Soldier. Athlete. Entrepreneur.
By: GJ PUHL, Freelance Photojournalist
Quiet, unassuming, focused, dedicated and committed to the pursuit of excellence. These are just a few adjectives that describe United States Army Sergeant Larry Baird. Currently Sergeant Baird, Larry to his friends, is assigned to the Utah Valley University, 5th Brigade USACC (ROTC) Battalion. In his current position, he is using his experiences as a Soldier and Athlete to train the Army’s future leaders.
Recently, Larry and I sat down to discuss his background, philosophy of life and business, along with the rewards and challenges of being a Soldier, an accomplished Athlete, and the President and CEO of LIFTorQUIT, LLC., an up and coming athletic gear company.
FTLOS: Tell us a little about yourself and how LIFTorQUIT was born.
Larry: I grew up in a modest country town located in Kentucky. I was young, wild, and reckless boy with an untamed spirit. I never believed in just doing the “norm” or doing what was expected of me; and have always lived life on the edge. Always walking to the beat of my own drum, which has always been as loud and spirited as possible. I was and still am at times too wild, speaking too openly, some saying I have no filter. But this is the person I am, and that will not change because I truly believe you can’t get anywhere in life just sitting back and following, instead you must lead.
FTLOS: I understand that you have been in the Army for about twelve years. Why did you join the Army? Who or what event was most influential in helping you make the final commitment?
Larry: Honestly, I joined the Army for same reason that most in generation did. September 11, 2001, commonly referred to as 9/11. I always wanted to be Soldier and serve my country. September 11th gave me the push, drive, and incentive to join.
I joined the Army at 19. I am now going on 31. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 12 years. Since signing my name “one the dotted line,” I have not looked back. Serving my country turned me into the man I needed to be for my family. It has blessed me with journeys across the United States and overseas, while serving a combat tour.
FTLOS: I understand that you and I share combat experience in the current “War against Terrorism.” Would share a little of your experience with our readers?
Larry: Sure. I’ve deployed once. I was sent on a 15 month combat tour to Afghanistan. Initially I was part of a small Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) team. After completing approximately 8 months, at one of the international bases, I volunteered for and was selected to be a driver and personal security guard for a senior high ranking military officer.
FTLOS: You and I met approximately two years ago while working out in the Pentagon Athletic Club. One of the things that caught my attention was the level of dedication, commitment and intensity that you displayed with each workout you designed and executed. In some of our initial conversations, it was easy to see that you were a “on a mission.” To what do you attribute your intense work ethic? Especially in the gym.
Larry: I would say it’s due to my time in the military. I joined at a very young age and the Army made me a man and a Soldier. The Army taught me to never give up and to never stop trying. Most importantly, the Army taught me that the only way to get anything in life is to do whatever it takes while maintaining your personal and professional ethics and integrity. The bottom line: Remain true to yourself and your guiding principles and to never lose yourself worth or values to achieve it.
FTLOS: Tell me about LIFTorQUIT.
Larry: There are two simple words that are the backbone of this company and scream its meaning: “STAY STRONG” it is really just that simple. LIFTorQUIT is a brand of passion & perseverance built from blood, sweat, and tears, designed to inspire all athletes (beginners, intermediate, advanced, and professional) to push through the hardships to be greater than the person you were the day before.
FTLOS: Is LiftorQuit designed only for athletes?
Larry: No, LIFTorQUIT is not just for the person who is already at the top of their game. My brand is also for the person who is just starting out, learning the ropes, and working towards becoming a healthier person looking a healthier lifestyle.
FTLOS: How did you come up with the name LiftorQuit for your company?
Larry: “LIFTorQUIT’,” is three simple words that are meant to encourage athletes to push themselves, dig deep into their heart, scrape at their soul, and push to LIFT one more rep, run that extra mile, to simply never QUIT, until they have nothing left to give.
FTLOS: I know that you do your own designs. You spend a lot of time ensuring each shirt, pair of shorts, and sweats are unique in their own right. Where do you get your inspiration?
Larry: This is a question I am frequently asked. Everything influences my designs, my mind is like a clock that never stops ticking. Whether I am at work doing my profession as a Soldier, in the gym training as an Athlete, sitting in front of the computer. It all ties together. I have designed shirts that pay tribute to our fallen Soldiers. I proudly wear them while at the gym, relaxing after work or sitting at the computer creating a new design [that popped in my head]. I want our consumers to find motivation in our quotes and designs we’ve created. LiftorQuit strives to provide both a product and a design that help our customers find a way to express what they love, what they do, or just have a shirt that is their go to favorite for bumming around and going out.
FTLOS: Yeah, I know what you mean. As a fashion photographer, I had to chuckle at one design in particular. The design includes a red shirt that says: “It’s a Gym; Not a Runway.” What inspired that particular design?
Larry: Actually this design was thought of by my other half Mackenzie, she is the silent one who always helps with the female designs. This particular design can be geared toward that person who uses the gym for attention, to flirt [or to socialize], or who wouldn’t dare to break a sweat. These people truly get on my nerves at the gym. Those who feel as if working there jaw counts as working out. Bouncing machine to machine taking there time as they talk about god knows what. It is my smartass way of wearing what most are thinking.
