Ali and Coach Stroker  | Episode 1 Transcript:

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Intro (00:07):

Welcome to Strength in Numbers, the podcast where we show you that together we can overcome any obstacle. Join us as we bring on world renowned experts in the field of grit, determination and perseverance. Lean on us for a prosperous future together. Here's your host, Colonel Tim Nye and Neal Keohane.

Neal Keohane (00:31):

[inaudible 00:00:31].

Col. Nye (00:31):

We're gonna go, that's, that's the sound clap, we are now live, action after that. So-

Neal Keohane (00:35):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (00:36):

I'm just going to welcome all the Spartans that are out there that we don't see, all the audience that will join us I guess in, ether at some point or when this gets put on a different platform and then sent back out. So, um, Neal asked me to, to come on today because I am one of the host of Spartan Up! podcast. So this is Neal's, this is the premier show for Neal for the Strength in Humans embracing and empowering human beings. So you guys are the very first two people on. So I thought I would come on, uh, kind of introduce Neal, introduce you guys, uh, step back and let Neal and you guys go at it. And if I see an opportunity, I'll, I'll jump in there as well.

Ali Stroker (01:16):

Thanks.

Col. Nye (01:16):

But, uh, as, uh, as the host, uh, Neal, um, Neal is a, is a Spartan. Um, he, he hangs out a Spartan and he does a lot of work in Spartan and he does a lot of other things, I'm telling for the audience out there. Um, but Neal's also a senior vice president or vice president of a non-profits, uh, Special Ops Survivors and that's really h- his focus. And so I think a lot of what's gonna take place on this show today and in the future is kind of talking about that, how you can give us tips from what you've gone through in life and what you've learned and how to transfer that to our audience, which will be Spartans, but also people in the non-profit, uh, world, specifically, uh, Special Ops Survivors.

Col. Nye (02:04):

So, so, uh, Ali and Coach, I'll tell you what a great honor to have you both on here. Um, Coach, I mean, I, you really, his Coach, I mean, I looked up your background, holy smokes, you, you've done a lot of coaching and a lot of, uh, I mean, you're in the New Jersey Hall of Fame, um, high school basketball and football, which, which is pretty impressive. Uh, it said you did some baseball as well. I see that you're into yoga and wellness. I assume that also maybe bleeds into meditation, I don't know.

Coach Stroker (02:34):

Thank you, Col.

Col. Nye (02:34):

But, uh, okay, but, but-

Ali Stroker (02:35):

(laughs).

Coach Stroker (02:35):

Absolutely.

Col. Nye (02:38):

There's a lot of stuff there to kind of unpack, and I don't know if we'll get to all of it.

Coach Stroker (02:41):

Thank you.

Col. Nye (02:42):

An- and, Ali, I mean, you are, you know, a trailblazer, trendsetter, uh, a barrier, uh, blaster.

Ali Stroker (02:50):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (02:50):

I mean, you've just knocked down everything out of your way. I'm sure a lot of that comes from your father, but, but we'll get into that. It's got, in my opinion, it's gotta reside within you first and then as the coach can kind of stroke those fires, but it's hard... It's got to be there to begin with. And I just want to let you know, I, I talked to my son, so your, your fame if it is, if you will. Um, I was talking to my son yesterday and I said, "Oh, I'm gonna help out my friend on this podcast and I'm going to introduce, I'm going to talk to this actress." I said, "She's the first actress in a wheelchair, uh, to perform on Broadway and win a Tony." He goes, "uh, Ali Stroker."

Coach Stroker (03:30):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (03:30):

Now, my son's a Green Beret in Fort Bragg. He's about as far removed from-

Ali Stroker (03:32):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (03:33):

.. from Broadway as you can get. I mean, it's a, it's a totally different world and he knew your name and your background like that.

Ali Stroker (03:41):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Col. Nye (03:41):

So I, I, I, I should have pressed him on how he knew all that you guys are about to [crosstalk 00:03:44]-

Ali Stroker (03:44):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (03:45):

... thinking like two days apart. Uh, but, but he was well aware of who you were and, and what you've accomplished.

Ali Stroker (03:51):

Thank you.

Col. Nye (03:52):

So there are, so there are plenty of people out there already very familiar with you.

Ali Stroker (03:55):

Thank you.

Col. Nye (03:56):

So I guess my first question is just then, how did you two get, get linked up with Neal? How did all of that come about?

Ali Stroker (04:05):

[crosstalk 00:04:05].

