Show Notes:

33: Dealing With Adversity (with Drew Freedman) Clinician and educator Drew Freedman talks about navigating many challenges of managing a busy clinic in the heart of Boston. The clinic was severely impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing and then again this past year during the Covid challenge. We discuss how to face adversity and how to continue looking forward and not let these challenges drag you down.

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Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings        whitney lowe
Til Luchau                          Whitney Lowe

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Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings
Til Luchau

whitney lowe
Whitney Lowe

Thanks for listening and subscribing to the podcast! Make sure to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on all of the latest! Show your support for the show by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts!

(The Thinking Practitioner Podcast is intended for professional practitioners of manual and movement therapies: bodywork, massage therapy, structural integration, chiropractic, myofascial and myotherapy, orthopedic, sports massage, physical therapy, osteopathy, yoga, strength and conditioning, and similar professions. It is not medical or treatment advice.)

Full Transcript:

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The Thinking Practitioner Podcast:
Episode 33: Drew Freedman: Dealing With Adversity

Broadcast date: 03/03/2021
©Copyright The Thinking Practitioner Podcast, Til Luchau & Whitney Lowe

Whitney Lowe:

Hello, this is Whitney Lowe and welcome to the Thinking Practitioner Podcast. This podcast episode is sponsored by Handspring Publishing. Handspring has become one of the preeminent publishers focused on manual therapy topics. And their catalog reads like a who's who of great pioneers in our field. They also offer a series of webinars called Moved To Learn. And these are free webinars with 45 minutes segments featuring their authors, including a recent one from Til that's on that series as well. So head on over to their website at Handspringpublishing.com to check those out. And be sure to use the code TTP at checkout for discount. We thank you again, very much Handspring, for sponsoring the podcast with us.

Whitney Lowe:

So Whitney Lowe, here today, Til is off this week. And I'm joined by my good friend and colleague, Drew Freedman, who's going to join me for some interesting discussions today on a variety of topics associated with dealing some challenges and adversities that we're all sort of facing throughout our field right now. So I want to take just a moment to introduce Drew and let him tell you a little bit about his background experience, who he is. So Drew, tell us a little bit about your background and entrance into the field here.

Drew Freedman:

Sure, well, first and foremost, I'd like to say thanks for having me on the podcast. I really appreciate it. Obviously, I've known you for a long time. And I've known Til quite a while. I miss Til not being here, so maybe we can catch up another time. But I really appreciate having the opportunity to talk to everybody here today.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, great.

Drew Freedman:

So yeah, I've been in the bodywork field now since, God, I mean, technically speaking, I started this in high school. And I'm only 30.

Whitney Lowe:

Excuse me, error.

Drew Freedman:

All right. So I started this back in 1980 something, personal trainer. And then I knew I wanted to go to school for sports medicine and athletic training, just due to all my, I was into sports and played lacrosse in college and all that. So I knew what I wanted to do way back when. Went to the University of South Florida, to take their athletic training sports medicine program there, where I fell in love with it. I loved being an athletic trainer, it was fantastic.

Drew Freedman:

The only thing that I saw after a couple years was that, you're a low man on the totem pole. And I didn't have the freewill to do some of the things I wanted to do with my treatment approaches. And understandably, they have protocols, and you have to follow those when you work within that sort of framework. So at the time, this was back in 1994, '93, I decided to start looking into doing some more sports massage. And at the time, my best friend at the time, was a neuromuscular therapist who worked with St. John down there in Tampa. Where I was living is in Tampa, Florida.

Drew Freedman:

And I decided, you know what, unfortunately, he has suffered a bad accident and passed away. So it was kind of the impetus I needed to say, okay, what do I want to do with my life, sort of question. I was 25 years old. So I decided if I wanted to go further, whether it's into physical therapy, or chiropractic or massage or whatever it might be, what's the best path? And massage, out of all those, is obviously the fastest track. Because schooling was never my specialty. I was never a good student, so I figured you know what, let me just get into massage and see if I like that. And then maybe I hop into chiro or PTs and go from there.

Drew Freedman:

So I ended up going to the Sun Coast School of Massage in Tampa, Florida. Where I was underwhelmed with the program, we'll say at the time. I think it was when Sun Coast was on its last legs at the time. But I was very fortunate to have a sports massage instructor by the name of James Waslaski. I don't know if you've ever heard of James, he's a really nice guy.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, a few people know him in our field, I think.

Drew Freedman:

It rings a bell, doesn't it? Anyway, he travels a couple weeks a year just to teach. James is one of the harder working guys in massage and has been for 25, 30 years. And I was very, very fortunate to have his sort of energy in my life so early on that inspired me to kind of stick it out with massage school and stay with it. From there I recognized, okay, listen, if this guy can do what he's doing right now, that's what I want to do. That's the path I want to take. And fortunately, I was able to talk to James quite a bit, and he gave me so many different names to start learning from beyond himself, such as yourself. I started reading your newsletters, which I still have all of your newsletters in a file box.

Whitney Lowe:

I'm not even sure I have them all.

