Episode 176: Mike Flynn

Episode 176: Mike Flynn

Chris: 00:00 – Jim Collins coined the phrase “who luck.” And Collins, the author of “Good to Great,” was talking about the people who serendipitously seem to just come into your life at the right time and shed light on a complicated subject or help you with a tough problem. I have amazing who luck and I’ve written about that a lot in the last few months. A few weeks ago though, my publisher, Scribe, introduced me to another author, Mike Flynn. And Mike recently published a book called “Master the Key: A Story to Free Your Potential, Find Meaning and Live Life on Purpose.” I picked the book up and loved it, and then I was a guest on Mike’s podcast where I found out that Mike is actually a CrossFitter and not only a CrossFitter. His coach is Greg Amundson. Greg was with me in Kenya on CrossFit for Hope and was with me at St Jude Children’s Hospital. Greg was the first guest on this podcast and Greg was one of the OG CrossFitters who used to appear in one of the very first videos about Fran, Michael and Murph and all of those. If you’ve been doing CrossFit for more than three years, you’ve heard of Greg and he is Mike Flynn’s coach. So I asked Mike to come on the podcast, talk to us about how to identify and master your key, about his book and also how CrossFit helps him because I want listeners to this podcast to benefit from Mike’s knowledge and experience and also to find people like Mike for their own gym. Enjoy.

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Chris: 01:54 – Hey guys, it’s Chris Cooper here. If you are headed to the CrossFit Games, I would like to buy you breakfast. So here’s what we’re doing. Together with Healthy Steps Nutrition, we have rented out the banquet facilities at the Sheraton across the road from the CrossFit Games and we’re taking about 250 people a day. You can come in and have breakfast with us. We’ll be talking a little bit about business, but the most important thing that always happens at these breakfasts, aside from the bacon and coffee, is the conversations. We have limited seating that’s gonna fill up, you can fill in the form in our show notes and make sure that you reserve yourself a spot. We’re going to do it at 7:30 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday of the CrossFit Games. We will see you in Madison.

Chris: 02:33 – OK, Mike, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.

Mike: 02:33 – What is up, man? I’m super pumped to be here.

Chris: 02:38 – Yeah, it’s so great to have you here. Now in your new book you say that everybody is born with the key to success. What does that mean?

Mike: 02:47 – Yeah, so the world that we live in today is very much externally motivated, externally driven, externally oriented and people’s definitions of success or they’re constantly looking outside for the key. If I just follow this program, I will be successful, right? If I just do X, Y, or Z, I will be successful, if I, you know, fill in the blanks, right? But what the key actually represents in the book “Master the Key: A Story to Free Your Potential, Find Meaning and Live Life on Purpose” is our identity, OK. The key represents our identity. So if you believe that, if you believe that the key to success is mastering who you are, then the journey is not something that’s external. It’s something that’s internal. Something that’s within, something that you already possess. This idea isn’t something that’s new. This has been around, you know, this Stoics have talked about this, the Bible talks about this, thinkers have of all types talk about identity and answering four fundamental questions that we go through. Who am I? How do I show up in the world? What do I do when I get there? And who do I do it with? What’s my story? What are my gifts? What action do I take? And who do I take it with? And those are the four pieces of the key. And you know, we can go anywhere you want with this, but it’s a daily practice to master each piece, right? Your story, your narrative, your giftedness, how you perceive your gifts, how you express them in the world, how you take action, you know, how you take risk, how you view risk, and then who you’re going to spend your time with doing all of this stuff. And it’s a daily practice that only we can master. It’s an intentional pursuit that each individual has to take on their own initially.

Chris: 05:05 – OK, so everybody has one of these pieces already. You know, they know their own story. How do they figure out the second piece, which is what is their key? What’s their special purpose?

Mike: 05:18 – Well, I actually think that not enough people actually know what their story is. And that’s why there’s so many people that are confused about the idea of purpose. And let me just back into that a little bit. Just to kind of give you some data that will help you understand that most people don’t have a clue about who they are. So Gallup, the big research organization, recently released a study that revealed that 85% of employees are actively disengaged at work, OK? Actively disengaged is the key phrase right. They’re cognizant of the fact that they’re checked out. That’s costing businesses $7 trillion a year globally. Here in the U.S. the number is 70% of actively disengaged workers costing companies $500 billion. I want to stay in the U.S. for a second because also in the U.S. there’s 150 million give or take worker bees out there, right? 40% of that 150 million are pursuing a side hustle that they’re quote unquote “more passionate” about than their day job, right? So here’s the thing, there’s two really big problems here. Number one, people don’t know what the word passion means. So they don’t know what they’re really passionate about and they don’t know what they’re passionate about because they don’t know who they are. The word passion literally means the willingness to suffer for something.

Mike: 07:18 – So you can’t really truly follow your passion unless you know what you’re willing to suffer for and you can’t really know what you’re willing to suffer for until you know and have directed, taken control over the narration, of your story, specifically the hard things that have happened to you and your life. The adversity, the challenges, the failures. It’s easy to think about the successes. It’s easy to like, you know, kind of stay there. It’s much harder to go deep and to analyze and reflect upon the brokenness, the hurt, the disappointments and insert hope there. And look at how we can use the fruit of those challenges in the service of others.

Chris: 08:13 – How do people explore those challenges and like kind of sit back through their own narrative to discover or even just think about and break down those things?

Mike: 08:23 – So at the end of the day, and we talked about this when you were on my show, that we want to feel effective. We want to feel powerful. We want to feel good at what we do. We want to be efficacious, right? Dr. Albert Bandura calls it self-efficacy theory. We want to feel confident. And so when negative things happen, especially things that we’ve poured hearts into or things that we expected to turn out a different way and they don’t, what happens is we go through something called identity foreclosure. I’m fat. I’m not a good business person. I can’t do X. Right? All of a sudden, our I statements become associated with this victim mentality, as Victor Frankl talks about it, right? And so we end up telling ourselves that we can’t do hard things. And one of—and that statement actually prohibits us mentally and emotionally from going down internally to mine the gold within, because that’s a hard thing to do, right?

Mike: 09:46 – It’s a hard thing to be quiet, to quiet the mind. It’s a hard thing to reflect on the past and to ask yourself what parts of my story have I struggled to own and why? Right? It’s hard to do those things because it requires us to maybe go back and explore some painful things, right? But the thing that makes the human race, you know, a vastly more advanced species than any other species on the planet, is the fact that not only do we have the ability to forecast into the future, right, to vision, right, what we want to accomplish, to see our future selves, but we also have this tremendous power to bend back time and direct light onto the past, right? The challenge is that most people, when they’re reflecting, they do it passively. They’re not actually doing it as part of a practice. You know, they’re just, you know, thinking about the past and it stirs up these negative emotions and then they shove it in the back in the corner and they try to move on in their day. But they’re actually missing out on a great opportunity because when we intentionally reflect back into the areas in our lives that have been full of challenge or adversity or struggle, we have the ability to direct the light. We have the ability individually to control the energy that is being placed on that thing in the past and to carry it forward into the future. And our brain doesn’t know what time it is, right? It doesn’t. We have the ability to go back and do a little like inception. And change the narrative right there. And there are six caves, you know, are you familiar with Joseph Campbell?

Chris: 11:47 – Of course, yeah.

Mike: 11:48 – So he says, you know, the cave which we fear to is where the treasure lies. So using that concept, there’s basically, in my view, there’s six caves that we all need to enter. And to go back into the deepest, darkest part of that cave and seeking the treasure, right? And they are faith, they are family, they are fitness, they are friends, they are finances and they are fun. Those are the six caves. I formally refer to them as the six bridges of personal growth and well-being. But in the book I referred to them as the six caves. And those are—everybody has challenges, has had challenges in each one of those areas. And it’s up to us to go back into it, to draw out the treasurer there.

Chris: 12:51 – So maybe you can give us an example, Mike. Like how would you actively explore those caves instead of just like passively dwelling on them?

Mike: 12:59 – Yeah. Well, it’s all about questions, right? The questions that you ask. And so in, in my book, at the end of each part, there’s actually a reflection and a response section. And it’s full of questions that the reader gets to explore. So we’re talking about story right now. And so a great question, and there’s dozens of them, would be what false stories do I hold onto? How did I acquire them and why have I held onto them? So this is an opportunity for you to engage your brain in a certain rigorous exercise. And I’m going to connect exercise here in a second because this is not just a simple how-to exercise. This is not like one plus one equals two, right? This actually requires you to do hard work to answer these questions. What false stories do I hold on to? How did I acquire them? Why have I held onto them? That’s the reflection section. But there needs to be, whenever you reflect, there also needs to be a response, right? Instead of a reaction. So immediately following the reflection questions are respond questions. How will I respond to victory? How do I clear a path for the future? Why will owning my story benefit me? All of these types of questions, and these are exercises, right? And so that’s why you and I were riffing on CrossFit because I think that the fastest way to remind yourself that you are effective, that you are powerful is to do something that physically proves it to yourself because you are connecting your mind and your body in a physically challenging, arduous manner that if you don’t bring your attention, your awareness and your focus all together in one laser beam, then you could potentially do damage to your body. But by bringing your awareness, your attention and your energy, your mood all together, you’re reminding yourself that you have control of your body and your brain cause you’re telling your brain what to do in time and space, right? And then you get to go immediately after that, if you follow this kind of advice, you get to go maybe do these reflection questions right after an intense workout and your brain is just going to be firing, right? You’re going to be seeing things, hearing things, remembering things, recalling things, creating new things, right? Because you have all of these neuro pathways that are firing. And that’s why doing something like CrossFit, like cycling, is an incredibly powerful way to begin to remind yourself of your story and your inherent worth and that you are powerful in any area of these six caves. So I hope that kind of answers a little bit of—

Chris: 16:18 – Yeah. I think you kind of wet our whistle to hear more about CrossFit too. And we’re definitely going to come back to that. But you just mentioned worth and in your book you said that worth has to come before why, you know, in the business community right now, everybody has read it starts with why and everybody’s talking about knowing your why before you do anything else. You know, Mike, you made the great point that you have to establish worth first. What do you mean by that?

Mike: 16:46 – Yeah, so one of the very first lessons that the janitor teaches to Steve in the book is that before you can find your why, you have to remember that you are worthy of one to begin with. And that is so important because ultimately when people are talking about pursuing their why, or finding their why, why is just another word for passion, right? Find your passion. Right? And so like Simon is absolutely right. You know, you need to find your why. You need to understand why you’re doing things because people buy your why. And if you don’t understand the fact that—let me back up for a second. Cause when you decide what your why is, what you’re saying yes to is competition, disappointment, setbacks, frustration, the people you know, mismanaging your trust. You’re also saying yes to great opportunity, more success than you could possibly imagine. Right? But it doesn’t happen without great amounts of hard work and sacrifice, right? And so you have to be very clear on who you are and that you are worthy of those things, right, in order to say yes to them. If you say I found my why and you know the example that it’s much easier to deploy Simon Sinex work at the corporate level, right? Cause Apple breaks the status quo and we make beautiful things. And oh by the way, we just happen to make computers. You know, like it’s much easier to do that at the corporate level. It’s much more challenging to do that at the individual level. And so when you say the reason why it’s so important to remind yourself that you are worthy first is because that sets you up to endure the suffering and the sacrifice that’s going to be required when you truly do find your why. You’re worthy of it, you progress from saying I can’t do hard things to starting to ask yourself, can I do hard things to saying I’m worthy of doing hard things to what can I do with the hard things that I’ve experienced?

Chris: 19:24 – That is great, Mike. And you know what? I think that is especially critical or maybe it is just more apparent when somebody reaches the Tinker Phase of entrepreneurship because suddenly if you don’t have a great sense of self worth, that’s when these problems come into play. Like the impostor syndrome for example. But before somebody even gets to that stage, how can they know if they’re headed down the wrong pathway? You know, you mentioned 40% of people have some kind of side hustle. How do you know that you’re in the wrong career? You should be doing something else?

Mike: 20:00 – That is a really good question and I actually have been thinking about that quite a bit and it’s challenging. You know, the reason why it’s challenging for people to recognize when they’re on the wrong path is because people are selfish. And we have this problem in the entrepreneurial world right now where we actually have a pretty scarce mindset. We have a mindset where there’s not enough abundance for everybody to succeed. And so we find ourselves in our little silos, right? Where we’re not going to like play with people, we’re not really going to be fully invested in community and we’re trying to go someplace fast instead of going someplace far. And that old African proverb, if you want to go someplace fast, go alone. If you want to go someplace far, go together, right? And so community becomes so incredibly important. And the three characteristics of a great community, are first wild curiosity, second collaboration, and third correction, right? And so what happens is when you are in a community that’s wildly curious about Chris’s success, that’s eager to collaborate with Chris, and Chris is eager and wildly curious as well. You spend a lot of time together creating and doing hard things, shared suffering, shared passion, shared this, that, right? And so when one of your community members sees Chris veering off path, or going in a direction that is totally counter to all of the experience that they’ve had, they can remind you, they can say, “Hey Chris, what’s at stake for you? Why does this matter? We’ve been spending all of this time doing this over here. So you’re deviating, why does that matter?”

Mike: 22:13 – It’s going to be much harder if you’re trying to do this alone. If you’re trying to achieve, you know, all of the success that the world has to offer by yourself, it’s not going to go as fast as you might think. And it’s gonna be incredibly frustrating and harmful to you because you don’t have anybody to share the suffering with. You know, that’s going back to CrossFit. But like CrossFit is a group workout. Everybody is suffering together. You cycle, you’re in a group of people that are cycling, climbing that mountain together. Right? It’s the buddy system. Like if you’re doing it by yourself, then you’re not going to know necessarily that you’re on the wrong path until it’s too late.