Coach Stroker (04:06):

Neal tried to Rob my home about (laughing) a month ago and I caught... No, I, I actually met this incredible guy, uh, down at the Special Operations Survival Conference down in Key Largo. And I was speaking down there with one of my cohorts. And along came this well-conditioned, um, really neat, good guy. Um, and we met there and we saw there was a real common link that we both liked to help others. And from there this relationship is just booming. I mean we are, we are, we're going steady forever.

Ali Stroker (04:52):

(laughs).

Coach Stroker (04:52):

We really like each other.

Neal Keohane (04:53):

That's right coach. So, um, yeah, first of all, um, Ali, you've never seen me before, but I'm normally very clean shaven and I, I have a high-end and tight haircut. Like I'm, like I'm in the Marines, but if your just see me for the first time like this anyways, but we'll, we'll get into the nitty-gritties in a second. But, I- I- I- I'm, you know, I consider Colonel Nye not only a friend, but a big brother to me and he hasn't even gotten a hug for me. And, and I met your dad and within five minutes I gave him a bear hug 'cause I just knew the type of guy and the love that exudes from Coach Stroker. So you know, that I think that the audience should know that, and, um, at any rate, um,

Col. Nye (05:34):

Yeah, but conversely, does that mean you know the kind of guy I am as well? (laughing) So you wouldn't, you-

Neal Keohane (05:37):

No.

Col. Nye (05:38):

You, you wouldn't attempt that, is that?

Neal Keohane (05:39):

Well, well, well, Colonel, you, you, you were a former ranger and in SOCOM. So I try to keep that line there, but now that I know next time I'll give you-

Col. Nye (05:47):

I appreciate it.

Neal Keohane (05:48):

There you go sir. So, um, so coach, you know, I guess the reason for this show is, um, we want to, we want to help people right now because I, I think, um, Col, Nye and I talk a lot, it's pretty obvious that the news we're getting from everywhere is just doom and gloom and there's not a lot of shows out there about goodness and good people helping people, regular people through hard times. And, and I thought of you and Ali immediately on your circumstances and how you went from, I remember you telling me you're, you're, y- you were pulled out of a classroom, you were told something very serious.

Neal Keohane (06:26):

The principal pulled you out of the classroom, you had a life-changing moment that the moment you saw the car accident and you told me, and I'm sorry from revealing too much here, but you said that incident you wouldn't either gonna, this is either going to crush you as a human being or you were going to change your life and, and, and make this work and not only make it work, but be better and, and, and be there for not just your family, but you made a conscious decision to change your life and your outlook.

Neal Keohane (06:54):

And, you know, w- w- we're talking to business leaders, we're talking to nonprofit leaders. We're talking to regular people on how to help them, you know, get out of the minutia, minutia of let's say fundraising of fund- you know, fundraising, our nonprofits in fundraising, our governance, our this, that we all know we have to do when and, and be legal and honest and ethical and moral. But we need to help people find some strength and get through this tough time.

Neal Keohane (07:21):

So if you could kind of go back and forth with Ali about how you overcame pretty much the impossible and have your daughter win a Tony from something that everyone... uh, would have broken me. I, I tell you right now, I'm telling you a heart to heart. I don't know... I still to this day don't know how you guys have accomplished what you do and I'm, I'm just going to be quiet and if you can just speak maybe on both of your parts on, on, on how you did it and how you do it and how you keep pressing that message.

Coach Stroker (07:46):

Yeah, I, I guess, Ali, I mean we, we play basketball back and forth. I'll start for a second. But-

Neal Keohane (07:53):

Okay.

Coach Stroker (07:54):

... you know, great coaches sit back and let their players play. So I'm not going to overspeak here, but I, I, something happened and, um, what, what I keep going back to is, you know, if there's a big enough reason why, you'll always find the how and the strength that you need to find, it's really not... It doesn't necessarily come from within, but when you're out to help others, when you are, when you, when you let love overtake fear, when, when there is... And I wouldn't say there's no choice, but suddenly when you see Ali and her, her brother Jake in that situation, you find strength.

Coach Stroker (08:48):

So I keep going back, I mean we're all in terribly uncertain times. We tremendously feel disconnected and in some, some situations almost insignificant. We're lost, we're all suffering. We all are, and you have every, every right to take the easy pass into just sitting there with your chest, chin in your chest. But what, what I believe is when you flip it and you start doing things for others, when you start realizing people who are professionals do their best, when they feel like at their least, that all of a sudden you find the strength.

Neal Keohane (09:35):

Yeah.

Coach Stroker (09:35):

Now, it's one thing to be a [roro 00:09:38] coach, it's another thing to actually play the game. Ali was on the field and I was on sideline going, "You can," and we have a certain recipe, but she's the one that found that strength inside.

