Average Sucks: Michael Bernoff on Changing the Way You Think


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Andrew (00:02):

Welcome to Two-Brain Radio with Chris Cooper. Average just isn’t good enough. Everyone knows it. And Michael Bernoff wrote a book about it. His new book is called “Average Sucks: Why You Don’t Get What You Want (And What to Do About It).” In this episode, Chris talked to Michael about his new book and how it relates to the COVID crisis, in which excellent businesses are surviving and average ones are dying. Now here’s Chris Cooper.

Chris (00:23):

Welcome back to Two-Brain Radio. With me today is Michael Bernoff, author of “Average Sucks.” Thanks for coming on Michael.

Michael (00:31):

I appreciate it. I’m glad I’m here.

Chris (00:33):

Yeah. I was really thankful to get you on short notice because your book is so timely for gym owners as we go through this COVID crisis, and we’re going to dive deep into the book, but what led you to writing “Average Sucks”?

Michael (00:45):

It’s interesting. I wrote the book for me and for us. And the reason I say that is, I don’t know many books that were written for what I believe the biggest challenge in the world why most people don’t succeed, why our clients don’t succeed. Why success is hard for people to break out of the mold we’re in. And I literally wrote it for as the book that I needed in my life. I mean, I grew up very middle class. I’m not one of these kids that grew up poor and had to figure it out or grew up without, with a condition. Or my parents left me somewhere when I was six and I had to figure it out. Like my heart goes out to those people and I definitely didn’t grow up rich. And I wrote the book for people that literally grew up very average with above average desires. But for some reason, they were not able to get what they wanted. So I’ve always felt I had this wall in this world. And for 20 years I’ve been in research to figure out what the heck that wall was, why I stopped short of the things that I wanted globally in my life. And I wrote a book to help get people past that.

Chris (01:47):

And the book is really oriented around, you know, our personal average and how we tend to stick to that average. So what is our average?

Michael (01:55):

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Cause I wear all the time, I even said in the book I wear my “Average Sucks” shirt pretty much 24/7, seven days a week. Everywhere I go, when people stop me. Oh man, that’s a great shirt. I get gym owners. It’s typically your CrossFit people. It’s your people that would do P90X would love me for it. I got a guy that’s, you know, producing in business. And I said, you know what it means? And they typically say, you know, they say, Oh yeah, you gotta be better than everyone else. I said, absolutely true, but not correct. What your average is, is your problem is that you’re average, is your issue. And I stop right there and you should see people’s reaction when I tell them, they think, I just said you’re average to a guy that or girl that is definitely not average. And I said, I’m not calling you average. I’m just saying that you have a force inside of you, we’ll call it your average, that really runs your unconscious mind in your life, your workouts, your economics, your sex life, and everything is all dominated by a force that you set up called your average.

Chris (02:57):

And how do we relate to that average? Like, are we conscious of it? Is it more of a subconscious thing?

Michael (03:02):

Completely subconscious. I mean, you create it without thinking. I mean, there’s one day Chris you say to yourself, like, you know, like, have you ever had a day in your life where you said to yourself, I’m never going to go back there again, like tell me an area of your life that you’ve said to yourself. I will never do that again. I know ones in my life, like whether it was weight or relationships, what have you said to yourself never again to?

Chris (03:24):

Yeah, absolutely. I had a really bad month in my gym business in August, 2008, and I didn’t have the money to pay the rent or to pay myself. And I said, I am never living through this again.

Michael (03:35):

And you really meant it. You had a peak emotional experience. You built what I call a wall and you built this trust behind you that said, even if I do look at that kind of, I will never go there completely. The second you accept you’re not where you want to be as a human being, this is what happens when people come into our gym, we have to help them with this. There’s a difference between wanting something and really meaning it. So when you say I’m not where I want to be, and you look in the mirror and go, I don’t like my gut. I don’t like the way I get treated when I go to the beach, I don’t like the way I treat myself. I don’t like that I can’t hold my kid without getting back spasms. You know what I’m saying? And when you say this to yourself, you immediately have a few things happen.

Michael (04:12):

You create possibilities in your life. Where right in front of you, it’s like, Whoa, here’s all the things I can do. You also get mass insecurity because you say to yourself, wait a second. Does this mean I’m not good enough? And that’s where your average gets freaked out because you’re basically saying who I am is not as good as I thought I was. And at the same time, a path starts to reveal itself. So a lot of your average controls your ability to run a better gym. But it’s also the psychology of every human being that shows up and gets a membership.

Chris (04:44):

That’s interesting. And we’re going to go down that route too later.

Michael (04:46):

I never thought about it like that, but I want to share it with you.

