How did a chubby guy who worked at the Gap launch a profitable online business that teaches people how to be fit?
John Romaniello is the founder of Roman Fitness Systems. The method he teaches there has been used by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who invited him to head his Fitness Advisory Board, and by regular people, who talk about their workouts in the comments of his blog posts.
Andrew: Coming up: What did today’s guest say to get a top affiliate to
sell his products for him? You’ll find the answer in this interview, but
when you hear it, I recommend listening to it by yourself or with ear
phones, because that section, and frankly several others, get a little bit
open. Also, have you ever been intimidated by the life that other business
people live? Well the facade is coming down in this interview. Check out
the truth behind the persona. Finally, are your over complicating your
first version, or maybe you know someone who is over complicating version
one. Check out how simple version one was for today’s guest. All that and
so much more, coming up. Listen up, I hate to have commercials interrupt
this interview, so I’m going to tell you about three sponsors quickly now,
and then we’re going to go right into the program, starting with Walker
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Next I want to tell you about Shopify. When your friend asks you how can I
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number from grasshopper.com. All right. Let’s get started.
Hey there, freedom fighters, my name is Andrew Warner and I’m the founder
of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. In this interview, I’m going
to find out how a stripper launched a profitable online business that today
teaches people how to be fit. John Romaniello is the founder of Roman
Fitness Systems. The methods he teaches there have been used by Arnold
Schwartzenegger, who invited him to head the Arnold Schwartzenegger Fitness
Advisory Board. And it’s been used by regular people who I’ve noticed on
his website talk about their workouts and the comments on his blog posts.
His new book is called Man 2.0, Engineering the Alpha: A Real World Guide
to An Unreal Life: Build More Muscle, Burn More Fat, Have More Sex. Hey
John: Hey. How are you? Thank you for that lovely introduction. I don’t
think anyone has ever led with stripper.
John: That’s good.
Andrew: We’re going to get to the stripping part of your life in a moment,
but first we’ve got to get into what people are here for, which is revenue.
What size revenue did you generate teaching people how to be fit?
John: So I was, when I was just running an in-person personal training
business, which I started when I was 20, 21 years old, I was doing six
figures by the time I was 24, and when we brought the business online in
2009, we did our first product launch. Or my first product launch, in
February 2010, and that launch did about 450,000 gross rev, of which, you
know, I was able to net close to 100. And from there it’s only gotten
bigger. So the business itself does in the 3 million range, and I am
personally taking home in the low seven figures. And then of course this
book deal was very generous on the part of Harper Collins, and that was a
seven figure deal as well. It’s been a great year and a fun ride.
Andrew: How do you get over a million dollars for a book? Is it Ryan
Holiday who goes and negotiates for you?
John: No. We have a great agent. So the intricacies of book proposals and
that whole, the whole publishing industry is a really, really fascinating
journey. Actually, I wrote a whole post about this called how to get a
seven figure advance as a first time author, which, depending on when you
view this, is either going to be published, or will have just been
published on Tim Ferris’s blog at fourhourblog.com. So all of the nitty
gritty is detailed in there. But what I will say, what I want to share, is
real quick tips are focus on what makes you different. Any industry, at the
top, all the great people, all the high level people are ultimately like
providing the same service, even if they’re teaching different things. So
you want to focus on the one percent that makes you different, not the 99
percent that makes you the same.
Secondly, you want to focus on your platform. The more eyeballs that are on
you, Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a good friend of mine, said no matter what
business you’re in, ultimately we’re all in the eyeballs business. And you
want as many eyeballs on you as possible. So the more famous you are in
your industry, in your industry and at large, the more money you’re likely
to make. For anything, in general. And, you know, that’s certainly true
with, let’s say, celebrity actors. The more famous someone is the more
credibility they have in terms of, like, Academy awards, the more money
they make. And that even is true when celebrities write books. I think
recently Lena Dunham’s book sold for $3.5 million dollars, which is highly
publicized. But, that’s nothing compared to the $15 million dollars Bill
Clinton got in 2004 for his book.
Andrew: So, I wrote in my notes here you were talking about how you’re
different. I want to come back to that later in the interview because
you’re right. There are so many people who teach how to work out, how to
be more fit. How to get abs. What is it about you that… what did you do
to separate yourself? But, let’s first go back to where you got started.
You, at one point, were overweight. You were working where? At the Gap?
John: Yeah, I was a chubby kid pretty much my whole life. I played sports.
So, I was thinner when I was doing that. But, then it was like my
freshman year of college and I had stopped playing sports so now my chubby
nature took over. I’m like, pushing a 35 waist so I was like I93 pounds.
Very overweight or, you know, very, very chubby. The heaviest I’d ever
been. And, at this point, I was working at the Gap. Which I do not
advise. I’ve had some shitty jobs and that is a shitty job.
Andrew: Why? Why is that such a bad job?
John: Because it’s like… it’s not… It’s weird. Because it’s not like
all retail sucks. I had two very different experiences. I had working at
the Gap. And, then, a couple of years later I worked at Abercrombie. I
was, like, the shirtless guy that stands outside the store. The Gap is
just a really shitty place to work because it’s a very frustrating place to
be because it’s a little bit lower end so you do higher volume so it’s
always crowded. The managers are super stressed out so they have all these
crazy rules. I was a 19 or 20-year old kid, and was just like, “I just
want a cool job where I can hang out with cool people.” And, the operating
thesis that seemed to be prevalent among managers of the Gap is that, like,
you can only do one thing. You can’t fold shirts and have a conversation
at the same time.
Andrew: I see.
John: There’s very draconian type of discipline. And I’m like, “We’re
folding fucking jeans!” It’s just like a shitty job. But, one day there
was the woman who came into the Gap. She called ahead of time and she
said, “I need 30 white polo shirts in a bunch of different sizes.” So, now
I’m like, I had just transferred home from school because my mom was sick.
She’s totally fine now. But at the time it was very frustrating. So I’m
dealing with that. I’m home from school where all my friends are at
college partying. I’m overweight. Now I’ve got his woman sending me down
to the stockroom to get 30 white polo shirts. Eventually I got them.
She’s waiting upstairs. And I asked her, as I’m ringing her up, as anyone
would, why on earth do you need 30 white polo shirt in all these different
sizes. She said, “My husband is opening a gym.” And we had a few
conversations… you know, just back and forth. Just back and forth in the
conversation. It turns out that gym was 5 minutes from my house. And I
had… the reason is interesting is that, just the day before, I had been
speaking to my best friend Chris, and I was like, “We should maybe do
something about this belly.” And, so I wanted to join a Gym. So, it
seemed very opportune. It seemed like it was fate for me to check this
So, the next day I went. I joined the gym. And the owner, a guy named
Alvin Batista, turned out to be a fantastic mentor for me. And, so, I like
to say that on April 26, 2001, I stepped into that gym. And, in many ways,
I’ve never actually left. And, Alvin, he was like my Obi-wan. He taught
me the ways of the force. And he gave me a ton of books and paid for my
first personal training certification. And in three months I had gone
through this dramatic physical transformation. So now my body is
completely different. And it’s happening right before summer so now… now
I’m like this shredded guy at the beach instead of a fat guy with a t-shirt
Andrew: Wait a minute. You went from a being an overweight guy to a
shredded guy in three months?
John: Yeah. Here’s the thing I learned about fitness. And this is what I
teach. Getting in shape is not easy. But, in many ways, it is simple.
It’s ultimately not that complicated. I read a lot of books because I’m a
nerdy guy at heart. As you can see I’m wearing a “Game of Thrones” t-shirt
so I’m just a big nerd behind this muscular carapace. So, this is a
facade. Don’t let this fool you. I’m really like a Dungeons and Dragons
playing nerd. But, because of that, I’m a very bookish guy. So, I read as
much as I could. And then I spent about three months reading and then I
just applied. You know I…
Andrew: If you’re chubby it seems like you’re not that heavy weight. Maybe
you have five or ten pounds to lose?
John: No. No, no. I joined the gym on April 26th and by July 4th I had a
six-pack. I had never seen my abs before in my life. I cried that day. It
was this big emotional thing. I went from about 193 pounds to 160 pounds.
