The Hardest Discipline To Master

The Hardest Discipline To Master

Yesterday’s workout was very challenging for me, because it was easy.


My new cycling coach instructed me to ride for an hour with a heart rate between 137 and 158–what endurance athletes call “Zone 2”.


My resting heart rate is around 62. But I LOVE CYCLING. When I hear my feet snap into the pedals of my Scott Gravel, my heart rate jumps by 10 beats per minute. And most of my workouts are hard, so the little dose of anxiety bumps my heart up another gear. I was coming off some huge personal bests, and was eager to see even more progress. And I had just watched Julian Alaphilippe win a Tour stage on a solo breakout. I wanted to go fast and hard. But I listened to my coach.


For the next hour, I coasted a lot. I slowed my climbs to try and keep my heart rate low. I listened to Bon Jovi (no joke) instead of my usual playlist. It was extremely challenging to slow down. But I did it, because I already knew the value of going slow. I learned it from my first business mentor.


In 2009, I was broke and exhausted. My ego was gone. That made me an empty shell: I was finally ready to receive help. When I made my first appointment with Denis (my first real mentor), I expected him to give me a silver bullet marketing strategy. After all, I thought I knew my problem: I needed more clients.


Instead, Denis taught me to break down the Roles and Tasks in my business. It was an extremely slow process. It was especially painful because I didn’t understand the value: I didn’t have any money to pay others to fill these roles. But I sat at my coffee table and wrote all weekend anyway, because I knew that really was my last shot.


Two weeks later, he told me to write out my Mission and Vision for the business. Again, I struggled to see how this would solve my financial problems. But I wrote them down, and then started writing about my process on If you’ve followed that blog, read my books, or received my emails at any point over the last ten years, you know that these “easy” exercises are the foundation of everything I’ve built. They were my fulcrum for leveraging change, and then growth. The principles on which I’ve built Two-Brain Business (a multi-million-dollar worldwide corporation with trademarks and patents and extremely powerful leaders) are the same ones I had to learn to save Catalyst (my first gym, which is still very profitable without my presence.)


The discipline to go slow is the hardest of all.


As CrossFitters and fitness enthusiasts, we’re taught that intensity>everything else. But every professional athlete knows that’s not true: that the body adapts and down-shifts its output over time. Max effort workouts become “sorta hard” efforts. We self-regulate with overtraining, injury, and plateaus. But amateur athletes try to go hard every single day, because they’re drawn by the novelty of short-term results. Pros know better.


Entrepreneurs (and I’m the worst here) try to approach every idea with maximal intensity. We over-market, over-hype, over-hire and overspend. Eventually, our efforts to learn more; hire and train staff; build staff; and improve retention become “sorta good” work.


Writing roles and tasks, staff contracts, and mission statements aren’t sexy. Facebook ads are sexy. But if you haven’t built the foundation–if you haven’t done the slow work–your business will self-regulate. You’ll burn out; you’ll have high turnover; your staff will leave to open competing businesses; and you’ll hit a revenue ceiling.


The Discipline to do the slow work is the hardest of all. I couldn’t do it until I was desperate: my business was injured. I was thinking about quitting. Luckily, I found a coach when I was desperate enough to listen. Now, I hope, I’m smart enough to do the same on my bike. Because soon it will be time to go FAST, and I want to be ready.

How to Handle Tough Conversations

How to Handle Tough Conversations

By Per Mattsson, Certified Two-Brain Mentor

In this text I am going to share my best advice when it comes to managing tough conversations.

We call this “low affective”: remaining calm and relaxed in relation to the one you’re talking to. When you are low affective, you pose no threat, and that helps your counterpart relax and speak more openly. It also helps you get to a resolution fast.

Use this strategy when dealing with challenging members, when helping upset staff or even when talking to a skeptical person online.

Below are my top three tactics for leading a tough conversation.

Before the conversation starts, prepare the person by telling him or her what you want to talk about.

When you first sit down, don’t beat around the bush: just tell it like it is. Like this:

“I know that you and I are don’t totally agree on this situation and I can tell that you are quite upset. Could you tell me how you feel about this and what your take on this is?”

Tactic #1: Listen

Give the other person the opportunity to speak her mind.

This gives you lots of valuable information. Instead of making assumptions, you hear things straight from the source.

Now, you may hear things that you don’t agree with at all. You may hear things that are just wrong. And you may hear things you don’t like. But it is very important that you don’t interrupt and start to answer. Interrupting turns the situation into an argument—not what you want. No one is going to “win” an argument.

