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The story of PUSH YOURSELF as a public website and frequently seen slogan across the country and beyond may have been consummated in the summer of 2005, but the movement has been integrated long before that on the fields and in the homes of Paul Valenti and Josh Gleason.

Paul from Pittsford and Josh from Rochester crossed paths on 4th of July weekend of 2004. Although they were acquaintances prior to that, it wasn’t until that day that a friendship and common thread through sports and philosophies of life would carry them on a journey of what would become PUSH YOURSELF.

Both Valenti and Gleason had come from tennis families. During a 4th of July party they decided to sneak over to some local courts to play tennis together. Highly competitive and wired very similar, a friendship based on values and the spirit of sports ensued. Gleason worked in the medical field and had coached high school and college athletics for over ten years. Valenti, a stand out athlete was just finishing college and in search for a teaching position in the local school districts.

Over the next couple of years, Valenti and Gleason would compete in everything, such as, horse (basketball), tennis, basement tennis, weight lifting, racquetball, and virtually anything that they could compete head to head. Winning was important, but to them competing and pushing each other was paramount.

As the realities and trials of life crept in on the two (career, marriage, fatherhood), Josh and Paul competed as much as they could. One day in the July of 2005 a usual tennis match had changed Paul’s life forever. This day would begin a movement with one statement from Gleason.

It was obvious Paul’s mind was somewhere else that day. With college completed and the search for the next step in life impending, his mind was not on the tennis match. Gleason said to Valenti very casually from across the court, “Come on Paul, PUSH YOURSELF”. PUSH YOURSELF was something Josh’s father had always said to him growing up. It did not apply just to sports but it applied to life, PUSH YOURSELF to be the best you can be in all aspects of your life. Live a life of constant never-ending improvement.

After the match, and for the following two hours, Valenti and Gleason sat on a wooden bench to talk. They discussed their life goals and the things that are truly important to them. The outcome of the match that day was insignificant. However, what ensued from Josh encouraging Paul with the simple phrase, PUSH YOURSELF, was incredibly powerful.

On that day Paul realized/learned that no matter what he was going through in life, ups and downs, he needed to always remember to keep moving forward with a positive attitude, keep pushing, and life will work out the way it should. Such a simple phrase was constant motivation for Paul to change his life.

A couple months after that tennis match, Paul and Josh’s lives had changed drastically. Paul had secured teaching and coaching positions, while Josh celebrated the birth of his first son.

Within the next few months, Paul reached out to Josh with an idea about the phrase PUSH YOURSELF. Through teaching and coaching experience Paul believed that the phrase, PUSH YOURSELF could be a positive influence on the children he worked with. Paul thought the phrase was comparable to the popular Nike logo – Just Do It. However, Nike focused on the athletic push, while PUSH YOURSELF encompassed all aspects of life.

Paul had a vision of creating a movement that could touch the lives of everyone he connected with. The idea of pushing yourself within the four PUSH YOURSELF Pillars (Intellectually, Socially, Physically and Environmentally), can be infectious to those around you causing a domino effect of positive behaviors and actions. Paul considered PUSH YOURSELF a way of life.

Paul has taken PUSH YOURSELF to new levels. He has begun a website where people post how they have pushed themselves, sold merchandise to spread the movement, and organized events benefitting local organizations. Some events include a 5K Walk/Run Challenge, a Bocce Bash, a roof sit in January, and many more in the works. PUSH YOURSELF is a way of life requiring us to step out of our comfort zones and do the right thing.

Who would have thought that a friendly conversation on a park bench at a tennis court would evolve into a worldwide movement? Ask yourself, and only you would know. “What Have You Done Today? Did you PUSH YOURSELF?”

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