Ralph: Let’s start with background. Where did you grow up, are you married and kids and all that?
Scratch & Win: I grew up in a small town around Knoxville. It’s called Maryville, but if you’re from there, it’s pretty pronounced Mervul. So Mervul, Tennessee is where I hail from. I came to Charlotte in 1999 to go to Queens University. My wife Lauren and I have been married for almost 14 years, and we have two boys. My oldest, Jones, is 11, and Nash is 8.
Ralph: Do they have F3 names?
Scratch & Win: Jones is Reader Frog, because he loves to read, and he loves to swim. My youngest is named Tony Hawk. He was into skateboarding right around the time he went to F3 Dads.
Ralph: What’s the story behind Scratch & Win?
Scratch & Win: A guy by the name of Hops, Chad Blankenburg, EHe’d me in 2013. He gave me good advice: Whatever you do, don’t tell them that you already have a nickname picked out, that’s the worst thing you can do.
At the COT, I didn’t give very much info, so they asked Hops, well, tell us a little bit about your boy here. He revealed that that I do TV commercial work as a screen actor. I had just wrapped a commercial for the North Carolina education lottery, and so I left with Scratch & Win. I say I escaped unscathed, considering where that could have gone.
Ralph: What other acting jobs have you had?
Scratch & Win: I grew up with two main interests—sports and music. That morphed into acting, and so I did a lot of theater. I’ve done a lot of theater in Charlotte, some community theater, some professional theater. In 2005 I started doing more TV commercial work. I stopped counting at 50 commercials—I don’t want to sound like a diva, but I’ve been blessed to do that. It’s good work when you can get it.
Ralph: What drew you to the nonprofit world?
Scratch & Win: Queens University’s motto is, not to be served but to serve. That gets instilled in you there. It’s just ingrained in everything they do in terms of the culture. It creates these global citizens that go out and, and, without being cliché about it, make the world a better place. I did an internship with at the time Carolinas HealthCare System, now Atrium, and I loved it. Coming out of school, I wanted to do something I cared about. And I knew I wanted to work in some type of collaborative environment as a part of a team.
The joke among a lot of people in fundraising or nonprofit work is they kind of stumbled into it or just fell into it, and that’s true for me. I studied communication in school. I thought I would do PR or marketing. It’s really not that far off from what I’m doing now, but it seemed like a better fit for me and I felt like I want to do something that I love and use my talents and gifts in that way. I feel over the course my career, I’ve been able to really make a difference in the lives of other people.
Ralph: What’s the mission of the F3 Foundation, and what are you going to be doing there?
Scratch & Win: To support F3 Nation—We plant, grow and serve small workout groups to invigorate male community leadership. I think it’s important that as we look toward the next three to five years and establish a very specific vision for what that time looks like for the Nation, everything for F3 Foundation should support that in a very laser focused way.
I don’t know what I don’t know yet. I’ve been doing this for 17 years. Coming into the F3 Foundation, I kind of have a sense of what we can accomplish in terms of continuing to raise funds to see the nation expanded, enhanced, and then also make grants to our charitable partners in terms of the various regions where guys are involved with F3.
Everything that I do, from the time wake up to the time I go to bed, and all the people I’m working with to help make that happen, has to be directly supporting the Nation’s goals, and that vision that Slaughter, the board and everyone else are going to be working to establish.
Ralph: This is a big moment. Our little workout group is all grown up. We have an employee now. I mean, no pressure or anything, you’ve just got 30,000 men watching you.
Scratch & Win: Right, yeah.
Ralph: Do you feel pressure? We are ravenously passionate about this thing.
Scratch & Win: I’m definitely nervous, but I think that’s a good thing. I played soccer in college, and I always remember being nervous before games, and somebody once told me being nervous is a good thing because it means you care about doing your best. And I think that’s kind of where I’m at. I think honestly it really hit me when I got announced, and all the comments and the encouragement and just everything started to come in on social media.
I knew the opportunity was huge. And I knew that the work was going to be immense and meaningful and all that. But once I started to see comments from all over the Nation – “let’s go, let’s do this.” It hit me in a new way that I was like, “holy smokes. This just got real.” I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. It’s a weighty responsibility.