Drew Freedman:

But so I was able to reach out and read your work. I was reading Eric Dalton's work. But for me, I was living in Tampa at the time in the mid '90s. And I had no idea what a mecca, Tampa or that part of Florida was, for massage therapy educators. So I got to study with George Kousaleos at CORE Institute, I worked with Aaron Mattes, I worked with Mike Mcgillicuddy, I worked with Judith Delany. I was just, every other weekend, I was taking a course.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I want to ask you about that, because I've talked to a couple other people about this sort of phenomenon. And I had a similar type of experience in that I didn't realize what a valuable educational mecca I was in when I was doing my initial training in Atlanta. And the same thing, I think, happened there for you. But when you get outside of that, once you left and got outside of that, was it then, was that the time at which you realized how valuable that had been for you? Or how long did it take?

Drew Freedman:

Absolutely, it was only then. So like I said, this was back in the mid '90s. And then I took my massage and I worked down there, I worked with the pro teams and college teams down there for a couple years. But I'm from Boston originally. So I decided, in '99, I wanted to move back up to Boston to be closer to my family. My oldest brother was having kids at the time, so the families were starting to grow. So I just said, have hands we'll travel, I can just hop in the car and go. I was fortunate to get a job right away with the Celtics, when I first moved up here. And so I was ready to rock and roll. But of course, like anything else in life, that fell through before I even started. But I was here, and then I was like, all right, so what's in the bucket around here that I can start learning from? And there was nothing.

Drew Freedman:

Ben Benjamin's up this way, but other than Ben Benjamin, there was nobody else really up in the area, at least that I was aware of. We didn't have the internet back then, so it's not like I could google the next CE course. We had the recent publications to kind of look for this stuff. So yeah, it was only then that I realized I had been so blessed for the last five or six years down in Florida, to be able to just feed off of all this information coming through. And yeah, that's what kind of... I think I met you first, maybe it was like 2000, 2001 in a course in Connecticut. It was the first live course that I did with you. I remember being scared out of my mind to go to that class, because I was going to go see Whitney Lowe.

Drew Freedman:

No, it's true. It's just like, to me, it was like if somebody was going to go meet Derek Jeter. That was the way I felt about you. I still feel that way about you. But I'm just not as intimidated now. But back then, it was just-

Whitney Lowe:

Good to know the real story now.

Drew Freedman:

Well, it got better, to be honest. It was just one of those situations where I realized, you know what, it's really not about who's the smartest person in the room. It was really about an exchanging of ideas and having discussions and conversations. And I know, obviously, I learned a lot of my assessment and evaluation skills from you. But over the years, as your apprentice in the classroom and helping you as a teaching assistant, I learned how to communicate better with students and how important that aspect is. Just because you know a lot about massage or know a lot about something, doesn't mean you can obviously teach it. I learned that pretty quickly, because I was like, I can do this. And frankly, I couldn't until I started understanding what you were doing.

Drew Freedman:

So I've been very fortunate throughout my career to be able to kind of piggyback off of some pretty, pretty high rollers out there.

Whitney Lowe:

When did the Boston Bodyworker start, your clinic that you put together? Was that already in progress at that time, in the early 2000s. Or when did you get started with that?

Drew Freedman:

So the vision was, when I left Florida to come back up to Boston, and bring what I did in Florida up into Boston. I wanted to call the business the Boston Bodyworker, so I established the name before I moved back. The tagline was bringing clinical massage to the MAsses, capital M, capital A, MAsses.

Whitney Lowe:

Very clever.

Drew Freedman:

So catchy little... yeah.

Whitney Lowe:

I never caught that in the tagline. And I lived in Boston for a year, so I should know that, but I missed it. So clever.

Drew Freedman:

Yeah, most people didn't. And that's okay, it was just my little thing. But my vision at the time was, I just want to be able to do what I'm doing here for the people up there. So that's what I was technically doing. So from there, I started in '99. It's a funny story, actually. I came back up here, like I said, I was going to work with the Celtics. And as I got up here and went to the first meeting with them, it just fell through, it didn't work out. They were at a new facility, and they had their in-house stuff. And anyway, it just fell through the cracks. So I wanted to look for another job, and I could not find a job doing massage anywhere. There were ads in the papers for massage therapists, and I would call them and they would say, we're not accepting any more applications.

Drew Freedman:

After a while, I realized I was being discriminated against. Because they really wanted female therapists. They didn't want massage therapists, they just want female therapists. So my parents would tell me that, you're not looking hard enough. So I had my sister-in-law call two of the ads just before we sat down to eat dinner. And said, "Why don't you call, Tony, you're a massage therapist and you're looking for work?" And I said, "I guarantee you, they'll call you in for an interview." Sure enough, both times she called, she got an interview both times. And I said, "That's what I'm dealing with." We'll get into this a little bit, but I don't know where my mindset came from at the time. But I distinctly remember not being upset about it. It was unfortunate, but listen, I picked the one field where men are the ones discriminated against. I'm not going to get intimated.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, we hear a lot about this in our field. And I see, as I look at social media posts and things like that, a lot of people let that get to them. And especially men who have had it very easy, because they've never been in a situation like this, where they were not the first choice for those kinds of things. So it is interesting. So that was one of those early situations where you basically didn't let that stop you. And you said, this is some issue and I'm just going to have to figure out the work around there, it sounds like.

