Success doesn’t just fall into one’s lap. It is pursued, it is cultivated, it is nurtured, and it is grown. The commonality between self-made and successful people is the drive to succeed. All walks of life come face to face with challenges and meeting those challenges sometimes results in failure. However, it is the response to that failure that makes the person and determines their success.
We recently had the privilege to discuss motivation, success, and hard work with three laser-focused individuals from the Windsor-Essex County community, their life journeys, and what it took for them to succeed.
Fitness as a Foundation
By 2009, Richie Keirouz was sick of running into the same wall, repeatedly. Recently married, Keirouz had been dealing with a prolonged depression that began with the loss of his business two years prior.
“By early 2009, I was looking for a way out,” he explains. “A way to get my mental health back and get back on track in a positive state of mind.”
In his youth, Keirouz had been into bodybuilding, idolizing the greats like Kevin Levrone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, in recent years, his love of the sport had fallen by the wayside.
“A close friend of mine, who was a pro bodybuilder at the time, said to me, ‘If you want to compete in a show one day, I’ll train you and show you what to do,'” he recalls. “I took that as a sign to say that this was my opportunity to get back into this thing and start to get my life back on track.”
Keirouz took up the offer and worked with him for a year. He ended up winning his first ever bodybuilding competition in 2010. “I got bit by the bug at that point, and I’ve been competing ever since.”
Last October, Keirouz won the Canadian national championship. An effort 14 years in the making.
“To me, it’s the endorphin rush—getting in the gym, training, putting your headphones in, getting that pump, getting the blood flowing and heart rate going—that’s what sets me off and it puts me at another level,” he explains.
His foray into bodybuilding had an auspicious start. At 14, his father, who saw Keirouz as undersized and frail, feared that he would develop a humpback, as did his grandfather. He brought home weights for the boy and told him to strengthen his back and shoulders. Keirouz took the task to heart and started buying books and magazines on the subject and following the lead of two of his cousins who also pumped iron. Soon, he made the high school football team and continued to pack on muscle and size.
He says his life as a bodybuilder has been transformative to him as a person. He enjoys the love and support of his parents, his wife, and his daughters, as they understand the sacrifice his sport requires and its importance to him.
“It’s a selfish sport,” he admits. “You’re in the gym a lot, you’re not going out for dinners, you’re sleeping early, you’re up early… there’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into it. They know it makes me who I am.”
At 46, Keirouz is an established and well-known bodybuilder, but he has also become a certified life and fitness coach. Having quit his corporate job last June, he now operates his own business and leadership consulting firm in his own name.
“The one thing I say to everybody when I’m working with people is that fitness is the foundation for building a successful life,” he states. “If you feel good and you look good, it propels everything else that you’re doing.”
Two Choices: Stay in bed—or make it!
At 36 years old, Bozena Mailloux was going through a recent separation with her then husband. She was the doting mother of three young children—Mason, Tavia, and Owen—but had fallen into an undiscovered country of sorts—being a single mom with no career.
She says she had two options: stay in bed or make it.
Born in Poland and coming to Canada as a child, Mailloux had spent her married life working for her ex-husband. Now, in need of work and money to raise her children on her own, she turned to a childhood passion—modelling.
“I started on my own, I started doing my homework and my research,” she recalls. “I made a lot of mistakes at that time because I didn’t even know where to start. I got a lot of nos, I got a lot of rejections. I was raising kids while trying to find the right photographers.”
She has always been interested in modelling, even briefly trying it when she was young. She says that she was very insecure as a child and it didn’t work out, also, being in a young immigrant family, she felt responsible to watch her siblings while her parents worked.
Working at local fitness clubs as a fitness and spin instructor, something she had done since she was 18, she struggled to make the right moves in the business and struggled with depression following rejection after rejection.
“At 40 years old, I got an agent from New York—a modelling agent that wanted to scout me and put me through seven or eight photographers that were well-known worldwide photographers,” she explains. “This was during COVID, and I went for it.”
In the meantime, she picked up a great job working at Overseas Motors BMW to support her family and her passion—but she was still trying to get her name out there.
“After so many rejections from so many agencies,” she says. “I had also been submitting to Maxim magazine for almost three years. I had been rejected for that as well, but, finally, in April, I got an email saying that they had accepted my submission.”
She says that Maxim wanted to fly her out to some exotic locales right away, however, with work and family obligations, she chose to defer to a later date. Six months later, Maxim flew her Tulum, Mexico, the last trip of the year for the magazine, where they did a feature with her and a Q&A interview.
