The first time I interviewed Pat Divilly a 29 year old Galway native, I used the “G” word, and his reaction told me all I would ever need to know about his humility.
“I’m just a man who believes you can achieve by the power of positive thinking.”
Pat’s name is synonymous with success for his online fitness program and as a motivational speaker across the country; but it has been his Galway Ted Talk, which has garnered a new bevvy of followers who admire his simple, raw emotional honesty.
And while the Guru word may evoke images of long deceased men with exotic names, and experiential wisdom; for me it fits.
Pat has been the driving force in raising over €200,000 for the National Cystic Fibrosis Charity and Console the national suicide charity as their youth ambassador. This man who contemplated giving up on life, has given so much back, but what exactly defines him as an inspiration?
Four years ago, Pat thought that he had taken everything life had to throw at him and he wondered if he was good enough to be here. After a failed attempt to create the ‘next big thing’ in fitness in Dublin, he packed up his hopes and having to borrow the bus fare, he left Dublin with the sting of failure about him.
It was during his time in Dublin, with his imagery of success plastered on social media, and while the reality saw him broke, and looking at the dark murky depths of the harbour that he reached his lowest point.
“Back then I walked this city and I only found myself in the dark places. A feeling in the pit of my stomach so bad it’s just hard to explain it. Everyone says ‘oh I was depressed about this or that’, and it does cause a different reaction in everyone. I don’t know if you can label it depression, and I can’t say it was about suicide, but f*ck I was low.”
The feeling of not being enough, of not having achieved what he told everyone he would achieve ate him up and almost spat him out, but his dream of a Fitness business would not be quietened. As a last resort, he used a week’s wages and had 2000 flyers printed, which he slapped on every surface he could get near, inviting readers to train on the beach.
On the first day he arrived an hour early, packed to the brim with anxiety he waited; the immensity of the ocean a backdrop to his dreams, just abstract footprints on the sand.
The first morning there were 5 people.
“I couldn’t have been happier, I was genuinely ecstatic. There were people there, it hadn’t failed, someone had come, and they wanted this, they had come because I could give them something, I could help them. That was enough for me.”
Like all success stories, it wasn’t something that happened overnight, but some of the darkness began to lift.
“I remember a man on the beach used to walk by every day, and this one time he came over and asked what we were doing. So I said, we are training, it’s a fitness thing. He was like, ‘well how much do you charge.’ I said €75 and he looked at me like I was mad, ‘sure I can get a sauna and everything in a real gym and pay that a month’. He really thought that was all there was to it! It’s not just about being fit in body; it’s about learning what you can achieve. It’s about your mental wellbeing, your social contact, that doesn’t just come from running on a treadmill or following 100 steps on a sheet of paper. It’s about so much more than that.”
The first week there were only five but there were more every week, Pat, his believers, and a few plastic cones: “I was on the beach five times a day. If one extra person came, I would cycle home even faster to tell my Mum.”
Two books later, a thriving fitness business and a request to guest on the Late Late show, Pat has done his utmost to leave the darkness behind, he knows about failure and shattered pride.
He believes every conversation can effect a change. He credits his change with one conversation where a little bit of motivation became enough to lift his head from the darkness, and while he knows there is no quick fix, there is always the chance to keep moving forward.
Orla O Drioscall