Very lean, gained some muscle. I did a lot of things wrong in that journey,
things that I wouldn’t do now. You learn from those mistakes, of course.
Andrew: For example. What was the most aggressive thing you did?
John: I was definitely undereating. I just wasn’t really aware of how many
calories I needed, so I lost weight quickly, but I think that certainly
inhibited some strength gains. It all worked out, and then I transitioned
into bodybuilding. I just think that what most people do, when they go
really full bore, and they go hard core, is that they go a little bit too
hardcore. For me, I think that was the biggest thing.
Andrew: Okay. Is this when you decided to become a personal trainer?
John: Sort of. Yeah. I went through this body transformation when I was 20,
and then that summer I had the best summer of my life in a lot of ways. I’m
shredded for the first time. I’m getting all this attention from women. My
life is realistically better in every way now than it was last summer, and
I think that’s a really, really interesting thing. All I really did was
change the way I look.
What I didn’t realize is that that’s not all I changed. Going through a
dramatic physical transformation teaches you a lot about yourself, and what
you’re capable of. Once that infiltrates its way into your worldview, your
ability. Once you have this awareness that you can achieve this thing that
you previously thought was impossible, all of these other things that
seemed impossible start to seem a lot more realistic. That gives you a lot
At the time, I graduated with a double major in Psychobiology and English
with a History minor from a very good school. I now was 22 years old. The
thing that I loved was training. I had worked with athletes at that point.
I had really started being at the gym.
John: Now I’ve got this degree that I don’t really think is interesting to
me. The confidence that I got from having gone through this transformation,
and having achieved the impossible, gave me the confidence to start
training as a business.
Andrew: You started it as your business? You didn’t do it at the gym that
John: I did actually, but I started my own business. Rather than being a
staff trainer, I started Roman Fitness Systems when I was 22 years old.
That was the name of my personal training company. I was a freelance
trainer, which just means you have to operate differently than being a gym
As a gym trainer, they feed you clients, but your take is considerably
lower. As a freelance trainer, you charge whatever you want, and you just
pay rent on your clients. Let’s say you’re charging 60 bucks an hour, you
pay ten to the gym, so your net is 50. Whereas, if you’re a gym trainer,
maybe they charge the client 75, and you get 25.
Andrew: You’re doing six figures, over a hundred thousand, at that point.
Andrew: How did you get so many clients?
John: It took about two years to get there. Actually, the story that I love
to tell . . .
John: . . . because this is for entrepreneurs. Right? This is an
John: People are interested in this.
Andrew: Bring it, baby.
John: I always tell this story because I want people to understand that, if
I can do it, literally anyone can do it. To tell you the truth, I didn’t
start really focusing on my business until I was 24. I like to say that for
two or three years, I badly ran a very successful business. How do you do
that? If you’re running it badly, how is business still successful? When I
say I was a bad businessman, I really couldn’t stress that more. I couldn’t
mean that more truly.
I heard a quote from another high-level trainer, a great entrepreneur,
named Allen Cosgrove, who said, ‘most trainers treat training like a hobby
that makes them money, when they should be treating them like a business.’
I realized that’s that what I was doing. At that point, I did not actually
know how much money I made.
I knew how much I charged for my sessions, and so at the end of every week,
I would tally it up. But I had never actually sat down. If someone had
asked me how much I made per year, I couldn’t have answered that question.
When I heard that quote, I was 24 and I was, like, all right, you can’t
function like that. You’ve got to treat your business like a business.
That changed a lot of things for me. At 24 years old, I sat down, and it
was June at that point. I was, like, well, here’s an easy way to figure it
out. I’ll just go back to January, see how many sessions I had done, and
sort of tally up how much each session was worth, because they varied a
little bit. Figure out how much money I have made in the first six months
of the year. It turned out I had made $44,000. I was, like, that’s pretty
legit for a guy who’s not using his degree. If I just double that, I can
assume that going to December, I’ll make 88. And so I decided that in order
for me to consider training a real job and justify not going to grad
school, I needed to break six figures. For me, for whatever reason, that
was a thing.
Andrew: How’d you get your customers, then?
John: So I dove in, and I was like I’m just going to increase this. And I
made a lot of really dumb mistakes that I don’t recommend people do. The
first thing, I come from like blue collar, hardworking, nose to the grind
stone Italian stock. So for me, I was like if I want to make more money,
I’m just going to work more. Like, if I want to make twice as much money,
I’ll just work twice as many hours. I actually wrote a blog post for this
on my site, and it was really interesting. What happened, I noticed, is
that I went from, my acceptance hours for clients used to be like 8AM to
6PM, and it went from like 6AM to 8PM. So I just reduced the amount of net
free time I had by 50 or 60%
Andrew: By being available? How do you get clients if you’re not hunting
them down on your own?
John: So the thing for me, and this is really important, because what
worked for me in the gym has also worked for me online. And the way that I
got clients online, and the way that I’ve managed to build a big platform
online, is simply by being awesome. That’s the tip. Just be awesome. And I
know that sounds stupid, but what I really mean by that is I am very much
me. Professionally. That’s what I do for a living. Even when I was
training, I was me, professionally. When I’m writing, I’m just me as a
writer. It’s not a bad gig. So really.
Andrew: I get what you’re saying, but that’s, I want something a little
more specific here. If it’s not a question you can answer right now, then
let’s move on to something else, but just being awesome is not an answer.
John: That’s my whole business model, is be awesome.
Andrew: Why don’t I just sit back here and be awesome with my cup of [??]
latte, and let the interview just happen.
John: What that means in a gym, being awesome, it’s like there’s a couple
things. Right. What are the things that make people want to train with you?
One, having a better body than most people in the gym. At that point I was
body building, so guys wanted to work with me. When I got a little smaller
and I got to be a fitness model, women wanted to work with me. So I was
physically awesome. Not only that, like, I made sure to do my own workouts
when the gym was very busy, so more people would see me.
Andrew: And then they walk over and they say hey, how do I hire you?
John: Right. Basically they just. What the real thing is that I found that
selling around the product was far more effective than trying to pitch
anyone. So when people would come up, you know, nobody inquires about
training. They inquire about information. They’re just like hey, what
should I do for my arms? What do you do? Over the time they have these
conversations, and what happens is over a period of three to four weeks,
they’re asking you these questions, they’re getting information, they begin
to view you as an authority. And then if they want to make an investment,
they know you’re a trainer and eventually they pull the trigger and hire
you or they don’t. But they still know you’re a credible source of
information. Now that works in a gym, but it also works well online. As a
blogger who sells information products, I give a ton of free information. I
interact with my followers and my fans, and when I have a product, they buy
it or they don’t, which is fine. I try not to hard sale. I will pitch to my
email list. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable pitching. But it’s always
selling around the product. It’s always talking about the information,
explaining how the information is helpful. Explaining how it can change
your life. And from there I let people assume the sale. And that’s really
what works for me. So picking up clients for me was as simple as being in
the gym often enough, even when I wasn’t training.
This is a big thing, that I think if there’s any other trainers listening,
one of the things that I did was I would hang out at the gym when I didn’t
have clients. And so when I opened up my availability hours to be able to
start training at 6AM, prior to that, I didn’t go to the gym at 6AM, I
didn’t have clients? So all I did was start showing up at the gym at 6AM.
Hung out with a few people, like did my own workouts. Eventually I offered
to train one guy for free, and then other people in that time frame saw me
training him, so they knew I was a trainer, knew I was available. They saw
his transformation, and in three months, every slot, every day of the week
from 6 to 9 was booked.
Andrew: All right, how did you get into selling-, actually, before we get
into information products, I mentioned at the top of the interview that you
were a stripper for a short period in your life. How were you doing and how
did you get into stripping?
