Cargo Cults and CrossFit

Cargo Cults and CrossFit

Every year on February 15, natives on the island of Tanna celebrate “John Frum Day.” They paint “USA” on their chests, march with replica rifles made of painted bamboo, and wear homemade GI uniforms.


The procession is the peak of their religious year. But if you look around the island, you’ll see many military mockups: control towers fashioned from bamboo and rope; large landing strips for nonexistent planes; radio headsets made from wood and coconuts. Day after day for over 70 years, men from Tanna have manned these outposts faithfully, waiting for airplanes that never come.




Well, in the 1940s, the Vanuatu islands were occupied by US military forces trying to establish bases in the Pacific. Over several months, hundreds of thousands of personnel landed, building Quonset huts, hospitals, docks and airstrips. And they brought cargo.


Huge crates of clothing, food–unimaginable riches is unlimited quantities–fell from the sky. For a few very short years, the natives witnessed the blessings of the twentieth century, delivered by US Marines and engineers.


And then the war ended, and everyone left. The cargo stopped coming. The “miracle” was over.


So the locals set about trying to bring the miracle back, by building the things that brought the cargo in the first place: air strips, docks, control towers. They began to mimic the processions of the Marines to call down the cargo. “John Frum” wasn’t a real person; but John From America was, and they want him to come back.


But The Holy Cargo didn’t happen because the landing strips were there. The Miracle wasn’t birthed by marching. It was the other way around. The Cargo Cults have famously confused cause and effect, and practiced the rituals of the US Marines until they became dogma. Now they’re afraid to stop.


You can read one version of John Frum and the Cargo Cults here. The physicist Richard Feynman coined the phrase “cargo cult science” to describe the bad habit of confusing cause and effect.


And we, as gym owners, are guilty of cargo cult science.


We confuse the effects of good business with the causes.


“People join my gym because they want to move better” – that’s false.


“People stay because of the community” – also false.


“If you get them results, your clients will tell their friends” – no they won’t.


“Have the cleanest bathrooms.” “Clients will seek out the best coaches.” “People will choose me over an app because apps are for nerds.”


Data collected from the best microgyms in the world proves it clearly: these are not the causes of good business.


Having clean bathrooms is critical but insufficient.


The gym community is great because people stay long enough to make friends.


Clients seek results, not credentials. Clients don’t talk to their friends unless they’re asked. And great trainers provide all the tools to help their clients, not just the things they saw John Frum doing.


“There’s a fine line between salvation and drinking poison in the jungle.”


Mark Twight wrote that around the time he was leaving CrossFit. His exit was a loud one, and many didn’t understand his warning at the time. His quote was referencing to the Jonestown massacre as an example of blind followership: Twight was saying that although he believed in the fundamental principles of CrossFit’s workout methods, he no longer believed in the brand.


All of these little myths about clean bathrooms and “community” seem harmless, but they’re not.


If you believe your clients will stay because you have a great community, you’ll lose clients. You have to measure LEG and then improve it. You have to have 1:1 meetings with your clients every quarter or so. You have to show them a path to their goals. You have to call them between classes. These are the actions–supported by data–that improve retention (your LEG score).


If you believe people are typing “learn to move better” into Google, you’ll put that phrase on your website and your Facebook posts instead of the things that people actually care about. That’s cargo cult stuff.


If you wait for your clients to bring their friends, you’ll be waiting a long time. Bribing them with free months and discounts won’t speed up a nonexistent process. But believing it will happen will stop you from actively marketing your gym. You’ll spend time building control towers instead of learning how radios work.


Dogmatic rituals hurt our progress. Priests and prophets of “John Frum” have urged their followers to throw their money into the sea; slaughter their livestock in sacrifice; and let their crops go untended–because John Frum would provide all of that stuff when he comes back.


Your business is too important to risk. Doing things simply because “that’s the way we do it in CrossFit” or “that’s the way it’s always been done”–even because “that’s the way this blogger says to do it”–that’s not good enough. You need data. You need to test.


Question authority, kids. Evolution is life.

TwoBrain Summit 2019: The Lineup

TwoBrain Summit 2019: The Lineup

I used to think that seminars were the best way to teach.

Now I don’t. I know that mentorship creates action, and seminars create overwhelm.

For that reason, we only do one big seminar weekend every year: The TwoBrain Summit. This isn’t a lecture series; every hour is an interactive, hands-on workshop where participants get stuff done.

I promise: you’ve never been to a weekend “seminar” like this before!

I founded TwoBrain to help gym owners thrive, and also to help coaches make a career helping others. At the TwoBrain Summit, we have two separate speaker paths for that reason.