Chris (04:50):

Oh, it’s super important, I think, for gym owners to understand, but for now, like how does our average control us?

Michael (04:59):

Well, what happens is your average is made up of, I don’t want to get too in depth with it. Cause A, time=-wise would be, I want to give everyone enough that they can walk away with. Your average is that feeling you get that you do on a regular basis. So I’ll give you an example. We have, if we looked at our year, no different than average daily bank account, we have about what we weigh every year or every month. We have about what we make about every year, every month. We have about how many times we have an intimate relationship within our year, about how much about how well we go on vacation every year. So what’s fascinating is for most people, we don’t have to work as hard as we think we do. Because if you sit on your ass for 10 months of the year, like literally do nothing for 10 months, go into hibernation.

Michael (05:43):

Your average will say, wait a second. Something’s off. We’ve got November and December to catch up. Even though it’s the holiday season in that last two months of the year, you will make the money, do the workout, do the push-ups, do the squats, do your WOD, whatever it is that you have to do, you will literally do everything you need in that last two months to get you back to where you need to be. So as human beings, we don’t have to work so hard at being who we are. We have to work harder to becoming the person that we want to be. Not the person we already are. If you’ve been doing what you do for a period of time, you’ll probably do it automatically.

Chris (06:18):

That’s interesting. So what if we do want to improve our average? What’s that process?

Michael (06:24):

That process is a whole nother ball game, but it’s something everybody’s capable of doing. And it’s a little something I call throwing your hat over the wall. And what that means is most people are living their life based on what I want and what I don’t have, what I want and what I don’t have, what I want and what I don’t have, instead of actually working on what it is that they want. So the key is starting to get the things that you really desire in your life to start to become non-negotiable. Like we make room for our addictions in life, things that are non-negotiable. Like I started training. I don’t know. Have you ever done a Spartan race before? Joe Desena is the guy that owns Spartan race. He actually—the lady that does wealth management for us, she does for him.

Michael (07:07):

And she gave him a book. It sat on my shelf for three years. I’m not doing that. I don’t have time for that. I got my workouts, I got my thing. And I one day opened the book and I’m like, wow, this will be very interesting. This will fit in with what I’m doing with my CrossFit stuff, with the other stuff that I’m doing, what else is happening. This is going to fit in great in my life. And when I started, I’d never ran before. Like I did a half marathon, which means I didn’t really do anything. And I showed up and did better than most people cause I can get away with it. And I was 35. You know what I’m saying? If you want to do well at a Spartan race, you have to excel, which means you need to do different things than other people.

Michael (07:43):

So one of the things I recognize I’m going to have to do seven, eight, 10 mile runs on the weekends and people said, Michael, how do you do that? And I said, well, how do you make time for that? I said like anything in life you make times for your addictions, like things that matter to you, you literally will make time for. So I decided that that mattered to me. It was non-negotiable and you make time for things that are non-negotiable. And when you do your non-negotiables, it changes who it is that you are. So what I would tell most people is we don’t have to discipline ourselves. We need to work on making the things we want start to become nonnegotiable for ourselves. And there’s a process for that. And people can do it, but you first need to understand that that language, non negotiable, is really what makes people do and what makes people not do.

Chris (08:27):

Earlier you said that when a new person walks into a gym, they might be having a little struggle with what their average is. And is that part of the reason that they haven’t established these non-negotiables to be exercise and nutrition?

Michael (08:40):

One of the biggest reasons people have an issue is that they misread their emotions. I don’t remember. I’ve done so much content in my life that I don’t even know if this .surfaced in the book, if not, you get it here as part of your show, which is amazing. Is that let’s just say for a second, you look down at your waist and it’s not what you want it to be. You gained a couple extra pounds. It’s the holidays. It’s the summer. Hockey season showed up a couple of Tim Horton’s coffees and some beer. I’m speaking your language, right?

Chris (09:07):

Yes sir, Canadian.

Michael (09:07):

Couple of triple X, which we drank when we were kids, the hundred proof alcohol, we’d sneak over to Niagara to get it when we were kids. And you look down, it’s not what you want it to be. Or you see your neighbor or you’re, you’re at the gym and you look at someone next to you and what the hell are they doing? Or you’re on Instagram and you see them and it’s whether it’s their abs or their butt, they’re like, they look better than you or you look at your bank account. It’s not what you want it to be. We usually get depressed or we feel down. What I believe is most people are misreading their emotions. They don’t realize your average is always talking to you. So when you look down and your waist is not where you want it to be, it’s not, you are supposed to feel shame and guilt and bad. Cause your mind is telling you look idiot. I’m trying to get your attention. Hey yo, you, like when your neighbor is doing better than you, I feel like beetle juice. When I say that you over there, right?