John: So this is when I was up at school. I was, it’s after I had gone
through my body transformation, and I was still sort of experimenting with
all the fun things I could do with my new physique, you know? Like all of
these options became available. And I did it for seven or eight months
while I was up at school. And the way that it happened is that I was at the
gym one day, and I was squatting, and this guy came up to me and asked if
he could work in with me. We started having a conversation and it turned
out he owned dance companies. I was like oh, that’s interesting. You don’t
see a lot of body builders who are into dance. And he was like, no, like
exotic dancing. And I’m like, that sounds cool, man. In my head, I was 21
years old, like great, all you get to do is look at boobs all day. That’s a
great job. Turned out he worked with guys. So we worked out together, at
the end of the session, he pitched me. He was like if you’re ever
interested in making any extra money, would you be interested. I was like I
don’t know man, it seems kind of weird. He was like, listen, you’re already
competing in body building, right? And I was like yeah. And he’s like well
then you’re already on stage in your underwear, right? And I was like yeah,
I am. So he started making a lot of sense. And you know, of course in
college you need a little bit of money, so I stripped. I never danced at
like bars or anything. I only did like bachelorette and sorority parties.
It was like, it was a fun experience. It was very weird. Like thinking
back, but it was-,
Andrew: I feel like this is an inappropriate question to ask you.
Andrew: Did you get to sleep with the women who showed up at these events.
John: I did not. I’m sure I could have, but I actually had a girlfriend at
the time, while I was stripping, who thought the fact that I was a stripper
was absolutely hilarious because I am not a great dancer. But now my job
was to dance. So whenever I’m asked to dance at weddings now, I always just
say I would, but I’m not capable of dancing without taking my clothes off.
That’s my only move. That’s all I got. So I did not hook up with anyone.
But it was very common. A lot of the guys that I knew. But also, it’s
common as a trainer, many, many trainers sleep with their clients. They’re
not that dissimilar.
Andrew: And did you sleep with any of your clients when you were training?
John: That’s a great question. I did not. I love sex. What I used to say is
that as much as I love sex, I love money a little bit more, so I actually
talk about this in the book. The only time that it ever happened, I made it
a policy to not only not only didn’t I sleep with my clients, I also didn’t
train women that I was very attracted to because I just didn’t want to be
in that situation. And there was this one girl who I was super into and we
sort of like, eye-fucked each other from across the gym for like three
months. Eventually she approached me for training. I tried to pass her off
to like four different other trainers and she wasn’t having it. So
eventually we did a session together, and it went well and my compromise
was that I’ll do one session with you and then I’ll write you a training
program that you can do on your own. I can’t train you. So then after the
training session, I saw her in the gym the next day, and I was like, I’m
just going to put this out there that I would much rather be someone who
takes you to dinner than someone who trains you in the gym. And then we
wound up dating for like a year and half. She’s a great, great girl. And so
that was like the only time. Because there was no avoiding the sexual
Andrew: So far everything you’ve been doing has been offline training. Now
you’ve, today, you’re doing online information products.
John: For sure.
Andrew: The start happened for you, I think, at a seminar? Is that right?
John: Yeah, well, so if you’re familiar with Joseph Campbell and the
monomyth. You know, Campbell always talks about the call to adventure. And
I believe that any change in your life happens with a call to adventure. It
begins that way. With my physical transformation, it was a literal phone
call. A woman called and said I need 30-wide polo shirts. In this
particular case, it was also another phone call. One of my buddies, a guy
named Joel Marion, who I believe you guys know, was a great entrepreneur.
He had a, he called me and invited me to go to dinner with a bunch of
online fitness professionals and I couldn’t go. So that’s what’s called the
refusal of the call. And then he did a product launch, and it went really
well for him. I didn’t know anything about marketing. I think that when
Joel first called me and told me about affiliated marketing, he didn’t
have, like, a good pitch. He didn’t have a strong enough grasp on how to
explain it to make it appealing. He was just like well, if you sell someone
else’s product you get 75% and the whole thing just sounded too good to be
Andrew: Why did he want you to sell other people’s products?
John: Joel and I have been friends since we’re 20 years old. At that point,
it was seven or eight years later, so we’re 27, 28. We’ve always been very
ambitious. We’ve worked together on a lot of products, and a lot of
projects. We met because we were writing for the same bodybuilding magazine
when we were 20 years old, where we both got our first articles published
within weeks of each other.
Andrew: He wanted you to sell other people’s products? Did you have a list
at that point?
John: I did not have a list. Joel’s initial call to me, he said, I’m
starting to research internet marketing and online fitness. You would be
really good at it. I’m going to go on this journey. You should come with
me. I want to learn about this, and I think we can make a lot of money. I
think you can make money because you have all these skill sets in terms of
your personality, and your writing skills. That would be very profitable.
Let’s do this. In the initial stages, he wanted me to sell his product or
anyone else’s, he just was first getting started in online marketing.
Andrew: Said let’s do it together.
John: Let’s do it together. Right.
Andrew: I see. He actually got your attention because he did what you did
at the top of this interview, which is he shared his revenues with you.
Andrew: What were the revenue numbers?
John: After his first launch, he called me and he’s, like, hey, man,
remember that online marketing stuff I was talking about? I was, like,
yeah, how’s it going? He’s like, well, we did this launch, and we just did
$300,000 in three days. I was, like, now, you have got my attention.
John: That’s what gets people’s attention. That was in April of 2009, and
then early May, Joel took me to the first ever marketing conference I’d
been to, which was thrown by internet marketing godfather, Ryan Lee. It was
called Fast Track to Fitness Millions.
In the Campbellian archetype, this is sort of crossing the first threshold.
Now I’m in this new world. All these people are talking about their revenue
streams, the amount of money they can do, like the amount of money they
want to make, and thinking about it. It instilled in me a high level
belief. I believed that if these people can do it, there’s no reason that I
can’t, because I have the following things that are better than them.
What I always tell my business coaching clients is that, if I can do it,
there’s no reason that you can’t, because you’re better at these five other
things. I started my blog in a hotel room that night, registered the domain
RomanFitnessSystems, and got started. Put up the blog in May and just been
going from there.
Andrew: You told Jeremy, where is this? That you used an ugly theme to get
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: I went back to see what theme this was. It was called the, where is
it, Make Money Online with a 13-year old Theme.
John: Yes, oh my God. Yeah. Whoever that kid was. Oh, man, what was his
name? I don’t remember the theme, but that was the marketing pitch. He was
this young internet marketer who was doing whatever, and he designed, among
doing other things, he designed WordPress themes. I had this hideous,
mostly white with a little blue. It had my old logo on it.
It was very serviceable. It got readers to my site. The problem was, and
this is where standing out comes in. A lot of other fitness marketers were
using that same theme because it was tested and it converted.
For the first time, certainly not the last, I decided, f*** whatever else
is doing, I’m going to go in the complete opposite direction, and I’m going
to make it work for me. The first way I did that was redesigning my site. I
don’t remember the second theme that I used, but it was black. Black
website. It was the exact of black and some purple colors here and there.
That was the first blog I had that you could have a featured image for each
site. When I made that change, I noticed that people responded to it really
The amount of blog comments I got went up, the amount of people
complimenting the theme. It made a lot more sense for my personality,
because I’m not like a lot of fitness professionals. The fitness industry
is really weird, because it’s like very squeaky clean. Everyone is very
polished and wearing crisp polo shirts with big white smiles. On the very
end of that, they’re all hardcore, taking pictures leaning on barbells in
rolled-up sleeves. Those are the two types of fitness professionals. These
super professional and these meatheads.
I thought like I’m sort of in the middle, so I’m just going to do that and
see where it goes. What I mean by that is, when I say the fitness industry
is squeaky clean, it’s really uncommon in the fitness industry to talk
about sex. Which does not make sense to me, given that the entire industry,
it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry that is predicated on the idea
that people want to look better naked. But that’s where it stops for most
fitness professionals. OK. Look better naked. Done. And I’m always like
well look better naked so you can have more sex and be better at it. Let’s
talk about that next step. And the decision to talk about that next step
and to talk about sex, to not pull my punches, to not be afraid of dropping
bombs, to not be afraid of telling stories about my past or revealing the
fact that I was a stripper. People really responded to that. And my first
product launch Joel helped me with did quite a lot of money because it was
very personality driven. And so much of everything I’ve done has been
personality driven since then. If you’ve read any of my stuff, you see that
it’s like, there’s a very definitive, very clear voice.
