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Why M.K. Traded Finance and Business School for the Podium

his summer, SoulCycle is traveling across the country and Canada for our Instructor Audition Tour. In honor of the tour, which continues Wednesday in San Francisco, we're celebrating our instructors and the personal journeys that led them to the podium. Next up, S.F.'s MK HURLBUTT.

Before I was serenading the SoulCycle Snapchat with a Justin Bieber cardboard cutout or wearing a children’s large colonial costume from Amazon to work, I had a very different idea of business casual. I’m your classic case of finance person-turned-fitness instructor. Logical trajectory, right?

I found SoulCycle five years ago in West Hollywood, when my BFF took me to my first class over the 4th of July holiday. BEN B. was the instructor and I felt like a baby giraffe on a bike. I had never taken a group fitness class before and I had no idea what I was doing, but when Ben started interpretative dancing with a candle to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” all I could think was “OMG, I’ve found my people.” I walked out of the room with a huge grin, ready for the next round. I had to wait a while longer until the first Bay Area studio opened, so I settled on getting my fix during business trips to LA and NYC. But when the Marin studio opened in 2013, it was game over: I was hooked and there was no going back. It would take me another year and hundreds of classes before the pull to the podium became too much for me to deny.

At the time, I was working in finance, and while my days were consumed with discussing term sheets and fundraising with startup founders and venture capitalists, my mornings and nights consisted of dancing to Robyn and Celine Dion on a stationary bike in the dark. If you know me, it’s no real surprise I felt most like myself during the latter activity, but I was resisting the thought of abandoning my set career path. In fact, in the summer of 2014, I was gearing up to apply to business school. But through a series of casual quarter-life epiphanies, I realized that more than doing what I was supposed to do, I wanted to do something that lit me up, that suited my talents and passions in a deeper way, and that allowed me to bring joy and happiness to people.

Tonight, during the crescendo of a Whitney Houston "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" remix, the endorphins took over and I said a heartfelt thank you I've been meaning to say to every person who has stepped into a studio over the last few months. Because you've saved me. Every single day and in a million different ways. When it feels like hate and exclusion are making inroads, I get to step into a dark studio with all of you and remember that we are at our very best when we are loving and inclusive. The privilege of this sanctuary is not lost on me. Neither is the responsibility to create that same feeling outside that studio. So from the bottom of my heart @soulcycle - thank you. Keep it going. We've got work to do #soulcycle #armyoflove

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So that July, I auditioned to be a SoulCycle instructor. It was the best decision I have ever made.

Lauren McHale gave me some advice pre-audition: She told me to introduce myself to as many fellow auditionees as possible. It felt so good to acknowledge everyone else and build a sense of community in that room with the other people who were taking this risk and putting themselves out there. I felt invested in their auditions and connected to them as people, and it’s honestly affected the way I teach every class to this day. I was definitely intimidated, since I had zero experience in fitness and felt way outside of my excel sheet comfort zone, but once I got in there, I was home — I was where I got to be me and had the chance to let other people be whatever they needed to be.

Fast forward three years later, and I can say with complete certainty that my life is brighter and more meaningful than I ever imagined possible. I wake up everyday (usually at 5:00 AM!) excited and grateful. That doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult days or sacrifices to be made, because there are, but even on my difficult days, I still get to be the best part of someone else’s day. The hard work doesn’t feel as hard when you’re in love with what you do and the people you get to do it with. If something lights you up inside, don’t ignore it, explore it.

Learn more about SoulCycle's 2017 Summer Audition Tour HERE. Time to book some classes? Purchase a series HERE.
Article by MK Hurlbutt
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