Michael (09:53):

When you see your neighbors doing better than you, you’re at a game and they got better seats than you have. They’re sitting front row and in the dome. And you’re like, what the heck? What do they have that I don’t have? It’s not time to feel jealous. It’s time to become a better communicator and ask them what they’re doing that you’re not doing so you can actually have that as well. Or if your bank account is not where you want it to be, it’s telling you get motivated. So like, I always tell everyone, do you know why hangovers were put there? It’s very simple, because you were an idiot last night. That’s the only reason. You were dumb last night. Don’t do that again. You’re not to beat a hangover and go, Hey, if I could have extra water, drink charcoal between I’m going to beat a hangover.

Michael (10:35):

A hangover was designed to remind you don’t do that again. So when somebody walks in the gym, they are really good at playing the small game. And what I mean by really good at playing the small game is they’re really good at wanting what they are. Their identity for themselves is I’m a person that wants to be in better shape. I am not a person that has a relationship with health that is real. They don’t really mean it. They are really good. So their identity, who am I? Well, I’m a person that every once in a while, I feel bad enough to work out for a while until I feel better to not feel good again. And then get in there again, like we’ve got to understand the psychology of our, I’d call them our patients or our students or our clients is that they get off on the idea that if they do bad, they can do better.

Michael (11:26):

It’s like, you know, you’ve been to Canadian Wonderland? You got the ghoster coaster, right? I’m speaking your language. You’ve got the ups and downs or Six Flags or Disney, people go up to go down. So what happens is I gain weight so I can go to the gym to feel better. And I get a win. Most people don’t see consistency as a win. Their identity is a winner is everybody loves the Disney movie of the team that came back from nothing, whether it was major league or slapshot when we were kids or the Cinderella story, nobody gets turned on by the idea, Oh, there’s Jim over there, man. He’s always in good shape. He always works out. We need to work on helping our students. And I call them students, not clients, because let me just help you gym owners, I’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of people that go to gyms and work at gyms. They’re our students. We’re there to guide them to change their identity. And if you change their identity, you change what their average is. I’m a person that consistently takes care of myself.

Chris (12:27):

How can a gym owner best do that for their clients? Change their average.

Michael (12:32):

Teaching them the difference between addition and subtraction. Most people want to get rid of things in their life. Have you heard that technique before?

Chris (12:37):

No. Go ahead.

Michael (12:39):

Like for instance, I have a shake right here and I shot a video a couple of minutes ago about this and I’ve got a shake and I realized that in my life, I have a lot of choices. There’s a lot of things I want to change. I want to get rid of in my life. And it’s a lot harder to get rid of bad habits than it is to add new ones. Adding spinach to my shake is an addition, doing 10 push-ups is an addition, doing one burpee a day before I go in the shower is an addition. Teaching people the power of addition. Like I work with martial arts studios, teaching children to practice their stances while they’re brushing their teeth for 30 seconds is an addition. So we need to teach people about adding and not subtracting. The world wants to get rid of things, to get rid of their gut, to get rid of their bad habits. It’s easier to create a habit than it is to get rid of a bad habit.

Chris (13:29):

Very cool. OK. Well, thanks for that, Michael. What I really wanted to talk about today was the gym owner’s sense of average. You know what we find, and we have about 850 gyms in our mentorship practice. We talk to thousands every month. And what we find is that the average gym owner doesn’t have a very good sense of themselves. So their clients make more money than they do. They’re comparing themselves to other gym owners who they think are doing better, even though they might not be. And so they undervalue their time. They undervalue their service. Where can we start to reorient the gym owners average so that they understand their own value and improve?

Michael (14:14):

Well, one of the places I would talk about is really updating your identity. A lot of us go into, as a gym owner, you go become a gym owner cause you like gyms. You do, you like the gym. It makes you feel good. You work out. You can make a couple bucks and you can work out. And that is one way that you could run your gym. And if that makes you happy, congratulations, that’s wonderful. They would never be listening to your show because the show is about improvement. Getting better and being above your average. Am I correct about that? Nobody’s listening that’s content. So if you’re listening right now, congratulations being a gym owner, I also want to applaud you that you’re offering opportunity. The next thing I’m going to tell you is I don’t think most people are upgraded and updated their identity.

Michael (14:55):

And what I mean by upgraded and updated your identity is like, let’s say you’ve been a gym owner for five years. You’re still treating it as a brand new person. Most people don’t say to themselves, like what does a 42-year-old man or woman that’s been running a gym for 11 years that has worked with 10,000 people, what does that person do? Most of us say, in order to change my gym and pivot, like the whole COVID thing, everyone’s like, Oh my God, I got to start over again. And they become 22 years old, again, they become fresh out of university. They become fresh out of college. They become fresh out of high school, right off the farm. They’re like, Oh my God, what do I do again? Most of us don’t really update our identity. It’s like we’re using a fake ID.