Andrew: I’m going to break down that first product you created, and the
launch, but first, let’s talk about what you just said right now, which is
you found your personality online. I’m looking at one of your earlier
websites, from 2011, you say Hi, I’m Roman, I talk about fitness,
lifestyle, focus, and myself. Mostly myself, because I’m awesome. How do
you find your voice? That’s not an easy thing to test. It’s not an easy
thing to figure out.
John: I mean, there’s really no advice I can give that’s not going to sound
trite and pedantic because it is. It’s the same thing everyone says. It’s
just like be authentic. Just write how you talk is the simplest advice.
Andrew: But in real life, would you talk to people and say hey, my name is
Roman, I’m awesome, look at my abs.
John: I probably, well, things get a little bit exaggerated one or two
levels up, but when I was younger, when I was like 24, I would, any excuse
to take my shirt off. Any excuse. Now that I’m 31, that’s not as likely,
but I have no problem telling people that I’m really, really awesome at
these things. And I also have no problem saying I’m really fucking terrible
at these things over here. I’m happy to tell you I have great abs, but I’m
equally happy to tell you that I am a terrible dancer, and like all of the
things that men should be good at, like bowling and pool, I am bad at. But
I’m great at fixing cars or whatever. I will reveal literally anything. I
don’t pull my punches. So if you look at the bottom of my site, there’s
like a little mini bio where it describes me as being equal parts
narcissism and self-loathing, and that quote.
Andrew: What do you loathe?
John: That quote came from my therapist when I was like 22 years old.
That’s the thing. There’s always, no matter how much you love certain
things about yourself, there are so many things about me that I wish I
Andrew: For example. What do you loathe? I was actually, I saw that on the
bottom of your site going all the way back, I think, to the very beginning.
Maybe soon after you launched. I didn’t find any articles about self-
loathing, but that’s an important thing to talk about.
John: It is. I really talk about a lot, about, you know, a lot of fitness
professionals that talk about self-love and how you just want to do this
from you. I came from a completely different place. I got to a point where
I looked in the mirror and I hated what I saw, and I didn’t love the
process of getting into shape. I hated myself forward for like three
months. And that’s really important. I think the darkness can be just as
powerful as the light. And with regard to the things that I loathe. I am a
complete, I’m very disorganized, which is why I’ve learned to delegate and
have assistants. I am prone to stressing out, and I wish I was a little
more laid back. I’m not easily angered, but when I’m angry, like, I have
two modes. I’m either totally chill or telling you all the reasons you are
a complete fucking idiot and why your existence is stupid and pointless.
And I never reveal that in an interview. Most people don’t know that
because I manage to temper it online. But that’s something that I actively
try to work on. I would like to not be so aggressive when I’m angry.
Andrew: You just talked about so many different aspects of your
personality. Any part of them, if you would have exaggerated it, you would
have had a whole online persona built around it. You know, your anger. Or
your messiness, et cetera. The question that I’m most curious about is how
did you figure how to, what part of your personality to exaggerate.
John. The things, in the beginning I just talked about whatever, right? And
the things that people resonated with, I talked about more. So what people
really seemed to respond to was like the cocky pretty boy who doesn’t
necessarily talk about banging a lot of girls, but it’s very clear that he
does. And so like just sort of like that cocky playboy image is what people
really responded to. And the way I tested all of that was Facebook. That’s
like the, Facebook and Twitter are your fastest testing grounds. Like if
you look at my Facebook page, it’s very clear what people are interested
in. Like if I post a fitness article, 8 likes, if I post hey guys, I’m
wasted, 500 likes, like, you know?
Andrew: I see, and so that’s the same thing that I did, and I get that.
You just put stuff out there from your personality, you see how people
reacts, you see how it feels to be that person, or to express that
statement, all right, and then you see what works, what feels good for you,
and what brings the audience in.
John: So what I think is really important is that, I believe one of the
reason that I’m so appealing is because people love dichotomy, and there is
like that cocky playboy image, but I’m also very, like, open about being
like a crazy, hard core nerd, like Dungeons and Dragons. I was one of
those kids in the lunch room in middle school who was playing with magic
cards, remember Magic The Gathering? I was that kid. I have, like, I’m
very proud of the fact that I had an eighth level paladin named Travel and
Dagmoor in Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m very proud of the fact that I
played World of Warcraft, or that I can recite every line in Star Wars, or
that I have a Lord of the Rings tattoo on my ribs, or that like I know a
shit ton about comic books.
Andrew: I see. And so it’s what you said in the beginning, it’s the geek
with the abs.
Andrew: That dichotomy is what people (?).
John: That’s like a cocky playboy who’s also, like, this crazy nerd is
confusing to people. And this is always very interesting to me. Whenever
I meet someone for the first time, people judge you by how you look, right?
So the first interaction people have with me, if they don’t know anything
about me, they’re just like, okay, good looking guy, you know, he’s jacked,
probably a meathead, definitely an asshole, you know, super cocky,
whatever. And when they start speaking to me, and they hear that I went to
an Ivy League School, or that I’m a super nerd, or just like even the way I
present ideas, and my sort of, like, vocabularial selections are indicative
of a higher intellect, I think, and it’s always interesting that, like, I
know how people are going into a conversation with me, and then there’s
this point about five or six minutes in, where I see them, they’re like,
oh, that’s interesting, and then there’s this point, like, fifteen minutes
in, where I just like, they’re like, oh my God, okay, he’s totally
different from what I thought. You can actually, like, see the shift
happen and feel it in the way people interact with you, and so I think that
being surprising in that way is really what’s pushed things forward for me.
Andrew: OK, so now you’ve got this persona, you’ve got the site, you’ve
got a little bit of traffic, it’s time to launch something.
Andrew: What’s the first product you create?
John: First product I created was called Final Phase Fat Loss. It was a
product intended to help people lose the last 5 to 15 pounds, and the
product was really my synthesis on fat loss methods, and even my new book
features a lot of the type of information that’s in Final Phase. And it
was a really, really good product, because not only were workouts great,
not only was it high quality, there was a hole in the market. I mean,
like, how many people were looking to lose the last 5 to 15 pounds,
everybody, right? There wasn’t a product specifically for that.
Andrew: How did you know that, by the way? I didn’t know it, now that you
say it, it makes total sense, but how were you aware that this was a
John: I mean, that’s like my business, right? I’m a trainer in a gym, I
see hundreds of clients a year, you know, we’re just like, “Hi, I just want
to lose 5 or 10 pounds.’
John: I’m like, there’s a need for that, you know.
Andrew: OK. You’ve got the need, of course you can create the product,
because this is what you’ve been doing for years, with yourself too. Now
how do you find the customers for it?
John: So really all of it comes from a (?), and so I really created a
product, and we did not launch it until the following February, because I
wanted a really successful launch. And the thing that I did, I got the
marketplace a little bit agitated and ready for the product, and I did that
not only by sort of talking about it to my own readers, but, you know,
really going out of my way to network with affiliates, to go to the
conferences that they would be at, and to go to the parties they would be
at, to like build relationships with them, and basically, you know, build
friendships, and spend . . . all of the things being equal, people want to
do business with their friends, right? So I knew I didn’t have enough
people to sell the product to, so I need the other people to sell the
product. So I was making all these friends with all these, like, really,
really great people, and eventually they, you know, were like, oh yeah, I’m
totally down to promoting you, you’re my boy. And so Joel was very, very
helpful in that regard, and he actually ran a launch with me, and you had,
you know, all of the major fitness affiliates promoting, and we did, you
know, I don’t know, 9,000 or 10,000 sales on the product and its upsales in
four days, and it was life changing for me. You know, my net might have
been, like a hundred grand, or whatever it was, but you know, it was like,
I did that in three days. Far more than I’d ever, you know, than could ever
hope to make. So that really changed things for me, and set me up with a
mailing list. I had not only this customer list, but also a prospect list.
Andrew: All right, because people who buy join the prospect list. Did you
also collect email address from people who expressed interest but didn’t
end up buying?