Chris: 23:05 – I get it. OK. So the key to knowing, then, is surrounding yourself with people who are going to correct you if you’re on the wrong path.

Mike: 23:14 – Yeah. People don’t like that. I mean, call it accountability, but you know, people don’t like being held accountable. They don’t like being corrected. But if it’s done out of love, if it’s done out of actually willing the good for the other, right. So community is the last piece in the key. But everybody, if they’ve followed the protocol of story, gifts, action and community, and they’re doing that on a daily basis, then the result should be that because I have a strong sense of my self-worth, I also have a strong sense of Chris’s worth. And so when I see Chris veering off path, I’m doing it because I love Chris and want to will the good of Chris. Right? And I want to see Chris succeed to the levels that I know he’s capable of reaching. And by the way, the person that is correcting doesn’t feel good correcting either. You know, it’s like, man, like it’s uncomfortable, but we have to have uncomfortable conversations with ourselves and others in order for the growth to happen that we want in our lives.

Chris: 24:36 – OK. Well, we are going to come to CrossFit very soon, but is it our duty to have these uncomfortable conversations with the people that we care about most? Even if you know, we might sacrifice the relationship to do it?

Mike: 24:56 – It is. It is. It’s incredibly, because there’s really not that many decisions that we have to make. We get what we tolerate. I forget who said that quote, but you know, life is made up of a series of choices. So if we make a choice not to have that uncomfortable conversation regardless of the consequences, then we have to own it, right? Then we can’t complain, then we can’t, you know, vent to other people that so-and-so is really bothering me or doing X, Y and Z. And you know, you’re making a choice to not have that hard conversation, but you could have that hard conversation and maybe instead of telling, you ask questions and it draws out—it becomes a conversation, right? The outcome might be better than what you’ve envisioned happening in your head because now you are both facing the same direction because you’re having conversations, right. Instead of questions. I mean, you’re asking questions instead of making statements. But even the default choice is still a choice. You know, the default choice would be to avoid that awkward conversation. I was giving a keynote to a big company in the Silicon Valley and I actually had them do three uncomfortable exercises. So I actually had the people, there were about 80 people in the room, and I had everybody partner up and turn to their neighbor. And the first exercise that I had them do was be very—and they’re like, you know, facing each other, right? And I said, “Be very loud. I want you to be loud. I want you to say, ‘I am powerful,’ looking at each other in the eye.” And everybody’s giggling and laughing. And then I said, after everybody calmed down and the giggling kind of died down, and I said, “I want you to look at each other again and I want you to whisper the same phrase.” People were so uncomfortable, so uncomfortable. It was really fascinating. You know, I had never done it before, but I’m like, I’m going to do this and we’re going to see how it works. But people are uncomfortable with the idea that we are powerful. Even the CEO of this organization was sitting in the back of the room after this exercise and he was nodding his head, you know, because being powerful requires us being vulnerable.

Chris: 27:37 – OK. What was the third exercise?

Mike: 27:42 – The third exercise was, oh shoot, hold on. Oh, the third exercise was, oh gosh, let’s see. The second one was, the second was no, the third exercise. The first one was I am powerful. I had them do that a couple of different ways. Second exercise was I am worthy. Saying the same thing. And then the third exercise was I am competing in my own race and I want to help you win yours.

Chris: 28:19 – Wow. That is powerful stuff. And every time we talk, Mike, I get more and more impressed. Not just at your intellect, but also your empathy. And you know, I know hundreds of CrossFit gym owners, maybe thousands. And if I had to pick the best one for you and say I could drop you anywhere in the world at any gym, I would say I pick Greg Amundson. Who’s your coach, Mike?

Mike: 28:47 – Greg Amundson.

Chris: 28:49 – There is tremendous serendipity, I think at this level in business and also in CrossFit. So can you tell us your CrossFit story?

Mike: 28:59 – I avoided CrossFit like the plague for quite a while because of my own limiting beliefs because of what other people said, right. Other people’s expectations, right? Other people’s fears, other people’s this and that. And so I was just your typical gym rat. You know, my fitness story is I was a competitive athlete in high school. I had the opportunity to play college football. That ended before I graduated high school due to a devastating knee injury. And then I just became like your typical gym rat, you know, and my health kind of went sideways a little bit in college because I wasn’t invested in anything. And then I actually got recommitted to fitness and I was all in and I had gotten down to 10% body fat, just at the 24-Hour Fitness kind of stuff. And then the financial crisis comes, and I’m skipping a lot of things, but I’m just giving you the fitness stuff, right? Financial crisis comes along. I’m the gym rat. I’m doing this typical mirror muscle, you know, just this and that, you know, there’s no community. Everybody’s got their, you know, you might as well be alone in this crowded room. Everybody looking at themselves in the mirror saying how beautiful I am, but how scared I am. And I had blown up to 250 pounds. And this was in 2009 and I bent over to pick up a sippy cup of daughter’s on the stairs and my back gave out and I was flat on the floor. And my wife was at the gym. I couldn’t get ahold of her. So I had to call my mother who lived 10 minutes away from us. She had to drive over and pick up her 250-pound son off of the floor. And that was one of my rock-bottom moments. That’s the physical rock-bottom moment, where I knew things had to change and I couldn’t do things the way that they had been done before.

Mike: 31:03 – So I still didn’t want to do CrossFit, so I did this other group training thing, which was good. And then I’m like, you know what? And then I saw a friend of mine from high school, his name is Steven Berrigan. He is an amazing guy. He’s over at CrossFit West. He had never lifted a weight in his life growing up. He was a soccer player. He was a runner, had done, you know, marathons and things like that. Never picked up a weight in his life. And I saw him at a Christmas performance and he was solid. And I’m like, dude, Steven, what? He’s like, yeah, dude, you should totally do CrossFit. You should try give it a try and so I’m like, OK. So then I embarked on my CrossFit research journey. I am in Santa Cruz and CrossFit is like Starbucks. They’re on every corner, right? So, I looked at CrossFit West, I looked at CrossFit Ready, I looked at CrossFit Watsonville. I looked at all of the CrossFits that were reasonably close to where I work on a daily basis. And then I found CrossFit Amundson, and it was very clear that Greg led with the mind and the spirit and then the body, right? And that his methodology, so far as I could tell, was incredibly close to the origin of CrossFit. Like how he programmed his stuff. And so then I signed up, I went in and it was an incredible place. It is incredible place, where the mind, the body and the spirit are being forged throughout every workout. And led by Greg, you know. And the other coaches there who he’s kind of taken under his wing. And so I have been there since 2014 and I love it. You know, and the first workout, the coach at that time, the head coach was Melanie, she would not let me put weights on the barbell. So here I am like this arrogant, egotistical person. I’m like, I’m going to do this workout with no weights on the barbell? Do you see me? By the way, I wasn’t even, I wasn’t in great shape then, but I’m like, I’ve done this. I know what to do, you know? But it was a mind-opening experience and has led to me ultimately deciding to start my podcast, which you were a guest on the Impact Entrepreneur Show which then ultimately led to the book and is leading to so much more. Because of the hard work that I’ve done in the gym, I’ve realized that I’m effective, that I can do hard things, that I’m worthy of doing hard things and then I can do hard things. I can do great things with the hard things that I’ve experienced.

Chris: 34:15 – That is amazing. And I think you know that that was part of the original intent of CrossFit, but nobody epitomizes or teaches that methodology as well as Greg Amundson does. And so for your listeners who don’t know who Greg Amundson is, I’ll give you a link. He was the very first guest on this podcast back in 2015 and when I was talking to Mike, to whom I was introduced through our mutual publisher, Scribe, we started talking about his gym. And a few hours later, Mike sent me this great photo of he and Greg holding this little piece of mango wood with the word CrossFit burned into it. And this is an amazing story because years ago, maybe 2014, Greg Amundson and I were together in Kenya and the only wood around to build desks for schools was mango, which is a very hard wood. And so they were taking little tiny pieces and we had this CrossFit brand and I was holding the wood and Greg was burning the word CrossFit into it. And we all took one of these home and Greg still has his, and I’m literally looking at mine in my windowsill right now. So, it’s just amazing, I think fate kind of brought us together here, Mike. I would love to help other people who own gyms meet more people like you. And so what I’d love for you to tell us is, you know, what attracts you as an entrepreneur to CrossFit? Why do you keep going instead of switching it up to go to something else? And then what can gym owners do to meet more people like you?

Mike: 35:47 – I love CrossFit as an entrepreneur because I spend all day making decisions and the one thing I don’t have to think about when I go to the gym is what workout I’m going to do. I love it, right? Like that’s number one. I know that it’s going to be hard, fast and furious. Like the longest workout we’ve done recently was Murph, probably, you know, back in May. Some people did Murph, like several rounds of Murph over a 24-hour period, including Greg, he did five rounds of Murph in 24 hours.

Chris: 36:27 – Oh my goodness.

Mike: 36:28 – We have another guy in our gym named Eric who did seven. Eric, he’s actually a former Regional competitor from Arizona, but he lives here in Santa Cruz now as a paramedic. Anyway. So I don’t have to think about the programming. I know it’s gonna be fast and furious. I know that I’m going to be around people that are engaged in the process of growing mentally, physically, and spiritually in that gym in particular. We’re going to do this stuff together. Everybody’s going to encourage you, no matter whether you are walking in that gym and haven’t lifted a weight one day in your life or you’re Greg Amundson, everybody is going to treat you as an equal and welcome you and introduce themselves to you. Nobody’s got their headphones on. There isn’t a mirror to be found in that place. And it’s just a growth chamber, right? So I think that to attract more—I was actually thinking about this this morning. I don’t do CrossFit because I have weight-loss problems. I do CrossFit because I struggle with self esteem. CrossFit reminds me that I’m worthy of doing hard—not to be a broken record, but this is important. And like CrossFit reminds me that I’m worthy, that I’m worthy of doing hard things, that I can do hard things, that there’ll be benefit and fruit from putting myself through hard things at the end of that. Right? I don’t do CrossFit because I’m trying to lose that next, you know, 10 pounds around the waist, which I am. That’s what you do Zone for or something else, you do Zone for that. I do CrossFit because I want to remind myself every day that I’m powerful and effective and that is the most important thing for every entrepreneur listening and every gym owner listening to remind their entrepreneurial clients of, because when they walk out of that gym and they go back to their business, they go back to their home, their relationships, they have to carry that lesson with them.

Chris: 38:52 – Amazing. So if I’m running a gym and I want to meet more entrepreneurs, Mike, I mean obviously I should be getting that message out on social. What are some other ways that I could do it to connect with more people like you?

Mike: 39:08 – Well, I actually think that this medium of podcasting is the fastest way to meet like-minded individuals today.

Chris: 39:17 – That’s interesting.

Mike: 39:19 – I think it’s a huge way to connect with people. I think that people who have podcasts tend to be more empathetic, and also driven, right. And eager to connect and eager to build community. So I think like one idea would be for these local gyms to start a local podcast or a local YouTube channel, right? Or something along those lines where they’re having conversations with their members and sharing their members’ stories, the testimonials, not about weight loss, but about what CrossFit has done for their mind. I think that would be really powerful. I think that, you know, like one of the things that Greg does, and I’m pretty sure most CrossFits do this as well, is the community workouts on Saturdays. You know, where the whole community, it’s open door, you know, it’s a pretty accessible workout to everybody. You can scale it up or down so everybody can do it. And it’s really community-building. I’ve brought my kids to it not every Saturday workout, but anytime there’s a big community workout like Murph, I try to bring my kids and involve the family. Right? That’s the thing too, like getting your family involved is really powerful. And then turning your gym into another learning environment. And so for Greg, what he’s done is, you know, he’s pursuing his masters in divinity right now. And so once a month, he actually turns the gym over on Wednesdays to like a chapel, right? Where he preaches a message, right? And he calls that Faith Works Ministry. Sometimes there’s a workout before, but oftentimes it’s immediately after the four o’clock class and he brings, you know, there’s music and it just changes. So it’s finding other ways to repurpose your gym to help the mind, body, spiritual development of your members. Don’t just think about your gym as a place for people to throw iron around. You know, it’s a mind gym. It’s a heart gym, it’s a spiritual gym. It’s a place for people to build relationships, right? Think abstractly outside of the box about all of the ways that you can use your gym to help me become the best version of myself.

Mike: 41:59 – So you have to understand who Mike Flynn is, right? What my struggles are. You have to understand that I struggle with self esteem, body image in particular, right? I’ve struggled since I was a little kid. You have to understand that about me. You have to know that I have asthma, right? You have to know that I have a wife and four kids and at peak traffic it takes me 40 minutes to get home. And so I have to leave like right at the end of the workout to jam out there so I can get home to help my wife with my kids. You have to understand the holistic aspect of the person. Right? And every gym can do better at doing that, especially with the members that have been there longer, they should go back and find out more, do a little bit more in-depth analysis of who’s in their gym and why they’re there. And that’s going to completely reframe how you program.

Chris: 43:02 – That makes a lot of sense. I think too, you know, maybe you can give us a little bit of—paint a picture of what it’s like to train in Greg’s gym, because I don’t think you can fake any of that. Right? You have to be authentic. And so when I’ve been to CrossFit Amundson, you know, you always face the ocean during your warm-ups and you know, maybe you can kind of paint us a picture of what goes on there.