Drew Freedman:

Yeah, I knew the work that I wanted to do. And I knew that whether it was male or female or otherwise, that that person was just looking for a good pair of hands. And I just had to do whatever I could to get my hands on them, to build that level of trust.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, exactly.

Drew Freedman:

And from there, if they didn't like me from there, that might be a whole other issue that I had to deal with. But at least once I had the opportunity to prove myself, that's all I needed. I think that goes a long way in life, in general, but life is difficult sometimes, you know?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, and so much of that I think is about mindset. We had a wonderful conversation with Benny Vaughn a few months back, talking about his career. And he has said this, when people make that kind of complaint frequently, said, "Look, I was a black man doing massage in the south in the '70s. And if I can have a successful practice, you could have a successful practice." And I think that's really true for so many people.

Drew Freedman:

I won't deny that. I mean, I've had Benny's videotapes, where he's at University of Florida with his bow tie on, and he's doing a sports massage. And I've heard interviews and discussed him with you. And I think, at the time, it was probably along those lines that I thought, listen, somebody like Benny, who was put in the most adverse conditions that you could possibly be thrown into, and yet has not only success, but the attitude he has, and just his personality, his character, everything about him. You're just like, well, this guy has fought harder battles than I'll ever fight. So I can do it. I can easily do it. So I started in '99 when I came up here and knew I wanted to do Boston Bodyworker.

Drew Freedman:

But when I didn't get the job at the Celtics, I had to go back to what I knew, which was bartending. And so there was an opportunity to be a bartender on the… can’t figure out the name of the ship now, even though it's right outside my door. Oh, Spirit of Boston. It's a party ship, basically, that I was going to bartend. And my brother was like, "Don't go back to bartending, you'll never get out of it. You're going to get stuck in there for life." And I said, "I've got to pay rent." I was walking out the door to go to my first shift. Had my monkey suit on and everything. And I got a call from this woman who says she owns a spinning studio in Downtown Crossing, which is downtown Boston. And she was looking to rent a room in the back of her spin studio, and would I be interested? And I said, "I'll be there tomorrow." And I called the Spirit of Boston and said, I'm not coming in. And that's when the Boston Bodyworker started.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

It's just, sometimes things happen like that.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. I've pondered about this a great deal because, in trying to teach massage therapists entrepreneurial skills or a business mindset, I mean, that's something that I have watched you do over the years with tremendous success and gumption. Just come up against things and find a way around those challenges. And it seems like a lot of people have difficulty getting past that sense of, oh, this is an obstacle, or this is something that's in my way, I'm not going to be able to do this, kind of thing. Do you think that's just an inherent aspect of your personality, or is that trainable?

Drew Freedman:

I think there's probably a smidge of both and some other in there. But I think, first and foremost, I'm a Jew. So it's running through my veins that we survive. It's in our DNA that we are survivors. So I think that has a lot to do with it. But on the flip side of that, I'm as stubborn as the day is long. And you got to figure out where your motivation comes from. And mine, to be frank, came from my parents. They pulled me aside when I first moved up here, didn't get the job at the Celtics, and after my sister-in-law was able to get interviews and I wasn't, they said, "Well, massage is a nice hobby, what are you going to do for a living?" And that offended me to no end. Because this is what I'm doing for a living. There was never a question of what am I going to do for the rest of my life? This was it. The only question was, how do I achieve that?

Drew Freedman:

That has been my driving force and still is my driving force to this day, because the last thing I ever want to do is to give my give my parents that feeling of like, see, we told you so. And I had this conversation with my parents over the last 10, 15 years, that they're kind of like, yeah, I think you're good at this point. But the first five to seven years, that was it. Because I was not going to let anything deny me of that. And then the other part of it is, my friend, Bryce died in '95. And I realized how fragile life can be. It set my world upside down. To this day, it's still scarring. I think that's another part of it. So I've been motivated to... My dream for Boston Bodyworker was, and Bryce and I talked about this back in the '90s, that we were going to start a clinic together and build a business together in Florida.

Drew Freedman:

Obviously, that didn't work out, I'm back here in Boston. But it's always been my dream to continue that promise that we had to each other. So there're multiple factors that I think motivate us and keep us moving forward. I think you just need to figure out what those are. And use them as your strength, not as weaknesses.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. So you developed a very highly successful clinic there, with a couple of different locations in Boston. I've watched that growth process over the years and just continued to be impressed by what you've done there. I mean, having the location that you had right in downtown Boston at Copley Square, right, is where it was?

Drew Freedman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

The original was in Downtown Crossing, and then I moved in 2001 to Copley Square.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, yes-

Drew Freedman:

The finish line of the marathon.

Whitney Lowe:

Right. So that was just, I think it was a great marker for massage too, to see that kind of clinic done in that location there with that degree of visibility, I think was just tremendously impressive. I do remember too, you've had some serious challenges there in that location. In particular, for example, with the marathon bombing. I mean, you had to close your office for a while, right downtown.

