Greg Tsirulnik – From Russia with Love



I had the opportunity to interview Greg Tsirulnik as he shares his inspiring journey with us. From moving to the US from Russia at the age of 13 to suffering a painful back accident to becoming a coach to help others. He believes that everyone can follow their dreams. He will share how he overcame the bricks in his life and the whispers that kept him going. He also shares why he decided to have a third kid later in life. Spoiler alert it is a very heartwarming story. His story reminds us that bricks can also be lessons and that the only one you have to compete against is yourself. You definitely don’t want to miss it!

Episode Transcription

Intro Plays

Ari: welcome to whispers And Bricks. My name is Ari Shonbrun I’m your host I have with me today. My special guest is Greg sirulnick. Greg was born in 1976 in Odessa, Ukraine and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1989. In 93, Greg met Rosa the love of his life, and they’ve been married for 22 years. They have four beautiful children, ages four 818 and 21. We’ll get to that eight to 18 thing a little later on. Greg’s passion is coaching, motivating and empowering people in all aspects of their life to help them achieve their goals and reach new heights. He often uses his own personal stories about setbacks that he had to show how passion, dedication and persistence can help you overcome any professional or personal challenge. He talks about his personal struggle with a back injury that he sustained as a result of a fall and describes the physical and emotional pain he experienced. The loss of mobility, impact on his physical and mental health, as well as an impact that had on the life of his family and subsequent triumphant recovery, and birth of a life coaching career. Greg avenues is a catchphrase I can I will watch me to underline that anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to. He strongly believes that all people are born with greatness and unmeasured potential. And with the right approach, coaching and courage, anyone can become the best version of themselves. Please help me welcome, Greg. Greg, how are you? I already thank you for having me. Oh, it’s my pleasure. So as you know, the name of the podcast is whispers in bricks, the whispers of those voices telling us, you know, the right thing to do, and they represent the good in life. And the bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. And let’s be real, everybody has a brick thrown at them at some point in time or another in their life. Maybe it’s a small brick, maybe it’s a big brick, maybe it’s a whole bunch of bricks. But everybody’s gonna go through that. And that’s why it’s it’s nice to know that we have those whispers as well. Now, I was reading your bio. So you were about 13 When you arrived in the US from the Ukraine, is that correct?

Greg: About three months shy?

Ari: Okay. 30? Yeah. Okay, so can you tell us, I’m just Could you tell us a little bit before we get to the really, really good stuff? Can you tell us a little bit about life in the Ukraine, what was it like as a child growing up in the Ukraine?

Greg: See, the interesting part about growing up there is until things started being pointed out to me, it was just a normal childhood. Right. But as you get a little bit older, it’s the the separation between people that are non Jewish, and those that are ones that are, that become a bit more clear. When you get old enough, and you want to go to a synagogue or shul practice your religion. That’s when things got a little bit cloudy. And you know, growing up in my teenage years, it wasn’t as a parent. But looking back at what my parents have gone through, that was completely different from what I remember. In I would say about 12. When I was about 1211 to 12 years old, I began to be bullied in school. For my religious background. I wasn’t a big kid, I was actually kind of small and skinny. And so all the kids took advantage of that. But as a whole, the country was really in a poor state. You had to fight for everything that you that you needed or wanted. And although we really never had the need for anything, my parents worked really, really hard to get us to the point where we we live our life, more or less, yes to our needs to our satisfaction. I just did not understand at the time the cost that they paid. And that cost was their personal freedoms. The constant persecution by the government, the inability to actually work and see the fruits of their labor. It wasn’t, it wasn’t easy. But as a teenager as not even a teenager, I was 12 years old when we left. And it wasn’t as apparent to me, then as it is to me now.

Ari: So, um, so I guess so when you came to the States, right? So it wasn’t, it wasn’t a great childhood. But, you know, from what you’re telling me, your parents, probably maths did very well. And it wasn’t a bad childhood. But what happened? What happened when you came to the States? Okay, you’re 1213 13 years old, right? I’m assuming you don’t speak English. You know, you have to go to school. What, you know, what was that, like?