Mike: 43:27 – So typically, you know—I’m a part of the four o’clock class, so we get there, around 4:05 we start our warm-up. Maybe it’s a run or row or whatever, you know, and it’s always dynamic. And then when we start doing our dynamic stretching and our warm-up in the circle where we’re loosening up and things of that nature, it’s always facing the ocean. It’s always starting to be mindful of your breathing, breathing in through your nose. It’s always, you know, start repeating a positive mantra or scripture or some sort of inspirational message in your head. Those are the things that he is always starting with. And then we typically will, after that, you know, we’ll break, get some water, whatever it is. And then before we do the whiteboard breakdown of what the actual WOD is, oftentimes he will, either before or at the end of the workout, he’ll either have some sort of a positive inspirational message to share at the beginning or at the end that sort of ties in with what the workout is going to require of us that day or of what it did require of us, right. If he’s doing it at the end, sometimes at the end, depending on the time, if it was a short workout and we have, you know, 15, 20 minutes left at the end of the workout, we’ll do some box breathing. We’ll do some, some meditation, we’ll do, you know, stretching, you know, that kind of stuff. A lot of times, you know, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after five o’clock, he’s flipping the entire gym over into a Krav Maga studio. You know, and so like that’s another way, like you’re teaching people how to defend and protect those that they love and themselves. Right? That’s another way to repurpose your gym, right? So it’s an incredibly, it’s a very rich place. It’s like a banquet, you know, not only are you going to get like a great workout physically, but your mind and your spirit is going to be fed. Your heart’s going to be fed because you’re around people that you’ve come to love, because you’ve suffered around them so much, you know?

Chris: 45:48 – Yeah. I think that’s great, Mike, and all of this in 800 square feet, right?

Mike: 45:51 – Oh yeah, it’s super tiny gym, you don’t need a huge box, you don’t to have 50 yards of turf to push a sled on. You can take an 800-square-foot, thousand square-foot box, and turn it into a beastly place.

Chris: 46:13 – That’s great. Well, Mike, hey, thanks a lot for giving up some extra time than even what I asked for to talk to CrossFit gym owners and other entrepreneurs. We really appreciate it. I’m going to link to your book in the show notes so that everybody can get themselves a copy and it’s just such a fantastic, simple read with such a powerful message because you’ve framed it in a really sticky story. So thanks for that and thanks for helping everybody.

Mike: 46:36 – You bet, man. Thank you for the honor of being with you today on the podcast and hopefully breathing life into some people.

Chris: 46:44 – Absolutely.

Greg: 46:49 – As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do drop a like to that episode. Share with a friend, and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.


Greg Strauch will be here every Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Two-Brain Marketing episodes come out Mondays, and host Mateo Lopez focuses on sales and digital marketing. 

On Wednesdays, Sean Woodland tells the best stories in the CrossFit community on Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland.

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Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 9: Alexis Johnson

Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 9: Alexis Johnson

Sean: 00:01 – Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode I talk with two-time CrossFit Games athlete Alexis Johnson. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. For free business tips and advice, you can sign up for our mailing list at twobrainbusiness.com. Alexis Johnson is a two-time individual CrossFit Games athlete and she will be competing again in Madison this year as a member of the Misfit team along with Jen Smith, Travis Williams and Roy Gamboa, and Alexis also recently earned a Ph. D. in algebraic geometry from Rice University. Alexis has been very open about her battle with an eating disorder before she found CrossFit. We talk about that, we talk about her journey to be coming a CrossFit Games athlete and why she finds math so intriguing. Thanks for listening everyone. Alexis, thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?

Alexis: 01:03 – I’m doing well.

Sean: 01:04 – You have a lot going on I know right now; we’re going to get into all that. But the first thing that I want to ask you is how did you find CrossFit?

Alexis: 01:12 – All right, so it’s a bit of a long story. I was a gymnast growing up and when I finished gymnastics, I guess I had done it for about 10 years. I finished when I was a senior in high school and I told myself I was never stepping foot in a gym again. My body hurt. And I had spent, you know, five days a week, three hours a day in the gym, which isn’t a lot for a gymnast. There are many competitive gymnasts who do more. I also coached gymnastics and I was just done. So first year of college went fairly well. Didn’t party a lot. I never was much of a partier. But second year college came along and I still didn’t really fit in with partying and something started been missing. You know, I wasn’t going to the gym, I didn’t really have a hobby. I got really into school, that was about it, but that can only consume so much time. And I became extremely obsessive about what I ate. And by that I mean I started restricting to only quote unquote “healthy” foods and that took a quick obsessive spiral downward. I got pretty depressed. And as someone who has a very addictive personality, I put this to the extreme and probably restricted myself to about 400 calories a day for the next two or three years. I decided I wanted to go along with this whole healthy track of going to the gym. So clearly I was not eating enough calories to sustain energy, but I would go to the globo gym, do bicep curls, sets of 12 and head out. And then I wasn’t very happy. I was searching for happiness, tried climbing. A friend of mine posted that CrossFit on Facebook and I said that looks fun, maybe I’m missing, you know, that kind of aspect, the community, doing things competitively. So I tried CrossFit, I loved it. But eating 400 calories a day, I didn’t have enough energy to sustain it. Row 500 and be just smoked, to be done for the day. And so I kind of tried it a few times throughout the next two years. It was just the same story every time. And then January of 2013, I moved back in with my parents. I was about 88 pounds—to put it in perspective, I’m 140 now. I’m quite small. And on January 13, I moved in with my parents, decided I would join another CrossFit gym and when I stepped into the gym I looked around and said, you know what? I want to be a normal person. I want to have people stop looking at me like I’m sick. I want to go in there, I want to get strong. I wanted to be able to hang out with these people and have fun and stay after class and still do more working out. That’s what everyone did and they loved it. And so that’s when I committed myself to stop being obsessive about my eating disorder and start being more obsessive about CrossFit. Unfortunately, yes, I traded one obsession for another. I always say it’s a little bit easier for an addict to, you know, switch addictions than it is to actually get rid of one completely and for a while my relationship with CrossFit probably wasn’t very healthy. And my relationship with food probably wasn’t very healthy still for another two years after that. But slowly but surely I used CrossFit and my desire to be strong and desire to go out to eat with people and be normal. And I used that to turn it around.

Sean: 04:59 – You’ve been very open about battling an eating disorder earlier in your life and you mentioned that here. What was it like for you having to go through that at that age?

Alexis: 05:10 – Yeah, so I was quite older. I was probably in my late teens, early twenties, whereas I think most girls, I feel, start battling an eating disorder closer to middle school or high school. In middle school and high school, I was the ideal child. I never talked back to my parents. I got along with them very well. Like I said, I didn’t drink, I didn’t party. And then when I went to college, that’s when I started being really irritable and I treated everyone, all my friends, all my family, I treated them like crap. And that’s something I regret a ton, but I was always irritable and all that I was ever thinking about was food or restricting food. I was extremely selfish and that’s the sucky part, I think everyone who battles an eating disorder feels selfish and they know that they feel selfish, but it’s something that’s hard to overcome. So yeah, I felt terrible at that point in my life, treating so many people so poorly, that mean a lot to me.

Sean: 06:14 – How did you get, other than CrossFit, but how did you get yourself kind of back into a normal way of life?

Alexis: 06:22 – Yeah, so you know, people always ask me if I went to see a therapist, I didn’t and I regret not doing it. I would never suggest not doing it. But the main thing was that I wanted to feel normal again and I wanted to stop being so selfish. For five years I lived in fear of someone asking me to go out to eat and in fear of someone asking to spend time with me, it’s absolutely terrible. I was definitely afraid that if I went and hung out with someone, they would ask me to go out to eat or something and then I couldn’t control what I ate and that’s ridiculous. And all I did was at the end, I told myself, you know what? I want to be normal again. And as much anxiety as it caused me, I knew how much anxiety I already had, so I had to put myself into this and the anxiety and attempt to become what I call normal again, I guess.

Sean: 07:21 – This is more of a common problem than I think people really know. A lot of people struggle with this. If someone knows a person who is in a similar situation, what is the best way to help that person?

Alexis: 07:33 – Yeah, I get that question often from actually family members who may have someone who they know that’s struggling and they don’t know how to help them. I think the first is, I don’t think it’s good to not acknowledge it at all, because just letting that person feel like what they’re doing is OK—and I know a lot of–I needed to feel a little bit of guilt. And I did, but there’s a fine line because you also don’t want that person to be uncomfortable being around you. You don’t want the person who’s struggling to be so ashamed that they don’t want to be around you. You need to show that you still support them and you still want to hang out with them and that you still think they’re fun. So it’s tough. It depends on the person and you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, but they know what they’re doing is hurting—they need to know what they’re doing is hurting them and hurting others.

Sean: 08:34 – So CrossFit kind of helped you get back on track. You get really good at it. When did you know that, you know what, I can actually compete?

Alexis: 08:41 – So when I moved to Houston, Texas, for grad school, I showed up to a gym and the owner looked at me after I worked out with the class and said, “Hey, you know, I’d love to have you here but I don’t know if this is the place for you. We don’t have any competitive athletes.” And I looked at him like he was insane. I was like, “What are you talking about? I’m just here because it’s absolutely a blast. It’s a block from my apartment. I can walk here whenever I want. I’m gonna stay here, I don’t care!” I had no idea that I was somewhat good at CrossFit at the time. I had been doing it for probably eight or nine months, I also gained 40 lb. within the first five months of trying to recover from my eating disorder. And so I got somewhat strong and had some gymnastics movement. And then the following year I signed up for the Open because that’s what everyone had done. I had actually PR’d my snatch at 65 pounds, I think it was 40 times for the burpee snatch workout. And I so signed up again and sure enough, after two weeks I found myself in a qualifying spot for Regionals and I was waiting for that to go away. There was zero expectation on my part. And sure enough, I finished in 12th, and then two people ahead of me were either in masters or dropped out and I ended up in the top 10. So I went out in the last heat of Regionals on Day One, next to like Jen Smith and Cassidy Lance and all these people. And I left the floor and I looked at my coach and the first thing I said was, “Holy crap, they move so fast.” I tried to keep up and I had no business keeping up. I walk in the next day—I limped in the next day—Oh God. I love doing it. So that was when I found out I probably could do OK at this thing if I really did train.

Sean: 10:49 – That was 2014, correct?

Alexis: 10:51 – Yes, that was 2014.

Sean: 10:51 – So you go back in 2015 and I heard a quote from you, you said that you had hopes that year but not confidence. Why do you think that was the case?

Alexis: 11:02 – Yeah, so a lot of people after—I think I had placed 12th or something in 2014, somewhere around there, I don’t actually know. And some people had taken notice and I had asked people what they were following in terms of programming, because what I was doing at the time, I think I was following like everyone else or something. I needed something structured and I needed a coach. And so I found Misfit Athletics and I found Travis who helps people with confidence and is like, you are so good. He’s awesome. And I also found a coach who was like, “Hey, like I think we can do this.” And the whole time, I’m like what are you talking about, I got lucky last year. You know, I started training and I think people had I guess expectations of me or that’s what I felt and I the whole time was like, I don’t—looking around like I don’t belong here. I’m still struggling with an eating disorder. Like I can barely fuel my body, and these girls are good. They are strong. I can barely snatch 145 so I just, like I said, I feel like people had expectations, but I just didn’t feel like I could do it.

Sean: 12:18 – How did you address that?

Alexis: 12:20 – One was continuing to work out with Travis. Every time a workout comes up, he’s like, “You are going to crush that.” And him being so positive and he about himself, he’s positive about everyone else. It starts to rub off and after a while, even if I read a workout that had a weakness of mine in it, I’d be like, you’re gonna crush that. Look at all the stuff that you’re good at. And then I’m like, “Well I’m bad at this one thing,” he’s like, “It doesn’t matter, you’ll make up time in the rest, you’ll beat me.” Working out with that mindset is so incredibly beneficial.

Sean: 13:02 – You went to the Games for your first time in 2016, what was it like to achieve that milestone and find yourself amongst the best in the world?

Alexis: 13:12 – I was so stoked to make it there that year and it was the most intimidating experience of my life. That was the year that we went out to the Ranch.

Sean: 13:27 – Yeah.

Alexis: 13:28 – And that was also the year that when we were having dinner Dave Castro says this is going to be the hardest CrossFit Games you’ve ever done. If you aren’t looking to win, you should probably go home now. And to be 100% honest with everyone listening, I was not there to win, I was there because I was happy to make it. And I was just about pooping myself when he announced the trail run and then a max deadlift just on Day One. That was the first thing you were going to do in the morning after taking that early morning flight. I don’t work out early in the morning. I just wanted to stay home! I was there to enjoy myself, and so, you know, it was hard for me to, again, I struggle with that confidence. It was hard for me—I know a lot of workouts that I would do differently if I went back. I think that it was a mistake to completely over, I guess overdo myself in workouts that I knew were a huge weakness. And then that left me with not enough confidence and not enough energy to really kill the workouts that are my strengths. SO I learned a lot that year.

Sean: 14:44 – What did you learn about yourself when it was all said and done in 2016?

Alexis: 14:52 – Well I learned that at the Games, or thought I did, but then I again did the same thing in 2017. I actually was battling—it was the first time I had ever over-trained was leading up to 2016 Games and it was the first time I ever really struggled with an injury and I developed pretty bad tendonitis in my patellar tendon and so much of my quad . And so after that I had to take a significant amount of time off and I’ve actually been struggling with my knees ever since. So that was the biggest thing that I took away from the 2016 Games, was that just because it’s written down in your programming, you shouldn’t do it if it’s actually going to hurt you because you can’t perform well, you can’t perform at 100% if you’re injured, even a little bit.