Drew Freedman:

Yes. So those that know Boston Bodyworker here, we're known around town as 26.3. Because we're a 10th of a mile past the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And the marathon season here is kind of like, I was going to say it's like a championship parade here, too. But it's... Anyway, we won't be seeing any of those for a while. But anyway, it's a rite of passage here. We skip school, we do different things. Kids come into the city to watch the marathon, it's just a great event. But we've been involved with the marathon since I came back up here in '99, 2000. And when the bombing hit, we were actually not inside of our space, because on marathon Monday, you can't access our space as a guest. Because the streets are all blocked up. So we're not going to take clients that day.

Drew Freedman:

And if runners wanted to come in, they would have to walk basically, three quarters of a mile just to get back around to our doors. So we set up shop at a hotel, which was just across the street from us. And we did massages for different charity teams. I forget, maybe it was Boston Children's Hospital that year or something. So yeah, we weren't in the space at the time, but when the bomb went off, that shut us down immediately for 10, 12 days. And then from there, we had lost quite a few of our own members. Sorry.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

We had lost a few members, and it hit pretty close to home.

Whitney Lowe:

Oh, yeah.

Drew Freedman:

It hit pretty close to home, and it was scary.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

So as an owner, as a boss, you quickly recognize that this business is so much more than your vision and your dream? And there are people's lives involved here. And a lot of my therapists and everybody... So my initial thought, and again, this wasn't through training or time, it was just, what can I do for them? How can I help them? Because that's the first thing you want to do, I think, human nature is, and the first thing when a crisis happens, if it doesn't directly impact you in the moment, how can I help? How can I help? And that's what I really wanted to do at the time, and it just took us some time to re-open. Like I said, we were closed for two weeks, but it probably took us, I would say, close to a year and a half, before we got back up... We were probably doing, before the marathon, about 250 massages a week. And it took us close to a year and a half to get back to around that.

Whitney Lowe:

Now that must have been, I can only assume, as the business business owner responsible for all those practitioners and then responsible to your clientele and everybody there, that must have just been tremendously scary. When you are notified you can't open for a couple of weeks. You're going to have to be closed. And like, all of a sudden, just with no warning whatsoever. I mean, how did you deal with that?

Drew Freedman:

Yeah, my first reaction was, how am I going to pay my bills? Because what's the first rule they say about opening up a business, is location, location, location? Well, back then, they did. Now with the internet, you can sit in your own house and do it, I guess. But so my location was prime real estate. And when you tell a business, any business, massage or restaurant or anything in that sort of location that they have to close for a week, 10 days, that's a lot of revenue lost. And it was scary. It crippled us, it crippled us. And I think ultimately, what it came down to was, I was determined to make this work out of spite. It was one of those things. My girls, at the time, I have two daughters, and they were... let's see, 2013, so they were five and eight at the time. And I didn't want them to see us spiral out into nothing. I wanted them to see that from evil can come some good, but you just have to work for it.

Drew Freedman:

And we slowly just started building it up. And God bless my wife, she has a steady job, that she was able to support financially, some of the decisions we had to make with the business. And trust that I would be successful enough to pay us back, because we borrowed from her 401(k), which is not a smart thing to do. Don't ever do that, please. But I did pay it back. And we did all the right things. But it was a huge risk. But I am so stubborn, she knew that there was no way that I was going to start... go back to bartending or something.

Whitney Lowe:

That's right, yeah.

Drew Freedman:

So yeah, I think it's one of those things where you just have to decide, how bad do you want it? And what are you willing to do to stay after it? Because if it's something you're truly passionate about, like I am about massage, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

And that thought is probably more scary than not succeeding.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. So for you, really, the a lot of this comes out of, you didn't really even, it sounds like, entertain much the idea that this wasn't going to be a workable solution. You just said, I've got to find the way to make this workable solution. And that's kind of what I hear from a lot of people who work with these kinds of struggles and say... It's kind of like that, I think there was a scene in the Apollo 13 movie where they were trying to figure out what to do and just said, "Failure is not an option." You have to adopt that sort of mindset of like, I just have to find a way to make this work.

Drew Freedman:

See, and I think what I heard a lot back then was, especially from people in the massage community was like, well, is your landlord going to give you a break? What are you going to do? And I've always had a good head on my shoulders in understanding that ignorance of the law is not a defense. When you sign a contract with somebody, like a lease, or even an interpersonal contract, you need to be accountable for that. And so I reached out to my landlord, I spoke to my landlord, but I wasn't asking my landlord for forgiveness or anything. I just was asking, what can you do to help me and how can I help you, so we can do this? Because I am not trying to bail, but I didn't want to file bankruptcy and I didn't want to go through all those channels.

Drew Freedman:

And they basically, we negotiated that time. We negotiated to just not... I didn't pay rent for the first three months following the marathon, but agreed over the next nine months to amortize those three months out. So they were very nice to allow me to do that. Some people will say, "I can't believe they still charged you." And today, COVID is the same thing. They're running a business just as I'm running a business. Just because they have an extra comma in their revenue line, doesn't mean that they're any better off than I am.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, their income numbers may be higher, but so are their debt numbers of what the expenses are-

Drew Freedman:

people who make over $70,000 a year, there's no comparative analysis of terms of happiness or success after 70,000. It's all relative to everything else.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, that's right. So that's also now posed challenges too for you, as with so many people who I have talked to and listened to and watched grapple with this... We talked about business, and you talked about the things that they tell you when you learn about business. And one of the things that I always remember reading and hearing about is, make an emergency contingency plan for the things that might disrupt your business. A fire, or a disaster or whatever kinds of things. And I will have to admit that global pandemic never came on the radar screen for me, at all. I think for so many people, just not prepared for how this was going to impact us.