Michael (15:34):

We forget we’re of age now. So what does a gym owner that is, really look in the mirror and ask yourself this question. What does a person that has been in business for 10 years that has worked with tens of thousands of people that has helped hundreds of thousands of pounds get moved through people’s bodies, does that make sense? Who has written the WOD on the wall a thousand times, do you know what I’m saying of what we’re doing today is our workout. What does that person do? How does that person grow their business? And I think the majority of people, like I look at my life and I remember right as the whole COVID thing was happening, our financial people talked to me go, Michael, even if you lost everything, what does a guy that’s been in business for 20 years that’s had a million clients they’ve worked with all over the world that’s written a book that has an incredible family, has incredible kids that knows how to make money. That’s made millions and millions of dollars. What does that person do right now? And it’s a radically different answer. So part of it is looking in the mirror and gyms have mirrors. You know what I’m saying? And look in the mirror and see who you really are because what you do is a gift, you offer an opportunity for people to grow, to network, to connect, to share, to care, to be who they’re capable of being. You are a conduit to introduce people to who they really are like Mr. Rogers was that person introduced myself when I was a kid, he was a big piece of our lives. They made a movie about him later on in life. That’s how much that guy moved our entire generation. We are that for our communities as gym owners, we are that person. We are the place that people go where they can actually be themselves. And you had the courage to sign that rent, to sign that ownership agreement to open that. And I think you’ve got to look in the mirror and put your shoulders back, take a deep breath, give yourself your muscle pose, or don’t do your muscle pose and look in the mirror and go, you know what? I did it. Now, what do I really want to do?

Chris (17:25):

Oh, really good. One of the traps that sucks gym owners back toward the average I would say is comparing themselves with other gym owners. And they feel like that person’s doing so much better, whether that’s the truth or not is another matter, but they do tend to compare themselves and they worry about even what other gym owners will think. That seems like they’re trying to take something away if they’re trying to resist that. So what’s something that they could add instead that would help them not be sucked back toward average?

Michael (17:55):

You mean working to be like somebody else, correct? There’s a difference between being motivated by somebody’s abilities that we want to be like, like we talked hockey before we got on and I play hockey still to this day, put a synthetic rink in my backyard. That’s how much I love hockey. I live in Arizona. And there were people I looked up, they’re heroes I had when I was a kid. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But being jealous about what someone else is capable of and not doing it yourself is really a weakness. And one of the things I’ll tell you is a lot of times people get into the fitness industry to prove a point and we’re looking to fix something that’s outdated in ourselves. I’m gonna talk a little psychology right now. My background is high level, I guess, intervention work. I do very, very high level. I have. I’m the guy that people talk to before they walk into a ring to do a UFC fight. You know what I’m saying? I’m the person that Olympic athletes are training in Alberta right now to, because I can’t train here in the States, are training right now. And there are clients that we work with. And one of the things that I recognized is a lot of us are looking to outdo something and prove a point of what we’re doing. And we get insecure from time to time because our old average is we spend a large part of our life being insecure. So part of your thing is if you spend a decade being insecure, we need to change that part of our identity. So maybe we own a gym because we want to prove a point. Like, let me help you get through this right now. Why did you go into business, Chris? What made you go into business? Like, let’s go back in time. Why did you do it? This is going to heal and help everyone listening right now. Why’d you do it, like the real reason.

Chris (19:34):

I went into fitness because in high school I was just a nerdy kid and very insecure. And a friend of mine dragged me into the weight room because we had this really weird lunch hour that nobody else had. And we started working out and that gave me a lot of self confidence and I kept it up through college. And then eventually pursued that as a career. After about four years as a personal trainer, I just couldn’t afford to live on that wage anymore. And I thought that opening a gym would be the only way that I could make a living.

Michael (20:05):

Gotcha. So your original reason for going into business was to eliminate an insecurity that started at a young age. So weightlifting meant if I lift weights, I’m less insecure, correct?

Chris (20:19):


Michael (20:19):

Yeah. I know the deal, dude. I used to go either to the library during lunch because I didn’t want to get picked on at lunch, went to the library or I went to the gym and lifted weights and that was my thing, dude. I was good at the military press cause I got 50 at 50 long shoulders. Does that make sense? So that was my thing. I was, that was my deal. Like I show you up, military squats, forget about it. You know, I’m six foot six. I’m not built for squats, but one of the things is that my original attachment, psychological, like, I’ll give you an example and then I’m gonna come back to you.

