I came to Dallas in October of 2005, full of energy and with conviction to create a wellness consulting business in America. It didn’t take me long to realize that Texas was not the best place to make a living in wellness consulting at the time! It was really difficult to find CEOs and other leaders that were believers AND who were prepared to take a chance on a new company, run by a South African with no US track record and no local network. After six months of roadblocks, brick walls and flat out ‘NOs’ you can imagine that my confidence was not at an all-time high.

That’s when I met Tyler Cooper. We met for lunch and by the time we were finished I had a feeling I had met a friend for life. We’re about the same age, share many of the same passions, but were at very different stages of our lives at that time.

Soon after, I met with Tyler and his dad Kenneth Cooper, the founder of the Cooper Clinic, The Cooper Institute and the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. I was blown away by what I found. In the heart of Texas was the most incredible center for wellness and research, which was changing the conversation about the value of exercise to human health and performance. Their business was thriving, and I was in awe. After a tour of the facility and some time spent together, I knew this would be a transformative meeting for me. Tyler took a leap of faith and hired us, and not without reservations and concerns from other team members. In return, we worked our hearts out for the Cooper Clinic, helping them to redesign their health plans and their own employee wellness program. It’s fair to say I learned more in our time working for them than at any time in my life. I poured through their research papers, changing many of my views as a result, and left Dallas two years later with a very different view on the world of wellness.

Tyler and his team were very much the inspiration for our research lab, BRATLAB, and for much of the work we did as Health at Work (before becoming Habits at Work). I learned how to navigate the world of American business effectively from many during those years. I learned from Todd Whitthorne what an expert professional speaker looks like in action. He’s still one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen, live or televised.

Chris Moreno and I spent days at Cooper with Tyler and others, building our relationship and our business. In fact, when I moved to Chicago, Cooper Clinic assumed the business of Health at Work Dallas into their own corporate wellness consulting business.

For this and for many other reasons, today’s VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF LOVE is for Tyler Cooper. Thanks for our 12-year friendship, for including me in a few crazy mountain climbs even when I was slowing everyone down (and whining when I thought I might freeze to death or lose my thumbs to frostbite – yes, I am a soft South African). I’ve met a lot of new friends through you, and I always smile at the teasing over email that precedes and follows each year’s mountain climb.

It was a great thrill to spend time with you and Clark during your recent trip to Chicago. I look forward to a lifetime of friendship, and being able to pick up where we left off each time we see each other, regardless of the number of years that separate those times.

I remain inspired by your work, by your leadership at the Cooper Clinic and Institute and by the example you set as a father, businessman and athlete.