DUNIA Face of Greatness: ONDREJ ZOUHAR
Country of Origin: CZECH REPUBLIC
Tell us about your childhood and what made you move to the United States.
I grew up in the Czech Republic formally Czechoslovakia. I was a very energetic child and my parents signed me up for lots of activities; singing classes, theater, I also played a silver flute for 7 years. My parents were over protective and sometimes made me not want to try any professional sports or athletics. My dad always wanted me to travel and see the world and so did I. When he was a young man in a communist country, crossing borders West for him was just a dream. I made that dream come true for him. I came to Ashville, NC in December of 2000 with $500 and a bag pack. I spoke broken English – just basics, what I remembered from college.
My first job was as a dishwasher and night shift restroom attendant – that’s a fancy name for someone who cleans toilets.
What are your core philosophies (values) and how have they guided you?
From the moment I took my first breath, I have been responsible for my own actions and never feel like a victim. This creates absolute conviction that everything in life is achievable and if I don’t take responsibility, then I am the one holding myself back from achieving the dreams and goals I wish for myself.
#1 is Honesty. A great value I hold in high regard. If I am not honest with myself, I can hardly be honest with others. I remember doing things for the wrong reasons or for no reason at all; like eating the wrong food for the wrong reasons, joining bad company for the wrong reasons and it eventually caught up with me.
#2 Spirituality – No matter what you believe, there will always be those times when you are trying to be original, filled with new directions or ideas or feeling empty, and you find yourself alone. Sometimes you will even have to face criticism and judgment from others. Those are times when you will know that a higher power (GOD) lives within you, there to help you anytime and always keep you company, give you support no matter what you do, how you look or how much money you make. My spiritual values have kept me grounded and humble.
#3 Humility – Humility helps me remain respectful and show gratitude. When times are rough, it’s easy to appreciate every little help from friends or family, but when things are going well we sometimes forget to be thankful.
I am personally very thankful to my parents because I know it must be hard for them to have their son thousands of miles away in a different culture fighting and learning without their physical support. So I always make sure to let them know that because of their unconditional love I am the man that I am today and that I love them for that very much. I do the same with my friends and people that I meet along the way. A simple appreciation goes a long way and feels great.
What is your passion/purpose in life and how did you discover it?
There was a time in my life when I was constantly following other people’s suggestions on how to live.
It drove me into depression and I felt worthless. My health and the unbalanced life I lived started catching up with me. I was 25 and I felt like an old man, suffering from seizures, tiredness, constant sore throats, panic attacks, relationship failures, just to name a few.
I challenged myself to transform my body and eliminate my fears one problem at a time. I joined cage fighting to eliminate my fear of confrontation, learned skydiving to eliminate my fear of heights (hence, now a flight attendant for 5 years), I became a lifeguard because I was afraid of the deep ocean and I lived by the beach, where I did a lot of fitness training and healthy eating to heal my body inside and out.
While my health was getting better, I also felt a need for learning, reading and self improvement. During this process, I passed information and inspiration to others (if they were interested). When friends saw the change in me, first they were worried about me being too skinny or having too much of an open mind, but later they were asking for advice about their lifestyle and how to make changes. Helping them and seeing them succeed, made me happy. I felt I found my purpose which is to serve God by improving and adding value to the lives of others with love through the platform of health, fitness and spirituality, while improving and educating myself. It became this circle of constant positive energy that I passed on to others and it returned back to me.
It is obvious that you deeply care about people, why is that?
Most of the crimes today are committed by people who are empty inside and need some kind of affection and love. If we each commit ourselves to giving love each day just like we commit to putting food in our mouths we will eventually create a new vision for the world. Today, everything is backwards; we care for things and use people instead of caring for people and using things. We need to look back and see how things were done back in the day, when people were more in touch with humanity than with technology. I am writing a book on these things, which will be published in March.
I want people to feel warmth from my heart so it can last with them a long time. We chase vanity because it attracts people to us. These people come to us because they love the things we have, when these things are gone, the people leave because we did not attract them with our true character. Then we get bitter and resentful, forgetting that we created that situation.
We are afraid to even care for ourselves, as such we hold back on caring for other people. The more we are afraid and hold back, the more crimes we will see and the more bitter the world will get. People make the world what it is, without people, there would be no world. That is why I care about people, my world is better if I help to make someone’s life better.
What does success mean to you and what would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
Success to me is to be happy with what I have while pursuing what I want. Success is different for each individual. For a child in school it could be an “A” grade on a test, for a fireman it could be rescuing a victim from a collapsed building, for a doctor it could be saving a life. No matter what it is, it’s important to know that we have to enjoy the process of getting there. Success is a pleasure. If we can see a pattern of pleasures throughout the day, we can say that it was a successful day.
Success for me is enjoying and feeling happy through a process of pursuing my dreams and goals, while having a positive influence and inspiration on the outside world.
What are some meaningful milestones you have achieved so far?
Aside from big trophies and accolades, the greatest milestones I will like to celebrate is seeing myself grow through accomplishing little goals, and seeing the lives of people change as I help them find balance by getting in touch with their reality; facing anything in their past that is holding them back from achieving the goals and dreams ahead of them.
Helping a 70 year old lady find her spark for life and a reason to start living the life she always wanted is a greater reward for me than being the designer’s choice model for a runway show or being employee of the month at my job even though the latter is very much appreciated.
I am getting my needs met through people that cross my life. Each one of them will leave an imprint and in my case, I want to leave them with love.
What advice and health tips would you like to offer our readers to help them find balance?
I encourage everyone to form a habit of eating well, exercise at least 2 or 3 times a week even if it is for just 15 minutes a day and create a spiritual connection so that they can find peace and balance to live the life they were created to live.
I just launched a 25 minute audio workout challenge on audio that can be downloaded for just a dollar. There will be 3 levels; Beginners for 15 minutes, Intermediate for 25 minutes and Advanced for 35 minutes. It can be found on my website.
It is not easy to form a habit so I always suggest 5 simple steps to practice daily for at least 21 days that will help you develop a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
- 1. Meditate – Meditation simply means connecting your mind with your body. You can listen to music, pray, read a book or do yoga.
- 2. Drink – Your body has gone for hours without fluids and needs to be replenished. Water, a protein shake or juice will do.
- 3. Eat – Refuel your body, eat something light if you are not used to a big breakfast or maybe just an apple, a banana, a nutri-bar, your body burns the most calories in the morning and eating helps that.
- 4. Motivate – Encouraging words are like vitamins for your mind. Read a quote or a good book. Just don’t turn on the news. It can be very depressing.
- 5. Exercise – Have at least 15 minutes of exercise a day.
It may seem easy but if you do not have a plan, set a goal to see that plan alive on paper and take action, you will remain in the same spot till the next decade, with the same old excuses and you will miss out on knowing your true potential and how much you are capable of giving to yourself and to the world.
Your BODY is a TEMPLE, treat it with respect and you will find magnificent energy within and the ability to CREATE what you ENVISION.
Have a joyful Christmas and Happy Holidays.
(First published in DUNIA Print Magazine – issue 6: Dec 2011 to March 2012)