Keep listening, take notes, and ask open-ended questions to collect more information. When your counterpart is finished, try to sum things up.

“OK, so what you have told me this happened and then you felt that I was doing this and then your reaction was this because you thought that I was…”

Tactic #2: Ask Questions

Check that your understanding of the situation, from her point of view, is correct.

After that, I always start asking questions. Here’s a good one to start with:

“What do you think my feelings or interpretation of this situation could be?”

This question makes the other person think about the situation from your perspective. She might see that she could have done things differently. If you still feel that you haven’t reached through,  keep asking questions. Another one that I like is:

“What could you have done differently in handling this situation?”

Without blaming or attacking anyone, you still open her eyes to the fact that it is her responsibility to handle problems like a mature person.

I am not naïve. I have been in many talks where my counterpart is too emotional to answer objectively. But these conversations take a lot of patience. This method is not the quickest, but it is often the best long-term method.

It is easy to be authoritative and more or less scare your staff into doing what you want, but what kind of atmosphere does that give you in the long run?

Tactic #3: Agree on a Solution for Next Time

There will most likely be more tough situations in your company and in your relationships.

How can both parties handle things better next time? What can be done to prevent situations like this in the future?

Take mutual responsibility for this. If your staff have done something that is clearly not acceptable, you should of course be clear about that. In those cases, say something like:

“I can see how you experienced this situation and why you got upset. What happened, and what you did, is not acceptable, and I am glad we had this talk. I know that there are things I could have done differently as well, and I will be aware of that in the future. What can we both do to avoid situations like this, between us or between anyone else, in the future?”

Then you book a follow-up meeting, ask how your staff feels about your conversation—and that’s about it. Congratulations on leading a very good conversation!

Listen, Ask, Agree

The three tactics, again:

  1. Listen
  2. Ask open-ended questions
  3. Agree on a solution

It takes a lot of practice to ask good questions in a low-affective manner, but doing so is worth it.

I strongly advise you to keep improving your communication skills so you can lead your staff without having to use your “position of power.”

If you need advice in handling situation like this, don’t hesitate to reach out:

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

You’re good at tracking numbers.

As a fitness coach, you probably measure your clients’ body fat. You probably measure their progress on workouts and their max front squat. And then you take those numbers and plan the next steps. Right?

The best coaches take control of the client’s journey to fitness. But not all coaches do.

In business, you have to measure your profit, your revenue, and your expenses. But that’s where most gym owners stop. They can report their numbers to their mentor every month; they know where to find ARM and LEG in their management software. They know how to check their bank account. Some even know how to find leaks in their marketing funnel!

But they don’t DO anything with the numbers. Instead of using their numbers to control their business, they let their business happen to them.

We recommend Profit First for gym owners, because it helps them take control of their money.

Instead of waiting to see what they have left at the end of the month, they write themselves a couple of checks at the start. Then they cash them. And then they work hard to make sure the money’s in the bank! It works.

We teach the 4/9ths model to most gym owners for the same reason.

Instead of making wild guesses about what coaches should be paid, or trying to figure out a percentage, we tie payroll to revenue. Coaches can do 1:1 training; make more for group classes; do semiprivate training; coach nutrition; offer specialty programs–but the gym owner never has to worry about starvation. And neither does the coach.

We teach the Prescriptive Model to every gym owner.

Instead of hoping their “community” or “WOD scores” will keep clients around, gym owners meet with their members quarterly to measure progress; then they decide what’s next or each client. Members aren’t left to guess about their progress, or wonder if another gym would be better, or just wander into classes aimlessly.

We teach Intrapreneurialism to every coach.

Instead of waiting for staff to “do the right thing”, or guess what’s in the owner’s head, an owner can help her coaches build a career on her foundation. No more wondering if they’ll leave to start their own gym. No more asking for favors (“Will you take out the garbage when you leave?”) no more hoping they’ll live up to their salary, no more trading for classes coached. Owners do Career Roadmap meetings with their staff; plot out their opportunities to earn; and give staff as much (or as little!) coaching as they want.

We teach Affinity Marketing to everyone.

Instead of praying for clients to refer their friends, gym owners can make the referral process an active one. They use the Affinity Marketing strategy to meet the best clients and offer the best service.

We teach Digital Marketing to everyone.

Instead of waiting for people to search “Gym near me”, stressing about the messages potential clients are hearing about CrossFit, or hoping the Games shows up on ESPN this year, gym owners can take control of their media. Lead generation isn’t a problem anymore–unless you’re just waiting for them to find you.


If you build it, they will come.




If you take CONTROL, they will come. And they will stay.