Sean: 15:42 – You’re going back to the Games this year, with the Misfit team, how is competing on a team different for you than competing as an individual?

Alexis: 15:53 – Well, it’s an absolute blast. It is so, so fun. It’s frustrating at times for me because as an individual, you control your own destiny. If you know your reps start falling apart, that’s all you could have done. Your reps are falling apart. On a team, if someone starts falling apart, you wish you would’ve strategized it a little better or you know, you could’ve done something to maybe have your team perform better. There’s a lot more strategy involved. And there’s the volume’s also a lot lower. There’s no way I could have put my body through, I think I competed five times since Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Championships, there’s no way I could have done that as an individual. But on a team, the volume’s quite a bit lower, you can actually compete a lot and have fun. So I’ve really enjoyed it. I will continue to do Sanctionals as an individual, at least, that’s my hope. But I’ll probably continue to go on to the Games on a team. Or try to.

Sean: 16:57 – How has your team managed the changes that have been thrown at everybody this year in the season structure?

Alexis: 17:08 – You know, I feel that as a CrossFitter, you kind of just have to take things as you hear them. It’s the same way when we work out. You get no reps that you don’t agree with in the middle of the workout and you just have to take it and go with it. You argue there, you’re only gonna make it worse. If you allow things to frustrate you, you’re only gonna make it worse. You know, obviously there’s many things that frustrated me from CrossFit, but in the end there’s very little that I can do as an athlete myself unless we form some sort of union as athletes, which I’m 100% for, there really isn’t anything that I could do, I can’t get worked up about it.

Sean: 17:52 – Right. You mentioned before in 2016, you know, you went to the Games and you weren’t there to win. You guys have a team this year that is very talented. What are your goals going to Madison in 2019?

Sean: 18:06 – Yeah, so our team has, in my opinion, done better and better working together as we’ve gone through these Sanctionals. It is a little rough, we wish we could have had team practice, but with Roy and I both being full time and other things, it’s a little tougher to get together on weekends and not living together, things like that. So I would say, you know, we would love to take top three. That would be what we’re gunning for. It’s—with so many talented teams—you’ve seen the Sanctionals, you’ve seen a team place first, and you’ve seen the same team not place—you know, place outside the top three. It depends on what shows up, strengths and weaknesses. There’s a lot of things where you can hide a teammate that’s bad at something, depending on the programming. So yeah, we’re definitely there to compete, and that’s part of why I went team, I want us to be there to do well.

Sean: 19:11 – You mentioned that you’re full time. What is your full-time job right now?

Alexis: 19:16 – Well, OK. Right now I am between being a student and starting a job. So this summer, although I had a few weeks where I was working, I’m mainly just, I’m still working a bit for Rice, creating some online classes and I tutor and I went and worked in Minnesota and whatnot, so I was picking up some work, but right now I am just training. So this is my last little bit of just training.

Sean: 19:48 – For people who don’t know, you just recently earned your Ph. D. in algebraic geometry from Rice University. Make sure I’m saying that right. What is it about math that appeals to you?

Alexis: 20:02 – You know, I have always liked math since I was young. It’s something that it’s so logical. You do one step and then it leads you to the next step and it leads you to the next seven you’re working towards the answer and you know as you get better at it, the number of steps between when you start and the answer gets longer, it’s always been the same, and I just always enjoy how methodical it is.

Sean: 20:31 – When you talk to people about math in general, they’re very polarized. They either really hate it or they love it. Why do you think that’s the case?

Alexis: 20:41 – And you’re going to hear teacher in me, but I always think that usually people who hate math had a really bad experience with a teacher at one point and once you get behind in math, it is so hard to catch up. If I go one lecture where I don’t listen to what the teacher has to say the rest of the entire semester I’m lost. And so I can only imagine if someone had a year of math where they had a terrible teaching, got a bad taste in their mouth and didn’t learn anything and then from there on out they were lost because it builds so much on itself, so that’s generally why I think people don’t like math.

Sean: 21:17 – I would 100% agree with that. What made you decide that you really wanted to pursue a Ph.D. and then a career in mathematics?

Alexis: 21:25 – If you can’t tell, I’m an all-or-nothing person. If I’m gonna be healthy or if I’m gonna get skinny or something, I’m gonna do it all the way. If I’m gonna work out, I’m going to do it 100% If I’m going to get a degree in math, I’m going to get the best degree I can in math and this is how I am with everything in life. It’s a good and a bad trait, it can come to bite you in the butt, obviously, I was 88 pounds . And I still struggle sometimes even on a day-to-day basis, that mentality, because if I only have an hour in the gym, I look at my training and I’m like, “Oh, I can’t get all my training done.” All or nothing—guess it’s nothing! And that’s the thing that, you know, that’s not a good—that’s when that personality trait kind of hurts, so I fight with that day in and day out.

Sean: 22:23 – What is algebraic geometry?

Alexis: 22:28 – So, OK, it’s essentially, there’s algebra which is an equation that you would write with Y’s and X’s and geometry. For instance, when you were younger, you would write equations and you would draw the graph. So that happens in two variables. You can do that in any number of variables you’d like, so with three variables, you would draw a surface. So like the dining room table or some surface going through 3D space, if you have four variables, OK, now you’re working in four dimensions and things get pretty crazy. So essentially there’s a very strong relationship between the algebra that’s happening and then if you look at certain characteristics of the geometric objects that you study.

Sean: 23:18 – What can one do for a career with that degree? Other than teach.

Alexis: 23:27 – So, if I didn’t want to be a college professor and I wanted to make a lot more money. I could do some consulting work with—so essentially businesses, if they have a math problem, they don’t have a mathematician on staff all the time, but they’ll hire a mathematician that works for one consulting firm and they’ll come and help with whatever you need done for your company just for the time being. So you can do that. You can be an actuary, which deals more with statistics, or you could have even, if you’re strong with stats you can work for baseball team even and tell them who they should draft next year, things like that.

Sean: 24:15 – That is so cool. You were recently in Minneapolis at a math camp, teaching them. What kind of things do you do to get kids excited about math?

Alexis: 24:28 – So we actually did a lot of really cool stuff. So we actually did origami for one of them and most kids love origami. Now, origami has a lot of actual applications. For instance, if we needed to get some sort of large telescope into space, you can’t actually fly with this large telescope. You actually fold it using origami and it expands when you get to space. So we did that. We did something called cryptology, which is code, and for instance, what I study elicit curves, when you see that little lock screen on your computer, that little wax symbol and feel OK putting your credit card information, elicit curves are what encode your credit card information. So we introduced them to some cryptology. Just some cool math that they’ll never see. And I’ll be honest, the kids that we’re working with already really kind of like math. They went to math club after all.

Sean: 25:29 – When you talk to people about this and you’re explaining what you’re explaining to me, what is the reaction that you get when the light bulb goes off and they realize that they’re surrounded by this stuff all the time?

Alexis: 25:40 – I think we still often say, “Well I still hate math.” But they realize that what I do is actually useful, and I think there is a little bit more respect for me dedicating, oh gosh—I was in college for 10 and a half years because I went and there’s a reason that it took 10 and a half years to get to where I’m at and I think they start to realize that.

Sean: 26:07 – Who are your mathematician heroes?

Alexis: 26:10 – My. To be honest, my advisor, his name is Tony Várilly-Alvarado. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was just super supportive and yeah, it’s like having a CrossFit coach, someone to help you along the whole way, you feel like you couldn’t have done it without them.

Sean: 26:35 – There is this perception out there that math is a subject that primarily appeals to men. Why do you think that is?

Alexis: 26:48 – You know I think that is a lot of from when we were younger, you do see an extreme drop off as they gain age. From originally there’s an equal number of boys and girls who are interested in math and then as things go on, there’s less women. Now, there’s a lot of feelings about that. If you think about your math textbooks growing up, whenever you introduced to someone who came up with what you’re studying, it’s always a man. So you know, even subconsciously as a teacher, there’s a lot of things that you do that continue to bring up men that great contributions to math and females in your classroom never heroes, I guess, female heroes, so that’s part of it. Yeah I don’t know.

Sean: 27:40 – What was the moment when you were younger that got you hooked on this subject?

Alexis: 27:47 – Oh, well my mom always tells the story that when we were going to get ice cream, I looked at my ice cream cone and said, “Oh, mom, look. It’s a circle getting smaller and smaller until you get to a point.” I always thought about things in terms of math, even ice cream. And when I went to college, I went through seven majors before I was actually a math major. I just kept taking math classes because I enjoyed them. I was convinced I was gonna be an orthopedic surgeon and then a physical therapist and then an engineer and then a chemist. Gosh, I don’t know. And then I just kept going back to math.

Sean: 28:31 – You are done with your Ph.D. but I know you’re not done with your education. That’s always ongoing. What is something in the world of mathematics that you really want to learn more about right now?

Alexis: 28:41 – Yeah, so I don’t—what I did in grad school is a lot of pure math, and so that’s right now, math for the sake of doing that. And it may have an application thousands of years down the road, just like a lot of the math that we used to study is now used in physics. But I would actually like to study, there’s some ties between chemistry and math and my minor was in chem. I would definitely like to study more of the applicable side there.

Sean: 29:13 – What is the biggest misconception people have about mathematicians?

Alexis: 29:20 – I think it goes—whenever I introduce myself to someone and I tell them what I do, they say, “Oh you don’t look like you study math.” And I think you could say that about a lot of people in my department. We don’t look like mathematicians.

Sean: 29:39 – Are you the person on your team, the Misfit team, who’s always responsible for adding up the weights and everything, is Travis like you better figure this out cause I can’t?

Alexis: 29:48 – You know Travis is actually extremely gifted in math. And I tell this to people all the time when I’m—I had to tutor someone from Facetime at the gym because they called me with a math question and Travis is like “I know that!” And he actually explained it all to me like, like I’m just curious if you’re still good. He hasn’t had math in eight years and he’s actually still really good at it and he’s great at bar math. So it’s either me or Travis.

Sean: 30:17 – Do you two have a lot in common? He lost a lot of weight and he struggled with body image. You’ve done the same thing too. What’s the bond like between the two of you on that team?

Alexis: 30:27 – Casually best friends. We are like brother and sister. We’ve screamed at each other from across the gym, having fights to the point where people think that we’re never gonna talk to each other again and then five minutes later we do a workout together and are rolling on the floor like good job. And then there’s also, like I said, both of us came from these, I guess bodies that people would look at and say, there’s no way that’s going to the Games. And we work really hard because we love it. Not because we thought we’d make it to the Games, but because we love working out and we love how it’s changed us and how it’s changed our perspective about our body and what it can do.

Sean: 31:14 – You mentioned earlier that you had a goal of finishing top three at the Games. Regardless if that happens or not, what will need to kind of take place now over the next month for you to be able to look back on the season and say, you know what, that was a success.

Alexis: 31:29 – You know, I would say that minimizing mistakes would be the biggest thing. When you look back at an event and you realize that you could have done something differently and done better, that’s when it sucks. When you gave it your all and you strategized well and someone beats you, well, that is what it is. You’ve got to give it to them, they clearly had better strength or . So my goal is to look back and realize what we could have done better at, but hopefully we gave it our all.

Sean: 32:08 – Well, listen, Alexis, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. Best of luck in Madison with the Misfit squad. Love watching you guys compete, love being around you. It’s a lot of positive energy there and best of luck with your math career moving forward.

Alexis: 32:20 – Thank you very much.

Sean: 32:22 – I want to thank Alexis Johnson for taking the time to speak with me. If you want to follow her on social media, you can find her on Instagram. She is @Alexis_mathlete. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. For free advice and tips from best-selling author Chris Cooper, visit twobrainbusiness.com/blog. Thank you so much for joining us everybody. I’ll see you next time.


This is our NEW podcast. Two-Brain Marketing, where we’ll focus on sales and digital marketing, runs every Monday. Your host is Mateo Lopez!

Greg Strauch will be back on Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:


To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
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Mirror, Mirror: Why Most of Your Hires Are Bad

Mirror, Mirror: Why Most of Your Hires Are Bad

I wasted $170,000 on bad hires in two years.


My mistakes were many: I hired good people, but didn’t define their roles well. Or I hired good coaches who weren’t great employees. Or I failed to ask new coaches “Are you sure you want to do this?”


Most of the failures were my fault. These are avoidable problems, that I now solve with a series of four questions.


But the biggest mistake I made with staff was the Mirror mistake. And almost every single Founder makes the same one.


The Mirror mistake is this: we try to hire staff who are the same as us.