Over two days (June 8 and 9, 2019) owners and coaches will learn–and act!–to make better careers and better businesses for their clients, their families and themselves. Here are the topics and speakers on the agenda this year:

Owner’s Side

The Client Success Manager: The Most Important Role In Your Business – Stories and Processes, with Brian Strump and Jeff Burlingame

How To Change Your Life – Jay Williams

Organizational Culture – How to Retain Your BEST Employees, with Eden Watson and Greg Strauch

The Business Owner’s Lifecycle: Breaks, Vacation, Marriage and More, with Sherman Merricks

Motivation and Leadership, with Anastasia Bennett

Converting More Clients: Why You Need To Call Them NOW!, with John Franklin and Mateo Lopez

The “Golden Goose”: Leaving a Farmer Behind When You Reach Tinker Phase, with Jeff Burlingame

How To Start a Business Owners’ Group In Your Community, with Tammy Friedt

Making Decisions: The 3-Question Process for Deciding What to Do, and When to Do It, with Josh Price

How To Tell Compelling Stories About The Three Most Important Client Avatars, with Josh Martin

The Apple Story, FFTT, Where Relationships Should Be Focused, and How, with Josh Martin


Coaches’ Side

How To Make a Career In Fitness, with Brian Alexander

How To Run A Successful Kids’ Program, with Gretchen Bredemeier

How To Sell More Personal Training, with Jeff Burlingame

The Future of the Microgym, with Chris Cooper

1 Year On Seminar Staff: What I Learned, with Oskar Johed

Live Coaching, with Jay Rhodes and Oskar Johed

How To Make $100 Per Hour, with Kaleda Connell

Mobility Vs Stability, with Josh Martin

Two-Brain Coaching, with Josh Martin

Un-Slimy Sales, with Sherman Merricks

Coaching Nutrition, with Lindsay MacDonald


Tinker Group (Thursday and Friday):

Rolling Stone Retirement, with Norm Jaehrling

The Multiple-Location Model: Are You Ready? Should You Do It? With Jeff Larsh


Goodies? Yep. They’ll be there. Awards? Definitely. Shirts? Of course.


All of your favorite members of the TwoBrain Family? YES. Come and meet them in person, work together, and forge bonds with the “tip of the spear!” You are the average of the 5 people you spend your time with: upgrade those top five!


This year, our location is the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare (1-847-671-6350). Mention that you’re booking in the TwoBrainBusiness block!


Ready to get your tickets? Click here.


How To Start A Kids’ Program From Scratch

How To Start A Kids’ Program From Scratch

by Gretchen Bredemeier, TwoBrain Kids Program Mentor


I am SO excited you have decided that you want a Youth Program! Here are a few tactics that will set you off on the right foot!


  1. You are going to need a coach/program manager that fits a few parameters.

You are looking for a hard-working and energetic coach who is excited to create (within parameters) and who sees the long-term value of what they are doing.  You need someone who communicates well with you, someone that believes in your values/mission, and someone who is willing to make mistakes, educate themselves, and try again.  This person should have or develop a long-term vision for what THEY want and discuss it with you before you consider them as a Program Manager.


  1. You need to wait until parents are asking for it.

Scarcity is always your best friend. You want few enough events that they fill up.  You want to start with few enough classes that the kids AND parents want more! If it’s your idea- you just want the money.  If it’s their idea then you are serving your clients, doing it for THEIR best interest.  If it’s their idea then you can truly Help First! Typically, the same concept applies for adding additional classes.  While it’s good to get ahead of things (plan for classes you want to start in the next year), you want to start them when clients are asking for them.  


  1. The best way to begin is with a 6-week session where parents pay up front.

6-week sessions are the best way to start!  There are a few reasons for this. 6-weeks is a short enough time frame that parents can more easily commit, but long enough for them to see obvious results and understand the value of your program. 6-weeks is also longer than a month, which allows you to price well, because parents don’t tend to break the cost down per class, but relate the cost to “a large group of classes.” It makes GOOD pricing easier to swallow, which sets your value from the start.  6-weeks is also usually long enough that kids will miss one or two classes. This isn’t the goal, of course, but gets parents into the habit of seeing missed classes as their responsibility and not yours. You don’t ever want to get into the habit of parents expecting a specific number of classes with their payments.


  1. You need to consider the rates you’d like to charge in a year or two when you set your session rates at the beginning.

You should set your 6-week session rates based on what you’d like your program to be making once you’ve moved to a monthly membership.  This first 6-weeks sets the tone, and begins to develop the culture, that you will be will for the long-haul, so you need to get ahead of as much as you can.  Pricing is an easy one. Decide what you want your monthly rate to be once you are monthly and work backwards through the transitions of a 6- then 8- then 10-week session.  There are lots of tricks here, but the general concept will move you solidly in the right direction.