Ralph: When I talked with Slaughter, I imagined showing up at a workout, and he’s there and trying to impress him. Frankly, I think with you, it might be the other way around, that I’d be watching you like, “Is he worthy. Is he bustin’ his rear end out here?” Am I wrong there or are you expecting some of that?
Scratch & Win: I think so a little bit. I think there are some certain expectations when you are quote unquote on staff with the organization. Luckily F3 doesn’t pay me to be first when we run.
I’ve thought about that: if we’re doing sprint work I can hang. But if it’s a mile or more, the guys in Area 51 know that I’m either the six or I’m pretty close to it, I got back to the launching point the other day, and I was sucking wind. I said, the six is in. And one of the guys looked at me and said, the Bible says the last shall be first.
I love that, you know?
Scratch & Win: Yeah. It was classic. I’m just like every other guy showing up. Some days I’m gonna do great. Some days I’m gonna struggle. But I will say this – I’m glad F3 put me in a position to serve the Nation, and not to lead the charge at a workout. I promise you I’m not going to be in front.
Ralph: I did a GrowRuck. I got pulled out of the crowd at 3:30 in the morning after the fitness test. They blindfolded me. It’s pouring down rain, and I’ve got a heavy ruck. Then they were nice enough to give me a sandbag. I’m thinking, What the hell am I doing here? That’s the moment I go to when I think, these guys are maniacs. What is your best F3 “what the hell am I doing here” moment?
Scratch & Win: I remember once I showed up at a workout called Hydra. And the Q was Donkey Kong—DK we called him. And he just called burpees. That’s all he called. My name is DK, I’m your Q, disclaimer given. And then it was burpees, until we’re done. And I’m like, I’m sorry, what? And he said, we’re gonna do burpees for 45 minutes. And I’m like, what—what—what—what—what just happened?
OK, I guess we’re doing this. There were a lot of breaks. And a lot of pain.
Ralph: More of a broad question What’s the biggest challenge you face in your life on a day-to-day basis and how do you overcome it?
Scratch & Win: Wow. That is a really good question.
I’m trying not to throw you a softball answer here. It’s like, sometimes people will say “well I just work too hard. I care too much.” It’s like, please. Give me the question one more time, let me just process it.
Ralph: What is the biggest challenge you face in your life on a day-to-day basis, and how do you overcome it? I will tell you what mine is. I’m a freelance writer, and I fear that I’m going to run out of ideas, I’m just going to fail, that I’m not going to have any work, I’m going to have nothing to write, and so I’m not going to get a paycheck.
Scratch & Win: Here’s what I’ll say: I think every man at his core asks one fundamental question, and that question is “Do I have what it takes?” I wrestle with that on a daily basis. Do I have what it takes to be a great husband? Some days I hope I crush it. And other days I know that I suck at it.
Do I have what it takes to be a great dad and show up for my kids in a way that’s meaningful, and not just check out?
It’s the same thing with this F3 opportunity. We talked about the weight of the responsibility and opportunity. I know I’m up for the challenge. But like every other guy who steps into the arena, I wrestle with that question, “Do I have what it takes?”
I’ve been blessed with gifts and talents and abilities, and I have a responsibility to steward those in a way that’s meaningful and impacts others. Everything that I need to be a great husband and good dad is already inside.
Ralph: I love that answer. You’re talking basically about imposter syndrome. People talk about it as if it’s wholly negative. It’s not. Everybody has it. How the hell else are you going to get better if you don’t think that you can’t do something, because if you think that you can do it, you’re probably wrong. And that’s going to make you soft and lazy. If you think that you can’t, you’re going to work your ass off to prove that you can.
Scratch & Win: I think that’s absolutely right. I think as men – we wear a lot of masks in terms of who we are at our job, or with our friends and just stripping all that away and getting down to vulnerability. And I think that question hits at the core of it.
I have what it takes, but there’s gonna be some times where I’m gonna screw it up, and there’s gonna be some times where I’m going to get it wrong, and there’s going to be times where I don’t know and I’m gonna have to admit that I don’t know. And not be the poseur. You don’t always know. And so being authentic in that way is important.
Ralph: “I have no idea” is one of the best things that you can say.
Scratch & Win: That’s more of a confident response than trying to come up with some BS answer. “I’m not sure. I don’t know. But I’m gonna figure out a way or I’ll get the answer or we’re gonna figure it out. To say, I’m not sure” – that takes confidence and I think simultaneously shows vulnerability.
