"Passion has its roots in the Latin word pati, which means 'to suffer or endure.'

Therefore, at the root of passion is suffering. This is a far cry from the way we casually toss around the word in our day-to-day conversations. Instead of asking 'What would bring me enjoyment?' which is how many people think about following their passion, we should instead ask 'What work am I willing to suffer for today?' Great work requires suffering for something beyond yourself. It’s created when you bend your life around a mission and spend yourself on something you deem worthy of your best effort. What is your worthwhile cause?" - Todd Henry

Man...When my friend Daniel Viscovich shared that definition it really hit me hard.⠀This definition brings another level to it, one that makes way more sense to me.⠀This definition brings clarity to the amount of time. effort. energy. and emotion that I have put in day after day towards achieving a goal of improving myself to better serve healthcare.

Are you willing to put the time in to be great? Are you willing to spend time building meaningful connections for the greater good of the humans we serve? Are you willing to make some sacrifices in your social life for your passion? These are a few of the questions that come up when I think about what it takes to become a leader in this(any) industry.

Ultimately, my naive hope would be that everyone in the field of Physical Therapy has passion for this field within them, but sadly, I know this to be untrue.⠀This is level one of our core values. If you possess passion for Physical Therapy, and this movement, it will set the stage for success.

Service Mindset

This is the critical question you must ask yourself.

I live this core value every single day, and am a HUGE proponent that if you focus on SERVICE first, and make this your PURE intent, you will make money AND THEN SOME as a byproduct.

I see so much in-authenticity in healthcare. Everyone focusing on making a quick buck, seeing 30 patients in 8 hours, building "viral accounts" and forgetting what our COMMON purpose is in this profession.

To provide the best possible care to the humans we serve.⠀People can smell in-authenticity from a mile way. When I was brainstorming the core values for this platform, this one rose to the top for this reason.

Every single one of you in this movement, embodies this value. It is part of what unites us in bringing forth positive change in this profession.

Want a bigger account? Want to kill it in your clinic?Remember your why, to serve humans.

At the end of the day, I believe in this vision so strongly, because it is rooted in something so purely service based.

Forward Thinking

Are you someone who looks at a situation or something and accepts it as the norm?

Or do you question if there is a better way to do it? Or a way it can be improved?

To me, forward thinking means you are constantly reflecting inward, asking yourself how you can be better, what you can do to make something better, and that you are comfortable challenging the status quo.

Innovation and progress comes from those that are forward thinkers, those who are not scared to challenge the norm...and that’s who I want on my team.

Growth Mindset

We believe in our innate ability as humans to rewire our mindset for the better. We believe in taking ownership over our actions, interactions, and emotions in order to fulfill our individual growth potential. When we are able to make this fundamental shift in how we approach ‘failures,’ adversities, and problems in life, it sets us up to learn and grow from these events, rather than let them define us as a failure.


In healthcare, we get so caught up in being “fixers” and “operators” vs. "interactors" and "facilitators."⠀...Lots of ego. And probably my least favorite person to work with collaboratively is the person who is never wrong and knows it all.
Not just in healthcare, but in life.

We need to be able to step back and accept the input of our patients/clients, or any “teammate” in life, and work together towards a common goal, especially when we are wrong.

Teams who practice humility and see each other as equals have no problem admitting faults and are quick to implement change and grow from them in a positive manor.

This type of collaboration fosters growth, transparency, and innovation and is a major way that genuine positive changes occur.⠀Having humility to me, means being able to reflect, recognize when you're wrong, take ownership, and realizing how you can grow from it.

Abundance Mindset

Sadly, the former is often the default mindset in PT school and becomes learned within the culture of healthcare. Rewind to your experience in PT school, or currently if you are a student, would you say this is fairly accurate to describe the common theme of competition?

One thing I strongly disliked about PT school, was how this SCARCITY mindset reigned supreme. It was so petty, people were competing constantly towards each other, rather than themselves...The scariest part, it is that it's contagious and becomes the norm for students and new grads...

When I think about what drives a successful culture, this core value is essential. Having an abundance mindset (to me) means living in competition with yourself, not others. It means you understand that there is PLENTY to go around, and as a matter or fact, demonstrating TEAMWORK, HUMILITY, and SERVICE will yield you more success as a byproduct.⠀This type of mindset is also CONTAGIOUS. 
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Transforming The People Who Will Transform Healthcare

Module 1: Growth Mindset

Module 2: Critical Thinking

Module 3: Listening

Module 4: Communication

"The Problem"

The treatment of patients as a diagnosis
The lack of ownership over the need for change
The failure to arrest the epidemic that is chronic pain and productivity-centric treatment
Students, new graduates, and clinicians feeling ill-equipped to make a difference.


"It starts with taking
a hard look in the mirror"

"It starts with taking a hard look in the mirror"


We have been the frustrated student
We have been the burnt out new graduate
Nobody should feel like they are part of the problem
We have created a solution.

learn more here

The Solution

( The 4 principles guiding our mentorship)

1. Growth Mindset

Allow yourself to view failure and challenge as an opportunity for growth.
Embrace this mindset and take action to become your best self.

