Thomas Coyne

We Speak With Thomas Coyne About Turn­ing Tough Times as a Youth and Near Misses as a Fire­fighter Into a Cur­ricu­lum for Sur­vival

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By John Schwartze Pho­tos by Mark Saint

You hear the ex­pres­sion “came from the school of hard knocks” a lot when peo­ple dis­cuss why po­ten­tially good folks lost their way. Many times that pro­mul­ga­tion is meant to sug­gest that an in­di­vid­ual’s path in life is de­ter­mined more by nurture than na­ture. No mat­ter where you fall on that ar­gu­ment, Thomas Coyne is one of those rare out­liers who had many op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­qui­esce to the vi­o­lence he saw, but in­stead chose to help the lit­tle guy.

Coyne didn’t have much in the way of good role mod­els, and saw how many others let the neg­a­tive at­mos­phere they were ex­posed to be­come a part of their pro­gram­ming. Even though many might think the odds of Thomas over­com­ing the ad­ver­sity sur­round­ing him were low, he didn’t sub­scribe to any credo other than “your life is what you make it.”

If you went by his ré­sumé alone, you’d be as­ton­ished to think he’d ever been sub­jected to any­thing but hero­ics dur­ing his child­hood. From fire­fight­ing, he­li­copter res­cue, search and res­cue, and dis­as­ter man­age­ment train­ing, to found­ing Coyne Sur­vival Schools (for­merly Sur­vival Train­ing School of Cal­i­for­nia), Thomas has put him­self in harm’s way and shown how much you can do to change your sur­round­ings for the bet­ter — if you want it badly enough. If we had one take­away from our in­ter­view, it’s that Thomas isn’t about to rest on his lau­rels. He’s still look­ing to make a dif­fer­ence and teach others to turn strug­gle into suc­cess.

RE­COIL OFFGRID: Where did you grow up?

Thomas Coyne: I ac­tu­ally kind of grew up on the road. Be­lieve it or not, I went to 18 schools grow­ing up. I had four or five dif­fer­ent high schools, so I grew up bi­coastal, you could say, be­tween Philadel­phia and Los An­ge­les.

So how did that af­fect you with hav­ing to move around all the time?

TC: I be­came my own per­son. Usu­ally when a per­son is in­tro­duced to their so­cial en­vi­ron­ment as a kid, you adapt to

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