Neal Keohane (09:53):

Yeah. Thank you, coach.

Ali Stroker (09:55):

Yeah, I mean I think it first comes down to who are you surrounding yourself with so that you can become the best version of yourself. And that means eating in many circumstances. And I will tell you not every single day is perfect.

Neal Keohane (10:13):

That's right.

Ali Stroker (10:14):

And you're, you're always going to find excuses. That's the way our minds work. But I do believe it is acting as if you can all the time. So, for example, one of the reasons that I fell so in love with theater was that I learned how to be on stage and act as if I was a character-

Neal Keohane (10:42):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ali Stroker (10:42):

... as if I was a, whatever, my character, whatever their job was on stage. And it really applies in my real life as well. You know, I feel so different in these circumstances when I stay in my pajamas all day.

Neal Keohane (10:56):

(laughs).

Ali Stroker (10:56):

But, you know, if I'm able to get up and get dressed like the professional that I know I am and show up in a way that makes me feel like I have a purpose, I feel so different. It's like immediately the cloud shift. And, um, I think that one of the ways that we do that right now is by connecting with people and by creating, um, opportunities to be accountable-

Neal Keohane (11:24):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ali Stroker (11:25):

... because being at home, accountability shifts. And so I think that having check-ins or meetings or projects that you're working on where you have to show up on a Zoom Meeting and, and, and you have a project that you're working on, I really believe that it's so important right now and it applies directly to what we did in our own lives, you know, um, after my brother and I were hurt, my dad set goals, there were always goals that we were striving towards.

Neal Keohane (11:56):

Right.

Ali Stroker (11:56):

And there was very little sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves. It was always what are we doing now? Who are we going to help? How are we going to improve our lives? And, um, it really helped to have obviously unbelievably supportive parents. But a coach, you know, my dad was, was never letting my brother and I slack off. We always had to stay on the course.

Neal Keohane (12:22):

Yeah.

Ali Stroker (12:22):

And, um, these, these approaches really, really were very effective.

Neal Keohane (12:29):

Yeah. I, I, I-

Col. Nye (12:30):

Neal, let me, let me just ask 'cause I just want to ask a question off of that. So, Coach, h- how did you find enough time to do that? How did you prioritize if in fact, I mean I [inaudible 00:12:42] the fact you are this coach and you get this picture of a coach in most people's [inaudible 00:12:46] spending 20 hours a day with their players or drawing up schemes and playbooks and everything else. Where did you find the time to devote to your children-

Coach Stroker (12:55):

Yeah, I, I-

Col. Nye (12:56):

... to that magnitude?

Coach Stroker (12:57):

Yeah, I had spent my lifetime coaching in big games, in my lifetime coaching high school athletics against really rugged opponents. And then one day I got a chance to coach a game bigger than the World Cup, bigger than the Super Bowl or bigger than the Final Four; I got a chance to coach my two children. So guess what? The- there, there wasn't even a question. I got a chance to be in the biggest game of my life just like we are. I mean it's, it's really cool to coach a basketball game and win an overtime. It's so much cooler to have two players like my two kids and give them everything that I had. So we find the time and we built, we built that, that, that star right over there. We built our success, whatever it was on a three-part system. And we used that three-part system, whether it's the coronavirus, whether I get cancer tomorrow, whether, uh, all of a sudden there's another car accident. We built it on these three parts and Ali has carried that on the field.

Neal Keohane (14:14):

Well, can you tell us what those three parts are, Coach? I, I, I don't [crosstalk 00:14:18].

Coach Stroker (14:18):

I paused, I paused, number one, and Ali and I have this tattooed on our left forearms. You can't see us. Okay. And Ali, you want to, you want to go over the equation E?

Ali Stroker (14:34):

Yeah, it's E plus R equals O

Coach Stroker (14:36):

E plus R equals O

Neal Keohane (14:39):

Events, response and outcome?

Ali Stroker (14:41):

Yeah.

Coach Stroker (14:41):

Well, it's events in your life plus-

Ali Stroker (14:46):

[crosstalk 00:14:46].

Coach Stroker (14:47):

... response equal outcome.

Neal Keohane (14:48):

Go ahead, you're, you're the daughter, go (laughing).

Coach Stroker (14:52):

So-

Ali Stroker (14:53):

And it's so, yeah.

Coach Stroker (14:54):

So that rev- that, that response, it's all ours. We, we own it.

Neal Keohane (15:02):

Yeah.

Coach Stroker (15:03):

No one, no one can take it.

Neal Keohane (15:05):

Yeah.