Ralph: You said you got EHed in 2013. You don’t sound like you were a Sad Clown before. But most guys don’t sound like Sad Clowns before. How has F3 impacted your life?
Scratch & Win: You don’t realize you’re a Sad Clown until you go to F3 and have connection and fellowship. And you’re like holy crap— I didn’t think I had Sad Clown syndrome but holy smokes, I did.
I’ll be fully transparent with you — that was a time in my life where I was really struggling in my marriage. And we had hit a huge rough patch and I had actually, you know, in full disclosure, man, I moved out.
Right then, I met Hops. We ended up going on a golf trip together. And I ended up riding with him to Pinehurst to meet these other guys and just talking about life and about work and family.
On the way back, he’s like, “hey man I do this workout” – I’m like if you’re gonna say F3, just don’t. I’m not kidding. Look, I got friends at church, they’re trying to get me out, I’m not getting out there in the morning to go workout, so just stop.
And he said there’s a workout Tuesday. I’ll be in your driveway at 5:15.
I’m like “all right, fine. I’ll go once and try.” But it was perfect timing because I literally just moved back in to my house. And you talk about a moment in time where you need fellowship and community and connection, more than ever. Whether you know it or not, you do need it and I needed it in that season. And then here comes Hops with an invitation. Guys had been trying to get me to come out for it for a year and a half. But it was just that right moment, right timing.
He probably picked up on the season that I was in and what was going on with me and my life. He knew I needed it, but I didn’t know I needed it. You know what I mean? I posted two other times that week, and I was like OK, I’m in.
Ralph: You mentioned Hops showing up in your driveway at 5:15. I wouldn’t roll that way. You took that the right way, it sounds like.
Scratch & Win: Yeah, I did, and in that moment, that’s what I needed. I needed that push and I’ve EHed guys in the same way. Hops was sensitive enough to know, like, okay, is this guy totally closed off to the idea? Or is he open to it but he just needs that push? And for me, that was it. Worst case, he showed up, I didn’t come out, and I don’t think he would have been offended.
Ralph: That’s a fair point, what is he out and what are you out if you don’t go?
Scratch & Win: I’m reading this book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. He talks about casting a vote for your future self. You don’t know what you don’t know. If I had slept in that first day and not gone, I would have gotten more sleep, but I would have missed out on something. I’m sure I would have posted at some point, but I needed that in that moment on that day.
Ralph: It’s funny that you mention James Clear on Atomic Habits. My site Q, a great guy named Slow Pitch, quotes Atomic Habits so much that I think quoting Atomic Habits has become his atomic habit. The one that he uses most is, “if you want to form good habits, go where people have those habits.” And so, we reinforce that with each other every day,
Scratch & Win: Yeah. That’s the thing with F3. You don’t post to F3 for the first time, go home and look in the mirror, and go “wow, I’m ripped.” You also don’t post the first time and go home and say “wow, honey, I met some really great guys and we’re gonna be BFFs.” Nobody does that. But it’s small changes over time. All of a sudden you wake up and it’s “wow, I feel better, I look better. I’m connected with guys, I love what I’m doing, I’m coming alive in my job, I feel present for my family.”
Ralph: Are you expecting to visit regions across the country or is that not part of the job?
Scratch & Win: That is absolutely part of the job for sure. We’re looking at when we can do that – maybe sometime late summer, when things open up a bit and more folks are vaccinated. But that’s gonna be a big part of the job – traveling to where we have board members located across the country, going to other regions, working out with those guys – if there’s an event or charitable partnership or activity with a nonprofit there locally, whether it’s GrowRuck or whatever. I’m going to be out and about traveling to those AOs and regions connecting with the PAX, not just in Charlotte and not just North Carolina.
Ralph: What can the regions do to support F3 Foundation?
Scratch & Win: I’d say, continue thinking of ways to impact your local communities and how the Foundation can help support what you’re already doing. I want to make sure I serve the PAX who are serving their communities. And be open to change as we move into a new season of the Foundation being more supportive and involved in helping regions maximize their impact. A lot will stay the same, but for us to grow and improve some new ways of doing things are likely to emerge. So be creative and be flexible as the Foundation seeks to work alongside you.