We try to find carbon copies of ourselves. Here’s why this is a huge mistake:


  • That person doesn’t exist. At best, we find people who are almost as good as we are, and then spend the next few years looking over their shoulder to correct their mistakes.
  • We treat our own staff as our future competition: we’re wary of teaching them everything. We don’t shine the spotlight on them. We try to outwork, outcoach or outshine them because we’re scared they’ll eventually leave.
  • We hire for the work we understand, instead of the work we don’t. Gym owners hire other coaches. Salon owners hire hairdressers. Accountants hire accountants. But we should really be hiring for lower-value roles first, and other roles second, and replace ourselves as the primary provider third.
  • Here’s an example: a gym owner hires a new coach. This buys her time to do “the other stuff”–doing the books, setting up marketing, and selling memberships. But no one’s ever taught her how to do any of that stuff. Her background is coaching, so she spends time training the new coach; watching the new coach; and judging the new coach instead of doing her real work.
  • A gym owner in the Founder Phase should hire a cleaner; someone to do administrative work; and then learn how to do marketing and sales. Then she can hire another coach to work with her new clients. But this isn’t what usually happens. In most cases, the gym owner duplicates herself in the coaching role, and ends up with two salaries and no sales.
  • We think others know what we know. They don’t. There’s no such thing as “common sense”. If you don’t tell them exactly what to do, they have no chance of success.
  • We don’t put our clients’ wants first. If you’re more of a technician than a cheerleader, you’ll probably hire another technician. But is that what your clients really want at 6am? Not in my experience. Our lack of diversity fails to attract (or keep) new clients.  Before I understood what my best clients actually wanted, I tried to find other technicians like me. But when a trainee coach had to take a 6am class because of a scheduling emergency, my clients absolutely loved her energy and enthusiasm. And when I did the “Apples” exercise with my best clients, I finally realized that most of them valued enthusiasm over textbook knowledge.


The best person to hire is usually complementary to you: they have an opposite skillset, or a different personality. If you’re more left-brained (tactical, analytical, and logical) hiring a right-brained person (empathetic, creative and caring) is a very powerful move. If you’re a great coach in the Founder Phase, hire someone to replace you in low-value roles so you can coach more. If you’re looking to move into Farmer Phase, hire someone to coach so you can grow the business…but only after the low-value roles are filled by someone else.  And in Tinker, use tools like Kolbe to match the perfect person to the perfect role.


We guide you through the hiring process in the Incubator.

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 18: Ryan O’Shaughnessy

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 18: Ryan O’Shaughnessy

Mateo: 00:00 – Hey, it’s Mateo of Two-Brain Marketing. On this edition of the Two-Brain Marketing podcast. I’m talking to a very, very close friend of mine, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, former operator at Bowery CrossFit. You’ll hear about his experience operating a CrossFit box in New York City, one of the most competitive markets in the world. You’ll also learn about his lead nurture and sales system and how last year the gym spent $10,000 on ads and generated over $70,000 in front-end sales. So you don’t want to miss this. Make sure to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more marketing tips and secrets each week.

Greg: 00:38 – Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We make gyms profitable. We’re going to bring you the very best tips, tactics, interviews in the business world each week. To find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day, book a free call with a mentor at twobrainbusiness.com.

Chris: 00:55 – One of my favorite finds has been foreverfierce.com. I linked up with Matt several months ago at Forever Fierce and he had some fantastic ideas, and so he and I have put together a couple of packages that we think are really going to help CrossFit affiliates everywhere. Two-Brain mentoring clients use Matt almost exclusively. He’s got fantastic designs and he takes all the work out of it. All that time that you spend searching the internet and Pinterest and junk like that for great CrossFit T shirts? You don’t have to do that anymore. Matt has designs for you. You can put your logo on one of his templates, which are fantastic, and your clients will never know the difference. It saves you so much time that you could be using on other things like real marketing. He’ll also go so far as to remind you when it’s time to reorder. He’ll give you suggested order sizes. He’ll help you set up preorders so you’re not even fronting the cash for the inventory. It’s all amazing stuff built to help affiliates and that’s why I love this guy and this company. Foreverfierce.com, they do all the Catalyst shirts, all the Two-Brain shirts, all the Ignite Gym shirts. They do everything for every business that I own.

Greg: 02:09 – Coming at you from my apartment, actually. Normally I do these and I do a video call with a guest and I decided to have Ryan on here today. Ryan O’Shaughnessy, Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between, Ryan and I are very close friends. We’re dear friends, I think. I hope. And so instead of—we were going to record this but instead of crowding behind my webcam on my computer sitting side by side, I thought that would be kind of weird, so we set up the camera. The lighting is not great. This is my studio apartment in New York. So you’re seeing the window shining right into your eyes. But, for those of you listening, none of this matters. Only if you’re watching it on YouTube. But yeah, today’s my guest at Ryan O’Shaughnessy. Ryan, I have known each other for I guess, was it 2016?

Ryan: 03:06 – Yeah, I think so. The beginning of 2016.

Mateo: 03:08 – Almost three years here, coming up almost on three years. And Ryan and I worked together at John Franklin’s second gym, Bowery CrossFit; it’s where we both earned our stripes. Is that what they say? We earned our stripes were forged in that fire, and I wanted to bring Ryan on as he’s now transitioning out of fitness for a time and is going to pursue marketing endeavors. Another project with me and John. And so having spent years managing a CrossFit gym in one of the most competitive landscapes in terms of fitness, probably in the world, I mean, New York and maybe like Miami and parts of Florida would probably be there to rival it, right?

Ryan: 03:55 – Yeah, I would say there. I don’t know how I would say parts of LA for sure. In America, definitely. And then, you know, you tap the other worldly markets, I’m not sure.

Mateo: 04:06 – Yeah, not sure. Not as well traveled as we’d like to be, but I would say safe to say New York City, probably one of the most competitive markets for any industry really. You’re just like fighting for real estate. The space to work and breathe is a challenge in and of itself.

Ryan: 04:21 – Just finding an apartment to rest your head is a challenge in and of itself.

Mateo: 04:26 – And Ryan, I worked at Bowery CrossFit as a operating manager there for many years right out of college really. And Ryan came in as kind of like, I guess an assistant manager role you would call it at the time. And then after that, when I opened up a couple other gyms with John, Ryan stepped up and pretty much ran the entire gym. And he’s done that full time in that capacity the past year, year and a half now, and now I thought it would be great to bring Ryan on to hear kind of the perspective of someone who or both of us really, while I normally bring gym owners on here and while Ryan does not own a business, or a gym, I should say, I want to bring someone on to hear the perspective of someone who’s in the weeds, someone who is doing the lead nurture and the sales and the follow-up and operating that facility. So, you know, we talk about building the system and then a lot of times we’ll talk about those strategies on here with different gym owners. But you know, I think it’s valuable to hear the story from the person who’s doing the No Sweats, from the person who’s doing the follow-up, from the person who’s dealing with the members day in and day out. And I thought Bowery CrossFit would be a great case study because last year alone we spent $10,000 on ads and we generated well over $70,000 in front-end sales. I want to hear from the guy who made that happen. That’s why he’s here, Ryan O’Shaughnessy. So Ryan, let’s do some softballs. Tell me about yourself. How’d you get into fitness?

Ryan: 06:09 – I was kind of thrown into it, I don’t think I had a choice. At a young age involved in athletics, like most anyone that finds their way into CrossFit. And then it kind of transitioned. I tried to pull myself out of athletics and I learned very quickly that didn’t work and then found CrossFit. And after competing as a collegiate-level swimmer, I was looking for that edge again and just something to move and like get the energy out of my body. CrossFit came to be and then long story short ended up at Bowery.

Mateo: 06:39 – So you were a competitive swimmer in college. How did you find—did someone just take you and do a workout? How did you find it?

Ryan: 06:45 – Yeah, I was training, thinking about going into the military and someone was like, yo, there’s these really intense workouts. I was like, they can’t be as intense as swimming in a pool. Like, you don’t even get to breathe half the time you’re swimming in the pool, like what’s more intense than holding your breath and like doing cardio. And then I did, I don’t know, like Kelly or Fran or one of the girls. And I was like, you guys are nuts. Can we do this in the pool? I was hooked just like anyone else and I found I couldn’t even squat my own body weight back then. Wild. Now thinking about that, I mean it’s not like I could squat a lot.

Mateo: 07:24 – Some say you still can’t.

Ryan: 07:25 – The Dan Diggins of the world; our friends would say, I still can. But yeah, that’s kind of my trajectory into the sport.

Mateo: 07:37 – Well but you were a very intense athlete. So it sounds like you’re saying, listen, you were just drawn to this intensity because CrossFit, I guess it’s fitness at the highest of intensity.

Ryan: 07:51 – It is the fitness of the highest intensity, but also you get to really listen to really good music that you choose. I’m not used to—not a lot of pools have speakers, but it’s got that competitive edge. It’s got that strategy you’ve got to implement very quickly and good vibes from everybody. Everyone’s super supportive. That’s probably the biggest thing I love.

Mateo: 08:11 – And coming into Bowery, I guess, what were the first kind of impressions and then what were some of the challenges that we ended up facing operating in a Chinatown basement in New York City?

Ryan: 08:27 – The magic, the Chinatown connect. So coming in to Chinatown, I had no idea what to expect, right? Like I was working at Yelp, I got in contact. So John and I, for the people in the back of the people listening, John and I grew up swimming together in south Florida, very good friends. And then reconnected up here in New York. I had no idea he was here. I was working at Yelp doing sales and phone calls over the phone, needed to take a job at the moment, dire times, call for dire situations. So you gotta do what you gotta do, feel everybody out there. And I came into Bowery and you were running the show, but you were doing essentially foundations. And there was, I think one person at the desk, there was class going on, it was a little bit of mayhem and you’re like, great, you’re here. And the message from John was keep Tay alive cause I was like, all right, I’m here to keep it.

Mateo: 09:16 – We were onboarding people with private sessions, but our fundamentals was 12 hour-long one-on-one sessions that they had to buy before they could go into group classes. And you know, we were selling probably 20, 20 of those, 10 to 20 of those a month. It was a lot of one-on-ones.

Ryan: 09:37-  And you were like the only one doing the one-on-ones at this point.

Mateo: 09:41 – Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan: 09:41 – So Bowery is operating super lean and just needed another help.

Mateo: 09:47 – Needed another hand. So awesome. I think the first thing we probably started you on was—

Ryan: 09:53 – Fixing the Assault bike?

Mateo: 09:55 – Fixing the Assault bike but also handling the desk with nurture and sales, right? So I want to get into the lead nurture system. I want to get into the process. I want to get into how you approach it, how you approach sales. Because you know we mentioned last year we spent $10,000 on ads, that’s over 2000 leads, over 2000 leads for Bowery CrossFit in the last year alone. So how do you deal with that kind of volume?

Ryan: 10:28 – I think coming from, because I came right off the Yelp train—and those were cold leads, right? Like I’m calling these people, they don’t really want to talk to me like, so I’m coming from a place of no, no, no all day where it’s like I’m literally wasting my time and my life on here. It’s like, oh my God, these people are even interested a little bit? Like it’s game over. They’re going to buy.

Mateo: 10:48 – So for those of you who don’t know, actually you probably do. If you ever got a phone call from Yelp, it was from people like Ryan, where they’re essentially just looking at the list of businesses in the area and just calling each one and saying hey, you interested in ads? And like, no, like these people didn’t even opt in, like you didn’t opt, I’m sure. I guess the opt-in is just putting your business up on Yelp, volunteering as tribute at that.

Ryan: 11:17 – You don’t know it but you are, that’s the fine print in the contract no one ever got.

Mateo: 11:25 – So Ryan’s the guy, if you got that phone call, which I’m sure at some point you have if you’re a gym owner listening, Ryan was doing those.

Ryan: 11:33 – Yeah, I was.

Mateo: 11:34 – So I guess what you’re saying is this was a refreshing change of pace because at least the people submitting their info for a six-week program or whatever we were advertising, at least they volunteered to learn a little bit more.

Ryan: 11:48 – Exactly. So the conversation’s already open before the conversation has started. You know they’re going to be somewhat receptive. And with that amount of volume of leads, it was just making sure I’m calling and emailing all the time and compared to, OK, I had to make 200 dials at Yelp, like they have quotas you have to hit per day and like leads would come in and let’s say it’s like 50 leads. I can bang those out, no problem. Or at least I get a point of contact with them with Google voice, with email, like we had so much going on to make sure that we could get in contact with these people via text message. From that standpoint, I know for a lot of you it’s like new, and you’ve never done this before. It can feel like a lot, but when you’ve just been like drinking from a fire hydrant the fire hose, it’s like, oh great, I actually get a sippy cup. I can breathe.

Mateo: 12:35 – A manageable amount of leads.

Ryan: 12:37 – Mainly dealing with that coming from where I was. Yes, it felt manageable and also it felt like I had a fighting chance and I think that that perspective and that mindset going into it was a huge game changer for me.

Mateo: 12:51 – So we got a lot of back, throughout the history we’ve been able to get a lot of people coming in through the door, but as I’m sure some of you know who’ve done maybe a large group challenge or a group intro where you’re bringing a big cohort of people at once, it can be a challenging, it can shift the dynamic and the culture of the gym, bringing all those new people at once, you have to maybe cater to them a little bit more and your current members might get, you know, feel a little not so happy about it.

Ryan: 13:26 – Who are these newbies coming in here?

Mateo: 13:29 – We eventually changed the way we onboard and bring on six-week challenge people, or people for our front-end offer. We used to do a lot of the big groups we do now, or Bowery, that last year kind of did a combination of the two. So we were able to solve that problem. We can talk about that more in a second, but how did you deal with customer feedback coming in from Bowery?

