The fitness industry is frustrating. You and I both know it.
As coaches, we face down falsehood every day: lying supplement companies, knockoff trainers, gimmicky Globos with gazillion-dollar budgets and ninety-nine cent membership fees.
As the founder of the world’s best mentorship practice for gym owners, I see the same thing on a broader scale: fake consultants, copycat gyms, and rent-seekers who want to profit on the Movement that you and I built out of our mop buckets at 4am.
There are times when I think, “That’s it. There are enough clients in my gym. I love them all. The atmosphere is practically perfect. We don’t need anyone else.” And I want to shut the doors tight, bar the current clients in and lock the rest of the world outside.
There are other days when I think, “TwoBrain has 400 of the best entrepreneurs in the world. We can do anything. We don’t need anyone else. I’m slamming the doors.”
Here’s why I don’t.
I started writing DontBuyAds.com in 2008 because I felt like I was blowing the opportunity I had.
I had a supportive wife who let me work as hard as I wanted. I had an obsessive work ethic and a very strong back and (at the time) some knowledgeable partners. I had Greg Glassman’s brand, and the power to get people VERY fit. I had a family that would let us sleep on the couch if I blew it and a country that wouldn’t let me starve.
And STILL, I wasn’t building a successful business. I was blowing my big chance: the opportunity that over 99% of the world’s population will never have, and the remaining majority would refuse. I thought I was smart, but finally realized my ego was greater than my understanding. I got a mentor, and started publishing my notes. And I’ve published my notes almost every day since, for ten years.
The opportunity to be an entrepreneur is rare in the world, but even more rare in fitness. Greg Glassman has given over 30,000 people that opportunity: to use the brand and method he built. To pay a tiny fee and build CrossFit up–or tear it down–any way we like. I was using powerlifting and sprinting and sled pushes in 1996–but I didn’t have a name for it. I didn’t have a systematic process of changing lives with it; I was just making fitness look a bit cooler than the bodybuilders did.
Reason #1: I owe Greg. Anytime I think about closing the door to new clients at TwoBrain, I meet an amazing Affiliate owner who’s changing dozens of lives but ruining her own. I know our system will change her life, so I make a place for her at our table.
As my business grew, my city shrunk. Our primary employers were industries, and they went bankrupt. Almost a quarter of the jobs in the city–and over a third of the jobs paying over $80,000 per year–are gone.
What’s going to save the city? Entrepreneurship. Not government welfare, not focus groups or casinos. Grassroots entrepreneurship that creates jobs people want to have. Not call centers, but opportunities to make a difference. That’s why I founded TwoBrain Workshop in Sault Ste. Marie, teaching the principles of business to entrepreneurs in the service industry. And that’s why I keep Catalyst–a beacon of health, fun and brainpower–and constantly work to make it better.
Reason #2: I owe my city. Catalyst is where people find a clear path to health and happiness, and I won’t take that away.
The methods I use to help local entrepreneurs have been tested, over nearly a decade, by gyms around the world. Readers of the first Two-Brain Business book in 2012 embraced the ideas and started using them. They sent me emails; then they booked calls; then they signed up for the Incubator.
These are folks who have dedicated their lives to saving others; who leapt from security into the unknown with visions of service, not money. They followed the entrepreneurial dream into the roughest waters around: the fitness industry. They’re opening clean gyms at 4am, changing thousands of lives every day, pasting smiles on their faces until the coffee kicks in. They deserve to be millionaires.
Unfortunately, many would build businesses on the collective hard work of CrossFit affiliates and give nothing in return. Greg calls these “rent-seekers”, and he first used the term about investors who wanted to buy CrossFit (remember the Anthos deal?) Today, these rent-seekers are out in force, preying on fearful gym owners and promising greener grass if we all just de-affiliate and sign up for THEIR brand instead. Their brand is “not CrossFit”, they wouldn’t exist without us, and they don’t offer anything back. I want to prove, with the help of hundreds of other gym owners, that the CrossFit opportunity is more than enough to make a happy, wealthy life.
Reason #3: I owe Affiliates. That’s why I publish every day, even when I get complaints.
Finally, I can’t shake the attitude of the redheaded stepchild. I came from a loving, supportive home. But a childhood spent as a non-athletic nerd gave me a hell of a chip on my shoulder. And like Minos of Crete carrying a baby bull to adulthood, the weight has made me stronger. As I’ve matured as an entrepreneur, I’m no longer bothered by the daily ups and downs of cash flow in my gym. But I’m greatly bothered by those who dump their sludge into our industry; who attack CrossFit through fake science or false media; who copy without credit and criticize without experience.
Some days I wake up to an alarm and feel like I’ve gotten away with something. I have a beautiful family, fields and forest. I don’t worry about money. The vast majority of the world deserves better and doesn’t get it; I feel incredible gratitude that I have more than I’m owed.
But most days, I wake up without an alarm at 4am, already swinging mad about some tiny injustice being perpetrated on entrepreneurs. I look at the mountain we’ve climbed together briefly during my daily practice of gratitude. Then I bend down to pick up one more pebble and hurl it away.
Reason #4: I owe myself.
I could retire. I could just read and write and nap. If I were in this for money, I would. Believe me, “Freedom at 45” would make a great book title. But that would defy my purpose. I need the pull of a noble cause, and the push of a perceived wrong.
If you watch this interview with Greg Glassman in 2012 and skip to 3:22, you’ll hear him say “Let’s imagine a sellout. Pick your price…I wake up in the morning like, ‘Okay, we’re rich, now what?’ Well, I’d want to help people. I’d like to make a difference. It would be fun to do it with friends. I’d end up–out of a profound internal need–I’d try to get myself back to what I just sold.”
It reminds me of a classic old story about a fisherman and a businessman. The business guy is on vacation, and hires the fisherman to take him out for a day. They have a lot of fun, and at the end of the day the business guy hands the fisherman some money.
He says, “What are you going to do with the money?”
The fisherman says, “I’m going to go and take a nap. Then I’m going to meet my friends at a little bar. We’ll drink wine and I’ll play the guitar and we’ll all sing songs. Then I’ll go home, make love to my wife, and sleep in tomorrow. Then I might get a late breakfast and go fishing for awhile.”
The business guy says, “You know, you could charge a lot more than this. Guys like me could pay twice as much.”
The fisherman says, “What would I do with the money?”
The business guy says, “Well, you could buy a bigger boat.”
Fisherman: “And then what?”
Businessman: “Well, you could take twice as many people at a time. Then you could make even more money, and hire someone to help you.”
Fisherman: “This sounds good. Then what?”
Businessman: “Well, eventually, you could own two boats–maybe a whole fleet! You’d hire captains to run the boats for you, and make a killing!”
Fisherman: “That sounds great! Then what?”
Businessman: “Well, then you’d try to sell off the big company, or open franchises in other destinations. You’d be rich!”
Fisherman: “Wow. What would I do then?”
Businessman: “Well, you could retire to a little beach somewhere, drink wine and play your guitar all night, sleep late, and maybe do a little fishing…”
Retirement means choice: the ability to choose where I spend time and energy. As an entrepreneur, you inspire me to stay in the game; to expose my own skin, take risks, and learn painful lessons. And when I do, I want to share them with you, because that makes the lesson worth learning.
Reason #5: I owe you one, my friend. Thanks for reading.