Greg: Well, I credit a lot of my success to the wonderful upbringing that my parents, you know, really, they invested a lot into me. And I didn’t speak English, the last two years of us living in Ukraine by actually studying English as a second language. Okay. And so I was probably, I was probably the only one in my family that had any communication whatsoever, with people outside of our family. And so adjusting was was quite difficult. I’ll be honest, it was it was difficult. And the reason for that is, the English that I’ve studied, was, was British, not the American English. We’re all used to. So hearing the slang in school and the words and the way kids phrase, you know, their sentences was really not something that came easy to me adapting to ESL classes, you know, English language, yeah, sure. Part of such such a broad and eclectic group of, you know, different backgrounds and religion. I’ve never met people like that before, you know, people from all walks of life. So that was a a shock to me, you know, sitting next two kids that were from, you know, from Asia, from Mexico, you know, from Israel from everywhere, right? It was really a shock to me, cultural shock.

Ari: Well, let me tell you something, as I always tell my audiences, you know, I bring on guests, and I always tell people, you know, you’re not alone, because you listened to my guests, and you’ll hear things that you’re probably going through, or somebody that you know, is going through as well. And I’m going to tell you that listening to you speak, I can, I can, I can understand it, because I myself, when I was 14 years old, my parents picked up the entire family, and we move to Israel. And, you know, although my Hebrew was better than just about everybody else in my family, it certainly wasn’t on par to be able to go to school, which I did. Alright. And it was tough. I mean, you know, I was the outsider, I was the outcast. I was an American, it was in the 70s. And at that point in time, the Israeli kids didn’t care much for Americans, I was bullied. It was it was a tough life. It really, really was. I mean, it’s the formative years, you know, between the ages of 14 and 18, alright, to pit to be picked up and, you know, go to a strange country. And you know, it’s strange language. And, you know, it was so I get what you were going through. All right. So

Greg: Hopefully, it’s actually a little bit more to that than this. So the way people understand immigration today is you you pick up from one place, and you go to another back then, and I think we were probably one of the last waves from the former Soviet Union, whether it’s Russia, Ukraine, whatnot. We went through what was called the immigration path. So it isn’t that we just picked up one day, you know, packed our belongings. And next day, we were in the United States. We actually spent two months on the road. We went through a whole process, where we went from, you know, from where we lived in the desert, to, to Vienna, and then from there, we went to Italy. And then we spent nearly a month and a half in Italy. And so meeting all these people and being scrutinized by all these type of organizations, living in strange countries, not speaking the language, not knowing what to do kind of fending for ourselves, you know, trying to fit in learning the rules, the laws which God way too sharp how to eat. You know, it was that was stressful, you know, but I’m going to tell you, I’m gonna tell you a little secret. Don’t tell anybody. I had the time of my life. I had the time in my life because I was a kid, you know, I was 12 years old, and I was going through this process. And, you know, we will go into places that I’ve never been before, you know, and my parents try to provide the best experience possible for me and my sister. So when we were in Vienna, went to the to the zoo, when we were in Italy, you know, we stayed actually on the coast, and we were there during the summer months. So I spent a lot of my time on the beach. Wow, you know, but it was it was stressful for them, because we didn’t know how long we’re going to be there. And you know, what comes next? And, you know, how do we survive, but,

you know, my mom here, my mom was born in Russia, and in the, in the early, early 30s. And they left Russia when she was four years old. But the only place they could go was Palestine, which is where they went. And then you know, and they had a that was my mom was telling me about what kind of a rough trip it was to get from Russia to Palestine. And then after Palestine, they they wound up going to coming to the states. But again, six assert a circuitous route. You know what, nothing was straightforward back then. And they ultimately wound up in New York, but then my grandfather couldn’t get a job. And but he knew somebody in Texas who offered him a job. So he moved the whole family to Texas. So I had, I had uncles and aunts born in Russia, Palestine, and Texas. So, again, you know, I hear from I hear where you’re coming from, and I get it. Okay. So, you know, you do you do school, you finish that you meet your wife get married? What kind of work were you doing at that point?