Ryan: 13:47 – Yeah, I mean customer feedback coming in from Bowery, from current members from—and when I say current I mean like super OG members that were founding members and also you know, new six-week challenge members that just came through the funnel. Right? Like both are very valuable. But the feedback I’m getting from the OG member is they’ve been there, they’ve seen it for four or five years and I’m saying, OK cool, this is something they’re looking out for me and it’s more, they probably have more of the group of like the total individual of the gym in mind. So like that’s very important. And that’s a different conversation to have. It’s like, OK, listen, make sure that they understand they’re valued and kind of look into that a little bit more. I always think about, give them what they want—listen to your members, but don’t give them everything that they want, right? Because if you listen to everything your members say, it’s not your gym anymore. It’s their gym. Right? And while it wasn’t my gym, it was John’s gym, I was running it like it was my gym. And there certain things that these members know and like it’s a place that’s coming from love and I very much appreciate the feedback. But it’s also, they’re not running a business in the fitness industry. They’re an accountant. They are in film, they are a lawyer, they’re a doctor. I mean Bowery’s got ’em all, right. So, and they’re all very high functioning people out there that have really good input, but they’re not running the gym in the fitness industry and you’re the expert in that situation. But also 6-week challenge member, right? Like they have a completely different perspective than the person that’s been there for four years. So new light, new blood, OK, let’s see what they have to say and implement the feedback, whether it was directly in a six-week challenge. That’s immediate feedback that could be changed or altered in the programming in the coaching. And that’s a conversation to have right there. So they have a different insight into what they just completed as far as the business goes versus the OG member, they’re already in CrossFit. They’re seeing other stuff that’s going on. Two different perspectives. Both of very high value.

Mateo: 15:57 – But I think what you said is critical, man. Those are two viewpoints. People’s first impression, their first experience with your service, very valuable to take the notes and feedback from them and then also to retain your current clients. You gotta talk with them and see what they want. I think when we started implementing goal- setting sessions that was really eye-opening for us and helpful, and the same time though, I think what you said is super important. Like, listen to what everyone has to say, but like you don’t have to do everything that they say.

Ryan: 16:32 – Hundred percent, cause if you do everything they say you’re going to have a petting zoo going on during class, half the gym is going to be at the bar for happy hour. You’re not going to have any money in your pockets. Yeah.

Mateo: 16:43 – What is your process for cultivating community? And I feel like that’s definitely been the defining factor and the legacy that was kind of left from Bowery is ,the community. The community is really strong and very unique. So how do you cultivate community, yeah, just how do you do it?

Ryan: 17:06 – Yeah. I mean I got to say I learned a lot from you. I’m gonna tip my hat to Mateo over here.

Mateo: 17:08 – That was not on purpose.

Ryan: 17:18 – He’s going to pay me afterwards. I guess it’s—I grew up in south Florida. I kind of grew up all over, but I grew up in south Florida and I come from a place where it’s like the community that I swam with was very influential in my life and it was like so much love. Everyone’s super supportive. We grinded super hard. I mean I slammed with people like Dara Torres, for those of you that know her, like an Olympian, Vlad Polyakov, like big-time athletes like gold medalist, silver medalist, bronze, you know in Athens and Beijing. So when you’re surrounded by that you understand, I found that I understood like wow, this is such a high caliber functioning athlete or individual for that matter, but they also like, it doesn’t have to be all work, right? People come into the gym and like, yes, they’re athletes, but they’re also human beings and they’re there to stay fit or whatever their goals are. But they also like want to have a good time, right? Like the music’s got to be good, the coaching has to be great, but like how do you get those things right? It does use some snap your fingers. I think it’s leading. It’s definitely leading by example and how you treat people, right? Like you teach culture, you teach people how you want to be treated. There’re like boundaries that go into all of this. The people when they understand what type of environment that you’re fostering, it’s like if it’s no worries, if it’s cool, come in, we’re going to take care of you, but this is how we’re going to take care of you, they get on the vibe, they get on and I know like vibe is like such a trendy like hipster word, whatever. But I love it. It goes well with me. I’m gonna use it. They get on your vibe, they get on your frequency, they get on your wavelength. The members are going to see how you teach the coaches, how you speak to other people and how you deal with situations where someone was unhappy. And like word travels fast, just like anywhere else, especially in the CrossFit community. And especially at your gym, word’s gonna get around. So if you treat the member that was unhappy with their six-week challenge and you’re like, well, we’re still gonna keep your money. Like in the short term, I don’t think that’s the right way to handle things. I think it’s what can we do to fix the situation for you? And we’re both trying to win here, right? Like I want to take care of you long term because in the long term you’re going to pay the bills of the gym, but also this is more than just a business. This is a fitness relationship, which is much different than just hey, you’re going to do this work for me. I’m hiring out this contract work and it’s done. Everyone parts their way. It’s like you’re going to see these people day in and day out. Summarizing that long-winded speech, cultivating culture is how you treat your coaches, how you teach people to treat you and you know, interact with the gym and it’s the precedents that you set for yourself and other people at the gym.

Mateo: 20:09 – I think you had some really, really valuable stuff there. I think the key, I mean it goes back to core values, right? If we talk about the Incubator for a second, the first module, the first thing we go over with our clients, is like what are the core values of your gym? If you don’t have those codified somewhere like you know, how can you expect your coaches to uphold what you want to be upheld at the gym. And for us, I remember a session, I think like the first one at the gym and I think that is basically what you’re saying. It’s like be obsessed with your members. There’s a balance, right? Like you said, like listen to what they say but you don’t have to do everything they say for sure there’s a balance. But when you have that lens thinking members first, help first really, is kind of what you’re talking about, which obviously Coop has a book on. That’s kind of where it starts. And also you’re talking about, I think what you were saying before is we’re in relationships business. Especially if you’re a personal-training focused gym or whatever. That relationship starts when that person, that prospect, whoever it is, first walks in the door. Right? And so how are you greeting them? How are you treating them? What’s that person’s experience when they walk in? And now for you, I’ve seen it in action, so I’ll have to describe it to everyone listening. But yeah, it’s Ryan’s talking about vibes. Cool vibes, chill vibes. But I mean, yeah, there’s a way to make someone feel warm and welcomed when they enter your space and feel important. And I think you’ve got to make sure that not only you’re delivering that the first time they walk in, but consistently throughout their experience and make sure that you frame these interactions with your members with that in mind. So I think that’s key there. We’ve created, we were able to create really great vibes at Bowery CrossFit. How do you deal with toxic people, toxic members, toxic staff?

Ryan: 22:07 – Well, I actually had that recently, before I left probably like four months ago. You know, there’s a lot of people at your gym. I mean at Bowery CrossFit we had almost 200, a little over at some point sometimes, you know, 250, 260. There’s no way you or I or whoever going to have eyes on it or I was going to have eyes on it. Your golden members, the ones that come to you that are like, hey, something’s not right. Like take that feedback with open arms and like hone that and love it because that’s how I found out about certain toxic members, things happening that I had no idea were going to happen.

Mateo: 22:45 – In Two-Brain speak they’re seed clients.

Ryan: 22:47 – Yes. Your seed clients. Exactly. For me, I have to physically see about it. Hearing about it isn’t just like enough sometimes, but hearing about it means that, you know, be on the lookout. So toxicity is cancerous and cancer spreads in cultures and in, you know, biology. So if one person is affecting more than one other person, we have a problem. And that’s a conversation I have with the individual. If the behaviors don’t change or they’re not open to the feedback, we got to go separate ways and we’re not picking up a brick and mortar gym and leaving. So they got to go.

Mateo: 23:23 – Right, right. We’re not moving.

Ryan: 23:26 – No, we have a lease that’s not up for another 12 years.

Mateo: 23:30 – Yeah. So how do you, because I think people struggle with this, right, how do you fire a member?

Ryan: 23:35 – There’s a very mindful way to go about it, right? Each situation’s different and it’s not the George Castanza “it’s not you, it’s me” because it’s definitely them.

Mateo: 23:44 – Don’t want to lie to them.

Ryan: 23:46 – No, don’t want to lie to them. It’s a conversation of, hey, this is what we’re about here. These are the things I’ve been hearing from other members about such behaviors, such things, you know, whether it’s cleaning up after class or it’s, you know, talking smack or if those things are happening, it’s like this is not acceptable. And this is what the next steps are. Either you’re on a final warning or you’re on, you got to go and I can recommend you to another gym. There’s a soft way to do that.

Mateo: 24:20 – That’s the key, right? It’s just like, hey, you know, this is not the right fit. Here are three other options that I think might be a better fit for you. And then do everything you can to make that transition easy for them. You know, call the other gym, let them know or you know, whatever you need to do to make that transition easier for the client, that really is the best way, I think.

Ryan: 24:47 – And that’s how you avoid a negative review, right? Which will impact you financially as well.

Mateo: 24:53 – Managing the reputation, obviously critical. And so if you do get someone who’s not quite right fit, like you want to make sure that, like Ryan said, right, just treat them with respect and how you would want to be treated and that’s the way to do it. So let’s shift gears a little bit for the end here. And circle back to what we’re talking about before, right? So 2000 leads, over 2000 leads in the year, $10,000 spent on ads, tons of people coming in off the street just ’cause you’re in New York, there’s just a lot of people walking by in general. And all these leads just volume, right? So what is the lead nurture process?

Ryan: 25:33 – Lead-nurture process is the lead comes in and so for yourself as a gym owner, you don’t necessarily have the time to be doing lead nurture process. So one you have hired someone and you’ve trained them, right? And then that’s a whole other conversation we can go into about training and that. But you have someone, they’re dialed in, they get it, they understand. Great lead comes in, they’re contacted, double dialed, triple dialed sent to Google voice texts. And like if for everyone, for the people in the back, as I like to say for everyone watching, listening, this is a full-time gig, right? They’ve got a burner phone or they’ve got a Google voice phone. You’re paying for their cell phone bill or the phone is paid for by the gym and they understand like this is a sales lead nurture process. If a lead comes in, speed matters, right? So as soon as that lead comes in weekend, this is the conversation’s been had and everyone’s OK with this process, then it’s a double dial, triple dial, text message, email, minimum six or seven points of contact to get this person in, right? Like we live in New York City, you lose someone on the subway as you’re talking to them going over No Sweat. Pick them up at Grand Street. Intro. Got it, see you in here. Off the subway, VD line and get in to Bowery CrossFit. So you’re going to miss people constantly, but giving them those opportunities to get in there. Great, the appointment’s been scheduled. It’s a follow-up. It’s an email. It’s a confirmation the day of, OK, you’re coming in here and even I know people are listening, like I do that and people still don’t show up. 100% you’re going to get ghosted. In dating I’ve been ghosted and it doesn’t feel good but I’m gonna slip that one in there, but also in CrossFit and No-Sweat Intros, right? It’s just like a relationship. You want to bring them in, make them feel comfortable. Great. They show up for the appointment.

Mateo: 27:24 – What is the confirmation process? I know you mentioned the auto email, but yeah. What else is the staff doing?

Ryan: 27:31 – Phone calls. We went as far as sometimes doing video messages. Yes. We also text message, Google voice and then that gets highlighted in the system. So like I come in, sales rep, who we got on the docket today, great this person’s confirmed, these three aren’t, these two are confirmed for later. OK, great.

Mateo: 27:49 – That person’s communicating that to the sales rep.

Ryan: 27:52 – Right, exactly. Right. So the lead nurture process, individuals communicating that to everybody involved and the sales rep. Right. Communication is key. So I highly encourage you have—if you’re not on Slack or you’re on Whatsapp, you have a separate group channel for communication of lead nurture process in where people are at. So that way there’s no miscommunications, there’s no missed appointments which have happened, so on and so forth. So that’s a side note. Appointment’s booked, we’re confirmed, amazing. Make sure that they’re confirmed right, like this person’s coming in, awesome. Then they show up, right? They show up, make them feel super welcome. However it is you feel about that. At Bowery it was, do you want anything to drink? Cool. Welcome to make a joke about it. Like welcome to the basement in Chinatown, where a dumpling restaurant’s upstairs so you know, make light of the situation, be real with them, and then we go into, you know, what roadblocks are going to come up at the end of the conversation. If you jump right into it, which I never advise anyone to be like, OK, we’re just going to start selling. One, find out what’s up with them. How are they doing? Why are they here? Once you break that ice, then we’ll go into a little bit more along the lines of, OK, why are you traveling? Right? People in New York City, you’re traveling all the time. Is that going to prevent you from like signing up for the six-week challenge, which starts on X date. OK, great. No, yes. OK. Then let’s talk about this. The conversation changes immediately at that point. Do you need anyone else on this meeting that you’re going to have to run this decision by? Like what is every single roadblock that you potentially could encounter here and like, let’s just hash this out and then if they’re like, cool, I’m going to be, you know, I’m ready to, you know, essentially sign up for this. All right, now let’s talk about what it is that we do.

Mateo: 29:37 – Because then otherwise there’s the B option, right? We have a one-on-one option that would be if someone can’t, if someone’s schedule is not the right fit, we have that option in the back pocket. So sounds like you guys ask a little bit of the pre-qualifying questions beforehand mixed in with the discovery phase and that’s kind of how it’s disguised. It’s, you know, using the discovery phase to bring up potential objections that normally happen at the end of the sale. You’re kind of trying to agitate that a little bit and bring them up to the service sooner.

Ryan: 30:08 – Yeah, 100% and I have found, and that works for me, everyone’s different, right? I’d rather get all of that stuff out in the beginning. So then it’s like, cool, grab your cup of coffee. We’re going to like kick back and talk about why it is you’re here. Why the lifestyle change you want to happen or it needs to happen and what’s prevented you in the past from getting there? And then, you know, by the end of the time they’re like, cool, how many spots left? I want to sign up. Right? It’s not me being like, do you want to do this? It’s like on them and they’re like, this sounds great. I’ve seen the pictures that are up on the walls of the gym or the TV screen rolling through, whatever it may be, I’ve heard the success stories. How can I do it? And that’s if you’re selling one-on-one, right? Like Bowery was such, we operate in 2,800 square feet in the basement. So you have members sitting at the desk next to you, and then your members are going to sell it for you because they’re going to see that you’re sitting there and then Aaron Mu’s going to lean in and be like, so you should just do it because we’re awesome. And then they’re like, OK, if the members are willing to step in and just sell it for you, that’s the best.