2. Critical Thinking

Always ask why. Don't take things at face value.
Embrace this way of thinking, and become a problem solver of the world.

3. Listening

Humans crave telling their story and to be understood.
Embrace this skill as the foundation for building powerful doctor-patient relationships.

4. Communication

Education is the cornerstone of positive outcomes regardless of treatment paradigm
Embrace this skill to fulfill your role as the confident guide in your patient's story.

Core Values


"Are you willing to suffer for something beyond yourself?"
Read More

Service Mindset

"Are you in this profession to make money? Or to serve humans?"
Read More

Forward Thinking

"Do you prefer to grow or to remain stagnant?"
Read More

Growth Mindset

“Seeing 'failure' as an opportunity for growth.”
Read More


"Are you willing to put your ego aside?"
Read More

Abundance Mindset

Do you live in competition with others? OR yourself?
Read More
View Core Values

See how others have leveled up

Joe Rinaldi

Before working with Zak I wasn't sure how to incorporate my passion to encourage and support others into my practice as a future physical therapist. I was excited to become a PT but I was lacking direction.

In addition to providing advice and encouragement, Zak motivated me to be the change I want to see in the PT profession; he leads by example and his passion is contagious. 

Zak helped me (and is still helping me) find my direction and voice within the PT world and I am so grateful for that. As a result of knowing Zak, I have a new energy and fervor for learning, helping others and fostering positive change within PT and within the world. 

My path into PT was by no means traditional. I did not do a 6 year program or even know that I wanted to be a PT until junior year of college. My degree in exercise science leverages well to get into PT school but not fully. By the time I am ready to just apply to PT school I will have taken classes at 4 different institutions and will have spent the last 3 summers in the classroom.

The road to PT school as a postbac is bumpy and at times straight up overwhelming. There have been many times where the anxiety of all the paperwork, transcripts, and classes has been crippling and I have wanted to quit. No matter how bad the anxiety over the process gets I always come back to the same reasoning as to why I am doing this; imagining what it will be like to walk across the stage as a DPT and knowing all the hard work has paid off. This is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.

My Level Up moment came when I realized that I can't walk this path alone. Asking for help and realizing I am not alone has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. As Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven said in his famous Make Your Bed speech, "If you want to change the world, find people to help you paddle." I know that no matter how long it takes me just to get to the starting line, that the support system I have built will always have my back.

I have realized that failure is a choice and that if you think you can go through life alone, you are making the choice to fail.

I am making the choice not to fail. I am making the choice to never f*cking quit.

 I am making the choice to surround myself with awesome mentors and friends.

I am making the choice to challenge myself and Level Up. - Nick Calandra (@strengthcoachstudent)

Danielle Allan

I felt like I had a solid foundation to begin my career, but lacked the additional resources that I knew were necessary to help me achieve that next level to provide the care my patients deserved.

While working with Zak, he helped erase those nerves and replaced them with excitement. He inspired me to be better each day. He did so by teaching me to question “why”, by challenging me to explain my thought process, and by encouraging me to establish a voice for myself.

After working with Zak, I feel as though I found my purpose. I am confident to share my current knowledge with others, comfortable with challenging my current beliefs, and curious to learn from others. I am eager to continue to not only grow as a practicing PT, but to help grow the field of physical therapy with other passionate professionals.

How I found my stride through running…⠀

If you would have asked me 5 years ago when I graduated PT school where I thought I would be today, I sure as hell wouldn’t have thought I would be gearing up to start my own business to work with endurance athletes. Fun fact, I used to hate running.⠀

I left PT school feeling like there was so much I didn’t know.  I moved to a brand new city and was hired at an outpatient clinic but had no idea what specialty I wanted to pursue. I felt the pressure to have all the answers from day 1 and it certainly didn’t come overnight.  But through failures, growth, and consistency, I started to find my groove.⠀

Becoming a runner presented very similar challenges as becoming a PT did. Running never came naturally to me and I didn’t really feel I “belonged” until I finished my first half-marathon.  Reaching my first finish line propelled me into the sport.  Training was no longer a chore but the glue that held everything in place.  I was officially a runner. And a confident one.⠀

I grew as a PT through my running.  Personal injuries fueled my desire to help other runners.  My own PRs taught me how to empower individuals to reach their own. Ultimately, educating the endurance community and providing them with the tools to succeed became my passion. Before I knew it, I was THE runfitdoc. The previously insecure new PT had a following!⠀

And that’s when the shift in mindset happened. I was making a difference. I was changing the mindset of runners and how they trained. Insecurities that once existed fell by the wayside. I still have so much to learn but I’m OK with that. This next chapter in my career is an intimidating one but I know that there is nothing that will stop me! Like I tell my athletes, in order to get to the finish line you have to first get to the starting line. I’m ready to level up and bring the endurance athlete community in Portland, ME nothing but the best care, one stride at a time. -Danielle Adler (@runfitdoc)

Ben Kraus

Prior to beginning the course and meeting Zak, staying focused and motivated was always an issue of mine in classes like biology, chemistry, organic chem, etc. due to their lack of relevancy in my future profession. 

