AKRON, Ohio – Some people are just meant to defy the stereotypes. The notion of a banker who skateboards to find his inner peace might challenge the conceptions many people hold about both the profession and the hobby.
For Matt Harkless, however, there’s no such thing as one right way to do anything.
By day, Harkless has a rewarding job helping customers as a financial sales consultant in PNC Bank’s Hartville, Ohio, branch. In his free time, he trades his wing tips for sneakers and heads to the local skate park to unwind.
"I’m probably not your typical banker or your average skateboarder," Harkless said. "Most people think of skateboarding as ‘edgy,’ and that’s something bankers generally aren’t. I also don’t skate for the reasons that many people do.
"For me, it’s not about the competition or even staying in shape, though it is a great workout. I skate to clear my head, and ultimately, to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything with persistence, focus and patience."
For Harkless, skateboarding is just as much about the mental workout as it is the physical. When he’s away from work, he says he’s usually cruising around the area skate parks to perfect a new trick, or just enjoying the feeling of the wind in his face and the board under his feet.
After skateboarding casually in high school as a way to hang out with friends, his purpose shifted as he got older. It’s no longer a social activity, but one that provides a great deal of mental clarity.
It can be hard to really get quiet in today’s hectic world, and this gives me a mental release, tranquility and feeling of peace.
The biggest decision he’s ever made on his board? Proposing to his wife, Amber. Harkless says he knew she was the one, but spent time on the rails to determine the best way to pop the question. Ultimately, his coworkers helped him orchestrate a special surprise proposal with dinner at his house and they got married in spring 2015.
Matt Harkless spends 6-8 hours per week at the skate park and is currently working to perfect a smith grind on a flat-ground rail
Harkless says that sometimes when he’s in the zone, he may pull off a new trick without trying, almost as if his board is in charge, but the mastery comes from practice.
“If I execute a new trick once -- it could just be a fluke -- so the real test is whether I can replicate it and that’s where the fun begins,” he said. “I love the challenge of working on a trick to get it right. My mantra is always, ‘Two to make it true,’ because if I can perform it twice in a row, I know I’ve got it.”
The focus and persistence Harkless applies on his skateboard translates into his professional career. As someone who usually has a goal in mind, he is working toward one day becoming a sales and service support manager, and with guidance from his manager is continually looking for new challenges and opportunities to develop his talent.
Harkless notes that the key to achieving his goals is practice and pursuing them for the right reasons.
“I always try to do things that make me happy rather than for the show. I find that I fall the most when I’m trying to impress someone, such as my wife. I perform better when I tune out the distractions and focus on the task at hand. Ultimately, whether I’m at work or at the skate park, I’m loving what I do, so the joy I get from my achievement is that much more personal.”
Matt Harkless is a rare combination: a banker who also skateboards
When I’m on my skateboard, I find I can really clear my head, which is when I achieve my best focus. Whenever I face a new challenge or need to make a big decision in my life, spending time on my board always helps.
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