John: Yeah. We basically used the traditional launch model where people
would opt in to receive information, and then over a five to ten day period
they would be dripped content relative to when they signed up, but very
relevant to the product. You sort of describe the problem one day, and then
the next day you provide the solution. The typical marketing stuff, and…
Andrew: We had Shawn Malarkey [SP] on Mixergy to teach that full process.
It’s a process I guess that many people who sell information products use.
John: Right. That’s launch. So Shawn works with Louis Haus [SP], who’s one
of my boys. Shawn’s a really good friend and great guy. So they know. So
they sort of teach social medial marketing. I teach fitness, but those
techniques are equally applicable. So that launch model provided us with
first a prospect list. Then that prospect list plus every other affiliate’s
main list was promoted to. I managed to walk away from that launch with a
list of 4,000 customers and 25,000 prospects.
John: So I’ve got this 30,000 person list instead of the 900 people I was
working with before that.
Andrew: A lot of it was affiliates. That’s why you netted $100,000, even
though you did a few hundred thousand dollars more.
Andrew: You talked about how you found multiple affiliates. But I thought
maybe you can talk about one relationship with one affiliate to give us an
indication of how you built those friendships that led to business. There
was one guy who you said, you told Jeremy in the pre-interview, you didn’t
talk to him at all about business. What did you talk to him about?
John: So this is a guy whose name I won’t mention because I don’t want to
get him in trouble with his girlfriend or whatever. He’s a very, very
powerful fitness affiliate, and we wound up, it was a mastermind I think in
the Bahamas. Strangely, everyone there had brought like, their girlfriend,
or wife, or fiancÈe, or whatever. And he and I were the only two single
guys. We just spent the entire weekend bro’ing out, mostly what two single
guys do. You just talk about girls and, you know, just sleeping with
different chicks, and told sex stories. We both shared a couple of stories
from like, previous threesomes. And we just sort of bro’ed out, and drank
some beers, and talked about that. Never once did we touch on the product.
Never once did we touch on business. And then, you know, we went home, he
to wherever he was and me to New York. I got an email like two days later.
He was like, ‘Hey bro. It was really great hanging out with you. I had a
really great time. Let me know when the launch is. I’m definitely in to
promote the product.’ Because you know, people don’t want to be pitched.
They just want to build relationships. They want to be friends. So if I had
pitched him hard on the product, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have, or
would have jumped on for the affiliate promotion. But it certainly worked
out. A lot of times with affiliates, my recommendation is just be bros.
Another great example is my literary agent. We met at a conference, and we
talked about the book and some of his previous successes. But really what
we talked about was football, bourbon, life in New York City, and the east
side versus the west side of Manhattan and like [??]. We just like had a
really good intelligent conversation, not about business but just about us.
And at the end of it, I was just like, ‘So yeah, like, where’s the
contract? I’ll sign now. Let’s just do this.’ So it worked on other people
for me, but it also worked on me from other people. Just like, be a bro.
You know? Be…
Andrew: Who’s the agent?
John: His name is Scott Hoffman from Folio Literature, Folio Lit. He’s
great. Really, really savvy guy. Very, really, really good at the chess
match that is book proposals.
Andrew: You said multiple threesomes.
John: Yeah, I did. I did say that. Yeah…[SS]…
John: I had a wild youth. It was fun. Full of lessons.
Andrew: You know what? It’s surprising to me how many people in tech have
open relationships, or have had experiences like that. They don’t talk
about it publicly the way that you just did, but in private it’s amazing to
John: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of people, I’m sure, that we both know,
that we’re mutual friends with, that are polyamorous, or whatever else.
Andrew: Yes. We’ll sit in dinner, and they’ll be like, ‘Of course, this is
life.’ And they’ll have this really super rational way of looking at the
world. And of course, this fits in. Super rational and also super, what’s
the word? Cumulative? Like, they like a lot of stuff. They don’t want to
have little of anything.
John: Yeah, yeah. It’s like that abundance mentality, I guess.
Andrew: Right, about everything. So now you do the first one. You’ve
figured out this whole new way of living. How do you grow that?
John: I mean you just send emails and make money, is really, like, that’s
the heart of internet marketing.
Andrew: So you just keep creating products and selling.
John: Creating products and marketing, getting people to promote them. You
know, I’m really big on, I want to be everywhere. Like everywhere. So for
me, I really had a strong focus on getting published in as many places and
as many magazines as I could. So I started aggressively writing for T
Nation, aggressively writing for Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, Ask Men,
Bodybuilding.com. As many places as I could get published, and especially
high traffic sites, and to send you some traffic back. And you know, every
time I wrote an article for, let’s say, T Nation, which is the body
building site where Joel and I met, I would pick up, you know, between 50
and 150 new subscribers and invariably, every article, I wound up with
between 3-5 applicants for my coaching program, and the conversion rate was
almost 100 percent.
Andrew: And you also get those logos that you have up on your website that
add a lot of credibility.
John: The logos add credibility. I would take all the logos. Up there we
just have the more powerful recognizable ones, but I will collect logos
until I die. Like even smaller magazines, if I haven’t been published
there, approach me. I will absolutely write something for you.
Andrew: Do you write it yourself or do you hire someone to do it?
John: I write everything myself. I was a writer before I was anything else.
If it hadn’t been fitness, it would have been something else. I was an
English major. I love words. I had my first poem published when I was nine.
I had my first short story published when I was 14 or 15. And so I have
been writing my whole life. When I was eight years old, I told my mom I
wanted to write a book, and she asked why, and I said books make me happy,
and I want to make other people happy. And so, that’s like this book that
is coming out, which I-.
Andrew: We shouldn’t keep calling it this book. We should say Man 2.0 or
John: Engineering the Alpha is sort of like the cumulative result of 20
some odd years of desire, and 10 years of work. And so it’s really an
exciting time for me. It comes out a week from right now, and I’m like
flipping out about it.
Andrew: OK. And actually we’re going to publish this after the launch,
unless, we can work something out if you need it sooner, but usually we
have it published later.
John: Absolutely. It’s fine.
Andrew: I looked at your site, and I saw a lot of non-fitness on the site.
Andrew: Why? Why is it that you don’t stay disciplined and only talk about
fitness and only talk about weight loss and only talk about the psychology
of it and the process of it?
John: Because the less I talk about fitness, the more people respond. I’ve
actually gone so far as to actually create a new site, so in addition to
Roman Fitness Systems, I now also have JohnRomaniello.com, where I can just
talk about entrepreneurialism and other stuff. Yeah, on Roman Fitness
Systems, I’ve written a lot of business posts. I have an entire, I wrote my
thesis on Campbell, so I’m a big Campbell guy. So I have like. One time,
actually, I got a text message that said of your past eight blog posts,
three were about super heroes, one was about orgasms, two referenced Joseph
Campbell, and none of them were about fitness, so maybe you should start
doing something else. And so I’m not necessarily sick of writing about
fitness, although it does get tiring. You know, I’ve hit a lot of home
runs, and I’ve said a lot of the things that I need to say. But I am just
as interested in helping people improve their relationships as I am their
fitness. I am just as interested in helping people, guys, in particular,
learn how to dress better as I am to helping them, you know, life better.
Andrew: The common thread is self-improvement with the John attitude. John
Andrew: And if I may be a little intimidated by the fitness articles, or
may think I’m not ready to work on that part of my life, I might be drawn
into your world and your way of thinking through those articles. You have
articles about Twilight, I think, you told Jeremy?
John: Yeah. That was one of my most popular blog posts. Very early on, I
was just like I’m going to write about whatever I want to write about,
because that’s what I feel like doing. It’s my blog and I can do what I
want. I was dating this girl who was reading Twilight, so I’m a real
bibliophile. I read, literally, everything. And just as a brief, a semi-
related aside, I think that it’s important to read things that make an
impact. So if you’ve never read Harry Potter, you need to read Harry
Potter. It’s a great good, but even if you don’t enjoy it, it’s important
for you to read it because that book series was responsible, directly,
singularly responsible for an entire generation of children starting to
read. Whereas reading was on the decline until Harry Potter was published.