So, I grew up in a family that has always been in textile. What textile

textile, okay,

Garment District, right, you know, Travis Yeah. So, all my life, that’s, that’s kind of what I knew, you know, that’s, that’s the business that my father has been in. And he at one point, dreamed of me following his footsteps in some shape or form. Even back, when, when we were in Russia, I used to hang out around his shop all the time. And I would pick up, you know, pieces of the business here and there, understanding how the process works, and, and learning all of that. Interestingly enough, when I began my IT career, because I love two things, I love technology, and I love people. For some reason, I was always drawn to people. And that type of person where I walk into a room of 100 people, and I may not know anybody, I’ll make a best friend. That’s just what the kind of person that I am, I’ll find something to talk about with anybody, really. So I was drawn to help them in whatever shape or form that I could. And learning technology really gave me the opportunity to facilitate the vehicle, so to speak, to help people, whether it’s through a gap of some sort, or an application software, you know, hardware to some sort of technology in some shape or form. And it just happened to be that, you know, well, you know, we plan one thing, but the universe plans another. And so I was thrusted, into a garment district. Many, many years ago, it was probably about 17 or 18 years now. I tried different industries, telecom manufacturing, but for some reason, the universe decided that I need to go back and be part of that world that I grew up in. And someone recommended me for a job. And I walked in, and within two days, I received an offer. And when I asked why they picked me, they told me, there’s a lot of technology people, but none of them understand the industry. You’re the first person that will that we were able to have this conversation with that actually knew what he was talking about. And that kind of followed me throughout my IT career whenever I went because apparel companies, Garment District companies, they want in my experience for that reason. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing the last 26 years of that life,

Ari: right you No, now, your life took a turn. Right? And I’m not sure what came first the chicken or the egg? Did the coaching come first? Are that the brick that you hit with? With with your back? Was that did that come first?

So what the brick came first,

the brick. Alright, so before you go on, I’m just gonna, you know, I just want to let my audience know that you know, so you got hit with a major brick where you fell, you hurt your back and you were in. I mean, it almost ended, like everything for you. I mean, it was it was that bad. So, you know, now you can give us the details what happened.

Greg: So I actually begin studying for a coaching certification about 10 years ago. But it wasn’t until I had my breakthrough moment, where I realized that I was going at it all wrong. Roughly said six years ago, I was going through a very rough patch, or a really professional, rough patch. Okay. Like many of us, you know, people go through rough patches in life. Sure, that’s the bricks, that’s when they hit rock bottom, you know, and I felt as if I was falling into this deep hole. The more I thought about it, the more I kept manifesting that into my life. And that’s where the the Law of Attraction comes in. Right? The more we think about it, the more we give it power. And so when I reached that valley, right, that lowest possible point in my life, I actually physically manifested my fall by falling down the stairs, it was obviously not intentional. But I kept thinking about it all the time. And so the way I I learned to experience it is your thoughts have power, creative power. And when you give them that much attention, that’s where your intention goes. And so I was in my home, I was walking downstairs, and from my second story down to the first story. And the minute I hit the second step from the top, the right foot went completely from underneath me. And I was carrying a heavy bag to we were getting ready to leave for the weekend with the kids. And I just fell on my back, I hit the back of my head against the step. And I literally slipped down on my lower back, hitting every single step going down. And later on, doctors told me that I damaged my L four and l five, basically herniated disk where it was protruding to the point where they told me I was going to need surgery. But at that moment, it just felt like a really bad hole. I literally felt what people refer to as getting the wind knocked out of them, where I just couldn’t breathe. Oh. And so that happened. And over a period of a couple of months, this was in the beginning of 2016. And over a period of a couple of months, the pain just kept getting worse and worse and worse. To the point where one morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed. And I finally got enough strength to get myself ready to go up work. And I couldn’t live my life to get a car. And so I just came back in the house and I sat on the floor and I told my wife I said I can’t I can’t go to work. I can’t I can’t you know and I couldn’t move. He was such sharp and uncontrollable pain that no regular painkiller would help right to Thailand to Cabo just nothing would

help. It’s like candy at that point.