Drew Freedman:

I moved into Copley in 2001, to start Boston Bodyworker at that location. A month later, 9/11 hit. Yes, 9/11 hit. So from there, everything got shut down in Boston for just like a day or two, because there was suspicion of terrorists staying at the hotel nearby. And at the time, that's when I started learning about terrorist insurance, basically, that they started to offer for your business.

Whitney Lowe:

Wow, yeah.

Drew Freedman:

So I was like, yeah, I want some of that. When the marathon bombing hit, I wasn't sure. I had insurance and I prepared for that, and I think that's something I would tell people all the time, is that, don't think that you'll never need it. Because when you need it, you're going to kick yourself for not having it. So one of those expenses that I always factor in, is my insurance expenses into things. It's, first of all, I mean, obviously, you don't have to have terrorism insurance, necessarily. But you have to have your workers' comp insurance, you have to have all that stuff. If you don't have those and you think it'll be fine, it won't be. At some point, it'll bite you, so preparedness was a big thing for me there. Yeah, it was a situation where obviously, shutting down for 10 days is different than shutting down for 10 months is where we're at right now.

Whitney Lowe:

Yes, no kidding, yeah.

Drew Freedman:

So the conversation I had back in 2013 with my landlord, and I'll say this, first of all, the landlord, their main office was in our building. Okay, so it just happened to be that they own multiple buildings around Boston, but they just happened to be in my building. So in other words, they knew who we were personally, that helped. Many of the people who worked in that office came to our clinic for bodywork. And the owner of the company, his granddaughter was injured in the marathon. So there was a camaraderie there, there was an understanding there, it was not just a matter of everybody save yourself. The community came together. So they were great at the time, like I said, but fast forward now, but seven years later, when this happens, again, I shut down March 13th 2020. My rent there, full disclosure, was 13 grand a month to pay rent in this space that sits empty.

Drew Freedman:

And everyone's like, "Well, is your landlord going to make you pay rent?"And I said, "Well, what, because his mortgage is being relieved? No, it's not happening. Everyone's got bills." So I called my landlord and we talked it out. And I said, "I would like to pay half rent until this ends, and then we'll do the same thing again, I'll amortize the other half over the period of my lease." And they were fine with that, not a problem. Because obviously, you can't get blood from a stone. So if I started on a bankruptcy, they knew they weren't going to get anything from me. So I figured, let's just try to see where this goes and hang on, as long as you can. And I think if anything is taught, if I've learned anything over the years, it's that when a crisis occurs, the ability to take a few punches and just to size up your opponent, goes a long way in helping you succeed in the long, long term.

Drew Freedman:

Because immediately... and I saw a lot 10 months ago, when all this stuff started to go down. And I've seen over the last 10 months, people have been reacting, reacting, reacting to every little thing. Whether it's a new guideline that gets sent out or it's anything else, they just react. And you're constantly going to try to run a business that is reactive, and that's no way to live a life. Not that I'm saying that I've been perfect with it, it's what I used to do. But I've gotten better at it as I've faced more and more adversity that I've realized, if kicking and screaming would help, I would kick and scream louder than anybody. But typically, it never helps.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, right.

Drew Freedman:

So when this happened, everyone says, "What are you going to do?" I said, "First of all, massage is not the priority on anyone's mind right now. So what I want to do and what I will do, is of no consequence." I said, "We're just going to have to wait and see how this all unfolds." That was March of 2020. April, May, June, July, August, I'm still not open, shelling out all this money. I knew that I had money saved over the last couple of years, that I could handle this. But I also knew that there was a line in the sand that I said, it's either bankruptcy or what. So I called my landlord again, and I said, "We're not going to be able to reopen safely." There was too many obstacles, or hurdles in the way to reopen safely in that space. There was the community building, the HVAC system wasn't right, space, I mean, the rent alone, whatever it was. And I wasn't expecting them to give me a break in the rent. Even if they did give me a break in the rent, 6500 bucks a month, I couldn't afford, let alone 13.

Drew Freedman:

So I said to them, "What can we do?" Because I had a 10-year lease there, and I just re-upped for another five the previous year. So I still had three years remaining on my lease. That, like I said, I'm accountable for that. That's my problem, not theirs. And security deposits there and all that stuff, and I know they can go after all that stuff. And I wanted to figure it out. And we basically, they were nice enough to negotiate down my lease, if I made one payment, to get out the remainder of the lease. So they let me out. It stings, but my thought was, if I can borrow this money, and I have my seaport location, where I'm at now, much smaller, much lower overhead, there's a chance I could do this.