Michael (20:52):

We have the presidential physical fitness test and we were kids at school. Did you have that out there?

Chris (20:55):

Yeah. Very similar.

Michael (20:56):

  1. I don’t know who your guy was. You guys had Trudeau. When we were kids we had, I don’t know who it was, Ronald Reagan, let’s just say right. And I went in that day and I’m like, I’m going to go do pull-ups. And I was like nine years old and I went up to do pull-ups that day and I walked up to the bar and I thought it would be easy. And I couldn’t even do one. I tried to use my arms. I couldn’t do it. The teacher basically put me in a trance, said Mr. Bernoff.

Michael (21:22):

If you cannot do a pull-up, then you just hang there. So he tranced me, you cannot do a pull-up. I’m 38 years old at the time. And I still couldn’t do a pull-up because the teacher told me I couldn’t. My natural tendency was they can, I can’t. To top it off my friend, Courtney, and if you’re a boy named Courtney, you’re a badass, right? He could—you have to be right? He did like 10 in a row. He was a wrestler. So for me, gym class and pull-ups was scary, for him, gym class and pull-ups was good. So our natural reason for a lot of us going into business for ourselves, I’m backtracking with little ADD here right now is you did it to eliminate insecure. So basically what you’re saying is an insecure man started a business that if people work out, there’ll be less insecure versus a secure person building a business.

Michael (22:10):

I’m not calling you insecure. I’m just saying that most of us have our original reason for starting something we’ve already solved. You’re an extremely confident guy, but most of us haven’t really accepted that to ourselves. So I always tell everyone if your original reason for getting started in business or getting started, is already accomplished. Your original reason was for freedom. Your original reason was to prove a point. Some of us want to prove to our mom and dad we can do it. Our original reason was to prove to an old girlfriend, screw you. I’ll start my own business, who says I can’t. I guarantee 400 out of your gym owners prove it to an ex girlfriend or wife, that they’re not even with anymore. You’ve heard that story, right? I own this gym because of Julie. Right? So we’ve already succeeded past that.

Michael (22:55):

So now the question is, now that we have already done that, what would we like our new average to be? Meaning, I look at my life. Like my original reason for going into business was to prove a point and to own my own thing and not have a boss. So I’m a decade in the business. No boss, proven a point, but I’m still not living that way. So one of the ways to create a new average is to get honest with ourself and realize we’re not where we want to be, but we are so much farther along than we realize.

Chris (23:21):

And so now that you have to kind of reorient your average by looking at yourself and then do you next find a model for where you want to be? Or how do you form a clear image of that?

Michael (23:34):

Well, then my question is what do people want? And most people do not understand the difference between wants and dreams. They get them very, very confused. Like I’ll give you guys a hack right now on health that is massive. Everyone can steal this one. And I was in a room of a thousand nutritional people that sell supplements, right? Highest level doctors in the world. Some of them have companies that do hundreds of millions of dollars a year in shakes. OK? Like the owner of Viga is in the room. Does that make sense? And I said, he’s a Canadian too. And I said, how many of you drink shakes? And they raised their hands. I said, you know what? None of you should ever drink shakes again. I thought they were going to bum rush and kill me. Like I killed their industry. I said, the reason you shouldn’t drink a shake is you’re supposed to chew a shake because when you chew it, what happens is when you chew, something goes in your mouth, it sends out chemicals to your brain that tells you what enzymes to send to your stomach and break it down.

Michael (24:33):

Not all food is the same. I’m gonna explain why I’m saying this right now. So for myself, I recognize that most people call food food and it’s not true. There are three different language is the fastest way to change your diet. So what I teach people all the time is, and you’ve heard this lesson from me before is that language changes everything. So there is nutrition, there is entertainment and then there’s addiction. So let me give an example, broccoli, intelligent proteins. And I’m not going to fight paleo and keto and Atkins and vegan and vegetarian right now. But we all know that nutrition means you made it yourself, old school. You’re saying your proteins, as soon as you put barbecue sauce on it, it’s entertainment. Right. You know, this, somebody else made it, right. And then there’s addiction, which is your whole, all of your food, all like eating a whole bag of popcorn, a little bit of popcorn at the movies, entertainment, a whole bag, addiction.

Michael (25:30):

So what I realized is if you go into your meals and talk to your food, like it’s a relationship. If you say to yourself, I’m going to have a relationship with my food right now. And one of the relationships that I want to have is I want to know what your plans are for me. So my plan is, as I eat this food is to know who are you and where you’re from. It’s like dating. It’s going to be inside you for a long time. You’ve got to know where it’s from and what its name is and what its intentions are with you. Right? So number one is your nutrition. Great. So, but if it’s breakfast, you have Cocoa Pebbles or you eat something from your Whole Foods, just because it’s Whole Foods doesn’t mean it’s good for you, right? So read something. It’s entertainment.