Mateo: 31:14 – Right. I advise people if you have an office, definitely selling your office in a private area. But yeah, we were in kind of a bind down there and while it wasn’t ideal, there were some positive side benefits where if a member was sitting kind of within earshot, they could come over, just be like, you know, that was the vibe, they’d come over and be like, you know what, you should just sign up for this thing. I don’t even know why you’re sitting next to this guy. How do you get your staff trained up?

Ryan: 31:44 – So I’ve actually, I was thinking a lot about this recently because now that I’m moving out of the gym, it’s like, OK, eventually I’m going to have to replace myself. Right? And so always trying to think two steps ahead. I learned this a lot through you because you understood, and I don’t think either of us knew this. Maybe you did. I didn’t. You understood how I operated. Right. And I think it’s understanding how one operates and then showing them in that regard. So you’re like, oh, you learn through actually doing, so like we’re just gonna let you go and do. Some people call that throwing them into the fire. Some people would like call it pushing them into the deep end. I learn by doing so it was like, OK, I need to actually start making mistakes and like getting my hands on here. Some people it’s, I need to read it and then practice on my own and that’s fine. So I think it’s step one, understand how the people that you’re going to be teaching learn. And then step two, adapt and teach them in the modality in which that they need to learn. And then three, it’s having them shadow and watch you or the person selling or the person going through the process do it. And then it’s the last one of the last steps. Cause I mean steps can go on forever, but one of the last steps would be following up, making sure that there’s an accountability checklist and it’s laid out so that way there is no ambiguity. There’s no, oh that was never said or put down or said somewhere. It’s this is how we go through the process. These are how you follow up with people. This is how you confirm and this is how you sell. So always have that in writing. That way you can always reference back, to one, hold yourself accountable. And two, there’s no like, miscommunication. And there’s clarity on that.

Mateo: 33:25 – Ryan, it’s been a delight having you on.

Ryan: 33:29 – It’s my pleasure.

Mateo: 33:30 – We’re running out of time here, but for people who want to talk to you more, where can they find you?

Ryan: 33:35 – You can find me on the Internet. You can email me at ryan@twobrainbusiness.com you can Instagram message me if you’d like. _@lucidvisions. You can come visit us here in New York. Oh yeah, I’m in Brooklyn now. Come to Brooklyn. Yeah, come on out.

Mateo: 33:56 – We’ll surf.

Ryan: 33:57 – Well the waves aren’t that good in New York, if you want to surf, let me know and we’ll book the surf trip to Mexico.

Mateo: 34:01 – Or New Jersey.

Ryan: 34:02 – Or New Jersey. You can go down and see John as well.

Mateo: 34:05 – Very different place.

Ryan: 34:08 – The tacos aren’t as good.

Greg: 34:21 – As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do drop a like to that episode. Share with a friend and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on how what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.


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Episode 175: The Green Light Program With Vaughn Vernon

Episode 175: The Green Light Program With Vaughn Vernon

Greg: 00:01 – It’s Greg Strauch of Two-Brain Media and on this week’s episode we talked to Vaughn Vernon of Affiliate Guard. We talk about the Green Light program that they’ve started with this new act that’s going to be taking place of 2020 and we jump into the changes within the CrossFit certifications and the different certifications that Vaughn as an insurance agency will back so that you guys can take care of business. Subscribe to Two-Brain Radio to hear the very best ideas, topics to move you and your business closer to wealth. Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We make gyms profitable. We’re going to bring you the very best tips, tactics, interviews in the business world each week. To find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day, book a free call with a mentor at twobrainbusiness.com.

Greg: 00:57 – We would like to thank one of our amazing partners, Healthy Steps Nutrition. Are you struggling with creating a nutrition program from scratch? What about looking to save time on building another revenue stream? Are you looking for ongoing support on growing your program? HSN has built an amazing service to help guide you in building your very own nutrition program. They start with an onboarding training course that gives you one on one time with a mentor to help you build the nutrition program, not only to help you with additional revenue, but help your members reach their goals. They’ve helped over 400 gyms build profitable nutrition programs. Go to growyournutrition business.com to check out their free resources and to book your free call today.

Greg: 01:40 – All right, I’m on another amazing episode of Two-Brain Radio with the famous Vaughn Vernon of Affiliate Guard. How are you, Vaughn?

Vaughn: 01:46 – Doing good, buddy. Thanks for having me on again.

Greg: 01:49 – Oh, happy to. I love having you on. I love even when we were able to chit chat at the Summit about different things, things that gym owners go through, some of the things, stories that you hear, that you think, “Oh, there’s no way that’s possible.” And then you kind of confirmed, sometimes hey, yeah, this does happen. I’ve seen it happen. Or heard of it happening. And so it’s always good catching up to you, but really jumping onto today is kind of talking about some of the changes that we’ve had within the CrossFit certification realm. And really diving into that with the knowledge that you have of the insurance side. I mean, with the changes that have happened, there’s a few things that gym owners should know about that could affect them in a positive way or possibly even negative ways. So, let’s kind of jump into that. What are the changes that have happened with the CrossFit certification system?

Vaughn: 02:42 – I know enough about that to be dangerous. I try to focus on what has like the biggest ripple effect going into these gyms for these gym owners and coaches of what this landscape is going to look like in the future. For the fact that one constant in this life is change, right? So with kids training, this is the biggest change I have seen with kids training, that landscape is a lot different now. And you need, absolutely 110% need abuse and molestation coverage on your insurance policy. Minimum of 300,000 on an aggregate, 100,000 on occurrence. We need to have mandatory background checks done every year on every trainer that is interacting in any capacity with 17 years of age and younger. So not only is this coming from the insurance geek’s end of the stick, this is also coming from the Safe Sport Act that has been passed and come 2020, this legislation is going to be full circle in all these gyms, right? So in order to be in compliance with this legislation, you’re going to need to have, again, mandatory background checks on every trainer every year. You’re going to need to have an anonymous tip line via email and phone. If someone sees something inappropriate happening, they can anonymously tip it in. We’re going to have to have documentation for like accident procedures where something does happen, how you intake that correctly, documenting the occurrence. And if something does happen and you have a governing body come into your facility to investigate and you don’t have your ducks in a row, probably going to be a very character-building experience to say the least to address that. So I spoke on this briefly at the Summit with the Green Light platform that we’re launching. So this Green Light platform will make every gym underneath the Affiliate Guard flag in compliance with this new legislation turnkey. OK. Now, with training youth, it’s an entirely different ball of wax than training adults, right? For the fact that if little Johnny gets banged up, we’re going to handle that a hell of a lot different than we would if Johnny’s dad got banged up in the event of legislation, or excuse me, litigation. Does that make sense?

Greg: 05:52 – Yeah. What we do, what would be the real difference that a gym owners need to think about between an adult versus a kid if an injury happens?

Vaughn: 06:03 – Right, so with a kid, I mean, we got to make sure A, it’s a super safe environment, with the programming, with you know, if you’re doing obstacle drills or whatever, or just basic movement or if little Johnny falls over that he’s not gonna have his head break his fall for him on the rig or anything like that. You know what I mean? So it’s like a controlled environment. So look at it like this way too bro. So if a kid gets banged up, we don’t want to go to the mat, we don’t want to go down the litigation road for the fact that, you know, if it gets that ugly, who’s the court gonna side with, mom and dad or the fricking insurance company? So we want to handle that in an entirely different fashion than we would if an adult got injured because we can rely a lot more on the waivers. We can rely a lot more on, you know, he didn’t check his ego at the door. This is a self-inflicted injury, stuff of that nature. So it’s an entirely different mindset. Obviously we’ve got to have waivers in place for minors. We still got to do that. It’s just best practices. We should have policies and procedures in place to where if, say my son goes and works out and I can’t go pick him up or my wife can’t go pick him up and he gets a ride with his buddy’s mom and dad, we should have pick-up authorization forms in place. Does that make sense?

Greg: 07:35 – Yeah, completely. Completely. I mean that’s a huge factor. It’s a minor and I can only imagine the litigation route that could happen if you released him to so-and-so that said that they were an uncle or an aunt when they really weren’t. That could be huge. So that makes complete sense.

Vaughn: 07:56 – And then I got templates, all this stuff, after we’re done here, I can email you those templates if anybody wants to use them.

Greg: 08:02 – Yes. Yeah, that’d be perfect if you have them. Do you have them on the website as well? Cause we can definitely link on your website.

Vaughn: 08:08 – Yeah. Should be underneath my resources section.

Greg: 08:10 – Perfect. We will make sure that it’s in the show notes. So with these changes, what was the reason for you now coming out with this Green Light program through Affiliate Guard, and this kind of act that has come from federal government. What was the reasoning behind it?

Vaughn: 08:30 – Yeah man. So it’s unfortunately it’s the world we live in. This is in the wake of what happened with USA Gymnastics and this whole Me Too movement, variety of other scandals that have happened. I have been in the circle on this for about a year, about a year now of how this legislation is gonna look in 2020. And I have partnered up with some people who are, this is all they do. And we have been working on a proactive versus reactive platform to where all the i’s are dotted. All the t’s are crossed. Once this comes full circle, here’s—boom, turnkey. Here you go. I mean it’s so much admin work to get in compliance with this stuff. Nobody wants to take the fricking time to do it. Where you know with this new platform here, once you’re registered up, signed up, have your coaches do the background checks, all that, you know, you could be good to go in a couple hours and you’re done, moving on with life. So I would look at it like this too. Insurance companies, believe it or not, did you know that they like to make money?

Greg: 09:53 – I can believe it.

Vaughn: 09:53 – I know, it’s weird. So I’m thinking from the companies that I deal with, I’ve been talking to my reps about how this is going to look and all that stuff and they flat out are saying, you know, if there are not policies and procedures in place to be in compliance with this new legislation, if something did happen, the insurance company’s going to exclude that out of the contract because you, the policy holder, were not in compliance. So you’re basically going to be self insured if you don’t do this shit. That’s the bottom line.

Greg: 10:29 – Oh wow.

Vaughn: 10:29 – That’s the bottom line. Yeah.

Greg: 10:31 – Now with this Green Light program, I mean you guys have built it, so it is, if you’re an Affiliate Guard member and you have a policy with you guys, I mean like myself, that means I can basically go to you and it includes, I mean the background checks and all this paperwork and stuff like that. What are, is there additional costs or anything like that?

Vaughn: 10:50 – It is, dude. So, we’ve been kicking the tires on anywhere between 50 to 100 bucks for the whole year to have this tool, which is a smoking deal in my opinion.

Greg: 11:02 – 100%. I completely agree.

Vaughn: 11:05 – Yeah, it is, man. I mean, just the time alone it’s going to save you from the burden of not knowing where to go. How do I do this? What governing body do I show that we’re in compliance, all that crap. So, yeah, that’s how, that’s gonna look, I just had a brain fart, dude. I’m sorry. Don’t edit that out either, will ya?

Greg: 11:31 – No, it sounds good. So, with the Green Light program. What else is included into that? Like is there waivers and everything like that? Kinda like the release you were talking about?

Vaughn: 11:42 – Yeah. So we’re going to have obviously waiver template, stuff of that nature. A lot of people use, you know, Wodify, Mindbody online, whoever. That’s great. Keep those digital platforms there. That’s good. So, with these trainers, right, these background checks, so once these background checks are executed, so like 10 months down the road after that’s done, we’re going to be pinging you to get those refreshed. So annual background checks, it’s 15 bucks per trainer per year. That’s how that looks. Now we have also kicked the tires on doing a full like, employment application as well for these trainers, which would be a good loss control tool. You know, at the end of the day, trainers are representing your brand. If you know, you get a guy that has had a bad past and whatever, you know, you have full disclosure here of who you’re conducting your business with. It’s just a best practices position, right?

Greg: 12:48 – Yeah. Well that would be awesome. I mean, you got gym owners that are looking for coaches and you find somebody that’s got their L1, or any certification. You can get one online even and it’s not going to specify any kind of background check on them. So I mean you could be getting the wrong people in the door and not even know it. So that, I mean that would be huge to be able to do something like this. I mean 15 bucks, like that’s such a small amount of money for the risk that you’d be putting yourself into by having these coaches work with kids and be able to talk to these kids and groom these kids. Like you see in these situations that have happened with like you said with the USA Gymnastics team, you know, and you don’t even know what’s happening. So, I mean that’s just a huge risk for $15. I mean I would spend 10 times that amount per person if I knew it was going to help us be covered. And then also me not having to do the lay work as the gym owner.

Vaughn: 13:48 – Right. Yeah. We’re also going to implement in this too, and please don’t shoot the messenger on this. So every quarter we’re going to be pinging you with you going through your gym, checking out if your rig’s still secure, your ropes are secure, your rings are good. If you have squat racks bolted to the wall, that that’s all nice and adhered. So where if you know, God forbid a piece of equipment does fail and we get John a litigation and they say you never maintained your equipment or anything like that. We have that set piece to rely on as well. That scheduled maintenance is performed on the rigs and all that stuff. All the infrastructure of the box there.