Drew Freedman:

So that was my thinking at the time. But moreover, my thinking was, no matter what happens with Boston Bodyworker or massage therapy, or whatever it is, I know I'm going to be okay. I've always been a survivor in that regard that, if I have to go back to flipping burgers and waiting tables, I'll be okay. I really, really will be. I was really more concerned about my employees. And I really didn't want to see such, I mean, I brag about my staff to the end of the days. But this particular staff at the time that this all happened, was probably my best staff that I've ever had. We were primed and ready to do some really great things. I didn't want to not only lose them for Boston Bodyworker, I didn't want to lose them for the profession. Because every single one of them worked hard at being a great massage therapist. That's the kind of stuff that you... Once you have somebody like that working with you, oh, it's gold.

Whitney Lowe:

It is. And it is unfortunate that it is not as frequent, I think as we certainly need it to be. It seems like there's been a lot more challenges finding those really dedicated quality individuals that are out there nowadays. So yeah, that's a loss. That's a hard one.

Drew Freedman:

So when this all went down, I've been having Zoom calls with my staff, not as frequently as I did at the beginning, but we would sit down. And I understood that anything that I say anything that I do, any actions that I take are going to be reflective upon them. I want to make sure that if they see me freaking out, they're going to freak out. So my immediate reaction was, don't worry about it. I'm still going to cover your insurance right now, your Aflac. And I think I sent them out some of your videos. And I connect them, if you guys want to take Whitney's courses, we'll connect you with Whitney's courses. Whatever you guys can do to stay fresh and stay hungry, we'll get through this as a team and we'll see what happens.

Drew Freedman:

Now, here we are, 10 months later, back open here. I have staff in here now. I'm very fortunate to have my top staff coming back in right now, to start representing what Boston Bodyworker can do for this part of the city. Because we are reinventing ourselves over this part of the seaport as a brand new area in Boston, even the Boston's a pimple of the city compared to New York. If you go from Copley to Seaport, it's probably about a mile and a half. But people will not come here from there. They just won't. So it was one of those, we have to kind of reestablish ourselves here and start all over again. But I felt we could do it with a few different stipulations.

Drew Freedman:

Primarily, I negotiated free parking for my people here. For everybody here, employees and for my guests. And the building itself beyond being a very green building, they put into HVAC, HVAC-UV lighting, for the HVAC system. So I felt that even the air coming through the building in a close contact kind of room for more than 20 minutes, was going to be safer. Not completely safe, obviously, but safer than it could possibly be. You had filtrations, so I felt there were ways that we could deliver a service that the employees felt comfortable working in, guests felt comfortable coming to the space in. And it were inside of a gym, inside of this hotel. It's a pretty big gym, but the gym is not reopening. So we have basically 35,000 square feet of space, and three treatment rooms.

Drew Freedman:

So there's plenty of spacing in here. And that that helps, that helps. You walk around outside the hotel, I feel like I'm in The Shining, because there's nobody. The hotel has been closed now for a long time.

Whitney Lowe:

Wow.

Drew Freedman:

Yeah. But the way I see it, and not because I'm in the seaport, but it's a fact, we're afloat. I'm not drowning and I'm not sailing away. We're just afloat, and we're just kind of treading water here. And I think if we can ride this out, there's tremendous opportunity moving forward. Not only for my business, but for massage businesses in general. But that's easier said than done. A lot of therapists are in my position, a lot of them were sole proprietors, they were living paycheck-to-paycheck. And it's just not as simple as that. So I'm not trying to say everybody can do it. It's just, I consider myself fortunate. And again, my wife still has a job. My kids are now 13 and 16. So they don't depend upon me for every little thing, like they did back in the marathon times.

Drew Freedman:

So if this, I mean, my wife and I joke about it, if this happened in 2010, just 10 years earlier, the kids would have been much younger, eight and five or so. And 2010, to back up, we talk about adversity, 2009 was really the time where I decided I can't have contractors anymore, I have to have employees. If I don't have employees, there's no way I can build this brand to get bigger. Nobody will do what I'm asking them to do, if they think they're just contractors. So when I did that, in 2010, I had some great staff looking forward to it. And they decided they didn't want to be employees, they wanted to be contractors. And they all left. Literally five of my seven therapists walked out at the same time.

Whitney Lowe:

Wow.

Drew Freedman:

So I was like, what do I do now? And the reality was, got to just keep swimming. So I had to re-hire and bring it all back. And the problem with that was that, as I brought in new employees, the same contractors that left because they didn't want to become employees, opened up a shop next door to me, and stole my client list. And then sued me for being misclassified as a contractor instead of as an employee.

Whitney Lowe:

Oh, my gosh.

Drew Freedman:

So I had three different lawsuits, four different lawsuits that were going on over the next three years. I had to deal with all that. So I'm shelling out money as I'm already down money. So when you take that, and then I get through all that over the three years, and we get through it and we say, okay, we made it. I survived. And then the marathon bombing. I'm like...

Whitney Lowe:

Right.

Drew Freedman:

What do they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, so you're getting pretty strong. You're getting strong indeed.

