“Too many of us are more concerned about what other people think of us than about what kind of people we really are. When image displaces character as our primary focus, we become more concerned about cultivating what people around us happen to approve rather than what is right in itself.” – Tom Morris
When I first starting training with kettlebells five years ago, I knew right away that it was going to be a hit. It embodied everything that I liked about strength training and conditioning all in one simple training tool that does not take up much space. Moreover, the second you pick up a kettlebell, you know that it is not going to be easy. There are no illusions with kettlebells. No easy way out and no excuses. Either you are fully engaged and focused or the bell dictates the movement and it is over. When Donald Trump looks for new investment opportunities, he likes to look at the opposite of what everyone else is doing. For example, if everyone is offering one bedroom apartments, he will build two bedroom apartments. This may result in a short term loss, but likely a long run fortune. With training the trend was and still is how to make things easy and short for lazy people that consider walking from the kitchen to the couch a workout. Buzz phrases such as five minute workouts and lose fat without working hard are all too common. At the same time, I knew that there was a contingency of people that were fed up with being lied to. They were tired of being told that looking great and feeling good is easy and they wanted the truth. These people were hungry for something that actually worked and were ready to work hard and smart to achieve their goals. I knew that kettlebells could fill the gap. Sure barbells and dumbbells work as well. Sandbags are great. However, what I like about kettlebells is that they build, strength, muscle, muscular endurance, and strength flexibility like no other training tool. In addition, they are flat out fun to train with. To this day, I cannot walk by a kettlebell without getting the urge to throw it around. When was the last time you got an urge to do handstand pushups when you walked by a wall, or pick a dumbbell at a friend’s house?
After training with kettlebells for six months I went to Pavel’s RKC course to get certified in KB training. It was a great seminar that confirmed that I was on the right path. I talked to Pavel and John briefly about some of my ideas. Both of them were very polite but I could also tell that both of them had heard a lot of talk before. I knew were they were coming from so I kept my mouth shut, learned as much as I could over the weekend and went back home to plan the next move. I had always wanted to be in the strength training business and now I saw an opportunity to develop an expertise with a training system that I knew would take off. Yes it was a ground floor opportunity which you are lucky to come across once in a lifetime. I was not about to miss my opportunity to make a lot of money doing something I love. People around me thought I was crazy, but I knew better and I could not wait to get stared.
While I was excited to begin my business, I was in a comfort zone at my previous job. Yes I hated it, but I was making good money and it was an easy job. It was hard to walk away from the known into the unknown. After all there was no example to follow. No one was making a living as a kettlebell instructor at the time. It was a path that had not been carved yet. Thus, I stayed put at my job. Fortunately, the universe has a way of forcing your hand when you are not prepared to accept your destiny. Right after I closed two big deals for the company, I got fired. My pathetic boss was getting a lot of heat from the board of directors and needed a scape goat. That scape goat was of course me. When he told me the news I was relieved. All of my excuses were gone and now I had to do what I wanted to do. Now here is a funny bit. My boss actually had the audacity to expect me to come to work for one more week after he gave me the news. He said that they expected me to put in another week and try to close some more deals. I smiled and said sure thing. Then I went back to my office, packed my things and never went back. If they were not going to give me a week of severance pay, then I would take charge and take if for myself. My former boss actually called me up and said that what I did was a big problem. I laughed and asked him what was he going to do, fire me again and hung up the phone. A year later this guy embezzled funds from the company. Oh well, you reap what you sow.
While my illusory security (no real job security when you work for someone else) was gone, I was super excited about starting the business. I had already written a few articles for Testosterone Magazine and had a few online consulting clients. All I had to do was increase everything and work hard and smart. My first week in the business I lined up interviews with MMA Legend Frank Shamrock, best selling author Richard Machowicz, and one of my favorite strength coaches Steve Maxwell. I interviewed each person for publication. I saw this as a smart way to network with people that I admired and help get my name out there. The interviews were a lot of fun and I became good friends with many of the people I interviewed. Things were all falling into place. Within in my first month in the business I had articles published in Ironman Magazine and got several more into Testosterone magazine. I also got a ton of articles on the web. Looking back I realized that most of these articles sucked, but you have to start somewhere 😉
A few weeks later, I decided to move out to Los Angeles. I had always wanted to do it and I needed a clean slate. Northern VA where I grew up had run its course and it was time for me to move on. Before I moved out to CA, I did a few Kettlebell Workshops in VA. I was so excited that anyone was actually paying me for something that I loved doing. I will never forget that first KB seminar. While I only made $480.00 it was the most enjoyable $480.00 that I had ever earned up to that point. I did not feel like I was working and to this day seminars are still a blast. Even after doing more than 60 across the U.S. and overseas. The response to the seminars was very positive and I was sure that it would continue in Los Angeles.
I moved to Santa Monica, Ca in May of 2003. After I got settled, I promoted my first local seminar. I got a ton of emails from a variety of people that were interested in attending. I told people that they could pay in advance to save a few dollars or pay more at the seminar. I had three people pay in advance and at least eight people that said they would pay me at the seminar. Guess how many people showed up? You guessed it, three people. Sure I was disappointed, but it was a start. I also learned a very valuable lesson: Always get the money up front. you should know exactly how much money you are making at a seminar before you teach. My next three seminars in Santa Monica were only marginally better. I was making other things happen such as getting published in magazines, writing a lot of online articles, and picking up some online consulting clients. However, the brutal realities of being an entrepreneur were becoming all too apparent. I soon realized that I had more month than money and several months of this syndrome was not making my bank account look as stellar as it did before I moved to Los Angeles. While I was still excited about the business, the financial stress and stress in my personal life were starting to add up.