Greg: 14:37 – I love that. And if any gym owner out there is listening right now, pause your podcast, go check every piece of equipment for safety and make sure it’s serviceable, as the military loves to say, make sure that everything is bolted down correctly. Because I know my staff does that on a quarterly basis. So I think that’s huge. If you’re going to be pinging the gym owner or the GM or the head coach or whoever is going to be actually going through and checking these things, having a checklist created for each piece of equipment and make sure that everything’s safe. I mean, the last thing you need is somebody doing a muscle-up on a rig and those bolts have loosened over time and that whole piece of equipment comes crashing down on them.

Vaughn: 15:17 – Yeah, that would hurt really bad. Gravity does not discriminate.

Greg: 15:23 – No, not at all. Not at all. So I love this Green Light program. I mean, I remember when we were talking about it, I remember hearing about it at the Summit. And I think it’s huge, and not the amazing factor of doing the background checks for the kids and the parents and everyone feeling a lot more safe with making sure that these people that are coming in are the right people if we want to call it that. But really from a gym owner side, I get super excited because this is gonna save them time. This is gonna save them money in the long run if a litigation actually did come forth. And it’s gonna save everybody a ton of time, ton a ton of headache, ton of stress. But it then also, I mean from a money standpoint, this is pennies on the dollar. I mean, I know my coaches have done background checks and it’s 50-plus dollars for each one of them at a minimum. And it’s not easy to do. It is not like, hey, fill out this form and you’re done. This is going like to police departments, and you guys are saving them time, money. You’re saving the headache, you’re helping out the staff, you’re helping out the parents that are bringing their kids there to make sure it’s a safe environment. And when you say, “Hey, we do background checks and every single person,” regardless, like for me, I would have every single one of my staff members go through a background check, whether they deal with the kids or not, kids are in the facility. So that means if we have a childcare area and people brings their kids, some people may interact, it may not be directly, but indirectly with these kids, I would much better my staff all have the checks then even having just one or two that are just doing the kids courses. So this is huge.

Vaughn: 17:05 – So let’s talk about noncompliance. So let’s say you sign up, you’re good to go. We’re gonna give you like 30-day window to finish all your registration and all that stuff. And we start seeing, you know, nothing’s happening. And if we don’t get a call to action, you’re registered on the Green Light, the whole policy is canceled. Boom, you’re out. So we’re taking a pretty aggressive standpoint on that for the fact that A, it’s, you know, kind of required now. It’s federal law and B, if you don’t want to comply with this tool that we’re giving you, I dunno if we’re going to be a good fit or not type-deal you know what I mean? You’ve got to take this stuff seriously.

Greg: 17:51 – So switching gears a little bit, I mean, anyone out there that does want the Green Light program better yet, when is that going to go into effect?

Vaughn: 18:00 – Well, believe it or not, developers are slow, did you know that? This thing was supposed to be live Monday and they’re saying now it’s going to be live 7/15. So it’s all but there, my friend. It’s all but there.

Greg: 18:20 – So if any gym has their policy coming due here shortly, it’s best to just jump on that train here. I mean, if they’re due August 1st, it’s perfect timing for them to jump in and start onto this Green Light program with you.

Vaughn: 18:33 – So let’s talk about—before I switch gears for two seconds, I’m going to get you links as well, how this legislation reads and all that stuff. So if these guys want to, you know, just kind of check out what the, the verbiage looks like on the infrastructure and all that stuff. It’ll be there in black and white.

Greg: 18:51 – Perfect. No, that’s huge. Thank you. Thank you Vaughn. I think everyone needs to needs to understand the verbiage and have it, but then even people that maybe aren’t using Affiliate Guard and they’re like, hey, I didn’t know about this legislation. My insurance company has not contacted me about any of this stuff that’s coming up soon. They can at least jump into your free resources and look at those different documents and decide if they, I mean maybe they want to switch over then because you guys are going to be keeping track of this stuff and showing them, hey, we’re going to be proactive and not reactive.

Vaughn: 19:24 – Yeah. I got to tell you, I don’t know any other outfit that is taking this approach on what’s coming down the pipe here. And the people that I work with, too, she’s been in, she’s been in the game for 40-plus years and she’s working really close with the law firm out of Connecticut that’s helping with this legislation as well. And I mean, we’ve got the A team working on this. They’re the real deal. And she’s got a son who just got a full ride scholarship playing lacrosse and you know, she sees it day in and day out too, man. So it’s like I said, you got the A team working on this. So yeah. It’s good stuff.

Greg: 20:07 – Yeah, agreed. And it’s stuff that’s definitely a necessity that wasn’t as a necessity in our minds. Not that it’s not a necessity, but five years ago, we weren’t thinking about this to this extent, but it’s definitely come to light.

Vaughn: 20:24 – Right? It was not even on the radar.

Greg: 20:27 – No. I mean, I look at it like this, 20 years ago when you would leave your kid home alone, when they were like 15, it was no big deal. Now that would be a huge deal. I mean, and that’s just the world we live in now. So it’s not that those people weren’t there back then. It just wasn’t as, I guess publicized, that, hey, these people are here, this is what’s happening. This is what they do. So I think it’s something that I wish we had back then, but I’m glad we have it now. I’m glad you guys are working on this and building out this Green Light program so that gym owners can, sleep a little bit better at night knowing that hey, their bases are covered to the most extent they possibly can be. So jumping into some of the certifications lately, now, CrossFit’s made some big changes. They’ve done some things with their certifications where, they have their L1, their L2, I believe their L3 even, but they’ve kind of gone away from having those like CrossFit Gymnastic certs or CrossFit Olympic Lifting certs. And they’ve kind of put that back on the other people, so that they are the experts and allowing them to continue being the experts. Now with running classes, and let’s say I have like a boot-camp style class, that isn’t CrossFit methodology and my coach wants their L1, but really they probably, it’s not as important as making sure they have a certification in small-group training or something. And I still love the L1. I think it’s a great certification. I love having all my coaches go through it, whether they’re working with a Oly club program or if they are going through with PT. I still think it’s a great program for everyone to still go through in certification. But kind of with the changes and everything like that, I know with Two-Brain, which we had Josh Martin on a little bit ago with the Two-Brain coaching, if somebody goes through that cert, you guys are actually also authorizing that to be a legitimate cert since it has been backed to be authorized for gym owners to use or their coaches to use, correct?

Vaughn: 22:38 – 100 percent correct.

Greg: 22:38 – And with that, is there other certs out there that you guys say, hey, if they’re doing some other small-group training besides CrossFit, you guys are saying, hey, these are actually legitimate certs that we allow as well?

Vaughn: 22:56 – Yeah. So we’re pretty flexible on that end of the stick. We just need these guys certified in the movement they’re instructing to their athletes for the fact that if we get sued, you know, these attorneys that want to go after the trainers, well it’s just the way the game is anymore. And so if this trainer does not have any certificates, I mean that’s negligence, then that’s going to be a really shitty day in court. Right? So we’re good with like Ace, NASM, USAW, Two-Brain. Just proving that we know our head from a fricking hole in the ground here, you know, and yeah, just keep records of all those certs on file there at the gym. Back in the day we used to make every gym owner shoot us up emails of who is a trainer, who wasn’t, and that just became a logistical nightmare to manage. So, we came up with, if we get sued and your trainer cannot provide any form of certification, we will not honor defense on behalf of that trainer. That’s how the game is played.

Greg: 24:05 – Awesome. No, that’s completely legitimized. Now one thing and I still get this, I still do my mentor calls, I still do the free help calls and I love both of those. That’s part of my Perfect Day. But I still have gym owners ask the question or better yet they make the statement of, well, I can’t have so-and-so coach my class because they’re going through an internship process right now with us because they don’t have their Level 1, and they’re always concerned with that. Now, can you give the actual statement of if somebody, is coaching a class that isn’t L1 certified, what are the requirements then?

Vaughn: 24:44 – So if they’re wanting to become a trainer and the owner of the gym or head trainer, GM, whatever, is there supervising and critiquing X, Y, Z trainer here, I am 100% OK with that stuff. All day long. Just as long as we have some formal supervision in place here. If the trainer just turns them loose, I’m out, I’m gonna go grab a coffee and someone gets injured underneath their direction. There was no certificates in play. There was no supervision in place. That’s where the line in the sand gets drawn.

Greg: 25:23 – OK. So if somebody is supervision certified for that type of training, whether it’s CrossFit, boot camp, whatever, they have a certification, you are still backing them as long as they’re within the facility or the grounds, on the property if somebody is coaching that program that isn’t certified?

Vaughn: 25:43 – Correct.

Greg: 25:45 – I just want to clarify that because I still get question even now when I jump on those calls that people still ask those questions and I want to make sure that they understand like, hey, this is coming from the insurance company. Now I would probably put a disclaimer out there that, hey, this doesn’t mean every insurance company does it, but if you fall under Affiliate Guard you’re good to go. You’re OK.

Vaughn: 26:05 – Yeah. I don’t know what other insurance companies platforms are and compliance and all that stuff that’s just coming from my relationships with my carriers, how they want that to look. Yep.

Greg: 26:16 – So the last thing I definitely wanted to hit on was the health-care insurance that you guys offer through Affiliate Guard. We talked about it before, but will you give us a little synopsis of what that is?

Vaughn: 26:29 – Yeah, so we do, it’s a concept called health sharing. It’s been around since the 80s. And it’s kind of a different animal. You gotta be a little bit more hands on. I’ll hop into an example here in two seconds. So this is straight up a demographic that’s in this pool together that are health conscious people. So we’re not in these pools with chronically ill people that are pounding the dollar menu for time all day, every day. That’s not us. OK. So I practice what I preach. I’ve used this form of health care for pushing three years now and I’ve had to use it several times. So, my wife went in for her annual, blood work came back a little funky. We went back to see the doc, doc says, Hey, look, premenopausal here, we should probably kick the tires on getting a hysterectomy done, right. And Jess and I were talking about it on the way home and like, yeah, it’s looking like this is what we gotta do and call the health sharing company. And they said, hey, let’s just do a second opinion. I signed some HIPPA forms, shot my forms down to them. It’s called Second MD, 10-minute phone call. They said, yeah, it’s time to get this procedure rocking and rolling. So they call me up and they say, go into the hospital and get the self pay rate. So I go in there and do that. It was over like 43 grand, something like that. So I send that over to health sharing company, within 72 hours they had that negotiated down to 19,000 bucks. They overnight me a check and we go to the intake there at the hospital and I’m getting ready to sign the check over to them. And I asked for a minute, I go, can I use credit cards to pay for this? And they said absolutely. So I flipped out every freaking credit card that I had and I got a shit ton of points and then paid my cards off with that check. Then you got to show proof of payment that everything’s done cause they got attorneys you want to talk to you if you take the money down to Vegas and decide to double it.

Greg: 29:00 – Yeah, very true. Right.

Vaughn: 29:03 – So let’s talk about this. So from blood work to hospital stay to surgeon, to anesthesiologist to medications, that whole procedure costs me 500 bucks out of my pocket. Right.

Greg: 29:20 – That is, I mean, yeah. That’s all I can say,

Vaughn: 29:24 – Yeah, it’s awesome dude. When I got—so next month will be my fourth year anniversary for my new hip. That costs me 10 grand out of my pocket and I had to refine my fricking truck to make that deductible. That didn’t make big boy very happy. Had I had this form of health care, that’s 500 bucks.

Greg: 29:46 – Wow. Is that now this program can be used for the owners? Let’s say like in my case I have health coverage through being a reservist. Does that mean that it will, my coaches could actually still get on this plan even though I have my own health coverage.

Vaughn: 30:04 – Absolutely. Owners and coaches all day long.

Greg: 30:09 – What is the best way? Is there, I’m guessing there’s a resource on your website for people if they are interested in this to jump into it. Cause I mean—

Vaughn: 30:16 – Yeah, there’s a landing page called affiliate share. It is kind of dated. I’m revamping everything on my website. So if you’ve got any specific questions, just reach out to me, I’m more than happy to walk you through it.

Greg: 30:27 – What’s the best way, and that’s a perfect place to wrap it up. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you if they do have questions, whether it’s about this Green Light program, whether it’s about the health care or whether it’s about, hey, I’m more interested in making sure that my coaches are completely good to go with their certifications. What’s the best way for them to get a hold of you?

Vaughn: 30:48 – Vaughn@affiliateguard.info or hit me up at the office at (801) 677-0076.

Greg: 31:01 – Awesome. Vaughn, it’s always awesome to catch up with you and have you jump on the podcast or when I get to see you in person at the Summit or even at the Games here and there. It’s always great to be able to sit down and talk shop with you. Hear all the stories of what people are willing to do or not do in their gyms and just the stories that I just can’t believe that this happens, but it does. That’s the scary thing. So, I love having Affiliate Guard. I am so happy that I have Affiliate Guard, because you guys have helped us out a ton in the past. A perfect example is when we got robbed. I mean, I was able to jump on the phone with you that morning and start the process so that we can make sure that everything is taken care of. So it is an awesome company that I love working with. And hopefully anybody out there that’s thinking about changing and they’re going from something else to Affiliate Guard, make the switch. It will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, and it will save you a ton of peace of mind and any kind of risk. So thank you Vaughn for jumping on here. We greatly appreciate you. And we hope you have a wonderful rest of your week.

Vaughn: 32:09 – Will do brother. Good catching up, man.

Greg: 32:16 – As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do drop a like to that episode. Share with a friend and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.


Greg Strauch will be here every Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Two-Brain Marketing episodes come out Mondays, and host Mateo Lopez focuses on sales and digital marketing. 

On Wednesdays, Sean Woodland tells the best stories in the CrossFit community on Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland.

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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 DontBuyAds.com. 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.