Drew Freedman:

Yeah, it's one of those things, you've just got to go with it.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. So my sort of wish and dream is, is there, I mean, I have watched like, I've known all of these stories. Because you and I've talked about them throughout time. And I have marveled at your ability to weather each one of these storms and to come out, still moving forward with this. And I want to know and wish, if you have any ideas of like, how this becomes trainable. To train that mindset with people and that devotion to an end goal, to be able to make those things work and push through, no matter what the adversity that you encounter. I mean, any ideas that you have about how to make that more prevalent in our world?

Drew Freedman:

There's probably some famous quote, fail twice, get up three times. I don't know, I don't buy into all the quotes necessary. But I've always lived up to the saying since I was a kid, that anything worth having is worth working for. And I knew what I wanted. And you pair that with stubbornness or determination, depends how you want to look at it. It's almost impossible to fail. So there are obstacles that will always get in your way, but if there's something you really want, and you really think that you deserve it, you're good at it, you will make a difference if you achieve it, then you'll find a way to do it. And that might mean like nowadays, maybe driving for Uber, when you're not doing massages. Whatever it might be that you need to make that money, there's always a revenue stream for you. The question is, are you willing to make those kind of sacrifices.

Drew Freedman:

And I've always been willing to do the free massages, I've always been willing to set up the chair in places where I'm not going to make any money, I'm just going to be handing out cards. Because that sort of exposure and that sort of discipline over time, is killing it. And I don't know if you can necessarily teach that though. My parents probably had something to do with that. Part of the country I grew up in had something to do with that. Like I said, DNA might have something... I don't know if it's teachable. I think ultimately, the question somebody needs to ask themselves in any career is, is this your passion? Because if it's your passion, there's no way anything's going to get in your way. Because doing anything else in life would feel like a void. That's always been my thought.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, I really think it's so beneficial when people can tap into that, because there are a lot of obstacles that we do encounter in this field, that are not typical in many other things. There's physical demands, there's the professional self esteem issues, there's all kinds of things that are more challenging for us than there might be in certain other types of situations. And I see so many people just kind of give up by the wayside and say, "Yeah, I don't want to have to deal with this kind of thing." And it's like, well, probably that driving passion for this is not there.

Whitney Lowe:

But then there are those other people that you see, I watched so many people, watching their stories on social media or discussing this with those people who've had such tremendous adversity. And had situations like yours, where they said, "I've got a clinic, I can't keep it open right now, but I'm not stopping either. I'm going to find a way to work through this temporary period, and then come out stronger on the other side." And that's just so inspiring to see people dedicated to this field in that way. Because I think, God, the world needs it. The world really does need the things that we do.

Drew Freedman:

Yeah. And knowing what you want to do is only half the battle, you still have to do it. That's the hard part of work, I guess. So you can have the mindset, I think, to say, this is what I want. This is what I'm going to do. And this is what's going to happen when I do it.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah.

Drew Freedman:

Great, fantastic. Now you have to execute.

Whitney Lowe:

Exactly, yeah. There's a, I think, a saying that's, you can do whatever you want to, but you may have to work for it.

Drew Freedman:

Right, yeah.

Whitney Lowe:

That sort of thing.

Drew Freedman:

And it's so true. If you think you understand how hard the work is going to be, then you're in trouble. You are really in trouble. Because I think a lot of people will be like, "No, I get it. I get it, I know, I need to do the work." I said, "If you knew what you're about to have to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish, you'd probably say screw it, I'm not doing it. But if you really want to do it, don't think about what you think you're going to be doing. Because you'll probably only do a third of that." Because other obstacles will get in your way, that you don't even know about or consider, until they happen-

Whitney Lowe:

That's right-

Drew Freedman:

... and you're in the thick of it, then you're going to think, well I already started it. Not now. So you just really need to just trust that if it's what your passion is, come hell or high water, you're going to make it there. You just don't know what's going to happen along that journey.

Whitney Lowe:

Right, yeah.

Drew Freedman:

Prepare what you can.

Whitney Lowe:

And that is part of what makes the journey so interesting, I think, for all of us, too, sometimes.

Drew Freedman:

What's the old saying, life is a cruel teacher. She gives you the test first, and the lessons come later.

Whitney Lowe:

I like that.

Drew Freedman:

That's the truth. And I've had enough, like, here's a good example, sidebar story. March 2020 is when we hit COVID. So March 13th, we shut down our office. My wife's 21st birthday was on March 2nd, she's a young at heart. And I decided I wanted to take her to celebrate her very special 21st birthday. Take her away for a long weekend, so we went to Bermuda. And for the listeners, it wasn't her 21st. So we took her to Bermuda. The week before we went off to Bermuda, I had to have my third surgery for my elbow. Okay, you recall that I broke my hand. I broke my hand back in 2015, had multiple failed surgeries. So now I haven't been working in the massage room since 2015. So that's like taking a fish out of water. I was on, what I think was empathy withdrawals. I wanted to be in that room so badly, but I couldn't. The pain in my elbow from everything was going I was so bad.

