Engineering The Alpha: How A Chubby Book-Lover Got Ripped, Rich & Revered

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.

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

John Romaniello

John Romaniello

Roman Fitness Systems

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 the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fitness advisory board, and by regular people, who talk about their workouts in the comments of his blog posts.



Full Interview Transcript

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

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number from All right. Let’s get started.

Hey there, freedom fighters, my name is Andrew Warner and I’m the founder

of, 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.

Andrew: Right?

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 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

of confidence.

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.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

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

Alvin owned?

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.

John: Yeah.

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 . . .

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

John: . . . because this is for entrepreneurs. Right? This is an

entrepreneurial podcast.

Andrew: Yeah.

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.

John: Sure.

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.

John: Right.

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.

Andrew: [laughs]

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

yourself started.

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

could change.

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.

John: Right.

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.

John: Yeah.

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.’

Andrew: Gotcha.

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.

Andrew: Wow.

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.

John: Right.

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]…

Andrew: Alright.

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, 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.

John: Yes.

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, 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

Romaneillo’s attitude.

John: Yeah.

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.

And now…

Andrew: And then you understand the mindset of those people who grew up

with this.

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 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?

“Crush it”?

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

years old.

Andrew: Wow.

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

personal relationships.

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 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

Bill Moyers.

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

self development.

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

successful business.

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 . . .

Andrew: Right.

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, 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, 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.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.