Coach Stroker (15:06):

Ali's response to being paralyzed is who she was, who she became-

Neal Keohane (15:10):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Coach Stroker (15:11):

... and that was her choice, her choice. And we leave that as number one.

Neal Keohane (15:18):

Well, I had, I had seen I'd seen that that was kind of your, your trademark there. And I was fascinated by it because I've had discussions with my boss, Joe De Sena, the founder of Spartan, who, who basically... H- his concept or his credo is that adversity builds champions. And I'm always like, uh, it actually crushes 80%, 90% of people. It's your response to the adversity that builds a champion. So not everybody's got it. And that's what Spartan is learning how to overcome obstacles. But, but as we said early on, not everybody is going to be able to respond. Um, they, they just don't, otherwise you wouldn't, you wouldn't see homeless people or, or, you know, people who need help. Um, it, it is, it is rare to be able to have that type of fortitude I believe.

Coach Stroker (16:09):

Well, it, it, it, it comes from one, one thing, gratitude, which is the most powerful trait that you can, and it isn't just once in a while. It isn't just when I feel good, I'm grateful this is waking up each day and this is what we lived, Ali and I, gratitude for what we had, not what we didn't have. Ali, do you want to take off on that?

Ali Stroker (16:36):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean that, that mindset is huge. You know, you can, you can always look at what you don't have in every part of your life. But if you become more tunnel-visioned in what you do have, your attitude ch- your attitude changes and then the outcomes change. And, um, you know, the determination that I think my family had, not just my brother and I, but my entire family had to help Jake and I become successful in whatever we wanted to do was so great that there was no other option. I really don't believe there was.

Neal Keohane (17:12):

Yeah. I, I, I think everyone in life, well, the fortunate people I should say, have had a mentor in their life, whether it was their father or mother or uncle, business partner. I think most, most successful people, whether it's money or giving back or however you define success, has had a mentor in your life. And, um, I think, you know, the purpose of, of this call is we're all very fortunate. Um, I think, uh, Colonel Nye has had some great mentors in his life. I have two besides my dad, I've had two in my life that, um, I probably wouldn't be here without them, uh, and, and Coach, you're, you're, you're a rock for not only your family, but for everyone whoever comes across you, you always have that message.

Neal Keohane (17:59):

And I think because we're all fortunate, I just want to see if you guys can speak to, we are, um, we'll make it, I know we're going to make it, but there are people out there who, who don't think we are going to make it and they might even be in leadership capacities right now. Can you guys just speak specifically to, you know, maybe digging deep or given an example of a business leader or a nonprofit leader or anybody who follows them on, you know, one step, one step they can do. Um, I know, I know, uh, Joe, the founder of Spartan wants to get 200 million people off the couch. Doesn't mean they're going to race a beast up a mountain, but he just wants the p- people getting better every day, do something better every day.

Neal Keohane (18:44):

And I think we have a great platform to tell people, hey, this is our chance not only to be grateful for what we have, but we can, we can actually give back now. We all have more time than we had. We're not in a car two hours a day to commute to work and two hours back, we have those four hours to do something good with it. And, and I just, you know, lay out a game plan for us. One or two things that can get someone out of the, the woe is me! or the real, real story here of the realness of this tragedy that's going on. And how about, w- w- what do you, um, what's some good advice?

Ali Stroker (19:21):

My first piece of advice is around how you shift the conversation in your head. And for a lot of people who are unhappy right now, it's the conversation and the question is what am I going to get?

Neal Keohane (19:34):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ali Stroker (19:35):

And I offer that you shift it to what am I going to give?

Neal Keohane (19:40):

Yes.

Ali Stroker (19:40):

And when you are able to, you know, take your attention off of what you want right now versus what you can give-

Neal Keohane (19:50):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ali Stroker (19:51):

... you feel so different. You feel so different when you can be of service versus, you know, this, this fear sort of, um, mindset of what am I going to get.

Neal Keohane (20:04):

Yeah, exactly. Coach?

Coach Stroker (20:05):

Yeah, we, we, we were absurd with the f- the flipping syndrome, the flipping [inaudible 00:20:12] of taking an obstacle and flipping it into an opportunity, taking a problem and flipping it into a possibility, taking a setback and creating a set up. Ali Stroker received a Tony in June of this past year and flipped the theater world upside down. Ali in some way won the Tony, not despite your disability, but quite frankly, if you're on Broadway, you better be different, you better stand out. She took her situation and it became a great gift for her. So, so we, you know, I, I, I, I went to 76 shows of Oklahoma and I could have gone to all, every show because every time I saw Ali, I saw her nervous and scared every show. But what I noticed, what heroes do, they feel just like everyone else; scared, but heroes move forward.