Drew Freedman:

But finally, we figured out what happened with my elbow. And I had the surgery the week before we went away. And I left surgery the next day. I didn't feel anything. It was the first time I hadn't felt anything in my elbow in three and a half years. And I was so excited that, I'm going to get back into treatment room again, I'm going to start working on people again. And then we went on vacation and I was motivated to come back from vacation and do this. And then COVID hit. And I haven't done a massage until just before this call started, I worked on salon for about 35 minutes. It was awesome. It was awesome. It's one of those things. Again, it's my passion, but I've been able to teach it, I've been able to work with students. I've been able to use that stuff over the last three years, but I have not been able to be in a room and help somebody else to feel better. And to me, that was hard.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. And I think there's some also, some value in that of periodically, when we do have that opportunity to step out of those things for a little while. It does remind us of why we do the things that we do, and why we go through the challenges that we go through. Because there is such tremendous reward in being able to be there for people and helping them in the way that we do, with what we do the treatment room.

Drew Freedman:

Both for them, and for you too. I mean, there's no better feeling than serving others. Service is what we were born to do. So when we get to do that for a living, it's... And I know for a fact, because my wife doesn't mince words, I've been quite the asshole to be around when I was going through this elbow stuff, because I wasn't able to have that outlet. And understand other people's issues. Everything was my issue, my issue, my issue. And you don't get what I'm going through, with running this business and the elbow pain that I have everything else. But now that I've got an even more perspective on things, I can really appreciate the journey that I've taken just to get to here.

Drew Freedman:

So that's why at this point, when this stuff happened with COVID, and as I've shutdown Boston Bodyworker Copley location after 21 years in October, everyone was very nice on social media. They were very inspiring and helpful and supportive. But that was my first baby. And I said to my kids, we sat down, I said, "Listen, here's the deal." I said, "We have to shut down Boston Bodyworker at Copley," I said, "But we're not going out of business." I said, "I don't know if my business is going to survive this." I said, "But right now, all we can do is focus on moving forward." I said, "Doesn't mean we shouldn't reflect on what was." I said, "We don't have time to do that right now." I said, "So come spring of 2021, if the business isn't working, we will give Copley the honor and reflection it deserves. But right now, I can't focus on that. I need to focus on the future of Boston Bodyworker."

Drew Freedman:

And that has been my mindset moving forward. It's not that I ignore how hard it's been. I mean, I have a storage locker down from my house, that I pay 500 bucks a month for just to store 21 years of stuff. I've got like eight massage tables in there, I've got couches and chairs. And like, that's what Boston Bodyworker has come down to, is just that room. And to see that as I do, it's gut wrenching. But I also know there's greater things to come. And this is just a blip in the big radar of things.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah. Well, thank you very much for delving into these things with us. Because I do think your story is very inspiring. And it really does help a lot of people, it always helps to know that there are other people grappling with similar types of adversity and challenges. But the big thing that I really hope everyone can take away is just understanding and seeing that, that passion that you have for doing something that means so much to you, and just finding a way to say, "Hey, we're going to make this work. We're going to find a way to make it work." So you do continue to be an inspiration to a lot of practitioners out there. And I look forward to seeing more great things coming out of your endeavors in the years to come here.

Drew Freedman:

I hope so. I hope so. From your mouth to God's ears, as my mom used to say. It's one of those things that... Let me say this though, I know people like you very well that have been doing this for longer than I have and faced your own adversities. And I travel on the road with the taping stuff, I see other people at conferences like Eric and James and whether it's Don Nelson or anybody that's out there that's been doing it longer than I have. And my stories might be my stories, but they're certainly not unique. We've all faced adversity in our own ways, in our own lives. And that's when I know that I can do this, because it's been done.

Drew Freedman:

And if you surround yourself with those sort of people that have that mindset that this is my passion, this is what we want to do. So let's just figure out a better way to do it. If we have to do it differently, let's do it. But you don't stop moving forward just because you hit a... What's the obstacle is the way, that's the stoic's approach to it. And that is, the only way out is through. You've got to go through it.

Whitney Lowe:

Yeah, yeah. Yep, wise words indeed there. Well, thank you all for joining us today on the Thinking Practitioner Podcast. And we would like to also thank ABMP, who is a proud sponsor of the Thinking Practitioner. All massage therapists and bodyworkers can access free ABMP resources and information on the Coronavirus and massage profession at abmp.com/COVID-19. That includes sample release forms, PPE guides and a special issue of massage and bodywork magazine, where Til and I are frequent contributors. For more, check out the ABMP podcast available at abmp.com/podcasts or wherever you prefer to listen.

Whitney Lowe:

Til we'll be back with me in the next episode. We've been doing some solo episodes here, we're on different sort of breaks and hiatuses for things that we were trying to take care of outside work. He and I will be back together next go round, and we would like to again thank our sponsors for the show. And if you want to get some additional information, please feel free to stop by our sites for show notes, transcripts and any extras. You can find that over on my site at the Academyofclinicalmassage.com. And over on Til's site at Advanced-trainings.com. So any questions or things you'd like to hear us talk about, please do email us at Infoatthethinkingpractitioner.com. Or look for us on social media as well. As always, please do follow us on Spotify, rate us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you happen to listen to your podcasts and do tell a friend.

Whitney Lowe:

Thanks again Drew so much for being with me today. And thank you all for listening. We will see you again in a couple of weeks.

 

 

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