Michael (26:04):

Just call it what it is. Lunch. Entertainment, call it what it is. Nighttime. You overeat at a fancy, go to the keg, right? You overeat and you eat a bunch of food you shouldn’t. The morning, if you knew what you did, you’re probably going to have nutrition. Why I’m bringing this up and why I’m saying this to you right now, why it’s important to understand is if human beings do that, they will course correct. And they will course reset based on their actions. What most people don’t do is they do not label the actions of things they do appropriately. And they don’t realize that when they say to reiterate your question again and to go back to what it is you said, and why I mentioned that is most human beings do not language to language what it is they’re doing appropriately in their lives. So if there’s something that you want to be doing and you asked me, I believe the question you asked me was how to get, what was the exact question you asked me because I’m going to backtrack to this.

Chris (26:56):

Is it if we’re trying to move our average, is it easier to build a model by looking at other people?

Michael (27:03):

Yeah. So the best way to look at this is to ask yourself, what do you actually want? So by just saying to yourself, the difference between a dream and a want, most people look at their gym and go, if this was only Lifetime Fitness, if this was only, what is that big one in New York? And they have it in Toronto with an E. Why can’t I think of right now that fancy Equinox, if this was only the newest Orangetheory and they forget that you have to build a wand. What if it was only a gym with incredible customer experience? What if it was only a gym with some of the best retention in Arkansas? What if it was only a gym that had the greatest referral mechanism ever? We can grow from there. But most of us go from our gym with a hundred members at a hundred bucks a month at 10,000 bucks a month.

Michael (27:55):

And we barely can pay our staff, to Equinox. And we forget what if we clean up our act? What if we work on our text messaging? What if we have the greatest community we could ever have in the world where our gym members, like we have a barbecue outside. I’ve seen so many CrossFits in our area. They do barbecues. It’s amazing. They have their paleo, keto. It’s great. Right? They get everyone together and they go outside and they eat, right? So what if you allowed yourself to have the in between phase? Because the fastest way to not get your next level is to lie to yourself. And I think most people lie all the time because they say they want something. And because we’re so obsessed with our current identity, which is your current average, like, let’s say you want to quit smoking, right?

Michael (28:41):

If I say, I want to quit smoking, I gotta admit I don’t know how, which means I’m not good enough, which means I won’t start. But if you said I’m going to work on being healthier. And one of the things I’m going to do is eventually quit smoking, your body will give you half a chance. We typically are obsessed as most of your clients and students that come in, see themselves as people that are going to quit before they get started. They already know they’re going to quit. They already know they’ve already calculated in their brain, I’m going to go for seven to 10 days, maybe a month. Maybe I’ll stay a month. I’ll go a few more times and in eight months, I’m going to cancel. They’ve already calculated your $112 a month, $182 a month. If your gym membership plus taxes, they’ve already calculated they can lose a thousand bucks. And they’re OK with that. We need to change their identity.

Chris (29:26):

  1. So we need an intermediary step there between what their current average is and the average that they want to be then. Is there something that gym owner can do that will help them understand or build that intermediary step?

Michael (29:40):

Yeah, we need get people OK with doing better. And we need to get people OK with understanding and really start educating people that we can get you where you want to go. But we will never apologize for—we will apologize once for the workouts being hard and the difficult days, but we will never apologize for being dishonest. And we are going to be honest with you. And I like to show you some of these butts and abs and stuff on Instagram, and we can get there, but I’m going to tell you, it’s going to take two to three years to be there consistently, but we can get you is really wonderful pictures of before and after every 90 days, we can do really wonderful things together. But we’ve got to work as a team and we’ve got to work with accountability. So one of the things we’re going to work on is the first stage in the gym, month one, is something called accountability. And it isn’t about perfection. It’s about being accountable. So we want to do better than your current average. So I’d ask somebody, how many times have you worked out in the last month? Like, let’s say I asked you that question. How many times have you worked out? Let’s say you’re brand new to the gym. You are your gym, white house. I’m using Canadians, right? So your first time to the gym, you haven’t worked out in a while. It’s January 1st. Let me ask the question. How many times have you worked out in the last 30 to 90 days?

Chris (31:01):

Zero times. Not at all.

Michael (31:04):

So do you understand if we get you in here twice a week, big steps in the right direction?

Chris (31:11):

Yes. That’d be a lot more than I’m currently doing.

Michael (31:13):

Did you feel that thing in your body right there where you actually were like, but that’s not enough. Did you feel that?