During my first week in gross anatomy, my group was paired with Zak. From that point forward, my mindset and motivation toward learning and bettering myself shifted. Zak's enthusiasm immediately rubbed off on me and I instantly became re-focused in excelling in my education moving forward. He always stressed not memorizing but instead understanding. Because of that, I was able to retain the information which has carried over into the working world.
His enthusiasm for learning and the PT profession was instilled in me since our initial encounter and has stuck with me still today.

I was always the guy at the top of the class. I knew every detail. Anatomy, biomechanics, orthopedic were my life. I was a bone, muscle, and joint head. I could visualize every biomechanical fault, pick apart posture, and I knew the exact tissue every special test was testing.⠀

Then it happened. I graduated PT school and the very next weekend took a small class with Adriaan Louw. Of all topics, the course focused on whiplash associated disorders. I was confronted with the IASP’s definition for pain and shown countless studies exploring the relationship between tissue damage and pain. I was introduced to Explain Pain, and I was buried with the works of many of the great pain researchers. I learned the powerful influence of psychosocial factors on pain, and I sat at lunch across from Dr. Louw for two days having my mind blown.⠀

It was at this point that I was overwhelmed with how little I knew, and how much of what I thought I knew was misguided and incomplete. My world crashed and burned. I became defensive and bitter. I felt like I wasted 3 years of my life. I truly wanted to quit and go back to school for a different career. I was in an uncomfortable place and no longer knew what I did or didn’t know. With my back against the wall, I decided to do what I knew best- Work my ass off. Work my ass off to learn everything I could about this new world of pain. I read everything I could get my hands on; books, articles, blogs, and Facebook discussions miles over my head. I spent every drive to and from work for years listening to podcasts, every night reading, and every weekend either in a course or writing.⠀

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did” – Newt Gingrich.⠀Today, I’ve finally become accustomed to the persistent grey area in everything we do. I realize that pain and humans are unfathomably complex. I have “crossed the chasm” and understand I can use everything I learned in school hand in hand with what we continue to learn about pain. Lastly, I have made it my mission to do everything I can to help those coming after me avoid falling in the deep hole of doubt and confusion I fell into.

Allison Kattato

Before working with Zak I was a student in the mindset of memorizing information to pass a test. Zak instilled a different mindset in me, wanting to learn to understand.

I continued to carry that mindset with with me throughout the rest of Physical Therapy school and working with students of my own. Today as a practitioner I want to instill that same mindset in my peers as well as my patients.

I’ve always used humor to mask my insecurities. People are less inclined to question you if you’re always laughing and making jokes. For me, it was how I always hid the fact that I had no self-worth. The situations I allowed myself to get into, however, proved to everyone how little I valued myself. When I was 19, I came out of the closet. Deciding that I couldn’t be myself at home, I made a hasty and ill-thought out decision to move 3,000 miles from home to be with my at-the-time girlfriend. Naive and ignorant, I found myself in an abusive relationship that I financially could not escape. I thought I deserved it. For 4 years, I endured mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. I finally reached out for help, and after graduating from college, moved back home even more broken than I had left.

It wasn’t until my first term of PT school, 2 years later, that I realized that I could not fix myself alone. With the help of a therapist, I decided to take control of my life, and after 28 years, finally loved who I was.

Making that decision was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. We can’t get through this life alone. As awful as the things I’ve been through were, I refuse to consider myself a victim. I’ve chosen to see it for all the positives that have come into my life because of it. I started school out there, discovered my passion for physical therapy, fell in love with the state and my alma mater, and was the first to graduate from college in my family. And I like to think I came out stronger for it. We can choose to let the things that happen to us define us. Or we can choose to take what we’re given and make something great of it.

I like to believe it’s made me more of an empathetic person, which will help me build phenomenal therapeutic alliances with my patients. I am choosing to Level Up because I want to help people realize that they are so much stronger than they think, and that their injuries or conditions DON’T define them. Throughout my career as a physical therapist, and my life in general, I will challenge myself every day to build patients and people up to help them become the best versions of themselves. - Kait Dunn (@kaitdunn_ )

Jason LePage

Zak’s passion for the human interaction and patient experience opened my eyes to an key piece that is often missing in healthcare. Patients are people first, and we should treat them as such.

I was fortunate to meet and work with Zak early in my education to become a Physical Therapist. Zak’s insight and suggestions for improving communication skills have been invaluable to my learning.

Not only will these skills improve my abilities as a soon-to-be physical therapist, they’ve made me a better human as well.

The Level Up Podcast

Get ready to turn the real-o-meter all the way up. The Level Up Podcast is dedicated to having real, authentic, and transparent conversations around important, yet taboo, topics in healthcare.

It is our goal to interview guests from Physical Therapy and beyond to who help pave the way and offer insights and guidance on how to grow both personally and professionally, helping us all have a more positive impact on healthcare.

In addition to this, we will be bringing in interviews from patients who can offer valuable insight into the pro’s and con’s of their medical experience, and insight into why we so desperately need change.

Listen Here

Become Part of the Solution!

Are you passionate about driving positive change in healthcare? Join the movement below!

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