who would have thought that guys from the gym would become the rock and foundation to build their life forward?
On top of this another community emerged for Andrew. To deal with his anxiety, breathing through meditation and yoga became a critical component to supporting his mental wellness and a whole new family emerged. At a time when he was at his worst, he was taking on more personal growth, self-reflection, self-analysis, intense (but slow) reading, goal setting, mindfulness practice, and the physical practice of yoga.
“I’m working harder than I ever have and I’m rebuilding.”
As he began to move into the discovery of breath, yoga, community and love, he realized the growth came through vulnerability, accepting help and eventually asking for help from people like Lauren Cook and Danielle Murray, and becoming a true community member. Up to this point, other than his immediate family, he had only told one other person that he loved them, and he grew to realize that there are so many people in his life who he loves and loved him back so he now shares how he feels with his friends and support group.
“It’s fascinating how life, at least mine, is not a segmented grouping of people, experiences, and roles,” he says. “It is my life, an intertwined medley of excitement, challenge, advancement and purpose. My family, personal growth, fitness, social life and career are lived as one. I work hard at each of these and they ebb and flow as demands (and the odd injury) ramp up and down.”
From a career standpoint Andrew has spent the past 24 years with two organizations. His current organization is Clark Builders, based here in Edmonton. They are a construction company building community which is very exciting for him. Andrew believes that his purpose in life is to help others live rich lives, through experiences, personal growth, development, and advancement. He feels that he has a dream role where he can participate in enriching, growing and developing communities in our city.
He credits the advancements he has had in his career to how he was raised, the morals by which he lives, the experiences he has had, the challenges that created growth opportunities and his commitment to the community. Most have likely heard the saying “you get out what you put in” and Andrew has given a lot to our community because this is where he chooses to live and raise his family. We live in and are all part of a fantastic community, a community that supports each other, that gives to each other and that cares about each other.
“I will say I am lucky in that I was born or nurtured to have a growth mindset, and the reason I believe this to be a blessing for me is that in my mind any goal is possible. I believe that we all possess the capacity to achieve ANYTHING we want and that nothing is easy. And the harder it is the more rewarding it is. Sacrifice, community, practice, mindfulness, pain, presence, vulnerability and grit are enabling me to live my best life. It’s not a perfect life but I wouldn’t change it.