It just felt like someone was was poking me with a knife straight into my lower back. And so I took a couple of days off thinking that would rest I would recover. But instead of getting better, I just kept getting worse. And so I remember lying on the on the living room floor with my face buried into a carpet. And the pain was so bad already that I literally started crying like a little baby. And that was my breaking point. I was I was a spiritual person. And I, I can’t say that I’m extremely religious, but I do believe that there is the higher power. And so I reached out to that higher power at that moment. And, you know, I, it sounded like it was me yelling, but it was actually just me whispering. And, you know, you say was prison breaks, but this this was my whisper, right? And I just said it like, really, really? Quietly, where are you now when I needed the most I was I was reaching out to the universe to God to to whatever entity that’s out there, that’s bigger, you know, and connects us all. Right. And at that moment, my two year old daughter, who was sitting on the couch, she, she came over, she stumbled, and she put her hand on my on my head and she chips eating a snack of some sort. And she offered it to me. And it almost felt like like this, this divine source intervened, and said, I got you. You know, and all of a sudden, that just felt like I knew I knew what I needed to do. You know, I reached out to some people who connected with me with a sports medicine doctor, who was a surgeon, and they got me an appointment to see them right away. Usually, the weight is like 30 days. So I saw them right away. And she sent me to an MRI. And they said, listen, chances are you You probably will never get your life back. You will never be able to have your, your active lifestyle. You know, your you need surgery. And even after that, we don’t know, we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to walk normally go to the gym, lift weights, do all the things that you do. And I said, No, that’s not me. That’s not gonna happen to me. I went through physical therapy, and gotten better. But the pain was still so bad. I had to go on pain medication. And, you know, you feel that you’re healing one part of your body, but another one is breaking. Yeah. So the pain mags actually made my heart race. And I was immobile. Now, I was at least able to get up and go to work so I can provide for my family. But my mental health was deteriorating, because I kept thinking about it all the time. And now, I had something something new to worry about. My heart was racing continuously. I felt like I was having a heart attack every moment of the day. So I went to the cardiologist. And the cardiologist gave me you know, put me through a stress test. And said, physically, you’re healthy as a horse. But there’s something going on with you, whether it’s mental or whatnot, but your blood pressure is through the roof. So here’s some blood pressure medication. And by the way, chances are, you’ll be on it for the rest of your life. And that already made me gain weight. Because now I can go to gym.

Ari: So like a spiraling effect, you know, it’s one thing after another after another, and yeah, you know, the same way we build up, we also build down. And that’s what it sounds like was going on.

Greg: This was me at 40. And I said, You know what? No, this isn’t going to be me. So not at that point. And I very much believe that what I was going through was, was for a reason. The pain motivate me to find different ways to heal myself. I began to practice meditation. I started to read books and audiobooks. I was in the car for about an hour and a half each way to the office, and I just did not want to spend that time doing nothing. So I started devouring audiobooks. I wanted to get more and more involved in in spirituality and understand how it is that we’re connected to the source that makes your heartbeat your fingernails grow, your thoughts come across urine and screen. And so I began to learn all of that and devour everything that all the all the possible content that I could. I began practicing meditation. I studied EFT or as people refer to as tapping Breathing techniques, and how to write and use affirmations. This led me to create my very own practice that I named empowerment meditation. It’s a practice of several different techniques that I found working best for me. I’m glad to say that today I’m for your medication, I am for most part free of many pain. Although I do have some lingering pain, it’s, it’s nowhere near to what it was. And more importantly, I’ve become a life coach motivating and inspiring others to not necessarily follow my footsteps, but to gain the courage to make their own path. I strongly and without any doubt, believe that all of us are here for a greater purpose. I believe we’re all connected as the same droplet of the same ocean. And that’s how I arrived here, coaching, motivating and inspiring others to be the best version of themselves.

Ari: Wow, that’s, that’s truly truly amazing. I found I’m gonna be honest with you, I found that with all my guests, that, you know, everybody goes through something different. But it’s, it’s always the same in the sense that they hit most of the time you hit rock bottom. And, you know, you sometimes throw your hands up and say, You know what, I can’t do this anymore, I quit. But if you do do that, most people, they’ll do it for a day or two or three. All right, and then realize that, hey, this is not me. And I’m going to beat this thing. And they get up and they turn their lives around. Until they get to a point where like you, they most of the time, they just want to help people because they know what they’ve been through. And they know that or other people are going through the same thing. And they just want to say, look, I can help you, you know, let me you know, just let’s talk and, and you work with them. And they work through all these issues that they have. And at the end of the day, like you said, you know, you got it got you off medication, you got your life back. And now you just you’re just giving back to the world. Because you know, you you you were there you were at the bottom. And now you’re at the top. And it’s time for you to give back. And that’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing that you’re doing. I think I think it’s absolutely amazing. You know, my hat’s off to you. Congratulations, really? Now let me ask you, just quickly, what was the deal with a 10 year gap between child number two and child number three.

