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