  1. Understand your partnership with parents

Bus stops are the kid-focused version of hair salons or water coolers.  And you want your program to be the topic of choice!!! The best way to make that happen is authentic relationships with parents, and just like price you want to start from your first 6-weeks.  Make time before and after class to ask your questions and field theirs. Get to know them and their kids for REAL. Set-up a communication system that works for your clients: Email, Facebook, Texts, Instagram… whatever works for them.  And then make sure you TELL them when you’ve addressed the issues, made special allowances, seen improvement in the behavior etc. Make sure they understand the things you worked on today, how that will benefit their kids, and why you chose to work on that specific thing.  “I noticed that Sammy was uncomfortable in the front roll, so I chose this and that to work on vestibular development today so that as her inner ear gets the challenge it needs, she will become more comfortable in the positions that will be most helpful in creating great lifelong motor patterns.” They have to KNOW how much you know and how much work you are putting into this and they won’t know if you don’t tell them.  Encourage them to take photos and to share photos. Make a “Bright Spots Friday” tradition where parents use pictures from the week to brag on their kids. Make fun car magnets that say “My kids sport is Crossfit” so parents can be proud of what their kids are doing. Parents that know you WILL talk about your program at the bus stop, and they will also give you more grace as you inevitably make mistakes. Take the time for parents and you will never be sorry that you did.


How Much Time Does It Take To Run A Gym?

How Much Time Does It Take To Run A Gym?

What’s your job?


When you start working out, your job is to become as fit as possible.

When you become a coach, your job is to get others as fit as possible. That comes first. Your workouts–though necessary–come second.

When you open a gym, your job is to make the gym profitable. That comes first. When your primary work is done, you can coach. And when the coaching is done, you can train.


This is a message I’ve repeated very often, because it’s a fundamental concept–AND it’s often forgotten.


Some gym owners refer to “the business side” of owning a gym–as if there were any other side. Owning a gym is owning a gym. Coaching is coaching. They’re not the same. Business isn’t what you do if you have time left over between appointments. Business is what makes the appointments possible.


Other gym owners are running their business upside down: they open a gym so they can train first, coach second, and worry about “the other stuff” in the time left over. Of course, these gyms don’t last long.


But most gym owners started a business to buy themselves a coaching job. And if your dream is to coach for 5-8 hours every day, working only with high-paying clients one-on-one or in very small groups of 2-3, then sure: the model can work. I started out this way. But someday, you might want some time off; or a raise; or a business that doesn’t close its doors when you get sick. And when that time comes, you’re going to have to work ON the business instead of IN the business.


Not sometimes. ALL the time.


It’s not hard to spend 50 hours per week running the business. There’s more than enough to do. And if someone isn’t dedicating at least 40 hours to managing and growing your gym, it will take YEARS to become successful.


Let’s say it takes 2000 hours per year (50 weeks x 40 hours) to run a great gym. That includes time spent meeting new clients, training your coaches, collecting money, stocking toilet paper, building your processes…I can’t even list everything.


A gym owner who coaches 20 classes per week will have, at BEST, 20 hours per week to work “on the business”. Because she also has to eat, and sleep, and train, and talk to clients before and after class…


That means she has a maximum of 1000 hours to invest in business operations and growth per year. And that means it will take her twice as long to become successful as a full-time owner.


What if she’s tired from coaching? What if she spends some of that time following bad advice she found in a Facebook group? What if she spends 10 hours designing a new t-shirt or arguing about the profit margin of Kill Cliff vs FitAid?


The more she coaches, the less effective her time will be on “other stuff”.


If she has 500 productive hours per year–or 10 per week–it will take her FOUR years to reach the level of a full-time gym owner. And probably more. As someone who’s tried to grow a gym on ten hours per week, I can attest: those ten hours are not very productive. The only thing that saved me was having a mentor, because then I maximized those ten hours to get a LOT done. But Catalyst’s recovery and growth still took years longer than it had to, because I was coaching too much.


Running a gym is a full-time job. Now I have an amazing GM at Catalyst named Jamie. He likes to coach a couple of classes per week (literally two.) But his job isn’t coaching; it’s running and growing the gym. And he’s great at it, and his hard work creates jobs for the coaches.


What’s your job? As soon as you take responsibility for the welfare of others, your job is to make them as successful as possible. As a coach, that means making your clients successful. As an owner, it means making your staff successful. That means building the business first, and coaching in your “free time” after the work is done.

3 Years, 500+ Gyms: Happy Two-Brain Day!

3 years ago today, I officially launched


You can read why I did it here.


There are over 500 entrepreneurs in the TwoBrain family now. These are 500 gym owners (and other service companies) who are in the game for the right reasons; who practice “help first” and build profitable businesses from their care.