Chris (31:20):

Yeah, I did. And I think because I’ve got the context of this conversation, I realized, Oh, this is going to be step one. But I wonder if I didn’t know that if I would have felt like, no, no, I need something more hardcore.

Michael (31:32):

Yup. And you are going to feel that and you can say, great. We are going to get you to hardcore. Hardcore requires a different level of commitment. And if you want that, I’ve got that. Let’s understand our slide. Two days is the minimum, five days is the maximum, let’s agree to three days a week. Can we do that? So what I teach people is, and I talked about this in the book. And you remember that part where I talked in the book about the guy that I helped get the movie part for the movie 300. I don’t know if you remember that part where I helped the guy in the gladiator movie get that part. And it’s really about something, not about massive action. It’s about setting a new baseline for people. Like I know for me and like my wife does 20,000 burpees a year. It sounds crazy, but it’s 68 a day or 86 a day and it’s not complicated. That’s her workout. That’s her thing. That’s what she does. And the reason I’m bringing that up right now to you is that if people would set a baseline for themselves, you didn’t start there. But if we start a baseline for ourselves, it’s really important to understand, like we need to get people OK with a new low.

Chris (32:35):

So when you say a new low, is that just kind of your new normal, or is that—

Michael (32:41):

You’re old low if your gym white house was it’s OK to not work out at all for six months, right? I want your new low to the worst case you ever do for the rest of your life is once or twice a week. There’s not a gym owner in the world that’s saying that to anyone anywhere. And I’m telling you if we could educate the world to basically say, how often do you do that? How many healthy meals a week do you eat? Like, like, well, I eat about four. Great. If we can get you to six, which is about one a day, we’re getting somewhere. We need to get gyms to be about getting somewhere, where a lot of us are. Like, we don’t get it, man. I’m looking to like appeal to CT Fletcher. You know what I mean? And that crowd, very few people are CT Fletcher. Does that make sense? Very few people are building that way. They got the Rogue gym in their house and they’re actually using it. Right. Very few people. What people want, if you want to be an incredible gym, it’s about helping set a new average for people and let people read “Average Sucks.” Let them know that our point in the gym, and I’ll make certain to get you some average sucks shirts out for you and your audience.

Chris (33:45):

All right, thanks.

Michael (33:45):

Make sure to email me about that. Maybe some prizes and stuff in the future, but that’s the thing we want to, our desire is to create new averages.

Chris (33:55):

  1. So this has been really amazing, Michael. The last question that I have for you is what about backsliding? I mean, obviously the path to a better average is not going to be a straight line. So what do I do when I backslide a little bit, I get a setback. Like the COVID crisis.

Michael (34:12):

  1. So the COVID crisis was not a setback. The COVID crisis was an opportunity to recognize there are some things we missed, meaning that if you build a business that can not survive a two month issue, you did not build an appropriate business. I might right there just lost fans. But then when you look in the mirror, you’ll realize how honest I was. If you are a parent and you have not built a back strong enough to hold your child, you did not do right by your child. So what I’m getting at is we as professionals need to recognize COVID is a realization that there are some things in our business that have fragility that are fragile, that we need to be prepared and ready for economically, mindset-wise and relationship-wise. So I will tell you I’m 43 this year, in 01, I got hit by 01 in business and I got knocked over in business. 08 and 09 came over and I was a little more prepared. And I said with my wife, never again. When this thing happened, I go, wait a second. I knew this was coming. This was something I learned playing ice hockey years ago, we ran stairs so we were ready for overtime. Our coach made us shovel the stairs in the middle of winter, and we ran the stadiums at high school. And the reason he did that, which he probably would get sued for today, which would be illegal, so he could say to us, we in our third overtime, remember those stairs. So I’m going to tell all of you, we need to build businesses with a 90-day bump that could possibly happen. So when it shows up, we are beyond ready. So my thing is, if you missed it, you missed your mindset. You spent a lot of time learning new workouts, but did you spend time in your mind?

Michael (35:58):

You spent a lot of time, you know, maybe doing email marketing to get customers, but did you spend a lot of time building digital products? You spent a lot of time talking with your customers that are multimillionaires. Cause you know that, you know, a hedge fund guy works out at your gym, but did you get stock options for him? And did you know that Zoom was going to be a hot item to invest in? And maybe, maybe not. So I’m just calling every human being out. There’s no difference between a gym owner or a restaurant owner. We are people that took a risk and human beings that take risks also need to build strength, which is our core. I have a whole program called core strength for a reason, as we all understand core in the gym world, our core of our business is our relationships.