Neal Keohane (21:20):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Coach Stroker (21:20):

They move forward with the fear. In fact, you can't be a hero unless you're scared. You can't, you can't be a standout unless... And so when people watched Ali, I could feel them, their emotions, their emotions light up because Ali allowed them to come into their life and allow them to walk away if, uh, I can feel her courage and I know I'm going to portray it, so-

Neal Keohane (21:51):

Yeah. Coach, uh, uh, I mean, Colonel, do, do you have anything to, um-

Col. Nye (21:56):

Yeah.

Neal Keohane (21:56):

... to add or ask? 'Cause I know we gotta wrap up here [inaudible 00:21:58].

Col. Nye (21:58):

I, I do, I have a very quick que- a very quick question. I don't know the answer. Um, so I assume, I assume Ali, I mean obviously you are coach, you're her mentor and her philosophical guru because you, you brought her up, but who is your... You're, you're extraordinary, an extraordinary speaker and your concepts, who are your philosophical gurus for you? Who molded you?

Ali Stroker (22:25):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (22:25):

Whether it's an individual or a Buddha or, you know, [inaudible 00:22:28].

Coach Stroker (22:27):

(laughs).

Col. Nye (22:29):

I mean, I don't, I don't care. I'm just curious.

Ali Stroker (22:31):

Well, it, it comes from-

Col. Nye (22:33):

Go ahead.

Ali Stroker (22:34):

... Yeah, it comes from where I came from, which is my, my family and my parents and all of my teachers and the people that believed in me and invested in me. And, you know, as I, as I've gotten older and on my own, it's like I get to sort of handpick my team. And, um, you know, one of the main people is my boyfriend and my partner who is just a brilliant director and artist. And so we inspire each other and he really helps me stay authentic and creative and, uh, problem solving in new ways. And, um, you know, one of the things that I'm really inspired by are my parents and their, uh, dedication to continue to grow even as they get older. Uh, I think that sometimes we think, "Oh, I've, I've got it. I've mastered this. Um, I'm good. I am who I am," but I really believe that we can always be growing and always learning and expanding ourselves and, and what we are here to do on this planet.

Neal Keohane (23:39):

That's great. And, and Coach, what, who, who's, are yours?

Coach Stroker (23:43):

Uh, I'm like a mesh of about 15 people that have changed my life. I, we, Ali and I, uh, we call them soulmates. We have this little idea that people met us before we came to this earth and they kind of said to us, "Look, you're going to go through some turbulent times and all of a sudden it's going to seem like a coincidence, but I'm going to show up in your life and I'm going to give you a little nudge, a little lift, and I'll be there for you." So I've had at least 15 coaches, people who have shown up, soulmates that have changed my life and have given me this opportunity to really become a mesh of them. So I'm a big, I'm a big milkshake filled with about 15 students.

Neal Keohane (24:35):

All right. Well, uh, uh, I think we do gotta run here. We're in a, uh, this is our first show, so I think we're on a hard deadline, but I want, I want, first of all, I want to thank one of my best friends [inaudible 00:24:47] for, for helping me out doing this. Ali, you're incredible, um, really truly, thank you for sharing your time with us today. And Coach, um, what can I say, man? Um, we're bonded even, even, uh, even as brief as we met personally, uh, face to face, but all the time we spent together on phones and emails and texts, uh, I mean you're team for life and, um, uh, I just want everyone who's listening now to know that Colonel and I are going to be having one of these, uh, shows every Monday at 4:30 PM and we'll have, I don't know if we'll be able to beat Ali and Coach, but we're going to have some talented people on to get us through these difficult times with positive messages.

Neal Keohane (25:26):

Uh, I do want to thank, uh, some people, um, that really behind the scenes helped us out immensely. And that's Michelle Buhr from Inbloom Consulting. Uh, she's a, a guru in the non-profit world and a big thanks to Erin Lynch and Adam Benoit from FMP Productions up in Boston who are the same type of people. They, um, um, look, they, they, they make money to put bread and butter on the table. And they kindly gave and gave and gave hours behind the scenes to make this work today. So I thank you Inbloom Consulting and FMP Productions and, and, um, if anybody wants to check out with, uh, Colonel Nye and, and I do with a great team behind us at specialopssurvivors.org. Thanks everyone. I appreciate you [inaudible 00:26:12].

Ali Stroker (26:11):

Thank you so much.

Coach Stroker (26:11):

Thank you guys.

Neal Keohane (26:13):

[crosstalk 00:26:13].

Outro (26:14):

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