Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Journey Back to Me: My Experience with Accelerate Training Center

[NOTE: The following story originally appeared in Vol. 11, Issue 8 of IN Los Angeles Magazine.]

Six months ago, I was stuck. After a great start to a year that saw me achieve highs in several areas of my life (new job, new car, new body courtesy of working out with a trainer for eight months), things began to fall apart. I injured myself working out, had to quit the gym, and ran out of money. A promising relationship fell apart soon after, and I couldn’t meet a writing deadline to save my life. Suddenly, everything I had worked so hard for was slipping out of my fingers, and I was in a funk. I was angry, judgmental, sad and simply depressed. It was not good.

Then one day my friend Cheri called me up on the phone. “Ken,” she said, “I have to tell you about something that has changed my life, and I think it will do the same for you.” She went on to tell me about her experience with the Accelerate Training Center in Costa Mesa, where she was enrolled in life coaching courses. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said, “and I want this for you. Will you do it?” There was something in her voice that spoke to me that day. She was on a high, and I knew that whatever it was she had gotten into, I wanted some of it as well. I was in bad financial shape, but Cheri loaned me the money to enroll myself into Accelerate’s Basic course, and a week later I showed up to begin what has been the most incredible journey of my life. Six months later, I am a truly changed man.

I sat in a room with 60 other people and watched as miracles began to happen around me. As the instructors began to introduce us to the program’s fundamental principals—that we are all responsible for everything that happens to us, that we are each worthy and brilliant people who deserve everything wonderful that life has to offer, and that a life lived in contribution to others is the best life one could possibly live—I was at first resistant (“I know all this stuff already,” I thought to myself), but then, during one of the exercises we were asked to do, I had my first “breakthrough.” It was then that I realized that there was a whole spectrum of things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know and I stand today as a man who is absolutely in touch with my heart, and who has once and for all put his past behind him.

I am now enrolled in film classes at Los Angeles City College, where I have completed my first two film shorts. I no longer see deadlines as something to dread, and I have begun work on my second book. Personally, things couldn’t be better for me: I actually have a relationship with my parents that is growing deeper and deeper every day, I am putting myself out there with men in a way I never have before, and I have more friends than I’ve ever had in my entire life. I no longer cling to the pain I experienced growing up gay, and I no longer blame others for any of my own shortcomings, which has allowed me to tear down the walls I’d built around me and truly open my heart up to others. Most importantly, my focus is no longer solely on my own life: I recently traveled to Mexico with several other Accelerate students and built a house for a poor family (an experience I am documenting in my second short film), I raised nearly $2,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and I am now beginning the journey to become an HIV counselor for gay men. Life could not be better.

What I learned from Accelerate as a gay man is that my sexuality is really just one small part of myself, and that people will love me no matter what if I have the courage to show up for them. I wanted everyone to like me, so I went out of my way to be whoever I thought they wanted me to be, whether it was by acting “butch enough” to pass as straight so that straight people (and many gay people) would accept me or by spending tons of time in the gym to fit in among today’s body-obsessed world. But in the process, I forgot who I really was. The people at Accelerate accepted me for who I was (one of my early coaches at the Center was, in fact, gay), and encouraged me to shine in the spotlight of my own making.

It’s hard to really describe Accelerate to people, chiefly because you need to experience it for yourself without knowing what goes on there so that you can get the full benefit of the trainings. Here’s what I can tell you: The Center offers several courses (including the Basic, Advanced and Leadership programs that make up the entire “journey”) that consist of a series of games and exercises designed to reveal to you how you are showing up in your life. The Center then introduces participants to a series of tools that allow them to “shift” out of mediocrity and into greatness. This may sound corny to some, but to any gay man or woman who still has conversations about their worthiness—like many of us in the gay community are still prone to have—something like Accelerate could be just the thing that they have been waiting for.

The program challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before, and it was tough. There were days when I wanted to drop out because I feared that I would not be able to open myself up to what they told me. But I stuck it out because I knew that there was something more available to me. There’s an analogy that sums up what the program did for me. Where I once had a garden full of red rocks that represented all the things that were holding me back in life, I now tend to a garden filled with beautiful plants and flowers that represent the limitless potential that I have to help change the world just by being myself and having the courage to put myself out there and proclaim that things will be different because I say so. I recognize now that I matter, and that I am a passionate, caring and courageous man who has the vision and the voice to move and inspire people by sharing myself with them. I realize that I am truly worthy of love and all the happiness it brings, and I get that if I want people to open themselves up to me, I have to first open myself up to them. Life is hard, and people that I love will disappoint me again, but I’m not going to let that stop me from opening my heart up to the world and loving as if I’ve never been hurt.

These are invaluable lessons in life, and I learned them all because I said “yes” to my friend Cheri six months ago. But I wasn’t just saying “yes” to Cheri. I was saying “yes” to myself. Isn’t it about time that all of us did the same thing?

Ken Knox graduated from Accelerate’s LP 28 Leadership Program in April, and is now coaching others as a volunteer at the Center. He can be reached for questions about the program at, or, for more information, visit


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