A. J. Viola - CrossFit Coach and Health Leader

My belief that the world will be changed through values-based companies does not end with the business owners and entrepreneurs. I believe it is equally important that all people in positions of leadership incorporate their values into their work. This involvs everything from the day-to-day of how you approach your job and role to which companies you choose to earn money from. Today I am pleased to share the first values-based leader on the site!

Be authentic. Be vulnerable. These phrases have become such strong buzz words in the world of business creation, that I sometimes think they have lost their meaning. You read that and you think, “but what does that even mean?” And so you wonder - “Am I being authentic? How vulnerable should I be?”

It truly IS all about your brand and your values and what you want to portray to the world.

However, every once in a while we meet someone or come across someone on social media and instantly think, “OH! That’s what it means. And this is why it works.”

That’s how I feel about A.J. Although he is the brother of one of my best friends, and I had met him a few times at parties and social gatherings - in the past few months, I’ve connected to him through social media and have been blown away by the value he is providing to the world through those two things: authenticity and vulnerability. I knew instantly that he was someone I wanted to feature here as well as someone I want to get to know and collaborate with.

One of my favorite Universe cards (from Gabrielle Bernstein) says, “There is nothing sexier than your AUTHENTIC TRUTH.” A.J. is the living proof of this!

He is also someone who proves another of my core business principles (which happens to have also become a bit overused and trite in some ways…): “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” When you come across someone who is so passionate about what they are doing and that passion connects to a personal reason, you can’t help but want to support them. To me, this is the sweetspot of authenticity, vulnerability, and selling.

Whether it’s posting food-prep videos, navigating the natural transitions of life, or just trying to be the best human he can - A.J. is all out sharing with the world the things he cares about and the things he believes will make the world a little better.

And though I haven’t asked him - I’m sure he would agree with me that these are also the people who can struggle the most with making it in the in-between time (as I do). When you feel called to share a message and affect the world in a certain way, it can be one of life’s great challenges to live in the time before that supports you. But, A.J. (and others like him) are also great examples of how using those same values - the ones that you are incorporating into your larger picture - in your everyday life can help that in-between time be less fraught with struggle and more full of joy.

I hope that you will enjoy learning a little about A.J. and all the ways he is incorporating his own values into being a leader - with his jobs and in his community.

My takeaway: Being authentic and vulnerable become second nature when you are coming from a place of passion and service.

Social: aj_viola

What do you do?

I like jobs :) I am a Cross Fit coach and perpetual manager of things. I’ve owned my own successful business and helped manage other people’s. The key is that whatever I’m doing, I’m working to give people a better life.

How did you choose to work for the company you work for now? And how did you start doing what you do?

I don't own the gym I coach at, but I do feel a great sense of ownership in it. Any organization that is in the business of helping people become the best versions of themselves is something I want to be a part of.

I've coached most of my life, so it's always come very naturally to me, so when my fitness journey became very real to me, it only made sense to want to help others along the way as well.

At 30 years old I was in the hospital for what they thought was a minor heart attack. I had just opened my first business in NC, but knew I was too young for this to be happening. Turns out I had not taken good care of myself and was in a pattern of putting everything before my own mental and physical well-being.

I began shifting all my priorities and focused on taking care of myself, so that I could take care of those around me even better. I lost about 50lbs in the process and now, at 34, am in the best shape of my life.

This story though is not about me...it's about those that helped me get to where I am today and through coaching I have the opportunity to do the same for others.

What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you? 

I think any business that is able to look outside of itself and honestly ask the question, "how is what we're doing impacting those around us for the better?" is socially good.

I've always asked myself "if what I'm doing today were to cease right now, what kind of hole would be left in the people and community around me, or would there even be one?"

That is the kind of impact I hope any business I’m a part of makes.

What is your favorite part about incorporating values-based leadership into your role?

Being in the health and fitness industry, I am privileged with the opportunity to see people get one step closer to their goals almost daily. Whether it's lifting a certain weight, seeing a certain number on the scale, fitting into those old jeans, showing up 3 days a week, being able to run with their kids, etc...

…being able to be a part of these moments brings me more joy than I can explain. Knowing that I've had even a small role in these transformations and life-changing stories makes everything I do worth it.

What is your biggest struggle in incorporating your values into your work?

My biggest struggle lately is the loneliness that comes with leadership. It's the reminder that it's not a role for everyone and can be hard at times, but the rewards are always worth it.

What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years? 

Having owned and operated my own business in the past I know that's something I would very much like to accomplish again. There's nothing like working for yourself and having it all come down to you. It can be stressful, but it is so worth it.

Who are your business icons, heroines or mentors? 

Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek, Tim Ferriss

What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business? 

Self awareness :)

Knowing who you are, what you value and why you are doing what you're doing is the best thing you can do for yourself and for those around you.

What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?

I haven't attended many lately, unfortunately, so I will just say any opportunity that allows me to refocus and recenter my life and goals is a huge favorite.

What is the last book you read? 

Setting The Table by Danny Meyer & Living on Purpose by Brandon Steiner