Several months later I came down with a horrible flu. Like an idiot, I continued to work out hard and put in long hours for my business. Eventually the flu became a bad cause of pneumonia. Being stubborn, I did not get checked out by a Doctor. after all, I did not have medical insurance at the time and could not afford to waste any money. I know what you are thinking, very dumb move. Well, it got worse. My parents lived in Uganda at the time and I was scheduled to fly out there to visit them for Christmas. To make a long story short, I flew the twenty-one hours with one lung completely blocked with bacteria and the other one about 50% full of bacteria. That was the worst flight that I had ever been on. I could not get comfortable at all. When I finally made it to Uganda, I was rushed to a Doctor. He diagnosed me right away, stuck a big needle in my back and proceeded to pull out four liters of nasty pus and bacteria that looked like murky green tea. yum yum yum. The next day I went back to the doctor and he pulled out another two liters. After that I was on antibiotics for two months and of course eventually made a full recovery. So much for the notion that hard work cannot kill you and only makes you stronger. The doctor told me that I should have died on the flight over to Uganda. The combination of lack of oxygen on the plane and lack of lung functioning should have been a lethal combination. What he told me really sunk in.
The bout with pneumonia resulted in the loss of 30lbs of muscle and a ton of strength. I had to start off training with bodyweight exercises to build a foundation and then started kettlebell training again with two 53lb bells. I was used to training with the 70s and 88lb bell at the time and I was amazed at how heavy the 53s felt. When I want to my chiropractor to get my back adjusted he was shocked when I took my shirt off. “Where the hell are all your muscled” he exclaimed! Man was that a lot point. Regardless, I had lost strength and built it back in the past and knew what needed to be done. I took it slow and gradual. I did not want to rush things. I knew that it was going to take some time. As if losing my strength and size was not enough, I looked at my bank account and only had $7.00 left! I could not believe it. How was I supposed to make rent that month (Rent was $1700.00 at the time)? Where had all the money gone? How was I supposed to keep the business going and should I even bother trying to keep it going? I came to the conclusion that it was time to throw in the towel, at least on a provisional basis. My only choice was to go back to sales or business development, make some money and then try the business again later. I accepted the decision and took my dog Mona for a walk.
As I walked around Santa Monica, I came across a few office buildings. I looked in the windows and saw people doing what I used to do. I knew that I could never go back to that world. It was simply not for me and not in my nature to work for other people in an office. The thought of being miserable again working for others was worse than my current reality. Moreover, what was the point of the near death experience that I had been through? It was a strong reminder that life is short and that there may not be a tomorrow. Frankly, surviving the incident was a second lease on life and this is what I was going to do with it! Go back to a world that I hated. I could not let that happen and I literally ran back home and made a decision that I would make this business work no matter what. What ever I had to sacrifice, I would do it to make it work. I sold some mutual funds in a savings account to make rent and have a few dollars in the bank. Then I ordered three “0 interest credit cards.” I would live off the credit cards with the intent of paying the balance in full before the interest rate went up. Yes, a risky proposition, but better than a bank loan. Then I started marking my services and workshops like crazy. I started promoting workshops all over the country to generate revenue. The plan started working and the money started coming in. Not a lot, but enough to survive and get by.
For the first year I worked seven days a week and had no social life. I got rid of cable so I would not have any distractions. While others were drinking beer on Friday night and having a good time, I was writing articles and ad copy for my business. While others were getting together for barbecues on Sunday, I was designing program for clients and coming p with products to sell. My focus was singular and any distraction that got in my way was obliterated. Think that you can be balanced and be successful? Think again, you have to be imbalanced to make it happen. Especially in the first few years. Once again, that was the price and I was paying it. Think that being a workaholic is not healthy? Do not bother starting your business, just collect a check from someone else and enjoy your weekends. When you get your business going you can be balanced and enjoy some free time. However, when you start a business it owns you. Once you make it happen, then you own it. Not the other way around.
2003 was my first full year in the business and while I did not get rich that year, I made an income that allowed me to keep my head above water. Much of success is keeping your head above water long enough to be around for the big successes. In 2004, my second full year in the business, I doubled my income and started getting close to what I was making in the Business Development world. More importantly I loved what I was doing and it was really coming together. I was providing value to others which was always very important to me. Making money and knowing that you are helping others was a great combination for sleeping well every night. Last year, things really took off and I had an incredible year. Not just financially, but in my personal life as well.
It is hard to believe that I have only been in this game for four years. It has been a rough road at times but one that really showed me what I am capable off. Without challenges and adversity we never really tap into the core of our strength. Also, people that have never risen to challenged are boring people. Why be like them? Life is about discovering who you are and what you are made off. It is about finding the paths that makes you excited about being alive. There is no reason why life should not be excited. Especially when you live in a country like the U.S. where the opportunities are endless. You just have to ask yourself what price are you willing to pay. I am not where I am just because I love helping others, communicate well, have a strong background in business and marketing, have the strength and conditioning to validate me in the marketplace, and have the passion. Of course those are all important components. However, if I was not willing to pay the price, I would not have achieved the goal. Are you willing to pay the price?
Finally, I know that I would not be where I am without the support of people like you. Special thanks to everyone that takes the time to read my newsletter. Special thanks to everyone that has been to my seminars, purchased my DVD’s, signed up for my online services or taken the time to send me a thoughtful email. Special thanks to all the people that wanted to see me fail as well and projected their negativity on to me. I would not be where I am without you as well so thanks and feel free to keep it coming as I am not going anywhere anytime soon. Every time you try to take me down, I will get stronger, you can believe that.
My new book Live Life Aggressively! What Self-help Gurus Should Be Telling You is finally out. It is available here on my website in ebook format and available in print format from amazon.com. I will be using the 260 page book as a fundraiser for two fantastic organizations.