Andrew: And then you understand the mindset of those people who grew up
John: Right, exactly. It’s strange to me when people don’t read best
sellers, or when people don’t know about Star Wars. How do you have a
conversation with someone and they reference Yoda because people reference
Yoda all the time.
Andrew: You know what, you’re absolutely right. I don’t know how I never
even read Harry Potter. I guess I said it’s not my world, but now I’m going
to audible.com to remind me. I’ll just pin it in chrome to remind me after
this conversation, I should at least listen to the audio book. I’ll try it
and we’ll see.
John: So anything that storms its way into the zeitgeist with such intense
furber iii, to me is very interesting because I don’t want to…[ss]…
Andrew: Oh sorry. You know what I’m doing John? I keep interrupting only
because I feel like there’s so much I want to cover. So now I’m pushing in
a very artificial way to go, ‘Hey, like Gary Vaynerchuk, here’s a segue
into another part of my notes.’ I shouldn’t be doing that. I’m sorry,
John: Really, that’s what the Twilight post was. Read Twilight, partially
because the girl I was dating was reading Twilight, but also because it was
fucking everywhere. Everyone was talking about Twilight. The movies were
coming out. So for me, I have a responsibility to see what this is all
about before I judge it. As it turns out, it was awful.
Of the four books, one of them was palatable. I can make an argument for a
second one, and then two of them were just absolute garbage. So I said
that. I wrote this 4,000 word rant on why the Twilight saga is a terrible
series. It did really well, and every time a new Twilight movie comes out
my followers pass it around. So for the past couple of years it’s been
sending me a lot of traffic.
When things take anything by storm, I’m interested. Which is what first
drew me to Tim Ferriss. Because I would go to this marketing conferences
and literally everyone would be like,’ did you read the 4 hour work week?
Do you read the 4 hour work week? Everybody talk about it. Then when I
started hearing about Gary Vaynerchuk when he wrote his book people were
just like, he was everywhere. Actually, when I first started in the online
world, Joel really liked Gary’s stuff and he said ‘you should do a daily
video like Gary does because you guys have very similar personalities. You
should just hang out. You guys would really get along I think.’ And it
turns out we do. Gary became a personal training client; he’s a bro and we
just have a good time.
Andrew: Also by reading his book you changed a part of your life right?
John: Yeah, “Crush it”. I wrote a blog post called “Where’s the line?” I
read Gary’s book when I was first getting involved. It was leading up to
the product launch. I was just exhausted. At the time you have to remember
I was still training full time in managing a fitness facility and then
every night I’m going home and writing blog posts. I read Gary’s book and
it’s chapter 7; i’s called Hustle. And there was this paragraph where he
says, if you’re really serious about making this happen you have to
dedicate your whole energy happen. There’s not going to be time for XYZ.
There’s only family and there’s work, and then there’s your side business.
There’s no time for watching Lost, or playing Poker, or any of these other
things. I read it I was like ‘ugh, alright.’
At that point I was playing Poker like 20 hours a week. 25 hours maybe,
doing pretty well at it. I guess semi-professional. I would go to poker
clubs in New York and in a good week I would make 3 to 5 grand. In a bad
week I might lose 3 to 5 grand, but most of the time I walked away $1,500
richer a week consistently. And so I was doing that a lot and the only
things I…My social life had taken a dive. It was basically work, blog,
poker I would say. So I read Gary’s book and I was like,’ alright, if I
really want to make this thing take off, I got to stop playing poker.’ So I
did. I just dedicated myself fully to it.
Andrew: As a result how did life change?
John: I was most exhausted than before, but I churned out more content and
I built my platform a little bit bigger. When you’re starting out I think
it’s important to generate content as often as you can. There’s a lot of
different approaches. I mean, Tim Ferriss finds that 6 to 8 days for a blog
post is great, whereas Gary likes to put out columns every day; they’re
both effective models. For me, I’ve found that 2 times a week, if I can do
it, is really good. Things got a little better, a little bit more money;
less money overall probably. I was losing- I was not playing poker. I
certainly made a little bit more in the business. I managed to dedicate
myself and actually create some revenue streams. It was exhausting and
actually, I’m sure this is not as relevant, but there was this one period
where work became everything to me. I finally had a little mini breakdown
and I detail this in that blog post “Where’s the line?”. I had stopped
doing everything that I enjoyed except working. I was not really dating at
that very early point. I was not seeing my friends, not hanging out with my
family. I wasn’t playing poker. I was not even watching football. That
season I didn’t watch at all because I was just working on my business. I’m
a huge Jet’s fan. I’m probably the second biggest Jets fan in the world
after Gary Vaynerchuk. Up until 2010 I had not missed a snap since I was 12
John: That’s like 15 years and now I am not watching; I eventually had this
breakdown. It was when- I can find the exact date for you- but it was when
the Jets were going to play the Colts in the AFC championship. It was the
first time the Jets had made it to the AFC championship in at least 10
years, probably more. I was planning on not watching the game; I was home
writing. Finally I just had a breakdown, I was like I have to go, I have to
go watch it. I have to go to the bar, have to see my friends, eat a burger,
and just enjoy what’s happening in the world. That was a big moment. It’s
been a struggle for me to learn middle ground. I’m very much all or
Andrew: You have someone that helps you with that, your Director of
Operations. How do you find someone who is a Director of Operations? I feel
like I could use that too.
John: Yeah. I’m actually really, really fortunate to have a great team
around me. I have a habit of hiring my friends; which can either go really,
really badly or really well for you. I try to make my life as much like
Entourage as possible. When I first started out I actually hired my best
friend Josh to start being sort of an assistant who helped me mostly with
my coaching stuff. That went really well and we had a great relationship;
we actually got even closer. When he eventually left, because he wanted to
go law school, I hired another best friend, Rob. These are guys I’ve known
since I was 16 years old. Rob is still working for me.
When I was at that first marketing conference, I met a young kid named
David Seneck, who is just like a super genius. About 2 years ago I hired
David. I actually gave him part of the business. David is really good at
systems, super organized, really good at productivity; things that I have
trouble with. David is my Executive Vice President. He is more like a
manager and a partner; he’s like, “Here are the things we need to do this
weeks, please do them.”
Andrew: How do you transition to that to make that work out?
John: I just know what I’m good at. I’m really, really good at writing. I’m
good at creating content, I’m good at doing videos, I’m good at writing,
I’m good at products, I’m good at selling. I am not good at planning. I
just have a really honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses and I
was sort of floundering. When I found someone who was willing to literally
tell me what to do I was like, “done, perfect, yes.” That transition was
very easy for me. David just started making plans and doing things. To help
me execute we recently brought on a young woman named Anna. If we had
another title for her, a better title, I think it would be Vice President
in charge of getting shit done. She handles outreach; she does a lot of
email stuff as well. To give you an example of a product that she handles,
something that I would not be good at is juggling all of these different
things. We’re actually planning a book release part for Alpha, April 19th.
We wanted it to be big; there’s 300 people coming. Anna was on top of
planning the venue, interviewing people, setting up sponsors, making sure
that we had tons of free stuff to give to people, handling the guest list,
finding hotels for people, all that stuff, so she’s like the person who
will execute. As much as I can give to other people to just let me focus on
just writing is the way that Roman Fitness Systems gets to the next level.
Andrew: Jeremy asked you about the lowest point for you and it has nothing
to do with business, it was about how much you work and as a result of it
what it does to your relationships.
John: Yeah. So, in the time that I’ve been online I dated four girls
seriously and they all been really great girls with a lot of really great
personalities and there were things about all of them that I loved. But, my
online business has sort of ended three of them. Three of those
relationships and you know there is a certain set of complications that
comes with dating an internet entrepreneur and then there is an additional
set of complication that comes with dating an internet entrepreneur who has
a certain type of playboy image. Like again, none of this is [??] these are
like things that just happened it’s like it’s very weird to say this, but
there came a point, more than a year ago like a year and half ago where
the general tone of the emails that I got turned a bit sexual. So, I just
started getting like propositions in the email. I started getting just
unsolicited naked pictures and my then girlfriend who’s a great girl. She
was uncomfortable. My entire theory was that the playboy image was
necessary for the success of Roman Fitness Systems. I actually wrote a
blog post about this. And how I never revealed those relationships to my
fans because I wanted people to be able to fantasize.