Author’s Note: Anyone that uses the gym to socialize runs the risk of monopolizing weights and equipment that someone else may be waiting to use. When this happens, it tends to break another athletes momentum and workout routine.
FTLOS: Who is your target market for the LIFTorQUIT brand?
Larry: I would never want to limit my company to one set market, I strive to make this brand suitable for all. Whether they are an avid gym fanatic or a mother running errands to the grocery store. I want everyone to see the brand, the name, and find a reason to love my brand and wear our clothing.
FTLOS: In such a competitive market, how do you stay ahead of your competitors?
Larry: I research constantly on every form of social media to see what others are doing right and wrong. Everyone has had ideas that have failed, and succeeded in some fashion including myself. I ask friends, family, and work employees for their opinions and advice. Periodically, I conduct a random surveys (on a particular designs or concepts) with people at the gym. Going directly to the customer helps me stay grounded on what the users like and dislike. For me, this makes sense. We are working hard to establish brand loyalty and repeat business.
FTLOS: Where do you see LIFTorQUIT in five years?
Larry: My vision is for this company in five years is to become a world-wide known name not only for our apparel line but also for the upcoming plans of opening a supplement store this year. Within the next couple of years, we have plans to branch out in the fields of the gym. Just another example of my determination taking full force in the future of our brand.
FTLOS: What does the future hold for the LiftorQuit company?
Larry: Our future is limitless. My future plans include opening a supplement store this fall. In addition, I have plans to have retail establishments showcase our newest releases.
FTLOS: What advice do you have for designers that are thinking of getting into the athletic clothing design business?
Larry: I would say this: If you are not willing to sacrifice everything for your company, or anything you are passionate about in life for that matter, then do not even bother opening the door to the profession. If you do open the door, stay true to your values, your morals, and your self-worth. Build your company from the ground up with passion and determination. I still look back today to the very first shirt and design that I created. On those days when I need motivation, I “throw that old shirt on” and remember why I started this company and its unique brand.
FTLOS: One last question. Earlier, you mentioned that you are a writer. Would you like to share a sample of your writing with our readers?
Larry: It would be an honor to share a poem that I wrote “some time ago.” The poem is called: “Strength Unseen.” I believe it has a powerful message and your readers will enjoy both its words and its message.
“ Strength Unseen”
By: Larry Baird
The broken one is viewed by the world seeing beauty, as I see a broken, beaten pieces in the mirror. In which the world sees blue eyes to die for, but all I see looking back at me are eyes that hide so much unwilling pain and heartache.
As this painful world sees a beautiful picture perfect smile, but what lies unseen is that of falseness with each passing day. As the world says it is beautiful, but it’s the smile that hides all the hurt, pain, tears, and sadness and is filled with a lifetime of up and down depression.
Even still the world sees a beautiful spell bound person to gaze up on, but what not seen with picturing eyes, is the weight of the world one carries upon their shoulders. That of which jaded sharp broken pieces within ones still beating heart, is a soul lost in the world barely holding onto the smallest beauty of life and praying for love each day.
For I am a one who pours his heart out in ways no one will understand. The person who seems so full of himself, so sure of everything that he does, the one walking with such boldness demanding attention. But really I am the one with that cloak and dagger mask so perfectly masked hiding everything away of a person torn at their very end, who wake up daily, with twisted emotions struggles to take one step at time every day.
As these broken words of justifiable hurt are unknown with an eyes view, on knee bent prayers to the heavens. With tears falling saying my strength is weary Lord, my body is scarred to the touch, my heart isn’t whole anymore, my soul is wandering lost searching for a way to make it whole, and I simple thank you for giving me the strength to hide it away from the world, to walk on daily. I’ll understand one day why it had to be this way, as the world sees me in ways I am not.
FLTOS: WOW! This is powerful. You are an accomplished writer, within your own right. You have an uncanny ability to lay out raw emotion that pulls the reader to feel the words you have written.
Larry: Thanks. The reason for this poem, answers your earlier question about what obstacles I have overcome in life to get where I am today. I have surpassed all the odds. With my parents never really being there, to the lacking of the emotional needs as a child from the two most important people in my life. To the world judging me based on an outward appearance. As the poem seems to read of sadness, hurt, and depression, but the ending is the true answer to riddle. I am thankful for everything for it has made me who I am now in life. Strength is always there on the inside of all, we just have to find it, and take a hold of it.
FTLOS: Larry, we appreciate you sharing your time, thoughts, and philosophies with our readers. How can our readers learn more about your company and your clothing line?
Authors Note: Throughout our interview with Larry Baird, FTLOS learned that LiftorQuit is a Soldier owned and Soldier operated business. Baird is committed to providing a quality product and 100% satisfaction. In addition, He is using both his time and talents to sponsor world class Soldier Athletes to help offset the costs of athletic gear, training and competing. Currently, all the sponsored athletes are Active Duty Soldiers.
Models: Larry, Gavin, and Kaylie Jo
Gym: Zu Wire Fitness
Photographer: (Has requested to remain anonymous)
Wardrobe: Provided by LiftorQuit
Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist were not used