Michael (36:43):

What is the average of your relationships? Our core is our economics. Our core is our health. Cause I would tell you a lot of gym owners, your stress, if it got weighed is destroying your gut health and your gut health is a whole nother issue that you’re having right now. We need to get you to be calmer and maybe you need to go hit up your yoga buddies and maybe take a yoga class or something every once in a while to calm your ass down. Because if you can’t handle the stress, you’re never going to be able to handle the strength. But chapter two of my book, which is the Death of Adversity, it didn’t die. We just got it with COVID. I need to write a new chapter right now because adversity grows a muscle and adversity grows a business. Congratulations, 90% of your competition is taking a nap because they don’t have the courage to listen to you right now.

Michael (37:27):

They’re out of business. Here’s the time that you step up and grow.

Chris (37:30):

Adversity changes the average.

Michael (37:33):

The psychology of a person coming into a gym is no different than somebody walking up to a blackjack table. How do I not lose bad? Meaning I want this to work, but I already know it’s not going to cause it has never worked before. Cause all my references show that this will not work. How do I not lose bad? And how do I not be embarrassed? That’s the psychology of 90% of gym owners. That’s it. And we need to offer them a new modality to change that. That’s where relationships come in. The barbecues come in. The thing that Lifetime, we taught them how to do years ago, which was they called it a 360. We’re like, what would your body look like if you were 18, again, doing that assessment.

Michael (38:19):

And we train them on how to sell that. Here’s how far you could go. But where in between, where would you really want to go? What’s your first next step? Do you know what I’m saying? So when I teach people how to not change their diet, but just to change their orientation of how they see food, then they will then change their diet. See, we have auto programs for gyms that are failures in the past. Most people that came out of a divorce relationship will get divorced again because that’s what they do. They get divorced. Most people did not see high functioning relationships. So most people do not even know, and this is an important word that I would teach, what a relationship with a gym actually looks like. So for instance, like, like let me ask you a question. You work out? Do you have your own gym? What is your relationship with your gym? Think of those words in that context, what is your relationship? Or let me ask a different question. What is your relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Chris (39:20):


Michael (39:20):

That’s your relationship? Right? You’re actually planning on them to lose. Even if we give you Austin Matthews out of Phoenix, he’s our guy. He used to play at the little rink I coached hockey the years he was playing out here. And even if you are not even going in, you are like me at the Rangers, high aspirations with a knowing of losing. I guarantee the relationship of a Pittsburgh Penguins fan is if not this year, we’ll get them next year. We will win.

Chris (39:49):

That makes sense. Yeah.

Michael (39:50):

They have a different expectation, correct?

Chris (39:51):

Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. We start the season in Toronto getting ready to be really excited in November and that’s it.

Michael (40:00):

That’s it. And then maybe we can make it. So you guys are like a one 900 number turn on thing that’s not real. You’re not even helping the team win, are you?

Chris (40:09):

No, no, I’m not. I’m doing nothing to help them win.

Michael (40:11):

So if I was ownership, I would have a meeting about changing the psychology of the fan relationship. Do you understand the deep psychology I just said?

Chris (40:21):


Michael (40:21):

You don’t get it. OK. So a hundred million fans or 10 million fans in Toronto know that their team will lose. That is not good for psyche. Everyone that walks in the gym knows they’re going to lose. We need to change the psyche. So if I owned the Maple Leafs, I would have an outward conversation.

Michael (40:48):

We know for years we have let you down. We know for years we have not offered what we said. Could I ask that we walk into the season, not only with hopes, with the decision that this will be our year. Could we hold those hopes for six months? If we are wrong, we will recalibrate. I would like unriled, unriled belief for our players, for our fans, for our equipment managers. Could I ask you for that? It’s no different than asking somebody to stay home during COVID. I’m asking you for help. So we ask a person that walks into the gym, could I ask you, have you failed coming to a gym before? Let’s get that out of the way. Please can we leave that relationship in the past? That is not this relationship, please don’t do that to us or do that to you.

Michael (41:36):

Do you see what I’m doing right now?

Chris (41:36):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s really powerful.

Michael (41:38):

That’s what two divorcees that get married, make a relationship work because I’ve been divorced. You’ve been divorced. We both know what we will never settle for again. Let’s talk about that. You got it?

Chris (41:52):

Very interesting. Yeah. That’s great, Michael, thank you, Michael Bernoff. This has been absolutely fantastic. Thanks for raising our average, man. And I really appreciate it.

Michael (42:01):

I appreciate it my man, thank you so much. And I’m excited to be out there in front of you guys and any way I can help ever let me know.

Chris (42:06):

Will do. Thank you.

Andrew (42:10):

This is Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for more episodes wherever you get your podcasts. Two-Brain Business has the best strategies and tactics for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. To see our essential resources for gym owners, visit and click COVID-19 at the top.


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Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

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