I remember running out of money before I ran out of month. I remember being terrified to check my bank balance. I remember praying for sales so my rent would clear.

Then I took control: I decided how much to spend on staff; how much to spend on marketing; how much to spend on equipment. That’s when I became an owner instead of a passenger. That’s when I stopped yelling “Jesus, take the wheel!!!!” and slid into the drivers’ seat.


Need help making that shift? Book a free call with our mentoring team here.

Let’s Change The Industry Together.

“If that’s how I have to act to succeed in fitness, then this industry isn’t for me.”


The REAL low point of my career as a coach didn’t come when I was losing money. It came when I was losing hope.


In early 2008, I finally realized that I needed help to run my business. I had finally figured out that being a good coach didn’t translate into being a good entrepreneur, and I went looking for help. But what I found turned my stomach.


The fitness industry has always been full of snake oil, deceit and hustlers. I was used to bad behavior when it came to training, diets and supplements. But when I sought help for my business, I expected better.


What I found was bait-and-switch advertising; scammy sales pitches; fake “ownership” plots to keep coaches tied to bad gyms; and advertising gimmicks that just didn’t work. Everyone made claims; no one gave proof. It turned my stomach. And I thought, “If that’s what it takes to succeed in this industry, then I don’t want any part of it.”


Luckily, I found help outside the fitness business, and brought what I learned back with me. I started sharing these lessons on my first blog,, and then continued to publish every day for the next 11 years. Some of the best early feedback I got was:

“Stop telling people what NOT to do. That’s what everyone else does.”


That was great advice. The fitness business doesn’t need more critics. The fitness business needs action. So I started writing more tactical blog posts: “Here’s how to do THIS”, “Here’s the first step to X”, and “Here’s your Intramural Open Playbook.” I started doing free calls, and telling gym owners exactly what to do–without trying to sell them anything. To date, our team has done over 2500 of these free calls, and I did the first 2000 myself.


Then something amazing happened.


Over the last decade, other fitness professionals have said “This industry must do better.” They committed themselves to serving their clients the RIGHT way: through the “Help First” philosophy; through fair and transparent pricing; through Intrapreneurial opportunities for their team.


Last weekend, 400 of us got together in Chicago. Here’s what that looks like:

These are the forerunners of change. These are the tip of the spear. And you can be one of us.


In Chicago, I told these fitness entrepreneurs that the tip of the spear had two edges: Opportunity, and Responsibility. These leaders will see further, and become more profitable, because they’re not burying their head in the industry mud. But it’s also their responsibility to lead others to positive business practices, honest care for their clients, and the Help First approach.


Many gym owners went home and started local meetup groups. Want to join one? Look at and talk to gym owners in your area.


Others began meeting with local entrepreneurs in other industries to help THEM. Because the force for positive change exceeds the limits of our industry. Other entrepreneurs need our help. My mission is to make gyms profitable. My vision is to have them do it the right way. And we’re winning. Want to talk to us about it? You can book a free call here.


Thank you to everyone who came to our 2019 Summit.


First with the head, then with the heart, then with the hands.


(And don’t forget to eat the sandwich.)

Aligning The Vs

Have you ever seen geese flying south for the winter?


They organize themselves in giant Vs in the sky. The front goose flaps hard; the rest benefit from their slipstream. In cycling, we call that “draft”, and it’s surprisingly powerful. When I ride right behind a tall guy, with my wheel inches from his, I can travel at the same speed with 30% less effort. You’ve probably seen this in the Tour de France, or with geese: one works hard, then drops to the back to rest and the next takes their place in the pace line.


In business, there are really two Vs that create a slipstream for everything else: Vision and Values.


Your job as CEO is to set the vision, and constantly reinforce it with your staff. That way, when someone else takes their turn at the front, they can keep the flock pointed in the right direction. Your other job is to make sure your values align with each staff member. Because if they don’t, you’re going to have problems that grow over time.


Here’s how Vision and Values align (or don’t) with your staff:

If your team clearly sees your vision and shares your values, you’re going to go far in the same direction. And you’re going to make life easier for each other.


Moving clockwise to the bottom right quadrant:


If you share the same values, but have a different vision for your business, it isn’t always bad: maybe they want a gym focused on training athletes, and you want a gym focused on health. You might eventually compete; or you might cross-refer. That’s up to you as a leader.


Different vision, different values: this is just a job to them. They might work as a placeholder for the short periods, and that’s fine. Just make sure they aren’t keeping a better candidate out of an important seat.