Since then, the offers have been rolling in. She has been hired to host a TV show that she cannot yet speak about but will be visiting exotic locations like Greece and Florida.
She credits her children as her biggest fans and supporters. “They love it, my number ones have always been my kids,” she says. “They always stood by me. They were little when I started and didn’t know any better. When they were little, I worked around their schedule, where I travelled to do these photo shoots.”
Mailloux says that along with keeping a positive attitude, staying fit is just as important for her mental health.
“I’ve done it for over 25 years,” she says. “I was also the Assistant Director for the Miss Universe Western Ontario pageant, and I had to tell the girls, doing modelling or doing bikini shoots, you’ve got to workout and you’ve got to stay fit, lean, for yourself, mentally as well.”
Mailloux’s mental toughness and drive to succeed is a testament to her commitment. “I just said to myself that I’m not quitting after so many years. I’ve gone really, really far, this is what I love and have always wanted, and it’s something I’m good at—I just don’t want to give up.”
Running the road less travelled
As a student at Holy Names Catholic High School, Gabriel Chalut was an exemplary student-athlete. Competing in six different high school sports, even winning a WECSSAA and SWOSSA title in basketball while in Gr. 11, Chalut was able to pull off a 90-plus average, earning an admission scholarship at the University of Waterloo where he was to study math.
Then COVID-19 happened.
Chalut attempted the online learning offered by the university, but like many post-secondary students around the world, found the experience hollow, defeating, and extinguishing to his academic growth.
As he watched, while COVID destroyed the plans he put forth, he struggled to find meaning in his life.
“It was actually my brother who started getting into running, because all of the gyms were closed,” explains Chalut. “I was heavily influenced by my grandfather and uncle, who cycle in Italy, so I started riding my bike at the same time that my brother was running.”
Chalut credits his brother with the idea for what came next—he entered an Ironman competition—a triathlon event involving running, biking, and swimming. With the pandemic starting to wane, Chalut looked for the closest event, which ended up being the 2021 Muskoka 70.3.
“After I did well at my first 70.3 in Muskoka, I just kind of fell in love,” admits Chalut. “I signed up with a coach and worked at home, by myself, on a trainer. I was running, swimming, and biking, and loved it.” Eventually, he hooked up with a coach from Texas who helped him with accommodations and finances.
He credits his love of competition, something he missed from his high school days, as the element that led to his choice to pursue triathlon competitively. “I took the opportunity and never looked back.”
In 2023, Chalut competed in six races, finishing Top 10 in his age group in all. In Mont Tremblant, he finished second, took fourth place four times, and managed to improve his Muskoka time from 4:44:53 in 2021 to 4:14:19.
He qualified for both the 2023 and 2024 Ironman World Championships, but has elected to diversify his 2024 season instead, including bike racing in Spain, Olympic distance racing in Australia, and two more 70.3-mile Ironman races.
Chalut says there has been a lot to sacrifice to become a triathlete—certain foods, free time, and the security blanket of the college lifestyle.
“Sometimes you’re thinking, ‘Is this really the right play? Is this the right thing to do?'” he admits. “I’m passionate about it and I’m sacrificing the things I need to sacrifice, so I can battle through anything I’m faced with.”
Keirouz, Mailloux, and Chalut all chose unconventional paths in life. These choices were made with deliberation, as they were life-altering, and all three did so after running into the proverbial brick wall, rebounding their lives into unrealized dreams.
For Keirouz, he advises that success starts when people get past their fear of a new beginning.
“Just get started,” says Keirouz. “Most people are afraid to even start because they look too much into it. ‘I don’t have the right diet, I don’t have the right training program, or the right coach. Just get into it. It could be as simple as just getting up and starting to go for a walk every day.”
“Success builds on success; success breeds success.”
For Mailloux, her advice is to focus on what you want and don’t let the negative voices, the haters, discourage you from your dream.
“Never stop, never quit, never listen to what people have to say from the outside—the criticism and judgment,” encourages Mailloux. “Whatever career you want to get into, at any age, you can do it. You just have to work hard for it, do your homework, and your research.”
Finally, Chalut says that being successful and achieving your dreams involves getting out there and getting noticed.
“No one’s going to come knocking on your door to give you the opportunity,” divulges Chalut. “If you want to get an opportunity to get discovered, get sponsorships, you have to go out and be proactive, you have to talk to as many people as you can. It’s me putting myself out there that’s creating these opportunities.”
As seen with these three successful Windsorites, if you are motivated, have a plan, and are willing to put in the work, success is waiting for you.