I wanted women to fantasize about me whatever way they wanted to. But more
important because so much of my audience is young men like these straight
male fantasy of what it’s like to be a gay man is that gay guys just like
hook up whenever they want and it’s just like pandemonium. Now, I’m
straight, but I have a lot of gay friends. And I know that, that is only
partially true. But that fantasy persist. It’s like what straight guys
think about gay guys. And how that helps or hurts gay culture I’m not
qualified to say, but it’s really difficult people from their fantasies.
And what I found is that the straight male 20 to 25 year old fantasy about
me was that Roman’s a good looking guy, lives in New York City, makes a lot
of money, parties with celebrities, bangs a lot of girls. While that was
true in certain points of my life. It hasn’t been true for the past couple
of years. I’ve been with women seriously.
Andrew: You wanted to keep that fantasy going for them?
John: Right. Because I felt like it was my responsibility as a business
owner to allow them to have that fantasy and to not take it away from them.
The reason why I think it was effective because when I was a young guy
looking up to either celebrities or even people in the fitness industry.
One of my early mentors, John Browdy[SP], Doctor John Browdy[SP]like really
jacked super good looking guy. He was like the superstar in the industry
from the time he was 25 years old. He was designing supplements. He runs
this crazy company. My perspective of John was that he was all these things
and that allows him to have sex with models, actresses, or whatever he
wants. Now that turns out that wasn’t true. But, that fantasy definitely
kept me emotionally invested in John’s business. And so, I do know
personally the impact that that can happened. And so I really was intent
on maintaining and protecting that. The negative consequence that that has
is when you’re dating a girl for over a year, she…certain women can start
to feel like their being ignored. And you know, the first thing that
happened, she was just like I feel like you’re ashamed of me was her
language that she used. And so, I’ve begin to convince her that wasn’t
true. That I was very proud to be with her, then all the important people
in my life knew about her and had met her and whatever. It was just these
people that I’ve never met who didn’t know. So it went from like I think
you’re ashamed of me to the deeper suspicions that can raise from that
like I think you’re keeping this a secret, so you can keep your options
open, which wasn’t true. So, that just made it really difficult for her to
trust me. We actually broke up over twitter.
It was really weird. She, my ex-girlfriend, had tweeted at me, and she’s
like I thought you’re not talking to her anymore. I’m like I’m not, it’s
Twitter. I can’t control who tweets at me. What actually happened is I was
out pitching the manuscript of my book to a publishing company, and I got
home and all of her stuff was packed and we broke up that night. So that
was painful. It’s like it’s really hard to feel like the thing that is your
driving force, your ambition, your business is creating all of these
difficulties, not only for you personally, but also for people that you
care about. It’s a painful thing. To really feel like you’re hurting people
because of these decisions that you believe are necessary for the success
of your business, or at least to further it. To give it all the advantages
you can. And so it was really difficult. I wouldn’t necessarily say that
that was the low point, but it was definitely one of them. I mean, I really
can’t think of any others during the course of time that I’ve been online,
but yeah, it was certainly. Of all the things that resulted from my
business, the most unexpected one was the impact that it’s had on my
Andrew: Can we do a quick plug here? And then I want to ask you something
that we didn’t ask you in the pre-interview, that you’re not prepared for,
but I think you are the right guest to ask, because I think you’ll be open
about it. And the plug, of course, is for Mixergy Premium. As you guys
know, in the interviews, we tell the story of an entrepreneur and you get
to see what he did. In the courses that I bring entrepreneurs here to
teach, you learn, step by step, how they do one thing that they’re great
at. And so one of the courses that you heard me mention earlier is by Sean
Mullarky. Great guy in the space. You’ve heard us talk about him in this
interview. You’ve probably seen him online. He is the guy to show you how
to launch a product. He’s done it multiple times, and he’s the person who
others who launch products often will go to. You also heard John talk about
Joseph Campbell, and the way that Joseph Campbell discovered the process
for telling a story. The story arc. Well that influences the way that we do
interviews here at Mixergy here tremendously. If I ever do, if I’m ever
interviewed by someone else or tell a story on stage, I think of his
process. Well, we don’t have Joseph Campbell, he’s been gone, I think, for
a long time, right?
John: Not super long. No. I think late 90’s.
Andrew: But we have Nancy Duarte who teaches people how to give
presentations. She shows how to use Campbell’s process to give an
incredible presentation. If you ever have to give a presentation, that is
the format that you’re going to be able to draw on to just give a memorable
presentation that people hang on for. And those are just two courses that
are available at Mixergy Premium.com. If you’re a member, go check those
out. If you’re not, sign up. Mixergypremium.
John: I’m sold. You had me at Nancy Duarte. That’s great.
Andrew: Isn’t it amazing that we got her?
John: Yeah, that’s incredible. Actually, so, I’ll just pitch that I didn’t
write, have no interest in. But if anyone is a Campbell noviate, I find
that his seminal work, The Hero With 1000 faces, which is one of the
defining books of my life, it can be a bit dry. And it’s not even that it’s
dry. The reason that I think a lot of people have difficult with it is if
you don’t have a background in mythology, the examples might not make sense
to you. So during that work, Campbell is really intent on proving points
using examples. And if you’re don’t recognize those stories, it’s hard. So
when people do not have a background in mythology, or interest in Campbell,
the first book I send them to is actually the Writer’s Journey, Mythic
Structure for writers, by Chrstopher Bodler, who is a Hollywood guy, he’s
written a bunch of scripts. And he uses the hero’s journey in storytelling.
He helped with the Lion King and the monomyth arc there, so what he does in
that book is he not only explains Campbell’s theories, but the examples
that he uses are generally from popular films. So I believe it’s a lot more
accessible to people who have not read a lot of mythology.
Andrew: It’s not available on the Kindle, but I see it here. I want the
John: Get the book.
Andrew: That’s a great recommendation. There’s also the, I think it was
John: Yeah. Bill Moyers.
Andrew: Joseph Campbell, that DVD.
John: That’s incredible.
Andrew: That’s available on Netflix. That’s phenomenal. Where you get to
see him talk about this story structure, that once you hear him talk about
it, you realize, I’ve seen this my whole life and I didn’t even realize it
John: Exactly. It’s always the same. The path of the hero, the seventeen
stages on it, is so prevalent, and here’s where I’m going to pitch the
book. I don’t know if you know this, but Engineering the Alpha draws its
structure from the monomyth. We actually take the reader through the hero’s
journey, and so we explain what the ordinary world is, and we tell them OK,
now you’re crossing the first threshold. Here’s a chapter about meeting
with the mentor, and we share a story about how one of my clients had
difficulty accepting me and my ideas initially, and then came around and
made this great progress. We go into, leading all the way up to apotheosis,
and becoming the master of two worlds, which we mention in the afterward.
So we touch on as much Campbell as we can. It’s a neat trick for me to
finally be able to use the information from my thesis I wrote when I as 22
to be able to write what I hope will be a New York Times best seller. It’s
a very, very ambitious approach for a fitness book. And so that’s why we
say Engineering the Alpha is a lifestyle guide masquerading as a fitness
book. It is a book that will teach you how to get better at getting better,
because it uses physical mastery as a single path, not the only path, but a
single path that we teach to sort of access the hero’s journey. And then
how to use the hero’s journey, the monomyth, as this problem solving thesis
and this lens to view the world through. It’s really been exceptionally
beneficial for me and it’s how I’ve managed to make such progress in my own
Andrew: I don’t want to make it seem like it’s such a hard thing for people
to understand. Basically what we’re talking about here is a structure for
story telling that you have seen forever, going all of the way back to
cartoons as a kid, that kept you interested in the message of the story,
and that’s all. And what you’re saying, John, is that you used that in this
book, in Engineering the Alpha, to keep the book interesting and to keep it
from feeling like a text book. I don’t know why I didn’t get a copy of this
book yet. Now I’ve got to wait.