Same vision, different values (top left): the most common outcome is that they leave to start a competing business. They want the same outcome, but want to achieve it in a way that you can’t condone. Your duty to your clients, your other staff and yourself is to remove these people from your team. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.


Now let’s take this Vision and Values alignment to the other gyms in your area.


Starting from the top right: if two local gyms share the same vision and values, they can work together. My best example is the Regional meetups of Two-Brain gyms, where 6-10 gym owners get together to share best practices and support. These gym owners have different backgrounds and programming, but they share the same vision for success. More importantly, they share the Two-Brain values. They often cross-refer; sometimes they share staff.


Moving counterclockwise to Same Values, Different Vision: these are good people who want to run a gym that’s not the same as yours. Maybe they’re therapists, or maybe they love Pilates. You can cross-refer and cross-promote. You SHOULD help each other.


Different values, different vision: they’re not your competition. These are probably the globo-gyms running New Year’s sales, or independent MLM salesmen peddling sugary shakes. You don’t have to waste any attention on them. Their clients will graduate up to your service if you continue to educate them.


Same vision, different values: maybe they want to run sales, or give discounts. Maybe they want to try to steal YOUR clients or slander you. These are actually the best competition to have, because they’ll filter the worst clients and send the best to you. Read more here. And people are smart: we’re all attracted to the best. Just be the best, wait for them to go away, and buy their equipment at a bargain price later.


One of the greatest things that happened at the Two-Brain Summit might surprise you: I got food poisoning. I missed my flight, and showed up 36 hours later. And guess what? Everything was fine. In fact, it was probably better. I didn’t need to be there for our clients to benefit. I’ve been focusing on our Vision and Values a lot over the last year, thanks to Josh Price’s guidance and gentle reminders. And the Two-Brain team didn’t just stay on course: we flew faster and higher. It was the best Summit ever by all accounts.


Your job as owner isn’t to work the hardest, or the longest. It’s not to be “the face”. It’s to lead.


Share your vision, and check to make sure your values align. If they don’t, take action immediately. When you have your Vs aligned, you’ll go faster and further with less drag.



…But You Must Be Friendly.

…But You Must Be Friendly.

Yesterday, I wrote that “Your Clients Are Not Your Friends.” It’s a lesson that many of us have had to learn slowly, painfully, and repeatedly.


Many veteran gym owners weighed in with their own stories. But some  also shared the other side of the coin:


“You still have to be friendly to everyone.”


Your gym attracts people by promising to solve their fitness problem. It keeps people through operational excellence (your systems) and strong relationships (the 1:1 coaching relationship, and the relationship with your other members.) Some call the latter their “community”.


All of those relationships flow from your example.


If you greet everyone with a smile, they’ll turn around and greet the next person with a smile.


If you hover behind a desk with your hood pulled up, and point people at the whiteboard to warm up on their own; or show up late, looking tired; or punish people who are two minutes late for class–well, they’ll just go and have a better experience somewhere else. Giving a client the best hour of their day means pulling them out of their funk, breaking through their boredom and cheering them up.


No one quits a gym because their coach doesn’t know enough. But plenty of people switch gyms because their coach is tired, or cranky, or not engaged. Hell, I don’t want to spend time around negative people either.


If you’re tired in the mornings, do the right thing for your clients: bring a bubbly part timer who will shout “GOOD MORNING!!” from the rooftops at 6am. If your days are long, replace yourself in the evenings. Find a part-time coach who’s not tired; not stressed; not distracted. (Read: The Case for Part-Time Coaches here).


Many Microgyms don’t survive. When they fail, it’s never because the owner lacked education. It’s almost never because the owner didn’t care enough. But it’s often because the owner didn’t smile, hug, or high-five. Trust me: I’m a natural introvert. Friendliness is the skill you need to develop most.


What kills gyms in their first year? A lack of clients. That’s why we build marketing mentorship into our Incubator now.


What kills gyms in their seventh year? The owner. The owner is burned out. The owner is exhausted. The owner is stressed. The owner is unhappy, and it shows. They can’t force the smile anymore.  And there’s no “backstage” area in their gym; nowhere to hide their mood. If they’re still overworked and underpaid after five years of gym ownership, the owner is going to have a tougher time making a comeback. Usually, they’ve had hundreds of people walk through their doors by that point–more than enough–but haven’t kept those people. So they look for some marketing magic tricks, pump more strangers through, fail to bond with them, and just get more tired and stressed.


The difference is in your smile.


If you can’t smile at people, replace yourself. Put someone else in front of them. Work on attracting more people into their sticky web of joy. Or take a nap. Put your best face forward!