500 is just a start, but a large group creates a platform that none of us would have alone. For example:


  • The “best practices” we teach evolve faster with a larger data set
  • The templates we give are 10x better than the originals were
  • The mentorship we share has been successful hundreds of times in every scenario
  • There’s more than enough support for those struggling in our midst.


500 also creates opportunities that no single gym owner has:

  • Health insurance companies want to talk about packages
  • Software companies pitch US on improvements, instead of vise versa
  • We can create media that actually benefits gym owners
  • We can build collaborative relationships between gyms in the same city (no, really)
  • We have buying power on software and equipment


Best of all: 500 gyms proves that you can make a great career in fitness without feeling like a slimebag or a martyr. Or making wild guesses (like I had to, back in the old days) or feeling all alone out there.


500 proves that mentorship works; that processes make wealth; that service wins.


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


Logic, care, action.


Left-brain, right-brain, go!


Here’s some inspiration for all of you entrepreneurs out there!



Happy Two-Brain Day!


Here’s some advice, well-wishes and praise from some brilliant entrepreneurs in the TwoBrain Family!



Why I Started TwoBrain

Why I Started TwoBrain

Last week, I told you why I started a gym: to create freedom for my family.


Today, I’d like to introduce you to my larger family.


Years ago, a physiotherapist told me, “If you care about your health, then you have to care about the health of the people around you. And if you care about their health, then you have to care about the city.”


I started the gym to take care of my family, and help my wife achieve her goal at the same time. But I started TwoBrain to help my larger family: other first-time entrepreneurs who had opened a gym. I knew what they were going through, and the camaraderie of the early days of CrossFit affiliation encouraged me to share all the mistakes I’d made.


You’ve probably heard the story ad nauseam: I hit bottom, found a mentor. Posted the mentor’s lessons on a blog called every day for four years. Answered a call to mentor a couple of gym owners through a website company. Published three books about gym ownership, added a few dozen videos and articles to the CrossFit Journal, and continued to publish love letters to gym owners every day.


But the story I haven’t told is why I founded; why we keep producing free stuff every single day; and why I’m more committed than ever before.


In early 2015, while still mentoring gyms through a website company, I built a 14-hour online course around the conversations I’d been having. While every gym is different, certain work has to precede other work, and I recorded videos, wrote lessons and built templates around these foundations. I was the guy on the videos and the guy behind the lessons. I thought we could help more gym owners by selling the video course for less. And with a waiting list, selling a course as an alternative to 1:1 mentorship seemed like a great way to leverage my time.


It didn’t work.


If my goal was simply to make more money in less time, I’d say the course was a success. But my goal is to help gym owners, and an online course without 1:1 mentorship simply isn’t effective. MENTORSHIP IS THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS. It’s not the cheapest service to provide; it’s not the most scalable option to offer. If your goal is to scale without big costs or have a massive profit margin, you can get away with selling an online course. But if your goal is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of entrepreneurs and their families, you have to provide 1:1 mentorship.


My goals didn’t align with the website company’s goals anymore. And so, on February 13, 2016, opened its doors to gym owners.


Now there are over 500 in the TwoBrain Family. Every single one has a personal mentor. Every single one gets at least a full hour of 1:1 time every single month (and that’s an hour every WEEK in the Incubation phase.) Every mentor has a small caseload. Because that’s what works!


Like you, I took this leap into entrepreneurship. Like you, I made an emotional leap: I believed in the mission of getting people healthier, because I cared about them. I embraced CrossFit as the most effective tool available. But, like you, I quickly realized that a fitness tool isn’t a business plan. A business plan is a business plan, and a mentor makes it work.


We now have nearly 30 mentors at TwoBrain: all successful entrepreneurs who have been through our model, reached the Tinker Phase, and are dedicated to pulling others up behind them. This huge staff means a LOT of big ideas and new solutions to problems; these aren’t call-center employees trying to troubleshoot your website. These are high-earning, successful entrepreneurs who have been there. As my own mentors tell me all the time: it’s not the fastest way to build a business, or the cheapest. But it’s the ONLY THING THAT WORKS.


I care about the health of CrossFit. I care about the health of the fitness movement. That means I have to care about the health of those pushing the movement forward: the gym owners. You serve them; we serve you. Every hero needs a guide.


That’s why, most days, I wake up with a chip on my shoulder: because we have a long way to go, and gym owners deserve better.


Think about this: you’ve put your entire life on the sidelines to help others get healthy. You’ve asked your family to carry on without you at breakfast and bedtime; taken a vow of entrepreneurial poverty (hopefully short-term); skipped your own workouts; eaten your stress; missed your sleep; skipped meals; drank too much coffee…


…all in the name of providing excellent service. The least we can do is fill the gap between that service and your reward. No one else is willing to do it this way–the only way that works. But I am. That’s why I founded TwoBrain.