Greg: So when my wife and I are getting married, we kind of said that we wanted to have two children, and the last male in my bloodline. So if I wasn’t going to have a boy, my family name would be lost. So for me, it was very, very important to have a boy, the successor, someone who can continue, you know, the family tree. So naturally after we had our first who’s a boy who’s now 21 years old. I told my wife, you know what? It’s a girl, it’s a boy, as long as they’re healthy. It doesn’t matter what the second one is going to be. And so we had a girl. And then 10 years goes by, and we are hit with one of the most devastating hurricanes in my lifetime. Hurricane Sandy. Ah, and that, that nearly took her house. And I know that a lot of people have gone through some very devastating things as a result of that, and other things as well. I mean, you know, United States has been hit with a lot of hurricanes in the last couple of years. But to us, it was very personal. We knew we lost our home. It was our first house, we put blood sweat and tears into it. And, you know, seeing our, our memories to seeing our, you know, keepsakes, and namesakes all all laying there on the front porch, you know, literally mixed in with dirt and, and the breathing and sewage. It’s just it just kind of felt like do we really want to remember this as as this or do we really want to do something about it? And so my wife and I, we’ve decided we will we’ll have a chat Wow. And

Sandy out of the ashes comes another child, what a beautiful, beautiful story. That’s just that, that is absolutely amazing. That is, you know what, but that’s you. Okay, I see that, you know, it’s just it, I wouldn’t expect any other outcome.

And before you ask, no, we did not name her Sandy. But it was, it was a beautiful ending to something that, that was nearly tragic. Yeah. And as you know, you can always replace things, you can always, you know, find ways to, you know, to make more money to get another job. But you know, what stays with you is, you know, is the memories is the feelings, it’s intuition, you know, body has certain memory, that is very different from our mind. Right, we are reminded by sights, and smells, and, you know, music, how we felt during that time, you know, this is an association. And so to me, every time I think of that hurricane, it’s not just, oh my God, we’ve almost almost lost our home. It’s, oh, my God, I’ve been told by my wife in the middle of the night and we’re expecting.

Ari: Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s just great. It’s really, really great. Greg, it’s unbelievable. You know, you’ve had, you’ve had your ups and downs, you went through, you got hit with bricks. You know, you had the whispers there, they help you get better. You know, different people call it different things. I mean, the by me the whispers that’s to me, that’s God talking to me. To others. It’s intuition. It’s, I mean, it’s call it what you want. All right. But it certainly is a higher power that is out there, that is ruling the world. And, you know, given whatever name you want, it doesn’t really matter. So let me ask you this, if people want to get a hold of you, all right, well, they want to talk to you, they’re going through their own issues, or they want a coach, they’re looking for somebody to help them. How can they get ahold of you? What’s it? Do you have like a website? Do you have an email? What what what, what’s the best way to get you

Greg: so I do have an email and info at GT inspires comm. I’m also on every possible social media channel, there is Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, you know, LinkedIn, for most part, its GT expires,

GT inspires, okay.

And, you know, they can reach out, I will gladly speak with anyone that needs a wants, you know, to have any sort of guidance, or even just listen, you know, sometimes it just helps to, to have someone there to listen and to understand. Because, you know, one of the biggest problems that I find today already is that a lot of people listen to respond, instead of listening to understand. And so when you listen to understand, you speak from the heart, when you’re listening to respond, you speak from your mind, because as people speaking, you’re trying to come up with another response. So it helps when you have someone that listens to understand.

Ari: You know what, I talk about that all the time, before we go, any, is there any words of wisdom, you’d like to share with my audience words of advice that they can take with them.

Greg: Um, there’s two things, in no shape, or form, please consider this as a sales pitch. But what I’ve learned in life that everyone needs a coach in some shape or form, to some, it’s their parents, their siblings, their friends, you know, their teachers, somebody. So with whoever you pick, whether it’s now or later in life, even the most successful athletes need a coach. And so it’s good to have that sort of person that can guide you, not to make you better, but to give you the courage to try something new. Because if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re gonna keep getting what you’re getting. And if you want to get a different result, you got to try something new. And the second is, people often say you got to be the best version of yourself. But you know, in my opinion, you can build a better version of yourself on the same foundation. It’s like rebuilding a house on a foundation that may already have cracks. So instead of building yourself better than you were yesterday. Try to recreate yourself a new, start with a much better foundation, and then build from there. Don’t look at others as your competition, because there aren’t. You are your own competition. And so if you’re going to be better than anyone, you better than yourself yesterday. And those are my parting pieces of advice.

Ari: That’s, that’s great. That really is very, very sound advice. Very sage type of advice. Greg, I want to thank you so much for sharing your story with my audience. I know that you’ve touched the hearts of my audience. I’m wishing you a lot of luck going forward. Keep up the good work. You be listening to whispers in bricks and I’m your host Ari Schonbrun. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the breaks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.