John: I have some. I’m fairly certain we sent you one. You know who was
going to do that? My director of operations, Al. Because I will forget. So
we will make sure she gets on top of that. Just shoot me over your address,
and I’ll make sure we get it to you.
Andrew: Tell you what, because I feel bad about getting something for free
after the interview is done. It’s one thing before the interview happens,
to prepare. But what I’ll do is, we’ll give it to someone in the comments
who can find one useful idea in this interview. I will personally mail out
the copy that John sends over to me. John, are you sending it from your
John: Yeah, we’ll send it from here in New York.
Andrew: How about if you sign it, I’ll read it, then I’ll give it to the
person who just the most useful comment within 24 hours of posting this
interview. I want someone who doesn’t even watch this interview to learn
something from it. So if you learn something and you add it to the
comments, you make it more useful to those people, and I’m going to thank
you for it by sending you a copy of this book. The first, the most
intelligent useful comment in the next 24 hours. All right. Here’s the
final thing. We talked about the money that you made with this business.
I’m curious about what were you able to buy? What one fun thing that you
couldn’t buy before that you were able to because you built such a
John: Shit. I mean, I got this sweet laptop that I’m doing this on. You
know what? It’s actually interesting. My business, the amount of money that
I made doubled as soon as I launched my online business in 2010. The amount
of money that I made doubled from 2010 to 2011. And doubled again from 2011
to 2012. Unfortunately did not, we did not have a double effect, but I’m
hopeful for next year. My life changed from 2010 to 2011. I traveled a lot
more. I moved into a nicer apartment. And I bought the car that I had
always wanted. This is actually really interesting. I talk a lot about
understanding your decision making center. And for some people it’s their
head and for some people it’s their heart or, like, if you’re a go with
your gut guy, I like to say if you’re a guy, you tend to make decisions
with your dick. And once you figure out what your decision making center
is, if you are not true to that, it will fuck your life up in ways that you
cannot imagine. I’m a feel guy. I’m very much directed by my heart, my gut,
my dick. And so any time I try to make an intelligent decision, like
rationalize it, and like pick the option that makes the most sense, I’m
always disappointed. A great example of this is like, I moved into an
apartment because it seemed like I would save money because I’d have a
roommate, and he’s a great guy, but I’m just not in love with the
apartment. And so to save myself a thousand, or 1200 dollars a month, I
took this sub-par apartment, but I have to live there. I mean, when I’m in
New York, I’m there like all day. I work from home. And so now I have to be
in an environment that I’m not in love with, whereas in my old apartment, I
loved it. I loved the building. It was like a high rise. I had a great
view. It was just a little more expensive. I did not need to save that
money, but I decided to be like responsible, and I’ve learned from that.
And because I’m actually, I think I’m less productive in the apartment
because I don’t love it, and it’s like it hampers my writing, and so
theoretically I am making less money than I would have if I lived in the
other place, you know?
Andrew: What about the car?
John: So the car. So when I was still training, I needed a new car
because mine was in accident, and I made another, this is the first, like
really big responsible decision I made, I wanted something cool, but I
decided to buy something economical and practical and fuel efficient, and
so I, like, leased a Volkswagen Jetta, which I, like, hated. Like I was
cool for the first two weeks, since it’s a new car and that’s fun, but,
like, I hated being seen in it. Like I will always believe that, like from
2000 on the Jetta’s a girl’s car. They made it very feminine, it looks
like a chick car, and I’m driving around, like this big (?) guy in this car
that I don’t like, and I was paying $269 a month on my lease. And so I’m
now paying to drive, like it’s not a lot of money, but it was, you know, I
wasn’t online yet making what I am now, but even if you’re paying a dollar
to pay for something you hate, it’s a really shitty feeling. And so one
day, this is after the first final phase launch, I’m living in the city at
this point, and I’ve got this great apartment, and I’m driving this Jetta,
and I’m just, I don’t like this car.
And then I drove past a Jeep dealership, and if you’ve ever driven past a
Jeep dealership, you know how they display their cars, they always got like
things, like, parked on a rock. And so there it was, this, like, this
orangish four-door Jeep Wrangler, they had taken the doors off and the top
was down, and I was, like, I need that car. So I, like, spun a U-turn and
drove into the dealership, and I said, I just walked in, the sales guy
said, “Hey, can I help you?” I was, like, I’m going to help you by making
your job really easy. I need that car, and I need to walk out with it in
two hours. So I would up paying to get out of my lease in the Jetta, and
having that built into my lease payment for the Jeep. So realistically I
should be paying, probably, let’s say $389 for the Jeep, but I’m paying
$450 to, you know, because I don’t want to being upside down on the Jetta.
So the long and short of it is that because I did not honor my decision
making center, because I didn’t make a decision from here, and instead made
one from here, I am now spending more money in the long run to have saved
money in the short run, and do something I hated. So I would say that like
the thing that I got was . . .
Andrew: Not an ultra flashy car, I mean I guess because it’s the color it
is . . .
John: Yeah, I mean it’s just the car I’ve wanted since I was like . . .
Andrew: At this point over a million dollars in the bank, and that’s what
you, that’s the best thing you bought, the most fun?
John: Yeah. Just here’s the thing, what I noticed is that, as I mentioned
my income doubled or tripled from, you know, pre-internet to internet, and
doubled again in 2011 to 2012. But here’s the fun thing, when it doubled
from 2011 to 2012, my life did not change at all. So what I believe is now
I make enough money, my income could double tomorrow, it could triple, it
could quadruple, and I don’t think my life would change in any way. I
mean, I’m leaving this apartment and moving into a nicer apartment anyway,
so that’s still the apartment I want. I drive the car I want, I go to the
places that I want, I don’t have to worry about money. I’m not interested
in money, money doesn’t motivate me at this point, you know, I’m good, I
don’t need to make anymore. So for me it’s just like . . . yeah.
Andrew: I know what you mean. I wonder what, there’s not anything else
that I want.
John: Right, you know, I have a great life. Like I’m . . .
Andrew: Except more influence.
John: Yes, yes, actually one of the things I’ve always said is that I am
by far more interested in fame that I am in money, or influence, you could
say. It’s like the more people I have access to there are cooler things
you can do. Like Tim (?) talks a lot about, Tim’s a really good friend of
mine, I like to quote him because I learned a lot from him. So one of the
things he and I talked about, and he’s written about this, is that his goal
was never to have a lot of money, like the idea of having this (?) that he
can trade for goods isn’t appealing to him, because if you worked hard
enough and build your influence, all of the things that you could buy with
money, you could get for free with influence anyway, so just focus on that,
you’re probably going to be richer in the long run. I will say one thing,
because I actually do . . . the thing that I am doing now and I’m making
this income, I’ve become an angel investor, and I invest in about three
companies, and looking to invest in more, so that’s the thing. Really what
my massive income shift has done for me is created an ability to take risks
and start new companies and, you know, invest in others and help guide
them, and it’s also allowed me to do more charity work, which is something
I’m really passionate about. Actually just about 10% of my net income goes
to hunger related charities in New York City . . .
John: . . . because I think that it’s really interesting that hunger and
obesity are two of the biggest problems facing this country. And, you
know, I make a lot of money, I’m very fortunate to make a lot of money off
of people who want to lose weight, so who ostensibly eat too much, and I
would like to use some of that money to feed people who eat too little, and
to me there’s poetry there.
Andrew: And another reason to go to romanfitnesssystems.com, and I hope
people go there after this interview to see photos and to see the blog
posted we talked about, and also the book is called Man 2.0 Engineering the
Alpha. Is that what’s it’s called, why do I keep calling it Man 2.0
Engineering the Alpha, and you call Engineering the Alpha?
John: Man 2.0 is the brand, and Engineering the Alpha is the title, so
think of this as Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back.
Andrew: Got it.
John: Does that make sense?
Andrew: Yeah. So Engineering the Alpha is what we want to go and look
John: Yeah, I mean if you find that on Amazon, or the URL for the book is
engineeringthealpha.com, but you could search Man 2.0 and you’ll get there.
Andrew: All right, cool. Thanks, John.
John: Thank you so much, Andrew.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it.