Booker T. Washington wrote that, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” St. Paul Campus Building and Grounds worker Michael Coleman has overcome the shyness that dogged him in his youth to become more involved in both personal and professional pursuits.
A St. Paul native, Coleman used to visit his mother, Shirley, at Ruttan Hall when she did the very same job he does today. Despite having athletic ability, Coleman didn’t participate in team sports at Tartan High School because he was too shy. He gravitated more towards recreational sports like biking and bowling.
After high school, Coleman began worked at Kohl’s and Rainbow Foods before the manager for a nearby Bally fitness club encouraged him to apply there. Coleman gave it a shot … a choice that would change his life.
The atmosphere at Bally was very different from anything he had ever experienced. There was more interaction with customers and at one point he was expected to greet them as they came in.
“I was kind of shy,” remembered Coleman. “I was so scared about greeting members and checking them in. Some people were nice and some people were hard to deal with. I was doing stuff I never thought I really could do at the time.”
The progress Coleman made at Bally, and later Lifetime Fitness, helped him gain the confidence and experience to apply for a job at the U in 2001. He’s worked in FM for twelve years now.
A big indicator of how far Coleman has is his annual participation in the Bike MS: Tram 300-mile bike ride. He’s always ridden a bike for transportation, but before his first MS Tram in 2002 his longest ride was the 20-mile trek from Roseville to New Hope. Coleman’s girlfriend at the time had just been diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), so he had seen the toll the disease takes. He’s now participated in 12 MS Trams.
Despite a predisposition to shyness, Coleman has met many MS Tram participants over the years and formed a special bond with six riders in particular, whom he’s ridden with each year since 2007. He’s also raised nearly $10,000 for MS research by engaging his friends, family and co-workers in the cause.
By taking a risk on a difficult job, Coleman opened up a lot of opportunities for himself and others.
“When you try something you don’t think you can do, it’s scary,” said Coleman. “But I tried it and it really helped me out. I used to be a follower, now I’m more of a leader.”
If you measure success by the obstacles one overcomes, Michael Coleman is a very successful man.